Watching a House committee meeting is ‘entertaining’
Someone said that there are two things you don’t want to see made – sausage and laws.
I was at the State Capitol the first week of February as a part of an effort by the Oklahoma Press Association to let legislators know what newspapers think about some proposed laws that could affect our industry.
Each year, someone proposes laws to punish newspapers. In the past, there have been bills to tax advertising and put sales tax on newspaper sales. This year, there is a bill that would add sales tax to newspaper subscriptions.
I can understand why some legislators would like to “punish” liberal newspapers but higher taxes won’t get that done. Newspapers, like almost every industry, passes along new taxes to the customers.
The other big issue that pops up every year is transparency. Government is supposed to be open for inspection but that isn’t always the case. Bureaucrats and some politicians like to hide their activities and they either refuse to release documents or they stall so long that the person requesting the information just gives up.
Government should be an open book, especially when it comes to spending money or hiring or firing. Thankfully, some lawmakers keep pressing for more openness in state government.
While I was in the Capitol, I visited with one of my favorite legislators, including Rep. Ken Walker and Rep. David Brumbaugh. There are several others I would have like to made contact with but it didn’t work out.
I did get a chance to sit in on the House Government and Modernization Committee. Walker and Brumbaugh both sit on that committee which is chaired by Rep. Jason Murphy. Nine of the 12 committee members are Republicans and three are Democrats.
Murphy knows how to run a meeting and keep things moving. He’s very sharp and he obviously did his homework before the meeting.
Rep. Richard Morrissette from Oklahoma City is one of the three Democrats on this committee. After almost 100 years of his party running the show, Morrissette is badly outnumbered on this committee and within the House itself.
Morrissette, a trial attorney, made it his personal mission on the day I was there to interrupt the Republican agenda that was flying through this important committee.
It was entertaining theater but it wasn’t very efficient.
I guess in law school they must teach students that if you can’t win a vote, your best strategy is to wear down your opponent with pointless arguments.
I suspect that many of the bills that passed in this committee will gain a positive vote on the House floor and in the Senate and many will become law.
I am sure that any bill by a Democrat will get a much fairer hearing with the reigning Republicans than GOP bills did when the Democrats ruled. Back then, bills that would have passed a floor vote with Republican and Democrat support never got there because they were killed by liberal Democrat committee chairmen. If you don’t think that is true, ask former legislators like Jim Williamson and Fred Perry or former Gov. Frank Keating.
When people complain that Oklahoma’s legislators make too much money ($38,000 a year) for part-time (four months) work, I think about this committee meeting.
Most of these lawmakers want to make government smaller and more efficient. They don’t necessarily want to cut services but they want a modern, business-like approach.
To get there, they have to battle petty politics, giant egos and an obstructionist (at times) opposition party.
Thank goodness there are those who are willing to battle through the haze and create good government.
If you are in Oklahoma City during the session, stop by and say hello. Sit in on a committee and you can see for yourself.
• A foursome of senior golfers hit the course with waning enthusiasm for the sport. “These fairways seem to be getting longer and longer,” said one of the foursome.
“And these hills are getting steeper as the years go by,” another complained.
“The sand traps seem to be bigger than I remember them, too,” said the third senior.
After hearing enough from his buddies, the oldest, and the wisest of the four of them at 87 years old, piped up and said, “Oh my friends, just be thankful we’re still on this side of the grass!”
• A blind man was describing his favorite sport, parachuting.
When asked how this was accomplished, he said that things were all done for him. “I am placed in the door with my seeing eye dog and told when to jump. My hand is placed on my release ring for me and out I go with the dog.”
“But how do you know when you are going to land?” he was asked.
“I have a very keen sense of smell, and I can smell the trees and grass when I am 300 feet from the ground” he answered.
“But how do you know when to lift your legs for the final arrival on the ground?” he was again asked.
He quickly answered: “Oh, the dog’s leash goes slack.”
• A young boy called the pastor of a local “corner” church to ask the pastor to come by to pray for his mother who had been very ill with the flu.
The pastor knew the family and was aware they had been attending another church down the road. So the pastor asked, “Shouldn’t you be asking Brother Simon down the road to come by to pray with your mom?”
The young boy replied, “Yeah, but we didn’t want to take the chance that he might catch whatever this is that Mom has.”
• There were two good ol’ boys from warmer climes who loved to fish. They wanted to do some ice fishing that they’d heard about in Canada, so they took off to try it.
The lake was frozen nicely, so they stopped just before they got to the lake at a little bait shop and got all their bait and tackle.
One of them said, “We’re going to need an ice pick.” After they got their equipment, they took off.
In about two hours, one of them was back at the shop and said, “We’re going to need another dozen ice picks.”
He sold him the picks, and the good ol’ boy left.
In about an hour, he was back at the shop again and said, “We’re going to need all the ice picks you’ve got.”
The shop owner couldn’t believe it. “By the way,” he asked, “how are you fellows doing?”
“Not very well at all,” he said. “We don’t even have the stupid boat in the water yet.”