Mental Health Break Time

While I spend a good deal of my day writing and editing, it’s a much more structured process, and it includes looking at spreadsheets. So, I’m going to start using some of my break time at the office for these brief mental health posts.

I’ve been traveling more across Oklahoma, including several trips to Bartlesville, Okla. My time there is a re-introduction to the community. I attended half of seventh grade and all of eighth grade at Bartlesville’s Central Junior High. While those grades are sometimes difficult for students, I had a wonderful time at the school.

Being in the community recently reminds me of the things I liked as an adolescent: the arts and culture, the philanthropy, the kind people, and the unique existence of a corporate center not tied to a major city.

One recent example of how amazing Bartlesville is comes from the recent campaign for the Bartlesville Regional United Way. The campaign came in over its goal, bringing in $2.5 million. Doing the math, that’s about $70 for every person in the community. That kind of result in a town of 36,000 people is amazing.

I can’t leave this mental health post without reporting on the last meal I had in Bartlesville. It was at Murphy’s Steak House. I had the gravy over all. You can read more from the Sterns because it’s time for me to get back to work.

Break over.

New Job, New Town

I’m putting more energy into this blog after a change of scenery and employment.

After years as the news director at a public radio station serving the Oklahoma City metro, my wife’s job took us to south Tulsa. We now live in Bixby, Okla., but are still keeping our downtown Oklahoma City condo.

Bixby is an interesting community. I’ve learned to tell Tulsa people we live “south” of the river; that seems to make immediate sense. My commute to my job with the Eastern Oklahoma Region of the American Red Cross is almost identical in length to the commute I had before moving.

The housing addition where we live has a wheat field across from it. The drive home not only takes me over the Arkansas River, but also has me passing by sod farms and acres of corn. Driving over the river each day and seeing the sun glimmering off the east or west revives my spirit, encouraging me for the day.

Anyway, the “bloglahoma” blog will be taking on more of a northeast Oklahoma flair, and serve as an outlet for some thoughts and observations that come from change.

Thanks for reading.

The New Speaker

State Rep. T.W. Shannon leaves behind one of the top leadership posts in Oklahoma politics to seek his political future in Washington, D.C. Last legislative session, the speaker was somewhat popular among right-wing Republicans nationally, traveling to talk and having some visits of officials here.

But who is next to have the corner office with the conference room on the east side of the state capitol? Three names are floated among the House membership: Jeff Hickman, Mike Jackson and Jason Nelson. I’m thinking Nelson is a long shot, though he has a reputation as a very hard worker and open access to the media. I’ve called his office at odd times through the year and almost always find him at work.

I don’t know Hickman and Jackson as well, but I find Hickman’s approach to policy debates in the more reasoned realm in House. Jackson is now acting as speaker in Shannon’s absence because he is the Speaker Pro Tempore. Maybe he can pull together enough votes in the Republican caucus to become the newest leader of the chamber.

Jackson’s performance before reporters at last week’s Associated Press legislative forum was less than stellar, but he was also put on that stage because Shannon picked that same day to formally announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Coburn.

So, if I were a betting person, which I’m not (that includes the state lottery; a tax for people who can’t do math), my money would be on Jackson, but don’t count out Hickman.

Amnesia or Ignorance, Gov. Mary Fallin Denies Knowing Costs of Corrections Reform

I haven’t posted in some time, but with the legislative session coming soon, I’m back.

Late Friday afternoon, I attended a media availability with Gov. Mary Fallin to talk about corrections. I think she lied to Oklahomans.

After questioning by one reporter and a direct follow up by me, Gov. Fallin said no one knew the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a major reform of the state’s criminal justice system, would cost money. That is either a lie or an amazing level of ignorance.

Then-House Speaker Kris Steele repeatedly told the Capitol press corps, sitting in his conference office, that the plan would cost money up front, for a return in the future. We asked him where the funds would come from? He would respond that it was possible.

I attended a luncheon, hosted by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb outlining the entire process of the JRI. There was widespread support for the initiative, from the Oklahoma City police department up, it was viewed as a way for Oklahoma to be “smart” on crime.

Gov. Fallin’s response to the questions Friday were interspersed with her assurance that she made the decisions in her administration, not her staff.

I’m not so sure, and my trust in Oklahoma’s chief executive is greatly reduced.

House Democrats Stay on Message

It’s easy for reporters at the state Capitol to quickly tire of the “same old story.” There are lawmakers whose actions any legislative observer can usually predict.
I’ve personally tired of the House Democrats’ “it doesn’t add up,” “the math doesn’t work,” phrases. Those words have been a part of every press availability I’ve attended so far this session.
While I’ve tired of those words, they still make a certain amount of sense.
The term, “cut and starve,” could be the response to “tax and spend.” I’m sure there is some middle ground.
Late this afternoon, House members participated in a roast of sorts of Democratic House member Richard Morrissette. He is often on the prickly end of debates on the floor, holding feet to the fire.
The House I saw came together in support of a member they often disagree with on his bill related to elimination of the red cedar (though I’ve been told it’s redcedar, and I haven’t taken the time to check this out) scourge from Oklahoma’s land.
There were impersonations, questions reflecting tough legislative debates in a playful manner, and a general camaraderie of those we elect to make our laws.
The “debate” left me wondering if the idealogical divide isn’t nearly as wide as it appears.

Workers’ Comp Ads on TV

The battle over changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system is hitting the airwaves. The Dan Davis law firm has commercials on featuring a person with an amputated leg saying his family would not have made it without workers’ comp.
Legislation that would eliminate a court-based system in favor of an administrative program passed the Senate this week and is now headed to the House.
Compensation amounts for specific injuries have been reduced, the main point made in the new TV commercial. House Speaker T.W. Shannon is shepherding the legislation through his chamber and says changes are likely. Whether that will include altering the amount employees injured on the job receive isn’t known.
I’m keeping a close eye on this bill and will be reporting on it regularly on KGOU.

First Bill to Governor

It appears that Chesapeake Energy’s efforts to alter Oklahoma law to fit its corporate governance needs are bearing fruit. It’s likely this may be the first bill Gov. Mary Fallin signs into law this legislative session. StateImpact Oklahoma’s Joe Wertz reports the story.

A new corporate governance law sought by Chesapeake Energy now awaits Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature.
Final approval from the state Legislature came Wednesday. The measure — House Bill 1646, authored by Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks — reverses 2010 legislation that mandated staggered elections of directors at certain public companies, a corporate governance strategy designed to prevent a boardroom takeover.
Chesapeake Energy helped write the 2010 law, which didn’t protect it from a boardroom shakeup. Chesapeake pushed to reverse the law because the energy company’s new directors — and many of its shareholders — want annual board member elections, a structure in place at most of Chesapeake’s corporate peers.
The Oklahoma City company’s new directors have threatened to reincorporate in Delaware if the law isn’t reversed.
At least two other companies, ONEOK and OG&E, were unintentionally affected by the 2010 law, a situation lawmakers remedied last year with a legislative fix.
Despite a little acrimony from Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, HB 1646 received overwhelming support from lawmakers voting in the state House and Senate.