Guest: Sound government policies shouldn't be driven by fodder of national talking points

What is the true role of state government? The Oklahoma Constitution only requires one thing be done every year in legislative session, pass a balanced budget to fund the core services of government. Yet, the headlines read that over 3,000 bills have been filed in advance of the start of session.

Why the large number? As an elected official and former member of the House of Representatives, I believe it is that we, as a state and country, have forgotten why we are there. I believe that the function of government is to provide a framework for our state to function and for our residents to flourish. That means a safe system of infrastructure to move goods and services, a quality public education, and equally healthy systems of career technology and higher education. Strong public safety networks and a working medical system for quality physical and mental healthcare across the state, and a safety net for those who deserve our compassion and services.

Yet instead, we seem to be becoming exactly what the women of Iran are bravely and valiantly fighting against, a growing morality police state. We want to punish businesses who don’t agree with us. We want to whitewash our history — fast fact, it’s not all pretty. But we have to teach it so we do not repeat it. The state of Missouri recently passed House rules that would forbid female legislators from having bare arms on the House floor in the name of modesty. As the women of Iran fight to remove their head coverings we mandate arm coverings.

Anti-LGBTQ legislation is again on the uptick, the strictest abortion laws in the nation have been enacted, without the safety net usually allowed for the cases of rape and incest. We are already seeing an outward migration of OB-GYNs, who fear losing their licenses if a procedure to save a mother’s life is deemed anything close to an abortion.

We are banning books and limiting freedoms on a daily basis. At times the dystopian world of Margaret Atwood’s "The Handmaid's Tale" seems oddly prescient. I suppose the desired result is a homogenous society where we all look alike, love alike, worship alike, read the same books and think the same thoughts.

There was a time of freedom in our great country where all of these issues were not legislated. Where we trusted individuals to make decisions without government interference. When we focused on small, efficient, good government. Those issues were discussed in churches and at dinner tables and were left to individuals. Now half of our time is spent on saving souls, not our job, to the detriment of our state.

Some of the biggest issues facing Oklahoma are workforce shortages, child care deserts, lack of affordable housing, continuing declines in maternal and infant health outcomes, too many children in foster care, not enough mental health beds to serve those in crisis or the unhoused. We cannot keep enough certified teachers in the classroom because of substandard pay and ridiculous targeting of our educators as pedophiles, groomers, and liberal indoctrinators. Fixing these issues will keep families here, businesses here, and encourage new industry in the state.

Sound government policies should be knowledge and need based, not driven by the fodder of national talking points, spoken to alarm and drive fear in our residents. Now is the perfect time to reach out to your representatives at the Capitol and let them know which things matter to you as a constituent and resident of this state.

Leslie Osborn is Oklahoma's labor commissioner and former Republican member of the state House of Representatives.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Labor chief: Knowledge, needs should drive policies, not talking points