- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

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

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Tulsa World, July 8, 2015

New rules violations docket will save public money

Rules-breakers are costing Oklahoma a lot of money. Last year, more than a quarter of new receptions at state prisons included offenders who’d violated their probation - not reporting to a probation officer, failing a drug test, not doing community service hours, not paying court costs, or even committing new crimes.

In 2014, Tulsa County had 3,538 applications by the district attorney’s office to revoke a suspended sentence or accelerate a deferred judgment and bring a defendant’s guilty plea forward.

These cases eat up time for judges, public defenders and prosecutors, and add up to huge taxpayer costs when offenders are ordered to prison.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler and District Judge Doug Drummond, himself a former prosecutor, have come up with what some are calling a “brilliant idea” to lessen public costs without jeopardizing public safety.

The first rules-violations docket, begun June 1 and handled by Drummond, exclusively deals with technical probation violations. The docket gives Drummond the option to divert some nonviolent offenders to one of eight programs.

The aim is to get defendants who are still salvageable to clean up their act.

Taxpayers appreciate public officials thinking outside the box, especially at a time when state revenues are dropping and state prisons are over capacity. Scarce prison space should be reserved for public menaces not nonviolent scofflaws who can’t follow technical rules.

Drummond will determine why defendants are breaking the rules and match those who don’t pose a public-safety risk to a diversion program where they can get a different level of treatment and supervision. Programs range from community sentencing to other specialized dockets such as drug or veterans court.

The new docket makes sense. There’s no reason the state should be paying to lock up people who just need more intense attention. And for those hard-headed offenders who just won’t t follow rules, there’s still the prison option.

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The Oklahoman, July 7, 2015

Oklahoma officials try to help solve town’s longtime water problem

It’s encouraging to see state officials, including the governor, come together to find a way to help get clean drinking water to residents in Lexington who are without it. The shame is that such a confab had to happen in the first place.

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, whose constituents are affected by sulfur-tainted water, presented a potential remedy during the 2015 session but saw it get blown up by colleagues who read into Cleveland’s plan an opening to perhaps give away water from southeastern Oklahoma at cost, or sell it to Texas.

This never was part of the proposal, but the demonizing and fear-mongering succeeded. The bill got scuttled and those in the 90 or so homes in the Lexington area were left with a bad taste in their mouth, literally and figuratively.

Lexington-area residents who have lived for years with this problem came up with a plan to form a rural water district, which would drill a well on Department of Corrections land near the Lexington Assessment and Treatment Center.

The state would treat the water; some of it would be used by the prison and the rest would be sold to the water district at cost. The prison would wind up with a new well to replace its aging well, and residents would get potable water.

Cleveland’s bill would have allowed the DOC to enter into a contract with the water district. But state Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, attacked it immediately, saying it would set a dangerous precedent.

Other legislators said the bill seemed to create a special law that applied to only a small portion of the state, and thus might be unconstitutional.

Late in the session, as the Tulsa World’s Wayne Greene recounted recently, Cleveland amended his bill to try to address the concerns about it being a special law. McPeak asked Cleveland at that point whether the bill allowed for the selling of water - an idea that many in southeastern Oklahoma fiercely oppose.

Cleveland said he was just trying to help his constituents, adding, “Why would you or anybody be opposed to anybody having water when there’s plenty of water down below?”

McPeak noted that there’s a lot of oil below western Oklahoma and asked, should folks there have to sell it to eastern Oklahoma at cost? “I don’t even get what you’re talking about,” Cleveland said.

Other clashes followed, with McPeak and other House members. Ultimately Cleveland’s bill failed by two votes although he succeeded in getting the measure held over for reconsideration next session.

Fallin and her general counsel, Steve Mullins, subsequently met with Cleveland, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the DOC and Cleveland County Rural Water District No. 1 and crafted the framework for a solution. Mullins said Fallin has the authority as governor to order a water transfer from the DOC to the water district, and that he expects the proposal to gain federal approval.

“We’ve had to swim upstream from day one,” Lexington-area resident Daryl Covey told Greene. “All we’ve gotten from anyone in government is, ‘What’s in it for me?’” The lengths needed to get to this point, Covey said, are “really pathetic.”

His frustration is understandable. If all goes according to plan, then water could be piped to these homes in 18 months to two years. But part of this solution includes additional legislation.

McPeak has already voiced his displeasure with the deal; others are sure to do the same. So while Fallin is to be applauded for doing what she can, this long story may not be over.

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Muskogee Phoenix, July 5, 2015

Tuition hikes provide roadblocks

Education is the backbone of our state’s future. A quality education creates better jobs and a more prepared workforce.

It leads to innovation and advancement throughout the spectrum of human existence. It can’t be replaced.

And it should not be denied. But that’s the path down which the latest round of tuition hikes at our state’s 25 public colleges and universities will lead us.

Our state is going to put higher education out of reach of the average middle-class Oklahoman. And that will hurt our state.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently passed tuition and mandatory fees hikes of about 5 percent.

That’s an average of $227 per semester for a full-time undergraduate student.

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