Top Stories


  • Counties face stiff challenge in keeping bridges in good shape

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Apr 16, 2014

    CLOSURE of a bridge linking Purcell and Lexington poses a major hardship on local citizens. Until the bridge is repaired, they’re forced to drive 30 or more miles for a journey that would normally be less than two miles. The bridge is 76 years old and plagued by structural issues that made its closure and repair mandatory. As hard as this is on the people who regularly make the crossing, it’s temporary. The situation offers the advantage of a fast-tracked repair because the bridge is owned by the state. Two months after the closing, the end is in sight: A June reopening is targeted. Were this bridge not part of the highway system and state-owned, it could be years before the structure was repaired.

  • Anxiety over Oklahoma third-grade testing is a red herring

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Apr 16, 2014

    MUCH coverage of state third-grade reading tests has focused on anecdotal claims of student test anxiety. In some instances, parents even called it “unfair” that children could be forced to repeat third grade if they failed the test. In sports, citizens often mock the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality or refusal to keep score. But in academics, some find it shocking that officials would acknowledge any students trail their peers. Some critics take things a step further by suggesting there should be no consequence when a child isn’t taught to read. That’s the wrong approach. Fostering an entitlement mentality provides children no academic benefit. A child’s self-esteem should be based on actual achievement, not

  • Dysfunctional, polarized D.C. still appeal for some Oklahomans, as candidate filings show

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Apr 15, 2014

    WASHINGTON, D.C., is dysfunctional and polarized — and, apparently, mighty attractive to Oklahomans of all political stripes. When the three-day filing period ended Friday, 47 men and women had declared their candidacies for the seven congressional races on the ballot this year. Only one of those candidates, 1st District U.S. Rep. James Bridenstine, has no more work to do. He drew no challenger and thus will automatically return for a second term. The U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Tom Coburn drew 11 candidates hoping to fill the remaining two years of his term. Seven are Republicans, led by U.S. Rep. James Lankford, of Oklahoma City, and former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, of Lawton. State Sen.

  • Price hikes hurt the poor, middle class

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Apr 15, 2014

    COMBINING their “income inequality” obsession with business bashing, some liberals are blaming supposed corporate greed for the financial challenges of the poor. Such theories are only plausible in the abstract. Under scrutiny, they fall apart. A recent video produced by Slate, a liberal website, argues that Walmart could raise wages and ultimately save taxpayer money because fewer of its workers would qualify for food stamps. Currently, Slate says, cashiers are paid an average wage of $8.81 per hour. To raise that sum to $13.63, Slate argues, Walmart could raise prices 1.4 percent. A 68-cent box of macaroni and cheese would instead cost 69 cents. Slate claims this would keep many Walmart employees off food stamps. This

  • Oklahoma House speaker should let Indian cultural center bill go to House floor

    Published: Mon, Apr 14, 2014

    THE office of speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives is one of the most powerful in state government. The debate of whether to provide additional state funding for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is an example. The building sits unfinished along the Oklahoma River east of downtown Oklahoma City. Construction began in 2005 but came to a halt in 2012 when money ran out. So far, $91 million has been spent on the AICCM, including $67.4 million in state funds. Senate Bill 1651 would take $40 million from the state treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Fund and use it to complete the project. That $40 million would be matched by outside donors. The AICCM’s completion is important to the ongoing and

  • Higher ed, CareerTech both vital to Oklahoma's future growth

    Published: Sun, Apr 13, 2014

    THE importance of a college degree can’t be overplayed in a state like Oklahoma. Or can it? Bob Funk is among those who believe the answer to that question is yes. Funk, CEO of Express Employment Services, recently issued a “white paper” touting the potential benefits of earning a certification from a technical school as opposed to a bachelor’s degree from a college. “A stable career doesn’t always require a four-year degree,” Funk argues. “I see who’s getting hired in the modern economy, and it’s clear career tech can lead to not only a job, but a successful career.” He says the United States is falling behind the rest of the world in career technical education, which “has serious implications for our

  • United States should work to fast-track gas exports

    Published: Sun, Apr 13, 2014

    CONTROVERSY is flaring over the export of U.S. natural gas in the wake of Russia’s takeover of Crimea. As America overtakes Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, we’ll have energy to spare. Gas exports could serve a strategic purpose by reducing dependence on Russian energy supplies throughout Europe. Exports could have an enormous impact on the world market. Those who oppose facilitating increased exports offer numerous arguments. “But almost all of them are wrong,” says Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and columnist for the Washington Examiner.

