In The Know: Lawmakers defend tax cut as Oklahoma Supreme Court considers legal challenge

by | November 21st, 2014 | 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.

A group of Oklahoma lawmakers released a statement defending passage of an income-tax cut that is under review by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. OK Policy previously discussed how the Supreme Court decision could dramatically change the politics around tax cuts in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case against federal health insurance subsidies at the same time justices consider a similar challenge from Virginia. If AG Pruitt’s lawsuit is successful, at least 55,000 Oklahomans could lose access to affordable coverage.

NewsOK shared the story of an Oklahoma City woman who is hoping for a path to legal work and residency by President Obama’s immigration executive action. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn predicted a violent reaction to the President’s announcement. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he is planning another lawsuit against the federal government over it. A group of Republican business owners in Oklahoma and Republican state Sen. Brian Crain called on Congress to pass an immigration bill that includes a path to legal status for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Oklahoma City Public Schools kicked off a six month planning process to identify the most important issues the district will face over the next several years. In the Tulsa World, Kara Gae Neal described public education as the largest, overburdened, under-incentivized business in the state. A group of charitable foundations is meeting to come up with a plan to keep a Tulsa-area youthful offender center open through June. The group will seek to find short-term “bridge funding” to keep the facility open, but a long-term solution will require reversing state budget cuts. Bill Moyers reported that an Oklahoma City is running a food drive to help its own impoverished workers get through the holidays.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health will receive a $1.15 million federal grant to gather data on homicides and suicides in an effort to prevent those deaths. Oklahomans, particularly families with children, were more negative about the economy in October than their neighbors in Missouri and Arkansas, according to the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey. The Number of the Day is the total value of all goods traded between Oklahoma City and Tulsa in 2010. Both cities were each other’s second largest trading partner among major cities, with Dallas, TX as the largest trading partner. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains what’s in President Obama’s new immigration plan.

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In The Know: Oklahoma ranks 5th in US for child homelessness

by | November 20th, 2014 | 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

A new report ranks Oklahoma 5th worst in the US among states in the percentage of children under age 18 who are homeless, with a 43,643 children experiencing homelessness in 2012-2013. The report is available here. On the OK Policy Blog, we explained why a two-generation approach that reaches parents as well as children is essential if we want to help children in poverty. The monitors overseeing the implementation of Oklahoma’s plan to improve the well-being of foster children have issued a written statement warning the state is failing to make good-faith efforts in instituting reforms.

Two Tulsa first-grade teachers say they’re refusing to subject their students to more tests or surveys, but TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard has issued a letter responding that opting out of tests is not an option. An Oklahoma City police officer accused of sexually assaulting 13 women will likely stand trial. Rep. John Bennet (R-Sallisaw) is pushing for the US to designate CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) a terrorist group after the United Arab Emirates added the group to their terrorist list over the weekend. The Stat  Department rejected Rep. Bennet’s suggestion and say they’re asking the UAE to justify their reasoning. State Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued an opinion concluding that the Legislature acted illegally when it diverted $5 million from an uncompensated care fund to balance the budget.

OK Policy has released our updated and improved CountySTATS 2014, a tool for learning about Oklahoma’s counties and residents covering demographics, the economy, education and health. State higher education leaders met Wednesday to discuss their FY 2016 goals – namely, a $1.086 billion budget request and how to convince the legislature to fund it. State Sen. Brian Crain (R-Tulsa) says he plans to propose two $2.5 billion bond issues for common and higher education. A deal struck between the city of Tulsa and the county regarding the Tulsa Jail could cost the city up to $700,000. The Tulsa World praised both parties for compromising on the issue instead of litigating.

The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board took issue with the predictions made by Dr. Lawrence Jacobs regarding the future of health reform in America. At an event sponsored by OK Policy and the Scholars Strategy Network, Dr. Jacobs predicted that as more people gained coverage under the Affordable care Act, opposition to the law would eventually fade. Slides, audio and media coverage of Dr. Jacobs’ talk can be found here. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt argued that while the ACA’s future may be bumpy, it’s not a dead end.

