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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

July 2, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman. June 30, 2019.

— A long-shot voice of reason in Democratic debates

The 20 Democratic presidential candidates on stage in Miami last week broadly agree on many issues, including that President Trump has to go, the strong economy benefits only the “wealthy,” abortion on demand is sacrosanct and government-run programs are a must.

There were a few candidates, however, who weren’t so willing to board the party’s express train to the far left on health care. One was former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland.

Delaney stood out especially for his defense of private health insurance, something Sen. Bernie Sanders would eliminate with his “Medicare for All” plan. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who along with Sanders is closest to front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden in polling, said she’s with Sanders in wanting to end private insurance. Many of the other candidates back a move to a single-payer system.

Delaney used the experience of his father, a union electrician, to make a staunch and laudable rejection of ending private insurance.

“I actually grew up in a working-class family,” said Delaney, an entrepreneur before winning election to Congress. “He loved the health care that the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) gave him. And I always just think about my dad in anything that I do from a policy perspective. He’d look at me and he’d say, ‘Good job, John, for getting health care for every American. But why are you taking my health care away?’”

Delaney said free health care should be a basic human right but noted, “A hundred million Americans say they like their private health insurance. . Why do we have to stand for taking away something from people?”

He also had the gumption to call Medicare for All “bad policy.”

“If you go to every hospital in this country and ask them one question, which is how would it have been for you last year if every one of your bills were paid at the Medicare rate, every single hospital administrator said they would close,” Delaney said. “And the Medicare for All bill requires payments to stay at current Medicare rates. So, to some extent, we’re supporting a bill that will have every hospital closing.”

When the topic moved to whether impeachment should be pursued against Trump, Delaney again swam upstream. He defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handling of the issue, and told panelist Rachel Maddow it’s not a front-burner issue for Americans.

Instead, he said, they’re concerned about health care, infrastructure, job creation, public schools and other “kitchen table, pocketbook issues.”

“They never ask about the Mueller report,” Delaney said. “They want to know how we’re going to solve these problems.”

Delaney is polling in the low single digits and isn’t likely to last long in this campaign, but the party might be well served to consider what he said.

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Tulsa World. June 30, 2019.

— Nondecision by the Supreme Court gives state, federal and tribal leaders more time to plan

The U.S. Supreme Court has adjourned without taking decisive action on a case that might reconfigure the relationship between Native American tribes and the state of Oklahoma in a very big way forever.

The high court punted the case of convicted killer Patrick Dwayne Murphy for reconsideration next fall. With Justice Neil Gorsuch recused from the case, the delay suggests the justices may have been evenly split on the complicated and, at least as far as Oklahoma goes, far-reaching dispute.

Murphy was convicted in state court of attacking George Jacobs Sr. on Aug. 28, 1999, cutting his throat and severing his genitals before throwing him in a ditch to die. Murphy was sentenced to death. His case went through eight previous appeals prior to a 2017 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the state lacked jurisdiction to try the case.

Murphy is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Tribe and the crime occurred within the historic treaty boundaries of the Creek Nation. The 10th Circuit found that Congress never finally dissolved the Creek reservation it created by treaty in 1866, meaning the tribe or the federal government would have jurisdiction over the alleged crime, but not the state.

The implications concerning potentially hundreds of criminal cases involving tribal members or land is concerning enough, but some have argued a broad ruling in Murphy’s favor could have implications throughout eastern Oklahoma and well beyond criminal court.

In its appeal, the state argued that if the ruling stands, “Oklahoma stands on the brink of the most radical jurisdictional shift since statehood.”

The Creek Nation downplays the potential implications but recognizes it as critical in future state-tribe relations. The tribe didn’t initiate the case, but, with its sovereignty rights on the line, was forced to take part.

There are as many opinions about the potential implications of the case as there are experts on Indian sovereignty. The nature and scope of those implications depend on what the Supreme Court does, and at this point, it’s not doing anything for a year.

The high court’s failure to decide gives state, federal and tribal officials extra time to think through the case and prepare for a variety of possibilities. We urge them all to use the time wisely and in a way that balances the interests of the tribes and the citizens of Oklahoma.

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Stillwater News Press. June 30, 2019.

— Addressing teacher shortage

We need some new approaches to address our state’s shortage of qualified teachers. According to a Tulsa World report, for the 2017-2018 school year, Oklahoma public schools added around 1,000 teachers through emergency license. That seems like a lot.

Firstly, many emergency-certified teachers may be perfectly capable of sculpting young minds. They may know the material, they may know children and they may be perfectly fine educators. The problem is, there is no way this is sustainable.

Those numbers could improve, the Legislature has raised teacher pay and classroom funding in the last two years. Only time will tell if it’s enough to counterbalance the teachers who leave the profession or the young people who decide to try another state.

What about incentives? A big part of Democratic presidential platforms, for more than a handful of candidates has been free college, for everyone, or for a smaller handful, student loan forgiveness. Many argue that isn’t very fair to those who came out of school debt free, and that may be the case, but what if we could tweak it a bit?

It’s hard to imagine it’s very easy to enter the workforce saddled with student loans for a job that doesn’t have a great starting salary. What if we turned our attention just to teachers, just to see if it works? What if we could put students who work to get into the teaching field, specifically, on a loan program that only requires payment if the student didn’t stay on as a public school teacher for a certain amount of time, depreciating with each year they remain a public school teacher? It’s not impossible, and it’s a lot more pragmatic than free college for everyone.

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