• 'Minor' appropriations can be long-term drain on Oklahoma state finances

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Aug 7, 2014

    EVERY year, state government funds some projects that raise eyebrows, but criticisms are often waved off. Defenders argue the amounts involved are “minor.” That’s a subjective term, especially when talking about millions in expenditures. The long-term impact of ignoring “minor” appropriations is an ever-increasing drain on state finances. Consider the Rural Economic Action Plan, a state program that provides millions each year for infrastructure improvements in unincorporated areas and communities with fewer than 7,000 citizens. That sounds like a worthy cause, but a review of actual projects funded by REAP provides reason for some skepticism, especially given other needs in a tough budget environment. In the 2014

  • Town hall helps show why Tom Coburn is so popular in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Aug 6, 2014

    WATCHING Sen. Tom Coburn interact during a town hall meeting this week, it was easy to understand why he’s so well liked in Oklahoma. And he offered a template for what a good politician should be. Coburn’s town hall Monday night at Oklahoma City Community College started on time. Attendees weren’t made to wait 10 or 15 minutes or longer for things to get under way, which is so common with politicians. The program was advertised to begin at 6. It did. Coburn was direct. There were no prepared remarks, only a few opening comments, including an explanation for why he’s leaving the Senate with two years remaining on his second term. “It really didn’t have anything to do with my health,” said Coburn, who is fighting

  • Reason to believe corrections reform bill may live again in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Aug 6, 2014

    IS a revival possible for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a corrections reform bill that’s mostly languished since being approved two years ago? There’s reason to believe the answer is yes. Gov. Mary Fallin’s office put a Harvard graduate student to work this summer and charged him with reviewing JRI and producing recommendations going forward. The student, Adam Luck, is a year shy of his master’s degree in public policy. He returned to his home state as part of a fellowship offered by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Luck noted that the governor’s office could have had him work on any number of initiatives. “They chose JRI,” he said last week, shortly after presenting his report to the

  • Allowing guns on college campuses in Oklahoma is a bad idea

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Aug 5, 2014

    BAD ideas live forever at the state Capitol. Such is the case with renewed interest in allowing concealed weapons on Oklahoma’s college campuses. Higher education leaders have vehemently and consistently opposed this idea. So has The Oklahoman. Far be it from lawmakers to take no for an answer. Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, are leading an interim study on the issue. They say the state needs to look at “the facts” and at best practices for allowing concealed weapons on campus. We can’t help but wonder why the fact that the higher education community is united in its opposition to this idea is completely ignored.

  • Medicaid expansion hype meeting funding reality

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Aug 4, 2014

    THOSE who support expansion of Oklahoma’s Medicaid program often claim it will increase health care access and treatment. In reality, Medicaid’s financial problems are already leading officials to ration health care treatment nationally, even if this means that people are denied prompt access to life-saving cures. Consider Gilead Sciences’ revolutionary new treatment for hepatitis C, Solvaldi. The 12-week treatment has been shown to cure the virus in 90 percent of patients, if not more. Given that hep C, a blood-borne disease of the liver, kills 80,000 people annually, this is big news. But the treatment costs $84,000. That’s a bargain compared to the lifetime costs of treating a chronic disease. A liver transplant

  • Corrections system audit provides some advice for Oklahoma lawmakers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Aug 4, 2014

    A new audit of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections identifies several ways DOC officials could make better use of limited funds. Its broader message is a warning about the growing problems created by legislative actions — and inaction. “Our recommendations can go only so far toward addressing the serious and urgent correctional issues facing our state,” wrote state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones.

  • As usual, Social Security-Medicare trustees issue call for action

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Aug 3, 2014

    THE trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare are running out of ways to say that changes to the systems are badly needed. Or perhaps they’ve just given up trying. In their report two years ago, trustees said lawmakers “should not delay addressing the long-run financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare. If they take action sooner rather than later, more options and more time will be available to phase in changes so that the public has adequate time to prepare.” They did little more than copy and paste their conclusion in the 2014 report, issued last week. Lawmakers should “address the financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare as soon as possible,” they said.

