College student spends spring break at Capitol

Wednesday, March 19th 2008, 6:30 pm
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

An Oklahoma City college student is spending her spring break sunbathing at the capitol. It's her way of shedding light on an issue she thinks Oklahomans need to know more about.

Susan Mills said she was bored one day and started looking into the amount of gifts lawmakers receive from lobbyists. What she found, she didn't like, and decided to do something about it.

Mills came prepared for a day at the beach, she had food and drinks, a lawn chair and shades to block out the Oklahoma sun. Yet, for this college student on spring break, the Capitol is a far cry from a sunny paradise.

"The wind is what is the killer when it's warm you got to take it when it's cold you got to bite the bullet," Mills said.

Mills is hoping her protest will encourage lawmakers to stop taking gifts from lobbyists. 

In 2007, politicians accepted just over $211,000. Among the most popular items to receive, sporting tickets, meals and jewelry.

State Rep. Jason Murphey is working on legislation to create a list detailing which lawmakers don't want gifts. He's having a hard time getting it through.

"We'll probably have to amend it onto another bill to get it passed," Murphey said. "I think that it's just an integrity issue judges aren't supposed to receive gifts from attorneys arguing before them so why would a lawmaker take it from a lobbyist whose livelihood is based on that lawmaker's vote."

Marilyn Hughes said the Oklahoma Ethics Commission is trying to reduce the amount lawmakers can accept. Instead of taking $300 in gifts from lobbyists, lawmakers would be limited to $100.

"They felt like there was too much being spent during session or whatever on gifts to elected officers," Hughes said.

"I think it's important to know what your legislators are dong," Mills said. "I mean you might be twenty-three, but I'm a voter and I think that's should be important to them."

Mills said she'll be at the capitol from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day for the rest of the week. She's encouraging other college students to pull up a beach chair and join her.

As for the new proposed ethics rules, lawmakers have until the end of the session to vote on them or else they automatically go into effect July 1.