Oklahoma inmates who believe they were wrongly convicted of a violent crime may soon have a new tool available to help prove their point.
The House gave its approval this week to House Bill 1068, which would let those serving sentences of 25 years or more petition the sentencing court for DNA testing. Oklahoma is the only state without such a law.
Under HB 1068, once the state responds to an inmate’s request, the sentencing court would hold a hearing to determine whether to order DNA testing. The bill guards against the courts being flooded with requests by requiring that certain criteria be met.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, and Sen. James Halligan, R-Stillwater. It gained the support of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which would have a hand in the testing, as well as a panel of attorneys that studied wrongful convictions.
About a dozen Oklahoma inmates have been freed as a result of forensic DNA testing in the past two decades. If this bill helps free even one innocent person, it will have been worthwhile.
The bill now heads back to the Senate, which should send it to Gov. Mary Fallin for her signature without delay.
The chorus of voices looking to stop text-messaging while driving now includes the country’s four largest cellphone companies.
T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and AT&T are getting behind a multimillion dollar ad campaign promoting AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign.
“Every CEO in the industry that you talk to recognizes that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with,” the head of AT&T told The Associated Press.Perhaps the message eventually will sink in with Oklahoma legislative leaders.
Several efforts this year to ban texting and driving failed. Oklahoma is one of just 11 states that haven’t outlawed texting at the wheel, which is dangerous not only to the person sending or reading messages, but to others on the road.
“They froze us out completely,” the state lawmaker said. “But they’ve got the power, and they’re using it.”
An Oklahoma Democrat complaining about life in the GOP-controlled Legislature? No. The remark comes from a Republican legislator in Colorado, where Democrats recently passed a bill greatly broadening voter rights.
The new law will let voters register on Election Day, allow residents to move within the state without re-registering at their new address, and create an all-mail ballot system. Not a single GOP member voted in favor.
Republicans have led efforts across the country for stricter voter rules. Colorado’s new law makes it far easier to vote. Time will tell if, as we suspect, this law has made it too easy.
The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to hear an appeal of a church-state case.
For the Elmbrook School District, near Milwaukee, Wis., graduation ceremonies were a challenge because the high school gym was hot, cramped and uncomfortable. The Elmbrook Church allowed officials to hold the ceremony in the church’s large, modern and air-conditioned sanctuary.
That arrangement worked for a decade, but then nine students and parents sued, claiming the school had violated a constitutional ban on “an establishment of religion” because the sanctuary displayed a large Latin cross. The 7th Circuit Court sided with the plaintiffs; the defendants now want Supreme Court review.
Like so many church-state lawsuits, this one appears driven not by any true state establishment of religion, but by thin-skinned people who think they have a constitutional right to be protected from learning that their neighbors may hold different religious beliefs than their own.
The Census Bureau reported this week that nationally, blacks voted at a higher rate than whites in the 2012 election. It’s the first time that’s happened since the bureau began tracking voting data by race in 1968. Indeed the number of black and Hispanic voters increased from 2008 to 2012, while the number of non-Hispanic white voters fell, which the bureau said “indicates that the 2012 voting population expansion came primarily from minority voters.”
This news is especially ironic because the administration of Barack Obama, our first black president, spent so much time last year working to roll back voter ID laws. Attorney General Eric Holder even likened some of these laws to the poll taxes of the Jim Crow days.
The census data shouldn’t come as a great surprise. In 2008, minority turnout in Georgia and Indiana increased dramatically, as did the turnout of Democrats in general, and those states have the strictest voter ID laws in the country.
Asking for identification at the ballot box is constitutional — so says the U.S. Supreme Court — and as the data shows, it’s no more onerous than asking the same to enter a building or board an airplane or write a check.
Like others, we’ve noted that Obamacare’s insurance mandates, which kick in for employees working 30 hours or more per week, actually encourage businesses to reduce workers’ hours, making it harder for people to get ahead financially.
It turns out government workers aren’t immune from this fiscal reality.
The Wall Street Journal reports the city of Brunswick, Ohio, has instituted a 28 hours-per-week maximum for about 100 employees. The state of Virginia has started implementing a 29-hour cap for about 37,000 employees, including college adjunct faculty. And the Iowa Association of School Boards reports that some schools even considered a 29-hour weekly max for bus drivers, cooks and student learning aids.
Although Sara Redding Wilson, director of the Virginian Department of Human Resource Management, explains this trend succinctly, we suspect many liberals will still be baffled: “Some people don’t like it, and I get that, but we couldn’t afford it.”
Earlier this year when state Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, filed an amendment to provide vouchers to families of children attending any school that allows teachers to be armed, we thought it was a political stunt. We stand corrected.
Shelton remains steadfast, making the case for school choice in situations where parents are uncomfortable with the idea of a child’s teacher having a gun.
Shelton argues, “It is my job, not a teacher’s, to introduce guns to my children. Parents should be empowered to take their children out of any school that allows guns in the classroom.” Fair enough.
But school choice supporters reasonably argue: Why stop there? Should parents be forced to keep their children in a failing school, based solely on geographic proximity, so long as teachers don’t have weapons?
Shelton’s argument isn’t unreasonable, but it can apply to situations well beyond the “guns in school” issue.
President Barack Obama promised that under the Affordable Care Act, “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.” But that promise isn’t true even for government workers.
Washington state officials are considering a proposal to shift state workers out of their current health plans and into those offered through Obamacare exchanges.
Because pay for many of those employees is low enough to qualify for federal subsidies, the shift would “save” Washington state government $120 million over two years, shifting costs to federal taxpayers instead. Other states are expected to do the same.
The plans offered through exchanges are expected to have more limited provider networks than traditional insurance, so this is hardly a boon to state workers. It’s just one more instance where Obamacare is exacerbating problems in health insurance instead of solving them, and shifting costs instead of lowering them.
Oklahoma House leadership clearly wants nothing to do with banning text-messaging while driving.
This week the House rejected further efforts to crack down on texting at the wheel.
Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville, originally introduced a texting ban bill that passed through a House committee but wasn’t heard on the floor. He later tried unsuccessfully to add the ban as an amendment to another bill.
On Tuesday, three tries by Democrats to get anti-texting language added to legislation were rejected. One would have limited the ban to places like school zones and work zones, and even that got shot down.
Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, is among those opposed to banning driving and texting, and so Oklahoma remains one of just 11 states that haven’t tried to crack down on this dangerous and omnipresent practice.
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.