News media can often slip into patterns of covering only negative stories: violence, scandals, outrage, etc. If it bleeds, it leads, goes the old TV-news adage.
Here at NonDoc, we’re not much into crime reporting. Even still, it sometimes feels like too much “news” is negative. On the other hand, maybe that just means a lot of bad things happen in the world.
Unfortunately, life ain’t all peaches and candied nuts.
In an attempt to remain listed on the New York Stock Exchange, OKC-based Sandridge Energy will ask its stockholders to approve a reverse stock-split of undetermined ratio on Nov. 6. What does a reverse split mean? You can click that hyperlink for a thorough explanation.
Basically, Sandridge is in big trouble and has been for a while. Share prices have fallen to about $0.40, well below the $1 threshold that NYSE requires of companies to remain listed, and the company has been told it must raise its price by the end of the year or else be de-listed. The company’s goal is to pump its stock price back above $1 via the reverse stock split, but such a move won’t create any actual added value for shareholders or the company. That’s the world of high finance for you.
In fact, Sandridge’s situation is so dire that shareholders have not only lost stock value, they have seen semi-annual dividends be suspended on “preferred stock.” In addition, the company has been unable to sell its downtown-OKC headquarters as intended.
With oil prices slumping, the slide has been long and steady for Sandridge, which once advertised regularly on TV and sponsored numerous community events. Former CEO and founder Tom Ward sold about 10 million shares of Sandridge stock in 2013 after being ousted by shareholders. Presumably, he knew better than anyone the writing on the wall.
Proposed ONG rate increase would up residential bills
While one company’s revenues are plunging during the energy slump, another is about to ask regulators to approve a rate increase that would generate $50.4 million in revenue.
Oklahoma Natural Gas sent customers a letter with their bill this month that notes, if approved, the rate increase will mean “average” residential customers would see a $4.98 per month increase on their bills. “Average small transportation” customers and “average large commercial/industrialsales” (sic) customers would see $8.14 and $18.74 monthly increases, respectively.
Meanwhile, ONG’s Twitter handle has been posting recipes for pumpkin soup.
Of course, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will hold hearings on the proposed rate increase beginning Nov. 18 at 10:30 a.m. in courtroom 301 of the Jim Thorpe Building, 2102 N. Lincoln Blvd., in OKC. In theory, a public displeased by rate increases during an economic slump when the price of gas remains quite low could convince corporation commissioners to deny or modify the rate request, but that’s probably unlikely. Most candidates for corporation commissioner receive substantial donations from the very industry they would be elected to regulate, something that many in the political chattering class point to as undermining the agency’s responsibility to the public.
Commissioner and former Speaker of the Oklahoma House Todd Hiett (R-Kellyville) found himself asking those he regulates for donations after his election in an attempt to pay back $200,000 in loans he had made to himself for his statewide campaign in 2014.
More information about ONG’s proposed rate increase can (theoretically) be found on the Corporation Commission’s website, though at the time of this posting, the site had been down most of Sunday.
ProPublica and NPR teamed up for a fascinating look at the way workers’ compensation laws have been re-written in Texas and Oklahoma to allow companies to opt-out of state programs and create their own plans to cover injured workers.
Already in Texas, plans written by Minick’s firm allow for a hodgepodge of provisions that are far different from workers’ comp. They’re why McDonald’s doesn’t cover carpal tunnel syndrome and why Brookdale Senior Living, the nation’s largest chain of assisted living facilities, doesn’t cover most bacterial infections. Why Taco Bell can accompany injured workers to doctors’ appointments and Sears can deny benefits if workers don’t report injuries by the end of their shifts.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department’s website paints a rosier picture: “Sweeping legislative reforms in Workers’ Compensation took place during the 2013 legislative session, ushering new and exciting opportunities for employees and employers of our state.”
ProPublica and NPR analyzed the plans of companies that have opted out of state workers’ compensation systems in Texas and Oklahoma.
The list of what the plans don’t cover runs for pages. They typically won’t pay for wheelchair vans, exposure to asbestos, silica dust or mold, assaults unless the employee is defending “an employer’s business or property,” chiropractors or any more than 75 home health care visits. Costco won’t cover external hearing aids costing more than $600. The cheapest external hearing aid Costco sells? $900.
The plans in both Texas and Oklahoma give employers almost complete control over the medical and legal process after workers get injured. Employers pick the doctors and can have workers examined — and reexamined — as often as they want. And they can settle claims at any time. Workers must accept whatever is offered or lose all benefits. If they wish to appeal, they can — to a committee set up by their employers.
State executions on hold until at least 2016
The Oklahoman’s Graham Brewer (among other state reporters) has headed up compelling coverage of Oklahoma’s ongoing death penalty drama.
This past week, news not only broke that Oklahoma won’t set any further execution dates this year, but Brewer also raised questions about Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s request to present information in an ongoing lethal-injection lawsuit to a judge only and not to lawyers representing death row inmates. That request was granted, though the lawsuit in question was later postponed.
Yesterday AG Pruitt requested to keep some execution info secret in federal court. Today the judge granted the motion pic.twitter.com/XCsLPkB7iX
— Graham Lee Brewer (@grahambrewer) October 14, 2015
The ongoing rigmarole over the death penalty and Pruitt’s investigation of potential wrongdoing in Gov. Mary Fallin’s office and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections does not look like it will calm down any time soon.
Last week, NonDoc also broke the news that a Board of Corrections member had resigned his position because his wife is the assistant attorney general who heads the Oklahoma multicounty grand jury that will hear testimony about the investigation.
In other corrections controversies, pork producers are upset with a Federal Bureau of Prisons decision to stop serving prisoners pork products.
No word yet on whether peaches and candied nuts are on the menu.