Capitol Week In Review: Controversial Bills Voted On
OKLAHOMA CITY - It was a week of one controversy after another at the state Capitol, from gun control and school consolidation bills to millions in misspent money, to a pastor who blames school shootings and natural disasters on gay marriage.
The week started with the death of a controversial bill to consolidate some of the state’s 520 school districts to help pay for teacher raises.
“We’ve been talking a lot in this building about teacher pay. And this would afford for 500 to 700 dollars more in teachers’ pockets,” said the bill’s author, Senator Stephanie Bice (R) Oklahoma City.
A bill that would have required parents to have public school students vaccinated died in the Senate.
“You still believe that the state has the authority to remove parental rights and force vaccinations on public school kids?” opponent Senator Joseph Silk (R) Broken Bow asked author, Senator Ervin Yen (R) Oklahoma City.
Yen replied, “I believe the state has the right to make sure the public is protected. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life. Life in number one.”
Gun control advocates flooded the Capitol before two bills passed in a House committee; one allowing teachers and staff to carry in schools and the other allowing Oklahomans to carry without a permit.
“It allows for the carry of those firearms without a permit or training, correct?” Representative Emily Virgin (D) Democratic Caucus Chair asked.
Bill author Representative Jeff Coody (R) Lawton replied, “The permit that’s involved here is the second amendment.”
Representative Cory Williams (D) Stillwater added, “The people who wrote the second amendment actually owned other people, thought black people were only worth three fifths of a person.”
Lawmakers raided money the doesn’t belong to the state from unclaimed property fund to repay $20 million, misspent through the Lottery Trust Fund.
“The money that was supposed to go to education, do we know where it went?” Representative Eric Proctor (D) Tulsa asked.
Representative Mark Lepak (R) Claremore replied, “I don’t know that you can do a dollar for dollar accounting, so I can’t answer that question.”
The week wrapped up with a preacher not just raising up the Senate in prayer, but raising tempers, suggesting school shootings and natural disasters are part of God’s wrath over, among other things, gay marriage.
“Do we really believe that we can redefine marriage from the word of God to something in our own mind and there not be a response?” asked Pastor Bill Ledbetter of Durant.
Troy Stevenson, Executive Director Freedom Oklahoma, said “I don’t know what God they worship, but one that would kill scores of people because they don’t like someone getting married just, that doesn’t sound like God’s grace to me.”