Monday, November 30, 2015


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

Oklahoma state government has a Rainy Day Fund, aka the Constitutional Reserve Fund.  It works as a savings account for government so in the case of an emergency, it can be tapped.  Any revenue over 95% of revenue estimates collected in a year is deposited into the Rainy Day Fund.  The state constitution caps the amount to be deposited to the fund at 15% of the General Revenue Fund estimate provided by the State Board of Equalization for the prior fiscal year. 
     The legislature can tap the Rainy Day Fund if the state’s official estimate shows that the following fiscal year will bring in less than the current year.  3/8 of the Rainy Day Fund can be used for supplemental funding.  Another ¼ of the fund can be tapped if the governor and ¾ of the legislature declare a state of emergency. 
      Twice in the past eleven years, Oklahoma voters have changed how the fund works.  In 2004, the amount of money the legislature could use was reduced from 1/2 to 3/8.  The change passed by a 2 to 1 margin.  In 2010, Oklahoma voters narrowly passed a proposal to increase the amount that was to be deposited to the fund- from 10 to 15%.  The measure passed by a mere 20,000 votes statewide. Now it appears voters will be asked to vote on changes to the Rainy Day Fund in November 2016. 
     State Representative Jon Echols, (R-OKC), says he intends to file legislation in the upcoming legislative session allowing voters to amend the Constitution to both increase the cap – but not lower it – and allow the Legislature to appropriate directly to the fund. 
     “The idea that we should cap how much money the state can save is, frankly, ridiculous.  Not only is there a cap on how much we can save, there is also legitimate doubt among House staff as to whether the Legislature has the authority to make direct appropriations into the Rainy Day Fund. Neither of those restrictions make any sense. We had a $600 million budget gap last year, and we are now looking at up to $1 billion less this year to appropriate. Our current approach is shortsighted and bizarre. Taxpayers expect us to be prudent and develop a long-term approach to state spending. This is not the way a citizen would run his or her family and it certainly isn’t the way we should run our state,” Echols said.
     Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger says he would like to create another fund, similar to the Rainy Day Fund that would allow state government to sock away some funds for down budget years.  In an editorial in The Oklahoman, Doerflinger said, “I think there are tools we should put in place, maybe a separate fund that would help equalize these types of downturns in the energy sector.  It might cause some smoothing or leveling of the pain that occurs if you were to see something this dramatic in the future.”
     First, Echols has a point.  Why restrict how much money the legislature can put in savings?  After all, saving money is better than government spending it.  That sounds pretty good, but government is not a family or a business.  When government socks away tax dollars into a savings account that means they are overcharging taxpayers.  If there is a surplus, give it back to the people it belongs to- the taxpayers. Government, at all levels should operate efficiently, but not be banking up a surplus- in good or bad times. 
     Second, the legislature taps the Rainy Day Fund virtually every year.  It doesn’t even have to cloud up before they hit the savings account.  That is why voters overwhelmingly voted to reduce how much the lawmakers could tap.  The fund was set up for emergencies, but every year there is an emergency.
     Third, the legislature should consider fundamentally changing the budgeting process and force agencies to justify every penny of tax dollar they are appropriated.  They should also commit to identifying and eliminating waste.  They need to force government agencies to consolidate.  Stabilization should never be the goal of government.  It should be to become more efficient and reduce in size and scope.
