2013 Okie Funk In Review, Part Two

(Okie Funk is running excerpts this week and next week of posts published throughout 2013. Click on the title to read the entire post. It’s difficult for me to believe, but Okie Funk is fast approaching its tenth anniversary in May. Thanks for following this site, and I wish you and yours a happy holiday season.—Kurt Hochenauer)

Unreported Injuries, April 17, 2013

Image of Oklahoma State Capitol

I wonder how many Oklahoma workers injured on the job don’t file workers’ compensation claims because they feel their employer would retaliate against them by either firing them outright or limiting their career advancement?

This is a question virtually impossible to answer because of its built-in paradox—suppression equals invisibility—but any reasonable person would have to concede that it happens, especially among long-term workers with chronic injuries that have developed over many years because of repetitive physical tasks or repetitive body positioning.

Here are some questions that might go through injured workers’ minds: Will I lose my job if I file a claim? Will I be reassigned to a position that pays less money? Will I become known as someone who complains too much and thus not given raises or promoted?

But these aren’t the type of questions getting much attention in this year’s GOP legislative quest to “reform” the workers’ compensation system, which pays people injured on their jobs for lost work time and medical expenses.

Rebuild? Let’s Do It Differently This Time, May 27, 2013

Tornado images with flying words

(Check out the Op-Ed I wrote for The Washington Post about the need for more underground shelters here in Oklahoma.)

More than two years ago, I wrote a post showing how Oklahoma outpaced all the states on a per-capita basis in its declared disasters by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In fact, right now, only Texas at 86 and California at 78 have more total declared disasters than the 74 that have been declared in this state since 1953, according to FEMA records. When you compare the difference in our geographical and population size with Texas and California, the numbers are simply mind-boggling.

Three years ago, I wrote a commentary in the Oklahoma Gazette that argued state leaders needed to at least discuss the idea to require storm shelters in new home construction and build more community shelters.

On Friday, in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post, following the destructive May 20 tornado that killed 24 people, injured more than 300 and destroyed 1,200 homes, I again called for more storm shelters in the ground, stronger building construction, at least for our schools, and deeper inquiries into how climate change might be affecting our weather.

Some people will argue that it’s too early for these types of discussions, but I say they are long past due, and now is exactly the time to consider how to make this a safer place to live. So many people here have rallied around the storm’s victims after the fact of the tragedy, but where were they, where were all us, before the tornado hit? We were in denial when it comes to our weather.

Is Tax Cut Legally Doomed, June 7, 2013

Image of State Capitol

It’s hard to imagine what legal logic the Oklahoma Supreme Court could use to rule the recently passed tax-cut bill does not violate the constitutional requirement that state legislation only contain one subject.

If the court does rule the bill is valid, then it will set a precedent that will render the single subject constitutional requirement pretty much a political football in the future.
Whether that’s good or bad depends on your views of logrolling.

Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, a local activist, has filed a lawsuit with the court challenging the legality of House Bill 2032, passed last legislative session and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin.

The bill drops the top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent starting in 2015 and then to 4.85 percent in 2016 depending on revenue growth.

Here’s the catch: The bill also includes an appropriation of $120 million to repair the state Capitol building.
The two items have nothing to do with one another. The specificity of the repair money is extremely problematic. The fact that the tax cut reduces state revenue and the appropriation spends money also makes Fent’s case even stronger. The two subjects are not only specifically unrelated they are also polar opposites. If, for example, the bill was a tax hike to specifically raise money for repairs, then it might make some sense.