• OKC school superintendent's frank assessment is welcome

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 10, 2014

    SUPERINTENDENT Rob Neu didn’t hold back this week in laying out the challenges faced by, and the changes needed in, the Oklahoma City school district. Such frank talk is important. Substantive change is needed if the district is to be turned around. The challenges are many and significant. Of the district’s 45,000 students, roughly 90 percent qualify for free and reduced-price lunches (most are in the free lunch category). According to child welfare statistics, thousands of those children live in families making less than $12,000 per year. It’s difficult to educate kids who are hungry. Language barriers add to the difficulty: About 17,000 Oklahoma City public school students don’t speak English as their native

  • Oklahoma AG Pruitt's efforts are hardly 'secretive'

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 10, 2014

    OKLAHOMA Attorney General Scott Pruitt and other Republican AGs are working together, and with private industry experts, to combat federal overreach in state affairs. Officials at The New York Times apparently think this is shocking, leading to an “expose” that’s a case study in media bias and unthinking analysis. An article Saturday proclaimed the discovery of an “unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr.

  • Oklahoma's gross production tax issue should stay settled

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 9, 2014

    BASED on recent comments by a Senate Republican leader, some lawmakers are itching to revisit their recent decision to set Oklahoma’s gross production tax rate at 2 percent. That would be a mistake. For several years, the state levied a 1 percent gross production tax on horizontal wells for the first four years of operation. That rate was scheduled to expire in 2015 and increase to 7 percent. Energy producers argued, convincingly, that a 7 percent rate would curtail drilling. Research by the Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association indicated a 7 percent rate could generate $200 million less in tax revenue than the 1 percent rate, due to the associated impact on drilling. In the end, lawmakers voted to raise the rate to 2 percent.

  • Newark mayor ups that city's police presence

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 9, 2014

    National outrage over a white police officer not being indicted for the death of a black youth included claims from the civil rights community that American law enforcement continues to show racial bias. Complaints about the militarization of police followed in the wake of violence after Michael Brown’s Aug. 9 death. Given these circumstances, it’s curious that the black mayor of a majority black city would call for an expanded police presence. Curious, perhaps, but certainly understandable: Newark, N.J., had a particularly bloody Thanksgiving weekend, with 11 shootings that left four people dead and pushed the city’s 2014 homicide total to 85. Last week, Mayor Ras Baraka declared Newark to be in a “state of

  • International students a win for universities, and other students

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 9, 2014

    Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma each take pride in serving students from more than 100 countries. As the fall semester began this year, OU President David Boren said, “Not knowing about the rest of the world and how people think there and how they live there and what they need there is like not knowing how to read and write.” The Pew Charitable Trusts notes that during this past academic year, nearly 900,000 international students attended school in the United States — more than double the number 20 years ago. According to Pew, 3.9 percent of Oklahoma’s college students are from other countries. In this region, that’s higher than Arkansas (2.8 percent) and New Mexico (2.4), but below Texas

  • Honor system not the best plan for Oklahoma program's oversight

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Dec 8, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Department of Human Services relies on an honor system to keep welfare recipients from using state funds at casinos and certain other venues. That’s not exactly a well-devised plan. Casinos are ubiquitous in Oklahoma. Gambling problems can create financial challenges that make someone eligible for welfare assistance in the first place. And gambling addicts aren’t known for their honesty. Legislation signed into law in 2013 prohibits Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds from being spent at casinos, liquor stores, tobacco shops and strip clubs. But DHS has yet to enforce the law in a meaningful way, citing technical challenges. The state contracts with Xerox to manage TANF debit cards.

  • Cracking down on 'pill mills' needed in Oklahoma's fight against painkillers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Dec 7, 2014

    OKLAHOMA has a pain pill problem. More than a problem, really — it’s a crisis. For every 100 people in the state, 128 pain prescriptions are written each year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma ranks No. 5 nationally for highest rates of prescribed painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. This exacts a heavy toll. The number of overdose deaths from prescription drugs has more than doubled since 2002. Last year, unintentional prescription drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma claimed more lives than automobile accidents. One way to potentially blunt the stream of pills, state drug enforcement officials say, is to stop allowing non-physicians to own pain management clinics.

