It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Oklahoma Legislature for the past decade or so that this august body of "public servants" is again trying to trample on the constitutional rights of those they purport to represent.
SB 592 and HB 2214 seem like non-starters. Two men serving Cherokee County - Rep. Matt Meredith and Sen. Dewayne Pemberton - are on opposite sides of the political aisle, Democrat and Republican respectively. Yet both call the bitter, retaliatory bill SB 592 "ridiculous." They may say the same about HB 2214; we haven't asked yet.
"Bitter" and "retaliatory" are not their words, but they're as accurate as "ridiculous." Both measures are intended to get back at public school teachers who had the gall to protest at the Capitol last year. The teachers weren't just after raises, as some detractors insist. They wanted supplies in the classroom - supplies, by the way, they've been buying themselves and can no longer write off, thanks to the tax plan implemented by Congress early in 2018.
SB 592, by Sen. Mark Allen, would put the kibosh on not just protests by teachers, but anyone else who wants to exercise, as the First Amendment puts it: ..."the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." It would do that by demanding any group of 100 people or more post a $50,000 bond if they wanted to assemble on Capitol grounds. Supposedly the $50K would go toward the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority, to "offset the cost of additional security, cleanup and repairs." The public can be forgiven for suspecting it will either go into the pockets of certain unsavory lawmakers and their cronies, or wasted on porky pet projects for which the state government is so well-known.
HB 2214, by Rep. Todd Russ, may be worse: It would make it illegal for a board of education or employee from a school district from getting paid if they walked out of class for any reason, and revoke teaching certificates of educators who do so.
These measures are double-handed slaps in the faces of educators and anyone else who doesn't like what the state is doing. And while there is always plenty to dislike, these vindictive bills are among the worst offenders. Libertarians and "party of less government" Republicans ought to be laughing these bills out of the rotunda; their silence indicates they either don't take them seriously, or they don't believe as they claim to.
Perhaps Allen hasn't thought things through, because individuals who engage in anti-abortion protests would also have to post the $50K. In his official biography, Allen describes himself this way: "A staunch conservative, Mark Allen is also concerned about safeguarding traditional values, keeping our families and communities strong. .... An endowment member of the NRA, Mark Allen stands strong for Second Amendment rights."Allen doesn't mention a pro-life stance, though we might assume he shares one. Nor does he claim to champion the First Amendment, even though his bio indicates he is a "firm believer in God and country." A "firm believer in country" would uphold the First Amendment. Perhaps Allen's main concern is that he have unfettered access to his guns. If that's the case, Sequoyah Countians - which he partly represents - deserve more. All the amendments are important, not just the ones that affect Allen personally. As for Russ, his wife is a teacher, and he also claims to share "godly" values - apparently, as long as they don't involve freedom of expression.
Here is an opportunity to call the statehouse and let those "public servants" know we don't appreciate their assaults on the Constitution. And then, we must hope these "ridiculous" bills never make it to the floor.