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?”
Come Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Council will have two new faces around the horseshoe. We welcome John A. Pettis Jr. and James Greiner to what is a usually harmonious but occasionally cacophonous process of governing a growing, increasingly diversified city.
Pettis and Greiner ousted incumbents to claim seats for Ward 7 and Ward 1. Gone are veteran councilmen Skip Kelly and Gary Marrs. Kelly’s personal problems no doubt played a role in his defeat. Allegations of driving under the influence have dogged him; even had he won, Kelly might have had to leave office if a pending court ruling goes against him.
In Ward 1, the situation was different. Marrs is an outstanding councilman but was outworked by Greiner. At 32, the challenger has boundless enthusiasm for retail politics — knocking on doors, connecting with voters, projecting a positive attitude. This boundless enthusiasm will serve him well on the council and in representing the sprawling northwest Oklahoma City ward for the princely sum of $12,000 a year.
Overall it wasn’t a bad day for incumbents here and in other parts of the state. Two Oklahoma City Council incumbents didn’t draw opponents and automatically got another four-year term. Tuesday’s results set the stage for an interesting mayoral race next year if incumbent Mick Cornett seeks another term and faces council maverick Ed Shadid, who appears set to make a run.
Tuesday’s results are no indicator for what could happen in 2014. Shadid’s appeal in Ward 2 is unlikely to translate to a citywide mandate. Then again, anyone who counted out Pettis and Greiner because they faced “popular” incumbents now knows that holding an office isn’t a ticket to keeping it.
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.
Every year the U.S. government makes a certain number of visas available for highly skilled immigrants, and every year the demand far exceeds the supply. It’s long past time Congress expand the cap.
Presently 65,000 visas are given to high-tech companies that want to hire skilled workers from other parts of the world. Another 20,000 are available for foreign workers who earned an advanced degree from a U.S. university.
The Homeland Security Department began taking applications Monday for this year’s visas, and expected to outstrip supply in just a matter of days. The Associated Press noted that political support has grown in recent years to proposals that would increase the number of available visas, and they’re now a big part of immigration reform talks.
Here’s hoping the politicians get this one right — the more bright people we have working in America, the better.
Voters in northwest Oklahoma City’s Ward 1 have the chance to send an excellent public servant back to the city council by re-electing Gary Marrs on Tuesday. Marrs, 66, is in a runoff with James Greiner, 31. Those two emerged from a three-person race in the March 5 primary.
Marrs has given a lot to the community during his nine years on the council, and before that during his 30-year career with the Oklahoma City Fire Department, which included a stint as chief. Greiner is a fine, energetic young man whose willingness to serve in a time-consuming, low-paying job speaks well of his character.
Like the best members of the council, Marrs works not only for his ward but for the whole city. He’s mindful of infrastructure challenges in his sprawling ward but is eager to help MAPS 3 blossom and for the city to continue economic development efforts that help it grow. He’s earned another term.
Ward 7 incumbent Skip Kelly, 63, also faces a runoff. His opponent is John A. Pettis Jr., 30, in the northeast-side ward.
Turnout for the primary was extremely light. Council members are critical in deciding the city’s course. These seats are important. Voters in Ward 1 and Ward 7 should treat them as such on Tuesday by going to the polls.
Relief is on the way for those frustrated (or worse) by their experience trying to get a driver’s license.
This week the Department of Public Safety debuted its Inline Online system, which lets users go online to make appointments for the driving skills tests, learner’s permit test and ID cards. Appointments can be made from one to 14 days in advance.
This week it was available for three locations in the Oklahoma City area. It’ll expand to Tulsa next week and eventually to DPS’s other field offices.
The service is free for now. When it’s fully in place, there will be a fee that DPS says will be “nominal.” Our guess is parents and teens will gladly pay a few bucks to avoid the current nightmare that involves arriving at driving stations in the middle of the night in hopes of being able to take the test.
Cash reserves held by state governments are near the highest levels seen since 2008.
According to February’s certification, Oklahoma is on pace to have $660.8 million in its Rainy Day Fund by July, a record. Across the country, the National Association of State Budget Officers reports that state rainy day funds now equal 9 percent of general fund tax revenue. The policy question is whether to spend any of that money.
Gov. Mary Fallin has been reluctant to tap Rainy Day funds, saying we should “preserve that as much as possible.” Her views are echoed by governors in Michigan and Tennessee who want to add money to state savings, not spend it. In most states, special-interests groups argue the funds should be depleted to restore spending cuts made during the recession.
Policymakers must carefully weigh the merits of achieving short-term gains at the potential expense of long-term financial planning.
Oklahoma often gets dinged in government transparency evaluations, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that it performed well in a recent ranking.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund’s “Following the Money 2013” report, which rates states on online access to government spending information, has given Oklahoma an A-minus in financial transparency. That’s a major improvement from the C-plus grade received last year.
Oklahoma was one of only seven “Leading States” getting an A. And Oklahoma achieved that distinction in a cost-conscious way. To establish online access, Oklahoma had start-up expenses of just $8,600, using existing staff, and annual operating costs of just $3,600. In comparison, another state listed start-up costs of $2.2 million and annual expenses of $400,000.
Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston L. Doerflinger said he was pleased his office’s efforts have left Oklahoma “among the nation’s leaders.” Oklahoma voters should feel the same.