All articles by Gene Perry

Use these tools to decipher the Oklahoma Legislature

Photo by David Goehring.

Photo by David Goehring.

Next week, the Oklahoma Legislature comes back into session. Legislators will debate bills and make decisions that affect all Oklahomans, but the process can be hard to follow for the average citizen. That’s why we’ve created a number of tools to help you decipher what happens at the state Capitol.

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In The Know: Legislative leaders propose new scrutiny of business tax breaks

by and | January 28th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

In The Know will be off tomorrow as we host the 2015 State Budget Summit. It will return Friday.

Oklahoma House and Senate leaders have introduced legislation that would require thorough reviews every four years of several dozen business incentives that are costing the state as much as $300 million annually. Governor Fallin said she would call for Oklahoma to tap millions of dollars in “revolving funds” to close this year’s budget hole. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has twice found that lawmakers acted illegally last year when tapping revolving funds in ways that took money from Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships and health care for the uninsured. On the OK Policy Blog, we examined the damage being done by Oklahoma’s chronic funding shortfalls.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission says the state’s unemployment rate declined in December, from 4.4 percent in November to 4.2 percent. More than 100,000 Oklahomans are already insured for 2015 through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, 30,000 more than last year. A bill to grant Oklahoma patients with terminal illnesses increased access to experimental drugs has been introduced by state Rep. Richard Morrissette. A bill proposed by a Tulsa Senator Brian Crain would bring brewers of high-point beer in Oklahoma on par with wineries by giving them the ability to sell their products directly to consumers on site, but there is some question if the bill is constitutional.

Gov. Mary Fallin has asked the War Veterans Commission to replace the executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. The Oklahoma PTA is encouraging parents to opt their children out of the fifth- and eighth-grade writing tests this year because one of the test’s two prompts is a field test. The Journal Record editorial board criticized bills by Rep. Sally Kern targeting the gay community. Rep. Kern defended the measures as an effort to support traditional values. Watermelon farmers are concerned about Senator Nathan Dahm’s bill to repeal the watermelon’s status as the state’s official vegetable.

The Number of the Day is how much Oklahoma paid to private companies through the Quality Jobs Program from 1993 to 2014. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times explains how a couple of little-noticed legislative tweaks appear to have created the conditions for far-reaching changes that are helping to lift the burden of student debt.

continue reading In The Know: Legislative leaders propose new scrutiny of business tax breaks

In The Know: Supreme court declines to review Oklahoma case against Affordable Care Act

by and | January 27th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider Oklahoma’s case against Affordable Care Act subsidies as part of the justices’ review of the issue. Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office filed for stays of all of the state’s scheduled executions, pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal drug cocktail. New State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister unveiled a new five-year plan to give Oklahoma teachers a $5,000 pay raise over the next five years, along with an additional five days of instruction to the school year.

In the Tulsa World, op-eds by a mental health professional and the head of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority make the case for why mental health and Medicaid should be higher state budget priorities. NewsOK examined nine bills that seek to boost voter turnout and encourage more competitive elections in Oklahoma. OK Policy discussed several of these ideas in our report on repairing Oklahoma’s broken democracy. On the OK Policy Blog, David Blatt warns about a proposal that could lead to far-reaching and radical changes to America’s time-tested constitution that is being pushed in states across the country this year.

The power of local communities to regulate oil and natural gas activities inside their city limits could be curtailed under several bills introduced at the Oklahoma Legislature. A gay-rights group vowed to fight back against a number of Oklahoma bills they feel target their members. While some law enforcement agencies in the state are rolling out or testing body cameras worn by their officers, numerous problems have the Tulsa Police Department years behind on an order to put a camera in every patrol vehicle.