 Oklahoma Watch wrote about what consumers should know now that open enrollment is underway. A Q&A is available here. Amid the media coverage of the Keystone XL group in the Senate, the International Business Times discussed the quieter conflict over the section of the pipeline already constructed in Oklahoma and Texas. At a three-day workshop hosted by the Oklahoma and US Geological Surveys, experts met to discuss how “non-tectonic” earthquakes (that is, earthquakes triggered by disposal wells or fracturing) should be accounted for on national seismic hazard maps, which are used by construction and insurance agencies and public safety planners. The Number of the Day is the number of  LGBT students in Oklahoma who reported being physically assaulted in the last year due to their sexual orientation, the 3rd highest percentage in the US. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times praised schools implementing free classroom breakfasts.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma ranks 5th in US for child homelessness

Better know Oklahoma with CountySTATs 2014

by | November 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (1)

Oklahoma Policy Institute is pleased to release a new and improved tool for learning about Oklahoma’s counties and residents. CountySTATS 2014 covers demographics, the economy, education, and health. The factsheets display statistics for each of the state’s 77 counties, incorporating:

  •  Key local statistics at-a-glance
  • Complicated information with colorful graphics 
  • Tools for quick comparisons along a range of indicators

Find out the percentage of residents who rely on social security disability or which industries employ the most people. Learn how a county’s overall health compares to the rest of the state. The colorful, two-page factsheets feature over 20 key indicators to provide a snapshot of your county.

 

In The Know is taking a short break.

by | November 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is taking a break Monday through Wednesday of this week while the OK Policy team at the State Fiscal Policy Conference. You can follow the conference on Twitter at @SFPConference and with the hashtag #sfp14. In The Know will return on Thursday, Nov. 20. See you then!

To help kids, help parents

by | November 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Children and Families, Poverty | Comments (0)
mother and child

Photo by Rolands Lakis.

About 168,000 children age 5 and younger in Oklahoma live in low-income families (making less than 200 percent of the poverty threshold, or $47,000 for a family of four). Like most families in America, the parents of these young children must juggle the demands of work, child care, school, and family time. Yet balancing those priorities can be impossible for parents without affordable child care, a predictable work schedule, or dependable transportation. The lack of a stable and enriching environment for kids in this crucial time in their lives can block the path out of poverty and lead to lifelong difficulties. Of those 168,000 children, 31 percent had parents expressing concern that their child was experiencing developmental delays.

These challenges are the focus of a new policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “Creating Opportunity for Families: A two-generation approach.” 

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The Weekly Wonk November 16, 2014

by | November 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week on the OK Policy Blog, we offered some suggestions for the Governor’s second-term agenda. We crunched the numbers and found that Oklahoma failed to make gains in electing women and people of color in this month’s elections. In his weekly Capitol Update, Steve Lewis predicted changes in House leadership in the upcoming session.

Following up on a previous post on the topic, we showed how the US Postal Service could return to profitability while meeting a huge need in many Oklahoma communities. A post in our Neglected Oklahoma series examined an Oklahoma woman’s struggles to avoid homelessness. We’ve written before about why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions for homelessness.

On the OK PolicyCast, we feature an informal with the Oklahoma Sustainability Network‘s Montelle Clark on the pros and cons of Oklahoma’s various energy sources – including coal, natural gas, geothermal, and wind energy. Clark delivered the talk to students at the 2014 Summer Policy Institute. We also discuss the week’s headlines. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

On Tuesday, Dr. Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota spoke about the future of the Affordable Care Act in the aftermath of Republican gains in the 2014 mid-term elections to a lunchtime audience at the Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. The talk was presented by Oklahoma Scholars Strategy Network and Oklahoma Policy Institute. His presentation is available here. NewsOK’s coverage of Dr. Jacob’s talk can be found here. The Red Dirt Report covered the event here.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt argued that Oklahoma seems to have given up on state elections. The Oklahoman Editorial Board weighed in on our recommendations to restore health to our democracy. Our examination of elections in Oklahoma can be found here. In our Editorial of the Week, the Tulsa World discussed how state budget cuts are set to eliminate important juvenile justice services and make government more inefficient.

