Top Stories

  • Sen. Ted Cruz's tactics undermine conservative cause

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Apr 25, 2014

    WHEN U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, announced he was resigning mid-term, he set off a free-for-all in Oklahoma politics. Now a candidate seeking to replace Coburn is touting the support of one of Coburn’s harshest critics. Here’s the twist: The critic isn’t a Democrat. Former House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, has sought and received the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. It’s a safe bet President Barack Obama doesn’t want any Republican elected to an Oklahoma Senate seat. It’s also a safe bet that no Democrat will win that seat. But if he can’t get a Democrat, Obama’s second preference is likely a Ted Cruz Republican. No other lawmaker in Washington has done more to boost Obama’s standing and harm

  • Contradicting claims about Oklahoma drilling tax fuel debate

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Apr 25, 2014

    OKLAHOMANS strongly support raising taxes on oil and gas producers. Or maybe they strongly oppose raising taxes on oil and gas. It depends on which poll you believe. State lawmakers better hope they choose the right one before casting a vote, or they could pay a high price at the ballot box. Currently, Oklahoma levies a 1 percent gross production tax on horizontal wells for the first four years of operation. That rate was enacted as a temporary incentive, and is scheduled to expire in 2015. Other wells face a 7 percent tax. This year, a strong push has been made to raise the tax on horizontal drilling before the incentive’s scheduled expiration. It seems every special-interest group thinks higher energy taxes will solve all their

  • Politics at the heart of moves to increase minimum wage

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Apr 24, 2014

    THE Obama administration took the Keystone XL pipeline off the table until after the November elections, to help Democrats. Democrats are putting state and local minimum wage issues on the table this November, also to help the party. Perhaps it’s time for Barack Obama to table his proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Why not let state and local governments, mostly with a vote of the people, decide what the minimum wage should be in a particular locale? If a floor wage is needed (a proposition we take issue with), why set the rate in Washington? This November, voters in as many as eight states could consider ballot measures to raise the minimum wage higher than the $7.25 federal rate.

  • For students, the consequences of well-intended education policies aren't all good

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Apr 24, 2014

    THE core question on a hot legislative topic right now is pretty straightforward: If it isn’t tested, does it matter? Schools are struggling mightily with that question. Policy that’s passed at the state Capitol or even in a board room sometimes looks pretty different when it’s put to work in a classroom. Senate Bill 1654 would drop a state requirement for fifth- and eighth-grade social studies tests and a seventh-grade geography test. Many of those concerned about the amount of standardized testing in public schools are cheering the bill. But even some of those who want to see fewer tests oppose the bill because they think removing the testing requirement will give schools the OK to de-emphasize social studies instruction.

  • No need to 'fix' the Electoral College system

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Apr 23, 2014

    NEW York has become the latest state to adopt a National Popular Vote compact. Under the scheme, a state’s electoral votes go to the presidential candidate getting the most votes nationally, regardless of which candidate actually carries that specific state. This plan isn’t without notable flaws. And its results may surprise even its most fervent boosters. In addition to New York, nine states have adopted a National Popular Vote compact: Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, California and Rhode Island. The District of Columbia has also adopted the compact. Notice a trend? Every one of those states has been reliably Democratic in presidential elections for several cycles now.

  • Oklahoma testing system warrants serious review

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Apr 23, 2014

    The latest disruption of state testing at Oklahoma schools, the second in as many years, has rightfully outraged teachers, parents and students. But the first response of some critics — that this is merely a political issue in the state school superintendent’s race and not a systemic problem — does nothing to help children or improve schools. This discussion should be driven by policy, not politics. The lack of competent national vendors to administer online testing has become an undeniable challenge. This is a longstanding problem that has occurred over several administrations. Oklahoma has used five testing companies over roughly a decade. Yet testing problems persist. Harcourt Assessments Inc. once printed incorrect

  • Secrecy concerns sideline Oklahoma executions for now

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Apr 23, 2014

    A dizzying series of court rulings ended Monday with this clarifying result: Oklahoma executions by drug injection are on hold, perhaps forever. In a 5-4 decision, the state Supreme Court stayed the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner. Lockett was to be put to death Tuesday for killing a 19-year-old woman in 1999; Warner was to die April 29 for the rape and killing of an 11-month-old girl in 1997. Central to their appeals has been the supplier of the drugs to be used in the executions. Attorneys for Lockett and Warner contend a state law that allows the Department of Corrections to keep its drug source secret violates their clients’ constitutional rights. A district judge agreed with that argument in

  • New Oklahoma prison boss needs support, fair shake from lawmakers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Apr 22, 2014

    ROBERT Patton brings to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections a fresh approach, new ideas and a passion for his job. Unknown is whether these will translate into substantive, lasting changes for a system that badly needs them. Patton came to the DOC from Arizona, where during a 30-year career he held every job from correctional officer to prison warden. The Arizona correctional system has about twice as many inmates and double the budget as Oklahoma’s, and many of the same challenges — too few correctional officers, low pay, too many inmates with mental health concerns, not enough resources, etc. Patton now oversees an agency whose aging prisons regularly are at or near capacity.

