Editor’s Notebook: Life, Sheriffs, Supplementals, Independent ballot line

From an editor’s notebook, visions of life clash within 24 hours at contending Capitol events, county sheriff elections may become non-partisan, a major supplemental spending proposal for the current fiscal year is unveiled, and a legendary Democratic vote-getter moves to support creation of an Independent party ticket line for this November’s presidential election ballot in Oklahoma. 
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Today (Wednesday, February 29), a group of physicians joined legislative sponsors to defend and advocate for Senate Bill 1433, widely known as the Personhood Bill. The conference in the Capitol Broadcast Press Room came the day after several hundred opponents of the bill gathered on the north side of the Capitol to rally against the legislation.

Participating in the press briefing, organized by Brian Hobbs of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, were Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life, Dr. Mary Martin of Oklahoma City, Dr. Dominic Pedulla of Oklahoma City, Dr. Leah Dennis of Norman’s Eden Clinic, Dr. Anthony Jordan of the Baptist convention, and others. Joining the physicians and faith community leaders were Republican sponsors of the legislation, Senator Brian Crain of Tulsa and Rep. Lisa Billy of Lindsay. 

Assailing the legislation during yesterday’s rally were Dr. Eli Reshef, a specialist in fertility issues here in Oklahoma City. Other critics of the law who spoke yesterday were state Sens. Constance Johnson of Oklahoma City, Judy Eason-McIntyre of Tulsa and Jim Wilson of Tahlequah, all Democrats. 

Reshef and others said the legislation would place limits on intro fertilization procedures, allow prosecution of practitioners, and ban contraception. In comments to CapitolBeatOK, Dr. Reshef has contended, “Personhood legislation is inherently anti-reproduction, and anti-family. Personhood proposals are profoundly anti-life, not ‘pro-life’ as its advocates pretend.”
Echoing a defense of the measure from legislative leaders several days ago, Lauinger and others countered critics today, noting procedures cited by foes as at-risk in the proposed law are still allowed in Missouri, where such a statute has been on the books for more than two decades. That statute was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Webster decision. Lauinger argued for the educational and affirmational purposes of the statute, to encourage respect for life in the state

A state constitutional measure from state Rep. Mike Reynolds did not get a hearing in the House Rules Committee. 

The Crain-Billy statutory proposal patterned on the Missouri law passed the state Senate 34-8 and is now passing through House consideration. 
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This morning (Wednesday, February 29), the state House Rules committee approved Senate Bill 327, a measure to make county sheriff elections nonpartisan. 

State Rep. Randy Grau of Edmond and state Sen. Rob Johnson of Kingfisher are co-sponsors of the measure. In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Grau said the measure gave legislators “an opportunity to show whether we want to be statesmen more than we want to be politicians.”

He continued, “The public safety of a community is not a partisan matter. Lawmakers make decisions as to the law, county sheriffs execute it. There is absolutely no need for a partisan sheriff.”

S.B. 327 will advance to the House floor for a vote. 
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Arguably the most significant budget news of the week thus far was yesterday’s announcement of a major supplemental appropriation accord from Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley and House Appropriations leader Earl Sears.

Senate Bill 1959 provides a total of $92.5 million in supplemental Fiscal Year 2012 spending for education, public safety and reimbursements to local communities for disaster assistance.

The particulars include $14.8 million for National Board Certified Teachers already in the bonus track, $37.6 million insurance benefits for teachers and support staff, $34. 1 million for the state Emergency Fund to provide reimbursement to local communities and counties for disaster assistance, $5 million for a state Trooper Academy, and $1 million for personnel and equipment needed for accreditation. 

In a statement to CapitolBeatOK, Chairman sears commented, “Thanks to our growing economy, the state now has the money to address obligations we are committed to. This funding approach is an ideal way to fund initiatives that will address needs in communities across our state, providing widespread benefits to all Oklahomans.” 
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David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma, former U.S. Senator and former governor of the Sooner State, joined a volunteer delegate and student leader from a group called “Americans Elect” to submit 90,000 signatures to the state Election Board in the Capitol building yesterday.

The signatures could lead to creation of a ballot line for an independent presidential ticket this November. In all 51,739 valid signatures will be required to secure ballot status. 

In a statement provided to CapitolBeatOK, Boren stressed he was acting as an individual. Boren’s statement follows in its entirety:

“At the outset I want to make it clear that today I am speaking purely as a private citizen and not on behalf of the University of Oklahoma in any respect. 

“I want to thank Americans Elect for assuring that Oklahomans and Americans will have a third alternative in the Presidential Election this November if it is needed. Already over 2.5 million Americans have signed petitions with only 400,000 more signatures needed to be on the ballot in all 50 states.

“The Americans Elect process allows Republicans, Democrats and Independents to participate together to pick a Democrat and a Republican to run as a team for President and Vice President. It would be the first bipartisan national ticket in modern history.

“We all know that our nation is in severe trouble. We must act before our decline as a nation becomes irreversible. All Americans have a moral obligation to get involved. The signers of this petition are sending a message to Democrats and Republicans alike – stop wasting precious time fighting with each other and start working together to solve our problems.

“We need a truly bipartisan government, including a bipartisan cabinet, to bring all Americans together in a united effort. We need a bipartisan ticket that will embrace the main proposals of the Simpson Bowles Commission to stop the runaway budget deficits that put our nation at risk. We need a ticket which will fight for a constitutional amendment to stop the flood of special interest money that threatens to destroy grassroots democracy.

“What we are saying today is that there is something more important than the Democratic Party and something more important than the Republican Party. It is called the United States of America, and we must all join the fight for its future.”