In The Know: Oklahoma voter registration lead officially goes to GOP for first time in state history

by | November 26th, 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.

Republicans have surpassed Democrats in voter registration for the first time in Oklahoma history, the result of a decades-long trend in state politics. Speakers at a vigil in response to events in Ferguson, Missouri said the same underlying racial tensions and distrust of law enforcement are present in Tulsa. Guthrie educators said the community’s repeated refusal to approve bond measures has led to severe deterioration of facilities at Guthrie schools.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how another funding grab by the Legislature to close this year’s budget shortfall was found unconstitutional. Several Oklahoma elected officials, businesspeople, and church leaders held a public scripture reading at the state Capitol to celebrate the National Bible Association’s International Day of the Bible. Mustang Public Schools has cancelled plans to offer a Bible course developed by the head of the Hobby Lobby retail chain, amid controversy about bias in the curriculum and reports that the course was presented to Mustang school board members in a way that sought to skirt open meetings requirements.

The Oklahoman editorial board discussed the state’s continuing failures to protect children from abuse and neglect. Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm has followed expanded oil and gas production north to the Oklahoma-Kansas border. The Number of the Day is how many commercial banks are in Oklahoma, which has fallen steadily since 1985. In today’s Policy Note, a woman writes in The Huffington Post that legal challenges by Oklahoma and others seeking to eliminate subsidies for purchasing insurance on healthcare.gov are a threat to her parents’ lives.

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind Act waiver reinstated

by and | November 25th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, 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.

The U.S. Department of Education has reinstated Oklahoma’s flexibility waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The state had lost its waiver after repealing Common Core education standards, but it was restored after the State Regent for Higher Education certified Oklahoma’s old standards as “college and career-ready.” You can read the letter from the U.S. Department of Education here. Hundreds of students, parents and supporters lined the street in front of Norman High School on Monday to protest the school’s handling of the bullying of three female students who allege they were raped by a former male student. Buzzfeed shared photos and social media updates from the event. Norman Public Schools has released a fact sheet describing their response to the sexual assault allegations and protest.

State officials have sought a protective order in federal court to withhold from the public key documents and information in a civil rights lawsuit filed by inmates who reported being raped at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. Oklahoma’s Department of Public Safety has complied with a federal judge’s order to deliver records to attorneys for 21 Oklahoma death-row inmates who have filed a lawsuit to block their executions. Oklahoma and twenty other states are asking a federal appeals court to overturn provisions of Maryland’s gun-control law that bans 45 assault weapons and limits gun magazines to 10 rounds. Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller said Oklahomans are owed up to $37 million in unclaimed death benefits they are not aware of.

On the OK Policy Blog, we look at how others states are taking advantage of federal flexibility to design their own plans to expand health coverage, which Oklahoma has so far refused to do. At an Oklahoma City Metro Chamber forum, several economists praised Oklahoma’s metro areas as engines of growth, but criticized state leaders for failing to plan for the long term and neglecting investments in education and infrastructure. A new grant program by the Tulsa Area United Way that funds creative responses to community challenges has awarded its first grants to a new medical clinic for homeless and at-risk youth and a camp serving child victims of domestic violence, among others.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected parts of Texas’ plan to reduce pollution from power plants that are impacting a wildlife refuge in Oklahoma. The New York Times reported on how wind power projects in Oklahoma are starting to produce energy cheaper than coal or natural gas. The Number of the Day is the percentage of calls to Oklahoma’s child abuse and neglect hotline in 2013 that were reporting abuse and/or neglect of an adult. In today’s Policy Note, This American Life shares stories of schools struggling with how to handle misbehaving kids and examines evidence that some of the most popular punishments may actually harm kids.

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In The Know: Norman students to protest high school’s response to bullying and rape allegations

by and | November 24th, 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.

Students at Norman High School are planning to walk out today in a protest of the school’s response to bullying and rape allegations. The students have released a list of changes they are asking for from the school district. Jezebel shared the story of the rapes and how three teenage victims were bullied out of school. An associated with Human Rights Watch wrote an op-ed charging that the Tulsa Police Department is not taking rape investigations seriously.

Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger has told state agencies that budgets will not be cut as the result of an attorney general’s opinion that the Legislature illegally transferred money out of a revolving fund for uncompensated care. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed predictions that Oklahomans is headed for another “flat” state budget year. SCOTUSblog discussed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s request to argue against health care subsidies going to Oklahomans before the U.S. Supreme Court. If Pruitt’s challenge succeeds, about 55,000 Oklahomans could lose access to affordable health coverage.

In an Oklahoman op-ed, OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt made recommendations for Governor Fallin’s second term. The Oklahoman reported that Gov. Fallin and legislators are looking more supportive of criminal justice reform in the coming legislative session. The Tulsa World reported that among those who were exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of serious crimes in Oklahoma, few have ever received compensation from the state. An in-depth investigation by The Guardian looks at changes in access to an abortion in Oklahoma and nearby states.

Tulsa Public Schools and the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association have come to a deal on contracts that will provide an average $400 salary increase for teachers. Two Tulsa first-grade teachers are standing by their refusal to give their students high-stakes tests, despite the risk to their jobs. The U.S. Department of Interior filed a lawsuit to stop a wind farm project in Osage County, which the Departments says is breaking the law by damaging and destroying rocks that belong to the Osage Nation. A trade association says wind power saved electricity customers in Oklahoma and surrounding states more than $1.2 billion last year.

The Number of the Day is the median annual wage of a petroleum engineer in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post examined an Affordable Care Act program that is helping reduce health care costs by incentivizing doctors to make house calls.

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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.

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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!

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..

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In The Know: Health Insurance enrollment begins Saturday on healthcare.gov

by and | November 13th, 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.

The annual sign up window to buy health insurance through Healthcare.Gov begins this Saturday. Customers can already compare plans and prices being offered for 2015. Last we explained why it’s worth it to get coverage. A 4.8 magnitude earthquake centered in south-central Kansas was felt across Oklahoma yesterday. The Oklahoma State Election Board on Wednesday certified the election of U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, ruling that Oklahoma does not need to conduct a special election for the seat even though Rep. Mullin’s Democratic opponent died two days before the election. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a lesbian woman who helped raise her partner’s two biological children is entitled to a court hearing on her claim for parental rights. You can read the full ruling here.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed signs that Oklahomans seem to have given up on state politics. Nationwide, last week’s midterm elections saw the lowest turnout in 72 years. The Oklahoman Editorial Board weighed in on OK Policy’s recommendations to restore health to our democracy. On the OK Policy Blog, we gave suggestions for an agenda in Gov. Mary Fallin’s second term, following an election where she said almost nothing about what she would do.

A new report on early childhood development estimates that nearly a quarter of a million children in Oklahoma were living in poverty in 2012. You can read the full report here. The Inasmuch Foundation has given $1 million to the KIPP Reach College Preparatory charter school in Oklahoma City to expand with four new schools. School administrators told a legislative study that the state’s shortage of teachers has become a “scary” situation. House Speaker expressed frustration at foot-dragging by the State Board of Education on developing school standards to replace Common Core. Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said about 25 percent of Tulsa Public Schools’ next bond package could be dedicated to bolstering classroom technology.

Vox discussed how Oklahoma conservative billionaire Harold Hamm has taken to arguing that he made his fortune through luck to avoid a large divorce settlement. Several county sheriffs in Oklahoma have begun selling e-cigarettes to inmates to help fund their jails. The Tulsa World discussed how state budget cuts are set to eliminate important juvenile justice services and make government more inefficient. A new study found that many Indian Health Service facilities are still putting an age limit on who can purchase Plan B contraception, even though that violates federal law. A report from a civil rights group says the city of Norman ranks higher than the national average and best in Oklahoma for supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. You can see the full report here.

The Number of the Day is poverty rate for African-Americans in Oklahoma, nearly double the white poverty rate. In today’s Policy Note, the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses how complicated financial-aid jargon is a barrier to college access, especially for first-generation college students.

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In The Know: Oklahoma economists eye slumping oil prices

by and | November 12th, 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.

