In The Know: Education reforms being rolled back in Oklahoma

by and | April 18th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

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Today you should know that many of the educational reforms passed in recent years are being rolled back by Oklahoma lawmakers. Reforms being considered for modifying or repealing include Common Core, third-grade reading retention, and the A-F grading system. A Tulsa World editorial argued that “home grown” standards and tests aren’t up to the task of providing comparative data about Oklahoma schools because students score so much higher on state tests than national ones. Researchers from OSU and the OU will discuss the effects of Oklahoma’s A-F school grading system and make recommendations at a panel discussion in Tulsa today.

The leaders of two statewide groups representing school administrators and suburban superintendents have declared their opposition to state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi. A new fact sheet from OK Policy shows investing in education is key to economic growth and job creation. Less than one in three juvenile inmates in Oklahoma earn high school credit and fewer than 10 percent receive a high school diploma, according to a new study. State troopers aren’t the only state employees in need of a pay raise, according to a Tulsa World editorial. The House has approved three bills intended to toughen Oklahoma’s anti-human-trafficking laws (SB 1431, SB 1433, SB 1538). They now return to the Senate for consideration.

Governor Fallin has vetoed a bill that would have given Oklahoma’s higher education institutions additional exemptions to the state Open Records Act (SB 1577). State Democratic leadership spoke against income tax cuts on Thursday, citing declining revenue. A bill Gov. Fallin signed into law earlier this week (SB 1023) banning Oklahoma cities from increasing the minimum wage is drawing sharp criticism within the state, as well as from editorials in the New York Times and the Washington Post. A panel of judges in an appellate court in Denver heard arguments from both sides in Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban on Thursday.

Hundreds rallied in support of further funding for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities on Thursday. The Developmental Disabilities Services waiting list holds the names of nearly 7,000 Oklahomans who are seeking services from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. We’ve written about the waiting list before, and a Together Oklahoma fact sheet makes the case for protecting Oklahoma’s revenues is important for people with disabilities. The State Department of Health is urging parents to vaccinate their children. Three flu-related deaths this week raised Oklahoma’s total flu deaths since flu season began in September to 61. NewsOK featured Oklahoma nonprofit Variety Care, which provides comprehensive health services to insured and uninsured patients alike. Variety Care is one of the community health centers that relied on Oklahoma’s uncompensated care fund, which ran dry in December.

Tulsa police officers are being trained to carry and administer Naloxone, an opioid antidote used to kick-start the respiratory systems of overdose victims. We’ve written about Oklahoma’s prescription drug epidemic before. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has kicked an appeal from two death-row inmates seeking a stay of execution down to a lower court. The inmates’ lawyers are demanding more information about the drugs that will be used to execute them. Vice News discussed problems in Oklahoma and Ohio that have occurred during lethal injections with new combinations of drugs.

The US Fish and Wildlife services continues to tangle with landowners in Oklahoma and other states regarding conservation efforts for the lesser prairie chicken. StateImpact Oklahoma examined how the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is taking additional precautions before approving oil and gas wastewater disposal wells in earthquake-prone areas of the state. The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma adults making less than $15,000 a year who are limited in some activities because of a disability or mental illness. In today’s Policy Note, The New Republic discussed how the latest enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act marketplaces are very good news for health reform.

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In The Know: Senate passes measure to help third-graders who don’t pass reading test

by and | April 17th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that the Senate passed a measure (HB 2625) that allows students who don’t pass a third grade reading test to be promoted to the next grade if they have unanimous support from a team of parents and educators. The bill now returns to the House to consider Senate amendments. NewsOn6 reported that some parents are looking into opting their kids out of standardized testing, but it can have the same consequences as failing the test. House Democrats increased calls for boosts in Oklahoma’s education funding.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed why legislators now seem to face the impossible choice of supporting good roads or good schools. The Tulsa World editorial board wrote that it’s time for state leaders to take a more realistic look at Oklahoma’s legitimate needs and rethink the rush toward a tax cutThe OK Policy Blog discussed how Oklahoma Medicaid faces severe cuts if lawmakers do not find more revenue.

