Monday, May 2, 2016

Jon Echols: the Man that Brought REAL ID to Oklahoma

  Last week we wrote about how the Real ID act had been blocked by 26 states so far, Oklahoma being among them, with legislation passed that made the sharing of driver data with other states and foreign governments illegal.   SB 1362 was being pushed by Leslie Osborn at the time after Rep. Mike Christian listened to reason and dropped his support for the legislation.  There was talk of another bill that provided a religious exemption for the REAL ID bill and it had some good co authors and a lot of support from the grassroots.  That was SB 683 and it turned out to be a Trojan horse being pushed by a traitor to Oklahoma values, the Republican Party, and to grassroots activists.

  Rep Jon Echols turned out to be the one pushing the Real ID legislation.  After we gave a public political beating to Rep. Leslie Osborn she was said to have told Echols "Thanks for getting me beat up by the Tea Party" after she dropped her support for SB 1362.  That bill has died, as it didn't receive a hearing before the deadline last Thursday.   What we didn't know was that SB 683 had a single line that gutted the state prohibition against participating in Real ID.  SB 683 had 24 lines of text describing the religious exemption to REAL ID but it had a two line section #2 that simply said this:   47 O.S. 2011, Section 6-110.3, is hereby repealed.

  Now few if any legislators will know what that section is but Section 6-110.3 is the section of existing law that makes REAL ID illegal.  Grassroots activists were tracking SB 683 and supporting it, I happened to see a post about it and managed to watch the last portion of the question and answer period on the House floor on a live internet feed.   The vote was 86 to 1 with 14 excused or absent.  One of the immediate questions posted was who was the one vote that didn't support the religious exemption?

  It turned out to be Rep. John Bennett, one of our conservative heroes in the House and I wondered what he found objectionable about the legislation and later asked him about it.  Turns out he was one of the few, if not the only one, that read the bill before voting on it.  Bennett asked fellow legislators about it, saying that it implemented REAL ID but couldn't generate any interest.  So he voted no, standing against the tide, but it turned out to be the only good vote cast.

  Now SB 683 has been sent to Conference Committee where a handful of House members and Senators chosen by House and Senate leadership will iron out any differences and submit the bill to another House and Senate vote.    The bill doesn't need defeated, it needs amended, to strike section two that repeals the Oklahoma law that makes REAL ID illegal.  Leave Section 1, strike Section 2, and put it back through Conference Committee and we will see if the legislators are truly interested in having a religious exemption or are they simply passing REAL ID right under our noses and counting on an exemption that might not survive judicial review. 

  If this bill is not amended then the House floor vote on Thursday will be on the 2016 RINO Index.  If the bill goes up for amendment we will choose that vote for the Index assuming it passes the House and Senate.  All the legislators need to remember that this is an election year where insurgent candidates are winning and do they really want to be known as the politician that implemented REAL ID on the citizens and broke ranks with conservatives in 25 other states that have held the line.