• One man's suggestion for U.S. infrastructure fix

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 14, 2016

    AN attorney by trade, Philip K. Howard has made a career of trying to overhaul government in order to make it more responsive and useful. An indication that he doesn't play favorites: Howard frequently calls to reduce the number of laws on the books. Indeed the title of one of his many books is “Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law.” It isn't the law so much as federal red tape that's the object of Howard's ire presently, and that of the reform organization he heads, Common Good (www. commongood.org). He's calling for reducing the mountain of bureaucracy that gets in the way of upgrading the country's infrastructure — roads, bridges and power grids — with a proposal that would require

  • Hoping for a constructive tone in Obama's address to Congress

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Jan 13, 2016

    PRESIDENT Barack Obama delivers his eighth and final State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Our wish is that it's hopeful and constructive, although that may be asking too much. Administration officials say Obama will deliver a “nontraditional” speech that focuses not on legislative priorities, but instead on his vision for the country. That doesn't mean the president won't have a to-do list. Obama has big plans for early this year that include closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. So it's a safe bet this cause will be mentioned along with other favorites. As every president does with this speech, Obama will touch on “successes” of the past year.

  • Stalled OGE development a reminder of energy prices' impact on Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 13, 2016

    LAMENTATIONS from preservationists have begun. Their beloved, architecturally unique Stage Center was demolished because … … Because private developers wanted the site for a four-tower commercial complex, the plans for which are officially on hold. These included a new headquarters building for OGE Energy Corp. On Monday, OGE said it must suspend the plans because market conditions are unfavorable. It was the latest cautionary signpost on a route to lower expectations in the energy-driven Oklahoma economy. Other metrics include the gaping hole in the state budget, the New York Stock Exchange delisting of SandRidge Energy Inc. and the city of Oklahoma City's declining sales tax revenue.

  • In Iowa, Cruz isn’t singing same ethanol tune as most

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 13, 2016

    TED Cruz isn't known in Washington as someone who has spent a lot of time trying to make friends. Cruz doesn't seem to care what others think of him, and he isn't much interested in going along to get along. Corn producers in Iowa are finding that out in the lead-up to the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas and the front-runner in Iowa among GOP presidential candidates, isn't trying to curry favor with the powerful corn lobby in that state. Indeed Cruz is calling for a gradual phasing out of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the 2005 federal law that requires that U.S. gasoline include an increasing amount of biofuels such as ethanol. Ethanol is corn based.

  • Remediation rates show need to bolster Oklahoma education reforms

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jan 12, 2016

    IN recent years, even modest education reforms have faced strong pushback from status-quo forces in Oklahoma's public school system. Recent data on the educational shortcomings of Oklahoma high school graduates show those reforms need to be strengthened, not rolled back. In 2013, about 39 percent of incoming freshmen at Oklahoma colleges and universities had to take at least one remedial class — in other words, they retook high school courses at college tuition prices. Oklahoma Watch reports that was “the highest rate in the country …” Yet as Oklahoma Watch notes, many of those students “passed end-of-instruction exams in math, science, English and social studies. Many earned A's or B's in classes.

  • Striking down union fees rule would be victory for workers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 11, 2016

    HARLAN Elrich wants to teach math as he has for nearly 30 years in California public schools. It's a job he loves. “Sunday nights are joyous,” Elrich wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, “because I know I'll be going to work in my classroom, with my students, on Monday morning.” There's a part of his job that Elrich doesn't like, however, and doesn't believe he should have to endure — being made to pay “fair share fees” to help fund the union's collective bargaining work, even though he declines to join the teachers' union. California is one of 23 states where this rule is on the books (Oklahoma is not one of those). Elrich is among a group of California teachers suing to end the compulsory practice, in a case

  • Obamacare manages to make bad deals look good

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 11, 2016

    THANKS to Obamacare's high prices and limited provider networks, many people are now pursuing alternatives that, in some cases, may leave them unable to pay major medical bills. Chalk up another tally mark under “Affordable Care Act, unintended consequences of.” Buried in the text of the Affordable Care Act is a provision exempting members of health care sharing ministries from the law's insurance mandate. Those ministries provide cost-sharing arrangements that aren't technically considered insurance since payment is not guaranteed. They are free from insurance regulations, although some operate much like traditional insurance companies. Their costs typically are far less than current insurance rates.

