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All articles by Gene Perry

In The Know: Donald Trump picks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead EPA

by | December 8th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. 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

Donald Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Ally of Fossil Fuel Industry, to Lead E.P.A.: President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a transition official said, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change. Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda [New York Times].

Oil and gas lobbyist, Secretary of State seek AG’s job: Local attorney Anthony “AJ” Ferate is one of at least two people who applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy. Ferate is the regulatory affairs vice president for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, a position he took in 2014. Secretary of State Mike Hunter also applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy, according to sources familiar with the matter. Gov. Mary Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt would not confirm how many people had applied. The governor’s office has a policy that it does not release names of applicants, McNutt said. Ferate applied for the job with the condition that he would only seek to fill the unexpired term, if appointed, according to documents obtained by The Journal Record [Journal Record].

Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations: Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews. The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations [Reuters]. Rep. Mullin said his ‘privatization’ of Indian land comments were distorted by the media [OK Energy Today].

continue reading In The Know: Donald Trump picks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead EPA

In The Know: Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post

by | December 5th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. 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

Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post: Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, is among the American Indian voices in Oklahoma who have endorsed Gov. Mary Fallin as secretary of the interior for the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Fallin also has the sanction of the oil and gas sector. The relationships of her political campaigns with companies such as Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy are well-documented in donation disclosures. “Given all the choices and potential nominees for secretary of the interior, the most advantageous for Oklahoma is Gov. Mary Fallin,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Federal appointments could leave limited replacement options: If any of Oklahoma’s statewide elected officials are tapped to join the president-elect’s administration, the vacancies could have the governor pulling candidates from the private sector. Gov. Mary Fallin could be a finalist to lead the Department of Interior and Attorney General Scott Pruitt is rumored to be angling for the Environmental Protection Agency administrator’s job. If Fallin leaves Oklahoma, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb would assume her office. Lamb would then be able to appoint his choice for lieutenant governor without legislative confirmation. However, despite the long line of eager politicians who could benefit from holding that office, the governor would not be able to elevate a state senator or representative to the position [Journal Record].

Indian cultural center to resume construction in spring: The Chickasaw Nation and Oklahoma City Hall are resolving the last legal obstacles in developing the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum near downtown with expectations of movement on the project by spring, officials said. Craig Freeman, the city’s finance director, said the Chickasaws are in the process of confirming the state government has cleared the site of other obligations. Since 2006, the state has spent more than $90 million to create a site near the Oklahoma River to showcase Oklahoma’s wide mosaic of American Indian heritage, but politics over budgeting stopped construction by 2012. In its current incomplete form, the center is still costing the state about $7 million per year for property maintenance and payments on earlier construction bonds [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress

by | November 21st, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. 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

Oklahoma’s child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress: In a mixed report, three out-of-state experts retained to monitor reforms of Oklahoma’s child welfare system found that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has made “substantial and sustained progress” in 27 of 31 performance areas related to the welfare of children in state care. Casting a gloomy shadow over what otherwise might be viewed as a positive report was a finding that the state continued to perform poorly in what most people would consider the most important category of all — protecting the safety of children in state care [NewsOK].

‘We have criminalized being mentally ill’: Capt. Reese Lane saw an opportunity to do some good in the world. The Payne County jail administrator looked at one inmate’s charges recently and determined, “This is a mental health issue. She is not a criminal. She needs help.” The inmate, a 40-year-old mother of five, had been in and out of the Stillwater jail numerous times. In just one week during the summer of 2007, she called the police and fire department 26 times. Lane was familiar with the woman’s mental health and substance abuse history. He went to the Payne County district attorney and asked to drop the woman’s charges. Next, they filed an emergency order to keep the woman in custody for her own safety, rather than for criminal charges [NewsOK].

Violent Incidents Raise Questions About Officer Training for Dealing with Mentally Ill: For the mentally ill and emotionally troubled, encounters with law enforcement officers and incarceration in jails pose a risk of death. A spike in fatalities in Oklahoma jails this year and several confrontations between police and the mentally ill since 2014 have raised questions about whether officers and jailers are sufficiently trained to deal with people with mental health problems. Training data indicates it is a special concern in rural areas [Oklahoma Watch].

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New factsheet shares the data on what poverty really looks like in Oklahoma

by | November 16th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (2)

poverty-profileYou may not be surprised to learn that, despite some progress in lowering the poverty rate the past three years, more than 600,000 Oklahomans lived in poverty in 2015. But did you know that two in five Oklahomans in poverty had been employed in the past year? Or that nearly two in three Oklahomans in poverty are white? These, and other takeaways, are summarized in our 2015 Poverty Profile, a two-page fact sheet examining the state’s poverty statistics from multiple angles. 

