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Chicken-Fried News: What’s in a rule?

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We all know that termed-out state lawmakers take jobs as lobbyists pretty soon after their term ends. On the federal level, this revolving door of lawmaker-to-lobbyist happens too, if not more regularly.

Some former state representatives and state senators don’t dive into lobbying. Instead, they get hired into prominent positions in state government when their term expires.

If anyone takes a very close look at the state constitution, they will find the small print listing a two-year waiting period lawmakers must observe before going to work for any agency that receives state appropriations.

To call attention to this constitutional concept, Oklahoma Ethics Commission approved this policy as a new rule. Ashley Kemp, the commission’s executive director, told Tulsa World the rule prohibits lawmakers from using their positions to benefit themselves after office.

“It also serves to ensure state officers and employees always keep the state of Oklahoma and the interests of the citizens as the priority,” Kemp told Tulsa World.

However, the ink is not dry on this rule, as the Legislature has the opportunity to disapprove the rule through legislation this session. While some lawmakers support it, others lawmakers — current and former — do not.

“My primary problem is they are trying to dictate to someone what they can or can’t do to make a living,” Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, told the newspaper. “It is not fair.”

Why is life not fair?

Another perspective comes from current lobbyist Jim Dunlap, a former House and Senate member from Bartlesville.

“Our talent pool in Oklahoma is not that deep,” he said. “We need qualified people who know the process to serve not only as a lobbyist but also in appropriate positions for the governor.”

That’s right; our education system does a poor job preparing students for Oklahoma’s jobs. If only we could pinpoint where our troubles are in education and then enact legislation to help.

One last perspective of a lawmaker who understands and appreciate the rule but warns it could have unintended consequences: “Not everybody is a dirtbag politician,” said Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa. “Some of us are just trying to do good.”

Certainly, there are still some good lawmakers left in this state! Right?

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