Brogdon speaks out on REAL ID, international super highway, and Oklahoma’s initiative petition





By JOY HAMPTON

Staff Writer



State Senator Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso) isn’t afraid to take a stand, even if that stand is unpopular.

A Republican who can’t be pigeon-holed by the usual party-line, Brogdon does not withhold criticism of President Bush, votes against any bill supporting the alcohol industry, and has views that reveal a passion for civil liberties and populist input into government. His strong nationalism would fence American borders, and his track record indicates he favors openness and accountability of government.

Brogdon represents District 34 which includes the southwest corner of Rogers County covering Catoosa and the eastern Owasso area. He authored several bills this session regarding drivers licenses, an international highway, and the initiative petition.

Senate Bills 1412, 1413, 1414, and 1415 each relate to the Oklahoma drivers license. Brogdon said the REAL ID Act passed by Congress in 2005 violates the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Like other critics of the Act, Brogdon said it tramples on states’ rights and essentially establishes a national ID program.

He said it also violates the Fourth Amendment prohibiting illegal search and seizure.

“What it (REAL ID) does is literally enrolled us, every citizen of this country into an international database with biometric identification,” said Brogdon. “It has done all of this without having a national debate.”

Facial recognition scanning and fingerprint imaging now included on Oklahoma drivers licenses as part of the Bush administration’s Homeland Security constitute a breach of citizens inalienable rights, said Brogdon.

The Act sets national standards for state drivers licenses. Residents in states that refuse to participate in the program could find themselves unable to board commercial airlines in the future according to language in the act.

Initially to go into effect by 2011, the time-line for the Act was extended after several states protested. Currently, those born on or after Dec. 1, 1964 must have a drivers license or other identification in compliance with the new national standard by 2014. Because studies by Homeland Security show those over the age of 50 as less likely to be involved in terrorist activity, those born before Dec. 1, 1964 will have until 2017 to come into compliance.

Brogdon said Oklahoma drivers licenses have already implemented biometrics on new licenses. He said that information will go onto shared databases with other nations.

“It will be the biggest potential breach of information you’ve ever seen,” he said. “There’s only one reason why government needs your biometric information.”

Brogdon said cross checking information on “bad guys” is good – but should not include ordinary citizens. It will become harder for an American citizen to board an airplane than it is for someone to cross the Rio Grande, said Brogdon.

Right now, if identification is stolen, it can be replaced. But personal identification through biometrics is impossible to replace according to Brogdon. Databases with that information are vulnerable to hackers.

Brogdon said his proposed legislation in opposition of biometrics and national identification is “extremely non-partisan.” He has received calls from the conservative American Center for Law and Justice and the liberal American Civil Liberties Union supporting his efforts.

According to Brogdon, 39 other states have opted out or passed resolutions against the measure.

Brogdon’s Senate Bill 1412 would require a court order to obtain driver license information. Senate Bill 1413 would create an option for finger imaging and require retrieval of information that is already on databases.

Senate Bill 1414 failed in committee and related to images and their retrieval from those databases.

Senate Bill 1415 requires state agencies to withdraw membership from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administration. This agency is set up to share biometric information with other agencies as well as other nations.

“We were on the cutting edge last year, but we’re no longer standing by ourselves,” said Brogdon. There are segments in both parties who believe it is wrong to “sacrifice liberty for a little extra security.”

The basis of Brogdon’s argument against the REAL ID Act lies in his belief that certain rights granted in the United States Constitution are “inalienable” and God-given.

“Government didn’t give us those rights. Government should not be able to take them away,” he said. “The President is overstepping his executive authority in these areas. I have sworn to protect and uphold the Constitution.”

He hopes his bills will “undo some of the damage in regards to finger imaging.”

Strongly nationalistic, the senator believes in protecting America from terrorists. He wants the border to Mexico secured and would be happy for non-citizens to submit to “swabs and a REAL ID” card when coming into the country.