  • Obama administration finds another reason not to approve Keystone XL pipeline

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Apr 22, 2014

    THE Obama administration has found yet another way to keep from deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline’s northern leg, from Canada to Cushing. This time, to hear the administration tell it (with a straight face, no less), a court case stands in the way. The State Department said Friday that because of a Nebraska court decision in February that invalidated part of the pipeline’s route, a final decision must be delayed. Conveniently, this means a final thumbs-up or thumbs-down almost certainly won’t come until after November’s midterm elections, because no resolution to the court fight is expected until late this year. It’s interesting that after the court ruling in February, the administration said the case

  • Effort to expand Oklahoma charter schools out of urban core is worthwhile

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Apr 21, 2014

    SINCE the 1990s, charter schools have primarily been limited to the urban core. Many charters, which are free public schools, have been wildly successful. Yet states have been slow to duplicate those successful efforts in other areas, particularly rural communities. Legislation working its way through the Legislature could change that. Senate Bill 573 would create the “Public Charter School Accountability and Authorization Act.” It contains provisions to boost charter opportunities in Oklahoma and increase accountability measures imposed on charter schools. The bill would create a commission that could authorize charter school agreements anywhere in Oklahoma.

  • Bending the arc proving difficult for Oklahoma DHS director

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Apr 20, 2014

    AFTER 14 months as director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Ed Lake says this about the job: “It’s every bit as difficult as I thought it would be.” It’s easy to see why. DHS is the largest agency in state government, with roughly 7,000 employees. It’s also one of the most closely scrutinized, because of its work with endangered and neglected children. The manner in which DHS dealt with child welfare issues prompted a federal lawsuit in 2008. The plaintiff, an out-of-state group, argued Oklahoma needed to do a much better job protecting kids in state custody. The state settled the lawsuit in 2012.

  • Oklahoma City at 125: Its best days are yet to come

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Apr 20, 2014

    PUTTING a flame to 125 candles for Oklahoma City’s birthday this week would be redundant. The city has been casting its light far and wide for years. It gets brighter by the day. As birthdays and anniversaries go, 125 lacks the cachet of a centennial or sesquicentennial. Nevertheless, we’ve reached a milestone worth celebrating because there’s so much more to fete this April 22 than there was a quarter of a century ago. The Oklahoma City of 1989 was pre-MAPS, pre-NBA, pre-most everything that we associate with the city today. These are the things we brag about, the things people around the country mention when they mull a place whose launched-in-a-day origins remain largely unknown to them.

  • ScissorTales: Repaying our debts to Shakespeare

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Apr 19, 2014

    “HE that dies pays all debts,” William Shake-speare wrote in The Tempest. What of the debts we owe the long-dead William Shakespeare? We repay them by continuing to stage his plays, quoting his most famous lines and even questioning whether Shakespeare really wrote all those plays and sonnets. His work thus remains alive, though he’s been dead these 400 years. But we come today not to lament his death but to celebrate his birth. April 23, by common agreement, will be the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s arrival on the stage of life. When the playwright was 40, work was started elsewhere in the realm on what we now call the King James Version of the Bible.

  • Political dynamics changing, as Oklahoma candidate filings show

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Apr 18, 2014

    LAST week’s candidate filing period reinforced, once again, how the mighty have fallen. The Democratic Party once dominated Oklahoma. Only a few years ago, Democrats still held many statewide offices. Today, the party struggles to even field credible candidates in many major races. Because no Democrat filed, incumbent Republicans were re-elected upon filing for the offices of state auditor, attorney general and state treasurer. Statewide races for insurance commissioner and corporation commission will be decided in Republican primaries; no Democrats sought those jobs. U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa and a tea party favorite, has attracted controversy during his first term in office but was re-elected without opposition this

  • Oklahoma school safety alternatives besieged by controversy

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Apr 18, 2014

    Sunday’s severe weather was a wake-up call (as if Oklahoma needed one!) that storm season is upon us. For supporters of a statewide bond issue to fund school shelters, it’s an ideal time to promote the plan. But it’s never an ideal time to sell a proposal by distorting the aim of an alternative plan. Unfortunately, that’s what Take Shelter Oklahoma is doing. The group favors a statewide bond issue to raise $500 million for school shelters. A competing plan would let each school district determine its own needs. Voters statewide would decide if school districts could exceed their bonded indebtedness cap for the specific purpose of funding shelters.

  • Initiative petition drives petering out in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Apr 18, 2014

    Three initiative petition efforts begun recently in Oklahoma with great fanfare are petering out in a hurry. Prospects for their resurrection appear bleak. We can’t say we’re disappointed. One petition drive sought to ask voters whether to approve a $500 million bond issue to fund storm shelters at public schools, with interest on the bonds paid for through a state franchise tax. Backers of the plan came up short in their effort to collect the necessary signatures; wrangling over ballot language prompted a lawsuit that ended up before the state Supreme Court. The court recently gave supporters an additional 90 days to come up with the 160,000 signatures, but attorney David Slane says his clients are unlikely to start over

  • Earmarking practice fuels artificial budget problems for Oklahoma policymakers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Apr 17, 2014

    EARMARKING state funds for specific purposes before any deposit is made into the state’s general revenue fund has created serious budget challenges in Oklahoma. Due to such skimming, total state tax collections have increased but lawmakers still face a $188.5 million budget “shortfall.” Yet some lawmakers want to up the ante on earmarking. Legislators should resist the temptation. It will only exacerbate budget problems down the road, as prominent officials with years of budget experience attest. University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who served as governor from 1975 to 1979, is among those opposed to further earmarking.

  • Marijuana, tobacco treated very differently by the government

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Apr 17, 2014

    WHEN it comes to tobacco and marijuana, public policies appear headed in contradictory directions. For years, candy cigarettes have been criticized as providing children a gateway to tobacco smoking. In similar fashion, the federal government banned candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes in 2009 as part of an effort to reduce youth smoking. Yet in Colorado, the legalization of marijuana has produced a rash of candy products infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in pot. THC products include everything from gummy bears to caramels. In some cases, a single piece of candy is the recommended dose, yet packages contain numerous pieces.

  • 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