• 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

  • Scissortales: Oklahoma's three “national parks”

    The Oklahoma Editorials | Published: Sat, Jul 26, 2014

    MORE than 1.1 million visitors spent $17.2 million and supported 176 jobs at Oklahoma’s three national parks in 2013. Didn’t know Oklahoma had any national parks? We don’t, at least not by that name. The above figures from the National Park Service relate to NPS-affiliated sites in Cheyenne, the Sulphur area and Oklahoma City. The first is a national battlefield historic site, the second is a national recreation area and the third is a national memorial. Only the second comes close to being a park in the traditional sense. Every state in the nation except Delaware has an NPS-affiliated site, but only about half the states have an actual national park.

  • Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission must conduct its work properly

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 25, 2014

    IT never ceases to amaze us how many public bodies seem to have no apparent interest in abiding by, or full awareness of, the state’s Open Meeting Act. The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission provides the latest example. Lawmakers created the commission in 2013 as part of a badly needed overhaul of the state’s workers’ compensation system. This new administrative system eventually will replace a court-based system that’s been used for decades to handle claims filed by injured workers. The governor appoints, with state Senate confirmation, the three members of the commission. By statute, all three must have experience in the workers’ compensation field.

  • Study shows right to work aids economic growth

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 25, 2014

    IN 2001, voters made Oklahoma a right-to-work state and ended compulsory unionism as a condition of employment. Evidence continues to mount validating the wisdom of that decision. In a report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Richard K. Vedder and Jonathan Robe conclude that right-to-work laws “add demonstrably to the material quality of people’s lives.” The apparent benefits of right-to-work laws are many. The authors note people have been migrating “in large numbers” from non-right-to-work states to right-to-work states. Economic growth is stronger in most right-to-work states. Personal incomes increase after passage of right-to-work laws, even after adjusting for “the substantial population growth that

  • GOP in Oklahoma neglecting pocketbook issues

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 24, 2014

    A new Rasmussen Reports poll is getting attention because it shows incumbent Republican Gov. Mary Fallin drawing just 45 percent support in her re-election bid. But a more important finding in the poll is that Oklahomans don’t feel good about the economy. Rassmussen found that just 15 percent of Oklahoma voters rate the economy as good or excellent, while 44 percent consider it in poor shape. In similar fashion, an Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey found Oklahomans are less optimistic about the economy than their national counterparts. There’s an obvious link between Fallin’s surprising standing and economic pessimism. Voters apparently feel Oklahoma’s political leaders have ignored dinner-table issues.

  • Pushing ahead with the work of educating Oklahoma's children

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 24, 2014

    THE debate over education reform doesn’t always capture the work happening at the community level to improve learning opportunities for children. We were given several reminders of that statement in recent days. There’s the story of Edgemere Elementary, which was once on the brink of closure but is now making a transformational change to improve the lives of students and families. Edgemere is the Oklahoma City school district’s first community school, with plans to provide extra services and support for families, aided by community partners. Sunbeam Family Services will provide a mental health counselor. Variety Care is helping the school set up a health clinic. Many more partners are in the pipeline to support

  • Gov. Mary Fallin looks to put distance between herself and Oklahoma schools superintendent

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 23, 2014

    MARY Fallin has never lost an election and is expected to keep that spotless record intact in November when she seeks a second term as governor. To be on the safe side, though, Fallin is putting as much distance as possible between herself and state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi. Barresi and Fallin have backed many of the same education reform ideas since the two won their respective posts in November 2010. Fallin has called repeatedly for ways to improve Oklahoma education. In her State of the State speech in January, she noted the importance of making sure third-graders are ready to move on when the time comes. “Too often, we set up children for failure by sending them on to higher grades without the reading skills

  • EPA regulations undermine 'clean air' rationale

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 23, 2014

    NEW “clean air” regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency have been rightly derided as part of the Obama administration’s war on coal. But a new analysis indicates those regulations are arbitrary. And it suggests, ironically, that some states are being punished for having already moved away from coal. Writing at The Washington Post, Philip Wallach, a fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution, and Alex Abdun-Nabi, an intern in the Brookings Center for Effective Public Management, conclude, “States that have developed natural gas capacity are effectively penalized relative to those that have not, as the EPA expects them to achieve high utilization of their existing and

  • Oklahoma Democratic gubernatorial candidate's education plan doesn't add up

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 22, 2014

    POLITICS inevitably generates its share of flimflam, but campaign season puts it on steroids. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman’s “education plan” is the latest example. According to some analyses, Oklahoma funding for schools declined roughly $200 million between the 2008 and 2014 budget years, due to the national recession. Those analyses are misleading because they apparently don’t account for all sources of school funding. While education funding in the state budget drafted by lawmakers has fallen, schools also get hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked money provided outside the appropriations process. Also, the strong growth of local tax receipts, which are a major funding source for Oklahoma

  • Will push for legalization of pot aid Oklahoma U.S. Senate candidate's cause?

