• In Davos, much indignity over energy industry's 'corporate greed'

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 27, 2016

    COLIN Quinn is a comedian with a libertarian worldview. He once observed that the world's leading economists missed the last great downturn because their annual summits are held in Davos, Switzerland, where everything is beautiful and serene. Move those summits to Haiti, Quinn quipped, and reality would intrude like a September hurricane. Leonardo DiCaprio is an actor with a liberal worldview. Last week, he jetted into Davos to proclaim that the industry responsible for the jet fuel is remaking the world because of greed. The occasion was the World Economic Summit, which attracted a parade of affluent, elitist luminaries whose views are often divorced from reality. We can't let corporate greed “determine the future of

  • Oklahoma lawmaker's rainy day savings proposal is a solid idea

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 27, 2016

    SEN. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, wants to dramatically increase the amount of money officials can set aside in the state's “rainy day” savings account. That won't help lawmakers deal with this year's budget shortfall, but it could help officials better mitigate the effects of future financial downturns. Under Holt's Senate Joint Resolution 44, Oklahoma voters would have the chance to raise the cap on the Rainy Day Fund to 15 percent of the total state budget. The current cap is 15 percent of the “general revenue fund certification.” The difference between those two figures is enormous. The total state budget is at least $24 billion. Yet most focus is placed on the amount of spending directly appropriated by lawmakers

  • Teacher pay is front and center at Oklahoma Capitol

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jan 26, 2016

    THE top item on state Health Commissioner Terry Cline's legislative agenda for 2016 is to increase Oklahoma's excise tax on tobacco by $1.50 per pack. This increase would generate an estimated $182 million per year, with $120 million of that going to … teacher pay raises. To be sure, the issue of teacher pay is far outstripping all others as the session gets ready to begin next week. Republicans and Democrats alike are looking for any way possible to increase salaries for Oklahoma's educators. This ball got rolling in the fall with University of Oklahoma President David Boren's call for a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax. Backers are planning an initiative petition drive to put the question to a vote of the people

  • Movement aims to educate parents about school choice policy, options

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 25, 2016

    TWO years ago, Renee Alvarado Porter became aware of an Education Savings Account bill at the Legislature. The proposal would have given parents a share of the per-pupil funding the state already allocates to educate a child, and allow them to use that money to choose any education option for their child, including private school. Porter contacted the bill's author to get more information, and was soon testifying in favor of the legislation before a House committee. That bill authorized ESAs only for low- income students attending the worst public schools. “It got voted down,” Porter recalls. “And I left there absolutely dumbfounded to think about that, at the end of the day, our legislators voted in favor of

  • Nursing home rule change is worthy of consideration

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 25, 2016

    STEREOTYPES about government inanity exist for a reason. Consider this: Two entities providing the exact same service to elderly patients are paid different prices under Medicare and Medicaid. This reality suggests partnerships between Oklahoma's nursing homes and hospitals could generate up to $275 million in additional federal funding. But reaping that money will require rule changes at the state level, a loss of control for nursing home operators, and potentially increased liability for participating hospitals. Even so, the idea is gaining traction. In Oklahoma, roughly 70 percent of nursing home patients are on Medicaid.

  • GOP in Oklahoma should note two recent election results

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 24, 2016

    REPUBLICAN candidates in Oklahoma have gone 0-for-2 in recent special elections for seats in the Legislature, losing spots long considered safe for the GOP. What's that mean exactly? It's difficult to say. Sen. John Sparks, Democratic leader in the state Senate, said the two victories are “absolutely a trend,” telling The Associated Press that Republican policies “have been failures by any objective measure and the people of Oklahoma are obviously tired of it.” On the other side, Republican pollster Pat McFerron told us that candidates and consultants should be careful about reading too much into these two low-turnout elections.

