As news was breaking on Sen. Ralph Shortey’s compromising encounter with the Moore Police Department, people within the social media strata of the internet were quick to point out the hypocrisy. Long before he was arrested and charged with three prostitution-related crimes after being caught in a hotel room with a reportedly 17-year-old boy, Shortey had been widely known as a “values” legislator.
Shortey’s Senate bio lists his priorities as “personal liberty, fighting illegal immigration and strengthening public safety.” Personal liberty stands out because it’s a broad focus. It’s also complete baloney that flies directly into the face of his many morality-based initiatives.
On Wednesday, in a series of sanctions handed down by colleagues, Shortey was removed as author of Senate Bill 512, a bill that would amend several sections of State Question 780. SQ 780 was one of the state questions passed by voters last year that would reduce several crimes from felony to misdemeanor. Shortey said he thought voters were misled or misinformed before they went to the polls.
Part of the Moore PD’s report includes an affidavit wherein Shortey and the boy had admitted to bringing marijuana to the motel room, and Shortey said they were smoking when police knocked on the door. There were no charges for possession, but if there were, Shortey would have been especially unlucky. In only a few months, effective July 1, there would have been several provisions in place from SQ 780 that could have held the possession charge to a misdemeanor. The other stuff – still felonies.
There are legitimate reasons for people to want to roll back 780 – it would mean less money for county prosecutors and for-profit prisons. There are people who can’t accept drug use as anything more than being weak-willed. There are people who for religious reason prioritize values legislation, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You fight for what you believe in.
In the case of Shortey, they weren’t even his values. You can’t lump all “values” lawmakers together, but in this case we have evidence of how much of this legislation is about pandering to a base electorate that isn’t thinking about the state in terms of economic wellbeing.
This isn’t about being progressive, or soft on crime, but we have to wonder what we really consider personal liberty. Shouldn’t personal liberty mean not imposing our values onto others?