• Change-up in GOP presidential debates is an idea worth considering

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 22, 2015

    “INCLUDE them all!” That’s the call from Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, regarding the number of Republican presidential candidates who should be part of the televised debate process. Donald Trump’s continuing misadventures give credence to Sabato’s suggestion. Trump’s derogatory remarks about Mexicans during his campaign kickoff announcement resulted in NBC cutting ties with The Donald, but didn’t hurt his candidacy. The king of bombast has remained at or near the top of various polls tracking Republican voters’ preferences in the crowded field. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

  • Survey results may augment push to boost Oklahoma voter turnout

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 22, 2015

    WE heard a fair amount during the 2015 legislative session about declining voter turnout. In 2014, only about 40 percent of registered voters went to the polls, although true voter participation fell below 30 percent. That takes into account how many eligible citizens weren’t registered to vote. Oklahoma mirrors what has been happening nationally. For the 2014 midterm elections, which are always marked by low turnout, a meager 36 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. According to the U.S. Elections Project, that was the worst turnout rate since 1942. State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, is making it a priority to try to increase voter turnout by reforming the voting system. This session, lawmakers approved two of his

  • Student ‘proficiency’ rates inflated by low standards

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 21, 2015

    IN the debate over reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind law, critics argue states and local districts should be given greater flexibility, particularly on testing. State officials would bolster that case if state tests required serious academic rigor. Instead, a new report shows many states declare students “proficient” in academic subjects when their scores are actually quite low. That practice is widespread, and allows schools to paper over failure rather than improve educational outcomes, particularly for low-income children.

  • More tales of woe from dealings with the tax man

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 21, 2015

    A local woman contacted us last week to share her experience with the Internal Revenue Service. No surprise, the experience wasn’t pleasant. But she’s hardly alone, and it could have been worse. In this case, the IRS sent her a letter to say one form in her 2015 tax return was missing. She faxed a copy of the missing form to the agency. Later the same day, she called the IRS to confirm receipt of the form but eventually had to hang up after a long wait on hold. She called again the next day and was able to reach a representative — after 59 minutes on hold. At least she eventually got through. USA Today on Thursday noted a report from the National Taxpayer Advocate that showed the IRS during tax-filing season this year

  • A quiet milestone that's worthy of celebrating

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 20, 2015

    PITY the plight of the garden-variety environmentalist. He loathes coal because it’s dirty. He’s uncomfortable with nuclear power even though it’s far cleaner than coal. And he can barely tolerate natural gas because, well, it’s a fossil fuel. He wants all power to come from renewable sources but knows this isn’t possible at the current time. Next-best thing is for gas to supplant coal as the prime fuel for making electricity. Right? But this can only happen if gas is relatively cheap, which requires an abundant supply. Which in turn depends on hydraulic fracturing. Which our garden-variety environmentalist can’t stand.

  • Laws allowing assisted suicide can have far-reaching impact

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 20, 2015

    AN effort to legalize “assisted suicide” in California has been put on hold. The rationales that caused California lawmakers to rethink the proposal deserve attention elsewhere. This is especially true of arguments put forth by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist who is director of the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of California Irvine. Proponents of assisted suicide portray it as a humane solution for people in the last stages of painful, debilitating, terminal illnesses. But in a letter sent to California lawmakers, Kheriaty demonstrated that such laws can lead to death for a far wider, and often healthier, population. “The desire to end one’s life, or the request for assisted suicide, is almost always

  • Open-carry push having counterproductive impact

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 19, 2015

    WE have long supported robust Second Amendment rights, believing law-abiding Oklahomans with weapons are a threat only to criminals. Yet the recent push for open carry of firearms has, ironically, restricted the sphere where citizens may legally possess a gun. This suggests gun-rights supporters need to rethink their strategy. Texas-based Whataburger has announced that customers won’t be allowed to openly carry firearms in the chain’s 780 national locations. Preston Atkinson, Whataburger’s president and CEO, said the open display of firearms made many employees and customers “uncomfortable.” Atkinson said patrons licensed to carry concealed handguns would still be allowed to do so.

