• Rail crackdown would put squeeze on U.S. oil companies

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Mar 4, 2015

    IT may soon take longer, and cost more, for oil companies to get crude oil to North American refineries. As the administration puts the squeeze on pipelines, it also has its eye more than ever on products moved by rail. Last month the federal Department of Transportation sent to the White House draft rules that would require, among other things, the use of stronger tank cars hauling crude oil. The Associated Press noted that the Office of Management and Budget usually demands that proposals by safety regulators be scaled back, but this time there may not be as much pushback. The reason is that there have been some spectacular and damaging derailments of late involving trains carrying crude oil.

  • Proposed election change could temper sway of special interest groups

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Mar 4, 2015

    LEGISLATION to hold local elections on the same day has received committee approval, and Oklahoma lawmakers deserve praise for taking that step. By simplifying the election calendar, the proposal could increase voter participation, which in turn will reduce the sway of special interest groups that often dominate such elections. Senate Bill 312, by Sen. David Holt, R-Bethany, would consolidate all local candidate elections to one cycle in the spring or one cycle in the fall. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Rules Committee. While many Oklahomans tout the importance of local control of government, low participation in local elections undermines that concept.

  • Three OKC city council races up for grabs Tuesday

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    One of Oklahoma City’s many strong suits is the work of its city council. The city’s remarkable growth has been augmented by a council whose members work hard for their individual wards while keeping the greater good of the entire city in mind as well. Voters in three of those wards have the opportunity Tuesday to vote for the person they want representing them on the council. A combined 10 candidates are seeking the jobs in wards 2, 6 and 8. If no candidate receives better than 50 percent of the votes cast, the two biggest vote-getters will face off April 7. Ward 6, which includes much of downtown, has been represented the past six years by Meg Salyer. She merits another four years on the horseshoe.

  • Low tax rates give states a competitive advantage

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Mar 3, 2015

    THE state cut its income tax to stay competitive with bordering states. One such neighbor is Texas, which has no state personal income tax. Oklahoma? No. Arkansas. The adjacent state that’s been cutting income taxes in recent years lies to the west of Arkansas. New Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law an income tax cut designed to keep up (or keep down!) with its neighbors. Arkansas has been taxing citizens as much as 7 percent on incomes as low as $36,000 per couple. By contrast, the top rate in Oklahoma is 5.25 percent, which will drop to 5 percent next year. The Arkansas cut, passed with bipartisan support (it had unanimous support in the state Senate), will cost the treasury $100 million.

  • Vote on Oklahoma ESA legislation runs counter to GOP ideals

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Mar 3, 2015

    Too often, politicians either wave a finger in the air and fall in line with the crowd, regardless of policy merit, or they become complacent and act as though the public won’t notice contradictions between their campaign rhetoric and actual record. A House committee’s recent failure to pass Education Savings Accounts legislation is an example of the latter. ESAs would allow Oklahoma parents to receive a debit card with a share of the state aid allocated for a child’s education. That money could then be used for the child’s education, including private school tuition. Polling shows that ESAs are popular among virtually all groups, but particularly among parents and Republican primary voters. Thus, ESA opposition

  • Ride-share insurance glitch needs to be resolved

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Fri, Feb 27, 2015

    THE rise of Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services has rightly been hailed as a triumph of private-sector innovation. But the growth of the industry also has created an insurance glitch that could harm Oklahomans unfortunate enough to be in an accident caused by a ride-sharing driver. In the ride-sharing system, private citizens use personal vehicles to provide transportation to clients who hail them via a smartphone app. When those vehicles are used for personal use, the driver’s personal auto liability coverage is in effect. But when the vehicle is used to provide rides for a fee, the personal policy does not provide coverage. At that point, a commercial policy is needed, which Uber and similar companies typically provide

  • Responsibility for controlling fans falls to host schools

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Storming the court can be dangerous

  • Many flaws in effort to repeal Oklahoma end of instruction tests

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Mar 1, 2015

    LAWMAKERS want to scrap some state-mandated tests in Oklahoma schools and replace them with something like the ACT to reduce “over testing.” Those efforts target a problem that is more hype than substance, and do so in a way that could create significant education challenges. Two bills that have passed out of committee — Senate Bill 707 and House Bill 1272 — could eliminate seven “end of instruction” (EOI) exams in basic high school courses such as algebra and biology. Currently, students must pass four of the seven tests to graduate; the vast majority of students succeed. SB 707 would have a host of education entities develop new “recommendations for the requirements a student must meet to earn a diploma from

  • ISIS defies liberal stereotypes, analysis

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Mar 1, 2015

    United States doesn’t need nuance

  • Oklahoma ScissorTales: U.S. Rep. Mullin taking heat over valid points about leadership

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Feb 28, 2015

    IT’S common for people to complain that our nation has too many politicians and not enough true leaders. But when U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, voiced that opinion, he was quickly accused of dismissing “any conservative candidate for president …” At a recent event, Mullin gave general comments stressing the importance of looking primarily at leadership qualities, not just partisan affiliation, when electing the next president. Mullin noted that, “If we elect somebody who divides this country because he’s as far to the right as this president (Barack Obama) is to the left ... we’re going to still be at an impasse.

  • A few good bills are being approved by Oklahoma lawmakers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Feb 27, 2015

    AMID the noise created by the many bad pieces of legislation filed and considered this session by Oklahoma lawmakers — and there are plenty of those — there also are some thoughtful and potentially beneficial bills that are making their way through the process. They deserve mention because the Legislature really does get it right now and then. The trouble is that members spend far too much time on ideological benders or personal agendas that help give the Capitol a bad name. An example is the attempt to turn on its ear the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. history in high schools.