    Currently the Rainy Day Fund has a balance of $382 million.  With an expected budget shortfall of $1 billion or more, it’s a sure bet the legislature will be tapping the fund.  Until Oklahoma government is truly right-sized and streamlined, giving Oklahoma government more money- whether in a savings account or not- is inconsistent with good government. Government should be saving money by cutting operational costs, not by efficient management of more money.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Knowing God is KEY to being truly grateful at Thanksgiving!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     On Thursday, most Americans will sit down to turkey and dressing and celebrate Thanksgiving Day.  Most school children study the ‘first Thanksgiving,’ which was celebrated by the Pilgrims after landing in the New World in 1621.  According to a first-hand account written by Edward Winslow it was attended by 90 Natives and 53 Pilgrims after the first harvest in the new country.   In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.  Since that time it has been a federal holiday, but President Washington also proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in 1789.  In 1939, in a very controversial move, President Roosevelt changed it to the fourth Thursday in November.       
     In 1844, Lydia Maria Child wrote a twelve stanza poem for Thanksgiving entitled, “Over the River and Through the Wood,” that later became a 4 verse song.  The original words were; ‘to grandFATHER’S house we go, not grandmother,’ a little Thanksgiving trivia.  Many Americans will travel to visit family and friends and have quality time fellowshipping around the table, but what should Americans be thankful for this Thanksgiving?  Here are three reasons to be grateful to live in America:
     First, America is still a country that offers more opportunity for personal economic advancement than any place in the world.  Even in an environment where manufacturing is fleeing the country faster than rats off a sinking ship, it is still possible for the average American to lift themselves up by their bootstraps and make something of themselves.  No country offers the hard working entrepreneur more opportunities than America.  That is why we have immigration and refugee problem- people are leaving their homeland and fleeing to the land of opportunity and liberty because in spite of its shortcomings, the USA is still the best the world has to offer.
     Second, America has the best and safest food and water in the world.  It shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Over half of the world’s population has bad water and insufficient food.  A majority of the world’s population has a water supply that is either non-existent or polluted.  Their food supply is unreliable and inconsistent.   America should be thankful for those that produce process and supply their food and water supply. 
     Third, Americans have more liberty than citizens in any other country.  While it is true that liberty is under constant attack, most Americans live in states where they are legally able to arm and defend themselves.  For the most part, those citizens have the right of free speech, the freedom to worship as they see fit, and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.  Americans live under a self-governing system of government unique to anyplace in the world. 
    Who provided all these blessings that Americans enjoy?  The obvious answer is God, but most Americans don’t understand what true gratitude is because they don’t know God?  Jonathan Edwards, a theologian and the first President of Princeton, said, “True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what He is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. God's own excellency.”   
     John Piper says; “Gratitude that is pleasing to God is not first a delight in the benefits God gives (though that is part of it). True gratitude must be rooted in something else that comes first, namely, a delight in the beauty and excellency of God's character.” In other words, true gratitude must flow out of knowing who provides the blessings you are thankful for.  This Thanksgiving, are you really truly grateful?  Do you know God?

