Okie Snow: Be Careful What You Wish For Girl

I have always loved snow.

Snow in Oklahoma means an automatic unscheduled holiday. Employers close down their businesses, churches and schools cancel services. We stay home from work, go to the grocery store and stock up on food, put the movies on tv and kick back.

Like I said, it’s a holiday.

This happens mostly because we are so totally unprepared to deal with snow and ice. We don’t have the clothes for it, don’t know how to drive on it, and have no clue at all as to how to keep our balance while walking on it.

A glaze of ice means gridlock; I mean people get trapped in their cars in long lines of traffic that do not move for hours. An inch of snow can shut us down for days. Fortunately for us, it usually melts even faster than it came down. We’re lucky if a snow stays on the ground for more than two days. Or maybe, I should say we are unlucky when it stays down because we don’t have plows to take it off our streets and driveways. It basically has to melt off. If for some reason that takes time, the gridlock extends beyond holidaying and turns into major inconvenience.

I’m talking about relatives moving in together to share the one house in the family that still has electricity (which always goes off in ice storms) This one house in the family with electricity on which all the relatives descend invariably is the house with one bathroom and no spare beds. Other people crash and bang into one another on the way to jobs that have reopened, no matter the roadways.

So when I say I love snow, you have to understand that I’m grouping myself with schoolchildren praying for a snow day and not much of anyone else. But it’s true. I do. Love snow, that is. Love the stuff.

Which is why I’ve been sad about our snowless winter so far. Oklahoma, in case you haven’t figured this out from what I’ve said so far, is not big snow country. But we do get an ice or snow storm once or twice each winter. That’s all it usually amounts to, but it does come around like clockwork every year.

However, we’d been snowless so far this winter. There were a few flakes before Christmas, but they weren’t enough to dust the ground. I think this is mostly due to our overall waterless state. We are in a drought cycle reminiscent of the one that gave us the Dust Bowl. We’ve dodged the Dust Bowl scenario this time around due to conservation efforts people put in place after the 1930s’ misery. But no conservation effort can change the fact that the rain has stayed away. It clouds up, but nothing comes down, and that has included snow.

I had resigned myself to a snowless winter. In fact, winter itself was beginning to look like a quickly passing phase instead of a full-blown season. We’ve had shirtsleeve weather a couple of days this past week. Garden supply stores are starting to gear up. And I keep finding seed catalogues in my mailbox.

Snow was the furthest thing from my mind when I got up this morning. I had two bills up in committee today, one of them an important pro life bill. I was excited and happy about the idea of defending them in committee. I am a legislator, and I live for this stuff. Passing a bill you really care about is one of the highest highs you can have on any job. Passing a bill like this pro life bill, that you know will save lives, is … well … it’s reason enough to put up with the guff and grump of public office the rest of the time.

When I walked out of my house and saw the snow coming down, my first reaction, despite my love of the white stuff, was dismay. I broke my foot last October. Yesterday was the first day I’ve been able to go all day with a regular shoe on that foot in all those months. I spent two months in a wheel chair and even more time basically confined to my house. I still don’t walk exactly the way I did and I’m not all that sure-footed.

It’s getting better every day. But the thought of slip-sliding on the ice with the Gimpster really scared me. I do not want to break anything else. I’ve enjoyed that deal just about as much as I can stand.

I took heart in the fact that the snow was not “sticking.” It was coming down, but melting in the puddles on the ground. I hoped that meant it would be an ice free passage when I needed to get out of the car and walk. But I only drove a short way before that changed. The snowfall thickened and I guess the temperature dropped because it started packing on the streets and piling up on the ground.

I got over halfway to work and decided the risk was too great. I called everyone and told them I was bailing. Then I turned the car around and headed home. No trip to the capitol, no committee meeting, no ice walking for me.

This is not something I did lightly. In eleven years, I had only missed two days of work, one because of a death in the family and the other one because of Gimpy. Now, thanks again to Gimpy, I’ve missed three days.

But the thing that really bothered me wasn’t missing a day of work. It was getting that bill out of committee. There’s a timing to these things and the time for this vote was now. I wanted so badly to go in there and present that bill in committee, but the Gimpster has her own rules and I’ve learned the hard, hard way that I’d better follow them.

Long story short, another legislator friend of mine, Representative Mike Ritze, graciously agreed to handle the pro life bill for me in committee and got it voted out. (Bless him.) I am so grateful to Representative Ritze for being willing to jump in there like that.

Representative Mike Ritze

At the same time, I am disappointed that I didn’t get to do it myself.

I mean, really disappointed.

I got the snow I was wishing for. And I did not re-injure my healing-but-still-gimpy leg. On top of that, the bill that matters so much to me was voted out of committee, thanks to an understanding chairman and a kind-hearted and willing colleague. Thanks to good people who pulled together to help me, a life-saving bill made it over the first legislative hurdle.

Kinda hard to feel sorry for myself when I put it like that, so I guess I won’t.

The bill is still a long way from making a new law. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to defend it, I’m sure.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to enjoy this little bit of Okie Snow.

It’s Shrove Tuesday. It’s also two days before Valentine’s Day. If it hadn’t snowed, my husband was going to take me out tonight. As it is, I may make pancakes. We have a bottle of champagne that’s not doing anything.

Champagne and pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

Sounds like an Okie snowstorm to me.

Have a great evening, my friends. Happy Shrove Tuesday.

And be care what you wish for.

 

Reclaiming Our Government: First, Learn the Nuts of Bolts of How it Works

Oklahoma State Capitol Building

The Oklahoma Legislature kicked off its 2013 session today.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin

Governor Mary Fallin — the first woman governor in state history — delivered her State of the State address. What this means is that she laid out her legislative proposals for the year. In Oklahoma, the Governor proposes; the legislature disposes.

Oklahoma’s legislature is no paper tiger. We are not shorn lambs like Congress. The Governor’s proposals will most likely come out of the legislative process — if they survive the process at all — looking very different that they did when the Governor described them today.

After we heard the State of the State, it was on to the bi-annual fight over the House Rules. I am not a big fan of these Rules. It seems that every two years the new Speaker re-writes the Rules in ways that concentrate more of the power in his hands and makes it harder for members of the House to pass legislation or introduce amendments that he doesn’t want.

The stated purpose of the House Rules is to facilitate order. But in actual practice they have become a means of shutting down debate and concentrating power in one pair of hands.

This matters to people who don’t live in Oklahoma because we are not unique in this. Using the rules to increase the power of the leadership has become the trend in many states, as well as Congress.

If you wonder why you keep voting for change and getting the same old thing, rules like these are one reason. I think it’s important for you to learn about these things. The first step in taking back our government is to learn how we’re losing it in the first place.

Two of the things I am going to list as troubling did not originate with this speaker. My criticisms are not about personalities. They are about process and how that process works to either increase the people’s ability to be heard in the legislature, or to decrease it.

More and more people of both parties are becoming jaded and cynical about our government. I think one of the reasons why is the over-weaning influence of special interests who often act in opposition to what is best for the people of the community, state or nation.

If we’re going to change this, ordinary citizens need to learn more about legislative processes. These processes begin with the governing rules of legislative bodies. Boring and dry as these rules are, they affect your life. My advice is to follow through after you read this post and check out the rules which govern the legislature in your state.

Here are some of the rules I find most troubling, and the reasons why:

1. Recorded votes. A recorded vote is just what it says. It’s a vote that is recorded in the House Journal and will be there for citizens to see. Recorded votes give the people the ability to see what their elected officials are really doing with the power they’ve given them.

According to Oklahoma’s House Rules, a House member who wants a recorded vote on most House actions, must first request the recorded vote, then he or she must get 15% of the House membership to  stand up and “second” this request.

Obviously, the reason for this rule is to make it harder to get a vote on the record, where the people can see it.

Personally, I think every vote on the floor of the Oklahoma House  of Representatives should be a recorded vote. My feeling is that if you’re ashamed of your votes and want to hide them, you probably shouldn’t be voting that way.

I make it a point to stand up and “second” any request for a record vote, even if I don’t agree with the vote itself. I may, and I have, “second” a request for a recorded vote, then turn around and vote against the action in question.

2. Killing not just bills. Killing ideas. If a committee chairman doesn’t hear a bill in their committee, the whole idea behind the bill is “dead” for the rest of the legislative session. What that means is that it can’t be introduced as an amendment in any other bill. Not just the legislation, but the whole idea behind it is “dead” for the two years of the legislative session.

