It seems that for at least several recent months, there has been a continuous fuss raised in mostly letters to the editor and editorial pages of print media about the “misguided” thrust of various bills making their way through the Oklahoma Legislative process. Many of these protest items can be traced to the education cartel of teachers union representatives and school administrators, who, no matter how generous the distributions of money taken from those paying taxes always want one thing – “more.”
Admittedly, there is no question that the teachers of the state are sadly underpaid, although they do seem to have some rather generous retirement benefits, including medical supplemental for Medicare. However, it has long seemed to me, (and confirmed from a former school district board member), that there is in most cases an almost sinful and criminal excess of expenditures in the administrative departments of the districts. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that there are far too many districts in the state, more than 500, with only 77 counties. It has been reported that there are districts as small as one grade school with less than 200 students.
Sadly, efforts to combine some of those have failed to pass muster in the pass, mostly due to large misstatement of the possible impacts of closing schools, rather than reducing administration costs.
On a more local level, there is the situation involving Pawnee, Osage and Tulsa counties and the districts of the courts and district attorney offices. Tulsa County has a population that approaches, or exceeds, one million while the other two would probably do well to exceed fifty thousand. Yet the Court of Osage County has only Osage County, while Pawnee County is included in the Tulsa District Court.
On the other hand, the Tulsa District Attorney office only has to serve Tulsa County, while the Osage District Attorney office also has jurisdiction to appear in that part of the Tulsa Court District serving Pawnee County. A deputy court clerk in Tulsa agreed (a few years ago) with my statement that the situation provided for much extra work and caused some confusion. She also agreed with me that it would be beneficial to their work for cases involving Pawnee County to be working under the Osage District Court. She appreciated my planning to seek support in the Legislature for such a change. If such a bill was ever submitted, it did not come to my attention.
Then in the daily newspaper in Tulsa on April 24, there was a story, bylined Randy Krehbiel, that repeated the above assessment and quoted Osage County District Attorney Rex Duncan as being in favor of a bill now passed by the Senate and sent to the House. This Bill, HB 2416, came to the Senate from the House and was “stripped” without the story saying what was in it, and as a “shell bill” had entered into it by my own senator, Nathan Dahm, with these proposed changes. It was he who, by the way, was the person responsible for the departure of Piers Morgan from the TV airways in the United States.
Since it appears that the town of Cleveland is in Pawnee County, the story goes on to say that District Judge Jefferson Sellers lives there and would have to either move to Tulsa County by late 2017 to re-register or run against current Osage District Judge John Kane. So, as could be expected, he is strongly opposed to the bill. The story states that other Osage District judges are not in favor for fear of an unacceptable increase in their work load. Also, so far as my information goes, there is not another such situation in the state where the court district boundaries do not coincide with the district attorney district. This bill would be a good thing to be passed and unless my information is in error, would make a good case for changing any other such situations.