Friday, April 3, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for April 3-9, 2009

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! Every session of the Legislature, we see bills that may sound like good ideas on the surface. The deeper you study, however, the worse these bills become.

This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee – on a straight party-line vote with Republicans voting “yes” and Democrats voting “no” – gave its approval to what may be the worst bill I have ever seen in all my years at the Capitol. The bill is a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that, on the surface, sounds fairly reasonable.

The proposal says that the Legislature shall not be required to use a “predetermined formula of any kind” when writing budgets. On its face, that is not a bad idea. We learn in government class that the top job of the legislative branch of government is writing budgets.

Where this idea goes horribly wrong is in the first words of this proposed amendment to our Constitution. The proposal begins with the words, “Notwithstanding any other provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution to the contrary…”

That would set this one amendment up to be superior to the every other section of the Oklahoma Constitution. Oklahoma’s balanced budget amendment is a “predetermined formula”; the restrictions voters have put on us to raise taxes is a “predetermined formula.”

In a single stroke, this unprecedented power grab would wipe out our balanced budget amendment and restrictions on the Legislature’s ability to raise taxes. It might even prohibit this section from ever be amended or repealed by voters in the future.

In all of state history, we have never seen legislative leaders attempt to consolidate so much power into its own hands. It is shocking, it is frightening, and it is a slap in the face to every voter in this state.

Everyone knows the target of this proposal. An education organization has gathered enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to put more money into public schools. That would put in our constitution a “predetermined formula” that this legislative power grab would trump.

Clearly, legislative leaders behind this power grab think voters might support the education funding proposal. Instead of trusting the people to make the right decision, legislative leaders decided to use sleight-of-hand in a pitiful attempt to overrule what may or may not be the people’s will.

It is not too late to stop this power grab in the Legislature. Even if it passes there, thankfully, Oklahomans would have the final say on it. Only the people have the power to amend the Constitution. However, the fact this bill has already passed the House and made it through a Senate committee should concern every Oklahoman.

That is why we must dig deeper into every bill. Only by learning their true intentions can we stop measures to empower legislative leaders at the expense of Oklahomans.

Thanks again for reading this week’s “Senate Minute.” Have a great week, and may God bless you all.

No comments: