Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Smith and Wesson, Come On Down!

Sources at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce are incensed with the Legislature's latest attempt to micromanage the agency responsible for recruiting new business to Oklahoma. Senate Joint Resolution 54, a measure to help attract gun manufacturing companies to the state, was signed today by Governor Brad Henry. The unfunded mandate was authored by Senator Paul Gumm and Representative Paul Roan. SJR 54 would require the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to work in conjunction with Murray State College in Tishomingo to draw the companies to the state. Gumm says Oklahoma has a tremendous heritage to firearms and it would be the sensible thing to do to try and attract the companies considering the number of states that are unfriendly of the gun business. MSU has a gunsmithing program.

Focusing on attracting a few gun manufacturers may or may not be a worthwhile economic development strategy but the important point to remember is that the Legislature should be focused on establishing strategic objectives in conjunction with Commerce but not micromanaging to the point of passing unfunded mandates requiring Commerce to redirect its meager resources to pet projects. Perhaps semiconductor chip plants or aerospace companies (which Commerce has focused on and in the case of aerospace, been relatively successful) are better targets for the recruitment effort - but with the dolts at the Legislature wasting precious time on pork, gay marriage, gambling, etc - the economic development of the state can't be expected to take priority.

Not that Commerce doesn't need some oversight. Lately I've seen several old and fading blue "I Believe in Oklahoma" bumper stickers on cars - remnants of a shot-in-the-dark in-state marketing campaign the Oklahoma Dept of Commerce blew over a hundred thousand dollars on last year. And what's the result of this lame attempt at boosting citizen pride? You can bet Commerce won't try measuring its impact - because the only impact of the ad campaign was to give a few people something to do that looked kinda important.

Oklahomans have every reason to be proud of our state but what would really make Oklahomans have more pride in our state would be a year of not having to suffer the humiliation our nuttiest Legislators bring to our state.

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