  • On third-grade reading, 'one test' never the deciding factor

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Aug 3, 2014

    IN 2011, state lawmakers voted to require third-graders to repeat a grade if they read at a first-grade level or lower. But with that mandate set to take effect this year, lawmakers buckled and reversed course, declaring “one test on one day” should not have such consequence. But retention was never based on one test on one day, as new figures from school districts prove. In the Oklahoma City school district, 998 students failed the state reading test. Sixty-seven were exempted from the retention mandate because they spoke English as a second language and had less than two years of English instruction. Another 67 were exempted because they were students with disabilities. Another 79 students passed an alternative reading

  • ScissorTales: Oklahoma wise to embrace water reuse, conservation strategies

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sat, Aug 2, 2014

    OKLAHOMA received a rare blessing this week — drenching July rains and unseasonable temperatures. Ponds and streams are looking better as a result, including in western parts of the state that have been especially hard hit by three years of drought. The extended dry spell prompted a bill, approved by the Legislature this year, to help cities and towns stretch their water supplies through reuse and conservation. It directs the state Department of Environmental Quality to lead the way and establish rules and permitting requirements for projects. State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, who sponsored the bill with Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, told stateline.org that Oklahoma faces water challenges “not just today but looking

  • Tech industry being made to rebut 'diversity' canard

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Aug 1, 2014

    THOSE who worship at the altar of diversity have newfound scripture with which to spread their gospel. And they have the most appropriate means to transmit it: social media. Recent reports on employment diversity in the high-tech industry reveal that companies such as Twitter and Facebook are dominated by employees who are mostly white and male. Particularly of note is the scarcity of Hispanic and black employees in the Silicon Valley workforce. Yet Asians are strongly represented in this workforce, a fact ignored by the quota cult. One guru of that movement, of course, is the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is demanding government intervention.

  • Growing use of telemedicine helps Oklahoma deliver mental health care

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Aug 1, 2014

    STATISTICS related to mental health in Oklahoma are discouraging. Turning them around is a daunting task. Telemedicine is helping make a dent. Oklahoma is a big state that can use more doctors in every field. Certainly that’s the case in mental health. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation placed Oklahoma among the bottom 10 states for the population’s access to mental health professionals (Kaiser found only one state, Rhode Island, with enough mental health workers). However, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services makes considerable use of video-conferencing technology to deliver services across the state. The agency oversees 141 telemedicine sites through its Oklahoma TeleHealth

  • Ethics issues muddled in Tulsa County DA race

    Published: Thu, Jul 31, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Supreme Court says state Rep. Fred Jordan is eligible to run for Tulsa County district attorney. This is an instance where the letter of the law may have been upheld, but citizens may reasonably suspect the spirit of the law is being violated. Article V, Section 23, of the Oklahoma Constitution reads in part: “No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office…” Two of the three candidates who filed to run for Tulsa County district attorney are members of the Legislature: Jordan, R-Jenks, and Sen. Brian

  • Paul Ryan presents reasonable, conscientious plan to fight poverty

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 31, 2014

    U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan wants Washington to try something different to help Americans who live in poverty. His sensible welfare reform plan is one that conservatives ought to embrace. That doesn’t mean they will. The proposal unveiled late last week is revenue neutral, which helps explain why Democrats didn’t immediately dismiss it but also why some conservative groups that demand less government spending have been muted in their response. Ryan, R-Wis., would like to see 11 federal antipoverty programs consolidated into “Opportunity Grants” that states could use to fit their needs. Those requesting help would have to meet work requirements and could collect benefits for a set amount of time. Washington Post

  • Smart meter health, privacy claims out of sync with the truth

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 30, 2014

    OTHER than its love affair with Obamacare, it’s sometimes hard to tell what the AARP is for. We know all too well what the organization is against. It’s always against rate hikes sought by regulated utilities such as OG&E and PSO, Oklahoma’s largest providers of electricity. So it was no surprise that AARP is leading the charge against PSO’s plan to put smart meters on the homes of customers. PSO is seeking $3.11 per month from residential customers to recover the costs of installing more than 500,000 smart meters in its service territory, which includes the Tulsa and Lawton areas. AARP’s opposition is based primarily on the rate increase.

