Top Stories

  • Tough to make sense of Oklahoma lawmakers' split decision on similar bills

    Published: Fri, Mar 7, 2014

    AFTER the 2012 presidential elections, national Republican leaders engaged in some soul searching and concluded they needed to reach out more to minorities and those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Apparently some Oklahoma Republicans didn’t get the memo: Last week, lawmakers in the state House of Representatives voted to slam the door in the face of many of those citizens. House Bill 3398, by Reps. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, and Tom Newell, R-Seminole, would have created education savings accounts (ESAs), allowing some students to get a portion of the state aid dedicated to their schooling to use for tutoring, virtual school, higher education courses and private schools.

  • Oklahoma City mayoral election results send a strong message

    Published: Thu, Mar 6, 2014

    IN the end it wasn’t close, not even as “close” as it was four years ago when Mick Cornett beat an unknown City Hall gadfly to win a third term as Oklahoma City’s mayor. Cornett on Tuesday won a historic fourth term (no one has ever accomplished that in the city’s 125-year history) by trouncing City Councilman Ed Shadid with nearly 66 percent of the vote. Four years ago, Cornett’s obscure challenger kept the mayor to 58 percent. Both results, of course, are epic landslides. More importantly, Tuesday’s results are another indication that voters prefer progress and positivism to regress and negativism. Shadid, like Cornett’s challenger four years earlier, ran a negative campaign based on disgruntlement with the

  • Obama budget proposes still more spending in jab at GOP

    Published: Thu, Mar 6, 2014

    The White House says extending an olive branch to Republicans when it comes to budgeting hasn’t really accomplished much, as GOP members haven’t shown a willingness to meet President Barack Obama halfway, or even part way. The president’s contempt is reflected in his proposed 2015 budget. The budget is loaded with taxing and spending — the plan would spend $56 billion more than allowed under December’s bipartisan budget agreement, to be paid for through such things as higher airline fees and a cap on the amount that wealthy Americans can put into tax-preferred retirement savings accounts.

  • With Obamacare, policy takes back seat to politics

    Published: Thu, Mar 6, 2014

    From The Hill newspaper this week comes a report that the Obama administration is about to provide yet another delay in the implementation of a piece of the president’s signature health care law. This has gone beyond comical to ridiculous. The Hill, which covers goings-on in the nation’s capital, said the administration will direct insurers to continue offering health plans that don’t match Obamacare requirements. This would be the second such delay in this area. Back in November, President Barack Obama said Americans could keep their insurance policies for another year, even if the plans didn’t meet minimum coverage requirements.

  • Federal unemployment benefits can discourage job hunting

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Mar 5, 2014

    DUE to national recession and the ongoing anemic recovery, Democrats have advocated for constant extension of unemployment benefits. At one point, beneficiaries could be on unemployment for up to 99 weeks. Many Republicans argue that extended benefits can discourage recipients from actually getting a job. The experience of North Carolina suggests those critics have a point. In North Carolina, state lawmakers reduced unemployment benefits by more than 30 percent and implemented work requirements. Those changes meant North Carolina didn't qualify for extended federal unemployment benefits, so the state lost that federal funding in July, six months earlier than most states.

  • Fewer bills, laws could result from Oklahoma lawmaker's proposal

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Mar 5, 2014

    STATE Rep. Randy Grau is floating a plan that, in theory, would give members of the Legislature more time to consider budget and spending issues and ultimately result in fewer laws being passed. We say “in theory” because, while the idea makes sense and is worth a close look, it's a stretch to believe his colleagues will help make it happen. Grau, R-Edmond, would have the people vote on his plan. But the Legislature must sign off on sending the idea to a vote of the people. Given how much members enjoy telling others what to do, it's unlikely to reach the ballot box. Consider just a few of the bills that have been filed during this session: •A bill by Rep.

