The Blog for Oklahoma Forum
Oklahoma's weekly, statewide discussion program, Oklahoma Forum, provides civil, meaningful discussion of news and issues that impact citizens statewide. Hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Dick Pryor and produced by Emmy Award-winner Mickie Smith, Oklahoma Forum is more than sound bites and spin. It is purpose-driven television - seeking answers, providing insight – about life in Oklahoma and its people.
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday April 8, 2011
As part of our continuing coverage of the incarceration of women in Oklahoma, we talked about the issue with reporters from Oklahoma Watch. OETA is one of the partners in Oklahoma Watch, which was created to provide in-depth enterprise journalism addressing important state issues.
The problem of female incarceration is one that has dogged Oklahoma for many years. In fact, our state has topped the nation in the rate of sending women to prison in 14 of the last 15 years. Most of the women are behind bars for non-violent offenses, and the price tag to the state keeps going up.
I could write more, but you really want to know more about this important issue, go to the Oklahoma Watch website, where you can find a compilation of the stories that Oklahoma Watch reporters have produced. The stories will give you a good picture of this ongoing dilemma and how it affects our state.
Oklahoma Watch is a partnership between OETA, The Oklahoman, The Tulsa World, KWGS Radio, Griffin Communications, the Oklahoma Press Association, Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa. It is made possible by funding provided by the Tulsa Community Foundation, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the James S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Tom Lindley, Jaclyn Cosgrove, Warren Vieth, and Tammy Payne)
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Written by Dick Pryor on Thursday March 31, 2011
After a four-week hiatus, Oklahoma Forum returns on March 27 with a program devoted to the recent work done by Oklahoma legislators. Michael McNutt of The Oklahoman/NewsOK.com, Sean Murphy of the Associated Press, Michael Cross of KOSU Radio and Scott Carter of The Journal Record discussed the latest from under the Capitol dome.
One of the issues that continues to affect the legislative process is an ongoing rift between a small group of socially-conservative House members and the House legislative leadership. The discord first came to light earlier in the year when some members of the House Republican caucus and members of the Tea Party in Oklahoma protested priorities and procedures to be followed in the House at a caucus meeting in Bartlesville. Our panel of reporters says the rift is continuing, and has affected some of the bills, and not heard, by the House of Representatives. Even with a 70-31 advantage, that means that the majority has been unable to garner enough votes to pass the emergency clause on some measures.
We also discussed efforts to change Oklahoma's civil justice system by placing a cap on non-economic damages, irrespective of what jurors in such cases may want to do. It's been a divisive issue for years, and is again generating heated debate this year. Some Republican members have even broken with their party to oppose the bills containing a cap. Democrats has provided consistent opposition.
In addition to the civil justice bills, we also talked about bills to change the power structure at the Capitol, the state budget, proposed closure of seven state parks and social issues. We plan to bring the legislative leadership to the Oklahoma Forum table sometime in April to give their perspective on legislation moving through the lawmaking process.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Michael McNutt, Sean Murphy, Michael Cross, Scott Carter)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday March 4, 2011
The standoff between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and public employee unions in that state has focused attention on issues involving organized labor. Oklahoma is not a strong union state, especially since "Right to Work" went into effect in 2001, but there are issues raised in Wisconsin that have some application here.
There are several bills alive in the Oklahoma legislature seeking to alter the relationship between unions and management in Oklahoma. Mostly, these bills address binding arbitration and the right of municipal government employees to engage in collective bargaining with their employer. This includes repealing a 6-year-old law that requires municipalities with a population of more than 35,000 to engage in collective bargaining with their employees.
Teachers may belong to unions in Oklahoma, but unlike in Wisconsin, state workers in Oklahoma are not authorized to unionize. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association, which reportedly represents about one-third of state workers, is not a union, but an association, which has different requirements under state law than does a union.
This week on Oklahoma Forum, we brought together four guests to discuss the Wisconsin situation, organized labor in Oklahoma, and proposed changes in Oklahoma law relating to organized labor. Our guests are: Carolyn Stager, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Municipal League; Senator David Holt (R) Oklahoma City; Representative Richard Morrissette (D) Oklahoma City; and Jimmy Curry, President of the Oklahoma State AFL-CIO.
In addition to changes in collective bargaining procedures, we briefly addressed another key topic that will surely be debated at the Capitol this year – pensions and other benefits for public service employees. While we did not address "Right to Work," since the program was recorded a new report was released that examined the impact of RTW on job creation in Oklahoma ("Does Right-to-Work Create Jobs?: Answers from Oklahoma" prepared by the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute and released on March 3, 2011). So, if you are interested in labor-management relations and Oklahoma's labor laws, you might want to take a look.
