• Taking a principled stand can bring consequences

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 16, 2015

    U.S. House members’ complaints off-putting

  • Oklahoma House member takes misuse of media office to a new low

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 15, 2015

    A state lawmaker and an Islamic advocacy group engaged in a war of words last year following news that ISIS was on the march in Iraq. In their latest dustup, state Rep. John Bennett and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are again battling over words — specifically words in Islam’s holy book. And it all relates to the words and images in a Paris satirical newspaper. Last fall, we criticized both Bennett and CAIR, the former for painting Islam with an overly broad brush and the latter for being slower to criticize ISIS atrocities than it was to blast Bennett for his remarks. This time, there’s no equivalency: Reaction by Bennett to the terrorist outbreak in France last week, and CAIR’S reactions to

  • Oklahoma execution will be a test of new protocols, competency

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 15, 2015

    IS the state of Oklahoma capable of carrying out an execution that goes according to plan — one that’s efficient, effective and humane? We could find out Thursday evening. That’s when Charles Frederick Warner is scheduled to die at the state penitentiary in McAlester. Warner’s would be the first execution carried out since April 29, when Clayton Derrell Lockett died 43 minutes after his execution began. That procedure was a mess: Lockett writhed on the gurney, moaning and clenching his teeth. A state investigation found that an improperly placed IV in Lockett’s groin was the biggest problem. It also determined that the medical personnel on site were ill-prepared and ill-equipped, and that there were no contingencies

  • Politics creates many budget challenges for Oklahoma lawmakers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 14, 2015

    THE amount of money available for lawmakers to spend this year is technically around $300 million less than they spent last year. Simultaneously, some officials suggest that having budget-only legislative sessions every two years would improve the system. That’s an idea worth debating, but no one should get their hopes up. Factors that contributed to this year’s “shortfall” were partly the result of political pressure that would remain intact in any new budget system. First, much state spending has been put on autopilot. The budget crafted by lawmakers represents less than half of state spending. This has previously created “shortfalls” for legislators even when state revenue collections increased.

  • U.S. Rep. Martha McSally's surprising stand on a divisive issue

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 14, 2015

    Former Air Force colonel wants to keep current military system for sexual assault cases

  • What will doubling the size of an Oklahoma education rally accomplish?

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jan 13, 2015

    THE head of the Oklahoma Parent-Teacher Association is hoping that an education rally at the Capitol this year is twice as large as one held last year. That event drew about 25,000 parents, teachers and others — and accomplished virtually nothing. How will doubling the crowd change the result? It almost certainly won’t. Lawmakers and the governor are well aware of statistics showing that Oklahoma’s per-pupil funding lags most other states. They’re also aware that funding for kindergarten through 12th grade already comprises about 35 percent of the state budget. Last year’s rally produced a suggestion from one lawmaker that some of the money now going toward road and bridge repairs be dedicated instead to education.

  • Pie-in-the-sky theories don't negate energy market realities

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jan 13, 2015

    ONE of the ironies of the modern environmental movement is that its efforts could restrain natural gas supplies even as its other initiatives increase demand for the product. Consider the state of New York, where officials recently banned fracking amid much fanfare. Writing for Forbes, Jim Conca noted that “banning fracking for gas, and banning new pipeline construction to transport it, means more dirty energy from coal and oil during the winter months when gas supplies are insufficient to most of New York and New England.” This is important because New York’s fracking ban is being implemented even as the federal Environmental Protection Agency prepares to unveil its “Clean Power Plan.

  • Lawmaker right to continue push for corrections reform in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 12, 2015

    WHEN his modest corrections reform bill went to the Oklahoma House floor in March 2014, Rep. Bobby Cleveland felt good about its chances. “I had the votes,” Cleveland says. But then a colleague argued that it would mean early release for some hardened criminals, and called it “soft on crime.” The measure was voted down, overwhelmingly. Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, is undeterred. Fortunately, he plans to continue his call for a new way of doing business instead of continuing a decades-long pattern that’s pushed Oklahoma’s prison population past 28,000 while not producing a significant downturn in the state’s violent crime rate. Pushback is inevitable. Although Gov.

