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Oklahoma lawmakers unlikely to address plight of medical examiner's office

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: May 15, 2012

MAYBE the state medical examiner's office should have lost its national accreditation a few years earlier, instead of in 2009. If that embarrassment had come to pass in 2006, when the state had a billion dollar budget surplus, then perhaps the ME today would have the new office it needs to regain that accreditation.

Then again, maybe not. Planning ahead has never been the Legislature's strong suit. The medical examiner's office was a problem in 2006 and for many years before that, but lawmakers had other priorities at the time, as they always seem to.

It took the death of a motorist traveling on Interstate 35 to get lawmakers to finally realize that, yes, our roads and bridges were awful, just as national studies had been saying for years. Until that woman was killed in 2004 by a chunk of concrete that fell from a bridge and smashed through her windshield, the Legislature was content to fund the Department of Transportation at the same level it had for the previous 20 years.

A longtime topic of conversation at the Capitol has been fixing all that ails the building — from the heating/air conditioning to the plumbing to the balky elevators. Only when some exterior pieces started chipping away did any sense of urgency accompany those conversations. Now lawmakers are actually considering using a bond issue to overhaul the place.

That may be the only bond issue winner this session, because conservatives who control the House and Senate are opposed to adding to the state's bond indebtedness for anything else. They aren't swayed by the idea that bond rates are at record lows, or that it's better to pay for infrastructure upgrades this way than it is to try to pay for them in a lump sum, or that bond indebtedness is needed to gain higher scores from rating agencies — and in turn make it less expensive for the state to borrow money.

Fixing up the Capitol via a bond issue is palatable, members say, because it is “the peoples' building.” Nice catchphrase. What these members fail to recognize, or simply choose not to, is that every state office building is “the peoples' building” — they were built with taxpayer funds.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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