A new Tulsa County health profile shows wide disparities in health between different zip codes, with north Tulsa showing worse numbers diabetes, obesity, tobacco use and mortality than suburbs south of Tulsa. NewsOK reporter Jaclyn Cosgrove spoke with Dr. Eric Beck about the obstacles to providing emergency care in rural versus urban areas. The Tulsa World questioned why a bill to prevent doctor-shopping for prescription drugs is being blocked by a House committee chair.

Tensions between the state House and Senate came out into the open as House members debated a Senate request to take Thursday off so senators could take a four-day Easter holiday. Rep. Mike Turner, a 27-year-old first-term state representative from Oklahoma City who is running to replace James Lankford in Congress, leads in fundraising after putting $500,000 of his family’s money into his campaign. Under a bill waiting to be signed by Governor Fallin, Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board approved a $50.3 million loan to the city of Norman for improving it’s water treatment plant, the single largest loan the board has made.

The Number of the Day is how much Oklahoma needs to increase funding for SoonerCare, Mental Health, and the Department of Human Services just to maintain existing services. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline discussed how some states are seeking to crack down on for-profit colleges that mislead students about their financing, recruitment practices and graduates’ employment rates.

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In The Know: March revenues down 9.1 percent after major increase in corporate tax credit claims

by and | April 16th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that general revenue collections fell 9.1 percent below the estimates in March. The shortfall creates a possibility that all state agencies will face  mandatory budget cuts this fiscal year. Corporate income tax revenue fell especially low due to a major increase in corporate tax credit claims. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how growing tax breaks and mandatory spending are causing budget shortfalls even though the economy is growing. OK Policy’s newly updated Budget Trends and Outlook fact sheet summarized key points on the budget.

 In an Oklahoman op-ed, Rep. David Dank argued that Oklahoma needs to rein in corporate tax credits to fund education. The House voted down a bill that would reimburse businesses at 105 percent of the cost of tuition and materials for their employees seeking further education. The bill has previously passed the Senate, and the House author, Rep. Elise Hall, said she may bring it back for another vote. The House approved a state trooper pay raise bill and sent it to Governor Fallin. The bill does not specify pay increases, but it repeals the existing pay scales and calls for troopers to be paid in accordance with a study that found they are making 14 percent less on average than their counterparts in other states.

On the OK Policy Blog, we shared 5 things in 5 charts that everyone should know about Oklahoma taxes. Supporters of a higher minimum wage in Oklahoma are considering other options after Governor Fallin and the Legislature banned cities from increasing their minimum wage higher than the state’s. A bill that would restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs passed the state Senate by a vote of 37-5. A similar measure approved by the Legislature in 2011 was thrown out by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Oklahoma’s attorney general has filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit against a Miami restaurant owner over allegations of sexual harassment of employees. The suit is the first legal action filed by the newly formed Office of Civil Rights Enforcement.

The House approved a bill to allow the state Department of Human Services to contract out child welfare investigations and case work. State Superintendent Barresi spoke out against a bill to reduce the number of mandated state tests. She argued that Oklahoma schools won’t teach history and geography if there’s not a standardized test for those subjects. A new church-sponsored program in Tulsa is housing women recovering from drug addiction. Rep. Joe Dorman is challenging the candidacy of Independent Joe Sills because he pled guilty to a felony 14 years ago.  Oklahoma law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from holding a public office for 15 years after their sentence is completed. The Tulsa World editorial board congratulated Oklahoma’s many unopposed election winners. The Oklahoman wrote that counties across the state aren’t being funded adequately to maintain bridges.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking out of all fifty states and the District of Columbia for the share of personal income going to state and local taxes. In today’s Policy Note, the Brookings Institute shared new data on how tax credits targeted to low- and moderate-income working families are helping Americans in every Congressional district.

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In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin signs minimum wage hike ban

by and | April 15th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that Governor Mary Fallin has signed a bill that bans cities in Oklahoma from increasing the minimum wage or vacation and sick-day requirements. A petition in Oklahoma City has been seeking to allow citizens to vote on increasing the citywide minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The Journal Record editorial board wrote that Governor Fallin’s push to cut taxes while Oklahoma faces budget shortfalls is unwisely focused on ideology over practicality.

