May 19, 2011
This is what two ladies who were collecting signatures for a petition at the capitol were told by an irate Republican Representative yesterday.
It also recalls the treatment of a variety of petitioners for the discharge of another bill earlier this session. Many were treated to rude remarks by legislators who lumped them all together regardless of whether or not they had anything to do with other activists that the legislators were irritated with. It was clear to me then the “us against them” mentality. This attitude is very concerning as most people want to work reasonably with their legislators and do not deserve this kind of response.
Yesterday, Rep. Don Armes, upset over calls to his office made by the Sooner Tea Party’s Al Gerhart unleashed his fury on the two women in the House Lobby in front of a large number of astonished onlookers consisting of Capitol staff, lobbyists and visitors. The tirade lasted for several minutes and despite protests from the pair of signature gatherers that they have no control over the actions of other activists, Armes continued with his finger in the face tirade against Gerhart saying “You all look the same to me!”
One petitioner gave up and walked away from the scene while the other calmly tried to bring the outraged Rep’s attention back to the issue at hand to no avail. Full disclosure-I was the one that walked away from the abuse.
I think that this eruption actually demonstrates one of the reasons that HR 1004, dubbed the Key open government rule, is so necessary.
Rep. Armes later apologized to me and explained that the legislators are operating under a great deal of pressure. I do understand that our Representatives are under an enormous amount of pressure. Is it possible that some of this pressure I believe could be relieved by a simple change of rules?
As it stands now, bills are denied a fair hearing before legislative committees prior to ever making it to the floor of either House often because a few people in leadership positions simply don’t want them to.
The people of Oklahoma elect their representatives well. . . to represent them. The current process denies representation to thousands through the voice of their elected representative which leaves pressure tactics as one of the few avenues open to get a bill unblessed by leadership to a fair hearing.
This legislative session has been marked by unprecedented bitterness in large part due to minority members’ legislation being shut out.
HR 1004 seeks to remedy this by providing a process by which bills can all be offered before a committee for consideration before being delegated to the legislative waste bin by the opinion of one.
The insult to Oklahoma voters committed by Rep. Armes yesterday is by no means the only contentious event that Oklahoma taxpayers have been treated to this session and until our legislators correct their rules to make them more evenhanded and transparent, it certainly won’t be the last.