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All articles by Gene Perry

In The Know: Supreme Court upholds Oklahoma lethal injection drug

by | June 30th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Supreme Court upholds Oklahoma lethal injection drug: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday effectively sanctioned a sedative used by Oklahoma for lethal injections, rejecting arguments that it could lead to an unconstitutional level of pain [NewsOK]. State officials say they are prepared to move forward with three previously scheduled executions [NewsOK].

Supreme Court delays mercury emissions rule: The Supreme Court said EPA officials failed to properly consider economic costs of new pollution controls on coal-burning power plants [Washington Post]. Oklahoma’s two major utilities will continue moving forward with plans to comply with the rule [Tulsa World].

How a 1942 Supreme Court decision blocking Oklahoma’s attempt to sterilize a chicken thief laid the foundation for marriage equality: In 1935, Oklahoma passed a law allowing “habitual criminals”—defined as those who had been convicted three times of “felonies involving moral turpitude”—to be sterilized. Skinner, a one-footed drifter who had been convicted twice for armed robbery and once for poultry theft, challenged the three-strikes-and-you’re-sterile law and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court [Slate].

continue reading In The Know: Supreme Court upholds Oklahoma lethal injection drug

In The Know: Cherokee Chief Bill John Baker wins reelection

by | June 29th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Cherokee Chief Bill John Baker wins reelection: Cherokee Principal Chief Bill John Baker appeared to have won a second term according to unofficial results posted at 6:30 a.m. by the tribal election commission. With a little over 700 ballots left to be counted, Baker had 53 percent of the vote against three challengers, including former Chief Chad Smith [Tulsa World].

What the same-sex marriage ruling means for Oklahoma: Gay marriage already has been legal in all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, but the latest ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court expands the rights of married gay couples, especially when traveling to neighboring states [Associated Press]. The ruling will simplify a lot of financial and personnel policy decisions for businesses, but it may be a while before previous legal conflicts are untangled [Journal Record]. A study says same-sex marriage will boost Oklahoma income tax revenue [OK Policy Blog].

Oklahoma’s black clergy talk security in wake of Charleston shootings: Several clergy leaders said there’s a fine balance between the usual hospitality offered by their churches and operating with a sense of caution that has been heightened by the Charleston killings [NewsOK].

continue reading In The Know: Cherokee Chief Bill John Baker wins reelection

Statement: Supreme Court health care decision is a victory for Oklahomans

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court decision upholding subsidies for insurance purchased on the Affordable Care Act federal marketplace:

The Supreme Court decision is a victory for tens of thousands of Oklahomans and millions of Americans. The Affordable Care Act’s subsidies are helping more than 87,000 Oklahomans purchase affordable health coverage and making Oklahoma a stronger, healthier state.

This decision cements the reality that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and is here to stay. It is time for Oklahoma lawmakers to move past fruitless obstruction of the law and shift that energy into making sure that it succeeds in providing access to affordable coverage to as many Oklahomans as possible.

A good start would be to accept federal funds to extend health coverage to the 150,000 low-income, working Oklahomans in a “coverage crater” because they make too much to qualify for Soonercare but not enough to receive subsidies on the federal marketplace. States that have accepted federal dollars to expand Medicaid have seen large gains in the number of adults with health insurance and given more citizens access to lifesaving screenings and treatments, all while saving money in state budgets. Hospitals in expansion states are treating fewer uninsured patients, and the amount of “uncompensated care” they are providing is declining steeply.

In The Know: Federal funds provide summer cooling help

by | June 24th, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Federal funds provide summer cooling help: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has about $18 million in federal funding to help low-income Oklahomans pay energy costs to cool their homes. DHS will begin taking applications Tuesday July 7 and will continue until all federal funds are depleted [Fox 23]. State funding for the program has been eliminated this year [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma wants federal help for more counties: Gov. Fallin added 26 more counties to the list of those seeking FEMA individual assistance as the result of tornadoes and flooding that began May 5. FEMA has already approved Individual Assistance for 24 counties, which makes federal funds available for housing repairs or temporary housing, low-interest loans, disaster unemployment assistance and grants for serious needs and disaster expenses [Tulsa World].

Inhofe seeks to boost federal highway spending: Oklahoma would get nearly $4.2 billion in federal money for roads and bridges over the next six years under bipartisan legislation unveiled by Sen. Jim Inhofe. The bill as written would cost $90 billion more than the highway trust fund is expected to collect from gas taxes. Inhofe said it was up to other congressional committees to figure out how to make up the shortfall [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Online voter registration is on the way

by | June 23rd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

This week are trying out some new potential formats for In The Know. Do you like these changes? [Yes] [No]

Today In The News

Online voter registration on the way: The Oklahoma Election Board is researching how to implement online voter registration in Oklahoma under a law that goes into effect November 1. The law was part of several reforms passed to encourage voter turnout in Oklahoma, after less than 30 percent of eligible citizens voted in the last governor’s election [NewsOK]. Previously: This report by OK Policy examined the decline of voter participation in Oklahoma and recommended reforms to fix it.

