By May 9, 2016 Uncategorized 14 Comments

It was another “busy day” under the dome of the Oklahoma Capitol on the 55th day of the second regular session of the 55th Oklahoma Legislature.

Well, I suppose that might depend on your definition of busy.

This was fairly close to how the House Chamber appeared at 1:30 pm at the start of today’s general session.

Those who have spent time in the military are likely familiar with the expression, “milling about smartly.” The term is typically used to describe the activity of certain enlisted troops pretending to actually work when in the presence of an officer. 

There was a lot of milling about smartly at 2300 N. Lincoln this afternoon.

Fresh off their well-deserved 98-hour break from the arduous work of writing and passing laws, the House of Representatives picked up right where they left off at 10:57 a.m. on Thursday, which was nowhere in particular and moving with the alacrity of a sun-baked slug.

I wish I were kidding.

The general session started quickly with House Speaker Pro Tempore, Lee Denney, banging her gavel and asking for a roll call at 1:30 p.m.

While the clerk called roll, a handful of Representatives milled about smartly on the floor, shaking hands and engaging in random banter, seemingly oblivious to the action taking place at the front of the chamber.

It was a full eleven minutes later that the House finally had enough members in attendance (51) to constitute a quorum to begin the agenda. At this point, Representative Denney slammed the gavel again and directed members to “take their seats or take their conversations outside.”

I admit I don’t quite understand how institutions like the House of Representatives are supposed to work, but I cannot imagine trying to lead a group of adults who lack the self-control and respect to simply be on time, sit down, close their mouth, and pay attention. This was far worse than any staff meeting I have attended .  .  .  or middle school classroom for that matter.

Anyhow, after finally getting half of the House in the same room at the same time, somewhere near a seat, and semi-attentive, Speaker Denney launched into the “ambitious” agenda for the day.

You can watch it yourself, or allow me to try to capture all the excitement for you.

Of course, the session started with a prayer followed by recognition of the Veteran of the Week. Then came the pledge of allegiance and a few special recognitions. This was followed by about five minutes of House members milling about smartly on the Floor with lots of laughter and hugs.

It was back to business with the passage of House Resolution 1069, declaring May as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month. Then more milling around followed by recognition of the House Nurse of the Day and various acknowledgements of people sitting in the gallery. Then we had the passage of SB 1573 on behalf of the Oklahoma Historical Society; authorizing the Society to transfer ownership of historic properties. This was labeled emergency legislation of course.

We then saw the quick passage of HB 3206 dealing with the Cash-flow Reserve Fund and requiring the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to make certain analysis and submission of information to the State Board of Equalization. This was as exciting as it got.

The Speaker then yielded the floor for personal comments from Rep. Mark McCullough (R-Dist 30).

For some reason, Rep. McCullough proceeded to give a Bible lesson on the book of Nehemiah. Coincidentally, I recall that was one of Janet’s favorite sections of the Bible as well.

The Representative then launched into an awkward skit involving the word SNAFU, which, as long-time readers of this blog will recall, also has a Janet connection. In this case, McCullough quipped that the SNAFU acronym stood for “Simple Norm-based Answer For Uniform Policy Analysis.”

I hate to quibble with the good Representative, but I think that spells “SNAFUPA,” which is a fine acronym in its own right.

Anyhow, the skit was apparently intended to serve as a humorous vehicle for identifying the answer for all of Oklahoma’s current problems. The two solutions that Rep. McCullough revealed in the form of large poster size pictures were “Smoking Joe Dorman” and Representative David Derby.

I didn’t get it either. But, everyone applauded so I suppose there may have been a hidden meaning to those in the know.

Rep. McCullough was followed by Representative Morrissette (D-Dist 92). Morrissette provided a heartfelt, yet somewhat lengthy goodbye speech to the House as he is term-limited at the end of the session.

The general session concluded with another few minutes of members milling about and a rather painful rendition of “Happy Birthday” by several House members.

And that was that. The Speaker smacked her gavel again to adjourn the session.

While the House took absolutely no action on any legislation associated with public education in today’s general session, I was optimistic that I might hear more from the House Common Education Committee meeting immediately afterwards—maybe even something about HB 2957, the TLE revision, or any of the various testing reform bills.

I was sorely disappointed.

Here’s how that session went. After about ten more minutes of milling around, the meeting was called to order at 3:23 p.m. and ended five minutes later, at 3:28 p.m. It was essentially, “Eh, anyone else want to meet today? Me neither. Let’s maybe meet tomorrow if y’all aren’t too busy.”

I honestly have no idea what is going on in Oklahoma City these days.

Our state is in the midst of a fiscal crisis of historical proportions; our schools are being cut to the bone; our social services are being eviscerated; our prisons have too few officers and too many prisoners; our state health care system needs serious reform; thousands of Oklahomans are losing their jobs and moving out of state, and many families are just trying to hang on to the next paycheck.

All the while, our state leaders seem to be going through the motions.

They are showing up late and leaving early, issuing “feel good” proclamations, performing silly skits, laughing and cavorting on the Chamber floor, and seemingly counting the days until someone says they can go home to start their reelection campaigns.

Milling about smartly. Sadly, that seems to be about all that’s happening at the Capitol these days.

But, there’s still time, right?

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