In The Know: OKC again posts lowest jobless rate for large cities

by | August 2nd, 2012 | 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.

Today you should know that the OKC metro area had the lowest unemployment rate among the nation’s largest metropolitan areas for the fifth-straight month. Oklahoma’s Business Conditions Index fell in June as the drought hurt economic growth. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how unregulated payday loans trap Oklahomans on a treadmill of chronic borrowing.

Native American groups are wary of a proposal that would give the state control over federal workforce development funds that currently go to tribes. The U.S. District Court will not stop the Kialegee Tribal Town from operating a restaurant, sports bar or other nongaming businesses on land where there attempts to build a casino have brought resistance.

The OK Policy Blog discusses why any lawmakers or regulators who want to return money to Oklahomans should make energy efficiency a high priority. Lack of funding is slowing research into possible health problems of people living near natural gas drilling. Deaths from work-related accidents in Oklahoma’s oil and gas fields are the highest they’ve been years.

The Oklahoma Gazette examines why Oklahoma is consistently among the unhealthiest states in the nation. Community health centers are working to treat the state’s estimated 625,000 uninsured residents as well as those who don’t regularly go to doctors. A lawyer representing a death row inmate is questioning whether 20 newly acquired doses of a drug used in Oklahoma executions are intended for human use.

The Number of the Day is how many employers that have used Oklahoma’s work-sharing program since it was enacted. In today’s Policy Note, the Brookings Institution shows that Mitt Romney’s tax plan would provide large tax cuts to high-income households and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers.

continue reading In The Know: OKC again posts lowest jobless rate for large cities

Energy Efficiency: 'It’s fruit lying on the ground.'

by | August 1st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (1)

Photo by Tom Taker used under a Creative Commons License.

The way that Americans produce and consume energy is at a major transition point. We’ve seen the emergence of powerful, parallel trends: a dramatic expansion of natural gas production, steadily growing renewable sources, growing concerns about climate change, reliance on foreign oil, and the health effects of burning coal, and new ideas for improving energy efficiency. Together these trends mean that our energy use over the next few decades will look very different than it does today.

Oklahoma is well-positioned to be a leader of this transition, with resulting huge benefits for our health, environment, and wallets. At the same time, we face a serious long-term challenge of ensuring our resources do not fall short of our needs or become prohibitively expensive.

A looming deadline for Oklahoma is 2020. In that year or soon after, OG&E expects rising demand to require construction of an additional fossil fuel plant, at a cost of billions of dollars to ratepayers. Oklahoma’s other major utility, PSO-AEP, expects major new power generation capacity to be necessary by 2019.

continue reading Energy Efficiency: 'It’s fruit lying on the ground.'

In The Know: Number of children in Oklahoma foster care system rises

by | August 1st, 2012 | 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.

Today you should know that the number of Oklahoma children in foster care rose in 2012 due to increased reports of substance abuse and domestic violence. Nearly 556,000 insured Oklahoma women are guaranteed a list of free preventative health services – including birth control – under a provision of the Affordable Care Act that goes into effect today. The number of people facing serious financial challenges continues to rise in Cherokee County, where more than 1 in 4 are in poverty.

The OK Policy Blog discussed a survey by Governor Fallin that shows Oklahoma businesses still value improved education funding over tax cuts. Urban Tulsa Weekly writes Oklahoma’s groundbreaking education reforms passed in 1990 have mostly disappeared due to lack of funding. NewsOK reports on lawmakers and rural Oklahomans’ reactions to school consolidation. OKC Schools Superintendent Karl Springer answered questions from NewsOK readers.

Oklahoma City Council members are seeking to hire an independent traffic engineer to examine options for building a new downtown boulevard at grade instead of a controversial proposal by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to build an elevated roadway that restricts pedestrian access. Steve Lackmeyer writes that the boulevard fight represents a divide between traditional road building and modern urban planning.

Governor Fallin has replaced eight of nine members of the commission overseeing the Veterans Affairs Department, and the executive director is retiring. The Department has come under scrutiny for allegations of mistreatment of residents at some of its seven veterans centers. Tulsa union representatives said an anonymous ad campaign urging American Airlines mechanics and stores groups to reject a labor agreement is misleading and doesn’t reflect the sentiment of Tulsa workers.

