• 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Move by former Oklahoma DOC boss merits attention

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

    ROBERT Patton's tenure as director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections was marked by controversy. Now his departure is doing the same. Patton's decision to take a job with a private prison company in his home state of Arizona has the attention of an Oklahoma lawmaker who says that at the very least, it violates the spirit of a state conflict-of-interest law. “Enough of those things and people start losing their faith in government,” Rep. Mark McCullough told Oklahoma Watch. It may be too late for that. However, McCullough's concerns over Patton's move are understandable and merit attention.

  • Oklahoma ScissorTales: A criminal justice plan worth noting

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Jan 2, 2016

    A system recently begun in Tulsa County offers a potential blueprint for other locales to copy as Oklahoma pursues criminal justice reform. During the second week of December, two district judges began calling an “early disposition docket” for offenders charged with some nonviolent felony crimes, in cases where prosecutors and defense attorneys have come to an agreement following the initial court appearance. Traditionally, defendants are ordered back to court weeks later for a preliminary hearing. But that step becomes unnecessary when a plea agreement on punishment is reached. Instead of having defendants spend several weeks in jail waiting to make the plea agreement, they can be placed on this new docket if all

  • Our New Year's wish list

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 1, 2016

    ANOTHER year has come and gone. And while it's customary to start a new year with resolutions, The Oklahoman editorial board prefers to offer our hopes and wishes for 2016. Some of these will sound familiar because we've offered them before. On New Year's Day in 2015, we hoped for a ban on text-messaging behind the wheel and for better tracking of prescription painkillers. Both items had appeared on prior wish lists without success. But the texting ban became law in November (although it took the death of an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper struck by a texting driver to prompt lawmakers to act). And a prescription monitoring bill became law, although it wasn't as robust as we would have preferred.

  • A bit of prognostication as the year winds down

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Dec 31, 2015

    THE Internet joke de jour involves comedian Steve Harvey saying something totally unreliable. Such as fronting an Oklahoma weather map on Saturday and predicting clear skies and a high of 75. Harvey was the man who misspoke the winner of the Miss Universe pageant, thereby stripping a woman of her “title” just seconds after she got it. Oh well … Of course the weekend wasn't clear and warm, but who could blame a guy for botching a forecast these days? Given how nice it was on Christmas Day, warnings of blizzard conditions in western Oklahoma were hard to believe. As were tornado fatalities in late December. This will be a December to remember weather wise, and not just in notoriously changeable Oklahoma.

  • Unflattering portrait of Oklahoma VA treatment

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 30, 2015

    GEORGE Purifoy, a Vietnam veteran from Oklahoma, suffered damage to a bone under his nose following radiation therapy. After treatment by Veterans Affairs, Purify was left with a gaping hole where his nose used to be, leading him to wear a mask in public so as not to startle others. “I ignore the pain. I just know I've got to live one way or the other,” said Purifoy, 65. “I mean, I'm not going to roll over and die just because the VA's not taking care of me and other veterans.” Purify made his comments to USA Today's Donovan Slack, who wrote an extensive Page 1 article Dec. 23 about continuing problems at VA hospitals in general and at Oklahoma facilities in particular.

  • Politics is a tough game, but no need for personal attacks

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 30, 2015

    IN the “Peanuts” comic strip, Linus famously observed, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.” While we're not experts on Great Pumpkin discussions, most people understand that political talk can soon become heated. Still, it may not be possible (or even advisable) to avoid all political discussions with a presidential race underway. But there's no reason to cross the line from mere opposition to another's views into debasing, personal attacks. Recent events show officials on the political left and right should keep that in mind. As is too often the case, Donald Trump has provided an example of a crass personal attack substituting for political

  • CDC efforts to curb opioid abuse merit consideration

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 29, 2015

    THE United States has an overdose problem, particularly related to prescription painkillers, and so the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking steps intended to try to curb it. Perhaps not surprisingly, new guidelines proposed by the CDC aren't being welcomed with open arms by the medical community, which say they go too far. Oklahoma is familiar with this dynamic. Efforts to have doctors regularly use the state's computerized prescription database before prescribing some medications to their patients were opposed by doctors groups that said the process would be too time-consuming, and that they know their patients best.

  • Some judges' actions fuel voter discontent

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 29, 2015

    RECENT polling shows strong voter support for changing the way judges are selected in Oklahoma. A recent report naming one Oklahoma court a “judicial hellhole” will only add fuel to that fire. Polling done by North Star Opinion Research shows 79 percent of Oklahomans now support direct election of judges, while 16 percent support the commission system currently in place. In that system, the Judicial Nominating Commission — made up of six lawyers appointed by the Oklahoma Bar Association, six nonlawyers named by the governor and three members named by state legislative leaders and the commission itself — nominate three candidates for a major court vacancy. The governor must then select one of those three nominees and

  • Retired professor makes the case for consolidation in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Dec 28, 2015

    IN a recent op-ed submission, a retired Oklahoma State University professor makes solid arguments in favor of doing something to benefit Oklahoma's K-12 student population while saving the state a little money in the process. It's sure to fall on deaf ears, but merits notice nonetheless. Ken Stern, who while at OSU taught graduate courses to students hoping to become principals and superintendents, argues that consolidation of some school districts is needed because, in part, “we still have an obsolete system in place, perpetuated by a Legislature that is reluctant to consider consolidation.” Reluctant? That's putting it mildly. Bring up the C-word in the halls of NE 23 and Lincoln, and watch lawmakers scramble for

  • One year after rapprochement, life not much better in Cuba

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Dec 27, 2015

    IN this season of feliz Navidad and prospero año nuevo (merry Christmas and happy new year) in Cuba, island residents are also mulling feliz aniversario. Only it's not such a happy anniversary for some Cubans. Dec. 17 marked one year since President Barack Obama announced a unilateral rapprochement with Cuba. Restrictions on Americans traveling to the island were to be eased. The resulting boon to the Cuban tourist economy was really a boost for Cuban military spending, notes the Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady. A president who's been slow to recognize the threat from ISIS and who traded five Taliban operatives for an AWOL U.S. soldier put on his rose-colored glasses when it comes to Cuba.