  • Medicaid expansion not a quick fix for mental health services

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014

    RECENT news stories that underscore Oklahoma’s poor mental health statistics have turned up the volume on calls for the state to expand Medicaid. Additional funding would certainly help, but it’s a stretch to suggest that Medicaid expansion is a panacea. Oklahoma has gotten where it is today as a result of legislators treating mental health with a shrug, year after year. In this respect Oklahoma is no different than most states, which also are scrambling for solutions. An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from serious mental illness. Oklahoma has nearly 33,000 adults diagnosed with untreated severe bipolar disorder, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

  • Impact of term limits often overstated

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014

    TO critics, legislative terms limits have devastated Oklahoma’s political system by reducing institutional memory among lawmakers, generating high turnover and increasing the clout of lobbyists. New research by the Oklahoma Policy Institute undermines these claims. In 1990, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that limited lawmakers to serving no more than 12 years in the state House and/or Senate combined. The clock started ticking in 1992, so 2004 was the first year that lawmakers were forced out of office by term limits. OK Policy has collected and analyzed data on the years of service of Oklahoma legislators going back to 1978. Its findings will surprise many. In 1978, the average tenure

  • Rob Neu set to tackle major challenges in Oklahoma City Public Schools

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 28, 2014

    ROB Neu, superintendent of the Oklahoma City school district since July 1, is days away from the start of the 2014-15 school year. With any beginning there’s hope for the future. Neu’s refreshing attitude provides reason for cautious optimism. In a meeting last week with The Oklahoman’s editorial board, Neu discussed his efforts to address logistical challenges in the district as well as set aspirational goals. One immediate problem is the challenge of filling teacher vacancies, which recently totaled 148. Currently, individual principals oversee hiring. Neu plans to centralize hiring in a district human resources office and shift the primary focus of principals to instructional leadership. He also vows the teacher

  • With wind farms, property rights issues deserve careful review

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 28, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Corporation Commission is in the early stages of addressing a thorny issue: At what point does economic activity on one piece of property infringe upon the rights of neighboring property owners? At issue is whether the state should impose new regulations on wind turbines. This issue warrants careful review without a rush to judgment. For many property owners in rural areas, leasing their land to wind power companies provides additional income, allowing them to enjoy a better quality of life. Few would condemn those who make money through honest means. In most cases, such leases would simply be viewed as a transaction that mutually benefits both parties. The problem with wind turbines, however, is that

  • Highway funding sure to remain a dominant issue in the years ahead

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 27, 2014

    A graphic image of fuel consumption by type of vehicle bears a strange resemblance to geological strata, from which the fuel originates. Layer upon layer, the graphic shows the dips and swells of fuel consumption starting in 1995, which was two years after federal fuel taxes were last increased. Fuel tax receipts relate directly to the dips and swells of road and bridge conditions because the Highway Trust Fund depends on the sediment of steady deposits, which in turn depends on gasoline consumption levels. The trust fund’s solvency is an ongoing issue, with layer upon layer of proposed long-term solutions, quick fixes and political posturing.

  • Compassion central to Oklahoma City's homeless strategies

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 27, 2014

    MORE American cities are trying to alleviate problems associated with homelessness by passing ordinances that crack down on the homeless, USA Today reported recently. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty said that more than half the 187 cities it surveyed have laws that restrict or prohibit sitting or lying down in public. That’s a 43 percent increase since 2011. Laws that prohibit living in vehicles have increased by 119 percent. Dan Straughan, executive director of Oklahoma City’s Homeless Alliance, read the story and posted it to his Facebook page. Why? “Mainly to say the great thing about working in Oklahoma City on these kinds of issues is that we just don’t do that.” Oklahoma City has an