We heard today from Oklahoma State Representative Joe Dorman, one of the minority Democrats in the legislature there. For the last few years, Dorman has worked on trying to get the state better prepared for extreme weather like tornadoes. After the devastating tornado killed seven kids at Plaza Towers Elementary last month in Moore, he put forward a $500 million bond issue for building safe rooms in schools.
His proposal happened late in the legislative session, and it didn't go far. Dorman is getting ready to bring the bill back next session, but he tells us he doubts the Republican-controlled legislature will pass it. Figuring his odds are still long, Dorman has come up with a different approach.
Dorman wants to put the question of state funding for safe rooms directly before voters as an up-or-down citizens' referendum.
The plan calls for gathering signatures starting in August or September when the big fairs and football games generate big crowds filled with people who can be asked to sign the petitions. If the referendum qualifies for the ballot, he tells us he expects the kind of broad coalition from ordinary voters that can be hard to come by these days in a legislature, with knock-on effects:
Republican soccer moms would vote for something like this, and they would vote against a Tea Party type who would oppose a shelter.
And because the idea of protecting kids could prove to have bipartisan appeal at the ballot box, Dorman says he expects real opposition from conservatives who wouldn't want the question to drive up turnout. It's a fascinating political study, both the electoral dynamics and the strategy of just trying to get something done as a political minority -- in this case a blue dot in our nation's reddest state.
P.S. I don't know what Representative Dorman is doing with that snake. Maybe we can ask him later. We're expecting him on the show tonight.