Thanks for watching.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Carolyn Stager, Sen. David Holt, Rep. Richard Morrissette, and Jimmy Curry)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Tuesday February 22, 2011
What began as a self-immolation in Tunisia has led to a historic upheaval in the Middle East. In Tunisia, a 26-year old man set himself on fire after police confiscated fruits and vegetables he sold without a permit. Hoping to provide for his family and in a moment of desperation and outrage, the unemployed college graduate struck a match to himself to protest the government of his North African nation. The act ignited bigger protests that drove President Zine El Abadine Ben Ali from power after 23 years in office.
From Tunisia, the change movement spread to Egypt, which had been ruled for 30 years by the autocratic regime of President Hosni Mubarak. As in Tunisia, educated youths took to the streets to push for democracy and a free market economy. Young Egyptians flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo as the world watched in amazement. Soon, they were joined by others, and the revolution was on. The Muslim Brotherhood stayed on the sidelines; the Egyptian military, for the most part, did not inflame the situation; and after 18 days of social media-fueled protests, Mubarak resigned as president.
It was not entirely peaceful. The Egyptian Health Ministry reports 365 people died; numerous journalists were attacked and abused. Fighting at times was hand to hand as protesters hurled sticks and stones at police. But, in the end, the Mubarak regime collapsed under the weight of public opinion.
Following the lead from Tunisia and Egypt more movements have appeared in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and even Iran. The possibility of more revolutions is growing, as the region is undergoing a seismic shift.
This week on Oklahoma Forum, we discuss the remarkable events and how they will affect American foreign policy with Oklahoma scholars Joshua Landis, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma; Zach Messitte, Ph.D., Dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma; and Mohamed Daadaoui, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science at Oklahoma City University.
Our guests provide insight that you might expect to see only on a national media stage. This is a program that highlights the great academic resources we have in Oklahoma and presents fascinating perspective on one of the most dramatic world events in decades.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Joshua Landis, Zach Messitte, and Mohamed Daadaoui.)
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Written by Dick Pryor on Tuesday February 15, 2011
More than 2,000 pieces of legislation must be considered by Oklahoma's lawmakers over the next 15 weeks in the first regular session of the 53rd legislature. Republicans hold historically large majorities in the House and Senate (70-31 in the House, 32-16 in the Senate) and for the first time in 8 years a Republican, Mary Fallin, serves as governor. Never before in Oklahoma history have Republicans held such an overwhelming advantage.
That is sure to lead to a change in priorities and direction in state government and policy. The first indication of the agenda to be pursued by the Republican leadership was Governor Fallin's Executive Budget, released on February 7 following her first State of the State address. Facing an estimated $600 million revenue shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, the budget will be the most important single matter facing lawmakers in 2011.
As they begin work on the budget and other legislative initiatives, we invited the top leadership in each house to discuss the upcoming session: Speaker of the House Kris Steele, Republican from Shawnee; House Minority Leader Scott Inman, Democrat from Del City; Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, Republican from Sapulpa; and Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, Democrat from Oklahoma City.
Interestingly, all four leaders were favorably disposed toward Governor Fallin's budget, which cuts state agencies 5% while delivering smaller budget cuts (3%) to education, public safety and health care. In addition, the governor's budget would consolidate some agencies in an attempt to save the state money and create greater efficiencies. Overall, our guests considered it a good framework from which to begin the arduous work of crafting the state budget.
While it's clear that tax increases (and possibly other revenue enhancements, such as fees) are off the table for consideration, leaders from both houses and both parties indicated that a review of the state's tax credits and incentives is very much a priority. Estimates place the amount of annual tax credits and incentives at about $6 Billion, which is approximately the same size as the entire state budget. Governor Fallin announced in her inaugural address that tax credits that provide jobs will stay, those that don't will be cut. It's a proposition that is already gaining traction as a way to trim the state budget. By one estimate approximately $2 Billion of those credits and incentives have not created any jobs. So, it's bound to get interesting.
In addition to the budget, we discussed redistricting, education reform (especially the majority's effort to shift supervision and control of the State Department of Education from the State Board of Education to the State Superintendent), immigration reform, and the possible restructuring of CompSource. The program is notable for the amount of civility and agreement between the leadership. There will be disagreements along the way, to be sure, but our guests showed a willingness to get along to find workable solutions to the state's problems. That's something that should not be discounted in today's often harsh political environment.
Coming the week after we discussed legislative issues on our Capitol Reporters Roundtable, this program provides valuable insight into the key issues that the legislature will debate over the next four months and the people who will be directing that debate. I invite you to invest less than an hour and watch both programs to get a preliminary view of the new legislative session. We will be following up with reporters and legislators as the session unfolds. The kind of discussion you see on Oklahoma Forum is another way we deliver open, transparent government to the people of Oklahoma. Keep watching and let us know what topics you'd like to see us address in the weeks ahead.
Until next time,
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