  • Hillary Clinton can't have it both ways in campaign

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Sat, Jan 9, 2016

    HILLARY Clinton has a problem she'll have to confront in the months ahead, and we're not talking about Bernie Sanders, who soon enough will be out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Instead this headache is purely of Clinton's making. On the one hand, she calls Republican front-runner Donald Trump a sexist for some of the ugly things he has said, but she ignores her husband's long record of indiscretions as governor of Arkansas and as president of the United States. As liberal columnist Ruth Marcus wrote recently, “Trump has smeared women because of their looks, Clinton has preyed on them, and in a workplace setting where he was by far the superior.” Hillary has been playing the gender card for months

  • Millennial generation isn’t well represented in Oklahoma Legislature

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 10, 2016

    ONE demographic group is sorely under-represented in Oklahoma's Legislature. We're not referring here to women — although the claim is often made that the Legislature has a serious gender imbalance. The group of citizens who can count few of their own in the halls of state is the so-called millennial generation, or those who were born after 1980. The average age of state lawmakers nationwide is 56, which makes the baby boom generation well represented. The average age of the U.S. voting population is nearly 10 years younger. This may or may not be a problem (and we think that it's not much of a problem), but in any case it's not a matter of voters consistently rejecting younger candidates. The same holds true for female

  • ScissorTales: Oklahoma roads should remain a priority

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Jan 9, 2016

    GIVEN the size of the budget shortfall awaiting state lawmakers this year, it's probably not realistic to expect transportation funding will be left untouched. But we still hope those funds are preserved to the greatest extent possible. Recent events show that road problems can multiply quickly if lawmakers fail to properly fund maintenance and repair. For example, December's storms have already cost the Oklahoma Department of Transportation $1.6 million. And since parts of five state highways remained under water at the start of this week, more repairs (and money) will be required. At the same time, the agency is dealing with the loss of $13.2 million in the current budget year due to the state's revenue failure.

  • Tax cut not to blame for Oklahoma credit downgrade

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 8, 2016

    MOODY'S Investors Service has downgraded Oklahoma's outlook to “credit negative.” While some on the political left have tried to blame state government's fiscal challenges on reductions in Oklahoma's income tax rate, Moody's makes clear that the biggest challenge is the downturn in the energy industry. That's an obvious conclusion, but it bears repeating anyway given the politicized arguments issuing from some quarters. Moody's credit outlook puts the issue plainly: “The negative outlook reflects the fiscal effect of an 18-month decline in the energy sector and the prospects for a prolonged, muted recovery in prices and production.

  • Global warming policies can be driven by faulty statistics

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 8, 2016

    IT'S no secret that the general public shows far greater skepticism about global warming theories than do many government officials. Recent research published by the Cato Institute demonstrates why that skepticism is warranted. In “Climate Models and Climate Reality: A Closer Look at a Lukewarming World,” researchers Patrick J. Michaels and Chip Knappenberger examine the difference between the temperatures predicted by climate models and actual recorded temperatures. They find “climate models project a greater rise in the global average temperature than has been experienced” for decades. That has serious consequences, since many proposed policy responses to “mitigate” climate change are based on that flawed

  • High price attached to local government failures

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 7, 2016

    A statewide performance audit indicates people in 16 Oklahoma counties are likely getting a property tax break because the county assessor is not accurately assessing values. That means Oklahomans living elsewhere are effectively having their tax payments diverted. A performance audit conducted by the Oklahoma Tax Commission at the direction of the state Board of Equalization seeks to measure county progress and compliance with computer-assisted mass appraisal of taxable properties. The most recent audit gave failing grades to assessors in 16 of Oklahoma's 77 counties. If those failures affected only local government services, then one might shrug off this problem and leave it to local citizens to face the consequences.

