- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Tulsa World. Jan. 2, 2018.

Tulsa has been largely unrepresented in the U.S. House of Representatives for some time, and because of U.S. Senate inaction, that’s likely to be the case for a long time to come.

U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-First District, has generally abstained from voting in the House of Representatives since President Trump nominated him to be the next NASA administrator. That has been a standard move by members of Congress awaiting executive office confirmation votes during the Trump administration, and it makes some sense: It avoids conflict-of-interest questions.

But, because the Senate is generally slow in doing everything - a situation that seems to be aggravated by resistance among some Republicans to Bridenstine - no action was taken on the nomination in 2017.

While Bridenstine has taken care of his other duties as Congressman, including constituent services, if he’s not there to vote on things, it’s as if Tulsans are not part of the process.

It will only get worse if Bridenstine is confirmed in 2018. Because the confirmation didn’t come before Dec. 31, the state probably won’t have an election to fill the seat until November. We’ll spend the better part of a year with no House representation.

We continue to support Bridenstine’s candidacy for the NASA post. He’s smart and totally devoted to the agency’s mission. He’ll do a great job there.

But we’re frustrated that because the Senate can’t get off the dime, the people of Tulsa have been left largely voiceless in national debates in the House of Representatives.

Can we get our federal taxes back? After all, taxation without representation isn’t the American way.


The Oklahoman. Jan. 2, 2018.

We often have reason to criticize lawmakers’ failure to engage in serious policy work, so it’s a welcome development that a bipartisan duo is calling for serious review of Oklahoma’s “merit protection” system for government employees.

Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, and Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, plan to file legislation next session they say could streamline hiring and ensure the state is recruiting the best employees.

Oklahoma’s Merit Protection System was created in 1954 and updated in 1982. Little has changed in the decades since.

Under this system, numerous criteria must be met to hire or fire “merit protected” government employees. The system was intended to prevent state agencies from becoming political fiefdoms where jobs are offered to the well-connected regardless of job qualifications. Yet the practical effect has often been to make it difficult to fire underperforming state employees, while also making it difficult to promote good workers. In 2012, the administrator of the Oklahoma Department of Consumer Credit said that agency struggled to hire examiners because the merit protection system locked in salaries below market rates.

Of the more than 33,400 state employees in Oklahoma, 67 percent are classified positions subject to merit protection regulations. Yet the regulations apply almost haphazardly across government.

The workforces of several state agencies are all at-will employees who can be easily hired or fired, just like people in the private sector. This includes the workforces of the state Insurance Department, Office of the Attorney General, the Banking Department, Office of the State Auditor and Inspector, Office of the State Treasurer, and Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Meanwhile, most Oklahoma Department of Libraries employees are classified workers subject to merit protection regulations.

Even though the Merit Protection System was supposed to prevent political favoritism in hiring, it has notably failed to achieve that goal at times. The vast majority of employees at the Department of Health are covered by merit protection rules, yet that agency was the site of a “ghost employee” scandal in 2000. At least five ex-legislators and 21 relatives of former or current legislators were on the agency’s payroll at that time.

Osburn, who serves on the House Special Investigation Committee examining recent multi-million-dollar financial mismanagement at the Health Department, implied that the agency remains problematic despite the supposed safeguards created by the merit system.

In a release, Osburn referenced his work on the committee and said he is “alarmed at the toxic work environment that exists in some state agencies. Employees should be able to report mismanagement or areas of concern within agencies without fear of retaliation.”

The goals of Osburn and Floyd’s legislation include providing consistency to state employee compensation and streamlining the discipline process.

Tax increases have been proposed as a way to provide pay raises to state government workers. These proposals would be more palatable if the public had confidence that state workers can be fired when justified and that political favoritism isn’t routine. Review and reform of the Merit Protection System is not only warranted, but long overdue.


Enid News & Eagle. Jan. 2, 2018.

After false starts, steps back and progress seemingly measured in inches, it appears plans for a downtown hotel project is making big strides.

In December, the lending deal on the hotel closed with the developer and city of Enid in Oklahoma City.

It’s been a long time coming. The city actually started the process to build a downtown hotel in 2011. Developer LodgeWell LLC was selected but failed to attain financing for the project.

When the contract with LodgeWell expired, Peachtree Hotel Group II LLC was selected. Around December 2015, when the price of oil dropped, the developer started getting nervous about the Enid market and dropped the idea.

Enid Economic Development Authority entered into a master development agreement with ENIDBWP LLC - which is Aston Management and Dr. Atul Patel - on Feb. 23, 2017, and preliminary plans for a Best Western GLo hotel were approved on June 20.

Patel has 45 days to start construction after closing, per the master development agreement. Patel already has built a couple of hotels in Enid and others in Chickasha and in Oklahoma City, so he understands the business.

We hope the hotel works closely with Central National Bank Center, which we think would be a successful venture for both. CNB Center could work out a deal with the hotel to offer a package - a hotel room and tickets to a concert or other event for a special price.

We’d also think it would be advantageous for the hotel to work with Integris Bass Baptist Health Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center to offer a deal for families of patients who need a place to stay while their loved ones are in the hospital. A downtown hotel is an ideal situation between both hospitals to make this a pretty easy deal.

Now that the deal has closed, it’s up to Patel to take the next step. Enid Regional Development Alliance Executive Director Brent Kisling has stated previously that Patel is ready to begin work.

We hope the momentum gained in the last couple of months of 2017 continues and the hotel finally becomes a reality.

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