  • More college grads needed in Oklahoma, but so too are other post-secondary degrees

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Feb 27, 2015

    EARLIER this month, The Washington Post breathlessly reminded readers that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had dropped out of college. The headline: “As Scott Walker mulls White House bid, questions linger over college exit.” Pundits predictably used the article as a springboard to discuss whether Walker boasts the necessary credentials for the presidency, to which he presumably aspires. A debate we find more interesting than whether a four-year degree should be a prerequisite for the presidency is whether a four-year degree should be a prerequisite for very many careers at all. As the school-to-success pipeline is currently constructed, four-year degrees are undeniably important — especially if you measure success by

  • Oklahoma meter bill would raise costs, reduce benefits

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Feb 25, 2015

    IN attempting to appease a small but vocal sliver of the population, state lawmakers may enact laws that actually impose new burdens on the broad majority. This appears to be the case with legislation allowing citizens to opt out of smart meter installation. Smart meters allow utilities to track consumption levels and transmit information without sending a meter reader to every house. The meters allow power companies to offer innovative pricing plans in which consumers may shift usage to low-demand hours in exchange for lower rates. Those plans, in turn, can reduce the need for construction of new power plants, which ultimately raise rates for consumers. Yet smart meters have been controversial in some circles.

  • Keystone veto message by Obama difficult to believe

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    PERHAPS President Barack Obama took a low-key approach to his veto of the Keystone XL pipeline — issuing a statement instead of making it a photo op at the White House — because he was concerned about being able to keep a straight face. In his veto message Tuesday, Obama said that, “because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.” Cuts short thorough consideration? Really? The northern leg of the Keystone pipeline has been debated and vetted and debated some more for the past six years.

  • Plenty of blame-dodging evident in recent Oklahoma child abuse case

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Tue, Feb 24, 2015

    IT’S not my fault. This is the sentiment that comes through loud and clear from just about everyone involved in the case of a 7-year-old Oklahoma girl who suffered physical and psychological abuse, allegedly at the hands of her witch-costume-wearing grandmother. The grandmother, 49-year-old Geneva Robinson of Oklahoma City, is now accused of abuse and neglect. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater’s frustration with the Department of Human Services — “They did nothing,” he said last week — is clear and perhaps understandable, although this case should leave Oklahomans angry at more than DHS. The girl’s mother? She called a DHS hotline last summer to report concerns about what she saw on a

  • Walmart should be saluted for raising employee pay

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Feb 25, 2015

    IT’S not The Jungle out there. The reference is to Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel about Chicago’s Packingtown, where the working man was underpaid, overworked, cheated and swindled every which way. You wouldn’t think much has changed based on the reaction to Walmart’s announcement that it’s voluntarily raising pay for workers at a time when Obama-era wage stagnation continues apace. Thus it was that the Associated Press initial release on the story carried headlines such as “Walmart raises still leave many near poverty line.” In other words, let’s not salute the retailing giant for raising pay. Let’s denigrate Walmart for not raising pay nearly enough! We choose to salute Walmart.

  • Oklahoma teacher pay plan should address market needs

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Feb 24, 2015

    A legislative committee has approved an across-the-board pay raise for Oklahoma teachers even though members admitted they don’t have a way to pay for it. Given the roughly $600 million state budget shortfall, that isn’t going to change any time soon. So the bill’s passage was more empty political gesture than sincere effort. Rather than engage in theatrics, it would be better if lawmakers used this session to actually study the issue and develop a serious, credible pay plan. Oklahoma’s average teacher salary ($44,128) is less than the average salary in surrounding states. But a look at the data shows the gap isn’t always as large as advertised, and that jobs in other states can require skills many Oklahoma teachers

  • Oklahoma's Open Records Act is taking a beating

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Feb 24, 2015

    Last week, a Cleveland County judge agreed not to make available to the public a videotape showing University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon striking a woman last summer. She suffered four broken bones in her face. Mixon reached a plea deal and was given a one-year deferred sentence. He also was suspended from the team for the season. A recent change to the Open Records Act says facts concerning an arrest must be made public upon request, and also that copies should be allowed too. Norman’s city attorney, police department and the district attorney all refused to make copies of the videotape public. The city argued that what was being sought “does not depict an arrest or the cause of the arrest.” That a judge agreed is

  • Salyer, Stonecipher merit support in OKC council elections

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Feb 24, 2015

    A week from today, on March 3, voters in parts of Oklahoma City will choose their representatives to the city council. In all, 10 candidates are seeking election in wards 2, 6 and 8. Incumbent Councilwoman Meg Salyer deserves re-election to a third term representing Ward 6, which includes much of downtown and neighborhoods north and south of the central business district. Salyer has worked to improve her ward while showing a willingness to work together with other council members to benefit the city at large. Salyer, 59, says she wants to ensure the ongoing MAPS 3 projects stay on schedule and “exceed the expectations of voters.

  • Why sue if Bible is just another book?

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Feb 23, 2015

    AS an organization of atheists, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s members view the Bible as, basically, just another book. Yet their threat to sue some Oklahoma schools that have allowed Bibles to be donated to fifth-graders suggests the foundation’s members believe the Bible is far more powerful than their “freethinker” rhetoric suggests. The foundation is upset that up to 26 Oklahoma schools have allowed officials with Gideons International to donate Bibles to fifth-grade students. A spokesman for the Freedom From Religion Foundation says this violates church-state separation.