- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A collection of recent editorials from newspapers in Oklahoma.


Stillwater NewsPress, July 15, 2015

FB post callous, distasteful

Facebook and social media can be a powerful tool for political parties, or it came make them look foolish.

This week, a Facebook post by the Oklahoma Republican Party did the latter.

The original message says 46 million Americans participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps. The post continues, saying the National Park Service encourages people not to feed wild animals because they “will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn how to take care of themselves. Thus ends today’s lesson in irony.”

Tuesday, state GOP Party Chairman Randy Brogdon said the post was intended to illustrate the cycle of government dependency. He apologized “for any misconceptions that were created.”

The post didn’t create any misconceptions. It reflected the party’s disdain for Oklahoma’s working poor, elderly, disabled and children.

Here’s the rest of the story.

About 604,000 people receive SNAP benefits in Oklahoma. Most of the recipients are the elderly, disabled and children. One in six adults and one in four children in Oklahoma struggle with hunger. Some receive and use SNAP benefits. Others combine SNAP benefits with food received from food pantries in Oklahoma. Others rely solely on those food pantries.

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma receives donations from individuals, corporations and foundations in the form of grants. It does receive limited government funding, mainly for its summer feeding programs which are government contracts. It is the largest private hunger-relief charity in the state - providing enough food to feed 110,000 hungry Oklahomans every week.

The Facebook post shows the Oklahoma Republican Party just doesn’t get it.

Hunger is a real problem in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s working poor, elderly, disabled and children need additional food because their budgets don’t stretch far enough.

Money is tight. SNAP and food pantry food relieve a little bit of the burden faced by many Oklahoma residents.


The Oklahoman, July 15, 2015

State regulatory boards in Oklahoma warrant greater scrutiny

THERE’S a fine line between ensuring government regulators have credible expertise and allowing industry players to use government to thwart competition. Attorney General Scott Pruitt warns that many Oklahoma regulatory boards could be accused of engaging in the latter.

In a letter, Pruitt says hundreds of Oklahoma boards and commissions are at risk of being sued under federal antitrust laws because the boards are dominated by members of the professions they regulate. Those boards “present the risk or appearance of protecting private monetary interests rather than advancing sound public policy because they are controlled by active market participants,” Pruitt says, which leaves the boards and commissions “open to antitrust liability.”

That warning follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding state dentistry regulation in North Carolina. That state’s Board of Dental Examiners had issued at least 47 cease-and-desist letters to nondentist providers of teeth-whitening services. Yet North Carolina’s Dental Practice Act does not regulate teeth whitening.

Notably, six of the board’s eight members were practicing dentists. Dentists had charged significantly higher fees for teeth whitening before nondentist competitors emerged. The board’s actions, by reducing the number of providers, therefore increased profit margins for dentists - potentially including members of the regulatory board.

The Supreme Court ruled that the board didn’t have immunity from antitrust lawsuits since it was dominated by industry players, there was no clearly articulated state law allowing regulation of teeth whitening, and there was no active state supervision of the board.

Many boards in Oklahoma are dominated by industry players. Pruitt singled out as examples the Board of Pharmacy, the Real Estate Commission, the Funeral Board, the Board of Cosmetology and Barbering, the Abstractors Board and the Board of Accountancy.

To reduce lawsuit threats, Pruitt suggested the boards’ memberships could be altered so a majority of members are state officials or members of the public at large. Or, Pruitt said, a new executive branch entity could be established to “actively” supervise boards and commissions. Pruitt’s suggestions should be carefully weighed. We agree that having industry participants serve on regulatory boards can be beneficial. Those individuals understand their professions and have insights laymen do not, which can result in better-devised regulation.

That said, the temptation of government power could easily lead industry players to exploit board positions to reduce competition at the expense of consumers.

This doesn’t mean state board members routinely exploit their power for personal gain - only that they could do so. Indeed, it’s possible the composition of state boards could be left unchanged. So long as boards are advancing regulations based on existing law, they will retain antitrust protection even if their actions impede competition. The problem in that situation would be a bad law, not the regulatory board. In North Carolina, the dentistry board was regulating an activity not addressed in state law.

Liberals believe government protects consumers from “big business” abuses. But conservatives understand that government can easily become the handmaiden for business exploitation. When abuses occur in the private sphere, the forces of market competition tend to swiftly undermine those efforts. But when consumer abuses are perpetuated by government regulators, the negative impact is both greater and longer lasting. Thus, substantive restrictions on the power of government regulators can be just as beneficial to consumers, if not more so, than any edict impacting private-sector businessmen.


Tulsa World, July 15, 2015

New Horizons sheds important light on Pluto

Are we there yet? Yes!

It took nine years, but Tuesday morning NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft passed by Pluto, the frozen world of mystery.

Many of us grew up knowing Pluto as the ninth planet in our solar system. It has since been demoted to “dwarf planet” status, but its fascination remains.

The results of the fly-by have already been dramatic.

New Horizons will gather 22 hours of scientific observations with the most anticipated data coming Tuesday evening.

Space exploration is never easy. It took the little probe nine years, traveling at 31,000 mph to reach its destination. It had to maneuver around five Plutonian moons and avoid space dust. Information from the spacecraft needed four hours to make the 3-billion mile distance to Earth.

And what a treasure trove that information will be. As the first images neared, NASA personnel, gathered in the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, which is operating the mission, and cheered.

There is much to cheer for. Only the United States has shown the resourcefulness, intelligence and drive to lead such an extraordinary mission.

New Horizons will move on into the darkness of space, but its scientific data will shine important new light on Pluto, and our entire galaxy.


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