Another lawsuit challenges legislators’ budget tactics: Attorney Jerry Fent filed a lawsuit arguing that the state’s transfers from the Unclaimed Property Fund to balance the state budget are illegal. Lawmakers have used money from the Unclaimed Property Fund in numerous years, including $50 million for next year’s budget [NewsOK].

Where are they now? Bills we followed this session: On the OK Policy Blog, we looked at what happened with bills we followed this session related to tax breaks, elections reform, and attempts to call for a U.S. constitutional convention [OK Policy]. An earlier post looked at bills related to education and criminal justice [OK Policy].

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Where are they now? Bills we followed this session (Part 2)

by | June 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Elections, Taxes | Comments (0)

Last week on the blog, we talked about what happened with key bills related to education and criminal justice in this year’s legislative session. In this post, we’ll look at what happened around tax breaks, elections reform, and attempts to call for a U.S. constitutional convention.

Tax Reform

  • At OK Policy’s 2015 State Budget Summit, presenters from the Pew Charitable Trust previewed a project they had been working on with Governor Fallin’s administration to recommend a process for evaluating Oklahoma’s numerous tax breaks to see if they are justified and working as intended. That effort culminated in the passage of SB 806, which instructs lawmakers to include a statement of one or more measurable goals for any tax incentive created in 2016 or later, as well as HB 2182, which creates a commission tasked with evaluating all tax incentives on the books at least once every four years. Neither of these bills affected any tax breaks currently on the books, so they did not help with this year’s budget shortfall. They may help Oklahoma rein in unnecessary tax breaks down the line, but that still depends on lawmakers taking action based on the commission’s findings.
  • Lawmakers did take action to end a couple of tax breaks for wind power facilities. SB 498 ends eligibility for the five-year ad valorem manufacturing exemption for new wind power facilities, effective January 2017, and SB 502 prohibits wind power facilities from claiming a tax credit under the Investment/New Jobs program. Earlier this year, we shared a series of four posts by advocates debating for and against tax incentives for the wind industry. Our Director David Blatt also discussed how wind power incentives were being treated very differently from much more expensive tax breaks for oil and gas production.
  • Despite a lot of rhetoric this session about getting a handle on tax breaks, one potentially large, completely unproven tax giveaway made it far in the Legislative process. HB 1747 would give a five-year exemption from the personal income tax to anyone who relocates to a county within Oklahoma that is projected to have population declines. In a couple of posts, we explained how the tax break could become just another giveaway for behavior that would have happened anyway and showed that a very similar program in Kansas is failing to turn around population declines. Versions of the bill were approved in both the House and Senate, but conference committees were unable to come to an agreement on final language.

continue reading Where are they now? Bills we followed this session (Part 2)

In The Know: State agencies increasingly turning to overtime to fill their budget gaps

by | June 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

The number of state employees who worked 500 or more hours of overtime in a year doubled between 2010 and 2014, as state agencies are increasingly asking employees to work long hours to cover budget gaps [Tulsa World]. Every year, thousands of Oklahomans with mental-health or addiction problems call or show up at state-funded treatment centers and get little or no care, because Oklahoma’s mental health system limits most subsidized treatment to the seriously ill [Oklahoma Watch]. You can see a breakdown of how the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services prioritizes patients here. While analyzing where to make cuts within the state’s Medicaid agency budget, Oklahoma health leaders discovered millions of dollars being spent on expensive, medically unnecessary urine drug screenings [NewsOK].

The Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority on Wednesday approved next year’s jail budget despite objections from three mayors who sit on the authority, who said a lack of oversight and misspending of funds attached to the jail should delay budget approval [Tulsa World]. State Sen. Brian Crain is urging changes to Oklahoma’s police arbitration rules after another incident with an Owasso police officer who the city had unsuccessfully tried to fire four years ago due to excessive force complaints [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma State University Regents voted to raise tuition 4.5 to 4.8 percent for students at OSU’s five campuses. University of Oklahoma officials are proposing tuition increases between 4 and 5 percent [NewsOK]. Steve Lewis discussed more about why Oklahoma’s attempt to ban teacher payroll deductions may be unenforceable [OK Policy Blog].

After already struggling through severe drought followed by damaging floods, Oklahoma wheat farmers are facing another hurdle with a closed Port of Catoosa that usually carries their product to markets outside of Oklahoma [State Impact Oklahoma]. State Rep. Seneca Scott has proposed an interim study to focus an “e-construction” record-keeping alternative for the state Transportation Department, as well as “road diets” that would redefine existing highway lane space for uses such as bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bus lanes and/or parking [CapitolBeatOK]. Turmoil continues within the Oklahoma Republican Party over a controversial hire by new party Chairman Randy Brogdon of a staffer who pled guilty to domestic violence charges [Tulsa World].

