So our august legislature can't make time to meet its April 1 deadline to fund public education for the next year. Or to discuss seriously one of the key safety issues facing motorists today: what to do about those who insist on texting while driving.
But our elected poobahs can carve out plenty of time to debate resolutions that aren't worth the paper they're printed on or to mug for cameras with reality TV "stars" like Dog the Bounty Hunter.
What's wrong with this picture?
Don't let the graying temples fool you: I'm not an old crank. I like to have fun, too. And having covered legislatures in three states, I know that sessions can be grueling and contentious, and often in sore need of levity.
But, good grief, there are serious issues to be resolved, from taxes to penal reform to health care -- things that really matter to Oklahomans' everyday lives.
Instead, all too often, the tough chores take a back seat to political whimsy. Grandstanding replaces statesmanship. Rigid ideology is mistaken for leadership.
When Republicans were the legislature's minority party, they incessantly pilloried Democrats over spending priorities. They stampeded the Ds into enacting a requirement that education funding be set by April 1 each year, giving schools three months before the start of the next fiscal year (July 1) to determine budget priorities.
The idea was that teachers deserved to know whether they'd be rehired. Administrators deserved to know how much would be available to spend. And students and parents deserved to know which programs would be funded and which would no longer be offered.
But a not-so-funny thing happened when the GOP took control of the House in 2004 and the Senate four years later: nothing.
Not once has the Republican-controlled legislature met the supposedly sacrosanct April 1 deadline.
The Democrats, of course, never did, either. But it was the GOP that demanded the deadline. And promptly ignored it.
So this year, what did our lawmakers do instead of nailing down the 2013-14 education budget?
Well, last week -- the second legislative week after failing yet again to meet the funding deadline -- Oklahoma's lawmakers were busy approving meaningless resolutions that yet again denounced Obamacare and affirmed Oklahoma's same-sex marriage ban and urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Actually, "meaningless" is too kind. So is "worthless."
The most appropriate term begins with "dumb" and ends with "ass."
Just think about it: do you really think the Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate -- or the president himself, for that matter - gives a damn what the Republican-dominated Oklahoma House thinks about Obamacare? Or that the U.S. Supreme Court waited breathlessly to hear what Oklahoma lawmakers have to say about the legalities of same-sex marriage?
This is the kind of phony baloney legislating that makes Oklahoma the butt of late-night comedian's jokes and contributes to a growing despair that our elected policy-makers aren't seriously responding to the state's serious problems.
Even worse, in the case of the DOMA resolution, the GOP House majority was all too happy to pour up another round of Hater-ade for its anti-LGBT base that refuses to join a new millennium in which a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.
The fact is, there are an estimated 375,000 gay or lesbian Oklahomans that not only deserve equal rights, but also deserve to be protected from so-called "leaders" who would attempt to stir up bigotry in order to enhance their political power. Talk about low.
As Scott J. Hamilton, executive director of the Oklahoma City-based Cimarron Alliance put it, "This resolution is not a law. It serves no purpose but to further expose to the nation the fear-based bigotry of our elected leaders.
"This type of behavior in our House of Representatives does a grave disservice to every gay Oklahoman and to their families ... We already have a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage. This legislation was completely unnecessary and will prove the representatives are on the wrong -- and dangerous -- side of history."
It's past time that political and religious leaders in Oklahoma recognize that marriage isn't a religious issue -- it's a civil issue. The state gives marriage its legal standing, not the church. As such, the state can't -- or shouldn't be able to -- discriminate against same-sex marriage anymore than it can against inter-racial marriage.
It's called equal protection under the law.
Lest you think Republicans alone are responsible for this legislative malarkey, it must be noted that 14 Democrats voted for the resolution, joining 70 of the 72 House Republicans.
Fifteen Democrats didn't even vote. Many, no doubt, were "taking a walk," as it's described in legislative parlance. Some privately support marriage equality, so they weren't about to vote for the resolution. But they also concluded it could be hazardous to their political health to go on the record in support of it.
Easy for me to say, I suppose, since I don't have a political career to put on the line, but it's terribly disappointing to see so many unwilling to stand up for equal rights for a segment of our society that, for far too long, has been vilified and ostracized.
At least the legislature's resolution calling on the president, vice president and Congress to pull the plug on Obamacare didn't fuel bigotry in Oklahoma. But it is no less preposterous.
"This resolution reflects the will of the people of Oklahoma," said House Speaker T.W. Shannon. "By a wide margin, Oklahomans are against the installment of Obamacare. As more information about it comes out, they find new reasons to like it even less."
Not exactly. Only in the right-wing bubble could one of our elected leaders express such poppycock with a straight face. The fact is, the more people know about the Affordable Care Act, the more they like it.
Check out the polls. When asked whether they like "Obamacare," many say they do not. But when surveyed about individual elements of the proposal, it's a different story.
They like it that insurance companies won't be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. They also like it that children can remain on their parents' policies until age 26.
But I'm not here to re-argue Obamacare. Even though Oklahoma's attorney general and others continue to waste the taxpayers' money on a fool's errand, the U.S. Supreme Court has settled the issue. Obamacare is the law.
What annoys me is that Oklahoma lawmakers pretend they're doing the people's business by passing resolutions that won't be paid attention to by anyone outside the marbled halls at NE 23rd and Lincoln Boulevard in Oklahoma City.
Isn't it past time to quit playing games and tackle the really tough issues? The ones that will determine Oklahoma's fate for generations to come?
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