  • A trust for unclaimed property fund? Oklahoma treasurer's proposal worth a look

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Dec 7, 2014

    THIS is a state that gets knocked around a lot for not doing enough or not doing enough things right. But sometimes Oklahoma does get it right. And sometimes that’s because the people insist on it. We noted recently how right the people were in creating an endowment fund for the money coming in from the 1997 settlement of a lawsuit against Big Tobacco. State Treasurer Ken Miller suggests that the same concept should be applied to the state’s unclaimed property fund. Oklahoma was the first state to constitutionally protect its tobacco settlement money from the annual scramble for legislative appropriations. Unfortunately, the unclaimed property fund remains unprotected from the scrum of politics.

  • ScissorTales: One Oklahoma agency's Christmas wish list

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Dec 6, 2014

    IT’S that time of year, so any wish list might as well as stretch from cap to stockings and way beyond. This seems to be the thinking of Oklahoma’s Long Range Capital Planning Commission. It recommends that lawmakers approve a $349 million bond issue to address just the “critical” parts of state government’s capital improvements list. The money would cover 53 projects spanning 11 state agencies. It would be the first wide-ranging bond issue since 1999. The $349 million is a lot of dough, but it’s only a fraction of the $6 billion in requests made to Santa by agency heads. The criticality of the recommended projects is subjective, but infrastructure needs at several correctional facilities are no doubt vital.

  • Oklahoma high court's ruling is a victory for plain English

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Dec 5, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled this week that a constitutional provision that impedes tax increases doesn’t apply to tax cuts. The decision is a victory for plain meaning and a rebuke of tortured legal reasoning. In 1992, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 640, which amended the Oklahoma Constitution to require that revenue measures must either be sent to a vote of the people or get three-fourths approval in both chambers of the Legislature. It also banned approval of such measures during the final five days of a session. This year a lawsuit claimed SQ 640’s provisions applied to tax increases and tax cuts, since both measures involve revenue.

  • Young men most affected by Oklahoma high school football controversy provide the best persepctive

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Dec 5, 2014

    YET again, a dispute involving a high school sporting event in Oklahoma is being decided in a courtroom. This is growing tiresome — and in the latest case, so is the behavior of the adults involved. Nine years ago, the Class 5A football playoffs were delayed for three weeks while Shawnee High School argued that a player who had been ejected for kicking an opponent should be allowed to play instead of being suspended, as the rules mandated. Shawnee ultimately lost its fight. In 2013, Wright City’s baseball team was made to forfeit its quarterfinal game in the state tournament after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association said the team had exceeded the limit of games allowed during the season.

  • Obama says one thing, does another

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Dec 4, 2014

    THE gap between President Barack Obama’s rhetoric and his actions is now so wide that we wonder how Obama would govern if he adhered to his own talking points. After Republicans won control of Congress last month, Obama noted that “the American people overwhelmingly believe that this town doesn’t work well, and that it is not attentive to their needs. And as president, they rightly hold me accountable to do more to make it work properly.” Obama said his job was to “push hard to close some of these divisions, break through some of the gridlock, and get stuff done.” That sounds like someone promising to reach across the partisan aisle and compromise. But Obama has done the opposite.

  • Some places easing living restrictions on sex offenders. Oklahoma not likely to follow.

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Dec 4, 2014

    IN some American locales, officials want to ease the living restrictions they’ve placed on sex offenders during the past few decades. These laws can make it so difficult for offenders to find a place to live, The Wall Street Journal reports, that they add to homelessness and can make it harder to track offenders. And they don’t necessarily prevent repeat offenses. Don’t look for Oklahoma any time soon to begin scaling back what lawmakers have implemented with such gusto. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater was among those quoted in the Journal story. The newspaper noted that he’s among a few prosecutors in Oklahoma who have tried to get lawmakers to amend a law requiring sex offenders to live no closer than 2,000