This rule gives one person — the committee chairman — the power to arbitrarily kill any idea that is brought before his or her committee for the life of an entire legislative session. Since the House Speaker appoints the committee chairs, this means that the Speaker can decide not only the future of any bill in the Oklahoma Legislature, but the future of ideas themselves. This is too much power to put in one man or woman’s hands.

3. Keeping legislators in line. If the leadership uses the committee process to kill a bill that is sufficiently popular, there has always been the fail-safe provision that legislators could work together and “sign it out of committee over the chairman’s head.” What this means is that if 2/3 of the legislators signed a petition asking that a bill come out of a committee, it would be automatically taken out of the committee and put where it could come to a vote of the whole House.

This was used successfully against a Speaker last year. The legislators who did it got the signatures on a petition that was printed on paper and managed to force a vote on the bill in question.

The new rule would require that all signatures to sign a bill out of committee would have to be filed electronically with the House computer system. This is being touted as a reform to allow “transparency.” What it is in reality is a method of controlling this process by letting the Speaker know the minute someone signs this petition. That would allow the Speaker ample opportunity to arm twist and bully the person to remove their name. It could also intimidate many members into not signing the petition in the first place.

This rule, like the others I’ve mentioned, works to keep elected officials in line and stop them from influencing the legislative process. They concentrate power in the hands of the leadership and often reduce the House membership to a rubber stamp.

Boring details of the legislative process like these rules matter to you whether you know it or not. They affect how responsive your government is going to be to the people, or, on the other side, how controlled it will be by special interests.

These rules affect the roads you drive on, the schools your children attend, how much taxes you pay and whether or not your values will be railroaded out of existence by a hostile government.

The rules I’ve described help special interests who want to “wire” the legislature to work for them and not the people. All they have to do is convince one person, the House Speaker, and they can run the whole House of Representatives through him.

Ordinary citizens, who can’t hire professional lobbyists who understand these arcane rules and know how to “work” them, are at an absolute diadvantage in their own government. The truth is, when someone silences your Representative, they are also silencing you.

Not only that, but a government as controlled as the one these kinds of rules creates can not think effectively about the challenges it will inevitably face. There is a reason why Democracies are more creative than dictatorships. It’s because mind on mind generates ideas. But when one person can kill any idea and effectively stop all debate and conversation about that idea for any reason, stultifcation sets in.

The great creative strength of Democracy smoothers, withers and dies under dictatorial rules.

I’m writing this because I love my country. Government has got to become more responsive to the needs of the American people.

It will never do that on its own. If we are going to reclaim our government from the special interests, we must begin by understanding nuts and bolts things like the ones I’ve described here.

 

Organization Day at Oklahoma House of Representatives

Today was Organization Day at the Oklahoma House of Representatives. 

The Democrats and Republicans had lunch with their respective caucuses. Then we went to the House floor to elect a new speaker and speaker pro tempore. I left a bit early because Gimpy decided she’d had all the walking and standing she wanted.

Here are a couple of snapshots I took with my cell phone, just for you.

 

House Floor, from my desk. With my seniority, I can sit anywhere I want. I want to sit on the back row. The reason? The cameras aren’t on me constantly back there, which means I can blow my nose without ending up on tv while I’m doing it and I can leave without having to climb over the other reps to get to the door.

 

Swearing in new speaker, Speaker TW Shannon. He’s the first African American Speaker in state history. I should have brought my real camera instead of a cell phone. It’s a big room, and I sit waaayyyy back there where nobody bothers me unless I want to be bothered.

Today I Took the Oath of Office and Will Begin a 54 Day Novena

5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

… 7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

 

My family and I made the trek to the capitol this morning for my swearing in.

Most of the rest of the representatives are still out there, going through the long ceremony, complete with speeches, of the regular, formal, swearing in. I decided, due to Gimpy the Foot, to go out early and get sworn in privately. However you do it, taking the oath of office is always a kick. Now I am legally the representative for District 89 in the Oklahoma State Legislature for the next two years.

I always begin a 54 Day Novena at this time of year. I ask God to use me however He wishes in the upcoming legislative session and to please protect me from my own stupidity so that I won’t accidentally do something that hurts people by mistake. I also pray Solomon’s prayer when he was first anointed king.

This is a good time to remember what happened to Solomon after he prayed this prayer. God heard him and gifted him with great wisdom and prosperity. But Solomon, despite his excellent intentions at the beginning of his reign, fell into apostasy, allowing his many political marriages to women who were not of his faith to re-introduce idolatry and human sacrifice into Israel.

