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Two insider takes on the 2015 legislative session

by | July 1st, 2015 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Matters | Comments (1)

Editor’s note: We came across these two thoughtful takes on the 2015 session, with a particular emphasis on the budget, from Senate Republican Mike Mazzei and House Democrat Ben Loring. Their assessments offer some stark contrasts but also some surprising agreement.  The articles are posted here with the authors’ permission.

Sen. Mike Mazzei: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Mike Mazzeimazzei_bio has represented Senate District 25 since 2004. This summary was originally posted for his followers on his Facebook page.

Halleluiah! The 2015 Legislative Session ended one week early and after some time of reflection, I can now provide some highlights for my annual “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” report.

The Good – In spite of a $611 million deficit, we managed to avoid reducing K-12 education funding from the previous year. We also initiated some tax reform by eliminating the five-year property tax exemption for new wind power facilities for an annual savings of $45 million. For hopefully more tax reform in the future, we established a new evaluation system to analyze every tax incentive in the tax code over a four- year cycle. Tulsa won a big victory with approval of a financing package for the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, which according to my analysis, would provide significant net economic benefits to both Tulsa and the state. And finally, we joined almost every other state in the nation to ban texting while driving.

continue reading Two insider takes on the 2015 legislative session

The myth of state policy innovation (Guest Blog: David Schultz)

by | June 18th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

GOV_david+schultzDavid Schultz is a professor of political science at Hamline University. This article originally appeared in The Governing Institute website and is reposted with permission.

Many state legislatures are not professional or full-time, or they lack extensive research staff to undertake policy work. So they turn to other states to see what they have done. States may find out about other states’ policy initiatives at conferences, such as those of the Council of State Governments or the National Conference of State Legislatures, and then adopt those policies as their own with minor modifications.

continue reading The myth of state policy innovation (Guest Blog: David Schultz)

Economic argument for state tax cuts weakens further (Guest Post: Michael Leachman)

by | May 26th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

michael_leachman-500x500

Michael Leachman

Michael Leachman is Director of State Fiscal Research for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This post originally appeared on the Center’s Off the Charts blog and is reprinted with permission.

A new study by William Gale, Aaron Krupkin, and Kim Rueben at the Tax Policy Center (TPC) further undermines claims that states can improve their economies by cutting taxes.

To make their case, tax-cut proponents often point to a 2008 paper by economist Robert Reed, which seemed to produce clear evidence that tax cuts promote growth. But when the TPC researchers replicated Reed’s statistical analysis and extended it for another ten years, his results fell apart. Simply by expanding the time period, they found that taxes have a statistically insignificant impact on growth. And when they split the time period in two, they found that higher taxes are associated with stronger economic growth in the more recent period, from 1992 to 2006.

continue reading Economic argument for state tax cuts weakens further (Guest Post: Michael Leachman)

Should Oklahoma adopt all voting-by-mail elections? (Guest Post: Cassidy Hamilton)

by | May 18th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (0)

Cassidy Hamilton is one of the 2014-2015 OK Policy Research Fellows. Cassidy graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Economics and is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at the University of Oklahoma. She has also contributed a blog post on infant mortalityvote-by-mail.

Last year, Oklahoma was ranked 49th in the nation in voter engagement in a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Less than half of eligible Oklahomans voted in the 2012 presidential election and only three-fourths of eligible Oklahomans are even registered, putting Oklahoma 46th nationally in voter registration.

To address our state’s poor voter participation, State Senator David Holt introduced a package of ten bills that if enacted, would fundamentally restructure Oklahoma’s election process. These bills ranged from SB 313, which would establish and allow online voter registration, to SB 310, which would transition Oklahoma to conduct its elections entirely by mail by 2020.

continue reading Should Oklahoma adopt all voting-by-mail elections? (Guest Post: Cassidy Hamilton)

The Data Is In: Oklahomans are actively using Affordable Care Act

by | May 14th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Steven Goldman, PhD is a Navigator at Oklahoma Primary Care Association. He can be reached at sgoldman@okpca.org.

Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) recently reached its fifth year, the law’s main incentives for expanding health coverage are still young. The health care law’s second Open Enrollment Period just concluded in February 2015. Now the the enrollment data from the US Department of Health and Human Services is in, and it makes two important points: that Oklahomans are interested and engaged in purchasing health insurance on Healthcare.gov, and that those purchases are having a strong impact on the state economy.

continue reading The Data Is In: Oklahomans are actively using Affordable Care Act

Higher minimum wages improve economic well-being (Guest Post: Michael Krassa and Benjamin Radcliff)

by | May 6th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)

Michael A. Krassa is Professor Emeritus of Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy and Political Science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Benjamin Radcliff, is a Professor of Political Science at University of Notre Dame and the author of The Political Economy of Human Happiness. This post originally ran as a brief for the Scholars Strategy Network.