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 21, 2014

    STATE Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, hopes to become Oklahoma’s next U.S. senator even as she’s hitched her political wagon to the cause of marijuana legalization. We’ll soon know if Johnson’s fellow Democrats believe marijuana is the path to renewed electoral success in Oklahoma. Supporters have begun gathering signatures to place the proposed State Question 773 on the ballot. The measure would legalize possession of one ounce of marijuana for personal use and legalize possession of three ounces for “medical” use. It’s actually the second marijuana petition underway. Another one, launched by Oklahomans for Health, would legalize marijuana for supposed medical use (although it defines “medical”

  • Dam safety is a legitimate component of public safety

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 21, 2014

    THROUGH the heat of brutal summers and the paucity of rainfall, the focus on dams hasn’t been the dams themselves but on what’s behind them. Water levels dominate any attention paid to lakes and ponds. When levels fall, worry sets in about the ability to supply water to cities and farmers, and to offer recreational opportunities. For some state officials and professional engineers, though, water level isn’t the main focus. It’s the dams. This is something the rest of us take for granted, especially when rainfall is normal or lower. It was far above normal 125 years ago this summer in Johnstown, Penn., site of the deadliest dam failure in American history.

  • Oklahoma still has a long way to go on corrections reform

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 20, 2014

    OKLAHOMA got a nod last week from former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in an op-ed about the need for federal prison reform. Gingrich and co-author Pat Nolan included Oklahoma among a group of states that have adopted corrections reforms similar to those in Texas and South Carolina. It’s always nice to see the Sooner State cited in a positive vein, but Gingrich and Nolan (director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform) were being kind by including us. Oklahoma has implemented corrections reform in recent years, but it pales in comparison to what’s gone on in Texas or South Carolina. Changes in Texas have reduced the number of inmates there by 3 percent and resulted in prisons being closed.

  • In opposing education choice, Oklahoma lawmakers run counter to constitutents' wishes

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 20, 2014

    MANY Republican lawmakers in the 2014 legislative session opposed efforts to increase educational opportunities for students. In doing so, those lawmakers voted against the wishes of their constituents. A new poll of Oklahoma Republican primary voters, commissioned by the Oklahoma Federation for Children, shows overwhelming support for education savings accounts (ESAs), charter schools in rural communities, taxpayer scholarships for children with special needs to attend private schools, and tax breaks supporting scholarship programs that help needy children attend private schools. While the latter two proposals are currently state law, the first two items were rejected by Republican lawmakers this year.

  • Oklahoma Capitol repair project will take time, money

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sat, Jul 19, 2014

    GROUND was broken for the Oklahoma Capitol on July 20, 1914. Now, 100 years later, officials are preparing to start major repair work on that same structure. The project will be the biggest construction effort at NE 23 and Lincoln since the Capitol was built. This year lawmakers approved a $120 million bond to fund repairs. The exterior of the building is crumbling. So is the interior, including everything from walls to plumbing to electrical wiring. No one doubts the need to address those major structural issues. But Oklahomans should understand that this fix will take years and that the $120 million price tag is likely just a starting point. When Minnesota undertook a similar Capitol restoration project, it required $272.7

  • Many important issues included in Oklahoma interim studies

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 18, 2014

    AFTER the conclusion of each legislative session, lawmakers conduct studies to inform future policymaking. This summer, 141 such interim studies have been approved by the two chambers of the Legislature. Some are solid efforts; others are little more than legislative doodles. On the positive side is a study requested by Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, focused on requiring doctors to check an online database before writing narcotic prescriptions. Legislation to mandate doctor use of the database failed to become law this year because of physician opposition. Cox, an emergency room doctor, deserves credit for his continued effort to build support for the bill.

  • Abortion as trump card not so popular with Democrats today

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 18, 2014

    IN recent election cycles, Democrats have viewed abortion as a trump card. They accused anyone who opposed abortion of waging a “war on women.” It now appears some Democratic candidates are rethinking that tactic. Nationally, many major Democratic candidates support abortion rights and have no problem taking money from abortion-rights supporters. But don’t expect those candidates to draw any attention to the issue. They’ve noticed that voters often disagree with the campaign funding base of the national Democratic Party. Emily’s List, which raises money for Democratic women who support abortion rights, is the largest single contributor to four Southern candidates this year.

  • High court ruling means academic standards in Oklahoma could suffer

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of House Bill 3399, which grants politicians the power to rewrite academic standards for public schools. Even so, just because a law is constitutional doesn’t make it a good idea. The court deserves praise for deciding this case so quickly, because it partially reduces the uncertainty facing school districts. We hope the court acts just as swiftly to resolve a challenge to the gross production tax for oil and gas because uncertainly could also impact energy companies’ decisions when they set drilling budgets this fall. The plaintiffs who challenged HB 3399 also deserve praise. This legislation clearly involved unprecedented legislative intrusion into standards

  • Content, not quantity, is what makes Obama's unilateral initiatives unsettling

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 16, 2014

    IT’S the subjects, silly. Of all the robotic liberal responses to criticism of Barack Obama’s presidential executive actions, the most robotic of all came from Obama himself. He’s been quite stingy in the use of executive orders, the president said, and a threatened lawsuit against him regarding his unilateral initiatives will needlessly cost the taxpayers a lot of money to defend. Aha! Now we know that this president is concerned about saving the taxpayers money. His health care law certainly isn’t focused on that goal. Obamacare is a prime area in which executive actions have been used to change the law without the bother of getting congressional consent.