  • Reviewing Quality Jobs Program is wise for Oklahoma, and so is keeping it

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 11, 2015

    IF you could design an economic incentive effort that’s made to order for misguided populist outrage, you’d fashion it after Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program. After all, it’s spent nearly $1 billion in taxpayer funds since its creation in 1993. Beneficiaries of the program, designed to stimulate hiring, include major energy firms and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Promises made about future hiring plans haven’t always materialized. Yep, it’s a populist’s dream. But as they say on infomercials, “Wait. There’s more!” More direct jobs. More indirect jobs and peripheral economic effects. More high-paying jobs with full benefits.

  • Oklahoma campaign reporting requirements should be enforced

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 11, 2015

    According to Oklahoma Watch, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission doesn’t plan to collect more than $200,000 in unpaid fees from candidates and political organizations that were either late in filing (or did not file) required statements of income and spending. This is understandable in some cases, but concerning nonetheless. Many nonfilers are fringe candidates who lost an election and are difficult to locate. Given the Ethics Commission’s limited resources, it’s understandable that collecting those fees isn’t a high priority. More worrisome is the fact that some independent expenditure groups have apparently been given a free pass as well.

  • Work begins on California bullet train. Lucky us.

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 11, 2015

    California’s bullet train is finally off the drawing board. Lucky us. We say that because the federal government has put $3.3 billion of taxpayer money into the project, which has been dogged by delays, lawsuits and complaints from residents. Californians approved $10 billion in bonds for the project in 2008. Only last week did groundbreaking occur on the first segment. Eventually the train is to run from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The bullet train originally had a price tag of $33 billion. Surprise! That’s ballooned to close to $100 billion. Due to track reconfigurations, the amount of time it’ll take to go from one end to the other has increased to about 4 hours, instead of the original 2 hours, 40 minutes.

  • ScissorTales: Democratic leaders abound in Oklahoma Senate

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sat, Jan 10, 2015

    AFTER November’s elections, the Democratic caucus in the Oklahoma Senate was reduced to holding just eight of 48 seats. Those numbers declined further when one senator recently resigned midterm to take a private-sector job. So these are tough times for Senate Democrats. Still, we couldn’t help but chuckle when Democratic Leader Randy Bass of Lawton announced caucus leadership positions and committee appointments. The leadership positions included one Democratic leader (Bass), two assistant Democratic leaders, a Democratic caucus chair, a Democratic caucus vice-chair, two Democratic whips, and four assistant Democratic floor leaders. That means Bass had to fill 11 leadership positions with only seven members.

  • Report makes clear that poverty not sole driver of Oklahoma's low education rankings

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 9, 2015

    DEFENDERS of the status quo often blame Oklahoma’s low education rankings on poverty. Certainly that plays a role. Yet the new edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report suggests that Oklahoma students at all income levels are falling short. Quality Counts ranks states based on a student’s chance for success, school finances and K-12 achievement. The report gives Oklahoma an overall grade of D-plus and ranks it 48th in the nation. In the area of K-12 achievement, Oklahoma was given a D. The report’s finding on the “poverty gap” in Oklahoma schools — a measurement of the difference between the achievement of low-income students and higher-income peers — appears encouraging at first glance.

  • Scalise dust-up: Good reason to oppose racists in government

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 9, 2015

    U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., reportedly once spoke before a racist group in 2002. But it appears Scalise was not aware of the group’s objectives and never shared their views. Several black officials have defended Scalise. In the end, this controversy appears a tempest in a tea pot. But it was appropriate for these charges to be thoroughly investigated. No one wants a dyed-in-the-wool racist holding any position of government authority, let alone serving as House majority whip, the high-ranking position Scalise holds within the U.S. House hierarchy.

