The Muscogee (Creek) Nation lost a court ruling this week, but it’s the state that’s been the biggest loser so far. The Creeks sued the state in 2010 over a new law that made it illegal to sell cigarettes that hadn’t been approved by the state. Before that, the tribe sold some brands of Indian-made cigarettes that didn’t carry a state tax stamp. This meant the state lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue. On Tuesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the Creek lawsuit. And all that lost tax revenue? For now it’s up in smoke, although that could change if the state wins a separate lawsuit it filed in Tulsa County in 2009 against tribal retailers. That case was put on hold pending the 10th Circuit case. Here’s hoping some remuneration comes the state’s way.
Graphic provided by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Reports about the bill-collecting practices of the Emergency Medical Services Authority have been met with deafening silence by the head of EMSA. The agency’s CEO, Steve Williamson, has repeatedly refused comment when contacted by the Tulsa World about its stories detailing EMSA users who have been hounded for payment despite taking part in a program that tacks on a few dollars a month to their utility bill to cover ambulance service. EMSA is the ambulance provider in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and surrounding communities. It’s also a government agency, funded in part by taxpayer subsidies. Those taxpayers deserve much more than “no comment” from the person in charge.
Photo by James Gibbard, Tulsa World
A legislative committee says Oklahoma needs to create a state-based, free-market health insurance exchange in order to keep the feds from coming in and imposing their own exchange on the state. This recommendation, although it makes sense, was hardly a surprise. There is no support in the Republican-controlled Legislature for the edicts included in President Obama’s health care law. Health exchanges were among them. These web-based exchanges are designed to give consumers one place to shop for insurance. The federal government provided Oklahoma with a $54.6 million grant last year to establish an exchange. The state sent it back after protests from Republicans and conservatives. The committee’s report didn’t estimate how much an Oklahoma exchange would cost or how it would be paid for. So there is much work ahead. But signaling to the administration that we’re working on an exchange is a step in the right direction. Obamacare is a disaster but it’s also the law of the land for now, and states are obliged to follow it.
One cabbage at a time, Oklahoma third graders are learning hands-on lessons in responsibility and nutrition. Last year over 11,000 participated in the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program by tending their very own plants. For a state that’s 50th in consumption of fruits and vegetables, this unique educational opportunity is a great way to teach kids where vegetables come from and that they can have success at gardening. The program uses oversized cabbages so the growing process is even more fun. Oklahoma’s winner got a $1,000 college scholarship, and her family enjoyed four meals of the more than six pound produce. In other words, two best in state cabbages would easily outweigh the Best in Show Pekingese from last week’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Let’s hope the seeds planted in these children will produce a harvest of health in coming seasons.
A bill approved by a state House committee this week would gradually make 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products in Oklahoma. Presently the age is 18. House Bill 2314 by Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, would bump that by a year at a time over the next three years. Raising the age, Coody says, can help “deter many young people from ever starting this bad habit and save them years of health complications.” Perhaps. But one concern we have is that the bill as written apparently wouldn’t apply to tribal smokeshops due to sovereignty concerns. That’s unfair to nontribal businesses that are already at a competitive disadvantage with smokeshops when it comes to taxation of tobacco products. This proposed change needs to apply to all retailers, and state health officials should lead the charge to make that happen.
Jim Lange cartoon from The Oklahoman Archives
Broken Arrow High School students aren’t allowed to leave campus for lunch, but beginning next year they’ll have an opportunity to eat at a popular fast-food chain. Broken Arrow will become the state’s first public school system to have a Subway on campus. Students will have a choice among five or six of the healthier sandwiches and will be able to dress their sandwiches at a self-serve vegetable bar. The sandwiches will be served with fruit, vegetables and milk and will be considered a “reimbursable” meal under the federal school lunch program. Unlike regular Subway franchises, chips or soda won’t be available. About 60 U.S. public schools have Subway franchises on campus. The company waives the franchise fee for schools and trains workers for free; the district pays Subway a percentage of the revenue. If the students are lucky, perhaps Subway spokesman Blake Griffin, the NBA star from Oklahoma City, will stop by to sign autographs.
(Photo by Diane Bondareff for SUBWAY)
Wendy’s “Old Fashioned Hamburgers” might want to consider a motto change, seeing as how the fast-food chain no longer has plain hamburgers on its menu. If you prefer a burger without cheese, the kitchen will honor your request. But since you have to pay for the cheese either way, most people will probably take it. This menu change might impact not only your pocketbook but your waistline. Annual cheese consumption in America has tripled since 1970, to more than 30 pounds per person. For cheddar cheese, this equates to more than 50,000 calories and about 4,500 fat grams. A century ago, the average cheese intake was less than five pounds per year. Skyrocketing cheese consumption might be among the most dramatic changes in the Western diet in the past 40 years. Behold the power of cheese!