Top Stories

  • '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

  • 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. 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.

  • 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

  • On education standards, Oklahoma lawmakers' rationales keep shifting

    Published: Sun, Apr 6, 2014

    MEMBERS of the Senate Education Committee decided last week that illiteracy should be no barrier to student advancement in Oklahoma public schools. This is an Okie joke that writes itself. Under a law taking effect this year, third-grade students found to be reading at a first-grade level or lower on state tests can’t be promoted to the fourth grade. Instead, they must repeat third grade with an additional emphasis on reading. Some object to the law, saying a single test shouldn’t have such enormous consequence. The law already includes several alternative methods to demonstrate reading mastery. But legislators apparently felt more were needed. Thus an amendment was adopted to allow any student who passes a

  • ScissorTales: Where has Gov. Mary Fallin been on Common Core?

    Published: Sat, Apr 5, 2014

    GOV. Mary Fallin used part of her State of the State speech to applaud efforts to improve education in Oklahoma. She saluted the principal and students at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, where a remarkable academic turnaround has occurred in recent years. “To support students and teachers like these, we’re also working on increasing rigor in classrooms and raising standards to levels required by colleges and also employers,” Fallin said, alluding to the Common Core State Standards. “In 2010, the Legislature voted to adopt new, higher standards in English and math, and those new Oklahoma standards will be fully implemented this year,” she said.

  • Diverting ODOT funds to education is a bad idea

    Published: Fri, Apr 4, 2014

    MEMBERS of the Legislature apparently have decided the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has had it pretty good the past few years, so it’s time the agency give a little something back. This is no way to govern. A Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would divert money from ODOT’s long-range road and bridge repair fund and give it to public schools. Sen. James Halligan, R-Stillwater, is pushing the plan, saying: “I am absolutely committed to trying to find some way to give additional funds for common education.” A former president of Oklahoma State University, Halligan’s emphasis on education is commendable.

  • Oklahoma City attracting interest around the world

    Published: Fri, Apr 4, 2014

    OKLAHOMA City’s renaissance is often celebrated locally. Even so, many citizens may still not recognize just how much the city has become a preferred destination for citizens across the country and even around the world. Here’s just one example: Due to a struggling economy, many teachers in Spain are seeking jobs in the United States. After Spanish officials performed the first cut of potential applicants, Oklahoma City Public Schools recruiters were still able to interview 57 teachers for 20 available positions. But Dave Lopez, interim superintendent of the Oklahoma City school district, notes that more than 200 Spanish applicants asked to come to Oklahoma City.

  • Credible plan needed to boost school funding in Oklahoma

    Published: Thu, Apr 3, 2014

    OKLAHOMA teachers and administrators rallied at the state Capitol this week, making clear they want more money. Exactly how much money is truly needed? Where will it come from? Aside from a few nebulous suggestions, participants didn’t say. That’s a big problem for their cause. One figure bandied about was $200 million. Yet that sum is hardly a game changer. In the 2013 budget year, Oklahoma public school funds totaled more than $8.2 billion in state, local and federal dollars. Boosting state appropriations by $200 million would increase that figure by just 2.4 percent. Some rally participants suggested lawmakers have failed to prioritize school funding. Yet education, including state colleges, received 51 percent of

  • Oklahoma redbuds' colorful display in full bloom

    Published: Thu, Apr 3, 2014

    PURISTS have always insisted that mistletoe was a poor choice for the official state flower, but few would argue with the selection of the redbud as Oklahoma’s official state tree. When you see mistletoe in December, you’re seeing a parasite. When you see a redbud in late March or early April, you’re seeing paradise. To mistletoe we’ve attached an almost spiritual significance. Redbud has none of that, but we would argue that nothing stirs the spirit more than the sight of a redbud at the peak of its beauty. True mistletoe is European; the Oklahoma variety resembles it enough that the name is appropriate. Scandinavians associated mistletoe with their goddess of love. This is one explanation for the link between the

  • State should support, not hamstring school district efforts to change

    Updated: Tue, Apr 1, 2014

    COMPARED with their counterparts in many districts, leaders of Oklahoma City schools take a decidedly different approach to addressing education challenges. That’s a good thing. Sticking with the status quo has done little to improve schools or benefit the community. Take the district’s approach to state report cards for school sites. When A-F grades were issued, some district administrators in the state literally spent thousands of dollars urging parents to avert their eyes. In Oklahoma City, which had a large share of D and F schools, officials chose a different tactic: They faced reality and have been working to make those schools better.

  • Northwestern football ruling should get the attention of NCAA leaders

    Published: Tue, Apr 1, 2014

    HAVING won the first round in their attempt to allow some college football players to unionize, representatives of the movement are headed to Washington this week to speak to lawmakers. That’s just what college sports doesn’t need — Congress getting involved. “We want them to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing,” the head of the College Athletes Players Association told ESPN. Kain Colter, who played quarterback at Northwestern University and is leading this fight, insists that he’s not seeking a pay-for-play arrangement. This is an idea that’s been bandied about for years as revenues from big-time college athletics have grown.

