Top Stories

  • 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

  • Common Core: What once was great is now toxic for Oklahoma lawmakers

    Published: Fri, Mar 28, 2014

    IN defending a bill that would untether the state from the Common Core education standards the Legislature approved in 2010, state Rep. Jason Nelson said the new legislation would result in academic standards “that exceed all previous standards — including Common Core.” Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, added that a revised House Bill 3399, approved by a Senate committee this week, provides that those new standards be shaped in part by comments from parents, educators, the business community and others. “Critics who say this is a step back from higher standards and suggest that it puts federal funds in jeopardy have no basis for those concerns,” he said. Nelson is a solid legislator and hardly a defender of the status quo in

  • Latest delay simply more of the same with Obamacare

    Published: Fri, Mar 28, 2014

    “WHAT the hell is this, a joke?” U.S. House Speaker John Boehner asked the question Wednesday after the Obama administration announced that its approaching Monday deadline to sign up for insurance coverage this year would be pushed back to mid-April. March 31 was the date the administration had been trying to drive home to consumers as the deadline neared, using a multi-million dollar marketing campaign that featured celebrities such as LeBron James. These ads are aimed at younger, healthier Americans whose enrollment is critical if the administration is to come close to meeting Obamacare’s cost projections. March 31 is the date that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promised (as recently as

  • U.S.-Canada energy partnership is extensive and diverse

    Published: Thu, Mar 27, 2014

    AN energy pipeline crosses the U.S. border with Canada, bringing a vital commodity to American consumers. Oil or natural gas? No. The pipeline referred to is a high-voltage electrical transmission line bringing Canadian hydropower to the United States. The power represents a fraction of electricity consumed in this country but it illustrates that the energy partnership between the two countries is not only extensive but diverse. Before controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline erupted, many Americans likely didn’t think about how much we rely on Canadian resources for fuel. In fact, Canada is the largest supplier of crude oil and petroleum products to the United States. Saudi Arabia is second.

  • With weather emergencies, language shouldn't be a barrier

    Published: Thu, Mar 27, 2014

    EVERY language has a word for what the English-speaking world calls “water.” Not everyone who speaks a language other than English is capable of understanding a flash flood warning. Even those who speak only English sometimes forget that floods can be as deadly as tornadoes in Oklahoma. This could be remedied in part if severe weather warnings were broadcast in more than just English. Spanish, in particular, is a language in which tornado and flood warnings should be aired in Oklahoma. Our conclusion comes from the fact that the deadliest flood in Oklahoma City’s history, which killed 23 people last May 31, took the lives of nine members of a growing Guatemalan community. One of the victims was born just 17 days before

  • Common Core bills impact many other programs

    Published: Wed, Mar 26, 2014

    THIS week a Senate committee advanced an anti-Common Core bill. Here’s an indication of how bad the hysteria has become: To repeal those academic standards, state lawmakers came close to banning the Future Farmers of America from Oklahoma schools. Proposed anti-Common Core legislation initially required the State Board of Education to “maintain the independence of all subject matter standards and student assessments in the state by rejecting any efforts to have Oklahoma's standards subject to federal, national or standardized controls …” As drafted, such language appeared to broadly ban the use of all national standards and assessments in public schools.

  • Curbing teen pregnancy rate in Oklahoma, nationwide remains an uphill climb

    Published: Wed, Mar 26, 2014

    THE teenage pregnancy problem in Oklahoma is no secret. Just spend some time at a local shopping mall or walk into a local high school. This state’s “babies” are having babies in astounding numbers. Last month, we were reminded just how shocking those numbers are: A report in The Oklahoman showed that more 18- and 19-year-old women in Oklahoma gave birth in recent years than entered the state’s three largest universities as incoming freshmen. That’s what it looks like for a state to have the second-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Last week, a Tulsa World story featured Nikki Parker, a former teenage mom who scrapped and fought for eight years to get off welfare.