  • Market, not politicians, should set employment wages

    | Published: Tue, Mar 4, 2014

    AS part of his focus on combatting “income inequality,” President Barack Obama has called for increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Democratic strategists thought this would put Republicans on the defensive, forcing them to either acquiesce to Obama’s demands or appear indifferent to the struggles of low-income workers. Yet it’s Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who’s now delaying a vote on a minimum wage increase. Reid previously planned to take up the issue on Thursday, but now says it won’t be voted on until sometime after March 24. The Hill, a newspaper focused on congressional coverage, reports that Reid is making that change “amid escalating Democratic resistance” to

  • Turnout will be important in Tuesday's OKC mayoral election

    Published: Tue, Mar 4, 2014

    Oklahoma City has a good thing going with Mick Cornett as mayor. To ensure that this continues, voters must go to the polls Tuesday and re-elect Cornett. He has capably led during his 10 years in office, earning another term. But there is a tendency in municipal election for voters to sit it out if they assume the incumbent or the front-runner will win regardless. Indeed, Cornett’s main challenger, City Councilman Ed Shadid, has taken that approach through the years. Shadid opted not to vote in most municipal elections dating to 2000 because, he said, “a relatively small number of people” called the shots and therefore voting was a waste of time. Now he says, “I was wrong.” Shadid is wrong a lot. He’s the wrong

  • Oklahoma City has been blessed with visionary leaders

    | Published: Tue, Mar 4, 2014

    Oklahoma City celebrates its birthday every April 22, but this year the date will stand out more than usual. It’s the 125th anniversary of the city’s founding. Next month’s observance and Tuesday’s municipal election prompted the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber to spotlight some paragons among the 34 men and one woman who have served this city as mayor. The city had 24 mayors in its first 50 years, a turnover rate contrasted by Mick Cornett’s bid to become the first four-term mayor in history. More important than tenure is the quality of leadership the best mayors have offered. It began with W.J. Gault (1890-92), a businessman who participated in the 1889 Land Run. He promoted the building of an east-west

  • U.S. guest worker program needs overhaul

    | Published: Mon, Mar 3, 2014

    A recent government census of American agriculture found the number of U.S. farms continues to decline and the age of the average farmer continues to climb. One-third of farmers are now older than 65, prompting renewed concern about the profession’s future. A new study commissioned by the American Farm Bureau shows implementation of a functional guest-worker program is one key to a brighter future for U.S. agriculture. But opposition to any immigration reform — other than increased border security — could leave many farms on the path to elimination. Demand for farm labor is significant. The supply of labor is another matter, particularly in rural areas where agriculture is typically centered.

  • Cornett is the clear choice in Oklahoma City mayoral election

    | Published: Sun, Mar 2, 2014

    THE choice is simple Tuesday as Oklahoma City residents go to the polls to vote for mayor: Do they wish to see the city’s growth, unity and dynamism continue or not? A vote for incumbent Mick Cornett would be a vote for continued progress, a sign that residents like the way the city is being run and the way Cornett, as the face of the city, represents us. A vote for challenger Ed Shadid, on the other hand, would be an endorsement of negativism, regress, class envy and division. Two other candidates are on the ballot for Tuesday’s mayoral primary, but this is really a two-man race. The clear choice is Cornett, who’s seeking to become the city’s first four-term mayor. The city has a weak-mayor form of government.

  • Dumping Common Core standards wouldn't serve Oklahoma students

    | Published: Sun, Mar 2, 2014

    THIS isn’t the first year that the battle over what is and isn’t taught in classrooms across Oklahoma has landed squarely in the lap of lawmakers. Nor will it be the last. Still, the fuss over Common Core State Standards has made for particularly odd bedfellows and mountains of misinformation. The latter is due in part to politics and is hardly unique to this issue. But there’s also a general angst these days over all things touted as education reform. Separate issues are lumped together — and promptly painted with the proverbial broad brush. Despite the confusion and anxiety, the path for the Legislature is clear: Oklahoma students won’t be well served if lawmakers opt to dump the standards.

  • ScissorTales: Doing away with a legislative 'reform' that did little

    | Published: Sat, Mar 1, 2014

    WHEN Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, became speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives last year, he created a Calendar Committee to determine which bills were granted a vote on the House floor. This was touted as a transparency reform, because those decisions were previously controlled by the House speaker and floor leader in private. Now lawmakers have approved a resolution by new Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, eliminating that committee. Some claim this is a step backward. Those criticisms are overblown. Because the floor leader — a direct appointee of the House speaker — was chair of the Calendar Committee, the floor leader set the agenda for that committee.