  • Liberal interpretation of Oklahoma provision clashes with Constitution

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 6, 2016

    OKLAHOMA is known as a socially conservative and religious state. Yet an anti-religion provision of the state's constitution has been used to mandate religious discrimination and strike down programs whose counterparts have been declared constitutional by federal courts. Article II, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution declares, “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion” or for the benefit of “any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.” It's generally accepted this provision was driven by

  • Time will tell if change benefits Oklahoma juvenile system

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 6, 2016

    A plan to eventually stop using pepper spray as a way to restrain Oklahoma's incarcerated juveniles was a long time in the making. It may not take as long to find out whether the change works as expected. Those housed in the state's juvenile facilities are troubled and often dangerous young men and women. This was underscored in 2011 when a string of violent outbursts occurred in a span of several weeks at the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh. In one case, a boy suffered a brain injury when he was attacked in his bed. In another, more than a dozen juveniles were involved in what one local police officer called a “full-blown riot.

  • Medical marijuana push clearly not popular in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jan 5, 2016

    FOR the second time in as many years, proponents have fallen short — far short — of gathering enough signatures to place a medical marijuana measure before Oklahoma voters. Backers say they will try again. But their repeated failure suggests this is an issue lacking meaningful support in Oklahoma, and that petition organizers are wasting their time. Last week, Green the Vote submitted petitions containing roughly 70,000 signatures seeking a public vote to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. The group needed 123,725 signatures to get the issue on the ballot. Had the group come close to getting the required signatures, it might be understandable if members tried again. But they were around 50,000 short.

  • Iran breaks rules, but has little to fear from this administration

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jan 5, 2016

    PRESIDENT Barack Obama has no problem playing hardball with Americans who wish to defend their Second Amendment rights. As for the mullahs striving to build a nuclear Iran, well, not so much. Obama began the new year by asking Americans to help him fight the “epidemic of gun violence” in this country. On returning to Washington from his holiday vacation, the president met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to see what actions he might take to help curb gun violence. He had asked, after the shooting at a community college in Oregon in October, for the Justice Department to look at possible executive moves he could make.

  • Closing state pension gaps is sound public policy

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 4, 2016

    I know you're not going to be happy.” This is the message Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has relayed to union leaders recently about his efforts to reduce the state's $50 billion gap between how much is owed in pension obligations and how much the state has on hand. The Wall Street Journal notes that in an effort to end a budget impasse with the Republican-controlled legislature, Wolf, a Democrat, has agreed to retirement cuts for new state hires and current workers. This has unions unhappy, naturally, but it mirrors what's happening elsewhere across the country: Democratic politicians going against their longtime allies in labor because continuing with business as usual is unsustainable.

  • U.S. sees many benefits from free trade

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 4, 2016

    ONE benefit of free trade is that it allows the United States to generate substantial economic gain from countries far smaller than our own. That lesson is lost on those who promote protectionism and trade wars, which unfortunately has started to include some Republicans. John Manzella, a noted author on global business, highlighted trade's benefits in a recent article reviewing the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been in place for more than two decades now. That agreement eliminated many barriers to trade and investment among the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA opponents claimed the agreement would only export U.S. jobs. The reality has been far different.

  • Trends not getting better for Obamacare

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 3, 2016

    FEWER Democrats appear eager to tout Obamacare and many now support repealing portions of the law. There's good reason for that shift: The Affordable Care Act's negative impacts continue to mount. From 2013 to 2015, the number of part-time employees working fewer than 30 hours per week increased while the share working more than 30 hours declined, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Since Obamacare defines full-time work as 30 hours per week and applies expensive mandates thereafter, this shows the law is depriving many workers of income opportunities without providing an offsetting benefit. USA Today reports that a growing number of companies now use contract workers to avoid Obamacare mandates.