Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Tulsa World. April 10, 2017.
Anticipating the loss of $12 million in state funding next year, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist recently announced a plan for painful cuts.
Booker T. Washington’s wrestling squad and Hale High School’s baseball team would be ended next year, as would six high school golf programs. Sports at 10 of 11 middle schools would be merged into multi-school programs.
For people in west Tulsa, there is, understandably, great concern about Gist’s plan to consolidate students from Remington Elementary, Park Elementary and ECDC Porter to one campus, the current home of Clinton Middle School, 2224 W. 41st St. Clinton students would be moved to the Webster High School campus at 1919 W. 40th St.
That saves $906,877 and it makes educational sense, too. Demographic trends have left the TPS buildings behind. The result is schools outsized to the number of students using them.
To avoid closing high schools, the district has previously combined middle schools into underutilized campuses elsewhere, and that’s what will now happen on the west side. Frankly, TPS probably has too many high schools, but the consolidation effort overcomes some of the inefficiencies in the system, and would make sense even if they weren’t forced by the budget situation.
The plan is still a work in progress, as is the state budget. If lawmakers come through with more money for schools, some of the cuts can be reconsidered. If that happens, we’d vote for rolling back two furlough days (at a savings of $1.9 million) first.
To those who don’t like the changes: We understand. They stink. They are the direct result of systematic inadequate funding of public schools, and it will only get worse in the future, if there isn’t a drastic turnaround in the state Capitol, which is where complaints should be directed.
The Oklahoman. April 10, 2017.
The Legislature had a chance this session to advance a bill that would move a veterans center from an outdated building in a remote part of the state to a new building in a larger town not far away, but chose not to. That those who served this country would benefit didn’t carry much weight, apparently.
Lawmakers also had a chance this session to potentially increase the number of Oklahoma children receiving childhood vaccinations. But they rejected even a watered-down version of the bill, citing the importance of allowing parents to decide whether to vaccinate their kids. If a few more cases of whooping cough result, well, so be it.
Lawmakers were presented a bill to provide immunity from arrest for someone who calls 911 to report a drug overdose. This might have helped save lives, and it would have boosted the state’s efforts to deal with the growing problem of overdoses, but the bill didn’t receive a hearing in committee.
Members came to the Capitol promising to produce a teacher pay raise bill, and they have done so - although without providing any funding stream. They have rejected an effort to increase the tobacco tax as a way to raise revenue for health-related agencies.
And yet, members of the House of Representatives managed to spend two hours one day last month deliberating, and ultimately approving, an abortion bill that would surely produce a lawsuit if it were to become law. After the chairman of a Senate committee wisely said he wouldn’t hear it, the bill was reassigned to another Senate committee where it awaits action.
And lawmakers wonder why the Legislature is held in such low esteem?
House Bill 1549 by Rep. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would ban abortion of fetuses diagnosed with “viable genetic disorders” such as Down syndrome, or the possibility of one. The Republican-dominated House, which loves such ideologically driven legislation, approved it by a vote of 67-16.
In saying that the Senate’s health and human services committee would not hear SB 1549, Sen. Ervin Yen said the bill is unconstitutional and that passing such legislation “is just silly.” Yen is right.
But SB 1549 remains viable because Senate leadership reassigned the bill to the Senate Rules Committee where its chairman, Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, is mulling whether to hear it.
He should shelve the bill, for two obvious reasons. The first is that, as Yen noted, it’s unconstitutional. We abhor abortion too, but until the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortion remains legal across the land. This bill, were it to be signed into law, would surely be overturned in court following a defense paid for by taxpayers.
The other reason to spike the legislation is that the state has far more pressing concerns - first and foremost among them, producing a plan to fill an $878 million budget hole.
Now more than ever, lawmakers owe their constituents productive work on substantive issues. The ideological sideshows need to end.
The Journal Record. April 10, 2017.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own an industrial waste site that wasn’t subject to pesky government regulation? Or a power plant with no limit on emissions? Maybe you’d like to invest in a chemical plant that could discharge waste as it saw fit or an oil well that didn’t have to care what happened to the produced water.
Wouldn’t everyone? Wouldn’t that be the very manifestation of prosperity?
Property owners in the McClain County town of Criner might disagree. That’s where the Hardage Superfund Site is, ranked second only to Tar Creek on the Environmental Protection Agency’s cleanup priority list. But from 1972 until 1980, the site took in all manner of toxic substances at a healthy profit; it only stopped when the EPA discovered the groundwater and surface water were contaminated along with the monitoring wells.
That operation might have been prosperous for Mr. Hardage, but there wasn’t much prosperity for the town of Criner.
House Bill 2132, now being considered in the Oklahoma Senate, would establish a system of non-regulation that would be an extraordinary opportunity for corporations to profit at the expense of their neighbors without fear of recourse. The bill was drafted by Houston-based, libertarian-leaning Compact for America under its Prosperity States initiative. It would establish so-called prosperity districts - a name that could have only been the product of a disinformation lab - in which one or more property owners could petition for the designation. County officials would have just 20 days to consider the request and if they didn’t proactively deny it within that time, the self-governing district would be formed.
The legislation has been shopped to Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and North Dakota, none of which have passed it.
The bill runs 88 pages, but the most critical phrase appears on Page 16: ” . every Prosperity District shall have exclusive governing jurisdiction within its boundaries ..” It goes on to say that all other governmental entities are barred from exercising jurisdiction within the district’s boundaries.
Every business would be more prosperous if it didn’t have to answer to the public as represented by its government. No taxes, no regulations, no accountability - that sounds like corporate Nirvana. But the end of that game is a disaster for society, and that includes the very business that wanted to prosper.
The Senate must fulfill its role as the upper chamber - the voice of reason - and send this dangerous bill packing.
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