  • Consumers, taxpayers may benefit from hospital pricing measure

    | Published: Fri, Feb 28, 2014

    WHEN banks began charging fees for some ATM transactions, a populist outcry went up demanding that such fees be outlawed. The better approach was to mandate that fees be disclosed up front, not banned. A bill pending in the Legislature would mandate that hospitals and surgery centers post prices for common procedures, something that’s happening voluntarily around the country. While the government has no business setting prices for medical procedures beyond what taxpayer-funded health care programs do to contain costs, this is different. It’s a form of transparency that may help consumers and taxpayers save money. The free-market view is that open competition in health care drives down prices for everyone.

  • One way or another, Oklahoma public school patrons will pay more for student safety

    | Published: Fri, Feb 28, 2014

    One city at a time, one school district at a time, buildings that house students will include provisions for a shelter. But it would take decades before all school buildings in the state have safe rooms or tornado shelters. Oklahoma City will now require shelters for new schools, with a city council vote Tuesday affecting 24 school districts. That so many districts have a footprint in one city is another reminder of the surfeit of districts in this state. But that’s a topic for another time. The council’s vote to require shelters in new schools will affect only schools constructed within the city limits. Thus, a Putnam City district school may or may not be subject to the requirement. And no provision is being made to

  • Oklahoma lawmakers shouldn't consider unclaimed property fund a revenue stream

    | Published: Fri, Feb 28, 2014

    One reason Oklahoma governors have generally been reluctant to access the state’s Rainy Day Fund is because doing so for any one thing invites calls to do the same for other reasons big and small. A suggestion to tap the state treasurer’s unclaimed property fund was sure to trigger a similar response. A state Senate committee has signed off on a bill withdrawing $40 million from the unclaimed property fund to help complete construction of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. The money would be matched by private pledges. This idea provides a way to appeal to conservatives, particularly in the House, who strongly oppose using a bond issue for the project, and ultimately get the cultural center completed.

  • Consumers pay the price for 'business' taxes

    | Published: Thu, Feb 27, 2014

    A common fallacy promoted by government planners is that a tax on business isn’t an indirect tax on consumers. Now, many state governments are learning the hard way that consumers really do pay the price. In this instance, an Obamacare tax on insurers is turning into an expensive bill for state governments. When Obamacare passed Congress, it imposed a $150 billion tax on insurers over a decade. Starting this year, the law requires insurers to pay $8 billion. That amount will increase to $14.3 billion in 2018. The health insurer fee is considered an excise tax and is nondeductible on tax returns. Supporters of the tax provision claimed insurance companies needed to pay their “fair share,” as though that share wouldn’t

  • Ralph Ellison: Ignored for too long by many in his hometown

    | Published: Thu, Feb 27, 2014

    I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. — Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man” ATTRACTED to Oklahoma by its promise of equality for people of color, the parents of Ralph Ellison soon discovered what other blacks did in the first two decades after statehood: This place, like its Southern neighbors, was not exactly their promised land. It was the same lure that had drawn blacks to Tulsa’s flourishing Greenwood business district until it was virtually destroyed in the race war of 1921. The early Democratic legislatures were quick to enact Jim Crow laws; rigid racial segregation followed.

  • Oklahoma lawmakers should approve ban on texting while driving

    | Published: Wed, Feb 26, 2014

    Chuck Mai, vice president with AAA Oklahoma, mentioned in an email this week that backers of a bill to curb text-messaging by drivers “had a texting bill actually be brought up in a state Senate committee last week – and it passed.” The title was struck from the bill, which isn’t ideal because that maneuver can lead to big changes ahead. But Mai still had reason to be excited, perhaps even encouraged. Why? For years, he’s seen the plea for anti-texting legislation go nowhere at the Capitol. Opponents say there’s no reason for such a bill because texting at the wheel is considered distracted driving, and existing statutes already cover that. Some opponents also see laws against texting at the wheel as too much

  • President Obama's Keystone timeline not likely to stick

    | Published: Wed, Feb 26, 2014

    The president has spoken. He’ll have a decision in the not-too-distant future on whether construction of the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline will happen. Consider us skeptical about the timeline, and certainly about the prospects of Obama saying yes. Gov. Mary Fallin and others attending a meeting of the National Governors Association said the Keystone project was among the topics raised with the president on Monday. Fallin asked him about it, and “he did come back and say that he anticipates an answer one way or the other in a couple months,” she said. The decision ostensibly rests with the State Department, because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canada border.