  • Challenges never end for director of Oklahoma prisons

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 24, 2016

    AS director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Joe Allbaugh handled his share of big challenges. This should make him well suited for his new job, interim director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, because its challenges are never ending. Like all agency directors, the head of the DOC doesn't make policy. Instead he makes the best of the hand dealt by the Legislature, which funds the agency and passes the laws that, in Oklahoma, have helped ensure that prison space remains tight and funds even tighter. Oklahoma Watch reported that 28,095 inmates were in DOC custody at the end of 2015, an increase of nearly 1,200 over the year before. According to data from the U.S.

  • Oklahoma ScissorTales: Potential good news for poor students in Oklahoma City

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Jan 23, 2016

    IN news that should encourage those who care about education, and especially about giving a quality education to the poorest among us, Oklahoma City could soon be home to a Cristo Rey high school. Cristo Rey schools provide a private, Catholic, college-preparatory education to inner-city students who would normally never get to attend private school. In Cristo Rey's unique model, students attend classes four days a week, and work a job the fifth day. Wages earned go toward the student's tuition and cover up to 70 percent of the cost; the remainder comes from the student's family (with rates based on income) and private fundraising. The students gain a quality education and meaningful skills that help them obtain

  • Amid tough news, some see better days for shale

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Thu, Jan 21, 2016

    CONTINENTAL Resources CEO Harold Hamm told The Wall Street Journal last week that he expects oil to be selling for $60 a barrel by the end of this year. Overly optimistic? Perhaps. But a rebound will occur in time. One always does. Mark P. Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, notes that there have been six extreme jumps and falls in the price of oil since the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74. We're living through one of those nosedives now, with oil below $30 a barrel and falling. Hamm termed a “monumental mistake” Saudi Arabia's decision to keep pumping oil at a high rate, because it drove down world prices and likely contributed to Congress lifting this country's 40-year-old oil export ban. Hamm told the

  • Deep pockets don't ensure political success

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 21, 2016

    TWO major flaws are apparent in complaints about the supposedly nefarious influence of money in politics. First, critics ignore the many instances where better-funded candidates lose. Second, they don't object when their preferred candidate wins and also happens to be well-funded. Obviously, you can't run a credible race without money. But results continue to show money alone won't win an election. For evidence, check out this year's presidential race. The Hill newspaper recently noted GOP front-runner Donald Trump has run a “relatively cheap campaign — contrasted with the millions of dollars spent on behalf of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Scott Walker and Rick Perry …” Two of those four candidates, you may notice, have

  • Jail decision by feds is good news for Oklahoma County

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 21, 2016

    IT'S indeed welcome news that the U.S. Justice Department is easing its threat of litigation over the Oklahoma County jail, because it allows county officials and community leaders the time to figure out a best way forward for criminal justice in the county. Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, broke the news Tuesday to a meeting of the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City: “The threat of a takeover is now on the sideline.” That threat has lingered since 2008, when the Justice Department cited 60 civil rights violations at the jail. Structural issues with the high-rise jail have kept a handful of the feds' concerns from being addressed. Thus the idea of building a new jail or making significant

  • Science needs to prevail in approach to Oklahoma quakes

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 20, 2016

    DO the math. That's the takeaway from “The Martian,” a movie filmed in the earthquake-prone nation of Jordan. The protagonist makes it back to Earth because he did the math. He applied rational, scientific solutions to his dilemma, which was how to survive with limited food after being left behind on a distant planet. We were encouraged to hear state Rep. Richard Morrissette appeal to science to tackle the problem of earthquake-plagued Oklahoma at a time when residents are increasingly nervous about seismic activity. Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, convened a public forum on the swarm of quakes affecting the state. It was the second of two such forums that drew large, passionate crowds in the same

  • Haley's comments on immigration not all that different from Reagan

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 20, 2016

    IT'S been argued that many current GOP activists would declare Ronald Reagan a “Republican in name only.” Although often dismissed, that allegation is given credibility by the reaction to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's recent comments on immigration. Among other things in the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, Haley discussed her own heritage. “I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country.” Haley said her story “is really not much different from millions of other Americans. Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America. They

  • Points made by Bush, Carson are worth GOP's notice

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Mon, Jan 18, 2016

    BY most accounts, the presidential hopes of Jeb Bush and Ben Carson are waning. Each man made the seven-member field for the latest Republican debate, which was based on their standings in national polls and in Iowa and New Hampshire. However their positioning on the debate stage continues to move farther away from the center, which is occupied by the leaders. Yet Carson and Bush each said a few things last week that should be remembered by the other candidates, and particularly by the Republican Party.