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In The Know: What Trump’s election could mean for Oklahoma

by | November 14th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. 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

What Trump’s Election Could Mean for Oklahoma: The full impact of Donald Trump’s presidency in Oklahoma won’t become clear for some time, but its implications already loom large in the areas of health, energy, taxes and infrastructure spending. Policy analysts and political observers interviewed by Oklahoma Watch since Tuesday’s election said Trump’s plans, if enacted by Congress, could produce a tectonic shift felt from one end of the state to the other. Here is an initial assessment of how Oklahoma might fare under Donald Trump’s presidency in several key policy arenas [Oklahoma Watch].

Trump victory may mean federal judge nominees for Oklahoma City are replaced: Two nominees for federal judgeships in Oklahoma City may be replaced next year after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, Oklahoma’s senators acknowledged this week. The nominees, Suzanne Mitchell and Scott Palk, were approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would not allow Senate confirmation votes. McConnell blocked votes on most judicial nominations this year — and refused to hold hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland — in hopes a Republican would win the presidency and replace President Barack Obama’s nominees with new ones [NewsOK].

Diverse group gathers in downtown Tulsa to promote rights, well-being of oppressed people: A crowd of more than 100 people gathered Saturday afternoon in downtown Tulsa to promote the rights of underrepresented groups in the wake of the U.S. presidential election. About a dozen speakers from different backgrounds shared their stories and thoughts on how to move forward in protecting members of the LGBT community as well as members of religious and ethnic minorities [Tulsa World].

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Statement: With failure of SQ 779, lawmakers must take responsibility for restoring school funding

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the failure of SQ 779, the sales tax increase for education:

SQ 779 did not reach majority support even though Oklahomans widely acknowledge that we must improve school funding. The results of this vote show that many believed that SQ 779 was the wrong solution to the right problem. Many voters were not willing to add to the sales tax — our state’s most regressive major tax, which takes the biggest share of income from low-income seniors and working families — after years of income tax cuts heavily slanted to benefit the wealthiest Oklahomans. Going forward, lawmakers must find a more balanced approach to restore school funding. The failure of SQ 779 does not take lawmakers off the hook, because our state’s children and economic future still depend on better funding of schools and teachers.

In The Know: Oklahoma early voting numbers break 2008 record

by | November 7th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. 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.

Election day is tomorrow! Before you vote, make sure you’re informed: read our State Questions Guide for information on the seven questions on the ballot, check out the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters and several other groups, and use the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool to confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and view sample ballots.

Today In The News

Oklahoma early voting numbers break 2008 record: According to the Oklahoma state election board, early voting this year was record-smashing. It broke the 2008 record of 114.3K with 146.2K early voters as of 2pm Saturday. There were 234.5K combined mail/early voting. “It as crazy. We went on Friday morning and, up there at the Baptist church, it was like wrapped around the building,” said one man. While some chose to wait until Tuesday instead of battling the crowds, Oklahomans agree it’s their duty to get out and vote [KFOR].

Oklahoma earthquake forces evacuations, school closures: A strong earthquake that rumbled through central Oklahoma Sunday night has caused damage to buildings and resulted in the evacuation of nearby residents. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Division and the Oklahoma Geological Survey recorded a 5.0 magnitude earthquake near Cushing, about 50 miles southwest of Tulsa. So far, no injured have been reported. But first responders had evacuated at least one senior living complex, according to Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain. Those residents were provided shelter at a youth center gymnasium in Cushing [CNN].

State questions drive election drama in Oklahoma: Seven state questions before voters on Tuesday offer an exercise in direct democracy to address some of Oklahoma’s most complicated problems, including underfunded schools, overcrowded prisons and a host of other issues. With a slate of state and federal legislative races expected to provide few upsets, the state questions could hold the most drama on election night. And because state House and Senate races likely will offer little change in the way of balance of power or political ideology, supporters of some state questions believe a vote of the people may be the only way to bring reform [NewsOK]. See OK Policy’s 2016 Oklahoma State Questions Guide here.