The Number of the Day is the number of deaths prevented per year on average in three states that voluntarily expanded their Medicaid programs 10 years ago to cover more low-income working-age adults. In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities shows that Oklahoma and most other states where fracking occurs have no disclosure laws at all.

continue reading In The Know: Number of children in Oklahoma foster care system rises

The survey says… Oklahoma businesses need a well-funded education system

by | July 31st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Education | Comments (0)

A few months ago, Governor Fallin released the results of a survey of businesses from across the state that asked what they viewed as the strengths and weaknesses of doing business in Oklahoma.  The results showed clearly that Oklahoma businesses value a state education system that they can rely on to produce skilled workers. Oklahoma’s educational institutions at the common, career tech, and higher ed levels all have major roles to play in our state’s economic success.

This web-based survey collected responses from 5,376 Oklahoma-based businesses, representing approximately 20 percent of the state’s total workforce. Business leaders from all 77 counties participated. Chambers of Commerce, other business organizations, and education entities from across the state partnered with the Governor to increase the participation rate.

continue reading The survey says… Oklahoma businesses need a well-funded education system

In The Know: Drought prompts governor to declare emergency

by | July 31st, 2012 | 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.

Today you should know that Gov. Fallin declared a state of emergency in all 77 counties as dry conditions combined with triple-digit temperatures bake Oklahoma with no end in sight. StateImpact Oklahoma discussed Oklahoma’s status as first in the nation for payday loan usage. OK Policy previously explained how these loans trap Oklahoma families in debt.

On the OK Policy Blog, Dr. John Schumann discusses the serious need for more doctors and other health professionals to provide care after the Medicaid expansion. The Tulsa Initiative Blog discussed the latest KIDS COUNT Data Book, which ranked Oklahoma 40th overall in child well-being. Outgoing House Speaker Kris Steele told lawmakers at the at the Southern Legislative Conference that they need to set aside emotions and ignore anecdotes if they want to get serious about prison overcrowding.

Despite strong support from Senators Coburn and Inhofe, Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of Oklahoma Robert Bacharach to a federal appeals court. Supporters of granting personhood rights to human embryos asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that stopped the proposed constitutional amendment. The Tulsa World discussed the dangers of communities becoming reliant on private prisons for their economy.

The Number of the Day is the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows how claims that letting the high-income Bush tax cuts expire would harm small businesses have been vastly exaggerated.

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Guest Blog (Dr. John Schumann): 'Help Wanted' for Medicaid expansion

by | July 30th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (3)

John Henning Schumann is a writer and doctor in Tulsa. He runs the Internal Medicine residency at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. He created the blog GlassHospital.com and is on Twitter @GlassHospital.

Despite its complexities and its politics, I support the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”).  As I’ve written elsewhere, I think it would be both morally and economically wrong for Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature to opt out of the ACA’s vast Medicaid expansion – a position shared by Oklahoma Policy Institute.  So if Oklahoma does the right thing and opts to expand Medicaid for adults with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, what will happen?

Oklahoma faces a serious shortage of primary care access. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the agency in charge of administering Medicaid, recently compiled county-by-county maps, color-coded to classify areas of severe physician shortage based on presumptive levels of Medicaid expansion.  At a glance, these maps reveal something we already know: rural areas are hurting for physicians and populous counties seem to have more capacity.  In my opinion, however, the maps don’t paint a full picture of the eventual shortfall.

continue reading Guest Blog (Dr. John Schumann): 'Help Wanted' for Medicaid expansion

In The Know: State Medical Examiner shipping bodies from Tulsa to OKC because of backlog

by | July 30th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (2)

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.

Today you should know that bodies of people who die in fatal accidents, crimes and suicides in Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma are being transported to Oklahoma City for autopsies and viewing because of a doctor shortage at the state Medical Examiner’s Office. NewsOK reports that school consolidation can lead to longer bus routes with longer days for schoolchildren and thousands of dollars in added fuel and insurance costs for districts. NewsOK also examined historical reasons for Oklahoma’s high number of school districts.

Oklahoma was ranked as the worst state in the nation for the prevalence of predatory payday loans. Since August 2011, federal officials have closed 14 Oklahoma immigration cases using prosecutorial discretion in order to focus enforcement efforts on dangerous individuals. Sen. Constance Johnson continues to push for medical marijuana in Oklahoma. She has introduced a medicinal marijuana bill every year since she was first elected in 2005, but has yet to receive a hearing in committee.

