GOV. Mary Fallin recently made waves when her office noted that A-F grading of public schools was the law. She said school officials needed to accept that reality. Fallin's detractors feigned outrage, arguing that the governor is hypocritical since she has resisted Obamacare, which is also the law of the land. Baloney!
The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, but it also allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion. In declining to expand Medicaid, Fallin didn't violate the law; she operated within its parameters as defined by the courts.
The successful Insure Oklahoma program was slated for elimination under Obamacare. Fallin fought to preserve it, eventually winning a federal reprieve. President Barack Obama repeatedly promised that “if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it,” but it was Fallin who actually fought to make that promise a partial reality in Oklahoma by preserving Insure Oklahoma.
There are other distinctions worth noting. In supporting A-F grades for schools, Fallin is endorsing a simple proposition: Some schools are academically better than others, and the public should have easy access to that information. On the other hand, Obamacare is based on the idea that government officials should overhaul a major share of the national economy in a way that disrupts millions of people's lives, drives up costs, reduces access to health care and continues to leave millions uninsured.
Those are two very different propositions. The hypocrisy hunters need to train their fire on another target.
Former Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Ivan Holmes, now running for state superintendent, doesn't like the A-F grading of public schools. In a press release, Holmes declared that if the A-F grading system being used by the state had been in place when he was in school, he “probably would not have made it out of the third grade.” That seems less an indictment of A-F school grades than of Holmes' fitness for public office or most entry level jobs. Tacitly suggesting you don't have a true third-grade education is unlikely to inspire voter confidence. But Holmes' bizarre attack is hardly unique among status-quo proponents in education. Researchers at OU and OSU recently proclaimed A-F school grades were invalid partly because public schools had such little effect on student learning (we kid you not). It makes one wonder: Is there any line of attack these guys reject because “that might make us look foolish”?
A new state law is changing early voting in Oklahoma's state and federal elections. It's a good move that will reduce the chance for complications on Election Day. Instead of allowing early voting on the Friday/Monday before an election, early voting will now occur on the prior Thursday/Friday (and Saturdays for state and federal elections). It's important that county election board officials have the Monday before an election free, so they can focus fully on preparation instead of having to run early voting and conduct those preparations at the same time. The logistics of running an efficient statewide election are never easy. To reduce distractions facing workers one day in advance is reasonable. The new law maintains citizens' early voting access, but also makes it more likely that election officials can run a glitch-free Election Day. Lawmakers deserve praise for making this practical adjustment.
The race is on
Republican Gov. Mary Fallin finally has someone to run against next year, for whatever that's worth. This week, R.J. Harris of Norman announced he had established a campaign committee. Harris, 40, has twice run unsuccessfully — once as a Republican, once as an independent — for the U.S. House seat held by Tom Cole, R-Moore, and in 2012 sought the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination. He'll seek the governor's job as a Democrat, which pleases the head of the state Democratic Party, Wallace Collins. Collins had been trying to produce a candidate, perhaps out of concern that if no one stepped up, he would have to serve as Fallin's foil. Instead it'll be Harris. “It's just not a true and legitimate government that gets elected in 2014 if we don't have a choice,” he said. Spunk? Harris has it. A chance of winning? Nope.
Shaking things up
In response to a recent spate of earthquakes in central Oklahoma, state Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, plans to file legislation next year requiring insurance companies to tell consumers whether their policy includes earthquake coverage. “I've heard from too many constituents who have had property damaged by an earthquake that when they tried to file a claim, they found out that their policy doesn't cover earthquake damage,” Shelton said. How about this idea? What say the Legislature mandate that everyone have earthquake insurance and if they don't buy it, they get penalized? And these policies could cover pre-existing damage from the big quake of 2011. On second thought, forget about it. Who would ever go for a scheme like that?
An odd proposal
State Rep. Joe Dorman is making a splash in his final year at the Legislature. Dorman, D-Rush Springs, who is term-limited after 2014, has garnered much publicity with his push to build safe rooms in every public school, a laudable goal. Another Dorman proposal is very much on the odd side — let prisoners on Oklahoma's death row (there are 55 presently) donate their organs just before they're executed. He suggests anesthetizing condemned inmates, removing the organs to be donated, and then having the inmates kept on life support until they are executed. Dorman says his proposal should be a winner with the many legislators who defend the sanctity of life. We're not so sure. And it's certainly not appealing to the cash-strapped Department of Corrections or the nonprofit group that oversees the state's organ donor registry. The head of that group called it a “potential disaster.” It's the sort of bill that should be rejected the moment it is filed.
Want mustard on that?
A case before the Missouri Supreme Court could impact the way Rumble or Pistol Pete or Boomer and Sooner interact with fans of their teams. Missouri's high court is looking at a case in which a fan at a Kansas City Royals game was struck in the eye by a foil-wrapped hot dog thrown by the Royals' mascot, Sluggerrr. The man, 53, had to have two surgeries to repair damage to the eye, and says his vision is worse than when he got hit in September 2009. A lower court said the man should have been aware of what was going on around him that day, but an appeals court in January said he shouldn't have expected to get hit by a hot dog. No offense to the plaintiff, but here's hoping he strikes out before the high court. Otherwise fans everywhere will lose because college and pro teams will certainly be forced to rethink their entertainment options.