The OK Policy Blog discussed how Oklahoma’s lack of adequate budget planning is hurting our ability to make wise decisions for our future. A total of 57 current legislators, and one Claremore man who was the only one to file for an open seat, with take office without an election challenge this year. Tulsa World editor Mike Jones wrote that low turnout in primaries and non-presidential years is leading to government by radicals.

The standardized testing system in Oklahoma schools appears to be avoiding as many glitches as last year, but in at least one Broken Arrow middle school, students are unable to log on. KGOU reported on how junior high kids who attended the elementary schools that were destroyed in Moore tornadoes last year are struggling to find resources to help them deal with the trauma. Yesterday the National Weather Services issued its first tornado warning in Oklahoma since May 31, beating a record for the longest amount of time between tornado warnings.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is beginning a series of public forums on health for minority communities in Oklahoma. The first will be Monday at Morton Comprehensive Health Services in Tulsa. The Health Department is also hosting a community meeting tomorrow at the Community Service Council to learn what Tulsa residents believe are their most critical health needs. NewsOK reporter Carla Hinton spoke with same-sex couples in Oklahoma about the importance of a right to marry.

The number of people in Oklahoma seeking treatment for heroin and opiate use has increased in recent years, but the drug still accounts for a small percentage of narcotics cases. The City of Tulsa is offering the public a chance to get rid of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted medications at a drug-take-back event on April 26. The House approved a bill to prohibit sex offenders from entering a neighborhood, town, county or state park.

The Number of the Day is the median hourly wage for food preparation and serving workers in Oklahoma City. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post reports on new projections showing the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of insurance coverage will cost $104 billion less than projected over the next decade, and premiums will be cheaper than previously thought.

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In The Know: Races for state superintendent, governor draw most candidates

by and | April 14th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that races for governor and state superintendent have drawn 7 candidates each. A 20-year-old is running for House District 91 in Oklahoma City, becoming the youngest candidate ever to run for the Oklahoma House. He is one of 6 candidates who filed to run for the open seat being vacated by term-limited Rep. Mike Reynolds. 

State lawmakers are considering tinkering with the way Supreme Court justices and appellate court judges are selected. The current system of a Judicial Nominating Commission chosen by the governor and the State Bar Association was created after a bribery scandal rocked Oklahoma’s Supreme Court 50 years ago. Lawmakers have proposed taking power to elect commission members away from the Bar Association and giving it to legislative leadership.

Oklahoma Republican Representative Doug Cox spoke to Rolling Stone about why he thinks his party has failed on women’s issues. On the OK Policy Blog, former House Speaker Steve Lewis compared his memories of the 1990 rally for education with what he saw at the recent rally on March 31. Don Millican, the Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. CFO and an OK Policy board member, wrote in the Tulsa World that Oklahoma is flying blind without any long-range fiscal planning for state budgets.

The state Ethics Commission is investigating the association that regulates high school athletics for possibly violating lobbying disclosure rules. In an interview with Oklahoma Watch, Oklahoma City physician Hal Vorse said prescription drug abuse is one of the major public health issues of our time. The legal fight over Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage will be heard in a federal appeals court this week.

Advocates of people with disabilities will rally at the state Capitol on Thursday for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day. OK Policy previously discussed the nearly decade-long waiting list for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities to get at-home care from the state. The Tulsa World published a profile of teacher Sherri Knight, who is going into the Tulsa Jail to help young prisoners get an education. Oklahoma’s Quapaw Tribe has become the first Native American tribe in the country to lead the cleanup of a federal hazardous waste site, on land that is part of the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

A new Web-based platform to which state health care providers can connect to share medical records of patients and provide better transitional care is scheduled to go live April 22. The city of Tulsa will avoid laying off employees this fiscal year, but a fund set aside for future natural disasters may be needed to balance the upcoming budget. Accidents in state construction areas are up by 170 percent since 2004, with 17 people killed in work zone fatalities in 2013.