  • ScissorTales: Tenure fight in California will be worth watching

    Published: Sat, Apr 12, 2014

    OKLAHOMA took steps a few years ago to make it easier for school boards to dismiss underperforming teachers. Lawmakers did away with “trial de novo,” which allowed tenured teachers to appeal their dismissals to district court. Tenure is under fire today in California, where nine public school students have gone to court to try to get the system changed. The students say the charitable employment rules for California’s for teachers — they receive tenure after just 18 months on the job, for example — leave so many bad teachers in the system that some students don’t get the education guaranteed in the state’s constitution. Plaintiffs allege many of these underserved students are low-income and minority children.

  • Legislation could reduce doctor shopping in Oklahoma

    Published: Fri, Apr 11, 2014

    AN effort to reduce doctor-shopping and associated prescription drug abuse has encountered a roadblock in the Legislature. Opponents say they are concerned the bill micromanages physicians and could have unintended consequences. These arguments are unpersuasive. Senate Bill 1821 would require doctors to check the Prescription Monitoring Program, an online state database, to review a patient’s narcotic prescription history before authorizing additional drugs. This is a simple, cost-effective way to deter doctor-shopping by those seeking multiple prescriptions through different physicians. It can take less than two minutes to check a patient’s drug history. That’s comparable to taking a patient’s blood pressure.

  • Oklahoma 'revenue' options involve significant downside

    Published: Fri, Apr 11, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Policy Institute issued a set of recommendations to fill the state’s $188 million budget hole, options the think tank believes are “balanced” and “feasible.” While a range of proposals are promoted, no one should think these options are painless. One proposal is to use state rainy day funds to fill budget holes. This was always a strong possibility, but we would caution against using that cash for ongoing expenses. One-time funds are just that — one time. Another suggestion is to collect taxes from online sales. Money raised by this approach would collect sales taxes already owed to the state that currently go uncollected. This would treat all businesses the same.

  • Aerospace job growth in Southern states owes much to workplace freedom

    Published: Thu, Apr 10, 2014

    FROM 2007 to 2012, jobs in the aerospace industry grew 17 percent in Oklahoma. This ranked the state sixth in aerospace jobs growth during that time period. A report by stateline.org, which tracks policy and politics in state government, says the southern United States “is increasingly attracting” the big players in aviation, such as Boeing, Airbus and Gulfstream. Why? “Aerospace companies are taking a cue from the auto industry and moving their manufacturing operations to Southern states. The region’s lower costs, generous state incentive packages and right-to-work laws that make it hard for unions to organize are motivating these companies to choose the South,” the website reported.

  • Report on electric vehicles shows consumer needs ignored

    Published: Thu, Apr 10, 2014

    THROUGH tax incentives at the federal and state levels, policymakers have tried to tip the scales in favor of electric vehicles, often in the name of combatting global warming. But the electric car remains a niche product. A new survey explains why: Most consumers want a vehicle that’s affordable and can be used for normal driving distances. Imagine that! In a national survey of adult American drivers, TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence found that the “capabilities and features offered by today’s electric vehicle models fall short of customer expectations, especially in terms of vehicle range, recharge time, and purchase price.” In short, electric cars cost too much, don’t drive far enough and take too long to

  • Editorial: Get Indian cultural center bill to the House floor!

    Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Apr 9, 2014

    The future of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum rests for now with a Senate bill that’s scheduled to be voted on today by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. Members of the committee need to approve SB 1651, and then House Speaker Jeff Hickman needs to send it to the floor for a vote. The bill would take $40 million from the state treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Fund and put it toward the AICCM, which sits unfinished along the Oklahoma River east of downtown Oklahoma City. That $40 million will be matched by private donations. If the bill doesn’t pass out of committee, the issue is probably dead for this session and perhaps forever. The donors have been waiting more than two years for

  • OKC school board vote shows a focus on students' nutrition

    Published: Wed, Apr 9, 2014

    HERE’S a popular statistic that’s often used to depict the poverty challenge within Oklahoma City Public Schools: About 90 percent of the district’s students live at or near the poverty line. This is based on the number of students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches. As daunting as this statistic may seem, the actual numbers behind it are even more staggering and a much more telling picture of the financial situation in which many students live. Of the 40,000 noncharter school students in Oklahoma City Public Schools, about 33,000 qualify for free lunches. Typically, these statistics are used in connection with the academic challenges faced by schools with large numbers of low-income students.

