BY ANDY FUGATE
Since taking office, I have occasionally been criticized by both sides of the aisle. That’s because I tend to fall in the middle of the political spectrum. Being in the middle can put you in positions where you make people on both sides mad. However, not being fully beholden to either party ideology allows me to maintain my convictions on issues that transcend the political spectrum. One of those issues is local control.
Folks, let me say this as bluntly as possible. The theme of the 2020 legislative session was seizing control from mayors and city councils to give it to the governor and the legislature.
Remember this: the further the decision-making is from a person, the less control they have. You and I have very little control or even influence at the federal level. However, as decisions move closer to us from state to county to the municipal level, we gain influence. This session, whether you live in OKC or Idabel, the Legislature took away your influence.
Here are just a few examples:
SB 1102 strips from mayors and city councils the ability to respond during a catastrophic emergency. Instead, it requires them to do the bidding of the governor. That means if McAlester is facing an outbreak that outpaces the rest of the state, the city’s municipal leaders will not be able to respond until they get the governor’s blessing.
SB 1682 prohibits local governments from using city ordinances to restrict where payday lending businesses can locate. If Del City wants to protect young airmen from predatory lending and outrageous interest rates by restricting zoning near Tinker Air Force Base, that should be their prerogative. The state Legislature should not prevent them from doing so.
SB 1713 prohibits a municipality from adopting or imposing design element requirements for single-family residential buildings. I don’t know about you, but I believe local towns like Del City, Guymon, and Lawton know local designs better than state legislators.
Finally, let’s not forget HJR 1027, the bill that took away power from every citizen to the benefit of the Legislature. This was disguised as a bill to support rural communities, but what it really did was take away power from the people to create laws and rein in the Legislature. HJR 1027 would have made it nearly impossible for the people to pass a petition measure.
It’s already hard enough to get signatures. Since 2010 there have been 35 state questions – the Legislature gave us 28 of them. Only seven came from the people. Yet legislators were concerned it was too easy for the people to request a State Question. Phooey! If anything, it’s too easy for legislators to request State Questions. Let’s be clear. We already have a system designed to calculate statewide support for or against an issue. It’s called elections.
While serving at the Capitol, I make it a point to promote unity and to work with members on both sides of the aisle. I even allowed my head to be shaved once for this cause. I truly believe the decisions we make should begin and end with what is best for Oklahomans.
This session was especially hard due to the consistent power grab by those at the Capitol. Power should always reside with the people – not with politicians.
– Del City Democrat Andy Fugate represents District xx in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Editor’s Note: HJR 1027 will not appear on the statewide ballot this year. It was approved by the Oklahoma House, 66-30, but it died in the Senate where it never received a hearing.