BY DAVID PERRYMAN
In the Book of Exodus [21:35], Hebrew law provides the remedy when neighbors’ oxen fight to the death of one. The neighbors equally share in the sales price of the surviving ox and divide the meat of the dead one.
Conventional wisdom is that “whose ox is being gored” determines whether that Mosaic ordinance is fair and equitable.
This axiom often clouds logic and reasoning of persons with vested interests as shown by recent state and federal issues. Consequently, in press releases, during press conferences and while simply “howling at the moon,” phrases such as “legislative intent” and “rule of law” have been tossed about.
Three dissimilar current issues illustrate what is often referred to as “situational ethics.” Situational ethics is the antithesis of the rule of law and is based on two fundamental concepts. First, there is no right or wrong and, second, the end always justifies the means.
Current Event A. In an attempt to inflict a fatal blow to the Affordable Care Act, Oklahoma’s executive branch is currently arguing that the plain language of the statute prohibits low income Oklahomans from receiving a federal credit to defray part of the premium cost of health insurance.
According to the state’s highest prosecutor, the court’s analysis of legislative intent has no place in its endeavor to determine whether working Oklahomans would be entitled to a tax break when purchasing health insurance from a federal exchange since Oklahoma refused to establish a state exchange.
Current Event B. In the midst of a constitutional challenge to a statute that makes multiple cuts to Oklahoma’s highest income tax brackets, a group of lawmakers said that it should not matter that it is a revenue bill that did not originate in the House of Representatives and it should not matter that it was not approved by a three-quarters majority in both chambers.
The group argues that regardless of the language of the Oklahoma Constitution, the “intent of the people” was not to restrict this type of revenue bill even though during floor debate some of these individuals detailed how this bill will actually raise revenue by decreasing the tax rate for those who pay the highest rate.
In fact, the very language of the bill provided that an increase in revenue was the trigger for a future decrease in the tax rate for subsequent years.
Current Event C. Oklahoma’s executive branch disregards the existence of an Oklahoma statute requiring a new candidate to be named when a congressional candidate dies prior to an election because, in his opinion, a federal statute, Title 2 USC, Section 7 pre-empts it despite the clear exception contained in Title 2, USC Section 8 that authorizes a special election.
Such a result ignores the clear language of Oklahoma law and misconstrues the intent of the federal statute thereby grasping at thin air to arrive at a convenient conclusion. To add to that opinion, others believe that “a special election would be expensive” and “the incumbent would probably win anyway.”
On second thought, why hold any election … ever … particularly when we all suspect what the outcome will be. In other words, it all depends on whose ox is being gored. Do you know where your oxen are?
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives