Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – From an editor’s notebook, the Department of Corrections needs to take certain steps before the muddied picture for capital punishment is clarified one way or the other, a leading r-lifer praised signing of two pro-life measures this week, and an influential conservative legal analyst has detailed his disappointment with Oklahoma Republican leaders.
The multi-county grand jury has completed its investigation of the controversial Oklahoma death penalty protocols, sources have told The City Sentinel. Many have speculated the panel might take further action this month or next.
Indeed, last month’s presentation – which garnered worldwide attention for its detailed catalog of shocking problems in administration of the ultimate sanction -- was labeled an “Interim Report.” That is because the grand jury is still meeting (focused on other matters). However, there will be no further action from the panel concerning the death penalty issues.
The Department of Corrections has received and is studying the grand jury’s report. The agency ultimately will craft new capital punishment procedures or protocols. Once those are approved at the agency and released, at least 150 days will pass before any new executions take place.
Officials at the agency have not commented publicly on how long development of a new or reformed protocol process will take.
Oklahomans for Life praised Gov. Mary Fallin this week for signing what the group called “two critically important pro-life bills.”
House Bill 2917 is known as the “Humanity of the Unborn Child Act,” while House Bill 3017 aims to “vulnerable patients from being pressured to forego life-preserving treatment,” the group said in a press release.
Commenting on the two measures, Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life said, “Oklahoma becomes the first state to establish a public school educational program about the humanity and development of the unborn child, and the state with the most life-affirming POLST document, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, honoring the wishes of a person who desires treatment.
“This milestone, which H.B. 3017 achieved, is especially urgent in a culture increasingly trending toward denial of life-preserving care on grounds that someone is a "burden" or has a "poor quality of life."
Speaking of Gov. Fallin, she said an annual assessment of state economic outlooks ratifies the course the Sooner State has taken during her six years as chief executive. In the “Rich States, Poor States” report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Oklahoma was ranked tenth best overall in economic outlook, an improvement from 16th place in 2015.
In its ninth edition, The ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, as it is also known, put Oklahoma at fifth best economic performance.
“Since 2014, Oklahoma has significantly improved in these rankings, moving from No. 21 in economic outlook to No. 10,” said Fallin. “This progress shows that we are continuing to establish and promote business-friendly policies that will help us to expand and diversify our state’s economy.”
The ALEC-Laffer analysts look at 15 policy variables. According to a summary from Fallin’s staff, “Oklahoma ranked No. 1 in four categories: property tax burden (per $1,000 of personal income), estate/inheritance tax levied, state minimum wage and right-to-work state.“Generally speaking, states that spend less – especially on income transfer programs – and states that tax less – particularly on productive activities such as working or investing – experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more.”
Despite more distressing economic news with announcement of another major energy firm bankruptcy, upward movement in oil and gas prices make state officials optimistic that brighter days are ahead.
Andrew Spiropoulos, professor of law at Oklahoma City University and the Friedman Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), has delivered a rhetorical spanking to the Republicans in charge of state government.
In his regular commentary for The Journal Record, Spiropoulos wrote, “[T]his team of Republican leaders, thanks largely to Oklahomans’ rational antipathy towards President Obama and his arrogant contempt for states like ours, were gifted with legislative supermajorities and every statewide elected office. In the last six years, they had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape our state. And they squandered it.
“Now, it’s not fair to say they made no progress at all. We can say, though, that they repeatedly started down the path of reform, but as soon as they encountered the inevitable resistance from the remnants of the reactionary Democratic establishment, ensconced in the state judiciary, public higher education, and the common education bureaucracy, they lost their nerve.”
One of the most influential state advocates of limited government and policy reform, Spiropoulos reflected, “The great fault of our leading Republicans is that too many of them are insufficiently fluent in the fundamentals of political economy and constitutionalism to persuasively defend conservative policies against organized attack. People on the left may be afflicted with bad ideas, but they really do study and believe in them. Conservatives will only succeed when we master our craft equally as well.”
He concluded with words of praise for one departing legislator: “[W]e must not neglect to pay tribute to those conservative legislators who did master their vocation. This term marks the retirement of Rep. Jason Nelson, who, in eight years as a member of the House, made himself expert in education and human services policy. But Nelson was not content to play policy wonk or pundit – he understood that the point of being a legislator is to pass good bills. He took the fruits of his study and worked tirelessly, working with both parties and reaching out to the community, to turn good ideas into law.”