- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman, Sept. 29

Many GOP candidates abandoning traditional stance on trade

It used to be that Republican politicians were proud to pronounce their support for free trade, because they knew that on the whole, robust trade policy benefits the United States and other countries. This bizarre election season has seen that approach turned upside-down.

The views of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump seem to differ not much at all from those of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who strongly favored the Trans-Pacific Partnership while secretary of state but rejected it last year for political purposes.

Trump reached his current perch in part by criticizing U.S. trade deals at every turn: Adopting TPP would be a disaster. The North American Free Trade Agreement is “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country,” he said at (the Sept. 26) debate. Trade deals with China and other countries have been awful. The message has resonated.

And it helps explain why other GOP politicians are abandoning the party’s traditional stance on trade.

Politico wrote … about several Republicans who have jumped ship in an effort to win re-election. Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, considered highly vulnerable, is the foremost example - a longtime proponent of trade during his time in Washington, he praised TPP last year as something that would help his state’s economy. Now he’s encouraging President Barack Obama to reject it.

Politico notes that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in April 2015 encouraging passage of TPP. Today he says he’s still evaluating it. He likes the concept, Rubio says, but “it has to be under the right terms.”

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a former U.S. trade representative, announced his opposition to TPP in February. Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Roy Blunt of Missouri have cooled on TPP, after having voted last year for a procedural measure that would allow the president to fast-track the deal. The same is true for Rep. Todd Young of Indiana, who’s now seeking a U.S. Senate seat.

Among Republicans in the tightest Senate races this year, only John McCain of Arizona and Mark Kirk of Illinois have publicly supported TPP, Politico said.

Sen. Jeff Flake makes the valid point that during a campaign, “it’s just too difficult to quantify the gains from free trade and too easy to point at a plant that closed and scapegoat trade.”

The latter has been Trump’s approach: He has blasted Ford Motor Co. for its decision to move production of two small cars from a plant in Wayne, Mich., to Mexico. That criticism makes for good sound bites - but Ford insists no U.S. jobs will be lost. Instead, the Michigan workers will begin building other, more popular Ford models.

Following Ford’s announcement, Trump promised to impose a 35 percent tax on vehicles built in Mexico if they’re shipped back to the United States. That may be appealing to some, but it would only mean significantly higher costs for U.S. consumers and punishment for a company that has added 28,000 employees - an increase of nearly 50 percent - in the past five years (Ford has 8,800 employees at its Mexico plants).

The Washington Examiner noted in a recent editorial that free trade is an idea that has helped foster prosperity here and abroad. “It should not be cast aside in the clamor to hop aboard the bandwagon,” the newspaper wrote.

We understand that self-preservation is Job 1 for most politicians. But that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to see Republicans run from what has been a bedrock issue for conservatives.

___

Tulsa World, Oct. 2, 2016

Against State Question 777

Both sides in the debate over State Question 777 - the so-called Right to Farm proposal - have been guilty of excesses in their arguments.

The proponents have suggested that only a state constitutional measure could shield cherished rural values of decent working farmers from the meddling hands of bureaucrats and lunatic eco-extremists.

The opponents have claimed that, were the measure to pass, almost any imaginable cruelty - up to and including ramming a steel rod down a puppy’s throat to “debark” it - would become legal and have the same protection as free speech in Oklahoma.

We don’t think either nightmare scenario is likely, and chalk up the exaggerated rhetoric to the need to get voters excited … and the desire to raise money.

A rational review of SQ 777 comes to these conclusions: It solves no pressing problem in the state, and it could create some.

The measure would prevent future state and local regulation on farming and livestock activities unless the state has a compelling state interest, a very high legal standard shared by basic civil rights. Rules that were on the books before Dec. 31, 2014, and regulations in several areas - trespassing laws, for example - are exempt.

It wouldn’t wipe animal cruelty laws off the books. Neither would it effectively protect the lifestyles of grandpa’s farm. In fact, the measure would give enormous legal protections to big-time corporate agriculture, which is a greater threat to the iconic homestead than the Legislature.

Agriculture remains an amazingly powerful interest group at the state Capitol, and Exhibit A is the legislative vote to put SQ 777 on the ballot in the first place. Frankly, farmers have little to fear from state lawmakers messing with their business.

And when that’s not true, shouldn’t the people through their elected representatives, be able to regulate an industry that affects land, water and food? You say the state shouldn’t regulate those things. Why not?

The first rule of constitutional amendments should be: First, do no harm, and in its potential for unintended consequences - especially in the state’s ability to protect its own environment - we fear harm in SQ 777.

Farming is very important, but SQ 777 doesn’t solve any real Oklahoma problems, and its potential to create new problems in the future makes it bad policy.

___

The Journal Record, Oct. 3, 2016

Unintended consequences

Cameras have been in the news lately, and the conversation invariably turns to privacy.

The Oklahoma Senate is studying rules for unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones. Not surprisingly, drone enthusiasts, commercial users, and manufacturers argue that plenty of rules exist already, and any additions should be the purview of the Federal Aviation Administration, not state lawmakers. Their concerns have less to do with aerial safety than with privacy. Drones have quickly become a terrific way to get cameras in the air, and the legitimate uses for that technology are substantial. Real estate inspectors and insurance adjusters, for example, could all but forget rooftop peril if they could fly a camera up to provide a high-definition look at the shingles. Search-and-rescue operations could become much more efficient. Emergency supplies could be delivered quickly to remote locations.

But the fear is that those cameras will also be used to peek. Law enforcement agencies could see what’s in a fenced yard without bothering to get a search warrant, and Peeping Toms wouldn’t need a ladder for a look in a second-floor window.

In that debate, privacy is a priority.

Cameras are also being discussed this week in the wake of Terence Crutcher’s death. Crutcher was shot to death by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby. A dashcam recording was made public quickly, and it shaped the public’s view of the incident. The public, including the prosecution and defense attorneys, would have an even clearer idea of what happened if Shelby had been wearing a body camera.

The Department of Public Safety argued to keep a dashcam exception to the Oklahoma Open Records Act, but those records finally became available to the public last year. And since the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, law enforcement agencies have been under mounting pressure to equip all officers with body cameras. The recordings from those would presumably be public records too.

In that debate, transparency is a priority.

The technological progression of digital imagery and remote viewing has produced realistic concerns about privacy; no one wants unregulated viewing of their personal lives. It has also provided the opportunity to remove most of the doubt about how a police officer’s interaction with a resident really occurred.

Legislators must carefully consider the balance of commerce, privacy, and transparency before they draft new laws that could have unintended consequences.

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