Gov. Mary Fallin expressed confidence Monday in Preston Doerflinger and plans to keep him as her Cabinet secretary of finance despite his arrest Thursday night. State hospitals are reporting an increasing number of newborns who tested positive for drugs or alcohol at birth, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. As many as 2,000 Oklahomans are expected to receive free dental care at the Oklahoma Mission of Mercy event in downtown Tulsa next month.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says more than 1.8 million Oklahomans are being affected by an ongoing, deepening drought. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded more than $7.8 million in grants to 72 homeless housing and service programs in Oklahoma. The Number of the Day is the average number of autopsies per staff member per year performed by the Oklahoma Medical Examiners office in 2014, nearly double the recommended average of 250. In today’s Policy Note, Northwest Public Radio examines how local jails have ended human contact between inmates and visitors and allowed a private company to charge family members to do video calls with their loved ones.

continue reading In The Know: Supreme court declines to review Oklahoma case against Affordable Care Act

In The Know: State Supreme Court to decide if oil companies can be held liable for earthquake injury

by and | January 26th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

In a case expected to set a precedent for future earthqfuake claims in Oklahoma, the state Supreme Court will consider whether two oil companies can be held liable in state court for injuries a Prague woman suffered during the 2011 earthquake.  While state authorities are quietly scrutinizing wells in quake-prone parts of the state, most of the companies that operate the wells are staying silent. The Oklahoman editorial board criticized OK Policy for pointing out that tax breaks to the oil and gas industry are costing Oklahoma more than $500 million this year alone.

 Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said it is alarming that Texas pays teachers so much more than Oklahoma. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed House Speaker Jeff Hickman’s comments that Oklahoma is “one lawsuit away” from a federal takeover of our prison system. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White said she is hopeful the agency will be one of the few not receiving budget cuts this legislative session. Officials with the highway patrol say they can already see the rise in interest from trooper recruits because of a pay raise that went into effect at the start of 2015. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman has given $217,655 in pay raises to Senate employees. 

More than 100,000 Oklahomans have selected or were automatically re-enrolled in private health insurance plans they bought through healthcare.gov. The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will review the drug protocol used in Oklahoma executions to determine whether the procedure violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. A recent federal policy reversal, long-sought by states and health care advocates, could enable schools to take a lead role in managing chronic childhood diseases and result in the hiring of many more school nurses. The Oklahoma Department of Health says influenza has taken the lives of 16 people during the past week, bringing the total numbers Oklahomans who have died due to flu-related illness since the flu season began to 47. The Tulsa school board has called off its Monday vote on a new superintendent, citing a need for more time to deliberate between finalists Millard House II and Deborah Gist.

The Tulsa World discussed the comprehensive set of election reform ideas being put forward by Senator David Holt. OK Policy discussed many of the ideas in our report on repairing Oklahoma’s broken democracy. Tulsa World editor Julie Delcour looked at how the state budget breaks down. More information and charts about the state budget can be found in OK Policy’s 2015 budget highlights report. The Washington Post profiled how families in Oklahoma are reacting to the sudden arrival of same-sex marriage.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans vaccinated for for the seasonal flu between fall 2013 and spring 2014. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog discusses recent research showing that when public schools get more money, students do better.

continue reading In The Know: State Supreme Court to decide if oil companies can be held liable for earthquake injury

Every sentence is a life sentence: 3 barriers to life after prison

by | January 21st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (6)
Photo by Matteo Parrini.

Photo by Matteo Parrini.

Criminal justice reform is in the air for the upcoming legislative session. For more than a decade, experts and advocates have warned of a mounting incarceration crisis that has created huge costs for taxpayers while, perversely, possibly increasing crime. For years these warnings were ignored, but the situation may have finally gotten so dire that lawmakers will pay attention. Reports from prisons leave no doubt that they are “understaffed, overcrowded and badly in need of repair.” Already, both corrections officers and inmates have paid for our neglect with serious injuries or lost lives. House Speaker Jeff Hickman recently spoke out that Oklahoma risks losing control of our prison system to the federal government if we don’t manage it more responsibly.

