Say this for state Rep. David Dank: He doesn’t give up easily.
Dank, R-Oklahoma City, raised a ruckus last week about efforts by some of his colleagues to get last-minute tax credits and incentives approved. Dank has fought long and hard to eliminate tax credits that don’t provide a benefit to the state.
Among the last-minute proposals he cited was a sales tax exemption for an upcoming Senior PGA tournament in Edmond and a five-year extension for a wind-energy tax credit that is supposed to sunset in 2016.
The House voted this session for a bill by Dank to set mandatory criteria for all tax credits. “Did they mean it when they voted for those criteria a few weeks ago, or was that all just a scam to fool the taxpayers?” he said.
We’ll find out as the session winds to a close.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin this week rejected an idea aimed at ensuring that state agencies are operating as efficiently as possible.
Fallin vetoed Senate Bill 907, which would have created a Joint Legislative Committee on Accountability. The panel would have included legislators from both sides of the aisle — an effort to avoid claims that partisan points were being sought — as well as two members from the private sector, who could review executive branch agencies and request performance audits.
In her veto, Fallin said the governor and legislators already have avenues available to ask for audits. But they seldom do, and that isn’t likely to change.
“For 20 years, people have been talking about this. It hasn’t happened,” a miffed state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said. “This bill would make it happen.”
Lawmakers approved SB 907 by votes of 44-0 in the Senate and 87-5 in the House. We’ll see if that support translates into a veto override.
“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 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.
Another day, another pointless protest along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline’s southern leg. Meantime, Americans remain supportive of the more controversial northern leg.
Protesters in Oklahoma (but not necessarily from Oklahoma) this week continued their childish antics of fastening themselves to construction equipment, getting arrested for it and — no doubt — tweeting about their heroics. Monday’s protest came on the final day of the U.S. State Department’s formal comment period for the project.
Also this week, the Environmental Protection Agency weighed in with the dog-bites-man news that it has major concerns about Keystone’s link between Cushing and Canada’s vast oil sands reserves. And a survey was released showing that nearly 75 percent of Americans support the project. This exceeds the 68 percent support registered in Canada.
While the Obama administration continues to dawdle on the northern leg, the route from Cushing to the Gulf Coast has the blessing of Barack Obama himself. He made a campaign stop near Cushing last year to announce his approval of the project. Yet the protesters keep showing up in southern Oklahoma to take a stand.
This week marked the fifth such effort. One protester said he came from Ames, Iowa, to defend the Red River. Really? Defend it from what? A Texas invasion?
The remark illustrates the mindlessness of this effort. Irrelevant comparisons to a pipeline break in Arkansas are about the only thing the protesters have going for them. We suggest that the Iowan head home and help defend Mississippi River towns from an extant flooding threat.
That would be productive and heroic.
President Barack Obama claims he’s for “balanced” deficit reduction that relies on the rich paying just a little more. It turns out Obama defines “rich” to include those earning less than $10,000 annually, based on an analysis of his latest budget proposal by the Tax Policy Center.
The center found Americans at all income levels would face 2015 tax increases under Obama’s plan — which, we must point out, still fails to balance the budget even with $1.1 trillion in tax increases over a decade.
Obama’s plan includes a tobacco tax increase, which would fall disproportionately on the poor. While those earning between $50,000 and $200,000 would see after-tax income decline one-tenth of 1 percent, the center estimates those earning less than $50,000 would see after-tax income decline by two and three times that amount.
Who knew Obama considered a welfare recipient with a cigarette the equivalent of John Rockefeller?
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.
During debate on a bill this week, Oklahoma state Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, said customer service gives small businesses like his an edge over big stores and chains, even though customers might try to “Jew me down on a price.”
Johnson, 59, later said he grew up hearing that scurrilous phrase but didn’t know why he used it. It “just came out of one of the wrinkles of my brain and was not something that was intentional.”
That excuse might hold more water except that Johnson was speaking on the floor of the Oklahoma House, where one expects a modicum of thought to accompany the proceedings. And it might fly better if Johnson had immediately corrected himself.
Instead he continued his debate until a nearby colleague pointed out what he had said. “Did I?” Johnson responded. Then, smiling — almost laughing — he added, “I apologize to the Jews. They’re good small businessmen as well.”
No doubt the Jews will be glad to hear that.
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.