OKLAHOMANS who obey the law by purchasing auto insurance should cheer Insurance Commissioner John Doak's support for an effort to punish those who don't.
Doak, a Republican, is backing legislation by Rep. Mike Christian and Sen. David Holt, both Oklahoma City Republicans, that could cost drivers their license plates if they don't have liability insurance. Drivers would be given a temporary sticker for their vehicle and be fined each day until insurance is bought and verified. The bills also would increase fines for driving while uninsured and create administrative fees for uninsured drivers. Revenue from the fees would go to law enforcement and to pay for the state temporary insurance plan.
Doak's agency estimates there are about 560,000 uninsured drivers in Oklahoma. They cost the state nearly $9 million in unpaid insurance premium taxes each year, but “those millions of dollars are just the beginning,” he said.
We're among those who've criticized Doak for hiring practices and for spending $170,000 to outfit his anti-fraud unit with shotguns, body armor and police-style vehicles. He's on target, though, in trying to reduce the number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma. This is a long-standing problem, one that's understandably frustrating for the many who do follow the law.
Making words count
Gov. Mary Fallin's latest State of the State speech ran 4,750 words. It took 50 minutes to deliver, including applause. In comparison, President Barack Obama's second inaugural speech was 2,095 words. Obviously, we found far more to like in Fallin's speech than in Obama's, but we would note that brevity and clarity are virtues in public speaking. President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is around 275 words. The Declaration of Independence is roughly 1,300. Martin Luther King's “I have a dream” speech is about 1,650 words. Even Winston Churchill's stirring “we shall fight on the beaches” speech in 1940 was shorter than Fallin's — approximately 3,950 words. Audience members can hear the best speeches just once and quote specific lines by memory, while other speeches are remembered not for what was said, but for the feeling of audience relief when they finally concluded. Strunk & White's famous composition advice also applies to speeches: Omit needless words.
Difficult to understand?
Although his colleagues insist he's an intelligent legislator, House Democratic Leader Scott Inman's typical method of operation is to act deliberately dense. This week the Del City Democrat noted Gov. Mary Fallin's tax cut would reduce annual state revenue over $100 million and that only an additional $170 million is available this budget year. When you throw in the spending increases endorsed by the governor, Inman insisted, “We simply don't see how the math adds up.” Here's how: The tax cut affects only half the fiscal — not calendar — year, reducing revenue $40.7 million for the budget year and leaving $129 million for increases. House Democrats could make a serious argument against Fallin's tax cut. Instead, Inman pretends he doesn't know the difference between the calendar and fiscal years. House Democrats want to regain legislative clout. They won't get it the way Inman is going about it.
It ain't working, Scott
Inman's hectoring about fiscal responsibility apparently doesn't apply to the government his party runs in Washington. In his taxpayer-funded press release on the State of the State speech, the minority leader says not a word about the fiscal insanity taking place under the leadership of Barack Obama and U.S. Senate Democrats. Yet he did manage to borrow lines from the Obama script in invoking class envy, saying he hopes the governor recognizes that an “ethical government meets the needs of all its people, and not just the most privileged few.” The Republican tax cut proposal would save money for most Oklahoma taxpayers; GOP economic development plans would create or save jobs, not just for “the most privileged few” but for middle-class citizens as well as for those who the pay the most taxes. Class warfare arguments haven't been working for Oklahoma Democrats, so we question why Inman keeps making them.
Did that Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper cite you for speeding because you were endangering others or because he's hoping to get a raise? It's a valid question, given that the formula the OHP uses to evaluate its troopers is based partly on the number of tickets issued and arrests made. A spokesman for the department told the Tulsa World that the goals are tied to public safety. We're all for that. But we share concerns mentioned by some troopers and an attorney that such a formula can serve to take discretion out of the equation. Not to mention it just doesn't feel right. As one trooper said: “I think it's detrimental to the way that the public sees me.”
Not much luck
Justin Jones' plea for help went nowhere with the governor's office. Jones, head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, asked for an additional $66.7 million for the next fiscal year to help deal with prison crowding and to try to boost pay for his workers. Gov. Mary Fallin's proposed budget includes just a $1 million bump for the DOC, and Fallin didn't devote even a sentence about corrections in her State of the State speech. Perhaps that's because she signed a prison reform bill last year. But there's been little buy-in from the groups involved in making that plan work. Fallin's budget chief suggested that Jones is overstating his needs. Few agency heads ever get all the money they ask for, nor do they expect to. But there's no overstating the fact that our prisons are bumping up against capacity and will continue to do so, creating a dangerous situation for workers and inmates.
Making a difference
Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity won't have to worry about securing materials for the next three dozen or so houses it builds. Malarkey Roofing Products is donating the materials for 40 roofs — a gift worth about $120,000. The first roof was installed this week. Malarkey, based in Portland, Ore., opened a plant on S Council Road in 2012. Plant manager Jay Kreft says the company has long supported Habitat for Humanity, which provides homeowner opportunities to low-income people. “We just look forward to giving back to the community that has been so generous and open to us coming here as a new manufacturer,” Kreft said. It's a generous gift, one that'll be put to good use by an organization that's been lifting people up in the Oklahoma City area for 25 years.
The wrong approach
The state's Quality Jobs Act provides tax rebates to companies that build or expand in Oklahoma, provided they meet certain payroll, wage and benefit criteria. State Rep. Eric Proctor wants to add a quota system to the mix. A bill by Proctor, D-Tulsa, would require that military veterans comprise at least 10 percent of a company's new hires if it wants to get Quality Jobs Act benefits. “It is my sincere hope that the Legislature will be able to put our troops and their families before politics and any special-interest groups who stand in the way of jobs for our veterans,” Proctor proclaimed this week. We're all for helping the men and women who have gone off to war. But mandating that a company hire X amount of any class is wrong. And in this case, it suggests that new or expanding companies are actively working not to hire veterans. This bill should be shelved.