POSTED ON MAY 22, 2013:
Take the Good, Take the Bad
Mercifully, session comes to an end
As the mostly unlamented 2013 legislation session nears adjournment, it's time to take note of some highs and lows:
High: Sen. Brian Crain's Senate Bill 315 requiring law officers to be trained in recognizing symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia.
As the Tulsa Republican correctly points out, people suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia at times become confused, combative and aggressive.
The new law, Crain says, is designed to help new law officers "better distinguish between this medical disorder and disorderly conduct."
Ensuring that more police are better trained to recognize the symptoms and respond appropriately increases the likelihood bad -- possibly fatal -- outcomes can be avoided.
The timing is certainly propitious: 5.2 million Americans now Alzheimer's.
Almost everyone, it seems, knows of someone dealing with the heartache of Alzheimer's or some other dementia.
It may seem like a small thing to expand training for new law officers, but it represents the kind of problem-solving the Legislature ought to be undertaking.
Low: The Legislature failed, yet again, to ban texting while driving. Oklahoma lawmakers repeatedly refuse to act. Seven such bills were filed in the 2013 session -- none cleared more than half the necessary hoops to reach the governor's office for final review.
It reminds one of the old TV show Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? Forty states have arrived at the rather elementary conclusion that piloting a 4,000-pound vehicle while simultaneously texting is a dangerous combination. Not Oklahoma.
High: Lawmakers killed Seminole Republican Rep. Tom Newell's crusade to defund the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority.
Out of a $7 billion state budget, OETA gets less than $4 million. How many state entities do more with less?
OETA unites Oklahomans in every corner -- from Boise City to Idabel, Miami to Hollis. For many in rural Oklahoma, far from metro areas and underserved by cable and high-speed Internet, OETA provides Oklahoma-centric information they can't get anywhere else.
Newell either knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing, or he lives in an alternative universe where public television is a liberal, socialist, brainwashing, un-American blight.
Happily, even Republican leaders sang OETA's praises.
Low: State Rep. John Bennett's use of taxpayer money -- via the House media division's press release machine -- to vilify Muslim Oklahomans.
The Sallisaw Republican, speaking as chairman of the Legislature's crackpot Counterterrorism Caucus, reported breathlessly that evidence had been collected against the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its ties with an Imam who has supported terrorists in the past.
Bennett also charged that CAIR and other groups like it have been identified as front organizations for terrorist groups.
Somewhere Joe McCarthy smiles. Bennett clearly never met the good folks from CAIR's Oklahoma chapter -- uniformly smart, kind, generous and committed to being solid, law-abiding, positive members of Oklahoma's increasingly diverse community.
Bennett's ignorance truly is breathtaking -- even by the low standards of the Legislature that once included a Muskogee Democrat named John Monks who referred to Chinese as "chinks."
Bennett's bigotry is not limited to Muslims. He also blistered the Oklahoma Episcopal Diocese for setting rules for same-gender blessings.
He then singled out for scorn Scott Hamilton, executive director of Oklahoma City's leading LGBT advocacy group, the Cimarron Alliance, for saying he was not surprised by the Episcopal Diocese's action given the "high percentage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who go to church regularly."
It probably never occurred to Bennett that Hamilton might know something about the subject. He's not only Cimarron Alliance leader, but also an ordained minister.
Using his House e-mail account, Bennett delivered a sanctimonious sermon that vilified LGBT Oklahomans, some of whom he no doubt represents.
"I want to make clear," Bennett said, "that I don't advocate anyone showing hatred or violence towards the individuals that chose to be Lesbian, Gay or Bi-Sexual. As Christians we should love them, but not the sin. However, it is very clear in numerous chapters of the bible speaking about homosexuality that homosexuality is between people of the same sex....God loves sinners, but condemns sin. And the Bible's verdict on homosexual behavior, as with all sexual immorality, is that it is sinful.
"It's very unfortunate that the Episcopal Church is working with Rev Hamilton who said 'you know, we really want to do this for the people we serve.' (Meaning the LGBT community). The Church does serve the community, however, Christians which are the Church, serve God first and God has clearly stated in Old and New Testament scriptures that Homosexuality is a sin. The best place for anyone who sins should be the church, however, I believe the church should be teaching the gospel not changing it to pander to a crowd, and the Diocese nor the Rev Hamilton should be using their positions...to teach or advocate for anything contradictory to Gods Word.
"If the Word of God is not being taught correctly -- due to the personal beliefs of the people teaching it -- then they should join an advocacy group, not use Gods House to spread a message completely contradictory to God's word. Not only is Homosexuality clearly defined as a sin in the bible, but a overwhelming majority of Oklahomans have voted to pass a Constitutional Ammendment prohibiting same-sex marriage.
"At the end of the day we All have to answer to God for the things we do, or don't do, according to His word. I would encourage the Episcopal Diocese and the Rev Hamilton to rethink their position and stop encouraging acts that are clearly against Gods Word. Marriage between a man and woman is sanctioned by God.... I pray for America to put God first in all we do before it is too late. One Nation under God."
For the record, I didn't change any of Bennett's rantings -- neither misspellings nor punctuation errors nor run-on sentences. You can judge for yourself whether he represents Oklahoma well.
Bennett is certainly entitled to his opinions, no matter how deranged, bigoted or hateful, but not to use taxpayers' money to advance his brand of Christianity. He deserves formal censure.
Don't hold your breath waiting for House Speaker T.W. Shannon or the other GOP leaders to call him to account. They've proven themselves all too willing to marginalize and demonize Muslim or LGBT Oklahomans (constitutional amendments, resolutions and laws vilifying Sharia law and same-sex marriage) just to drive the extremes of their base to the polls.
Not very Christian, if you ask me.
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