We've written recently about the challenges moderate Republicans are facing from the more conservative elements in the party. At the national level, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and Utah's Orrin Hatch are perhaps the two best examples. In our state Legislature, some solid Republicans have drawn challenges from opponents who say they're not conservative enough. But this isn't a Republican-only phenomenon. In Pennsylvania, two Blue Dog Democratic incumbents lost their primary races on Super Tuesday to progressive challengers. One of the winners had attacked the incumbent for opposing Obamacare. A fellow Blue Dog is U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, who after four terms chose not to seek re-election. It's doubtful the centrist Boren would have lost in a primary, but his prospects in November weren't as rosy.
State Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, has come in for criticism on this page more than once in recent years due to some of her off-base remarks and actions in the House. This time we come not to criticize but to salute her for House Bill 2521, which was signed recently by the governor. The bill redefines free clinics as charitable clinics and, most importantly, limits liability for the doctors and other health care workers who donate their time at those facilities. “This change in statute will ensure health care volunteers are protected from liability in both free and low-cost clinics,” Kern said. Her bill stands to make a positive impact by helping low-income Oklahomans, and won't cost the state anything. Well done.
We can thank the Sierra Club and the Environmental Protection Agency for cleaning up the air by putting so much pressure on utilities to stop making power with coal that coal-fired plants are being “voluntarily” shuttered. Oh, you can also thank them for the higher bills coming your way due to the lack of diversity in the choice of fuels to make electricity. Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, which serves the Tulsa area, is caving on an EPA crackdown on coal-caused emissions. OG&E, which serves Oklahoma City, remains committed to fighting an EPA mandate related to coal plants. Electric bills are going up no matter how this plays out, but does it make sense to shut out an abundant, domestic source of energy? Price aside, diversity seems prudent in this area. Still, Oklahoma may have a net gain from current trends: It has a lot more natural gas than it does coal.
The attorney for one of the candidates claiming victory in this month's contested House District 71 election says time is of the essence in resolving the dispute. Really? The seat has been vacant since December, when former Rep. Dan Sullivan bailed out to become head of the Grand River Dam Authority. Republican Katie Henke and Democrat Dan Arthrell are tussling over who won the April 3 election, which had a razor-thin margin first for Arthrell, then for Henke, and now involves once-missing ballots that could sway the result again. Henke's attorney told the state Supreme Court that voters in the Tulsa-area district need representation during the final month of the session. That's “crunch time” in approving a budget and dealing with other important issues, he said. And he's right. But expecting Henke or Arthrell to be able to get up to speed and really contribute to that pro-cess is a stretch.