- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A collection of recent editorials from Oklahoma newspapers:

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The Oklahoman, May 31 - The recently concluded 2015 legislative session generated modest policy improvements, but no major breakthroughs. The budget shortfall was partly to blame, and all in all, things could have been much worse. But Oklahomans deserve better from a Legislature where Republicans hold supermajorities.

The policy change that stands to have the most immediate impact is also one of the simplest: a ban on texting while driving. Because Oklahoma citizens are mostly law-abiding, making texting behind the wheel illegal will cause fewer citizens to text when they drive. The deterrent effect will increase as people get tickets for not following the law.

By changing the statute, lawmakers will change behavior, which will save lives and reduce injuries. So passage of the ban is a victory, although it’s shocking it took lawmakers so long - six years - to catch up to public sentiment on this issue. …

Likewise, a law requiring doctors to occasionally check a prescription drug database before prescribing various highly addictive drugs is a small step in the right direction. Pharmacists must already log every new controlled dangerous substance prescription into the Prescription Monitoring Program. A similar law has long been sought for physicians to reduce “doctor shopping” that allows addicts to obtain mass quantities of narcotics. …

Lawmakers advanced other worthwhile health care proposals. They authorized use of nonintoxicating oil derived from marijuana in clinical trials for certain patients with severe forms of epilepsy. We’ve noted before this is a sensible proposal. …

Facing a $611 million shortfall, legislators produced a balanced budget, no easy task, although it relied on numerous gimmicks and one-time measures that increase the likelihood of another structural shortfall next year. More worrisome, the budget was unveiled and passed so quickly that few lawmakers had time to thoroughly review it, let alone the public. That frenzied pace opens the door to legitimate criticism and increases the chance that significant mistakes may occur during the process. …

One interesting development was approval of nitrogen gas for executions should lethal injections be declared unconstitutional or become unviable. Oklahoma may soon become the first state to try this new method, at which point we’ll learn if it was a good idea. …

Overall, the positive developments of this session appear less the product of focus than the result of lawmakers randomly throwing things at a wall to see what sticks. Let’s hope circumstances combine with improved legislative discipline to produce better results next year. …

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Tulsa World, June 2 - As disappointing as the news was of the delay of passenger train service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the plan still is alive.

It seems that enthusiasm in both cities got ahead of plans by Iowa Pacific Holdings. The original plan was to run the Eastern Flyer between Sapulpa and Midwest City and have buses pick up train passengers and deliver them to the downtowns in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City, which continues its forward-thinking, got ahead of the game by taking steps to outfit a downtown depot. A downtown station has been discussed by Tulsa officials and train enthusiasts, but that’s about all.

Watco Cos. owns the rail line between Sapulpa and Midwest City, but not the rails that connect those cities with the metro downtowns. That is why the shuttle service price was built into the ticket cost.

Iowa Pacific says it has a similar project in Indiana. The company says it wants to complete that work before returning to the Oklahoma project. It wasn’t clear as to why the Indiana project is favored over Oklahoma.

We hope it’s not due to any foot-dragging on the part of Tulsa officials as to finding a depot downtown. Acquisition or leasing of the lines connecting downtown from Sapulpa and Midwest City might be part of the cause for the delay.

Nevertheless, Iowa Pacific says the Oklahoma line will be completed, but it wants to do the it correctly. There is no reason to doubt its sincerity. It has made good on earlier promises.

We regret the delay, but remain optimistic of its completion. This down time might be a good time to begin serious work on a downtown depot.

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Enid News and Eagle, May 28 - A few months ago, we were praying for rain.

We’re grateful for our heaping helping of moisture since then. Now many farmers are wondering when the rain will stop with harvest looming.

In Garfield County, the Mesonet station at Breckinridge has recorded nearly 12 inches of rainfall in the last 30 days and more than 16 inches during the last two months.

While that’s a significant amount of rain, our area has experienced much more in the past.

Two years ago, we revisited Enid’s 1973 flood and asked if it could happen again.

Nine suffered fatalities in that record-setting storm. The official flood total was 15.68 inches in 13 hours, with 12 inches falling in one three-hour period, according to National Weather Service.

In 2003, we published a map showing three levels of flood hazard in Enid, based on current projections by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The map outlined an estimated 500-year event, which is considered to be similar to the 1973 flood.

There are some misconceptions about the 100-year and 500-year flood terms.

According to FEMA, a 100-year flood has a 1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded during any given year.

A 500-year flood magnitude has a 0.2 percent - 1 in 500 - chance of being exceeded in a year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

This amount of rain isn’t as rare as you might think. During 13 hours in 2010, Edmond received more than 12 inches of rain in a 500-year flood event.

Since Enid’s flood disaster more than four decades ago, city workers have done substantial channel maintenance. And the added Enid and Garfield County Emergency Management Office, headed by Mike Honigsberg, didn’t exist to provide lifesaving information 40 years ago.

Some chronic areas in the flood plain are still susceptible, but recent flooding issues could have been worse. We commend the city for stormwater detention ponds and clearing silt and brush.

We can’t stop Mother Nature, but Enid has made significant progress on flood protection.

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Tahlequah Daily Press, May 26 - Most Oklahomans would at least pay lip service to the belief that nothing is more important than our children. It’s puzzling, then, that when they get to the voting booth, they don’t hold legislators responsible for the deep and devastating cuts to education.

Be that as it may, almost everyone on both the left and the right sides of the spectrum would agree taking action to save a child’s life is the noble thing to do - even if that child later lacks the skills and training to land a lucrative job.

The life issue is exactly what legislators had in mind when they send HB 1902 to the governor’s desk. Despite repeated attempts at reform, society is becoming ever more litigious - to the point that would-be “Good Samaritans” with noble intent may opt to stand idly by when someone else is in jeopardy.

HB 1902 would protect against lawsuit any passerby who spotted a child in a locked vehicle and broke into the car to make a rescue. While Democrats presented the measure, most Republicans also saw the value in the bill - as well they should, because Republicans are usually the ones leading the charge against lawsuit reform.

While proponents might argue that breaking into a vehicle to save a child violates the spirit of established law, structures are in place to verify intent. The child has to be in danger, for one thing; a good example would be a child locked in a car during a hot summer’s day. A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s, and the temperature inside a car and shoot up 20 degrees in just a few minutes.

Unattended children could be in danger for other reasons. A child by himself in a locked car, in a dark alley in a bad part of town, might also fall under the Good Samaritan law. Good Samaritans would be held harmless from liability if the child had no reasonable way to exit the vehicle, and if the rescuer had a “good-faith belief” that forced entry is required because the child is in imminent danger. The Good Samaritan is also required to notify a law enforcement agency, fire department or 911 before implementing the break-in, and he must leave a note in the windshield explaining who he is, what he did and why.

Finally, the rescuer has to remain with the child in a “safe” place, away from inclement weather but in the vicinity of the vehicle, and he must exercise no more force than necessary to enter the vehicle. In other words, bashing in the side doors to get the kid out might not protect him from a lawsuit.

Oklahoma already has a “Good Samaritan” law protecting citizens from legal maneuverings for providing emergency medical care to a sick or injured individual. This merely adds another aspect to that law, and for good reason: In 2014, 30 children across the country died from heat stroke, and one of those was in Ardmore.

HB 1902 doesn’t seem overly intrusive if a young life is at stake. Clearly, any parent irresponsible enough to leave her child - or for that matter, a chihuahua - in a locked car during the heat of the day deserves whatever comes her way.

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