That same thing has happened to our own country. Many of the leaders we’ve trusted, including some of our religious leaders, have led us into blatant human sacrifice to the gods of commerce, success, and a false sense of freedom. We abort our children, euthanize our elderly or warehouse them in nursing homes. We buy and sell young women as if they were chattel. Everything is forfeit to the pursuit of our private narcissism and the almighty dollar.

I remember all this when I pray Solomon’s prayer. It is a perfect prayer for any elected official, and the sad end to which Solomon fell after praying it is also worth pondering.

The 54-day Novena involves praying the Rosary for 54 days. For the first 27 days, you pray for your intention. For the last 27 days, you thank God for answering you. I do it every year before session. It focuses and cleanses me. I also think that it has been answered, usually in surprising ways that I would not have dreamed of at the time I prayed it.

So for me this business of being sworn in is another starting point. It signifies that I am, once again, committing myself to the job of being the voice for thousands of people within Oklahoma’s state government. I don’t take this lightly. In fact, it can be rather terrifying. Which is why I always turn to the Lord for support, guidance and help.

Christians can do nothing for God without God’s help. We are not are own. We belong to Him.

Prayer is the well-spring from which our grace and strength comes to us.

This is the beginning of my 17th year in elected office. My prayer is that God will use me however He sees fit. I am His.

But Leave it There

I respected the woman speaking to me. She and I had the same background, shared most of the same beliefs. But we were at odds that day. She looked at me with the hot-eyed stare of a person who is not to be reasoned with and pointed her finger at me to emphasize her words.

“You can go to church as much as you want,” she said, “but leave it there.”

She was angry with me because I had passed a bill that, among other things, required unemancipated minors to either get parental consent or a judicial bypass before elective abortions.

The abortion wars destroy friendships in politics, and my friendship with this lady was ending over this bill. I could have said a lot of things to her that day, but I sensed some deep wound driving her anger, and I didn’t want to hurt her. So, I held my tongue. I knew as I walked away that this woman who had been my friend was now my enemy.

I also knew that her request that I leave my faith in the church pews was both arrogant and common. Accusations that people who believe in the sanctity of human life are trying to “legislate their religion,” or that they want to “build a theocracy” are standard commentary from the other side of the debate.

I try my best to never reply in kind. I don’t call people who favor legal abortion names. I don’t attack them for slips of the tongue or research their personal lives looking for sexual peccadilloes, embarrassing photos from long-past fraternity parties or ugly divorce testimony.

I do all I can to let them have the low road if they want it so much and keep my focus on the one thing I care about in all this, which is my simple belief that it is wrong to kill people. I won’t use my job to kill people. And I won’t help anyone else kill them, either. I know that sounds almost comically simple. But adhering to it in a legislative environment can get you cursed, reviled, slandered, picketed and, yes, advised to leave your faith at church.

I’ve been getting these demands that I be a sham Christian for years. Go to church all you want. We don’t care. But leave it there. The people who say this are usually in a froth of self-righteousness when they do it. They can look at you with such hatred that it almost scorches your skin. And they almost always toss in a canard about “separation of church and state” to give dignity to what is in reality an outrageous thing to say.

It’s ironic. People are always accusing politicians of being hypocrites, but in this instance we have a large segment of the population actually demanding it of them.

“Go to church all you want, but leave it there” has nothing at all to do with separation of church and state. There is nothing in the First Amendment that says that elected officials may not reference their personal religious and moral beliefs in the decisions they must make.

I don’t believe this lady was worried about separation of church and state. I think she wanted me to live and vote according to her beliefs rather than my own. That’s the core of these attacks. It’s that you’re not doing what they want you to, and attacking you with bogus nonsense about separation of church and state and building a theocracy sounds better than just pitching a fit and saying “Do what I tell you or else!”

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has advanced far beyond me and what an angry lady said to me in the hallway outside the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Today we have the Health and Human Services Department of the United States Government telling the largest religious denomination in America virtually the same thing and backing it up with what amounts to a draconian threat.

Teach what you want from the pulpit they tell the Church. But if you don’t bend to the government and violate those same teachings in your institutions, we will fine and penalize you out of business. That’s the gist of the HHS Mandate compelling the Catholic Church to provide insurance coverage for birth control and abortifacients for the employees of its institutions.

