- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A collection of recent editorials from Oklahoma newspapers:

Norman Transcript, Dec. 16 - The Oklahoma Supreme Court has paved the way for repairs to begin on our crumbling state Capitol building.

It’s now time to begin addressing the decades of neglected maintenance and repairs that come with any century-old building. Visitors, state employees and elected officials have had to endure the inconveniences of leaky pipes, faulty wiring and barricades around entrances.

It’s also an embarrassment to Oklahomans who want to take their families and friends to the Capitol but are greeted at the entrance by crime scene tape that detours them from the front steps.

Lawmakers should now turn their attention to another nearby repair project: the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum along the Oklahoma River at Eastern Avenue.

The lingering project needs another $80 million to complete, with $40 million pledged from private interests, as long as the state comes up with $40 million.

Construction on the museum began in 2006 and funding hurdles have slowed completion. It’s now costing the state thousands of dollars a month just to provide security and upkeep on the grounds.

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Tulsa World, Dec. 24 - When the 114th Congress convenes on Jan. 6, one of its first jobs should be to renew a government-backed terrorism insurance program for private businesses.

It’s a task that the 113th Congress could and should have resolved, but didn’t.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, insurance coverage against terrorism dried up. As you can image, anyone looking to build a skyscraper or host a major sporting event would be in a very dicey financial position without that sort of insurance.

To prevent the U.S. real estate and hospitality sectors from becoming victims to the threat of terrorism, Congress created the national terrorism insurance program, which protects insurance companies against catastrophic losses.

Congress has twice renewed the program, but this year it ran into difficulties, with Republicans demanding that the government’s exposure be scaled back.

A reasonable compromise was worked out that would have extended the program for six years, increased the exposure of insurance companies to 20 percent (from 15 percent) and raised the trigger for government response to $200 million (from $100 million).

But on the final day of the 113th Congress, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn blocked consideration of the bill. CNN reported that Coburn didn’t object to the terrorism insurance portion of the bill, but to a rider creating a federal bureaucracy built to license insurance agents. Coburn wanted an opt-out provision for states, and he disagreed with the length of the extension.

With the House of Representatives already adjourned for the year, no changes to the bill were possible. The Senate gave up and went home. The federal program will end on Dec. 31.

Now the legislative process must start over from the beginning. What is needed is clear - a clean, quick bill that protects the economy - the ability of Congress to do that will be an early test of its ability to set rhetoric aside and deal with national priorities.

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The Oklahoman, Dec. 24 - A decision by a federal judge in Oklahoma City has the state Department of Corrections moving forward with preparations to execute a man on Jan. 15. It will be the first execution carried out in Oklahoma in nine months - if it happens, which isn’t a certainty.

Attorneys for 21 death row inmates who sued the state plan to take Monday’s ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. It’s unknown how soon that court might take up the case, which stems from the mishandled execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29.

In that instance, Lockett didn’t die until 43 minutes after the execution began. In the time before the blinds to the execution chamber were closed, Lockett could be seen writhing on the gurney, grimacing and tensing up.

A state investigation into the execution found that an improperly placed IV in Lockett’s groin was the biggest factor leading to problems. The investigation also noted a lack of training, proper equipment and contingency plans. The DOC subsequently changed its execution protocol to address concerns cited by the state.

What it hasn’t changed is the three-drug mixture used during executions. Administering the sedative midazolam at the start of the procedure was a chief topic during arguments before U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot. Two doctors who testified for the plaintiffs said the effects of midazolam tend to plateau at some point, regardless of the dosage. Oklahoma plans to use 500 milligrams in future executions; it used 100 milligrams on Lockett.

Attorneys for the state said they would prefer to use another drug, such as pentobarbital or sodium thiopental. They have become scarce because their manufacturers won’t sell them for use in executions, and because pharmacies that can mix them are reluctant to draw the ire of anti-death penalty groups.

Coincidentally, Arizona’s corrections director said this week his department will no longer use the combination of midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. Instead it will try to obtain pentobarbital or sodium thiopental. Arizona had an execution in July that lasted nearly two hours.

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