As we consider the best reforms to reduce the number in prison, we should not forget to look at what happens after inmates return to the streets. In numerous ways, Oklahoma continues to punish ex-felons long after they have paid their debt to society. We put up so many obstacles that it can be extremely difficult just to survive out of prison without returning to crime. With an estimated 1 in 12 Oklahomans having a felony conviction in their past, these barriers affect a substantial part of our state’s population. Here are three barriers that can block Oklahomans with a felony record from putting their lives back together:

continue reading Every sentence is a life sentence: 3 barriers to life after prison

In The Know: Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks top $500 million this year

by and | January 21st, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Tax breaks for Oklahoma oil and gas production will result in $516 million less in state revenues in this fiscal year. The cost of the oil and gas tax breaks is some $130 million greater than what state officials projected back in February, a few months before the Legislature voted to make most of the multi-million dollar tax breaks permanent. Oil services company Baker Hughes Inc. says it will lay off about 7,000 workers, possibly including hundreds in northeast Oklahoma, even as the company is reporting record revenues. 

New state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has fired two more key members of Janet Barresi’s leadership team. The Tulsa school board is set to hold final interviews later this week with candidates to replace retiring superintendent Keith Ballard. The final two candidates are Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist and former Tulsa Deputy Superintendent Millard House II. At a panel hosted by the Oklahoma Coalition Against High-Stakes Testing, Rep. Katie Henke said parents possess the most clout in the growing fight over the use of high-stakes tests in public education.

On the OK Policy Blog, our research fellow Michael Thomas examined how investing in higher education contributes to economic growth. A state lawmaker has filed a measure to allow offenders convicted of crimes requiring them to serve 85 percent of a sentence to begin earning credits toward early release at the beginning of their sentence, though the credits would not change the 85 percent requirement. This reform was originally part of Oklahoma’s justice reinvestment bill and has been repeatedly requested by state corrections officers as a tool to improve their safety, but lawmakers have voted it down for the past two years. For the second straight year, Tulsa claimed the award for the best tasting water at a regional conference.

A Chickasha lawmaker has filed a bill targeting automated political calls. Candidate filing begins Monday for a special election in state Senate District 11 to replace Sen. Jabar Shumate, who resigned to become state director of private school voucher advocacy organization. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s latest budget proposal cuts about $127.4 million from state support to local school districts. The Number of the Day is the annual income level at which a family of 3 makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Vox has a guide to the policies proposed by President Obama at last night’s State of the Union address.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks top $500 million this year

In The Know: New Oklahoma schools superintendent fires three top administrators

by and | January 20th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

At the end of her first week in office, state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister fired three key members of her predecessor’s staff. Former State Superintendent Janet Barresi has taken to the Internet and written letters to the editors of multiple news outlets to respond to criticism of her moves to hire several new staffers and give others large raises and promotions during her last days in office. The public education blogger “okeducationtruths” has stepped out from behind the veil of anonymity after nearly three years. You can read the blog post here by Assistant Superintendent of Moore Public Schools Rick Cobb revealing himself to be okeducationtruths. The Oklahoma Gazette reported on how a twitter hashtag and a network of blogs have helped unite educators across Oklahoma to push back against attacks on public schools. Some education advocates say the controversial Teacher and Leader Effectiveness evaluation system may be this year’s Common Core in the legislative session.

Three major energy industry firms with strong northeastern Oklahoma ties have begun laying off employees in response to the oil price crash of the past six months. An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute found that in Oklahoma, fewer than half of undocumented immigrants are eligible for President Obama’s programs to defer deportation. On the OK PolicyCast, we discussed a report showing low- and middle-income Oklahomans pay a much higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthiest in the state.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Oklahoma is “one lawsuit away” from a federal takeover of its prison system. For the sixth time in two weeks, an inmate has escaped the J.H. Lilley Correctional Center in Boley. The Oklahoman editorial board questioned Governor Mary Fallin’s decision to set the deadline a full two years away for leaders to make recommendations on reforming criminal justice. More than a dozen ministers in the Tulsa area wore hooded sweatshirts Sunday and preached against a proposed state law that’s become known as the “hoodie bill.” Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan wrote an op-ed in the Tulsa World calling for Oklahomans to stop letting domestic violence go “under the radar.”