The Number of the Day is -1.4 percent – the drop in Oklahoma’s total employment outside the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas since December. In today’s Policy Note, Nick Hanauer and David Rolf discuss how to protect the American middle class as the economy shifts to recasting full-time employees into contractors, vendors, and temporary workers [Democracy Journal].

continue reading In The Know: State agencies increasingly turning to overtime to fill their budget gaps

In The Know: DHS making deep cuts to meet reduced budget while bolstering increased child-welfare demands

by | June 17th, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is eliminating the equivalent of 200 positions, cutting reimbursement for developmental disabilities and aging Medicaid waiver program providers, and eliminating state funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, among other cuts to make up for a $45.2 million funding shortfall. At the same time as other parts of DHS are being slashed, they will add 300 positions in the child welfare system to meet a federal court-ordered mandate to meet the needs of abused and neglected children [Tulsa World].

State Auditor Gary Jones said he might circulate a petition for the 2016 general election to eliminate the Oklahoma House or Senate and have a unicameral Legislature [Journal Record]. The Libertarian and Green parties announced plans to launch a joint signature drive to get their parties and candidates on the ballot in Oklahoma [Tahlequah Daily Press]. On the OK Policy Blog, we looked at what happened with the key education and criminal justice bills we followed this session [OK Policy Blog].

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has approved allowing municipal water treatment waste to be injected into oil and gas disposal wells [Journal Record]. A report from the Kansas City Federal Reserve examines how the decline in the energy industry is spilling into other parts of the state’s economy [OK Energy Today]. You can read the full report here.

Under a state law passed in 2014, utilities can request a higher tariff for customers with personal solar panels or wind turbines, if they prove the renewable power producers are a financial drag on the system. However, utilities said that they are still unsure of how these customers create infrastructure costs or provide benefits [Journal Record]. When signing the bill, Governor Fallin stressed that it does not mandate the Corporation Commission to allow a tariff or other increases for personal solar and wind power producers [OK Policy Blog].

Governor Fallin has requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant public assistance for 14 additional counties hit hard by tornadoes and flooding that began May 5 [Public Radio Tulsa]. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said he isn’t immediately sold on a plan passed by the Legislature to complete the American Indian Cultural Center. The plan calls for $9 million in funding from OKC and requires agreement by the Oklahoma City Council [KOCO].

The Number of the Day is -22.76% – how much the average salary for Oklahoma state employees is below comparable jobs in other states and the private sector. In today’s Policy Note, a report by the International Centre for Prison Studies finds that the U.S. spends billions to keep about 480,000 unconvicted people behind bars while they await a trial [Washington Post].

continue reading In The Know: DHS making deep cuts to meet reduced budget while bolstering increased child-welfare demands

Where are they now? Bills we followed this session (Part 1)

by | June 16th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Education | Comments (0)

This year’s Legislative session began with promising ideas for reforms in the areas of criminal justice, elections, and tax credits, as well as a continuation of the debate over modifying past years’ education reforms. Before long, it became clear that lawmakers’ most difficult task would be dealing with a large budget shortfall due to a fall in gas prices, the multiplication of tax cuts and tax breaks, and increasing off-the-top transfers of revenue.

Here we provide a run-down of many of the key bills we followed and how they fared. As the first of a two-part series, this post examines this year’s most important education and criminal justice bills.

continue reading Where are they now? Bills we followed this session (Part 1)

In The Know: Nurse practitioners, physician assistants face 5 percent rate cut from state Medicaid agency

by | June 16th, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

The state’s Medicaid agency released its list of proposed budget cuts for the fiscal year beginning next month, including lowering reimbursement rates for physician assistants and nurse practitioners by 5 percent. You can see the full list of proposed cuts here. Facing the loss of some tax incentives at the end of 2016, Oklahoma’s wind industry might accelerate wind developments to beat the deadline. Oklahoma House members submitted 122 requests for interim studies before last Friday’s deadline. You can see the full list of interim study requests here.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how lawmakers continued some practices in this year’s budget that are being challenged as unconstitutional in a case before the state Supreme Court. Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, expressed concern that an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision last month could severely hamper counties’ efforts to recover delinquent property taxes.

During a campaign stop, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the federal government to fund pre-kindergarten for low- and moderate-income families and cited Oklahoma as a successful example. Elected leaders in Midwest City and Del City are blocking the City of Norman’s plan to augment the Lake Thunderbird reservoir levels with treated wastewater. StateImpact Oklahoma shared stories of how numerous earthquakes caused by the oil and gas industry are affecting individual Oklahomans.

The Number of the Day is 89.1% – the cost of living in Oklahoma as a percentage of the national average. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post examines how a Tennessee program that provides mentors to kids aging out of foster care is helping them become successful adults.

continue reading In The Know: Nurse practitioners, physician assistants face 5 percent rate cut from state Medicaid agency

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