Oklahoma’s Founding Fathers clearly were wary of too much power in too few hands. One of the first planks they nailed into the state Constitution – reflecting the populist spirit of the time – was People Power, right to circulate initiative petitions and force statewide votes on issues that elected leaders – and entrenched bureaucrats – could not or would not address.
In recent years, The People have used that right successfully to enact policy that repeatedly met roadblocks in the state Legislature: Medical marijuana. Criminal justice reform. Medicaid expansion.
As it turns out, the statehouse’s supermajority party doesn’t like The People meddling in The People’s business. So Republicans have tried and tried and will try again in the 2021 session to destroy the initiative rights granted by the Founders more than a century ago.
In this week’s Observer – Episode 2.2: The First Right Afforded To The People – former Seminole state representative and ACLU of Oklahoma executive director Ryan Kiesel joins us to discuss how the Republican-dominated Legislature seeks to thwart People Power – and what the implications of this power grab are.