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In The Know: State budget cuts put strain on programs for vulnerable adults

by | October 31st, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. 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

State budget cuts put strain on programs for vulnerable adults: When Jana Gildon lost her job at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services due to budget cuts, she was one of just four state workers tasked with investigating abuse, neglect and exploitation at long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Gildon’s job was one of about 100 DHS positions that were eliminated in August. The layoffs were part of $45 million in funding cuts for the 2017 fiscal year that DHS was forced to implement due to a more than $100-million shortfall at the agency amid state budget cuts. “People are losing their jobs even after years with the state because our Legislature and governor have not handled our budget very well,” Gildon said [The Oklahoman].

Only 4 Of 274 Claims Paid Out After Largest Oklahoma Quake: The sidewalks around the more than 110-year old Arkansas Valley National Bank building are still roped off to guard pedestrians from falling chunks of sandstone nearly two months after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook Pawnee. The hand-cut sandstone facade of the building, a historic landmark in downtown Pawnee, sustained heavy damage in the Sept. 3 earthquake. Bank building owner Keith Cheatham just laughed when asked if he had earthquake insurance. “If you have earthquake damage, you are pretty much on a self-help program,” he said. As of Sept. 30, Only four insurance claims worth $24,232 have been paid out of the 274 claims filed for damage from the Sept. 3 earthquake, according to the Oklahoma Insurance Department [The Oklahoman].

GOP expected to maintain super majorities in Oklahoma: Republicans are expected to maintain super majorities in both the Oklahoma House and Senate after the November elections, but Democrats remain hopeful they could pick up a seat or two in each chamber. Republican and Democratic politicos predict there won’t be any major swings in either chamber, but a byproduct of the GOP’s major gains over the last decade is that Republicans have more open seats to defend: 19 in the House and nine in the Senate. Republicans currently hold a 39-9 edge in the Senate and a 71-30 advantage in the House [Associated Press].

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In The Know: Last school report cards to be released before A-F system gets overhaul

by | October 24th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. 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

Last school report cards to be released before A-F system gets overhaul: This week marks the end of the line for Oklahoma’s current method of grading schools, but the much-maligned A-F school report cards will likely live on. The Oklahoma State Department of Education will go through the same motions Thursday as it did in October 2015, when it last released annual report cards for every public school in the state with the disclaimer that the system is inaccurate and in need of overhauling. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said everything is on track to update Oklahoma’s student testing and A-F school accountability systems to meet new state and federal requirements [Tulsa World].

Education sales tax, crime reforms top initiative questions: When Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan told some of the nation’s other top teachers that he and his schoolteacher wife couldn’t afford to purchase a house, he heard audible gasps. The Norman High School algebra teacher, who was one of four finalists for the national teacher of the year, said his out-of-state colleagues “were blown away” to learn how little teachers earn in Oklahoma, where the average salary of $45,317 in 2014-2015 ranked 48th among the 50 states and District of Columbia. His own base salary — with a master’s degree — is about $36,000. Sheehan is hoping voters will give teachers an assist this November in passing State Question 779 [Tulsa World]. See OK Policy’s 2016 Oklahoma State Question Guide here.

In Need of Education Funding, States Look to Customers and Corporations: Public education was one of the biggest casualties of the Great Recession. Nearly a decade since it started, nearly half of states are still providing less general funding for schools than they were the year the economy tanked. Two states, however, are asking voters to boost education funding this fall — but they differ on who should pay for it: customers or corporations. Oregon wants to impose a tax hike on corporations with more than $25 million in annual sales in the state. If passed, the measure would raise an expected $3 billion a year. Oklahoma, on the other hand, proposes raising the state sales tax a percentage point to 5.5 percent. The state has imposed the biggest per-pupil funding cuts in the country and is facing a teacher shortage. The new revenue, expected to be about $600 million a year, would go straight into a new education fund with more than half of it paying for teachers’ raises [Governing]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet about the education sales tax state question here.

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However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down

by | October 20th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)

Oklahoma’s investment in preK-12 education has plummeted in recent years. The state continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding, according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017. These continue to be the deepest cuts in the nation, and Oklahoma’s lead is growing. On a percentage basis, we’ve cut nearly twice as much as the next worst state, Alabama.

It’s the third straight year that this report has shown Oklahoma leading the nation in cuts to general school funding, but state lawmakers have still not made any meaningful efforts to reverse the cuts. The report finds that Oklahoma was one of 19 states that continued to cut state aid funding per pupil this year, even as the national economy recovers. Between FY 2016 and FY 2017, Oklahoma cut per pupil aid another 2.9 percent after inflation, the fourth deepest cut in the nation.

continue reading However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down

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