  • New approach to Medicaid could save Oklahoma money, improve outcomes

    Published: Wed, Apr 9, 2014

    OKLAHOMA lawmakers say they’re committed to increasing public school funding. Many Republicans say they’re committed to controlling state spending elsewhere. Yet lawmakers’ resistance to Medicaid reform undermines both goals. Senate Bill 1495, by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, would allow the use of privately managed care in Oklahoma’s Medicaid program on a pilot-project basis. The bill passed the Senate, but apparently won’t be heard in the House. That’s a mistake. Without reform, Medicaid threatens to consume an ever-larger share of state funding. This diverts tax dollars from schools, roads and public safety. As chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, David knows that

  • Politicians eager to give something back to the 'average' taxpayer

    Published: Tue, Apr 8, 2014

    THE miserly love company. Governors around the country want to cut taxes. The man-bites-dog aspect of this story is that Democratic governors are among them. Oklahoma is in the hunt for a tax cut as well. Unlike in other states, though, we have a budget “shortfall.” That’s generally not a time when tax cuts face smooth sailing. Stateline.org reports on a trend that includes as many as 30 states trying to mess with the tax code status quo. In most cases, this means lower taxes. Here, the top state income tax rate would drop from 5.25 percent to 5 percent. Elsewhere, the pressure is on lawmakers to cut taxes because a lot more cash is coming in these days. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wants a $433 million tax cut.

  • 'Threat' to nature comes from ... nature

    Published: Tue, Apr 8, 2014

    The zeal by environmentalists to “save the planet” can sometimes leave the impression that they think mankind isn’t part of the natural order. Obama administration officials have taken things one step further. They’re tacitly suggesting that some animals may not be part of the natural world. Administration officials recently announced they will be releasing a “Biogas Roadmap” in June that includes suggested methods to reduce the production of methane gas by dairy cows. The Environmental Protection Agency claims cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year, which accounts for 20 percent of U.S. methane emissions. After cattle eat, they emit methane via belching and, well, other methods. This

  • Push to reveal execution drug source is part of larger plan

    Published: Tue, Apr 8, 2014

    Oklahoma has a new protocol regarding the drugs used to execute death row inmates. The state will test the drugs and make results of those tests known publicly, an effort to alleviate concerns that the condemned may suffer cruel and unusual punishment while on the gurney. Attorney General Scott Pruitt says a new batch of execution drugs has been tested and the results turned over to attorneys representing two inmates scheduled to be put to death later this month. One attorney, a federal public defender, said the names of the drugs and the test results “only give us surface-level information of the execution.” She wants to know where the state purchased its drugs. Pruitt isn’t saying. This isn’t unusual.

  • In difficult budget year, Oklahoma Highway Patrol raises need to happen

    Published: Mon, Apr 7, 2014

    OKLAHOMA lawmakers have $188 million less to allocate this is year, yet state agencies have combined to ask for about $800 million more than they got a year ago. Clearly, difficult decisions are ahead. Most agency directors will be disappointed. Our hope is that Michael Thompson, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, isn’t one of them. Thompson oversees the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, whose trooper force is well below what’s needed. The number has the potential to diminish further every year — 210 of the 768 troopers now on the roster are eligible to retire immediately; half of those 210 have more than 25 years with the OHP.

  • Changes needed in the way Oklahoma agencies deal with prescription drug deaths

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Apr 6, 2014

    DURING the time in her life when she was addicted to painkillers, Lea Gray never had any trouble getting her hands on the powerful drug hydrocodone. Gray simply went to four doctors, simultaneously, and got her prescriptions filled. How? The doctors’ offices weren’t logging into the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, a computer database that lets medical professionals see in real time where and when patients have had prescriptions filled. The PMP is considered one of the best in the country. But it too often goes unused by doctors, who aren’t required by law to use it. Indeed Gray, now sober and working for a hospital in southwestern Oklahoma, says “nobody around here uses” the PMP. “The pharmacy checks