At the recent Wagoner County Republican Fish Fry, Dr. Everett Piper of Oklahoma Wesleyan University was the keynote speaker. This is a portion of what he said;
“Words do mean something. They have definitions. As thinking, moral agents, we intuitively know, for example, what the definition of ‘is’ is, and we also know that changing and manipulating the meaning of words – turning them upside down – ‘is’ called something; it ‘is’ called lying. Lying about words and with words always brings ruin rather than reward. As the prophet Isaiah warned: ‘Woe unto him who calls evil good and good evil, darkness light and light darkness, bitter sweet and sweet bitter…’”
His presentation gave rise to these thoughts. Our world operates on the written and spoken word. We communicate with words our thoughts, desires and emotions.
Words are written down so others can read them and understand things. Words are very powerful and once spoken or written down can never be taken back. If you read James 3:1-8, you will see that even back then people knew the power of words. If words do not mean anything then nothing is sacred.
As a freshman legislator I had some expectations going into my first session because I had experience with the workings of our state from being a school board member and actively working with those in government. What I did not expect was the total abandonment of the words written in the Oklahoma State Constitution.
Below are the words from our State Constitution in regards to revenues. Revenues as defined by a simple search on the Internet will get you this – “the income of a government from taxation, excise duties, customs, or other sources, appropriated to the payment of the public expenses.”
Section V-33: Revenue bills – Origination – Amendment – Limitations on passage – Effective date – Submission to voters.
- All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives. The Senate may propose amendments to revenue bills.
- No revenue bill shall be passed during the five last days of the session.
- Any revenue bill originating in the House of Representatives shall not become effective until it has been referred to the people of the state at the next general election held throughout the state and shall become effective and be in force when it has been approved by a majority of the votes cast on the measure at such election and not otherwise, except as otherwise provided in subsection D of this section.
- Any revenue bill originating in the House of Representatives may become law without being submitted to a vote of the people of the state if such bill receives the approval of three-fourths (3/4) of the membership of the House of Representatives and three-fourths (3/4) of the membership of the Senate and is submitted to the governor for appropriate action. Any such revenue bill shall not be subject to the emergency measure provision authorized in Section 58 of this Article and shall not become effective and be in force until ninety days after it has been approved by the Legislature, and acted on by the governor.
Whether it is called a tax, fee, duty, tribute, custom, etc. – all are words that mean revenue. No bill should be passed in the last five days or final hours of the legislative session if the effect is revenue. It is not that hard to understand.
It was amazing to see colleagues argue for fees, taxes and every other form of “revenue” but deny that it had anything to do with Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution. As Dr. Piper says, lying about words with words will bring ruin rather than reward. The ruin will be to our State Constitution. If the courts do not rule the recent revenue measures unconstitutional, then we may as well throw the Oklahoma Constitution in the trash. The words of Article V will have no meaning