Friday, November 13, 2015


Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     Last week, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin kicked off ‘Oklahoma Fosters,’ a program designated to encourage Oklahomans to become foster parents.  “There are nearly 11,000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system and we desperately need the hold of our entire community to care for them,” Fallin said. “These children are in state custody through no fault of their own. They need foster families to love and support them during their time of need.”  The program is asking businesses to encourage employees, and churches to encourage congregations, and Native American tribes to encourage citizens to consider being foster or adoptive parents.  The goal is to have one thousand (1,000) new foster parents by June of 2016. 
     “This is a crisis that government alone cannot solve,” Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake said. “We must have the help of businesses, nonprofits and philanthropic foundations, along with our current community and faith partners. There is a role for everyone and it will take all of us working together to take care of Oklahoma’s children.”
     One of the reasons there is such a sense of urgency to recruit more foster parents is because the state has closed large emergency children’s shelters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  By the end of the year, the Tulsa facility- Laura Dester Children Center- will be closed.  Between 50-100 kids were housed at the facility at any designated time.  Laura Dester is just five years old and cost taxpayers $12.4 million. DHS hasn’t announced plans for its use after the children are removed and shifted to private homes. The closures are part of the DHS Pinnacle Plan, a five year blueprint to improve child welfare in Oklahoma.  The Pinnacle Plan was the result of a settlement with child advocacy groups after they sued the state on behalf of several children hurt or killed in DHS custody.  The plan was finalized in July 2012.  You can read the entire Pinnacle Plan online at the DHS website.  
     Earlier this month, Sue Ann Arnall, Harold Hamm’s ex wife, though her Arnall Family Foundation gave $4.8 million dollars to the Department of Human Services for programs supporting foster care.  Arnall designated $2 million to the Intercept program, a high-intensity, in-home treatment program for troubled children and families that started serving Tulsa last year and $2.8 million toward starting a Youth Village program for older foster children.  It helps mentor them as they transition to adulthood. 
     If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, the requirements and qualification are listed on the DHS website-  Applicants must be between the ages of 21-55, be emotionally and financially stable, pass a background check, be a non-smoker, and be in good health.  The state pays between $15-$20 a day to foster parents.  
     Why does Oklahoma have so many foster children?  There are obviously a number of factors; first, Oklahoma has the highest female incarceration rate in the country and the second highest rate overall.  When the parents go to jail, the state has to take care of the kids.  The second reason is that DHS personnel are extra cautious and removing more children from homes.  Because of the scrutiny the agency received after children in state custody children were injured and killed, the agency has erred on the side of caution.  The result has been a 40% increase in the number of foster children in state custody in the past 5 years. Thankfully, most children placed in foster care in Oklahoma are back with their parents within a year, but a significant number remain in state custody long-term. 
     The root cause of the dramatic increase in foster children is the breakdown of the Oklahoma family.  One factor that must be considered is the expansion of gambling across the state.  According to Alan Meister, an economist at the University of California, Oklahoma Indian tribes derive over $5 billion annually from gambling revenue.   Meister says Oklahoma ranks second to only California in Indian gaming.  “The top two states, California and Oklahoma, generated a combined 38 percent of gaming revenue. Meanwhile, the top five states, which added Connecticut, Florida, and Washington to California and Oklahoma, accounted for approximately 61 percent of gaming revenue,” Meister says. 
     In 2004, Oklahoma voters approved a state wide lottery and the expansion of casino gambling.  The promise was better schools and prosperity.  Is it just a coincidence that incarceration rates, embezzlement cases and the number of foster children to be provided for by taxpayers has increased since gambling was expanded?  Gambling produces nothing.  It appeals to the covetousness nature of man and in the long run is a detriment to society.  Gambling is never a good investment.

