Editor’s Notebook: Bingman back, tax debate slated, liability limit signed, personhood appeal

From an editor’s notebook, Bingman will be back as Senate President Pro Tem, Art Laffer and Mickey Hepner will debate tax cuts in Oklahoma City, a “good faith” liability exemption has been enacted, and advocates of personhood are pondering an appeal of this week’s state Supreme Court ruling. 

* * * 

State Senator Brian Bingman of Sapulpa has been reelected President Pro Temp, garnering unanimous support in the Republican caucus and words of praise from his Democratic peer, Minority Leader Sean Burrage of Claremore.  

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Burrage said he was “genuinely pleased” Bingman will remain leader of the upper chamber at the Capitol in Oklahoma City. He reflected, “While we may differ on policy issues, he is a great friend and an asset to the State Senate and to Oklahoma.  I want to offer my sincere congratulations to Senator Bingman, and I look forward to continuing to work with him in the 54th Legislature.”

Majority Leader Mike Schulz of Altus described Bingman as “a common-sense conservative leader defined by Oklahoma values and a commitment to moving our state forward.” Senator Clark Jolley of Edmond praised Gingman’s role in achieving medical malpractice lawsuit reforms and changes in workers compensation provisions. 

Majority Whip Cliff Branan of Oklahoma City formally nominated Bingman for retention of the top job during a caucus gathering on Monday. 

* * * 

Next Wednesday, Dr. Arthur Laffer, the father of supply-side economics whose analysis has laid the basis for major tax cut proposals, will debate University of Central Oklahoma business dean Mickey Hepner. 

The joust will focus on tax reduction/phase out proposals in Oklahoma, and is slated for 12:30 p.m. at the Oklahoma History Center.

The event is co-sponsored the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and the State Chamber. 

* * * 

Governor Mary Fallin has signed House Bill 2419, a measure intended to eliminate liability for those who provide safe places during several weather. State Rep. John Enns, an Enid Republican, sponsored the measure.

Enns said, in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, “After the governor vetoed a shelter liability bill that singled out one set of business owners, lawmakers decided to send her a better bill that did not single out any one entity and which would take immediate effect upon her signature.” 

The legislation carried an emergency clause, and goes into effect immediately. 
State Rep. Eric Proctor, a Tulsa Democrat, had pressed an earlier version of the legislation which had focused the liability exemption for “good faith” actors in the mobile park industry.

In his statement on the new law, which passed in the House 89-2, Proctor said the measure would never have gained enactment without the determination of fellow Democrats and 16 Republicans who had sought to override Fallin’s veto of the original bill, H.B. 2419. 

Senator Brian Crain, a Tulsa Republican, had co-sponsored the earlier bill – which passed 92-0 in the House and 40-1 in the Senate. The veto override attempt was close (47-50) and quickly triggered a push to advance Enns’ version. 

* * *

This year’s Oklahoma battle over personhood may not be over. Sponsors of the Personhood Initiative said, in a document sent to CapitolBeatOK yesterday (Tuesday, May 1), that the state Supreme Court’s ruling slapping down the constitutional initiative before completion of petitioning was based on faulty premises.

Spokesmen for Personhood USA contend the state court’s decision is wrong. To bolster their arguments, they pointed to Justice Antonin Scalia’s analysis in a dissent to a 1992 decision, Casey v. Planned Parenthood.  

Scalia wrote, “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” 

Gualberto Garcia Jones, legal analyst for Personhood USA, said both the Casey decision and Roe v.Wade “have no basis in law.” He asserted “the undue burden of the standard of Casey is completely unworkable.” He continued, “If Oklahoma citizens are denied the opportunity to do so, our only recourse is to petition the Supreme Court.”

Also criticizing the state court decision was Steve Crampton, Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Liberty Counsel, who represents Personhood Oklahoma. He said: 

“This ruling epitomizes judicial overreaching. It not only misinterprets and misapplies federal constitutional law, but it also denies states’ rights and strips Oklahomans of their right to petition for a substantive change in state law, which is guaranteed under the state constitution. We are hopeful that the United States Supreme Court will reverse this decision.”

Dan Skerbitz of Personhood Oklahoma defended both the constitutional initiative and the statutory proposal that died in the Legislature two weeks ago. He said, “The people of Oklahoma will not be silenced. We have 13,000 volunteers who have been circulating petitions and are ready and willing to continue this fight for human lives. We are more determined than ever to rise up against judicial tyranny and cowardly state representatives who do not represent the will of the people of Oklahoma.”