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Wednesday, April 26th, 2017Last Update: Friday, February 3rd, 2017 01:39:14 PM

Four of a Kind

By: Steve Byas

President Calvin Coolidge once said, "It is better to kill a bad bill, than to pass a good one." It has long frustrated me to hear comments like, "Well, I don't know whether I should vote for Joe for Congress. He hasn't gotten anything passed in the Legislature."

We need more legislators like Joe.

The vast majority of the bills enacted in the Oklahoma Legislature are worthless, at best, and damaging, at worst. New laws typically increase the size and scope of government, reduce our liberties, and threaten our republican form of government. Most years, we would be better off if the Oklahoma Legislature did not even meet. For every good bill, it seems we are served up many more bad bills.

Four proposals that are out there right now, either under consideration by our Legislature, or being offered as something the people could vote on directly are really four of a kind -- really bad, and need to be strangled to death.

One idea that was defeated in the 2014 session is the National Popular Vote (NPV). This horrible idea is for Oklahoma to join in a compact with other states to subvert the intention of the framers of our U.S. Constitution by giving our state's electoral votes, not to the person who carried the state's popular vote, but rather to the candidate who won the national popular vote. Had this proposal been in effect in 2012, Oklahoma's seven electoral votes would been award to Barack Obama, despite his not having carried a single county in the state!

Supporters of the NPV realize they cannot get the necessary three-fourths of the states to agree to a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College, which presently elects the president. So, they propose to ignore the constitutional method of amending the Constitution, and simply enter into a compact with enough states to amend the Constitution through subversion.

For all practical purposes, NPV would end the federal character of the presidential election.

Of course, the NPV supporters argue that the Electoral College is not "democratic." Then again, neither is the Bill of Rights, or the Constitution itself. It was designed to protect our lives, our property, and our liberty. The Senate is not democratic, either. Would that be next in the cross-hairs? For that matter, the House of Representatives is not even democratic. We do not award seats in Congress to a party based on some "national popular vote," but rather a person can only get elected to Congress by winning a district, one of 435.

How would a national recount be handled under this NPV? After all, states who do not join the compact have no incentive to conduct a recount. Nothing in this proposal gives Congress any authority to conduct a recount. Can you imagine if one candidate was reported to have won by 7,000 votes nationally? Remember Florida?

Another horrible idea is the proposal to call a national convention, to consider altering our form of government. The Constitution of 1787 provided two ways to propose and two ways to ratify the Constitution. The first proposal method has been used all 27 times the document has been amended -- two thirds vote of each house of Congress. Proponents of the national convention argue that we need to call a "convention of the states," since Congress will not balance the budget, or do something else that proponents want Congress to do.

Consider this. If the president, Congress, and federal judges regularly ignore the Constitution we have now, what makes you think they will respect any good amendment which could emerge from any such convention? After all, the same people who elected Barack Obama would be the ones voting for the delegates to this hypothetical convention. Instead of James Madison and the like, you would get delegates like Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner.

Rather than changing our Constitution, it is much easier -- and safer -- to change the membership of Congress and the occupant of the White House.

Both of these ideas are part of a national movement, but we have a couple of home-grown bad ideas here in the Sooner state. State Auditor Gary Jones is lobbying for abolishing one of the two houses of the Oklahoma Legislature. Jones appears to have done a good enough job as state auditor, but this is really a bad idea. His proposal is based on the idea that we could "save money" by giving us only one legislative body, under the idea this would eliminate support staff, and so on, but this is the classic "penny wise and pound foolish." He argues that we could "save" 20 million dollars if we had only one legislative body. Good grief! The surviving chamber would simply spend the 20 million "saved," and probably spend a whole lot more. After all, there would be no "check" to slow down bad legislation from another house across the rotunda of the Capitol.

When Madison went to Philadelphia in 1787, he had a plan for a new Constitution which envisioned a two-house legislative body. The reason should be obvious to those who understand the concept of checks and balances. Streamlined government is not necessarily limited government. Actually, it rarely is.

Finally, Senator David Holt is convinced we are suffering from a "civic participation crisis." We need to get more people to vote, he thinks. A person who is so uninformed and so unmotivated that we have to change election laws to get them to vote is a person I would rather leave alone.

For example, Holt wants to establish a primary system in which the two candidates, regardless of party, with the most votes advance to the general election. Whatever Holt's motivation, the effect of this is to reduce the influence of the grass roots of each party, hand more power to the less informed and easily manipulated by the elites in our state. Democrats would be allowed to vote on which Republican to elect. And they ain't going to choose the more conservative Republican!

These are some genuinely bad ideas, but they could pass, especially if we do not fight them. I would encourage you to talk to your own state representative or state senator, now, before session starts and the lobbyists go to work on them. The House phone is (405) 521-2711, and the Senate phone is (405) 524-0126.

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