  • GOP members' 'revolt' against Boehner is shortsighted

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 8, 2015

    NOW that Republicans control both chambers of Congress, conservatives have reason to hope for modest policy gains. But the “object now, think later” approach of some Republicans threatens to thwart even minor advances, as evidenced by the effort to deny U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, a third term as speaker of the House. A handful of Republicans, declaring Boehner insufficiently conservative, sought to oust him by withholding their support during the speaker election in the House. Boehner ultimately prevailed. Only 25 Republicans participating did not vote for him; 216 supported Boehner. Admittedly, protest votes against sitting speakers aren’t new, although such efforts are mostly for show. In 1997, nine Republicans

  • Oklahoma lawmaker's 'hoodie' bill appears redundant

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Jan 7, 2015

    State Sen. Don Barrington, R-Lawton, has kicked a hornet’s nest with a bill to ban, among other things, wearing hoodies to conceal one’s identity. Resulting national publicity has mostly been negative. Senate Bill 13 would make it illegal for individuals to “intentionally conceal” their identity in a public place “by means of a robe, mask or other disguise.” Barrington said the legislation is intended to increase public safety by deterring criminals from concealing their faces. The legislation has its fans, such as Shelly Cruze, who runs a liquor store that was once robbed. Cruze told a television news reporter that the robber’s “hood was up and it was drawn.

  • Stable oil prices would help with Oklahoma budget forecast

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 7, 2015

    LAST July 1, the day state government’s fiscal year 2015 began, who would have thought that the economic forecast for fiscal 2016 would be so uncertain? Such are the vicissitudes of economic forecasting in an era of plunging oil prices. Spillover effects of a 50 percent drop in crude prices include hits to the worth of Oklahoma’s publicly traded energy firms. “Our state lives and dies by the price of oil, but particularly our local stocks,” a Tulsa asset manager told The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies last week. To mock the highly mockable Yogi Berra, is this 1982 deja vu all over again? Not quite. For starters, the Oil Patch learned something from the 1980s oil bust. And the state of Oklahoma learned that it must

  • Change in Oklahoma mental health records law can't get here soon enough

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 7, 2015

    The gains that Oklahoma must make in providing mental health services include doing a better job of ensuring that those who shouldn’t have weapons don’t get them. Currently the state lags well behind most other states. The Oklahoman’s Jennifer Palmer reported this week that the state had provided only 25 mental health records to the FBI to use in its National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). As of Nov. 30, there were 3.7 million such records in the system. Oklahoma is one of nine states that have submitted fewer than 100 records. Oklahoma law makes many of the records off limits.

  • Oklahoma House speaker Jeff Hickman has two big items on his radar

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Mon, Jan 5, 2015

    In Oklahoma’s weak-governor political system, the position of speaker of the House of Representatives is probably the most powerful at the Capitol. Therefore, it’s important that the person in that job sets an agenda designed to produce tangible, productive results for the state. The current speaker, Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, is suggesting he will. In a guest column included in state Treasurer Ken Miller’s most recent monthly economic report, Hickman said one of his goals for the 2015 session is better management of state finances. How? By reviewing tax credits and the many ways incoming revenue is taken “off the top” of the state budget and directed elsewhere. Hickman noted that the state offers about $1.7

  • Filmdom has taken this bad road before

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jan 6, 2015

    The movie was about the assassination of a world leader. Naturally it was controversial. Naturally the chain multiplex theaters were uncomfortable showing it. Naturally that made it all the more appealing to those who don’t like being told that some movie themes simply cross a line that shouldn’t be crossed. And, naturally, the subject — the man being taken out by assassins — wouldn’t want to see himself getting killed. The movie title is “Death of a President,” not “The Interview.” The release date was 2006, not 2014. The ostensible assassination target didn’t try to suppress its release. The target’s name was U.S. President George W. Bush, not North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.