Eschew Obfuscation

Is a Recommendation the Same Thing
as a Requirement? In House Bill 1412,
the Answer appears to be “Yes”

At the United Nations Association, we’re in favor of intellectual freedom, good government, and the rule of law.

A basic aspect of good governance is the establishment of laws that are clear in their language and intent.

House Bill 1412 is a simple bill. It is only 2 pages in length. But, it uses murky, confusing language. It is full of undefined terms. As we have followed the debate surrounding House Bill 1412, we are slightly more clear about the purpose of the bill — but just barely.

Part of the problem with HB 1412 is its use of double-talk. That is, it uses words to convey a meaning that is not transparent or it uses words to convey more than one meaning.

Here’s an example. The proposed law includes this statement:

“The state or any political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or implement policy recommendations that deliberately or inadvertently infringe upon or restrict private property rights without due process, as may be required by policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to United Nations Agenda 21….”

The phrase “as may be required by policy recommendations…” is particularly problematic.

First, if there is a policy “recommendation” on any subject, it is not a requirement. It is non-sensical to speak about recommendations that require any particular action.

A “recommendation” is a suggestion. That’s all it is. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says to “recommend” something is to present it “as worthy of acceptance or trial.” It is not the same thing as a mandate or an order or a directive.

So, if you’re a manager or a council member for one of Oklahoma’s political subdivisions (a city, town, county, public library, etc.), how would you interpret this prohibition in HB 1412? Are there any policy recommendations in UN Agenda 21 that require adoption of any certain policies at the level of a state or local government agency? Of course not! That’s the point that several members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives tried to make when HB 1412 was debated on March 13th.

Yet, if we follow the logic of HB 1412 proponents, they are opposed to any “recommendations” whether they are mandates or not. That’s the understanding we have by listening closely to Rep. Sally Kern, the House author of HB 1412. She says her bill is designed to “kick out” UN-linked organizations that are “encouraging” certain local policy-making decisions and “asking” Oklahoma cities to become part of a local environmental initiative. (See “In Her Own Words,” March 17th).

So, is House Bill 1412 re-interpreting the meaning of the word “recommend?” That’s a question that ought to be settled before HB 1412 proceeds any further in the legislative review process.

Second, why does House Bill 1412 use the wishy-washy phrase “as may be required….?” The use of this phrase signals that the concern about UN Agenda 21 policies may or may not exist. So, which is it? Are there Agenda 21 recommendations / requirements that infringe on our property rights or not? If there are statements in Agenda 21 that are troublesome, why doesn’t this proposed law explicitly identify them? And, if they don’t exist, then what is the purpose of HB 1412?

Third, what does it mean for a policy to be “traceable to United Nations Agenda 21?” What is the meaning of “traceable?” That’s an undefined term that is a loophole or a wormhole that we don’t want to go down.

As we say, we’re in favor of laws that are clear in their language and intent. House Bill 1412 fails to meet the minimum standard for good governance.

The Current Status of HB 1412

On March 21st, HB 1412 was assigned to the Senate Energy Committee. A hearing on HB 1412 could occur as early as March 27th or 28th.

If you’re opposed to House Bill 1412, as we are, please write or call the members of the Energy Committee.  Thanks!

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