- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Muskogee Phoenix. Feb. 17, 2019.

- ‘Constitutional Carry’ should be holstered

State lawmakers advanced a bill that would allow practically anyone in Oklahoma older than 21 to carry a firearm without having to obtain a license or go through safety training.

Allowing people to pack heat without permits would be a grave mistake. There is too much that could go wrong in a world so wound up that congested traffic triggers tragic reactions.



Admittedly, lawmakers probably went overboard when they prohibited people from carrying rifles and shotguns on racks hung in the rear windows of their pickups. But the escalating frequency of thievery might have put a stop to that practice at some point anyway.

Advocates of the measure, which would still place restrictions on convicted felons - and some who have a record of other specified crimes or histories of domestic violence or drug use - would help low-income wage earners afford to own a firearm. They also cite statistics purporting to show lower murder rates in the 15 states where “constitutional carry” laws have been passed.

It’s difficult to know exactly how many firearms are circulating among private owners in the United States, but by many estimates the number of firearms exceeds the nation’s population. And by most accounts obtaining a firearm is not that difficult, even for low-income Americans.

And with regard to murder statistics and how those compare in states when firearm restrictions are factored in, it doesn’t take long to find studies that produce conflicting results. When it comes to firearms, it is not a stretch to imagine the findings of those studies were predetermined by funders of the studies.

Common sense should dictate here, not some ideologically driven agenda. Firearms are useful - they can be used as tools and for sport. But firearms are dangerous and quickly become deadly weapons when they end up in the wrong hands.

Oklahoma lawmakers should holster this idea of constitutional carry.

___

Tulsa World. Feb. 19, 2019.

- Whether it’s legal or not, Trump’s use of emergency powers is the wrong choice

President Trump on Friday declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, a justification to secure money to build a border wall that Congress was unwilling to fund fully.

The move brought quick legal challenges by those who say there is no emergency other than Trump’s political urgencies.

At the press conference where Trump announced the emergency, he seemed to give ammunition to that line of thinking when he said, “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

Whether a president can use statutory emergency powers to fund plans that Congress has considered and rejected is an issue for the courts. It will require a close reading of the law that Trump says justifies the move and Article I of the U.S. Constitution. We’ll leave that judgment to the judges.

Regardless of the eventual decision there, it is a poor political precedent and the wrong way to run the nation.

The president’s supporters need to recognize that he will not always be the president. Someday, another president will be in office whose priorities don’t match theirs and which might not also match the priorities of the Congress of that day. Under the precedent being set by Trump’s decision, future presidents need only declare an emergency and move ahead without Congressional spending authorization. That’s not representative government. That’s fiat government.

If the courts find that the law allows Trump’s use of emergency powers to build the wall, Congress should act to reign in that authority in the future. Presidents need the ability to act in a true emergency; but that power needs some check by the legislative branch, perhaps a mandated vote in Congress affirming the emergency spending within a reasonable time period. Otherwise, the “power of the purse,” granted by the Constitution to Congress, is meaningless.

Washington gridlock is frustrating. It leaves the nation feckless in the face of real challenges, including border security, and slow to respond to moments when speed is of the essence. The willingness of cynical partisans to leverage arcane rules and pointless process to score political points is infuriating to the people who don’t see their best interests being served.

The process is not working well and hasn’t for a long time. It can and should be improved, but it should not be subverted.

___

The Oklahoman. Feb. 19, 2019.

- A disappointing attack on Oklahoma children

Last week, committees in the Oklahoma House and Senate each advanced legislation to raise the cap on the amount of tax credits that can be issued to those donating to scholarship-granting organizations for needy children.

Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest decried the decision, declaring the program is “benefiting an elite few.” Elite?

That’s an interesting word choice, one that suggests the children who benefit from the scholarship program are the well-heeled offspring of the idle rich. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Under the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act, a tax credit is provided to businesses and individuals who donate to groups giving private school scholarships. Scholarship recipients must be from families with no more than 300 percent of the income required to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, have a learning disability, or live in a school district designated by the state as “in need of improvement.” The law further directs that roughly 62 percent of scholarships go to students with incomes at 185 percent of the federal poverty level or less.

As income goes, that’s not “elite.”

You don’t have to rely on dry statutory language to understand this reality. Just look at the real-life examples of students receiving tax credit scholarships.

Cristo Rey OKC Catholic High School provides a college prep education to students of modest means. The average gross income for its pupils is $39,200 for a family of four.

Consider Crossover Preparatory Academy, a college preparatory secondary school in north Tulsa. All its students qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program, and nearly one-third are on an individualized education program (IEP) for those with education challenges. Many enter seventh grade reading at a second-grade level.

The Little Lighthouse school in Tulsa serves children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and blindness.

Students at all three schools benefit from Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships. Given that the OEA spent last year decrying teacher pay, which then averaged around $45,000, one wonders how the union can now suggest $39,200 for a family of four is “elite”?

It’s worth noting the bills raising the tax credit cap do the same thing for donations to organizations that aid traditional public schools, and a recent study has shown the scholarship tax credit saves the state $1.39 for every dollar in credits issued. Thus, if $60 million in tax credits were issued, it would free up millions more for use in traditional schools and benefit all students.

Regardless, backhanded criticism of tax credit scholarship recipients, many of whom are racial minorities as well as low income, is inexcusable. These students are elite, but not in the way implied. They are elite because they’re exceptional kids faced with challenging circumstances who deserve every opportunity to succeed.

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