There are several pending bills in the Oklahoma Legislature that, if passed, will send a clear message to the nation that the state does not support diversity, multiculturalism and women's reproductive rights. The bills could have a detrimental effect on the state's economic development.
State Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, has introduced a bill that some say will create the strongest anti-illegal immigration laws in the nation. Under the bill, undocumented workers would not qualify for state or local aid or be able to obtain driver's licenses. The bill also would put new pressure on businesses to ensure they don't hire undocumented workers.
But it's absurd that Oklahoma, with its relatively few undocumented workers, would have the most draconian illegal-immigration laws in the nation. Oklahoma is not a border state. There have never been major problems here with undocumented workers taking jobs away from American citizens.
Certainly, the country has a broken system when it comes to undocumented workers, but Terrill's bill only hurts certain Oklahoma businesses that might have to compete with out-of-state businesses which do employ undocumented workers.
The bill also could have an effect on recruiting international students for our colleges. Colleges would be morally obligated to tell potential students from other countries that Oklahoma has the strictest anti-illegal immigration laws. That's not a good selling point.
State Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, has introduced a bill that would require voters show some form of identification when they vote or sign a statement. This will create a huge hassle for some voters. Studies have shown such laws passed in other states limit minority voting. A Feb. 21 article in The New York Times ("Lower Voter Turnout Is Seen in States That Require ID") showed new voter identification requirements in some states reduced overall participation in the 2004 elections by 3 percent. The voting levels were reduced by even higher margins among minority communities.
Those who support the bill will argue that anyone can still vote if they attest to their identity, but what if the sworn statement process is a major hassle? How many people without a driver's license simply will not vote because it's a hassle? The bill is just unnecessary.
State Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, has introduced a bill making English the official language of Oklahoma. Under the bill, public institutions could not conduct business in any language other than English. The bill has angered some Indian tribes in the state. They rightfully believe the bill demeans their contributions to Oklahoma. The bill also will send the message to the nation that Oklahoma does not embrace other languages and culture.
There are several anti-abortion bills pending in the state Legislature. The bills are designed to make it more difficult for women to get the procedure here. These bills are part of a new philosophy to legislate an end to abortion in a gradual, piecemeal fashion. But if and when abortion is illegal in Oklahoma, the only people to suffer will be impoverished women.
Those women with financial resources can always leave the state to get an abortion.
All these bills are punitive and do nothing to make the state prosper. Collectively, they create a big sign that says "do not enter" to open-minded, educated people who believe in diversity as a tangible philosophical concept.
Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and author of the progressive blog Okie Funk: Notes From the Outback, www.okiefunk.com.

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Kurt Hochenauer

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