BY DAVID PERRYMAN
In Oklahoma City on Aug. 1, 1904, three brothers-in-law – Frank E. Anderson and William Lockhart Clayton, cotton merchants, and Monroe D. Anderson, a banker – formed Anderson, Clayton and Company [ACCO], a partnership for the sale of cotton and cotton products.
Through the years ACCO diversified into feed and food products and by the 1960’s had long since moved to Texas to gain access to international markets through the Houston shipping channels. ACCO’s food line included Seven Seas salad dressings, Mrs. Tucker’s shortening and controlled about 15% of Brazilian coffee exports.
But perhaps ACCO’s most famous merchandising line related to a product that it had sold in Mexico since the early 1950’s. The product had simply not taken off in the U.S. until a series of commercials hit the airways in the 1970’s starring Dena Dietrich as Mother Nature.
In the television ad, Mother Nature, true to the ‘70s was dressed in flowing white chiffon with crown of daisies. When given a taste of ACCO’s Chiffon margarine, she likes it and remarks that it is her “delicious butter.”
When the narrator tells her: “That’s Chiffon margarine, not butter … Chiffon’s so delicious it fooled even you, Mother Nature,” the tone suddenly changes. The previously smiling character that exuded love, peace and all things harmonious, angrily responds with her signature line: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” and for unmistaken emphasis underscores her displeasure by creating a flash of lightening and a loud peal of thunder.
While Gov. Mary Fallin is not Mother Nature, she emphatically and vocally directed her displeasure at the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Speaker Jeff Hickman this week by using the power of her pen to veto 15 house bills that were on her desk.
Some of the bills the governor vetoed honestly had little impact; however, some did address serious concerns and merit more consideration than being made pawns in a political spitting match.
HB 3417 was an important bill that had passed both the House and the Senate with no dissenting votes. It contained necessary legislation to protect the civil rights of citizens by preventing the outsourcing of law enforcement duties to people or companies that do not hold commissions or are not CLEET certified.
Oklahomans deserve to be secure in their homes and to know that if they are stopped or detained, the person stopping them is truly a qualified law enforcement officer and not a “hired gun” that is being paid through a commission based on how much property or money he can seize.
HB 2609 was legislation to help college students and other young persons clear their records by obtaining expungement of minor and non-violent convictions that might interfere with them obtaining a job or supporting their family.
HB 3457 was a bill to enable counties and municipalities to contract with each other for better efficiency on joint projects such as road and street improvements.
HB 3158 relates to restricted driver’s licenses for applicants under 18. Currently, the application must contain a number of signatures including the notarized signature of a parent or guardian. This bill would allow the parent or guardian to sign an alternative affidavit in the event it is not possible for the parent to sign the actual original application.
Finally, the governor vetoed two House bills, 3026 and 3027, because they were “exact duplicates” of Senate bills that she had signed a week earlier. The veto message and the Daily Oklahoman’s opinion page attempted to ridicule Speaker Hickman and the House of Representatives for sending the governor bills that had previously been signed into law and had “apparently not been read” by representatives.
What the governor and the editors at the Oklahoman did not realize [or wanted to conceal for political purposes] was that while the Senate passed the Senate bills over to the House on March 10 and the House had passed the House legislation over to the Senate on March 11, the House had actually approved the Senate bills on April 10 and they had gone to the governor on April 14 and were signed on April 16, six days before the Senate approved the House bills that had the identical language.
Consequently, while the governor sought to curry political gain and make the House of Representatives appear reckless, it was actually the Senate that sent unnecessary legislation to the governor.
The bottom line is that the veto power of the chief executive is a powerful tool that enhances the checks and balances in a democracy such as ours; however, it is a power that is intended to prevent bad legislation from becoming law. It is even a power that may be used when an engrossed and enrolled bill is sent to a governor and the bill contains legislation that the chief executive is fundamentally and philosophically at odds with.
Unfortunately, the veto actions of Gov. Fallin were calculated to embarrass Speaker Hickman and the House of Representatives and to send a message that the governor wanted her agenda to advance.
Under a representative democracy, it is the job of each legislator to vote in the best interest of his or her legislative district in a non-partisan manner.
Speaker Hickman is a qualified leader who is doing his job well. His decision to allow the House to vote to override the governor’s veto was a reflection of his principled character.
He is to be commended for his courage in the face of angry lightning bolts and the thunder he hears may be the bipartisan applause of the House of Representatives.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives