OUR VIEW: State question results surprising, elected officials predictable
Tuesday’s winners weren’t surprising in the least. Oklahoma is a red state that typically votes Republican. What really surprised us were the state question results.
Every ideologically fueled initiative — making English the official language, opting out of the federal health care law, banning Sharia Law — passed with huge majorities.
State questions passed that we did not endorse:
Oklahoma’s constitution now declares all official state actions are to be conducted in English. State Question 751 was put on the ballot hot on the heels of harsh anti-immigration legislation proposed by state house rep Randy Terrill, R-Moore, the primary author of the question. While actions were already conducted in English, this measure has the potential to make official procedures much more difficult for the state’s non-English speaking population. The state’s 39 federally recognized tribal languages are untouched, which is good, but it’s obvious that was simply put in to garner political support.
Proponents of the state question said it would “help” people of other cultures assimilate to Oklahoma’s. If this were really the case, we would have expected inexpensive programs put in place non-English speaking peoples the dominant state language, but alas there were none.
By voting in favor of State Question 755, Oklahomans successfully added an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting courts from considering Islamic Sharia Law in their cases. Never mind that it never has been and never would be considered in our state — let’s put it in our constitution just to make sure.
Any student who has spent time with Muslims on campus knows there is no intent among Oklahoma’s Muslims to impose Sharia Law. The question was nothing more than a statement expressing that Oklahoma’s citizens are suspicious of the Muslim population. The blame for this extends to the media and lawmakers who played on this fear for political gain. We can only hope the state’s Islamophobia goes no further.
With our state already struggling with a major budget shortfall, you would think people would be concerned with conserving as many taxpayer dollars as possible. Instead, voters decided they didn’t mind if money is possibly spent on lawsuits against the federal health care law by passing State Question 756. This question allows citizens and businesses to opt out of the federal health care law while conceding that federal law is supreme.
It will either bring costly litigation or amount to nothing more than fist-shaking at the Obama administration. It should also be pointed out that expert analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has revealed it will save the state money and expand coverage.
The state now has two more members on the legislative and congressional redistricting commission. Why this measure passed when this commission hasn’t been used in the past is beyond us.
State questions that did not pass that we opposed:
This measure — which would have raised common education spending to the regional average via a constitutional amendment — was dead on arrival at the ballot, which isn’t surprising. There were several legitimate problems with the way the measure would have been implemented, and could have caused unaffordable cuts to state agencies.
However, the Yes on 744 campaign should be given credit for bringing the issue to the forefront of Oklahoma politics. Proponents also exposed the high pay of state legislators and the huge waste of tax expenditures given to failed corporate interests.
While lawmakers vehemently opposed the measure, they always had to make it clear that they care about public education. It’s time that they begin looking at legitimate solutions to the issues facing our state’s education system.
The counter question to SQ 744, it would have prevented lawmakers from using preset formulas for budget expenditures, and would have been a permanent addition to the state constitution, which would have led to confusion in the future. We think all options should be on the table for prioritizing the budget and we’re glad this measure didn’t pass.
State questions that passed that we endorsed
Voters will now be required to present a state-issued ID at polling places in future elections. For anyone who went to the polls on Tuesday, many of you probably noticed that you had to do nothing more than find your name on a list and sign it. Any chances of voter fraud will be reduced greatly because of its passage.
Career politicians had a way of using their incumbent influence to stay in power, and some may not have had the best interests of the state at heart. With term limits applying to all statewide offices now, new ideas and leadership will cycle through these positions more often than in the past.
Oklahoma has some tough laws for getting initiatives and referendums on the ballot, with the number of signatures fluctuating based on percentages of the last gubernatorial and presidential elections. State Question 750 bases this number only on the last gubernatorial election, which would have decreased the number of signatures needed and made the numbers more consistent. Hopefully we’ll see more citizen concerns with the passage of this question.
We hope that our new Republican governor, former U.S. Rep Mary Fallin uses the GOP dominance wisely. While Fallin’s policy ideas are similar to Democratic opponent Jari Askins’, we hope she will distinguish between the necessary and ideological initiatives our Republican-dominated government provides her.
She has promised to bring necessary reform to reduce the number of non-violent drug offenders crowding prisons and rooting out unnecessary tax credits that would otherwise mean revenue for our already starved state budget. If we expect any of this to be done, citizens will need to hold her to it.
Oklahoma's Congressional Races
We would have liked a serious contender in the race against U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, but Oklahomans seem to be satisfied with his leadership. While Coburn seems intent on simply stopping legislation in Washington, his efforts to combat wasteful spending are a necessary force among leaders.
It’s not surprising that it was a Republican sweep for the U.S. House, with the exception of incumbent winner, Democrat Dan Boren of Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional district. Boren is definitely not aligned closely with the national Democratic party and conservative voters obviously felt he deserved another term.
We thought Democrat Billy Coyle was the better candidate against the inexperienced Republican winner, James Lankford. Coyle is a rare voice of reason in our right-wing state, and Lankford can only tout his experience directing the Falls Creek Baptist summer camp.
On the national scene, we weren’t surprised to see the Republican victory over the House, and its pickup of a few seats in the Senate. This outcome was predicted months ago and is only natural given the state of the nation.
However, people should realize that GOP control of the House isn’t going to solve our nation’s problems. Instead of presenting any truly innovative ideas, Republicans have seemed intent on moving further to the right and vowing to repeal any progress made by the once-Democratically controlled Congress.
President Barack Obama inherited a crumbling economy and two unpopular wars. To believe he could turn everything around in two years is unrealistic, and the Republicans used this to their political advantage, instead of trying to help. We wouldn’t be surprised to see another shift toward the Democrats a few elections down the line once people realize it was the policies of deregulation and a hawkish national defense attitude that got the nation into the mess it’s still reeling in.