This past week, the following bills were discussed and/or introduced into the Legislature:
A bill to take money from TANF (tempoary assistance for Needy Families) to fund PSAs (public service announcements) to promote "traditional" marriage.
A bill to require food stamp recipients to work at least 20 hours a week to receive food stamps.
Two bills requiring couples to get marriage counseling before they can file for divorce.
Speaker of the House T. W. Shannon thinks taking food out of the mouths of hungry children will get husbands for single moms and encourage unemployed and or low-income couples to stay together. He wants to use that money instead to put up billboards and run ads on TV telling people that if you're married, you're less likely to be as poor.
It's like he thinks that if people marry (only opposite sex couples, mind!), poof! They suddenly have jobs and the money to rent a nice apartment and buy food. Never mind that good jobs, decent housing, mental health care, education, and drug rehabilitation do more to reduce poverty than the whole "get married and suddenly you're living happily ever after" thing. HR 1908
It's a typical Oklahoma Republican mindset that people who receive food stamps are lazy and they sit around doing nothing but pigging out on steak and lobster and beer at the taxpayers' expense, so they should be required to work at least 20 hours a week to receive food stamps (aka SNAP = supplemental nutritional assistance program). This despite documentation that most people who apply for food stamps already have jobs. I bet this comes with an added time that people have to take off their work to go to the food stamp office to prove they are employed, thus risking their ability to keep that job. One reason I chose not to get food stamps (even though I qualify) is because I didn't want to take the time off work to go to the office and take the required nutritional classes and talk to case workers about my financial position and so on. Adding one more requirement to reduce and/or restrict access to food assistance is so very Okie.HR 1909
One of the "marriage" bills creates a "covenant marriage" in OK which requires counseling both before marriage and before divorce, adding a financial burden to the couples - which in my opinion will reduce the desire to marry. It's already expensive to be married, the burdens outweigh the benefits (particularly for women and couples with children). It would also reduce the number of valid reasons for divorce from 12 to 5.
The other bill would require couples with children to enroll in child education classes and undergo counseling. It, too, reduces the number of valid reasons for getting a divorce.
Another bill would reduce the amount of time an able-bodied single person could receive food stamps, regardless of their employment or lack of employment status. Since the eastern parts and the rural areas of Oklahoma have unemployment rates exceeding 10%, food stamps are one of the few aids able-bodied single people can count on. If you couple this bill with the one that requires people to work 20 hours a week to receive food stamps, you can see how Okie legislators want to starve Oklahomans. (no links - I read the close captioning on the Week in the Oklahoma Legislature Report on OETA and haven't found the bills yet in the bill tracker).
We don't have enough Democrats in Oklahoma to counter or block what these republicans are doing.
We don't have enough Kossacks in Oklahoma to make any kind of difference.
I feel so alone here, as if I am a single voice crying silently across the windy plains. Writing my legislators gets form responses back, actually talking to them gets a paternalistic pat on the head (sometimes literally!). The only legislators who will listen to me are the ones who are not my legislators. I don't live in their districts.
How can I combat these bills and other, equally silly ineffective, grandstanding legislation?
Why concern themselves with marriage when we need bills on wage fairness, living wage increases, protections for retirement funds, education reforms and accessibility, tax fairness, and health care?
I feel our state legislature is too concerned with petty machinations.
OK, I feel our federal congress is also too concerned with petty machinations, but I think, if I can have any effect at all, it will be local.
Drat that wind, drowning out my voice. I bet it comes from all that blowhard air building up in the capitol....