  • EPA’s water rule would affect even imaginary rivers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 19, 2015

    FEW dispute that the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule would apply federal water regulation to much normally dry land. A recent lawsuit shows the rule is even broader than that: It may apply federal water regulations to property that is never wet outside computer simulations. This fact is highlighted in a lawsuit filed by The State Chamber of Oklahoma, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, Portland Cement Association and the Tulsa Regional Chamber. The EPA rule seeks to dramatically redefine “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act to include not only sitting bodies of water but any water with a “significant nexus” to bodies of

  • ScissorTales: Oklahoma has had better weeks in the PR department

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Jul 18, 2015

    OKLAHOMA has had better weeks in the public relations department. The chairman of the state Republican Party did some quick (and less-than-effective) backpedaling after a post on the party’s Facebook page criticized Americans who use food stamps. The post noted that the National Park Service asks people not to feed the animals because they’ll become dependent on handouts and won’t learn to take care of themselves. “Thus ends today’s lesson in irony,” said the post, which was distributed widely on social media, and, with good reason, roundly criticized. This embarrassment was followed a few days later by a group of people trotting out their Confederate battle flags and gathering in Durant for President Barack

  • After ruling, worthwhile OKC project can get underway

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 17, 2015

    AN Oklahoma County judge’s ruling clears the way for the demolition of the Union Bus Station and the start of a new development downtown. We’re heartened that the city council member who challenged the plan intends to honor the ruling and allow work to proceed. Dallas-based developer Hines has on the drawing board a 27-story tower, to be anchored by Devon Energy, and two parking garages in the area where the bus station now stands at the corner of Sheridan and Walker avenues. It was hoped that work would be well underway by now, but that changed after Ward 2 councilman Ed Shadid objected. The project first received the go-ahead from the city’s Downtown Design Review Committee in January. Two months later, the Board of

  • One misstep after another for Oklahoma GOP chairman

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 16, 2015

    CONSERVATIVES would be forgiven if they start to suspect, given his actions as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, that Randy Brogdon is a Democratic plant. How else to explain his knack for engaging in stunts that embarrass the party and embrace the worst liberal caricatures of conservatives? After his election in April, Brogdon tried to fill a top party position with a man convicted of domestic assault and battery in the presence of a minor child. Numerous Republicans loudly objected. Yet Brogdon stuck to his guns for weeks before relenting, making numerous public comments along the way that did nothing to suggest he cared about the message being sent to battered women and children. That controversy had barely

  • Federal, state corrections systems could use reform

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 16, 2015

    BARACK Obama will make history Thursday when he becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit a federal prison — in this case, the medium-security facility in El Reno. He’ll reportedly be talking about criminal justice reform, a topic that merits attention at the federal level but also in Oklahoma’s state system. Both systems could benefit greatly from reform, given that both are bursting with inmates in large part because of sentences that help win lawmakers votes but don’t always enhance public safety. In Oklahoma, an expanding list of “85 percent” crimes has helped push the prison population beyond capacity. These are crimes that mandate the offender serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before

  • Reasons for concern with Iran nuclear deal

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 15, 2015

    PRESIDENT Barack Obama hailed the nuclear agreement reached Tuesday with Iran as a move in a “new direction.” Many critics feel it’s the wrong direction, and we share their concerns. The agreement will over time ease international sanctions levied against Iran in exchange for that country curbing its nuclear program. Obama said the agreement “is not built on trust, it is built on verification” and that the international community will have “24/7 access” to Iran’s nuclear facilities. Sounds encouraging. Yet the agreement says that as part of their monitoring duties, U.N. inspectors will be able to press for visits to military sites in Iran. That access isn’t guaranteed.

