Persistence can be a virtue, especially for those serving in the Legislature. Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, is proving that with legislation to strengthen oversight of school volunteers.
House Bill 2228, the “Protect Against Pedophiles Act,” has now passed both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the state Senate. Under the bill, schools could have the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation conduct a criminal background check of all adult school volunteers. The district or the volunteer would pay for the review.
Dorman authored a similar measure in 2012 that easily passed the House (where only three lawmakers opposed it), but was then killed in the Senate on a 27-13 vote.
HB 2228 must still clear several more legislative hurdles, but this appears to be a good idea that is sadly necessary to protect children. Dorman is to be commended for continuing to work on this issue.
We’ve previously praised SHINE (Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere), a program launched by Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan that sentences low-level offenders to remove graffiti, haul away trash and clear brush in blighted areas.
The program saves the county money by easing crowding at the county jail and providing free labor for jobs that otherwise would be done by county work crews.
State lawmakers apparently see the value of the program, because they’ve approved a new law extending the program to deadbeat parents. Under House Bill 2166, courts can require individuals who owe child support to work two eight-hour days per week in programs like SHINE.
“Working two days a week picking up litter or painting over graffiti might just provide the motivation some of these nonpaying parents need,” Maughan said. We certainly hope so. If not, at least the community will be cleaner as a result.
Last year, several candidates demanded recounts in races lost decisively.
After losing the Oklahoma County sheriff’s race by about 75,000 votes, Republican Darrell Sorrels requested a recount. After 14 of 256 precincts were recounted, he closed the gap with incumbent John Whetsel — by a single vote. Fortunately, Sorrels then dropped his request.
In a Wagoner County court clerk’s race, the runner-up in the Republican Party runoff lost nearly 2-1 and still requested a recount.
While those seeking a recount pay a $600 deposit for the first 3,000 ballots recounted and $600 for each additional 6,000 ballots, the process still requires significant manpower resources from local election officials. Lawmakers are trying to discourage frivolous recounts by doubling the required deposit when the margin of victory is greater than 10 percent.
That’s a good idea that will still allow valid recounts but discourage expenditures on political sour grapes.
Legislation addressing drought-related challenges has been sent to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to be signed into law.
House Bill 1923 would create the Emergency Drought Relief Fund and an Emergency Drought Commission. After an emergency drought declaration is issued, the commission will recommend fund expenditures to the governor. That group’s members include the executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
Money placed in the fund could be used for things like pond cleanup and construction; water conservation in agriculture; providing water for livestock; rural fire suppression activities; red cedar eradication; soil conservation; emergency infrastructure conservation; and other activities.
We previously endorsed this proposal, which is simply a good management effort to prepare for potential drought challenges. Hopefully, the drought will break this summer and the fund won’t be needed.
Two Oklahoma City schools have made TheBestSchools.org’s list of the nation’s 50 best schools. One school cherry picks students. The other is a charter school.
Classen School of Advanced Studies and Harding Charter Preparatory High School both made the list. The website’s criteria for rankings include schools’ test scores, reputations with recruiting colleges, faculty quality and student satisfaction surveys.
Classen is a public, magnet high school. Students apply/audition and must pass that screening process to attend. At Harding, a charter school, TheBestSchools.org notes, “Despite Harding’s excellent reputation and rankings, there are no requirements as to which students can attend. There are no tuition fees or entry tests required.”
Uninformed critics like to claim charter schools’ achievements are based on “cherry picking” students. Harding’s success disproves that claim. And while both schools deserve praise, it’s worth noting that Classen, with its student-screening process, ranked 36th nationally. Harding ranked 23rd.
Heading into the 2014 elections, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is the second-best positioned governor facing re-election in the nation, according to the FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times.
Based on the three most recent polls, the blog places Fallin’s job approval rating at 65 percent and disapproval at only 23 percent. Only one governor potentially running for re-election has a better net job approval.
That may surprise some Democrats who hoped Fallin’s rejection of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would provide them leverage with voters. If anything, that decision may have helped Fallin.
Even if her numbers dip, it may not mean much given Oklahoma’s Republican leanings. Proof of that conclusion can be seen in Illinois, where Gov. Pat Quinn is the second-most unpopular governor up for re-election in 2014, yet FiveThirtyEight notes he “is still considered a favorite to win re-election” because of that state’s heavy Democratic tilt.
During the debate over legalizing horse slaughter in Oklahoma, proponents argued that slaughter was needed in part to reduce the abandonment and starvation of old horses. Animal-rights activists were dismissive of those claims, saying there were alternatives to both horse slaughter and starvation, and implying the abandonment argument was a red herring.
Sadly, evidence continues to mount making clear that mistreatment of horses is far too common.
Near Wewoka, a woman has been arrested for animal abuse after officials found between 20 and 30 dead horses on her property, and another 64 that were malnourished. This is the second time Carolyn Vaughn has faced animal cruelty charges.
Ironically, Vaughn claimed she was running an animal rescue operation. “Saving” those horses from slaughter didn’t save them from either suffering or a miserable death.
Horse slaughter may not be ideal, but was Vaughn’s horse rescue mission really any better?
In January, state Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, publicly invited gun-maker Remington to relocate from New York to Oklahoma following New York’s passage of a ban on so-called assault rifles.
Kirby suggested the company could receive Oklahoma Quality Jobs Act incentives and a five-year property tax exemption for manufacturers, and noted recent lawsuit reforms and potential workers’ compensation reforms could make Oklahoma an ideal place for the business.
Many dismissed the invite as a stunt, but maybe Kirby was on to something.
A manufacturer of Colt rifles is now moving to Breckenridge, Texas. The CEO of Colt Manufacturing in Connecticut has suggested the company may relocate after passage of extremely restrictive gun laws. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry has reportedly sent letters to several gun companies, encouraging relocation to Texas.
If that approach is succeeding in Texas, local officials may soon ask, “Why not in Oklahoma?”
We’ve often scoffed at those who claim having to present identification when voting is somehow an unreasonable, monstrous burden. Given how often people have to show photo ID today for all sorts of activities, it’s hardly unprecedented.
In fact, many establishments selling beer and liquor now card everyone who enters — and we do mean everyone.
Blockheads, a Manhattan bar recently noted in The Wall Street Journal, has a zero-tolerance ID policy. Senior citizens buying a drink have to show ID, just like a 21-year-old. A bartender at High West Distillery in Salt Lake City’s airport once carded a 96-year-old customer.
If retirees are able to survive an ID requirement to ensure the legality of beer purchases, why should anyone object to ensuring the validity of the voting process?
After years of debating the idea, Oklahoma lawmakers are giving another go to legislation that would target those driving without insurance.
Senate Bill 691 would prevent uninsured drivers from receiving any monetary damages after auto accidents. The bill passed the Senate 31-9 and just passed a House committee on a 10-6 vote.
State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said the idea behind the bill is simple: “If you’re not participating in the system that you’re required to by law, then you shouldn’t benefit from it.”
A 2011 report from the Insurance Research Council says about 24 percent of Oklahoma’s drivers were uninsured in 2009, the latest year of data. Yet those drivers can file claims on others’ insurance, even as their own actions drive up the cost of others’ insurance.
That’s why we suspect most Oklahomans will like this bill. Maybe this will be the year it finally becomes law.