Wayne Greene shared eight reasons you should care about the health of Morton Comprehensive Health Services. OK Policy previously discussed how state budget cuts are threatening Morton and other community health centers. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed how a new state law threatens the “grand bargain” that has been the basis for workers’ compensation programs since the early 20th Century. More than 3,200 same-sex couples have gotten married in Oklahoma in less than three months since it was made legal.

The Number of the Day is the number of abandoned well sites cleaned up by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board since 1994. In today’s Policy Note, NPR examines how driver’s license suspensions unfairly target the poor.

continue reading In The Know: New Oklahoma schools superintendent fires three top administrators

OK PolicyCast Episode 19: Who pays taxes in Oklahoma?

by | January 16th, 2015 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Photo by Dave Herholz.

Photo by Dave Herholz.

The OK PolicyCast brings you the most important news affecting Oklahoma and what it means. This week we talk about about a new study on who really pays the highest rates of state and local taxes in Oklahoma, and why it’s not what many people think.

You can download the latest episode here or play it in your browser:

In The Know: More than 95,000 Oklahomans sign up for health insurance on healthcare.gov

by and | January 15th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Updated numbers show that more than 95,000 Oklahomans have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act during this year’s enrollment period. The Cherokee Nation will sign a deal with the federal government this week that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in health-care funding over the next several decades. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation announced it will build a $22 million golf-themed entertainment complex at the RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks. Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order establishing a panel to look for ways to better treat nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems and mental health issues. OK Policy previously discussed evidence that Gov. Fallin was preparing to take a more constructive approach to criminal justice reform.

A new national study shows that low and middle-income Oklahomans pay over two times more in taxes as a percentage of their income compared to the state’s wealthiest residents. The study found that Oklahoma has the 16th most unfair state and local tax system in the country. You can read the full report here and see the fact sheet on Oklahoma’s tax distribution here. An op-ed in the Duncan Banner examined how Oklahoma’s recently triggered cut to the top income tax rate is worsening the state’s budget perils. The Oklahoman editorial board wrote that the budget shortfall facing lawmakers is of their own creation.

Medical experts and lawyers expressed concern that Oklahoma plans to attempt more executions with the same drug combination used in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. David Blatt’s Journal Record column warned against a push coming in Oklahoma and other states that could lead to radical changes to the U.S. Constitution. A proposed bill in the Oklahoma state Senate seeks to allow schools to offer “an elective course in the objective study of religion or the Bible” without fear of legal liability. The Oklahoman editorial board condemned Rep. John Bennet’s (R-Sallisaw) latest attacks on Muslims and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Oklahoma City police will take part in a pilot program in which officers will wear body cameras.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans have signed up for health insurance or been automatically re-enrolled on Healthcare.gov since November 15. In today’s Policy Note, a new study finds that children who received expanded Medicaid benefits in the 1980s and 1990s contributed more to the U.S. tax system, were more likely to attend college, and less likely to die prematurely in adulthood. 

continue reading In The Know: More than 95,000 Oklahomans sign up for health insurance on healthcare.gov

Low- and middle-income Oklahomans pay highest state and local taxes

by | January 14th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

A new study released today by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Oklahoma Policy Institute finds that low and middle-income Oklahomans pay over two times more in taxes as a percentage of their income compared to the state’s wealthiest residents. The study, “Who Pays?”, analyzes tax systems in all 50 states and factors in all major state and local taxes, including personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales and other excise taxes.

In Oklahoma, the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers (households earning less than $89,000 a year) are paying between 8.6 percent and 10.5 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes. At the same time, the wealthiest 1 percent of households (those making above $418,000) pay just 4.3 percent.

taxes-2015

continue reading Low- and middle-income Oklahomans pay highest state and local taxes

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