The Number of the Day is how many candidates for the Oklahoma House and Senate are running unopposed in 2014. In today’s Policy Note, a report by the Pew Research Center examines how two big demographic transformations are changing America.

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In The Know: Parents and students anxious as third-grade reading tests start

by | April 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Oklahoma parents and students reported high levels of anxiety going into statewide testing on Thursday. Third grade student performance on the language arts exam determines whether they will advance to fourth grade. House Democrats accused Senate Republicans of obstructing passage of a bill (HB 2625) that could have prevented students from being held back based solely on the results of the test. The Tulsa World reported that friction between House and Senate members is slowing down the Oklahoma legislative process, with each chamber accusing the other of mismanaged priorities.

A Tulsa World editorial took state legislative leadership to task for prioritizing road maintenance over school funding (HB 2642). House Democratic Leader Scott Inman urged the House to take up a vote on whether to provide funding to complete the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum in Oklahoma City (SB 1651). A bill banning e-cigarette sales to minors has cleared the House. The Oklahoma oil industry staged a “rally for rigs” at the state Capitol on Wednesday, where attendees urged lawmakers to retain horizontal drilling tax breaks. Nearly two-thirds of voters favor ending the tax break.

Oklahoma Watch speculated that reinstated work requirements for able-bodied recipients without dependents may be pushing Oklahomans off food stamps. An OK Policy blog post explained proposals by President Obama and Congress to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, citing its success as a poverty-fighting tool and alternative to welfare. A new report found that despite recent gains, Oklahoma still lags behind the national average for children with health insurance coverage. The state DHS director said that too many children are going into state custody because inexperienced workers fear making mistakes and possibly allowing children to be harmed. Oklahoma is the 11th worst state for equal pay between men and women, according to the American Association of University Women. Their report says that women in Oklahoma make on average about 76 cents for every $1 earned by men.

State health officials reiterated that prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic in Oklahoma. Lawmakers may have reached a compromise on a bill designed to deter ‘doctor shopping’ by requiring doctors to check patients’ prescription history in state database of controlled substance prescriptions at least once every year. We’ve written about Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem before. Heroin addiction in Oklahoma is on the rise, according to state authorities. A medical marijuana advocacy group is filing an application for a petition to bring the issue to a statewide vote.

A swarm of earthquakes shook central Oklahoma late Wednesday and early Thursday. The largest had a reported magnitude of 4.1. State parks ceded to Native American tribes for management following cuts to the tourism department’s budget several years ago initially struggled in the transition, but are now thriving. Three conservation groups have filed suit to force full protection of the lesser prairie-chicken, a species native to Oklahoma, under the Endangered Species Act.

The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans with a serious mental illness or substance abuse disorder who are uninsured. In today’s Policy Note, the Orlando Weekly reports how a young mother of three died of a treatable condition because her state refused to accept federal funding to expand health coverage.

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In The Know: Sen. Sparks out as choice for minority leader after backing tax break for wells

by and | April 10th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that Senator John Sparks has been replaced as minority leader-elect after a column was published under his name backing continuation of the rapidly growing tax break for horizontal wells. Sen. Randy Bass is now set to replace Sen. Sean Burrage, who is not seeking re-election. Read more about the tax break for horizontal drilling here.

Gov. Fallin and all five members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation seeking re-election were among the hundreds of candidates who filed for state or federal office on Wednesday. Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs and Richard Prawdzienski, a Libertarian-leaning independent from Edmond, also filed to run for governor on the first of a three-day filing period. You can see a list of all candidate filings so far here. Since announcing his Senate candidacy just after this legislative session began, former House Speaker TW Shannon has missed 305 of 385 votes in the House.

The OK Policy Blog explained what’s in a bill (HB 2642) that would create automatic off-the-top funding increases for education in future years and may redirect spending from transportation. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed efforts to give decisions over whether children repeat the third grade back to parents and educators. Oklahoma Senators Coburn and Inhofe are asking that the U.S. Department of Education stop tying federal grants to the implementation of Common Core standards.