  • High court has a chance to strike a blow for religous liberty

    Published: Tue, Mar 25, 2014

    TWENTY-one years ago when Congress passed a law defending religious liberties, liberal and conservative voices joined in the fight. The American Civil Liberties Union and National Association of Evangelicals were among those who backed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, signed it into law. There is no such collaboration in Hobby Lobby’s fight against provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a fight that goes to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. In this case, conservatives are firmly behind Hobby Lobby and liberals are four-square behind the federal government. It’s easy to understand why. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act stemmed from a dispute over the use of peyote by

  • By forgoing exchange grant in Oklahoma, millions of dollars may have been saved

    Published: Mon, Mar 24, 2014

    IN politics, legislative leaders who prevent a vote on a bill are often accused of obstructionism. Yet one such act of “obstruction” by state Senate leaders may have saved Oklahoma taxpayers millions of dollars. In 2011, Oklahoma was awarded a $54 million federal grant to set up its own exchange under Obamacare. Supporters argued this would give Oklahoma more control. This was the primary reason Gov. Mary Fallin was initially supportive of a state-run exchange in Oklahoma — and why a majority of members in the Republican-controlled Oklahoma House approved legislation to begin the process. But Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, who initially supported the proposal, shifted gears and announced the bill would not be

  • Federal regulations should be based on reality, not agendas

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Mar 24, 2014

    OKLAHOMA Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “sue and settle” practices, which dramatically expand federal regulations without public input. This is a worthy fight. If nothing else, Pruitt’s lawsuit highlights the complete absence of logic involved when federal officials make far-reaching regulatory decisions. In “sue and settle,” environmental activists file lawsuits to have additional species granted federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. Federal agencies quickly settle and reach agreements that expand their regulatory powers to the detriment of landowners, private businesses and even state governments.

  • Given concerns, new rules pertaining injection wells make sense

    Published: Sun, Mar 23, 2014

    BETTER safe than shaken. New rules pertaining to injection wells have come in response to growing suspicions that the wells are responsible for the heightened seismic activity in Oklahoma. Whether the injection well-earthquake link is real isn’t a matter of “settled science.” Far from it. But enough cause for concern is extant that the rules make sense. The current system requires injection well operators to collect data monthly and report it to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission annually. What’s changed is that the operators must collect volume and pressure information daily and provide it to the commission upon request. This isn’t a big change for some operators, who were apparently doing it already.

  • Federal health care law proving to be affordable in name only

    Published: Sun, Mar 23, 2014

    OBAMACARE supporters claim subsidies provided under the law will help offset the higher insurance prices caused by the same law. This may be a triumph of wishful thinking over serious analysis. According to The Hill, a newspaper covering congressional activity, Obamacare-related premiums could double in some parts of the country next year. Rate increases would vary significantly from one part of the country to another. But insurance officials interviewed by the newspaper said the surge in health insurance prices will be driven primarily by Obamacare’s mandates, the negative impact of the administration’s ad hoc rewriting of the law, and the fact that enrollment in Obamacare exchanges has fallen short of projections and has been

  • ScissorTales: Measure passes the buck on Oklahoma state Capitol repair

    Published: Sat, Mar 22, 2014

    AFTER much back and forth in the Legislature in recent years over how to pay for repairs to the state Capitol, using a bond issue seems to be gaining momentum. But lawmakers may not be the ones who approve it. House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, wants the people of Oklahoma to decide. A joint resolution authored by Hickman and approved recently by the House would place a $120 million bond issue on the ballot in November. “The longer we wait, the more expensive the repairs will be,” Hickman said. So why wait several months to get an answer, instead of lawmakers deciding for themselves now? Because many conservatives in the Legislature oppose bond issues and don’t want to be painted as having burdened taxpayers

  • Oklahoma court ruling upholds reform of CompSource, but more is needed

    Published: Fri, Mar 21, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a law changing the structure of CompSource, the longtime state-run workers’ compensation company. The court’s recent decision is good: Change is definitely needed at CompSource. But that doesn’t make every claim about this CompSource law accurate. Nor does it mean there’s no need for additional reform. CompSource was created in 1933 as an insurer of last resort for those who can’t otherwise get coverage (called the “residual market”). Last year, lawmakers voted to transform the business into the CompSource Mutual Insurance Company as a supposed privatization effort. Tulsa Stockyards sued, arguing the restructuring was unconstitutional.