  • Logical inconsistencies hurt institute's arguments about 'reproductive rights'

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Mon, Jan 18, 2016

    THE Population Institute, an organization focused on “reproductive rights,” dings Oklahoma in a new report, suggesting this state's high teen- pregnancy rate is driven in part by restrictive abortion laws. That claim falls apart upon inspection. The institute gives Oklahoma an F on its 2015 report card on reproductive health and rights. Robert Walker, the organization's president, declares Oklahoma “is falling short in several key areas, and those failures, in turn, contribute to high rates of unintended and unwanted pregnancies, including teen pregnancies.” Yet the report card is filled with logical inconsistencies and faulty assumptions.

  • Indeed, tax rates can influence business decisions

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 18, 2016

    A small income tax cut is occurring this year even as Oklahoma government faces a $900 million budget shortfall due to plummeting energy prices. This has prompted renewed debate over government priorities. Those on the political left argue business location decisions and associated economic activity aren't driven by tax rates, but by how well government services are funded, so the tax cut should be repealed. General Electric's exit from Connecticut, where it has been headquartered since 1974, undermines those claims in a big way. As Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin noted, “This is precisely why we know lower taxes influence where businesses go.” Connecticut has raised taxes five times since 2011 with the most recent round

  • Federal agency's actions may undermine students' rights

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 17, 2016

    NO one wants sexual harassment or assault to be ignored. But the processes used to investigate related allegations on many college campuses increasingly resemble kangaroo courts. It appears those potentially unconstitutional processes have been adopted due to pressure from the federal Department of Education through means that bypassed valid rule-making procedures. In a recent letter, U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, raised important questions about the department's activities. Lankford noted the agency issued “Dear Colleague” letters to colleges in 2010 and 2011 that “purport to merely interpret statements of existing law …” Yet neither letter pointed to any “precise governing statutory or regulatory

  • Oklahoma has traveled down this challenging road before

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 17, 2016

    THE hits, big and small, keep coming as the price of oil continues its slide: • Three days before Christmas, the state Board of Equalization estimated that the revenue available for fiscal year 2017 would be $900.8 million less than the current fiscal year, and said that figure would likely grow. • The next day, state finance officials projected a $157 million shortfall for the final six months of this fiscal year. They declared a revenue failure and announced 3 percent cuts in allocations to all state agencies. Education officials worry that some school districts might not survive the cuts. • Last week, OGE Energy Corp. halted its plan to build four towers, including a new headquarters building, on a downtown

  • Oklahoma ScissorTales: Better care through collaboration

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Jan 16, 2016

    THE benefits of technology continue to accrue. A new partnership between Integris Health and the Mayo Clinic provides the latest example. Thanks to Integris joining Mayo's national network of health providers, Oklahoma doctors and patients can benefit from the expertise of Mayo's specialists. For patients, the most obvious benefit will be access to eConsults with Mayo specialists. Dr. David Hayes, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, notes that in most cases, a Mayo expert will need to only review medical data that is uploaded electronically on a secure network. But even in instances where a remote expert needs to view a patient, video can be uploaded.

  • Effort to reduce school overhead deserves praise

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 15, 2016

    LAWMAKERS often rail against government waste when they're campaigning, but too seldom follow through upon election. This is especially true regarding the issue of excessive administrative costs in Oklahoma schools. So it's encouraging that some lawmakers are now making a modest effort to begin driving down those costs. Two lawmakers have filed bills to streamline school administration and free up dollars for the classroom. Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, has a bill to eliminate all elementary and independent school districts and put them under a county district system. Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, has filed legislation to combine smaller districts once a superintendent retires or resigns.