“The American people are the ones paying the price with our liberties,” said Brogdon. “They (the Bush Administration) don’t want a secure border. Build a fence. I’m not interested in talking about anything else until then. Cut off the supply chain.”

While he said realizes the illegal immigration issue is difficult and deals with “real people,” some of whom have lived in Oklahoma for 25 years, Brogdon is adamant that protecting our borders from terrorist cells that cross the Mexican border is a more imminent need than those addressed through REAL ID.

Securing our borders also means stopping the building of an international highway, said Brogdon. His Senate Bill 1393 prohibits Oklahoma’s participation in the formation of international highway activities.

North America Super Corridor Organization is a group that supports the broadening and improvement of current highways such as I-35 that serve as corridors from Mexico to Canada.

The NASCO Web site says NAFTA trade is vital to American economy and plans do not include a super-sized highway. The project will use existing corridors such as I-35 which are already over-taxed by truck traffic, according to the site.

“The NAFTA super highway is real,” said Brogdon. “They’re building it now down in Texas.”

NASCO initially focused on I-35 in Texas but has expanded to include the full route, according to the Web site.

Brogdon said he plans to “stop it dead in its tracks. It ain’t crossing the Red River if I have anything to do with it.”

As co-chair of the appropriations sub-committee over General Government and Transportation, he believes one man can make a difference.

The third issue on Brogdon’s current legislative agenda which evokes his passion regards the Initiative Petition. Senate Bill 1982 would modify the requirement for gathering signatures.

Current guidelines are “onerous, unfair and unworkable,” said Brogdon.

Based on the last general election, 350,000 signatures had to be gathered in 90 days for the TABOR initiative.

Oklahoma is the most difficult state in which to call an initiative petition, said Brogdon. He is not alone in that assessment.

According to Ballotpedia.org, “In June of 2007, Ballot Access News gave Oklahoma the lowest rating for initiative and referendum access due to having the largest (3 percent) requirement of signatures needed to place a party on the ballot.”

“It breeds for cheating,” said Brogdon.

In order to gather that many signatures in such a short period of time, people must be hired to circulate the petition. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, out-of-state contractors cannot be used according to Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

Brogdon’s bill would expand the 90 days to a year and lessen the threshold of signatures by attaching that number to the number of voters in the last governor’s race – a number he said is based on local interest. The bill would also eliminate the requirement to use legal-sized paper and a notary signature.

Perhaps most importantly, Brogdon stipulates in his bill that any challenges to the language in the petition must be issued before signatures are gathered. He said opponents challenge petition language AFTER the time and expense of signature gathering has occurred. It’s a strategy designed to intimidate those considering circulating a petition, said Brogdon.

“I want a simple, legal, verifiable process,” said Brogdon.

The Oklahoma Constitution requires a “qualified elector” gather the signatures. A qualified elector is defined as someone at least 18 years old and an Oklahoma resident. Brogdon does not agree with the Attorney General’s ruling that certain recent petitioners did not qualify.

In October, the senator condemned indictments of Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter as a political attack by Edmondson.

“These individuals sought nothing more than to participate in their government through the initiative process protected by Oklahoma’s Constitution,” Brogdon wrote in a press release issued Oct. 4.

Jacob, Johnson and Carpenter are charged with using out-of state petition circulators. Brogdon said the indictments discourage anyone who is not an elected official or “political insider” from having a voice in Oklahoma government.

An advocate of term limits, Brogdon is not sure whether he will run for national office in the future, though he said he would not rule that out. A self-described simple businessman who is passionate about the Constitution, he authored the Sunshine Law approved last spring.

The Sunshine Law, or Taxpayer Transparency Act, creates an online database to show where public money is spent.

Often the lone “nay” vote on what he describes as “Corporate Welfare Programs” Brogdon said he does not believe in special deals for special people.

“Government at any level should not be responsible for picking winners and losers,” said Brogdon.

As a businessmen, he said he believes healthy economic development occurs when businesses are allowed to compete without government giving special consideration through tax credit bills.

Contact Joy Hampton at 341-1101 or at news4@claremoreprogress.com