Will GOP Create More Image Problems?
What type of place will Oklahoma become and how much will its national image suffer after the Republican-controlled legislature goes on its expected ideological rampage in 2009?
This is the hidden story among Oklahoma’s ultra conservative corporate media, and it surely has crossed the minds of the state’s economic developers, who must deal with the state’s image issues on a regular basis.
The Republicans now have majorities in both the House and Senate. As the country turned toward the left and center in the November elections, a majority of Oklahoma voters continued to embrace the failed and dissipating neoconservative moment. The state is now considered the reddest of red states throughout the country and world. This makes the state seem as if inhabited by extremists. Will the upcoming legislative session further validate this view?
The GOP has already introduced the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, sponsored by controversial state Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), who was once caught on tape claiming gay people were a worst threat to the country than terrorists. Kern’s bill is simply an attempt to bring religion into our public schools. I have written about it here.
The Republicans have also introduced a senseless voter id bill, sponsored by state Sen. John Ford (R-Bartlesville) that will make it more difficult for some people to vote. The bill, if passed, would require voter to show photo id before they can vote. Let me repeat this: There is not a problem with voting fraud in Oklahoma or the nation This is a bill aimed at marginalizing certain groups, such as minorities, who are more likely to vote Democratic.
There is speculation among political insiders that state Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) will reintroduced a bill that would allow college students to carry concealed weapons in classrooms. The bill was vetoed last year. This bill, if passed, would probably increase the chances for violence on campus while driving away qualified professors from Oklahoma universities. The bill sanctions a backwoods, wild west mentality. It poses numerous law enforcement and safety problems, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get passed.
Republicans are also expected to introduce a corporate and physician amnesty bill that would cap lawsuit damages. These amnesty bills, sponsored by the GOP throughout the country, are simply attempts to take away the rights of individuals. The GOP focuses its arguments on the mythology of frivolous lawsuits. In fact, the vast majority of lawsuits are justified. Suing for damages is a basic American right and a major part of any Democratic government. The GOP wants to limit individual rights in order to enrich a small, powerful corporate oligarchy in the state.
The GOP is also expected to lead the fight in stopping any increases in educational funding.
So what will the state be like after the next legislative session, which begins in February? Will our public schools be hotbeds of religious conflict or stifling Christian enclaves that won’t teach basic science principles? Will some people here be denied the right to vote? Will our college students be armed? Will Oklahomans lose their basic rights to recover damages in a lawsuit? Will education once again be slighted in funding in order to pay for the state’s absurdly large prison population?
There is no doubt that Republicans, with majorities in the House and Senate, will want to flaunt their power, but this could come at great expense to the state’s quality of life and national image. Forward-thinking people and parents of school-aged children should pay close attention to the carnage left by the Republicans after the 2009 legislative session.