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May 16, 2014

Fallin’s hissy-fit veto binge may cost her big time this fall

Gov. Mary Fallin’s “temper tantrum,” as it was dubbed last week by State Rep. Mike Brown, embarrassed members of her own party, and for good reason. If voters are savvy enough to understand the retaliatory nature of the vetoes she let fly, she may have blasted a hole in her own foot.

According to observers, Fallin’s hissy-fit stemmed from the Legislature’s refusal to pass her bill to establish charter schools, possibly in every county. Last month, she brought in Jeb Bush to bolster her agenda, and both played to the media at a successful charter school in Oklahoma City.

Bush did say one thing that made sense, though it’s so obvious it’s almost a no-brainer: “I don’t think Washington’s the place where the education system can be fixed or improved.” That’s true, but accepting Fallin’s charter school proposal isn’t necessarily sound policy, either. What works in Oklahoma City might not work in Tahlequah — and what works in Tahlequah might not work in Hulbert. That’s why local control and state control should be balanced when it comes to education.

Democrats, who traditionally support public education, were apprehensive. And though the Republican super-majority in the Legislature might normally applaud the charter school concept, in this case, they didn’t bite. That’s because the companies she wanted to oversee this behemoth project are all from somewhere other than Oklahoma. No self-respecting, pro-business Republican — especially one who supports rock-bottom tax breaks for corporations to entice them into the Sooner state — is going to back a move that exports a windfall across the border.

In an almost-unprecedented move, the two parties worked together to reject Fallin’s plank. She was quick to exact her revenge, rapping off 15 vetoes in record time — just a blink of an eye when compared to what Brown described as “hundreds of hours of work.”

The veto most outrageous to fellow Republicans was on a bill to shorten the waiting period on background checks for certain firearms and peripherals. Fallin characterized this bill and others as “meaningless” in the face of more pressing business. And while there may indeed be more critical matters at hand, Fallin risked alienating legions of Second Amendment and gun loyalists, not to mention the NRA, with the stroke of her pen.

Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, Senate author of H.B. 2461, said the measure requires a sheriff or police chief to sign off quickly on applications for tax stamps for automatic weapons, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, silencers, suppressors and other items. And it sets a deadline of 15 days, if the buyer isn’t precluded from possessing a firearm.

Fallin explained her veto by saying, erroneously, that the bill attempted to control a federal agency — namely, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Since when has Fallin - or any person on the political right — developed a taste for licking the boots of the ATF?

The colossal blunder prompted the second historic action in a matter of days: It marked the first time the GOP-controlled Legislature overrode a Fallin veto. And they did it with the help of their Democratic colleagues. Perhaps voters  will have longer memories than they usually do, because we need to send a few more grownups to Oklahoma City this fall.

This editorial first appeared in the Tahlequah Daily Press.

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