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Monday, June 17th, 2019Last Update: Tuesday, May 7th, 2019 11:03:32 AM

Open the Governments Closed Doors

By: John Michener

Our Government has been stolen. You and I do not have representation at the Oklahoma Capitol, only the illusion of it. You may feel good about having a Senator and Representative who have pledged to speak for you, but the truth is they have no more voice than Teller the magician, and the passage of any meaningful reform by an honest legislator will require magic. The person you elected to protect your interests and propose policy on your behalf has no assurance of being able to do anything because all the legislative power in the state is concentrated in the hands of the Senate President Pro Tempore (Pro Tem) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Speaker).

It does not matter what our elected officials want to accomplish on our behalf. The Pro Tem and the Speaker meet in secret caucuses and in private offices to decide which bills to hear and which bills to kill. Every session is replete with examples of their abuses of power; here are just three from the 2015 session.

First, Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow) wanted to outlaw abortion completely. Does not the murder of innocent children deserve to be considered by those whose job it is to protect life, liberty, and property? The Pro Tem and his Floor Leader (Sen. Mike Schulz, now the Pro Tem Elect) flatly refused to hear the bill.

In another example, Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Mustang) worked tirelessly over the last year to educate the public about the abuses of civil asset forfeiture. Realizing that government at every level has means and methods of stealing private property, Sen. Loveless proposed legislation to protect private property from seizure by law enforcement without due process. His bill was denied a hearing in committee.

Finally, consider the state’s woeful record on education. In the last legislative session, a plan was proposed by a large coalition of conservative Republicans that would have increased per pupil funding, improved student-teacher ratios, and given parents some choice about how and where to educate their children. It was a win-win proposal, yet the Pro Tem and Speaker refused to let your elected representatives and senators even discuss it, much less vote on it, confirming once again that they hold all the power.

Former Oklahoma Rep. Charles Key (R-Oklahoma City) has written a pamphlet, soon to be published, called "Stolen Government.” First, he reveals the fact of legislators having no voice, the reality that we the people have no real representation in state government. Then he analyzes the power structures and mechanisms which protect the status quo and consolidate the power of the Pro Tem and Speaker. Finally, he outlines the solution to the problem in his proposal for Open Government and answers the bogus objections to Open Government.

The Open Government proposal is simple. By rule and law, the Legislature should require two things:

1.) A bill shall be heard and receive a vote in committee if the primary author requests it in writing, and

2.) A bill, having passed committee, shall be heard and receive a vote on the House or Senate floor if the primary author requests it in writing.

Open Government would make it possible for all legislators to fully represent the people who elected them. Win or lose, at least our voices would be heard. Every idea could be publicly discussed, raising awareness of critical issues and forcing our officials to address these issues. Furthermore, these hearings and votes would become a part of the public record, enabling the people to know, truly, beyond political rhetoric, where our public servants stand on the issues. Are they upholding campaign promises? Are they fighting for limited government, free-markets, and Judeo-Christian values?

If citizens want to make any meaningful positive policy changes, we will first have to take back our stolen government, that is, recover our representative voices in the Legislature. Now is the time to institute Open Government. This is an election year; the entire House of Representatives is up for reelection, along with half of the Senate. This next session a brand new Pro Tem and Speaker will take political power. The Speaker Elect, Rep. Charles McCall, has a somewhat conservative record, and it is possible he may be willing to do what is needed, necessary, and right.

In order to institute Open Government and take back our state government, the people of Oklahoma and their legislators must take these three steps:

1.) First, principled conservatives and newly elected freshmen must band together to demand that legislative rules be changed so that any bill can be heard (Open Government) if requested by the author. This will require a serious gut check. Promises of power and prestige will be forthcoming in return for maintaining the status quo. If they do not demand these changes on the very first day of business next February, then our legislators may have no voice for the entire session unless they buy, sell, or trade favors with House and Senate leadership.

2.) Second, whether or not legislators change their rules at the beginning of session, they should pass a measure to put Open Government before a vote of the people next fall. If Open Government is required by the state constitution, the Legislature cannot change its mind and return to its corrupt ways.

3.) Finally, if the Legislature fails to give us an opportunity to vote for Open Government, then we will have to petition to put it on the ballot ourselves. Our legislators may not want every voice heard, but we can make it the law and bind it on them in the state constitution.

The people of Oklahoma are constantly abused by state and federal law. Our lives, liberty, and property are routinely violated by taxation and regulation. Our culture is undermined by immoral and unconstitutional court opinions. We the people want solutions to these problems, but unfortunately we are left largely defenseless because those we have been elected to protect us are functionally powerless to propose legislative solutions. None of these larger abuses can be effectively fought until we first correct the abuse that is protecting all the others: our “Stolen Government.” Power works to keep and grow power. The state positions of Pro Tem and Speaker are no exception. In the winter of 2017, we call on true conservatives and freshman legislators to give us Open Government, and then to begin the fight for real measures to protect our lives, liberty, and property.

John Michener is the Director of Oklahomans United for Life (OUL) and the President of Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC.

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