Crude oil prices have plummeted to the lowest level in three years, and economists and state finance officials are concerned due to the Oklahoma economy’s heavy dependence on oil drilling. The average price of gasoline is down by nearly 15 cents per gallon across Oklahoma since last week. An automobile parts manufacturer said it will close its Oklahoma City plant next year, eliminating 165 jobs. The factory had received almost $900,000 in Quality Jobs Payments from the state since 2007 to create new jobs at the plant, but the program doesn’t include provisions that require companies to repay the incentives if workers later lose their jobs. An OK Policy report has examined the rapidly growing cost and gaps in oversight of the Quality Jobs Programs.

The Oklahoma State Election Board will meet behind closed doors today to discuss whether a special election should be called in the 2nd Congressional District. Suzan Harjo, an Oklahoma native who has spent decades advocating for Indian rights and dignity, is among those who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, later this month. Former Oklahoma House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate T.W. Shannon has taken a job with a financial services firm in Tulsa. The New York Times examined the revival of downtown Tulsa.

On the OK Policy Blog, we describe how the U.S. Postal Service could return to profitability while meeting a huge need for banking services in many Oklahoma communities. By Tuesday morning, all 14 of an Oklahoma City homeless shelter’s makeshift cold-weather beds are full, but there were many more homeless people with no refuge from the wintry weather. OK Policy shared the slides from a presentation by Dr. Lawrence Jacobs about the future of the Affordable Care Act in the aftermath of recent elections. 

Oklahoma is in compliance with a national standard for ozone in 2014, after exceeding the standard in 2011 and 2012. The Salvation Army is expanding its ACT Prep Program for students in the Tulsa metro area. In a narrow victory that required a manual recount, a Republican has being elected to the Carter County Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1922. Amid a fourth consecutive year of drought, the cotton harvest has begun in southwest Oklahoma. A new Oklahoma law effective this month says that no governmental entity can have the final say on a parent’s right to make what he or she feels is the best decision for their child’s physical and mental health and educational upbringing.

The Number of the Day is how many children found to be victims of abuse and/or neglect in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, NPR looked at how a program that doubles food stamp benefits when purchasing local fruits and vegetables has proved remarkably popular and spread across the country.

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In The Know: Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm ordered to pay $995 million in divorce

by and | November 11th, 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.

Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm has been ordered to pay nearly $1 billion to his ex-wife in one of the largest-ever U.S. divorce judgments. The award is far smaller than the amount lawyers for Sue Ann Hamm sought and does not require Harold Hamm to sell shares of Continental. The Oklahoma Democratic Party has selected Jerry Ellis, an outgoing state senator from Valliant, as the party’s candidate in a possible special election for the 2nd Congressional District seat in eastern Oklahoma. On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how after last week’s elections the number of women and people of color in the Oklahoma Legislature will fall even lower.

Oklahoma highway officials say they’re preparing for a series of weather systems that forecasters predict will bring sub-freezing temperatures and a chance of snow to the state. An estimated 3,400 children who attend elementary school in the Oklahoma City district still need winter coats, and a fundraising effort by the district is still about $68,000 short. A bond issue for Guthrie Public Schools gained majority support but fell short of the 60 percent of votes needed to pass. The district has a history of failed bond elections, and officials had already scaled back this bond proposal significantly, with most of the money going toward fixing leaky roofs. Beginning the 2015-2016 school year, a new state law requires high school students to receive CPR training in order to graduate.

A program that’s taken more than 6,000 juvenile offenders off the hands of police officers since 2010 will likely close March 1 when it runs out of money due to state budget cuts. Oklahoma County and the state Corrections Department have begun a pilot program to submitted sentencing information electronically from the court house to prison staff. Kansas is looking at an additional hundreds of millions in budget cuts over the next two years due to the continuing effect of large income tax cuts, and the state’s economy continues to lag behind nationwide growth.

The efforts in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will likely subside in the coming years, replaced by conversations at a state and federal level on how to improve the federal health care law, a policy expert told a crowd of policymakers and health leaders Monday. Tulsa’s sales tax revenues are showing continued growth above budget projections — a stark contrast to the previous fiscal year. An appeals court Monday overturned a court order that halted construction of a casino in Broken Arrow. Legislators are exploring a variety of options to come up with about $40 million in state funding that’s needed to complete the Native American Cultural Center and Museum.

The Number of the Day is how much federal funds would be invested in Oklahoma for every $1 of state money spent if the state were to expand health coverage to low-income Oklahomans. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times examines the rewards and the remaining stigma of paternity leave.

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