A House committee passed a bill that would change how Oklahoma appoints judges. Under the bill, lawyers on the Judicial Nomination Commission would be appointed directly by legislative leaders instead of being elected by the Oklahoma Bar Association. A bill to use $40 million from the state’s unclaimed property fund to help pay for the completion of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City was approved in House Committee. The committee also approved a $160 million bond issue to repair the state Capitol. Wayne Greene discussed a pending court decision that could increase Oklahoma’s $188 million budget shortfall by another $450 million.

Governor Fallin is asking for federally subsidized loan assistance for businesses that have been damaged by the temporary closure of the bridge that links Lexington and Purcell. Bounty hunters will be licensed to carry weapons, pursue fleeing felons into private homes and wear “bail enforcer” badges under new rules approved by the state. An Oklahoma appeals court is denying a request for stays of execution by two inmates who are scheduled to die this month with a new three-drug procedure developed by the state.

The federal government paid 35 Oklahoma physicians more than $1 million each last year to treat patients in the Medicare program. Oklahoma Watch and the OU journalism school have won a $35,000 grant for a project focused on poverty in Oklahoma City. The Number of the Day is 419. That’s how many Oklahoma candidates filed to run for state or federal office on Wednesday. Filing continues through 5pm on Friday. In today’s Policy Note, the National Priorities Project lays out the differences between budget proposals by President Obama, House Republicans, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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In The Know: Oklahoma transportation official concerned about earthquake damage to bridges

by and | April 9th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that a flurry of earthquakes in Oklahoma has prompted state transportation officials to get expert advice on what it might be doing to roadways and bridges. A new poll finds that almost two-thirds of Oklahoma voters support eliminating tax breaks for horizontal drilling in order to provide more funding for highways, education, and other state needs. For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma state Capitol has made a list of the most endangered historic places in the state.

An in-depth investigation by ThinkProgress uncovered a campaign against the homeless in Shawnee. The federal government has announced $6.6 million in grants to renew support for 55 homeless housing and service programs in Oklahoma. A bill that has passed the House and is heading for the full Senate could require a vote of the people on any zoning regulation — the type of land-use decisions now made on a weekly basis by city councils. Budget cuts set to end night time bus service in Tulsa are costing some riders their only form of transportation.

NewsOn6 reported on how schools are preparing for the multiple high-stakes tests set to begin this week. The House Education Committee approved reforms to grant new options for promotion to the fourth grade for students who fail a third-grade language arts test. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush accompanied Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on a tour of an Oklahoma City charter school. Rob Miller discussed a rural Oklahoma district that was gaining recognition and improving student test scores through innovative use of technology, but changes in the school report card formula dropped their grade to an ‘F’.

 Rep. David Derby, chairman of the House Public Health Committee, has refused to hear a bill that would require doctors to check their patients’ drug histories before writing narcotic prescriptions. Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel is complaining about the state Department of Correction’s moves to shift state inmates out of county jails. Oklahoma VA hospitals have paid out more than $200 million in wrongful death settlements over the past decade. State Senator Connie Johnson has become the first Democrat to enter the race for Tom Coburn’s soon to be vacant U.S. Senate seat.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma voters in a recent poll who opposed providing tax breaks to oil and gas companies for using horizontal drilling. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News discusses a new report showing that US prisons and jails hold 10 times more people with serious mental illness than do state hospitals.

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In The Know: House votes to deny cities wage setting power

by and | April 8th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that the House approved a bill (SB 1023) to prohibit municipalities in Oklahoma from establishing a minimum wage or number of vacation or sick days. Although Monday was the official deadline to enroll in health-insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, many Oklahomans are still trying to sign up. For people who tried to enroll on the website by March 31, the deadline to complete enrollment is April 15. The OK Policy Blog discussed how Community Health Centers are scrambling to stay afloat with the state’s uncompensated care fund running dry halfway through the year.

State lawmakers committed nearly $350,000 for building improvements at a Claremore gun museum. Gov. Fallin met behind closed doors with Republican House members to generate support for funding completion of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. Gov. Fallin signed more than two dozen bills into law Monday and issued her first veto of the session. She vetoed a bill that removed the notification requirement when law enforcement officers fail to complete their annual 25 hours of continuing education. KTAL summarized the continuing political wrangling over efforts to install tornado shelters in schools.