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OK PolicyCast Episode 14: Do you know where your electricity comes from?

by | November 14th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

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

This week, we’ll share a clip from OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute last August. The Oklahoma Sustainability Network’s Montelle Clarke gave a balanced, informative talk on the pros and cons of Oklahoma’s various energy sources – including coal, natural gas, geothermal, and wind energy.

You can download this week’s episode here or play it in your browser:

Expect changes in House leadership next session (Capitol Updates)

by | November 14th, 2014 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (0)
Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Last week’s elections produced few surprises and very little change.  The Republican Party extended its dominance in the legislature by “flipping” three Senate seats, meaning three seats formerly held by Democrats will now be held by Republicans.  The Republicans had already picked up one seat when Senator-Elect Marty Quinn won election without opposition to replace Democratic leader Sean Burrage.  The partisan mix in the Senate is now 40 Republicans and 8 Democrats.  In the House only one general election incumbent candidate was defeated, Republican Rep. Aaron Stiles of Norman.  To offset that loss the Republicans picked up the seat formerly held by Democrat Joe Dorman who was term limited.  The House mix remains 72-29 in favor of Republicans.

continue reading Expect changes in House leadership next session (Capitol Updates)

In The Know: State business tax breaks more than double in four years

by | November 14th, 2014 | 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.

State tax breaks given to businesses have more than doubled in the last four years, and now total over half a billion dollars per year, according to Oklahoma Watch.  Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said Thursday that a flat appropriated budget could be the “best case scenario” in the next fiscal year. Tulsa’s Community Intervention Center, which works with arrested juveniles, will likely close in March because the funds required to keep it open aren’t available. Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period begins Saturday and will last through mid-February.

A judge has ruled that the Board of Adjustment must approve a wind farm development in Osage County. Ten years after Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the state to negotiated with tribes to operate casinos, the state has collected $900 million from the venture – well above initial estimates. Pension systems managers told a state House panel that Oklahoma’s public retirement systems are stronger than they  have been. We’ve discussed why the pension crisis is over before. Writing in his Journal Record column, Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton discussed the conflict between conservative attachment to local control and their fondness for school consolidation.

State Sen. Randy Bass (D-Lawton) says he plans to introduce a bill that would allow Oklahomans to register to vote online. Bass hopes the measure will boost voter turnout. In a series of recent blog posts, we discussed Oklahoma’s broken democracy and why people don’t vote. Some Oklahoma families whose children suffer from seizure disorders have moved to Colorado in order to get medical marijuana. In a new post in our Neglected Oklahoma series, we shared the story of a local woman’s struggle to avoid homelessness. We’ve written before about why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions for homelessness.

A new group is urging bars in Oklahoma to voluntarily go smoke-free. An annual study ranking American colleges and universities by their sexual health suggests Oklahoma institutions have a long way to go. Gov. Fallin has announced a new initiative to reduce the number of people driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. StateImpact described what Oklahoma can learn from a recently-passed municipal ban on fracking in Denton, Texas. The Number of the Day is the number of seniors who received meals through statewide nutrition sites in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News’s consumer guide on health law enrollment provides information on signing up for health insurance..

continue reading In The Know: State business tax breaks more than double in four years

Homeless in a heartbeat (Guest Post: Camille Landry)

by | November 13th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (1)
Camille Landry

Camille Landry

Camille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

Melinda Rogers is excited about her upcoming graduation from Oklahoma City Community College. She’s jumped a lot of hurdles to get there. Melinda and her sisters spent most of their childhood in foster care. “One of the hardest things about being in foster care is that when you turn 18, you really don’t have anybody. I’m on my own.” For someone who grew up in DHS custody, Melinda is considered a success. Unlike most foster kids, Melinda finished high school and went to college. She’s never been to jail. She isn’t an addict. But the simple task of finding and maintaining a home is one of the toughest challenges Melinda has faced.

continue reading Homeless in a heartbeat (Guest Post: Camille Landry)

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