Debates about the wisdom of hiking minimum wage levels are stuck in a rut. Opponents say higher minimum wages kill jobs, while supporters maintain that higher minimums reduce poverty and spur consumer spending, benefiting everyone. Many if not most economists believe both arguments to be true: higher minimum wages do indeed cost some jobs, but they also raise the standard of living for large portions of the population.

So how can we can decide whether or not higher minimum wages are, on balance, a good idea or not? Simply put, do average individuals living in nations that have higher minimum wages have higher levels of financial well-being? We decided to put this question to the test.

continue reading Higher minimum wages improve economic well-being (Guest Post: Michael Krassa and Benjamin Radcliff)

Don’t take away Oklahomans’ right to regulate drilling (Guest post: Johnson Bridgwater)

by | April 20th, 2015 | Posted in Economy | Comments (2)

Johnson Bridgwater is the Executive Director of Oklahoma Sierra Club.

It’s undeniable that the fracking boom has had a huge impact on many Oklahoma communities. It’s helped bring jobs and income to some, but the rapid increase in this new method of drilling has a flip side—communities have serious concerns about earthquakes and threats to vital water supplies for cities and towns, not to mention the noise, air pollution, and damage to infrastructure from highly industrial drilling operations.

continue reading Don’t take away Oklahomans’ right to regulate drilling (Guest post: Johnson Bridgwater)

Mr. Chips goes to Oklahoma City (Guest post: John Waldron)

by | April 9th, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (5)

John Waldron

John Waldron is a history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School. His earlier contribution to the OK Policy Blog is “The public education crunch goes from bad to worse.”

On March 30 I took a group of teachers and students to Oklahoma City for the Brighter Future Education Rally sponsored by the Oklahoma PTA.  It wasn’t my first rodeo. As a public school teacher, I have attended at least four rallies over the last fifteen years, including last year’s record-breaking gathering of 30,000 outside the capitol building. But this was my first attempt to go inside and talk directly to the people who write the legislation and budget for our public schools. It was an eye-opening experience.

continue reading Mr. Chips goes to Oklahoma City (Guest post: John Waldron)

Don’t ban bilingual education (Guest post: Shannon Guss and Ryan Gentzler)

by | March 31st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)
Photo by Texas A&M University

Photo by Texas A&M University

Shannon Guss is the Educare Project Director at the Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) at the University of Oklahoma  – Tulsa. Ryan Gentzler is a Research Associate at ECEI and an OK Policy Research Fellow.

With two bills from 2011 and again this year with SB 522, Oklahoma legislators have proposed to ban bilingual education in Oklahoma. These bills would have dramatically expanded the impact of State Question 751, which established English as the official language of the state. Although the bills failed both this year and in 2011, we should be troubled by these repeated attempts to ban a proven, effective method for educating students.

For all students, and especially those in early childhood (birth to eight years of age), a large and growing body of evidence shows that learning two languages offers a wide array of enduring benefits. Dr. Linda Espinosa, the keynote speaker at the Early Childhood Leadership Institute at OU-Tulsa in 2008 and 2009, completed a synthesis of research on the subject that highlights cognitive, academic, and social benefits of learning two languages from an early age. Below, we summarize some of the most important takeaways from her 2013 report.

continue reading Don’t ban bilingual education (Guest post: Shannon Guss and Ryan Gentzler)

The misleading myth of voter fraud in American elections (Guest Post: Lorraine Minnite)

by | March 27th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (0)

Lorraine Minnite is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Director, Undergraduate Urban Studies Program at Rutgers University – Camden. She is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network Working Group on Expanding and Protecting the Right to Vote. This is an edited version of a 2014 brief for the Scholars Strategy Network and is reposted with permission. Sources for all data and claims asserted in this post are available on request.

I VotedAre fraudulent voters undermining U.S. elections? The simple answer is no. Rather, the threat comes from the myth of voter fraud used to justify rules that restrict full and equal voting rights.

A concerted partisan campaign to erect more restrictive voting rules is apace in many states. Thousands of changes to state election codes have been proposed since the contested presidential election of 2000. Far fewer have been signed into law, but those put in place – such as rules that people have a certain kind of photo identification card available from specific government offices – are making it more difficult for many citizens to cast ballots, including longtime voters as well as new ones.

continue reading The misleading myth of voter fraud in American elections (Guest Post: Lorraine Minnite)

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