A Senate committee has passed a proposal to reduce the number of signatures needed to form a new political party in Oklahoma. A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that Oklahoma provides some of the fewest tools of any state for voters to look up registration and voting information online. Oklahoma ranked 49th for voter turnout and 46th for voter registration in the 2012 election cycle. You can see the full study here.

The Department of Corrections will begin repopulating a private halfway house that was closed after an investigation found organized inmate fights and rampant drug use at the facility. Avalon, the private prison company that runs the facility, agreed to add and upgrade security cameras, increase drug testing, and pay an on-site monitor selected by DOC.

The city of Bethany is concerned that pollution from a shut down Gulfstream Aerospace plant is contaminating its water supply. Rogers County Commissioner Mike Helm is being questioned after audits found $5 million in FEMA funds were unaccounted for. There have been more earthquakes strong enough to be felt in Oklahoma this year than in all of 2013, overwhelming state officials who are trying to determine if the temblors are linked to oil and natural gas production.

The Number of the Day is how many earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher have been felt in Oklahoma so far this year. In today’s Policy Note, The Atlantic examines how many low-income Americans with chronic diseases have trouble paying for both their medicine and healthy food.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Senate, House leaders oppose education funding proposal

by and | April 7th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and House Minority Leader Scott Inman both said they have issues with tapping road and bridge funds to increase education funding, as proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. NPR reported that the Oklahoma GOP’s turn against Common Core is creating a split with state business leaders. The Tulsa World called for Governor Fallin to veto efforts to repeal Common Core standards.

Thousands of Oklahoma students will begin state testing on Thursday that could determine whether they repeat the third grade or graduate from high school. Some retained students may be promoted to the fourth grade in the middle of the year if they pass an alternate test by November 1 of their repeat year. The latest version of a bill to change the third-grade reading requirement would allow students who fail the test to receive a “probationary promotion”.

David Blatt wrote an editorial in The Oklahoman on why it’s time to end Oklahoma’s tax break for horizontal drilling. See OK Policy’s full issue brief here on why this tax break has become unnecessary and unaffordable. OK Policy is now accepting applications for the 2014 Summer Policy Institute, a three-day learning and networking opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students. Tulsa World editor Julie DelCour expressed disappointment that a bill to ban texting while driving has once again failed in the Legislature.

Oklahoma Watch released an in-depth investigation on how Oklahoma puts little effort into identifying and investigating doctors who supply deadly dosages of prescription drugs. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma. Heroin deaths are on the rise in Oklahoma, as some addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative.

Records show that a private halfway house operator in Oklahoma frequently wrote up inmate escapes as lesser offenses, so they wouldn’t be transferred out of the halfway house to state prisons. State Corrections Department officials said they have more than tripled the number of prisoners the agency processes every day to reduce crowding in county jails.

Oklahoma candidates for state and federal races have three days this week to file documents to run for public office. Oklahoma election officials are preparing thousands of voting machines and workers as campaign season nears. On April 17, the University of Oklahoma will host Professor Nicholas Carnes for a free public lecture about factors that prevent working-class people from running for office and the effect that over-representation of wealthy Americans in legislatures has on political outcomes.

Officials with St. John Health System say reports that doctors at their medical center in Bartlesville can no longer prescribe contraceptives are false. StateImpact Oklahoma shared four things Oklahomans should know about a $5 billion settlement to clean up sites contaminated with nuclear fuel and rocket fuel waste by Oklahoma company Kerr-McGee. A Senate committee passed a bill calling for a public vote to allow school districts a one-time increase on bonding capacity to pay for school safety upgrades. The city of Moore is implementing new building codes to make homes more resistant to tornadoes.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of African-American children in Oklahoma who have asthma. In today’s Policy Note, Scholars Strategy Network researchers discuss how the growing, bipartisan momentum to roll back America’s prison boom.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma Senate, House leaders oppose education funding proposal