A seminar was held in the House Chamber today that caused a little controversy.
Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon held an interim study yesterday on “potential judicial reforms,” after a number of court rulings this year overturned Republicans’ key legislative successes the past few years. The study elicited this response in the Journal Record:
Fifty years ago, when justice was for sale, politicians appointed and confirmed Oklahoma’s appellate Supreme Court justices. There was no check on that authority. The result was a bribery scandal inside our highest state court.
Oklahomans found a new process and it is still working…
The A-F grading system has been giving state schools heartburn this fall, which Oklahoma House Democrats have responded to here and here (and earlier this year). In Indiana, which has seen many of the same “accountability” measures put in place as Oklahoma in recent years, they’re doing something to tweak their A-F system. Here, school leaders are making their suggestions for changes known.
On the national level, vulnerable families are seeing a $5 billion cut in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, or SNAP, benefits starting today. This will result in roughly a $36/month reduction in benefits for families, who already have trouble making their monthly allotment stretch for four weeks. Pediatricians, and other experts, have warned that reductions in SNAP benefits will harm children.
Note: One of the laws going into effect in Oklahoma today includes using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, funds for PSAs on marriage as an anti-poverty tool.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel rebuked states, like Oklahoma, who refused to honor the DOD’s order to give benefits to all members of the military. Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, responded to the governor’s initial decision to deny benefits certain members of Oklahoma’s National Guard in September. The Tulsa World reports that Gov. Mary Fallin’s office is considering their response.
As Oklahoma once again passed the latest version of worker’s comp reform (House Democrats’ responses here, here, and here), the Washington Post reports that attacks continue nation-wide on workers’ rights and labor standards.
Oklahomans around the state rejoiced when the Oklahoma Water Resources Board voted to cap the amount of water that can be taken from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer last week. The struggle isn’t over, however; opponents of the OWRB’s cap are asking for a court review of the decision.
Finally, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes on the war on the poor:
…a majority of Republican-controlled state governments are, it turns out, willing to pay a large economic and fiscal price in order to ensure that aid doesn’t reach the poor.
The thing is, it wasn’t always this way. Go back for a moment to 1936, when Alf Landon received the Republican nomination for president. In many ways, Landon’s acceptance speech previewed themes taken up by modern conservatives. He lamented the incompleteness of economic recovery and the persistence of high unemployment, and he attributed the economy’s lingering weakness to excessive government intervention and the uncertainty he claimed it created.
But he also said this: “Out of this Depression has come, not only the problem of recovery but also the equally grave problem of caring for the unemployed until recovery is attained. Their relief at all times is a matter of plain duty. We of our Party pledge that this obligation will never be neglected.”
Can you imagine a modern Republican nominee saying such a thing? Not in a party committed to the view that unemployed workers have it too easy, that they’re so coddled by unemployment insurance and food stamps that they have no incentive to go out there and get a job.
Even though our state has been relatively cushioned from the effects of the Great Recession, 17% of Oklahomans live in poverty. As the holidays approach, let’s not forget that many of our neighbors, our community members, the people next to us at church, may be one of the neediest among us. With cuts to SNAP benefits, food banks and other charities will have step in to fill the needs of many of our fellow Oklahomans.