POSTED ON AUGUST 15, 2007:
Of Legislation and Levity
A couple Okies go to Boston to teach the Massachusetts Yankees a thing or two about lawmaking
The two Randy's. Terrill and BRogdon were invited to speak about their latest Legislative accomplishments at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Boston last week.
A couple of Oklahoma's high-profile Randys are making waves in the larger national pond of public policy, and so were invited to speak about their latest legislative accomplishments at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Boston last week.
State Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, spoke on his controversial immigration reform legislation, followed a couple days later by Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, who spoke on his (mostly) universally lauded new law requiring all state government expenditures be posted on an easy-to-access public website.
Brogdon told UTW that he didn't know if Oklahoma lawmakers had to be named "Randy" to be invited to the shindig, but said he and Terrill were probably summoned because their legislation is likely to be emulated in other states--very unusual, for most of the groundbreaking legislation in this country comes from either coast, or Texas.
For instance, while it's as controversial a bill as they come, Terrill's House Bill 1804 has been hailed by opponents of illegal immigration as "the most meaningful immigration reform legislation in the nation."
And that's not for lack of competition, either.
A new NCSL report reveals that the number of immigration-related bills enacted by state legislatures more than doubled in 2007 from last year, with 41 states passing 170 pieces of legislation.
"Congress' failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform has really forced the states' hands," said Texas Senator and NCSL President Leticia Van de Putte.
"Since the federal ship has sunk, there have been 50 lifeboats in the water seeking a solution. Once again, states have taken the lead on one of the most critical public policy challenges facing our country," she continued.
Among states taking the lead, Oklahoma's immigration reform legislation was "the talk of the town," according to author Terrill.
He told UTW that Georgia had that distinction a year ago, but that was only because they managed to pass legislation loosely modeled on Terrill's own first attempt at immigration reform in 2006, which failed when the Senate author dropped his name and support for it after it passed the House.
The political climate in Oklahoma has since changed in favor of Terrill's party, and he's been able to make it "a much more carefully drafted and calibrated piece of legislation," he said.
Among HB 1804's numerous provisions and mandates are penalties for those who knowingly hire illegal aliens and for those who knowingly harbor or shelter them, as well as requirements of proof of citizenship to receive state-funded non-emergency services or state-issued identification.
The bill will also modify Oklahoma law to mirror federal immigration laws, thereby authorizing enforcement by state and local police.
The law takes effect Nov. 1, unless certain Hispanic community groups are successful in their efforts to thwart it.
A much less controversial piece of Oklahoma legislation discussed at the annual NCSL conference was Brogdon's Senate Bill 1.
The Taxpayer Transparency Act is modeled after a relatively new federal law: the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, authored by Oklahoma's Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, and a certain high-profile Senator from Illinois, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
The new law in question will eventually enable citizens to "Google the government" by the creation of a searchable website by which all government expenditures can be monitored online by the public.
The bill received unanimous support in both house of the Oklahoma Legislature, with the only voice of dissent heard from State Chamber CEO and President Dick Rush.
After the conclusion of the session and within hours of Gov. Brad Henry's scheduled signing of the bill, Rush warned him that it would have a chilling effect on investment in the state by shining "unwanted light on those who invest in Oklahoma and will make it much more difficult to attract those investors."
That "unwanted light" was precisely what was intended by Brogdon and the rest of the lawmakers who voted for it, though, and Henry went ahead and signed it into law.
Other states might soon be emulating the law, if Brogdon's invitation to Boston is any indication, he said.
He told UTW his speech to the NCSL gathering focused on the importance of transparency in government, and included an anecdote from his days as the Mayor of Owasso.
"We had a contingency of local legislators from Kazakhstan, right after the fall of the Soviet Empire, traveling through the United States and looking at local governments," the Senator related.
"I made a comment that really caught them off guard, which was that we actually encourage and expect people to participate in our meetings," he said.
"Coming from the Soviet Union, they weren't used to that," Brogdon concluded.
Incidentally (but much to a certain reporter's disappointment), the Senator said Borat was not a part of the Kazakhstani delegation.
"That was a little before his time," Brogdon jested.
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