- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Here are excerpts of recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Journal Record, May 12, 2014

The way we discuss issues matters

A Libertarian website recently published a piece about the idea of the U.S. unilaterally giving up nuclear arms. In the comment section, someone called the U.S. government the most evil organization in world.

A Journal Record editor read that piece on April 19, 19 years after an American killed 168 of his fellow citizens in the bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Timothy McVeigh, one of the men who perpetrated that atrocity, would have approved of the thinking behind the comment.

Politics matter in our state and our nation. Elected executives, legislators and bureaucrats affect our daily lives. And, in some ways, they reflect and enforce our values as a society.

That’s why the way we discuss issues - and the people running our governments - matters. You may think Gov. Mary Fallin cares too much for short-term gains and not enough for poor people. You may think that President Barack Obama’s policies will cost jobs or slide our nation toward long-term decline.

Disagree with the policies, think about the values that drive them, and fight for what you think is right. Argue about how it affects your bank accounts, what will happen to the economy, or even the example it sets for young people.

But remember that when you say that a decision is immoral, or that a leader is evil, or that it might be time to exercise “a Second Amendment remedy” to affect change, those words can have consequences.

When you promote the idea that policies are made from vindictiveness, hidden anti-Americanism or soullessness, you lay a steppingstone on the path to violence, to the funerals of friends and co-workers, brothers and sisters, parents and children.

Vote. Write emails and make calls. Run for office. But argue for a higher purpose with a civil tongue. Lives depend on it.

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Tahlequah Daily Press, May 12, 2014

Fallin’s hissy-fit veto binge may cost her big time this fall

Gov. Mary Fallin’s “temper tantrum,” as it was dubbed last week by State Rep. Mike Brown, embarrassed members of her own party, and for good reason. If voters are savvy enough to understand the retaliatory nature of the vetoes she let fly, she may have blasted a hole in her own foot.

According to observers, Fallin’s hissy-fit stemmed from the Legislature’s refusal to pass her bill to establish charter schools, possibly in every county. Last month, she brought in Jeb Bush to bolster her agenda, and both played to the media at a successful charter school in Oklahoma City.

Bush did say one thing that made sense, though it’s so obvious it’s almost a no-brainer: “I don’t think Washington’s the place where the education system can be fixed or improved.” That’s true, but accepting Fallin’s charter school proposal isn’t necessarily sound policy, either. What works in Oklahoma City might not work in Tahlequah - and what works in Tahlequah might not work in Hulbert. That’s why local control and state control should be balanced when it comes to education.

Democrats, who traditionally support public education, were apprehensive. And though the Republican super-majority in the Legislature might normally applaud the charter school concept, in this case, they didn’t bite. That’s because the companies she wanted to oversee this behemoth project are all from somewhere other than Oklahoma. No self-respecting, pro-business Republican - especially one who supports rock-bottom tax breaks for corporations to entice them into the Sooner state - is going to back a move that exports a windfall across the border.

In an almost-unprecedented move, the two parties worked together to reject Fallin’s plank. She was quick to exact her revenge, rapping off 15 vetoes in record time - just a blink of an eye when compared to what Brown described as “hundreds of hours of work.”

The veto most outrageous to fellow Republicans was on a bill to shorten the waiting period on background checks certain firearms and peripherals. Fallin characterized this bill and others as “meaningless” in the face of more pressing business. And while there may indeed be more critical matters at hand, Fallin risked alienating legions of Second Amendment and gun loyalists, not to mention the NRA, with the stroke of her pen.

Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, Senate author of H.B. 2461, said the measure requires a sheriff or police chief to sign off quickly on applications for tax stamps for automatic weapons, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, silencers, suppressors and other items. And it sets a deadline of 15 days, if the buyer isn’t precluded from possessing a firearm.

Fallin explained her veto by saying, erroneously, that the bill attempted to control a federal agency - namely, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Since when has Fallin - or any person on the political right - developed a taste for licking the boots of the ATF?

The colossal blunder prompted the second historic action in a matter of days: It marked the first time the GOP-controlled Legislature overrode a Fallin veto. And they did it with the help of their Democratic colleagues. Perhaps voters will have longer memories than they usually do, because we need to send a few more grownups to Oklahoma City this fall.

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The Oklahoman, May 12, 2014

Recent court losses don’t mean Oklahoma’s voter ID law is on shaky ground

Voter identification laws have had a rough go of it in court recently. This has buoyed lawyers for a woman who’s challenging Oklahoma’s voter ID law, although our sense is the law will hold up to scrutiny.

In Wisconsin, a federal district judge struck down that state’s voter ID law, which was approved in 2011. Judge Lynn Adelman said the state failed to prove that voter fraud was a problem, and said Wisconsin’s law violates the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Wisconsin’s law requires voters to show a state-issued ID in order to cast a ballot. A voter who doesn’t have ID can apply for one at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Or if a voter doesn’t have proper ID at the polls, he can cast a provisional ballot and confirm his identity in person within a few days of the election.

Adelman said 300,000 registered Wisconsin voters (9 percent) didn’t have qualifying identification. Many of those live at or below the poverty line. “In practical terms, what this means is that they lack the time or resources needed to get a valid ID,” wrote Jamelle Bouie of Slate magazine. “If you work a low-wage job, odds are good that you can’t take time off to go to the DMV, and even if you could, you would need cash to obtain the documents you need to prove your identity, like a birth certificate or passport.”

The argument that voter ID laws exact the heaviest toll on minorities and the poor - traditionally Democratic constituencies - is at the heart of the Obama administration’s challenges to these laws, which are on the books in 31 states. Many of the laws have been added in the past few years. They haven’t diminished turnout among these demographic groups in the past two presidential elections. Indeed the opposite has occurred; somehow, people interested in voting have found a way to do so.

Nonetheless the voter ID law in Arkansas was deemed unconstitutional recently by a state judge, who stayed his order because he didn’t feel there was enough time to stop the state from using it for primary elections this month. Early voting for those elections began a week ago.

The Arkansas law allows a provisional ballot to be cast if a voter doesn’t have a photo ID. Provisional ballots are counted only if voters return by noon on the Monday following an election to show their ID. They also can sign an affidavit stating they’re indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed.

Oklahoma’s law provides more latitude. Voters need to present an unexpired state, federal or tribally issued ID, or they can show a valid voter identification card (provided free by county election boards). Voters without proper ID can cast a provisional ballot, which isn’t counted until the county election board verifies the person’s eligibility.

A Tulsa woman is challenging Oklahoma’s law, arguing it violates the state constitution’s requirement that elections “shall be free and equal” and that “No power, civil or military, shall ever interfere” to keep a person from voting.

Oklahoma’s law received 74 percent approval in a statewide referendum in 2010. Voters here clearly understand, and we believe the courts will too, that proper ID is needed for any number of everyday activities, but also that Oklahoma’s law doesn’t unlawfully burden or discriminate against anyone who wishes to take part in the privilege of casting a vote.