Oklahomans are pawns in an unproductive political fight that holds legislation hostage and rejects popular, needed potential laws.
The standoff between Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Senate over tax cuts and private school vouchers/tax credits has created a large swath of collateral damage.
Stitt is using — or abusing — his veto power on unrelated legislation to force the Senate into adopting his education and tax plans. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said he and the chamber won't be bullied.
The losers are Oklahomans.
The thwarted laws were those with unanimous or near unanimous passage — a rarity in politics. That kind of support indicates bipartisan approval and a clear mandate from Oklahomans through their representatives.
This includes House Bill 2608 that would have closed a loophole in the sex offender registry. It passed 93-0 in the House and 45-0 in the Senate. The bill would require those registering with tribal governments on tribal land also be put on the state's sex offender list.
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The unanimously approved Senate Bill 429 would have reinforced the rights of Indigenous students to wear tribal regalia at graduations. This came after vetoing House Bill 2819, passed with no dissent, that would have extended the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education.
It appears Stitt is continuing his contentious relationship with tribes.
Among the more than 20 vetoes: Senate Bill 291 would have allowed child abuse victims to apply for an emergency temporary orders or emergency ex parte order for protective orders. Senate Bills 711 and 712 would allow prisons, jails and hospitals to give Narcan to known opioid users upon release.
Regulatory boards for architects, chiropractors and psychologists are gone. An update to the collegiate athlete name, image and likeness licensing has been scrapped, putting the state behind other universities.
Stitt cannot claim his vetoes are what Oklahomans want, with most of those receiving almost no legislative opposition. He made these authoritarian-like choices based on his own biases and political game.
Take his turnabout on Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. Stitt's original budget included $2.8 million for OETA but now he's arguing to defund it, claiming it sexualizes and indoctrinates children.
OETA and the Public Broadcasting System are doing no such thing. The examples given were of a 3-year-old "Clifford the Big Red Dog" episode that included a lesbian couple, a 4-year-old documentary featuring a drag queen and a news interview of parents of a transgender child. That's slim — to no — evidence.
The OETA attack is an old one from the right wing that ignores its infrastructure ties to the public emergency system, educational programming and rural outreach.
The Senate is retaliating by withholding Stitt's confirmations to boards and commissions.
What a poor way to govern, frustrating Oklahomans who already have shaky faith in government. This isn't gridlock. This is a shakedown and freefall.
The Legislature can override the vetoes and ought to do so for some critical areas, such as OETA funding.
In the meantime, this childish stalemate among Republican leaders needs to end.