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Constitution "ignored" by majority during dreadful legislative session, lawmaker says

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
State Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) talking on June 2, at the Tyner Cornbread and Beans.
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Democrat tells political watchers that the "far-right" in the legislature blocked good legislation, frustrating reform efforts

NORMAN, Okla. – State Rep. Emily Virgin, the Democrat representing House District 44 discussed issues addressed – and not addressed during the recent legislative session.

Oklahoma issues encountered with the Republican majority who controlled both the Oklahoma’s Senate and House, on June 2, at the weekly Tyner Cornbread and Beans political discussion event.

“This was the worst session in recent decades,” the Norman native said about the vote of the budget.

Virgin said the Republicans tried everything to vote the budget without taking account of the Democrats viewpoints blaming the lack of leadership in the Republican majority.

“One side doesn’t want to see the other side to win even if it is the right things to do,” Virgin said.

Virgin couldn’t accept that many Republicans didn’t want to take responsibility for the education budget cut put in place since several years, especially when students admission continuously increases saying, “Holding harmless is just wrong.”

However, Virgin admitted that not all legislators in the majority were disrespectful including among other the committee chair of appropriation Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang).

Virgin believes the far-right legislators are the first accountable of the budget crisis for blocking any tax increase and trying continuously to cut the budget. She added the actual budget deficit is due to cut of the income and gross production taxes.

“We put several options on the table and they wouldn’t take any of them,” Virgin said about the increase of the gross production taxes concerning the oil and gas industries.

Virgin said the budget could be challenged by state courts as unconstitutional concerning the vote of new increase tax by legislators as it is not possible to add change during the last five days before the final budget vote, it start in the House and it requires a super majority in both chambers (since SQ 640 was voted in March 1992).

And Virgin cited the example of the new cigarette fee (tax) that started in the Senate, therefore in violation of the Constitution.

“The ignoring of the Constitution was offensive,” Virgin said.

Virgin pointed out that the SQ 640 was proposed by the Republicans to prevent Democrats from raising taxes but because of the SQ 640 the Republicans couldn’t do what they wanted.

The other big issue raised by Virgin was the criminal justice reforms that should have reduced the overcrowded inmate population in Oklahoma. However, it will not stop the state to build three more prisons in the next years.

“We know that Oklahomans are not more violent than the rest of the country, we just have bad laws when it comes to sentencing,” Virgin said.

Virgin said even if Rep. Scott Biggs, (R-Chickasha), the chairman of the Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee, has been doing acts of obstruction since the beginning the real person accountable for the debacle of the criminal justice reform measures is the House speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka).

“The speaker could just move the bills,” Virgin said. “For whatever reasons he just would not do that.”

Virgin said only 140 prisoners will be concerned by the reforms far to the 5,000 inmates expected at the beginning.

“The inmate population (has passed) the breaking point,” Virgin added.

Commenting on the talk of an attendee about the depart of the teacher of the year Shawn Sheehan to Texas, Virgin said more and more teachers are living Oklahoma.

“We got to do something about teacher pay raise,” Virgin said.

Further Virgin said to Red Dirt Report the best way to increase democracy in Oklahoma is by regularly calling one’s representative about issues that affect the state.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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