A state audit of the Emergency Medical Services Authority should grab the attention of EMSA's oversight board — and indeed of taxpayers who help fund the ambulance service.
The report this week confirmed what had been reported in media accounts — namely, that CEO Steve Williamson and others at EMSA have spent lavishly through the years on travel, accommodations and in other areas. The audit report labeled the spending not as illegal but as inappropriate.
The audit, which was requested by the EMSA board, looked at agency spending from January 2009 to June 2012. During that time, Williamson was reimbursed for more than $400,000 in expenses; more than half of those involved no board oversight. Among the reimbursements: $669 for room service and a $415 spa bill. What sort of work on behalf of EMSA merits such extravagance?
State Auditor Gary Jones said the board has “unintentionally fostered a culture of acquiescence in which officers and employees are permitted to establish inappropriate patterns of expenditure behavior and fail to disclose potential conflicts of interest, unbeknown to members of the board.”
Simply put: The board was asleep at the switch. This has to change.
No to secession
The creation of a States' Rights Committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives prompted some to wonder if lawmakers were going to play footsie with the secessionist movement that's arisen largely via online petitions. Fortunately, that isn't the case. State Rep. Lewis Moore, the Arcadia Republican who chairs the committee, says secession won't be considered in any “way, shape or form.” Thank goodness for small favors. The secession movement is nonsense. The best way for conservatives to respond to the disappointing results of the 2012 election is to redouble their efforts to win the next one. In Oklahoma, that means advancing conservative policies that provide an effective counterpoint to President Barack Obama's anti-economic growth, anti-personal freedom agenda — not by proclaiming we don't want to be Americans anymore. If Republicans make the right policy moves, it will be Democrats talking about secession in 2017.
Ironic, don't you think?
This year Oklahoma legislators have filed 2,378 bills and 77 joint resolutions — 2,455 in all. That was up by about 200 compared with last year. According to the 2012 Session in Review and 2003 Session Highlights reports produced by state House fiscal staff, the number of bills and joint resolutions filed this year was the most since 2009. More notably, this year's total is the second-highest in the past 20 years. Filing legislation isn't the same thing as passing laws; only about 400 measures are typically signed by the governor each year. Still, it is ironic that a Legislature with Republican supermajorities has shown such a strong desire to pass new laws. One has to hope many of these bills are repealers, not new law. If not, given that big Democratic majorities in 1993 got by with just 1,475 measures, shouldn't small-government Republicans be able to do the same?
Hard to argue
William Marotta is being sued by the state of Kansas for child support. Marotta is in this predicament because he answered a Craigslist ad from a lesbian couple seeking a sperm donor. The couple didn't use a doctor in the insemination process, which would have freed Marotta from future liabilities. Since then, the women have gone their separate ways. One has sought public assistance for her and the child, prompting authorities to track down the biological father. The case raises numerous thorny legal issues, but it's hard to argue with Kansas state Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce's view that it “tells everybody don't do stupid things on Craigslist. It's kind of common sense. If you're going to create another life, even if it's a good intention, that's a heck of a responsibility, and it's one that precedes any sort of state action.”
Climate every mountain
Mitt Romney got a chuckle at the Republican National Convention when he mocked Barack Obama's 2008 promise that future generations could look back at his presidency as the time “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Obama's adoring fans weren't laughing. They turned the remarks back on Romney, oblivious to the fact that candidate Obama's high-sounding words had no connection to reality. Nevertheless, Obama promised that the weather would be warmer at his second inaugural than his first. It was. An Associated Press writer took this too seriously — and too subjectively for a news reporter: “While his policies can lessen or worsen future projected global warming in a large scale, they cannot do anything about Washington's daily temperature on Jan. 21.” Just how does one affect something that's not necessarily happening but is “projected” to happen? Does far-reaching government policy change the thing or the projection of the thing? For Obama and his fans, there's no difference. He said it and that's all that matters.
It does make a difference
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't like being pressed this week about the different stories offered by the administration following September's terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate. “Was it because of a protest?” Clinton responded to a senator's query. “Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” That takes some gumption, suggesting it doesn't matter what triggered the attack — our ambassador and three others were killed — or what the administration knew and told the American people about it. Clinton spent much of her time suggesting breakdowns in security and other areas were the fault of others within the State Department. It was five hours of tap dancing. Soon she'll be leaving the job at State and may very well set her sights on the White House in 2016. If so, opponents are sure to bring Benghazi up again, and they should.
Teeing one up
Phil Mickelson drove one right down the middle, then asked for a mulligan. After completing a golf tournament last weekend, Mickelson said “drastic changes” were in store for him as a result of new state and federal tax laws. He hinted that he might even move from his native California, where in November voters approved a proposition that bumped the state income tax rate to 13.3 percent on earnings of $1 million or more. “If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate is 62, 63 percent,” Mickelson said. He apologized a few days later, saying he shouldn't have gone public with his opinions about finances and taxes. Why not? No doubt millions of Americans — not just the very wealthy — share his sentiment that more and higher taxes can make a person blue.