  • Funding not the only concern for higher ed officials in Oklahoma

    Published: Thu, Mar 20, 2014

    JAWS undoubtedly dropped on college campuses across Oklahoma when Gov. Mary Fallin proposed a nearly $50 million cut in the higher education budget for the coming fiscal year. But money isn’t the only concern of college officials this year. Like other functions of state government, higher ed isn’t immune to legislators’ knack for getting distracted by bills that don’t serve the state and its people all that well. For years, higher ed has been fighting legislation to allow guns on campuses. This year’s no different. Last week, the state House passed a bill that could allow licensed handgun owners to carry weapons on campus without prior written consent. Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, said the bill also would give school

  • Little chance of change in sales tax ranking for Oklahoma

    Published: Thu, Mar 20, 2014

    While the Legislature wrangles over a state income tax cut and Congress dawdles over Internet sales tax collections, Oklahoma rises to near the top in a comparison of state and local sales taxes. Much is made of the argument that Texas, which has no personal income tax, docks its citizens in other ways. The “it’s a wash argument” plays well and rings with truth. Yet The Tax Foundation says the average combined local/state sales tax rate south of the Red River ranks 11th. Oklahoma ranks fifth, meaning that only four states have a state/local sales tax burden greater, on average, than Oklahoma. Some states levy high income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. Yet when it comes to sales taxes alone, Oklahoma really

  • Drug shortage marks new execution roadblock in Oklahoma

    Published: Thu, Mar 20, 2014

    Oklahoma doesn’t have enough of the drugs it uses for executions. So two men who were scheduled to be put to death this month have been given a one-month reprieve that may very well be longer than that. Clayton Derrell Lockett and Charles Frederick Warner were the beneficiaries of a ruling Tuesday by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. One day earlier, the attorney general’s office revealed that the state is having trouble finding doses of drugs approved for executions. Given that development, the appeals court pushed the execution dates to April, in order to give the state time to find the needed drugs “or to adopt a new execution protocol.

  • Repeal of Common Core would increase federal control

    Published: Wed, Mar 19, 2014

    OPPONENTS of Common Core often claim that its academic standards represent a federal takeover of schools. No real evidence exists to support that claim. Instead, the initiative most likely to increase federal control of Oklahoma schools is actually the move to repeal state Common Core math and language arts standards. Here’s why: Oklahoma was granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. The waiver was based in part on the state adopting either Common Core academic standards or equally rigorous alternatives. Immediate repeal of Common Core standards could therefore result in the loss of that waiver. The consequences would be dramatic.

  • As Iowa, Louisiana learned, film tax rebate program can be abused

    Published: Wed, Mar 19, 2014

    Supporters of Oklahoma’s film tax rebate have had a rough month. The rebate initially failed to pass out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, then was revived on a second attempt. It still has to clear the Senate to remain in place. Still, supporters of the Oklahoma tax credit should keep this in mind: Things could be worse. Just ask officials in Louisiana and Iowa. Thanks in part to its tax credit, Louisiana saw the number of films shot in that state surge from one in 2002 to 118 in 2010. Yet in 2009, an official who formerly led efforts to lure those productions to Louisiana was sentenced to two years in federal prison. He had accepted bribes in exchange for providing credits to a film producer.

  • OSSAA rule punishes success, but only for selected few

    Published: Wed, Mar 19, 2014

    The high school state basketball tournaments concluded last weekend in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The Preston girls won their seventh state championship (the boys have won five). Douglas won its fifth straight boys title. Fort Gibson’s girls won the gold ball for the third time in four years. Tulsa Memorial won its second straight boys title and fourth since 2003. These teams and others with great tradition can look ahead to trying to win another title next year. So can a school like Oklahoma City’s Bishop McGuinness — except it will have to do so in Class 6A instead of 5A, where it has played the past several years.