  • Ideally, merit would rule when lawmakers create tax policy

    Published: Tue, Apr 1, 2014

    IN an ideal world, state lawmakers wouldn’t play favorites when making tax policy decisions. Merit alone should rule. Obviously, we don’t live in an ideal world, so similar tax bills can meet different fates. This year, several bills would implement a “sunset” date into laws creating tax credits. This would ensure that each tax credit would be eliminated by a date certain, unless lawmakers vote to re-authorize it. Routine review of tax credits makes sense. Programs that don’t live up their billing may need repeal. Most bills that sunset tax credits have easily advanced. But not all. Last week, members of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee voted 19-4 to reject Senate Bill 1341, which would have

  • Racial preferences at colleges not working as planned

    Published: Mon, Mar 31, 2014

    ACCORDING to the (racist) stereotype, opponents of affirmative action are a bunch of angry white males. Recent events in California prove otherwise. In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, which banned racial preferences at state universities. This year, with Democrats holding supermajorities in the California legislature, lawmakers appeared ready to send a proposed constitutional amendment to voters that would roll back that law. The legislation flew through the state Senate. The California Assembly appeared ready to do the same thing — until Asian Americans got involved. Thanks to that group’s staunch opposition, the rollback effort has stalled. This may surprise some, but affirmative action doesn’t

  • Film industry showing faith with religious movies

    Published: Mon, Mar 31, 2014

    In Hollywood it’s raining religion. A downburst of faith-themed movies has audiences arriving in groups by the arkload. “Noah” is an example of the trend to release more films that appeal to people of faith. Other examples are easy to spot today, following a year in which ticket sales declined at theaters across the nation. Studios are not only releasing more movies with religious themes. Some are aggressively seeking to put more emphasis on faith. Amen! “By Hollywood standards at least,” USA Today reported, “the movie business is bracing for a flood of biblical proportions.” The latest deluge began with “Son of God,” which has already grossed more than twice its production costs. “God’s Not

  • Oklahoma students pay the price for educators' stunt

    Published: Mon, Mar 31, 2014

    Don’t be fooled by Monday’s weather forecast in Oklahoma City — partly cloudy with the temperature about 80. For many of the state’s public school districts, this is a snow day. Yes, administrators and teachers will abandon their posts in order to converge in Oklahoma City, to tell lawmakers that common education funding is inadequate. Students, having already lost several days due to real snowstorms, will get another day off for no good reason. Not one member of the Legislature is unaware of how public schools feel about education funding. Lawmakers understand that school budgets have been cut in recent years. But they also know the check written to common ed is always larger than any other government entity.

  • Investing in mental health is crucial in Oklahoma

    Published: Sun, Mar 30, 2014

    AS director of the agency charged with trying to improve Oklahomans’ mental health, Terri White has what must be one of the most frustrating jobs in state government. White has reams of statistics that highlight the severity of the problem — and it is severe — and knows what is needed to ease it. What she doesn’t have, however, is the financial means to make a significant dent. And trying to convince the Legislature of the need to do more, particularly in this tight budget year, is a tough slog. So White will keep her fingers crossed that, as Gov. Mary Fallin has proposed, the budget for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services remains flat. However, she warns that without an additional $21 million

  • Tinker Air Force Base's future secure in view of retired lieutenant general

    Head overline: General says Tinker’s future is bright, but ... | Published: Sun, Mar 30, 2014

    DICK Newton, a retired lieutenant general now serving as executive vice president of the Air Force Association, has decades of military experience. This gives his insights credibility few can match. Newton is concerned about the impact of budget cuts on national defense, but he remains bullish on the future prospects of Tinker Air Force Base. “In terms of the future of the Air Force, is Tinker ever going to shut down?” Newton asked The Oklahoman’s Opinion writers. “No. You can quote me on that.” While some bases may be closed in the coming years, Newton said facilities like Tinker are “the last place” he expects this to happen. From both an infrastructure and base-capability standpoint, he said Tinker

  • ScissorTales: OKC school district giving patrons a chance to weigh in

    Published: Sat, Mar 29, 2014

    DAVE Lopez, interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, told us recently that a real upside for the district is the community partnerships that continue to emerge. A new survey provides an example. Nine community partners, led by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, are behind an online survey whose results will be used to guide education reform in the district. The survey, available in English and Spanish, asks questions of district parents, teachers and employees, as well as business owners and community members. Organizers hope to have 4,800 surveys completed in the next month. Teresa Rose, who heads the chamber’s workforce and education committee, is right when she says partnerships are vital to school