Lobbyists increased gift-giving to lawmakers for the third straight year. House Speaker Kris Steele announced the creation of another panel to take a look at tax credits and economic incentives. Public petitions to audit local governments in Oklahoma are being increasingly used  to address the concerns of residents. The number City of Tulsa workers injured on the job is more than three times the national average for local government employees.

The Washington Post reports on resistance to the individual mandate for health insurance in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked a federal judge to lift a stay on his lawsuit challenging the new health care law, despite the Supreme Court ruling that it is constitutional. An Oklahoma drug rehab facility operated by the church of Scientology is being investigated for multiple deaths.

In today’s Policy Note, the National Review discusses how conservatives are beginning to backtrack on long prison sentences for drug offenses. The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans live in “food deserts,” or areas with limited access to a full-size supermarket or grocery store.

continue reading In The Know: State Medical Examiner shipping bodies from Tulsa to OKC because of backlog

The Weekly Wonk: July 27, 2012

by | July 27th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week Oklahoma Policy Institute wrote about five aspects of the state’s social, economic, and political landscape that explain poverty’s persistence.  We reported on a new poll of 40 of America’s foremost economic experts; not a single one was in agreement with the assertion that tax cuts foster enough economic growth to pay for themselves.

We blogged about Oklahoma’s work-sharing program, which includes an unprecedented and needlessly restrictive condition that keeps it from being useful to any employers.  We also posted about an upcoming event, the 45th Annual Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Conference.

David Blatt wrote in the Journal Record that Oklahoma is a poor state no longer, and it’s time to translate that newfound prosperity into enhanced personal and social well being.

In The Know, Policy Notes

Numbers of the Day

  • 63.2 percent – Percentage of Oklahoma high school students who do not attend a physical education class during an average week of school, compared to 48.2 percent nationally, 2011
  • 1 in 2 – Unplanned pregnancies in Oklahoma occurred while partners were using contraception, 2008
  • 15, 228 – The number of new businesses created each year in Oklahoma on average, compared to 14,847 businesses that close their doors, 2000-2010
  • 277,891 – Number of households with children (≤18) in Oklahoma with a mother who also works outside the home, nearly 2/3rds of all such households in the state, 2010
  • 86 percent – Percentage of the total number of persons sent to prison for a crack cocaine offense in Oklahoma that were people of color, 2007-2011

In The Know: Statewide test scores showed improvement

by | July 27th, 2012 | 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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Statewide achievement test scores for public school students showed improvement.  The State Department of Education has been criticized for withholding a record amount of state aid, mostly for virtual and charter schools.  The Oklahoman wrote about the growing momentum behind efforts to enforce sales tax collection from online retailers.

David Blatt wrote in The Journal Record that Oklahoma is a poor state no longer, and it’s time to translate that newfound prosperity into enhanced personal and social well being.  Firefighters in southwestern Oklahoma have successfully contained a wildfire.  A drought covering two-thirds of the continental U.S. has rapidly increased in intensity.

The Tulsa World considered the Governor’s recent statements about state implementation of the new federal health care law.  In today’s Policy Note, the New England Journal of Medicine found that previous rounds of state Medicaid expansion resulted in fewer deaths.  The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma high school students who do not attend a physical education class during an average week of school.

continue reading In The Know: Statewide test scores showed improvement

Upcoming Event: 45th Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Conference, Aug 2-3

by | July 26th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The 45th Annual Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Summer Conference is scheduled for August 2-3, 2012 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.  The CareerTech Expo, held in conjunction with the conference, features over 150 exhibitors showcasing the latest developments in career and technology education.

The conference provides teachers, counselors, administrators, employers, tradespeople, and state agency staff with innovative technical and instructional skills and the opportunity to network with and learn from others throughout the state.  Sessions will cover a variety of wide-ranging topics, including: technology in the classroom, how the digital age has transformed students’ learning and interacting styles, the state’s common core standards, the Teacher Leader Effectiveness (TLE) evaluation model, minorities in the career tech field, and more.

Click here for registration information and click here for conference programs and agendas by area of interest.