Monday, November 9, 2015


by Steve Fair

     This week, The Center for Public Integrity released their 2015 State Integrity Investigation report.  They concluded only three (3) states scored higher than a D and eleven(11), including Oklahoma, flunked.  The states with the most transparent government, according to CPI, are Alaska, California, Connecticut and Rhode Island. 
      The CPI says the State Integrity Investigation is a comprehensive assessment of state government accountability and transparency. The project uses extensive research by reporters in each state to grade and rank the states based on existing laws and analysis of how well they are implemented.
     The report gives Oklahoma a B for auditing and a C+ for procurement, three Ds and seven Fs in the thirteen categories.  You can see the full report at  Oklahoma’s overall grade was 59, an F.  “The public’s right to access information under Oklahoma’s laws continues to be chipped away, and the state lags behind others on measures that could hold judges and other public officials accountable for such behavior,” the report says.  In 2012, Oklahoma received a grade of ‘D’ on the report, so their conclusion is that Oklahoma is going backwards in state government transparency.
     Who is this Center for Public Integrity?  The organization was founded in 1989 by Charles Lewis, a former investigative TV reporter for ABC and CBS.  Lewis is an outspoken critic of former President George W. Bush.  He wrote a couple of books critical of Bush; The Buying of a President and 935 Lies.  935 Lies is about how Bush and his administration lied to the American public about Saddam having weapons of mass destruction.   Lewis left CPI in 2004 and now teaches a course on investigative journalism at Princeton and American University.  Peter Bale, formerly of CNN, is the CEO.  Arianna Huffington is on the board. The CPI says their mission is, “to serve democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions, using the tools of investigative journalism.”  
     Who funds the CPI foundation?  One prominent contributor is the OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE.  The founder of OSI is left-wing George Soros.  Soros funds and is most famous for dropping $40 million trying to get Senator John Kerry elected President in 2004.  Speaking of Kerry, another CPI donor is the Heinz Endowments, a philanthropy run by Teresa Heinz Kerry, the formerly-prospective First Lady.  Also in the money mix is the Streisand Foundation, run by the fabulously liberal Barbra Streisand.  Graeme Wood, a contributing editor for The Atlantic and The New Republic, both liberal magazines, ponies up $250,000 annually for the CPI.
     CPI bills itself as non-partisan, but it is far from that.  It is a non-profit liberal organization run by liberals with a liberal agenda.  Their scam is to present themselves as an objective journalist organization only reporting the facts, but that is not their true goal.  Their primary goal is to control money that flows into political campaigns, which is consistent with George Soros’ stated goal of taxpayer funded elections.  There is no doubt there are violations of open records laws in Oklahoma, but CPI’s observation that a “plumber down the street” may have a more difficult time accessing routine public records he is entitled to under Oklahoma law,” is not a fair analysis. Oklahoma government is far more transparent that it was under Democrat rule.  For nearly 100 years, Oklahomans were force fed lies and fleeced by their elected officials.  This "objective' report is nothing short of propaganda and isn’t worth the ink it took to print it.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     249 laws went into effect on November 1st.  The one getting the most attention is the one that makes texting while driving illegal.  If caught, it is punishable by a $100 fine.  There is a new law requiring children under 2 years old to ride in a rear-facing car seat and all children ride in a car seat or booster seat until the age of 8.  The fine for not complying is $50.  Also on November 1, Oklahoma will become a Right- to-Try state, which allows terminally ill patients to try drugs that have not yet have full FDA approval.  Another law will allow volunteer fire departments across Oklahoma to use firefighters over the age of 45, but they wouldn’t be eligible for a pension.  A new law makes it a felony to assault an off-duty law enforcement officer.  Another law will allow people who have been convicted of misdemeanor drug offenses to be able to buy firearms if they have served out their sentences and it has been ten years.  Still another law will allow citizens to renew their car tags and register to vote online, however that will not be a reality for a couple of years. There is also a new law that allows Oklahoma to perform executions by nitrogen gas, electrocution and firing squad - in that order - if lethal injections are ruled unconstitutional, or become unavailable. Still another law made it legal to carry an automatic knife aka a switchblade. 
     Other laws include one to require any county sales tax elections to only be ‘single subject.’ Another law eliminates writing your property tax check to the person elected as county treasurer.  There is a bill that restricts billboard advertising in certain areas.  There are laws regulating cemeteries, roofers, dog kennels, chicken ranchers, Uber, and plumbers.  There are laws on human trafficking, pensions, open meetings, body cameras, sprinkler systems, mental health, splash pads, and competitive bidding.  There are laws on farming, ranching, injection wells, commercial driver’s license, and water rights. 
     SB 839, authored by Senate Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, (R-Sapulpa) and Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman, (R-Fairview) creates the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture and places it under the supervision of the Oklahoma Historical Society It also authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue up to $25 million of debt to finance construction of the museum. The bill expresses the Legislature's expectation that the Oklahoma Historical Society will make rental payments for the purpose of retiring the debt from current appropriations received by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
     Were all these 249 laws absolutely necessary?  Do we have too many laws in Oklahoma- in America?  If you ask the lawmakers- the authors- they would say every one of the laws was critical to maintaining the space-time continuum.   Life would cease to exist if that bill/law wasn’t passed, but passing laws doesn’t necessarily reduce crime or bad behavior.  Roman Senator Cornelius Tacitus said, "Formerly we suffered from crimes; now we suffer from laws.”  He went on to say, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”
     The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Freedom Foundation have all addressed the dramatic increase in the number of laws at the federal level.  In June at a conference hosted by Freedom Works, it was reported there are at least 5,000 federal criminal laws- up over 25% in the past ten years.   Lawmakers pass laws so fast the American Bar Association says they simply do not have enough staff to categorize every law we have on the books.  Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese wrote in 2010: We are making and enforcing far too many criminal laws that create traps for the innocent but unwary, and threaten to turn otherwise respectable, law-abiding citizens into criminals.”
     Some of the 249 laws that went into effect this week were necessary, but many were not.  There are repetitive and duplicates of laws already on the books.  The ‘texting’ bill targets a specific behavior while driving, but there is already a ‘distracted driving’ law on the books.  What’s next- putting on makeup while driving?  Did we really need to add another law on the books?  Plato said, “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”