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Showing posts from January, 2020

Why We Fight: Checking Government-Granted Privilege

“When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – When you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – When you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming self-sacrifice – You may know that your society is doomed.”                Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged Some years ago, I debated Robert Reich, President Clinton’s former Labor Secretary, on a PBS program about income inequality. It wasn’t much of a debate, really, as I was a bit intimidated. Stephen Moore, one of President Trump’s economic advisers, at that time a Wall Street Journal editorialist, was originally supposed to have been on the program when I had agreed to go on. His not showing, despite some warning ahead of time, put me in an unexpected spot in a venue I’d never before experience

AG Hunter Lowers Boom on Barrier to Entry; Legislature Should Follow His Lead

Even as the Oklahoma Supreme Court  struck down  a recent alcohol distribution law, the Attorney General paved the way for the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission (ABLE) to remove an obstacle from the expansion of liquor store competition - finding that Oklahoma’s five-year in-state residency requirement before one can own a liquor store likely runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution and recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  The AG’s  opinion , issued at the end of December, informs the state’s alcohol commission that portions of the state constitution (Article 28A, Section 4(A) & (B)) are unenforceable. These provisions require that ABLE issue a Retail Spirits License or Wine and Spirits Wholesaler License only to someone who has been a resident of Oklahoma for the previous five years. Presumably ABLE, who requested the opinion, will now begin issuing licenses to otherwise qualified applicants regardless of how long they have lived in Oklahoma.  Tenness

Here’s a Way to Shore Up State Employee Pensions: Sell Unneeded State Assets

The State of Oklahoma owns a lot of property. This includes land and buildings, but it also includes valuable assets like the state-owned electric power company, the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA). GRDA reports nearly $1.8 billion in assets on its most recent balance sheet , with a “net position” of more than $622 million. Or the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), which sits on a $1.2 billion endowment that does nothing but sit and produce investment income to fund the yearly operations of TSET. To the tune of roughly $50 million per year . We would all most likely be better off if some (probably most) of these assets were sold or leased to private entities where they could (1) be put to more economically productive use, (2) be put on the tax rolls (they are not taxed now), and (3) relieve the state from the burden of maintenance and operations expenses. What’s more, such an asset sale/lease (a “monetization”) would generate a large financial windfall for the stat

Compact Dispute Solution: End the Casino Monopoly

With Governor Stitt and Oklahoma’s tribes at loggerheads over the gaming compact, it seems like a good time to reconsider the tribes’ gambling monopoly altogether. While there is only one Las Vegas, Oklahoma is a casino state. And regardless of the dispute between the governor and the tribes or its outcome, Oklahoma will remain a casino state. The question we should ask ourselves is, why should the tribes be exclusively able to operate casinos? As I understand the history, casino gambling exclusively allowed of tribes in other states arose out of a legitimate need for impoverished reservations to generate some cash flow. Reservations, in my opinion, are basically great big quasi-autonomous concentration camps. In Arizona, where I lived for nearly a decade, I found reservations to be sad, undeveloped, generally poverty-stricken places with a few poorly-exploited natural attractions that tourists could have attended in greater numbers if anybody had the incentive to promote the

Want to Improve Public Education? Put the Governor at the Top of the Executive Branch.

Whatever your gripe about the state of public education in Oklahoma, don’t tell it to Kevin Stitt. He can do very little about it. That’s not because he doesn’t want to or because he doesn’t have good ideas about how to improve our schools. It’s because our governor lacks the most basic authority needed to shape state education policy: the power to oversee and direct the State Department of Education. Ditto for a host of other executive branch functions, including law enforcement (Attorney General), regulation of the state’s largest industry (Corporation Commission), scrutiny of agency expenditures (Auditor), management of the public purse (Treasurer), oversight of insurance (Insurance Commissioner) and regulation of labor and employment issues (Labor Commissioner). Each of these executive branch agencies are siloed under separate elected officials who do not answer to the Governor.   Most organization charts display a neat hierarchy of accountable offices forming a chain o

A Minimum Wage Hike is Bad for Oklahomans - Especially Those at or Near Minimum Wage

Proposed minimum wage hikes have sprung up across the country, and Oklahoma is not immune . Here is why a minimum wage hike will hurt Oklahomans.   What happens when the price of something goes up? Take oil, for instance. As of this writing, the price of oil is just above $59 a barrel. Imagine the Oklahoma legislature set a minimum price for oil, and that number doubled. If gas went from $2.50 a gallon to $5 or more would it change your behavior? Would you drive less? I know I would. This is a basic illustration of the laws of supply and demand . As the price goes up, demand goes down. This is true for oil. People would still have to get to work, but they might rethink that summer road trip. Those who live near the border might drive farther to buy gas from a neighboring state. These same principles hold true for all commodities.   Why wouldn’t it apply just as much to labor ? If you have to pay more for each employee-hour worked, wouldn’t you start to cut back on the nu

Is Effective Education Reform Even Possible? The Answer is “Yes.”

Education Reform. Every time a legislature meets in this country, education reform is a topic of discussion. It’s easy to see why. Our schools, especially when you consider the amount of money we spend, don’t do a very good job. It’s really not that hard to casually look around the internet and find that the U.S. ranks in the top five of all nations, year after year, in average per-student spending in public education. Unfortunately, that does not translate into results . Many nations that spend a fraction of what we do outperform us in international academic comparisons . China’s students outperform ours by four grade levels. Oklahoma’s performance is below the national average. Anybody who knows one or more active public school teachers also knows that most of them work hard. Yes, they get longer holidays than most, and there are those relatively few who do the minimum, but there are the many who are conscientious. The problem is, they are swimming upstream in an institut

Will the United States Supreme Court Stand Up For Lawyers’ First Amendment Rights?

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical. Oklahoma law requires attorneys to join and pay dues to the Oklahoma Bar Association in order to practice their occupation. The folly of this this requirement lies not just in the financial burden imposed on lawyers, but in its affront to their First Amendment rights. This is because the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) routinely uses the money it receives in mandatory dues payments to support political causes. As a result, attorneys are forced to subsidize political activity and opinions they may disagree with. Over the Christmas holiday I filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief urging the United States Supreme Court to weigh in. You can read my brief here . The case in question involves a North Dakota attorney, Arnold Fleck, who sued North Dakota’s mandatory bar association for using his mandatory dues to engage in the same type of activity th