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Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) and the Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature hate working people

By: Saturday April 18, 2015 12:07 pm

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) and the Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature hate working people. For example, Think Progress reports,

At a time when many states and cities are working on passing minimum wage increases, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has gone in the opposite direction and signed a law banning cities from passing higher wages. The bill also bans them from enacting paid sick days or vacation requirements.

The law will stymie the efforts of activists in Oklahoma City, where a labor federation has led the push on a petition to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The state’s current minimum has been set at the federal level of $7.25. In 2012, 64,000 workers in the state earned $7.25 an hour or less, making up 7.2 percent of all hourly workers, a larger share than the 4.7 percent figure for the country as a whole.

Governor Fallin claims the legislation is necessary to protect businesses and jobs. Otherwise, businesses would have to eliminate jobs to remain profitable.

Her argument is ridiculous and stupid because there is no evidence to support it. This is not complicated. If businesses will pay their workers a living wage, their workers will have more money to spend thereby increasing demand for goods and services. Instead of eliminating jobs, businesses would have to hire more employees to keep up with increased demand for their products and services. The evidence supports raising the minimum wage.

The legislature’s decision to prohibit cities from enacting paid sick days or minimum vacation requirements is hateful, mean spirited and stupid. If there are no paid sick days, workers who are sick will go to work rather than stay home. That means they may infect other workers and, if they work in food production, they may contaminate the product with their illnesses. When it comes to vacations, the governor and the legislators certainly are not going to be cancelling of foregoing their vacation plans.

The bottom line here is that the Republicans hate the people who work for a living. Mind you, our economy would cease to function without working people. They are human beings entitled to respect and dignity.

But that’s not all, Governor Fallin signed a bill into law yesterday that establishes nitrogen as the go-to method of execution in the state, if drugs are unavailable. The use of nitrogen to suffocate and kill people has not been tested.

I cannot think of any reason to respect Oklahoma Republicans.

 

Missouri Republican State Senators Sure Don’t Like Sunshine

By: Saturday April 18, 2015 10:00 am

Back in January, the Missouri House Committee on Telecommunications held a hearing. Four republican legislators were present for the hearing, although they didn’t have any bills before them awaiting action, but they held a hearing nonetheless, with five telecommunications lobbyists there to offer their thoughts on the issues that the committee might be interested in.

The hearing was held not at the capitol, but over dinner at the Jefferson City Country Club, and the lobbyists picked up the tab.

[Yes, the Missouri Legislature has some of the weakest ethics and lobbying rules in the nation. Why do you ask?]

The hearing became an embarrassment to the House republican leadership, and by 10:35 the next morning the Speaker of the House issued an order declaring that all future hearings must be held at the capitol, effective immediately.

These kind of hearings/lobbying efforts have been part of the Jefferson City legislative culture for years. Several weeks earlier, Progress Missouri noted that the very first hearing on the legislative calendar was a similar off-site excuse for a nice meal paid for by lobbyists, and called for an end to the practice.

“The purpose of legislative hearings is to gather input from the citizens of Missouri and develop legislation that benefits them,” Pamela Merritt, Communications Director for Progress Missouri. “Holding sham ‘hearings’ away from the Capitol for the sole purpose of consuming free food and drink from lobbyists is a despicable practice that doesn’t pass the smell test.

“Moreover, the Sunshine Law requires that committee hearings be held in a place to accommodate the public,” continued Merritt. “Last year, we saw with our own eyes sham ‘hearings’ in expensive Jefferson City restaurants that had no place for the public to observe and contribute to the proceedings—probably because the whole ‘hearing’ was a sham set up by lobbyists to shovel more freebies to receptive politicians.”

The statewide media from time to time has tried to make this an issue about how the state government runs, to no avail — until that Telecommunications hearing in late January. Reporters from the state’s two largest papers were at the hearing, and their papers editorialized about this sham the next morning, but they’ve done that before. What was different in this case is that Progress Missouri, a progressive advocacy organization, livestreamed video of the hearing.

This did not go over well in Jefferson City, especially among the republicans in charge of the legislature and all of its committees.

Several state senators seem to understand the power of video quite well, and have been quick to shut down Progress Missouri’s efforts to video their hearings over the last year, citing Senate rules that are aimed at minimizing disruptions. Progress Missouri, after trying to work with the Senate leadership to get better access, stepped up their game this past Wednesday:

Today, Progress Missouri filed suit against the Missouri Senate for its continued refusal to adhere to Missouri’s Sunshine Law. Missouri state senators have repeatedly denied access to public hearings of Senate committees, in violation of state law, and we are escalating our fight for open government.

Our democracy works best when there is transparency and accountability, and the Sunshine Law is a necessary tool to maintain both. Some state senators, including Mike Parson, Mike Kehoe, and David Sater think that the Sunshine Law doesn’t apply to them. They’re wrong.

Public radio station KBIA noted that this has been an ongoing battle with these three committee chairmen, while others have had no problem with Progress Missouri’s video work.

Let’s take a look at the three committees at the center of all this.

