January 30, 2011

COLUMN: Mark your calendars & be afraid

Jeanne Grimes
The Express-Star


Promises of less government struck a chord in November with many Oklahoma voters who, perhaps, would have been better served to remember when something sounds too good to be true, it is.

Because from all appearances, little has changed from legislatures past.

The 53rd Oklahoma Legislature will be in session from Feb. 7 to May 27. Counting weekends, that's 110 days. Of course, legislators generally aren't at the capitol weekends, so call it 80 work days. The bills and resolutions awaiting legislators runs 112 pages and that's just a list of the measures, brief titles and authors. Clearly, they have their work cut out for them.

Grady County legislators did their part to add to the workload. Representatives Joe Dorman, Corey Holland, Leslie Osborn and Phil Richardson authored 40 measures while Senators Don Barrington, Ron Justice and Anthony Sykes are responsible for 92 pieces of legislation.

I did the math thinking that might help the legislature stay on track. Dropping the resolutions and concentrating just on the bills - 969 in the Senate and 1,167 in the House - means they have to work through 26.7 bills each and every day.  Or 1.4 pages of the listing of bill titles.

Or they could scrap it all and save the lawmaking for another time to concentrate solely on the state budget. Oklahoma already has plenty of laws. Do we really need - or even want - a couple thousand new laws or amendments to existing laws?

We imposed term limits on our legislators. Maybe now is the time to impose legislation limits. Oklahoma has 149 legislators - 101 in the House and 48 in the Senate. Why not allow each to author three bills per session? Four hundred forty-seven possible new laws or amendments to existing laws is a lot in any given year, though it certainly sounds more manageable than 2,136 bills in 80 days. 

We could also impose a rule I learned from my Dad - if something's not broken, don't fix it. And who knows, it could just lead to less government.  Until then, mark your calendars - Feb 7 through May 27 - and be afraid. Be very afraid.