  • Oklahomans got it very right when they established tobacco fund endowment

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 3, 2014

    OKLAHOMA voters were given a choice 14 years ago regarding what to do with perhaps $2 billion that would be coming to the state from tobacco companies. The decision they made could not have worked out better. Because voters approved a constitutional amendment to place those funds in an endowment trust, Oklahoma is well positioned to continue aiding health care in a variety of ways — even as the amount given over by tobacco companies declines. Oklahoma was the first state to protect its money in this way, following the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement involving tobacco companies and 46 states. Oklahoma’s attorney general at the time, Drew Edmondson, said the settlement was “the most important advance in public health

  • Uncontested legislative races becoming routine in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 3, 2014

    Many of the Oklahoma legislators who took their oaths of office last month didn’t have to win an election to get there. They drew no opponent, a continuing occurrence here and elsewhere. Eight state Senate candidates (out of 25 possible) were unopposed in 2014, as were 50 state House candidates. Of the former group, seven were Republicans. Among unopposed House candidates, 35 were Republicans and the remainder Democrats. Two years ago, 61 of the 125 legislative seats available had been decided by primary election day. That was the greatest number of unopposed races in Oklahoma in at least the previous 32 years, according to an analysis at the time by the Tulsa World. That year, 54 of the 101 House seats available and seven

  • For Oklahoma, steep drop in oil prices is painful

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 3, 2014

    Oklahoma is in for a rough ride even as the rides of Oklahomans have gotten smoother. Lower oil prices, which have translated into lower gasoline prices, are a major concern for the state’s energy sector and for the state treasury. The North American energy boom has been so successful that prices have plunged. OPEC’s decision last week to maintain production levels rather than wait out the price bust doesn’t help. Share prices of publicly traded energy firms have been falling along with the price of crude. These companies will suffer economically for as long as the plunge lasts. This will be seen by some as “economic justice,” but the populist view that energy firms make obscene profits has never been matched

  • For most, Oklahoma voter ID law is no impediment

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 2, 2014

    MORE than 820,000 people cast ballots in Oklahoma in the Nov. 4 election. Statewide, about 1,600 cast provisional ballots. Just 699 of those provisional ballots were issued because voters failed to provide a proper ID. And just 34 of those voter ID-related provisional ballots were ultimately rejected. This shows once again that Oklahoma’s voter ID law isn’t blocking access to the polls. It is, however, preventing people from illegally voting. Although possession of a driver’s license is a basic necessity for the overwhelming majority of Oklahomans, the state’s voter ID law is designed to accommodate outliers. Valid forms of voter ID include a driver’s license, military ID, passport or a free ID card from a county

  • Oklahoma should get off short list of states that haven't banned texting while driving

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 2, 2014

    POLICYMAKERS in 44 other states have figured it out. They’ve come to understand that cellphones, once a luxury, are now so ubiquitous that people of all ages feel naked if they don’t have theirs with them at all times. The policymakers also know that when people use the phones while driving, the motorists are a danger to themselves and others. And so these 44 states have banned text-messaging while driving. Many have even banned the use of cellphones outright while at the wheel. Oklahoma is one of the six states that hasn’t banned text-messaging while driving. Oh, the state doesn’t allow new teen drivers to text — but only for the first several months after getting their license. Once that term expires, they’re

  • EPA regulations hold harsh impact on families

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Dec 1, 2014

    THAT the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear challenges to federal environmental rules targeting mercury emissions is welcome news. A favorable ruling could rein in the Obama administration’s out-of-control Environmental Protection Agency, whose efforts do little to significantly improve the environment but much to harm citizens’ quality of life as they pay ever-higher prices for power and goods. A new study by Energy Ventures Analysis notes that dramatic cost increases are possible under the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, proposed guidelines unveiled in June to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil-fueled power generating units. The EPA claims that plan will ensure emissions in 2030 are 30 percent lower than they were

  • 'Sustainability' rarely mentioned by liberals in entitlement, deficit talk

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Nov 30, 2014

    THE buzz on the term “sustainable” reaches beehive levels on a variety of fronts these days. Liberals generally believe that sustainable energy sources are preferable to fossil fuels and that a wide range of environmental policies should be based on sustainability. Funny, but they rarely invoke “sustainability” in connection with entitlements or the federal deficit. We’ve used “sustainable” many times on these pages over the years, in connection with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, deficit spending — you name it and sustainability has entered the swarm. As far back as 2003, Social Security’s own trustees declared that the program “is not sustainable over the long term.