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?”
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.
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.
In Colorado, the legislature is weighing a bill that would prevent farmers from “docking” — cutting the tails of their cattle. The bill would only let veterinarians perform the procedure, using anesthesia. Debate over the measure raged for hours in a House committee.
Animal-rights groups want to limit docking, arguing among other things that it causes pain and removes cows’ built-in fly swatters. The Associated Press reports that the few farmers in Colorado who dock the traditional way insist it isn’t cruel.
We’re reminded of the flare-up at our Capitol a few years ago over equine dentists, called teeth floaters. A law passed in 2008 included a provision that made teeth floating a felony. The arrest in 2009 of a rodeo cowboy who also worked as a teeth floater got lawmakers’ attention, and the next year the law was changed after lengthy and often heated debate.
Horses have been a high-profile issue this year, too, with sharp disagreement over whether to allow slaughtering of those animals to resume in Oklahoma. And of course the state endured a knockdown, drag-out fight several years ago over cockfighting.
Furry or feathered, animals have a way of getting lawmakers fired up.
Why should unclassified state employees have to resign in order to run for public office? They shouldn’t, and a bill by state Rep. Donnie Condit would change the law that now requires them to do so.
House Bill 1238 is headed to the Senate after winning easy approval this week in the House.
The current law “is especially hard on candidates who are not elected, but are now out of a job,” said Condit, D-McAlester. He said the fact current law takes effect at the time of filing instead of at the time of election was probably an oversight by a previous Legislature.
Perhaps, but it’s about time the change is made. Provided state employees who want to run for office don’t conduct their campaigns while at work, there is no compelling reason not to change the law.
Ten public bodies in Oklahoma were applauded this week for the transparency of their websites.
A national nonprofit called Sunshine Review included the 10 in doling out its fourth annual Sunny Awards, which honor government entities “that make transparency a priority.” The Sunshine Review looked at more than 1,000 government websites and graded them against a 10-point checklist. In all, 247 received an award.
Those in Oklahoma were: the cities of Broken Arrow, Enid, Owasso, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman; Oklahoma, Tulsa and Wagoner counties, and Edmond Public Schools.
Congratulations to the winners, and here’s hoping they have more company from Oklahoma next year.
Workers’ compensation reform is often viewed as an issue important to a sliver of Oklahoma’s business community, but a source of indifference for most citizens. A new poll suggests that this may no longer be the case.
A SoonerPoll.com survey of likely Oklahoma voters showed 72.5 percent felt changes should be made to the current workers’ compensation system with two-thirds believing the current system hurts Oklahoma businesses. Only 8.7 percent disagreed with a potential change to an administrative-based system.
An outright majority of Democrats surveyed agreed that shifting to an administrative system could be beneficial.
Because the poll was commissioned by the State Chamber Research Foundation, some will question its findings. But it’s not unreasonable to think most Oklahomans, having lived their entire lives hearing of problems with the current work comp system, have concluded it’s time to junk it. Lawmakers should take note.