Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers
Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Tulsa World. Oct. 29, 2017.
After weeks of witnessing the Oklahoma legislative process at its worst, it’s worth remembering once when the current people in charge at the state Capitol got things right.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently notified the state that it has been granted an extension through Oct. 10, 2018, for compliance with federal REAL ID mandates.
That means that Oklahomans will continue to be able to use state ID cards, most typically driver’s licenses, to board commercial airplanes and be admitted to military bases and other federal facilities.
It’s clear to us that the latest extension would have been harder to earn were it not for the leadership shown this year by Gov. Mary Fallin, Speaker of the House Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz in quickly breaking the state’s stubborn resistances to REAL ID.
Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The terrorists used fake IDs to board commercial airliners, which they then hijacked.
But, in 2007, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a Republican bill defying REAL ID compliance, citing exaggerated privacy concerns and imaginary fears of Big Brother-style government.
At the beginning of this year’s regular session of the Legislature — with Oklahomans under increasing risk of federal restrictions because of noncompliance — Fallin, McCall and Schulz pledged to cut through the extremist rhetoric from within their own Republican Party and deal with the issue quickly.
House Bill 1845, written by McCall and Schulz, will bring the state into eventual full compliance. It passed both chambers of the Legislature with overwhelming support, and Fallin signed it into law a month into the regular session.
Oklahomans who don’t want to live by REAL ID have an option. They can receive a noncompliant driver’s license for an additional $5.
The state still has a lot of work to do before it will be in compliance, and the state will likely need additional federal extensions; but our genuine good-faith efforts should stand us in good stead in arguing for that extra time.
Fallin, McCall and Schulz should be proud of their leadership on the REAL ID issue. They deserve the thanks of thousands of Oklahomans. We wish they were as efficient in solving all the state’s problems as they were with this one.
The Journal Record. Oct. 30, 3017.
In the wake of last week’s failed revenue legislation, fingers pointed.
That’s no surprise. The most conservative of the right wing pointed at the House Democrats and blamed them for the bill’s failure, even though one-fourth of Republicans voted against it too. The most liberal of the left wing pointed at the House Republicans and blamed them for failing to include the one item that would have won Democratic votes — an increase in the gross production tax — even though not a single Dem voted for what many saw as the best compromise that can be fashioned this year.
Oklahomans are rightfully angry after watching in disbelief as lawmakers first rushed through 11th-hour bills that even casual observers expected would be found unconstitutional. Ever optimistic, they hoped the special session would buy enough time to find a compromise that would at least preserve critical services at their current meager levels and pay for them with recurring revenue.
It’s hard to find a dinner conversation, much less a reasonably scientific poll, in which Oklahomans disagree. They want to give teachers more money. They want to increase the cigarette tax and give more money to health care. They’re willing to go back to an income tax rate that did a better job of paying for the services they want in their communities. And with the exception of a few, Oklahomans have said a higher gross production tax rate is in order - not the full 7 percent, not a higher rate than other energy-producing states are charging, but a competitive rate that would help Oklahoma restore the luster that’s been eroding for the past eight years.
Oklahomans are weary of the black-and-white, Republicans-versus-Democrats, oil-versus-wind rhetoric. When reasonable voters talk to one another they agree on a lot. No one of either party wants more taxes to support a government that spends frivolously. Neither do they want to cut off help for the poor, the ill, or any group that genuinely needs help. No one wants to hurt the energy industry, but they don’t want to hurt schools or rural hospitals, either. Few would argue that the Department of Corrections has enough money.
One measure that considers all points won’t win favor with every campaign donor but would be cherished by most constituents.
Does no one have the backbone to get it done? We fear not.
The Oklahoman. Oct. 30, 2017.
Among the highlights of President Trump’s administration so far has been his devotion to rolling back and repealing bad regulation. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has been at the forefront of many such efforts.
That’s why it’s disappointing Trump and Pruitt have chosen not to address the many problems with the Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS was enacted in 2005 to supposedly reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by mandating ever-increasing use of biofuels. But the goals of the law have conflicted with logistical reality almost since its inception.
The Government Accountability Office spent 19 months conducting a thorough independent analysis of the renewable fuel standard. Released in 2016, it concluded that efforts to mandate greater amounts of ethanol in fuel were becoming impractical because fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol is incompatible with most existing cars and fueling infrastructure.
The RFS requires that 35 billion gallons of ethanol-equivalent biofuels and 1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel be refined by 2022. The promotion of E15 blends — gasoline with 15 percent ethanol — has become the primary way to meet that goal. Yet it’s estimated that E15 blends could increase the cost of gasoline by up to 30 percent.
The impracticality of the law is so bad even the Obama administration EPA often ignored its mandates. Starting in 2009, the EPA routinely failed to meet the deadline for designating the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended into gasoline. In fact, the agency was still trying to set the blend goal for 2014 in 2015.
The law’s problems were so bad that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a staunch liberal from environmentally minded California, joined in 2013 with former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, to author legislation seeking repeal of the RFS.
Under Trump, the EPA considered lowering the mandated volumes under the RFS and allowing exported fuel to count toward yearly quotas. That drew strong backlash from lawmakers in corn-producing states that receive most of the benefit from the artificially generated demand for ethanol. One of those repeal opponents, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, even threatened to prevent Trump nominees from receiving committee votes unless the RFS was preserved.
Following that threat, Pruitt announced no changes would occur. Now the agency is encouraging Congress to change the law so E15 can be sold year-round. As already noted, few vehicles can run on E15, and the reason it’s not offered year-round today is that it is linked to ozone issues. In other words, this “green” fuel may be contributing to environmental problems.
Given Grassley’s threat, Trump officials may have concluded they would lose more by advancing RFS reform than by allowing the status quo to continue. And Iowa is one of the states that voted twice for Barack Obama but then flipped to Trump in 2016.
Still, even though one can understand the political calculations behind the administration’s inaction on ethanol, that doesn’t make the RFS good policy. The law’s negative consequences are many, and far outweigh any benefit to a small share of corn farmers in a handful of states. The case for repealing the RFS remains as strong as ever.