We had an interesting – and encouraging – development up in the Cap City last month. Late night March 23, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to raid state school funding for the benefit of profitizing privateers was defeated in the State Senate by a vote of 24-22.
Yes, with Republican solons holding a 39-9 majority, one of the governor’s pet privatizing projects (SB 1647) went down in flames. Seems that rural Republicans realized that the party’s historic support of corporate socialism and diverting state funds to private coffers was not beneficial to their constituents.
When the bill cleared committee, Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) observed: “It’s not a good idea to send public dollars off the grid. Public dollars belong in public schools,” as reported by KFOR-TV.
During the three weeks between committee action and the senate vote, many rural Republican senators looked at reducing state education funding by $3,600 per student in private schools – the money doled out to parents – and agreed that money could be better spent on their own schools.
Perhaps they heard from their local educators. If so, it is encouraging that party dogma took a backseat to financial reality.
Locally, both Stephens County Republican senators, Jessica Garvin and Chris Kidd, voted to stop the steal of state funds. We can hope this is a first step toward they and their constituents awakening to the fact that GOPQ economics always slants to benefit the rich at the expense of the rest of us.
Whether local voters would have been as well-protected if SB 1647 had made it to the House is problematical, to say the least.
In February, Jennifer Palmer of Oklahoma Watch reported that State Rep. Toni Hasenbeck (R-Elgin) worked –as in getting paid — for about three months for Scissortail Community Development Corporation, the non-profit parent company of ChoiceMatters, which encouraged followers to contact their legislators in support of SB 1647.
Palmer quotes Hasenbeck as saying, “We were really careful so that I wasn’t presenting myself as a representative when I talked to families. I felt pretty strongly about that.”
How strongly? Oklahoma Watch reports – with said photo capture included: “On her last day, Hasenbeck attended a parent leadership class at the Capitol. A photo posted to ChoiceMatters’ Facebook page shows her presenting to the group, wearing her lawmaker ID.”
Palmer’s story includes the obvious observation by John Pelissero, a senior scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clare University:
“It does present a conflict of interest because, as an elected official, the legislator should be representing the public interest. And if you’re working for a company or a nonprofit organization in which you are seeking to influence the outcome of legislation, then it’ll raise questions about whether some private interest is first and foremost in the mind of the legislator, rather than the public.”
Many legislators wait until they leave office before becoming paid lobbyists. Rep. Hasenbeck showed real initiative in getting paid by the state and a lobbyist at the same time.
Sticking to the GOPQ script to demonize minorities, Gov. Stitt last week signed the anti-transgender sports bill – to protect the rest of us from the fewer than 300 transgender people in the state. This legalized discrimination is similar to a bill that went unsigned by the governor last year.
At that time, I pointed out the NCAA position on this subject:
“The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports. This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition….
“ We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them.
“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected.”
So, our happy haters could cost the state any further NCAA tournament sites, not to mention jeopardize the Women’s College World Series, currently set for OKC until 2035.
But, spreading hatred and divisiveness is Republican strategy, especially in an election year.
Such is a specialty of Gov. Stitt, who popped up (and popped off) on Faux News last week, telling Putin propagandizing puppet Tucker Carlson, “our police are having a tough time because they can’t tell who is an Indian and who isn’t an Indian in eastern Oklahoma.”
KOCO-TV quoted a Choctaw Nation release saying Stitt, “’blatantly misrepresented’ issues involved in the McGirt decision.” The OKC station later quoted an unnamed Choctaw chief saying, “Rather than cooperating with tribes to ensure public safety, he spreads falsehoods, misinformation and racist ideas.” (Gary Batton is the current chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.)
Stitt’s racist publicity grab came at the end of March. Earlier that month KSWO-TV reported that Lawrence Loftis, Jr., was sentenced to life in federal prison following his conviction last August of abusive sexual conduct with a child.
The Lawton station noted: “The trial happened in federal court because the crime was committed in Indian Country and Loftis is Native American.
“This was the first case to be tried as a result of the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision in the Western District of Oklahoma.”
So, the transition from state to federal court for crimes committed by First Nation folks on tribal land occurred without a hitch. If the governor were paying attention to anything besides trying to siphon state money to private entities, he could have been aware of this.
But, it probably wouldn’t have stopped his race-baiting ways.
(Duncan resident Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)