Blogs

Anti-Abortion Proposal Creates National Headlines

An extremist anti-abortion bill proposed this year in the Oklahoma legislature would have made anyone who performs the procedure subject to first degree murder charges.

It’s doubtful that Senate Bill 1118, sponsored by Republican State Sen. Joseph Silk of Broken Bow, would have ever made it through the legislative process, but it’s worth noting anyway as an example of the wasted time and energy that our state leaders spend on advancing extremist, right-wing religious positions instead of doing the basic work of governance and crafting real-life policy that would help the state overcome its many challenges.

The bill didn’t make it through the legislature process because even the radical extremists who lead our government here knew the murder-charge proposal is obviously unconstitutional and just plain bizarre. The bill has made national news, of course. The only thing positive one might say about it is that at least its supporters openly admit their intent is to abolish abortion. Many anti-abortion advocates often use disingenuous rhetoric to advance legislation limiting reproductive rights and don’t openly state their real goal is to abolish the procedure.

The bill, as amended and currently on the legislative web site, now would make it illegal for anyone to perform an abortion if a “fetal heartbeat is detected.” This, too, is an unconstitutional proposal, which would draw a successful lawsuit.

What’s 100 percent certain is that the abortion procedure would continue in this country even if it was made illegal through a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which seems unlikely.

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If the so-called “school deregulation” bill makes it to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, she should veto it, and, in effect, kill the legislation.

Senate Bill 1187, the School District Empowerment Act, barely passed the Senate on a 25-20 vote last week. It takes 25 votes in the Senate to pass legislation so the reality is the bill passed by one vote. The Republican-dominated House is expected to pass the legislation as well, according to political observers. It takes a two-thirds majority to override a governor veto, which would be extremely unlikely to happen in this case, especially in the Senate.

So right now it looks like it will be up to Fallin to do the right thing. SB 1187, which can be viewed here, would allow school districts to opt out of several state educational requirements, including minimum salary requirements for teachers, participation in the state teacher’s retirement program, teacher certification requirements and due process in personnel matters. It also eliminates the requirement for a criminal background check of school employees through the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. School districts, under the bill, could also opt out of meeting state academic standards.

The bill, which was ultimately sponsored by State Sens. Clark Jolley of Edmond and Josh Brecheen of Coalgate, both Republicans, could create an uneven and chaotic K-12 school system in Oklahoma, weaken standards and result in even lower average teacher salaries. Oklahoma’s teacher salaries are already the lowest in the region and near the bottom in the country.

Proponents of the bill make the argument that it would allow districts more flexibility in hiring adjunct instructors, but there are already policies in place to do so. Also, if that was the major reason for the bill, why not just create a measure that focuses on that one issue? Oklahoma faces a current teacher shortage as educators flee the state to work in states where they can make more money and are more appreciated. This bill only fuels the problem.

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Vouchers Fail In Legislature

Legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin announced Thursday that two bills aimed at creating a school voucher system in Oklahoma would not be considered this year at the state Capitol.

The bills, one each in the House and Senate, would have created Education Savings Accounts that could have been used by parents of school-aged students. These so-called ESAs, funded by taxpayer money, could have been used for tuition at private school. The vast majority of Oklahoma’s public education establishment, including myself, oppose the concept because it would take millions of dollars out of a school system consistently underfunded and already facing major cuts because of a current revenue failure and an expected state budget shortfall of $1.3 billion next year.

The move by House Speaker Jeff Hickman and Senate President Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman to remove the bills from consideration was obviously based on the reality of the current budget situation and the growing protest among educators. It was uncertain if there were enough votes to create a voucher system in the Republican-dominated legislature, especially given the state’s dire financial situation.

Gov. Mary Fallin tried to spin the vouchers as a way of helping “low-income” students, but the logic doesn’t work. The taxpayer money spent helping low-income children go to private schools, for example, would mean less educational dollars for low-income children in underfunded public schools. That’s obvious. Fallin and voucher supporters know this logic, but simply ignore it in the GOP quest to privatize as much government as they can. Here’s Fallin’s statement on this issue:

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