What it all comes down to is that the Federal Government is telling the Catholic Church “Say mass as much as you want. But leave it there.”

And, yes, this time it really is a violation of separation of church and state.

Reps Hamilton, Peterson File Amicus Brief in Abortion Drug Supreme Court Case

I thought you might enjoy seeing this. The only public statements I will make about this are the press release below and the brief itself. Feel free to discuss it yourselves, though.

 

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Media Division

October 9, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Authored: State Rep. Rebecca Hamilton

Authored: State Rep. Pam Peterson

Contact: Jason Sutton

Capitol: (405) 557-7421

Reps. Hamilton, Peterson File Amicus Brief in Abortion Drug Supreme Court Case

OKLAHOMA CITY – Today, Oklahoma State Representatives Pam Peterson, Republican from Tulsa, and Rebecca Hamilton, Democrat from Oklahoma City, are filing a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the Oklahoma Supreme Court, in defense of House Bill 1970, which regulates the use of drugs that are prescribed to cause an abortion.

“H.B. 1970 is a reasonable legislative measure that is intended to ensure the health and safety of women seeking chemical abortions,” Rep. Hamilton explained.

The law was challenged by Oklahoma abortion providers and was struck down by a state district court judge on state constitutional grounds.

“The district court’s determination that the Oklahoma Constitution confers a right to abortion cannot be reconciled with the text, history or interpretation of the state constitution,” Rep. Peterson said. “From territorial days to the present, the State of Oklahoma has recognized and protected the rights of unborn children in criminal law, tort law, health care law and property law,” she added.

Although, because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), abortion is legal in Oklahoma, the practice of abortion is subject to reasonable regulation like that provided by H.B. 1970. No federal constitutional claims were raised in the state court challenge. The case is Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, et al., vs. Terry L. Cline, Oklahoma Commissioner of Health, et al., Docket No. 110765.

The legislators’ brief was drafted by Paul Benjamin Linton, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm.

-30-

Prayers for the Family Research Council: My Comrades in the Culture Wars

I would guess that the person who showed up at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington DC today with Chick-Fil-A materials, ammo, a gun and what appear to be very bad intentions is a hate-filled nut.

Does that about cover it? I hope so. Because I am not going to waste one more virtual word on this person.

I will say that I am very grateful in an almost personal way to the security guard who stepped up and stopped what might very well have been yet another tragic shooting. Bless him. I pray for his full recovery and long happy life.

I have partnered with the Family Research Council on legislation in the past, and I hope to do so again. They are great people who have zero problems crossing the Democrat-Republican divide to help a pro-life Okie pass pro-life legislation. I’m not going to mention any of their names here because I don’t think it would be a kind thing to do under these circumstances.

Another thing I am not going to do is start pointing fingers at everybody from the President of the United States to the doorman at Fox News in an attempt to blame them for something they obviously did not do. These horrible acts of violence against innocent people are tragedies. They are not opportunities for political demagoguery.

My prayers go with my friends at the Family Research Council. I’ve been thinking about you all day. I know that you are going to have trouble sleeping tonight, and that you will re-live this like a tape going in front of your eyes for a while. Just talk it out with your friends, hug your loved ones and say your prayers. It gets better in time.

Also, hug that security guard for me, will you?

He saved your lives. He also saved me and the rest of the world from losing you.

Good Morning Patheos!

I am Representative Rebecca Hamilton. I am beginning my 17th year as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. That means I have much more seniority than anyone else in the Oklahoma Legislature.

I was first elected in 1980, served three terms, then left office when I had my first child. Before I was elected, I was an ardent pro abortion activist. I helped found the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and, during the early 1970s, was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma.

I was re-elected in 2002. I had experienced a powerful religious conversion which changed me concerning issues of life. I had also converted to the Catholic Church. The same people in the same House District who had elected me as a pro-choice advocate graciously re-elected me as a pro-life Catholic.

During the years away from public office I was a full-time, stay at home Mom.

I never planned on blogging. But the HHS Mandate requiring the Catholic Church to violate its moral teachings or face crippling fines, along with the many battles I’ve fought for the sanctity of human life since I returned to office, have changed my mind. Being a Public Catholic is not easy. Its not easy for anyone who takes it seriously. I fear it’s going to become more difficult as time goes by.

I want to add my small voice to the fight and I don’t know any better place to do that than right here at Patheos.


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