Small Business, Insurance and Industry — Chair Mike Parson. On the agenda of this committee are bills to repeal the “prevailing wage law,” weaken the state tort law by making defendants severally liable instead of jointly liable (the current law), shortening the length of time a person can receive unemployment compensation from 20 weeks to as few as 13, and allowing a judge to modify a jury’s award of damages in civil trials involving health care providers.

Seniors, Families and Children — Chair David Sater. On this committee’s agenda are bills to shorten the lifetime cap on receiving TANF benefits, declare that “the liberty of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, and care of his or her child is a fundamental right”, and to prioritize the spending of state family planning money with state-run facilities at the top of the list and non-public, non-rural primary health care facilities at the bottom of the list.

Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment — Chair Mike Kehoe. This committee is considering bills to weaken the state Clean Water Law by saying the state is to keep its waters clean “while maintaining maximum employment and full industrial development of the state” and shall accomplish its work by “all practical and economically feasible” means (Can you say “loopholes big enough to drive a fleet of toxic waste trucks through”? Sure you can), to replace a floor on the per-barrel fee charged for inspections of gasoline and other fuels and oils with a ceiling on those fees, and weakening the schedule of financial audits of solid waste disposal districts.

I can’t imagine why these committee chairs would like to avoid having their committee’s fine work displayed on YouTube for everyone to see.

Charlie Pierce has a regular feature whereby he looks at what’s happening in the state legislatures that he calls “This Week in the Laboratories of Democracy.” The title makes me think that if Jefferson City is a laboratory, it is in desperate need of sanitizing measures, and only the sunshine that Progress Missouri and other groups are trying to shine on the state Senate can clean up the lab.

Progressives in other states, please take note.

________

h/t to Robert Stinnett for the photo above of the south entrance to the Missouri State Capitol, and used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Not evident from the image is whether the sculpture of Thomas Jefferson depicts him as crying or not.

The Roundup

By: Saturday April 18, 2015 7:00 am

We end on a soothe note with Italy.

International Politics

Overall

- Black Lives Matter even throughout Africa, a continent ravaged by imperialism, violence and exploitation

- The United Nations called for $275 million from members to help those living in Yemen

Middle East

- Gareth Porter: “The ‘Possible Military Dimensions’ Bomb That Could Blow Up the Iran Deal

- Officials in Yemen say Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula captured key weapons depot

A new survey in Israel found surprising results such as more than one in four Israelis deciding to vote the day of elections

- Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, close with Saddam Hussein as an aide, is said to be killed as a result of fighting

- A car bomb outside a U.S. embassy in Iraq killed one person and wounded five others

- The Syrian government blamed Turkish support for allowing the Islamic State to capture a Syrian town


Saturday Art: Thomas Eakins

By: Saturday April 18, 2015 2:40 am

In the early 20th century, Thomas Eakins took the course of realism and produced a body of work that represents the life of that era in the U.S. He was an educator and painter who drew subjects from everyday life in his large body of productive work.

He is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important artists in American art history.[3][4]

Late Night FDL: Basket Case

By: Friday April 17, 2015 8:00 pm

Green Day – Basket Case

Ahead of Green Day’s HoF induction this weekend in Cleveland…

The Murderers of Kiev

By: Friday April 17, 2015 5:00 pm

Late last night I’d quipped; “Tell me Nuland’s minions aren’t hard at work…” in sharing this LA Times report, Third pro-Russia activist found dead in Ukraine capital this week. Today, b @ Moon of Alabama posted this eye-opener… Ukraine: “Both Sides Touched” By NATO Related Murder Of The Other Side The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum [...]

Recent poll shows more people support sentencing Tsarnaev to LWOP than death in the Boston area

By: Friday April 17, 2015 3:00 pm

Meanwhile, as support sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death continues to drop, Tracy L. Dayton, an Assistant U.S.Attorney in Bridgeport, CT filed a notice of appearance in the Tsarnaev case on April 1st. She convinced a federal court jury in Connecticut to impose the death penalty in the so-called baseball bat murders

Advisor Huma Abedin’s Job Arrangement under Hillary Investigated by State Department

By: Friday April 17, 2015 1:00 pm

The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has agreed, only two years after the fact, to investigate a program that allowed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to hire one of her key personal advisors, Huma Abedin, for government work even as she was also employed by a private firm. Conflict of Interest? [...]

Wall Street Is Cool With Hillary Clinton Pretending To Be A Populist

By: Friday April 17, 2015 11:00 am

good lord it never stops pic.twitter.com/LK0E4sDqVq — Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) April 16, 2015 At this stage of the game you have to be exceedingly dim or incredibly delusional to think that Hillary Clinton is a progressive. Her record of supporting cuts to programs helping children in poverty, voting for reckless wars overseas, applauding domestic surveillance, [...]

TPP Fast-track Deal Reached In Congress

By: Friday April 17, 2015 9:00 am

RELEASE: Sony Pictures worked behind the scenes to push the #TPP with Michael Froman, the US Trade Representative. https://t.co/0i7yhuWCM8 — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 16, 2015 Senators Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden along with House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan agreed on Thursday to give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) deal. TPP [...]

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