We all know that the state legislature is tasked with addressing the state’s most urgent and important public policy problems. From program budgeting to educational standards to defining and specifying criminal penalties for unlawful acts, state senators and representatives enter each new session with a long list of weighty and substantive issues on the docket. However, as the elected voice of the people, the state legislature is also tasked with the particular and idiosyncratic concerns of a wide range of constituencies. We thought it would be enlightening – and entertaining – to start the session with a survey of some of the bills that won’t qualify for OK Policy’s brand of serious and in-depth analysis, but deserve a spot on the 53rd Legislature’s highlight reel. Besides, why should the Lost Ogle get to have all the fun?
Senator Judy McIntyre wants to declare, ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ the official state gospel song. If passed, SB 73 would add ‘Swing Low’ to the states growing list of official songs. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma!’ was appointed the official state song in 1953, Woody Guthrie’s ‘Oklahoma Hills’ was declared the state’s folk song in 1988, and in 2009 the Flaming Lips’ ‘Do You Realize’ was pronounced Oklahoma’s official rock song.
Ever heard of Jimson weed? Neither had we. Senator Kim David introduced SB 237, to classify Jimson weed as a Controlled Dangerous Substance. A quick search uncovered this helpful and horrifying mnemonic device for remembering the clinical symptoms of Jimson consumption – “red as a beet, dry as a bone, blind as a bat, and mad as a hatter.” Apparently, recreational use of Datura Stramonium (AKA Jimson weed) can cause hallucinations, psychosis, violent delirium, and death. Carry on, Senator David.
A bill that really has us scratching our heads – Representative Tom Newell wants to require written approval from the Director of Wildlife Conservation to sell taxidermy specimen at an estate sale and forbid the sale of taxidermy specimen that are not personal property of the owner of the estate. Given that the function of an estate sale is presumably to sell the possessions of the dear departed, it seems HB 1348 wants Great Uncle Earl’s family to think twice before selling off Great Uncle Earl’s prized mounted 10 point buck by getting written permission from a state agency. Are taxidermy specimens a public health hazard that we are unaware of? Has House District 28 been plagued by unauthorized taxidermy sales? We don’t get it.
A bill we are dubbing the ‘Who Let the Dogs Out Act’, HB 1249, would allow individuals to enter the adjoining property of another if they are in the process of retrieving their domestic livestock or other animals. If a cow wanders into your neighbors pasture, Representative Wade Rousselot wants you to be within your rights to collect the mischievous animal without fear of trespassing. Even if this bill passes, we suggest proceeding with caution onto any property with ‘trespassers will be shot’ signage.
Representative Charles Key wants to treat politicians like middle schoolers. HB 2067 would require all candidates for state and federal office in Oklahoma to complete a fill-in-the-blank exercise at the Election Board. An excerpt: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of ___________, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of ____________, or of the press;” Apparently Key thinks candidates need to prove that they can Google the Bill of Rights.
Finally, in an attempt to ruin middle school slumber parties the state over, HB 1320 wants henna tattoos – the functional equivalent of writing on yourself with a sharpee – to have the same legal classification as a regular tattoo or body piercing. If henna is the same as a tattoo, then the Girl Scouts of America should start riding with the Hell’s Angels. Tattoos are permanent and injected into the skin with a needle, henna dye is drawn on top of the skin and washes off in a week or two. I’m guessing those temporary tattoo dispensers at the mall aren’t quite as magical to Representative Harold Wright as they are to me.
Have you come across any other bills this session that might amuse OK Policy readers? Tell us about it in the comments section below. If you want to join the fun, click here for a list of bills and find your own favorite. And if you want a refresher about what happens to these bills after they are introduced, don’t forget about our indispensable 2011 Legislative Overview.