  • State regulatory boards in Oklahoma warrant greater scrutiny

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 15, 2015

    THERE’S a fine line between ensuring government regulators have credible expertise and allowing industry players to use government to thwart competition. Attorney General Scott Pruitt warns that many Oklahoma regulatory boards could be accused of engaging in the latter. In a letter, Pruitt says hundreds of Oklahoma boards and commissions are at risk of being sued under federal antitrust laws because the boards are dominated by members of the professions they regulate. Those boards “present the risk or appearance of protecting private monetary interests rather than advancing sound public policy because they are controlled by active market participants,” Pruitt says, which leaves the boards and commissions “open to antitrust

  • Oklahoma military installations enjoy welcome news, this time

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 14, 2015

    MEMBERS of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation had a somewhat muted response to the news that Fort Sill will gain from a pending military restructuring that will produce deep cuts in other installations. We share their ambivalence. On the one hand, this is great news for Fort Sill and the Lawton area. The addition of 219 active-duty positions in the next two years will keep Fort Sill in a strong position going forward; its primary focus is on field artillery training and air defense artillery, or Fires. As a Fort Sill official put it, adding an air defense and field artillery battalion “will help Fort Sill continue to lead the future of Fires for the Army into the 21st century.” Given the alternative, this is a

  • California killing stirs needed debate over 'sanctuary cities'

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 14, 2015

    “Sanctuary!” — Quasimodo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame Donald Trump reignited the debate over illegal immigration with his recent ill-tempered remarks. This did nothing but hurt Republicans overall as they seek to regain the White House. Meantime, controversy over the “sanctuary city” movement was reignited with a California murder. The outflow from this crime could mitigate Trump’s damage and its effect on the GOP next year. Trump’s comments were exploited by a media not inclined to like him or the Republican Party. But only some have been similarly exercised by the murder case. Sanctuary cities have been around for a while, but the case reopens debate on whether it’s prudent for local

  • National report gives Oklahoma government finances a high mark

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 13, 2015

    OKLAHOMA lawmakers have slogged through several tough budget years, and officials predict next year won’t be much better. Yet a new national report suggests Oklahoma is among the better-run state governments, financially speaking. So things could definitely be worse. Research from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, authored by senior research fellow Eileen Norcross, ranks each U.S. state’s financial health based on short- and long-term debt and other key fiscal obligations, including unfunded pensions and health care benefits. Norcross concluded Oklahoma ranks ninth-best for fiscal solvency, outperforming every state in the region. The state fared well in several categories.

  • Change in Oklahoma's "85 percent" rule would be good step

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 13, 2015

    WE’VE said it many times — working to effect reforms in Oklahoma's criminal justice system can be a trying exercise. A move suggested by the governor would turn the crank slightly in the right direction. Gov. Mary Fallin wants the state Board of Corrections to change its policy regarding inmates incarcerated for crimes that mandate they serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. This has drawn strong criticism from at least one member of the Legislature and some prosecutors. The board considered the move last week but took no action. Under the change, “85 percenters” would have the opportunity to earn good-behavior credits from the beginning of their sentence.

  • No shortage of issues to occupy Oklahoma's newest senator

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 12, 2015

    JAMES Lankford was a quick study in the U.S. House of Representatives, rising to a leadership position after just a few years. Now Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, is boning up on life in the U.S. Senate, having won election last year to replace the retiring Tom Coburn. Coburn was a fiscal hawk who was never bashful about criticizing members of both parties for what he considered unnecessary spending and government waste. He also warned often about the loss of liberty stemming from an expansive central government. Lankford has concerns of his own, including about the detrimental effects of the Affordable Care Act and the potential negative fallout from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

  • Oklahoma ScissorTales: A confusing stance on water

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sat, Jul 11, 2015

    POLITICIANS aren’t necessarily known for consistency or logic, but state Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, has still managed to lower the bar. Basically, McPeak argues the state shouldn’t sell water for profit or give it away. That doesn’t leave many options. McPeak is upset that Gov. Mary Fallin and federal officials agreed to drill a well on the grounds of the Lexington prison and provide some of the water to roughly 90 homes in the surrounding community, an area plagued by poor water quality. A federal loan will pay to drill the well; user fees will repay the loan. McPeak complains this means officials will “take a natural resource and give it to the public without recovering anything but costs.