Repealing Laws & Designating Watermelon the Official State Vegetable

law_booksWe are a nation of laws.  Far too many laws.  Well, all of us except for Obama, who is apparently exempt.  When legislatures meet year after year to pass new legislation, tweak current laws and occasionally repeal one, the end result is always the same at the end of every session – many more laws to follow than we had at the beginning of the session.  Repealing laws has never been a priority with legislatures.  Take a look at the photo to the left.  Oklahoma State Rep. Jason Murphey has this photo on his blog.  The stack of books on the left is the Oklahoma state statutes as published in 2001.  The stack on the right is the statutes as published in 2011.  In just ten years the legislature passed enough laws to require the printing of two additional volumes.  For this current session, Rep. Murphey and a few others have taken direction provided them by Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon before he resigned as Speaker to run for the U.S. Senate.  That direction is to aggressively seek to reduce the number of laws on the books.

There are a number of outdated statutes that could be repealed and the House has already passed several measures which repeal decades-old laws that have no relevance today.  For example, House Bill 3332 repeals Oklahoma statute 21, sections 1844, 1845, 1846 and 1847 which make it a crime to refuse to relinquish a party telephone line when another person requires it for the purpose of summoning emergency assistance.  Who has party lines these days?  In fact, many people I know use only their mobile device and do not even have a land line at their residence.  HB 3332 passed in the House on a vote of 81-7.  I would be very curious to know the reasons for the seven no votes.  Interestingly, all seven of the ‘no’ voters are Democrats.  Perhaps some Democrats just can’t bring themselves to eliminate laws; even those that are now obsolete.

While this effort to repeal archaic laws is happening in the House, the Republican controlled but less conservative State Senate has given no indication that they are on board with shrinking the laws on the books.  Time will tell.  Unfortunately, they have chosen to spend some of their time passing such outrageous measures as the one that would have awarded Oklahoma’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

While this effort to repeal antiquated laws is a good start, it seems counterproductive to me to pass ridiculous laws at the same time.  House Bill 2990 was introduced for this session and, if passed, would designate dominoes to be the official state game.  Seriously.  The bill was heard before the States’ Rights Committee last week and approved on a vote of 8-3.  Rep. Murphey was one of the no votes.  The day after its approval by the committee, the author of the bill, Rep. David Perryman even took the time to file an amendment to it that would insert the word “table” between the words “state” and “game.”  Again, seriously.  Rep. Perryman is a Democrat.  I wonder what his constituents would think of the way he spends his time at our Capitol building, if they knew.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Joe Dorman is also not above introducing ridiculous legislation.  In 2007 he co-sponsored a bill that would declare the watermelon to be the official state vegetable.  Yes, vegetable.  And again, seriously.  House Bill 1669 passed, was signed into law by then Governor Henry and Oklahoma statute, Section 98.15 of Title 25 now reads, “The watermelon is hereby designated and adopted as the official vegetable of the State of Oklahoma.”

Some legislators, like Rep. Murphey, apparently take their offices more seriously than do others.  Some of them seem to have too much time on their hands and not enough gumption to rid the statutes of laws that are no longer needed.  Perhaps it might be better if the Oklahoma legislature followed the example of the Texas legislature and met only every other year.  Maybe then I wouldn’t be wondering how soon it will be before some legislator files a bill that would designate the official state strain of toe fungus.  

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2 comments to Repealing Laws & Designating Watermelon the Official State Vegetable

  • LD Jackson

    State vegetables and games? Good grief!

    I thought we sent these people to the Capitol to do important work. I must have been mistaken. Maybe we need to reduce the number of people we send to OKC.

    • Indeed. Some legislators apparently just have different ideas about what they be spending their time on. Just yesterday Rep. Kay Floyd called an abortion restriction bill they voted on “senseless” and yet she was one who voted yes on making dominoes the state game. Talk about senseless.