In The Know: Overcrowding of DHS shelters for children violates state law

by | February 13th, 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.

The number of abused and neglected children being kept at Oklahoma’s two state-run shelters has soared this past year in violation of Oklahoma law. A national child welfare expert was shocked that Oklahoma has babies in its shelters. Oklahoma has decreased child welfare spending since 2006, and the state spends only about 60 percent as much per child as states with similar populations. Last year, Oklahoma’s youth suicide rate was 31 percent higher than the national rate, and cuts to mental health services resulted in a dramatic increase in calls to the state’s suicide hotline.

Meanwhile, Gov. Fallin is continuing to push for a huge income tax cut. Dale Wares writes why those predicting the tax cut can pay for itself would have failed Economics 101. See more on this issue at OK Policy’s tax reform information page.

The state paid $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a mother who hid her young girl after DHS workers rejected her concerns the girl had been molested. In the past three months, the state has paid almost $1 million to settle lawsuits involving DHS. Because of a new law, 130 sex offenders will be evicted from a ministry-run trailer park that was helping them transition to life after prison. An estimated 11,000 compulsive gamblers have been banned from casinos throughout the state as part of a strategy to curb addictive gambling.

Oklahoma state workers have gone nearly 6 years without a pay increase. Oklahoma City is looking into what it can do to restore transparency of who spends money on local elections. The Boston Globe profiles how Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren was influenced by growing up in Oklahoma. The Guardian looks at an Oklahoma bill on evolution and climate change that is part of a renewed anti-science assault on U.S. schools.

The Number of the Day is how many people die on average each day in Oklahoma from an injury inflicted by a firearm. In today’s Policy Note, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy explains why Arthur Laffer’s claim that n0-income tax states are doing better than other states is junk economics.

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The Weekly Wonk – February 10th, 2012

by | February 10th, 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 Director David Blatt released a statement in response to Governor Fallin’s plan to eliminate the income tax.  Our work on the income tax proposal was cited by KRMG, The Edmond Sun, StateImpact OK, and The Associated Press. The Oklahoma Gazette featured OK Policy in a cover story about the income tax debate in Oklahoma.  The OK Policy Blog pointed out that Gov. Fallin’s state of the state address acknowledged our urgent unmet needs but was ambivalent about how to pay for them.

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Upcoming Event: "Tell me a Story: The Reality of Oklahoma’s Children of Incarcerated Parents," February 17th

by | February 10th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The next installment of the Practice and Policy Lecture Series, sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), will focus on the children of incarcerated parents.  “Tell me a Story:  The Reality of Oklahoma’s Children of Incarcerated Parents,” will be Friday, February 17, from Noon to 1 p.m in the Chesapeake Room of the Oklahoma History Center at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive in Oklahoma City. The event features Cheri Fuller, Executive Director of Redeeming the Family, who will bring to light some of the challenges facing children whose mothers are incarcerated as well as share an innovative model for keeping families connected.

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In The Know: Okla. only state to opt-out of settlement against banks

by | February 10th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In 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.

Today you should know that A.G. Scott Pruitt opted out of a settlement against the nation’s largest mortgage banks, making Oklahoma the only state not to join the agreement.  Moody’s bond rating service declined to lower Oklahoma’s cost of borrowing citing the state’s efforts to eliminate its income tax as a potential threat to its fiscal future.  Oklahoma was one of ten states granted a waiver from some requirements of the education law known as No Child Left Behind.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department apologized for including sexist comments in an official email to insurance agents.  Oklahoma’s mental health commissioner urged lawmakers to restore millions of dollars that have been cut from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in recent years.  The OK Policy Blog highlighted the bills filed this session that deserve a spot on the state’s blooper reel.

The Number of the Day is the amount of money the state saves over five years for every $1 it invests in public health prevention programs.  In today’s Policy Note, the National Academy of State Health Policy (NASHP) spotlighted an Oklahoma program that uses cutting edge technology to improve care coordination for children with or at risk for developmental delays.

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Bills, Bills, Bills: The weird, delightful, and truly strange

by | February 9th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Casual Friday | Comments (2)

The state legislature is back in session with a slate of serious (we would argue dire) propositions.  In search of comic relief, we’ve decided once again to highlight the bills filed this session that deserve a spot on the blooper reel.  Many of these bills tickled our funny bone, but most of them had us doing a double take – say what now?  If you have any insight, please enlighten us in the comment section below.

Sen. Shortey tops the list with SB 1418, a fundamentally strange bill to ban “food and goods” which contain aborted human fetuses.  Umm, okay.  Rather than pile-on the national ridicule, we’d like to call your attention to a lesser-known Shortey bill.  SB 1749 would limit the state highway system’s use of chemical fertilizers and weed killers to protect honey bees.  Every third mouthful of food we eat we owe to honey bee pollination – worth billions of dollars a year to American agriculture.  Honey bees across the country have been succumbing to a mysterious ailment known as colony collapse disorder, caused in part by the very chemicals SB 1749 proposes limiting.  Bravo.

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In The Know: Law enforcement says budget cuts are putting everyone at risk

by | February 9th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In 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.

Today you should know that Oklahoma’s public safety officials told lawmakers that budget cuts have left them dangerously understaffed with antiquated facilities and equipment.  Foster care abuse in Oklahoma has taken an enormous toll on affected children and cost the state several million dollars in damages.  The state’s chief medical examiner told a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that reaccreditation of his agency was impossible with its current “decrepit” facility.

The OK Policy Blog pointed out that Gov. Fallin’s state of the state address acknowledged our urgent unmet needs but was ambivalent about how to pay for them.  StateImpact Oklahoma used a word cloud visualization to compare Gov. Fallin’s state of the state speeches.  The Tulsa World reported that the state’s current system taxes rich and poor alike at a similar rate.  The Children’s Defense Fund ranked Oklahoma near the bottom in child welfare, measuring poverty, health, hunger, early childhood development, education and youth at risk.

Oklahoma doctors expressed grave concern over proposed ‘personhood’ legislation, including its effect on routine in vitro fertilization treatments.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans killed to date by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In today’s Policy Note, PolicyLink looks at the disproportionate impact of foreclosures on low-income people and communities of color and lifts up innovative local approaches to assist homeowners.

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State of the State Analysis: Gov. Fallin is playing catch-up

by | February 8th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Taxes | Comments (5)

Governor Mary Fallin

In her State of the State address, Governor Fallin laid out numerous areas where Oklahoma needs to invest to fix serious problems. She mentioned the shortage of troopers on the highways, the millions still owed to local governments to reimburse emergency expenses, the dilapidated state capitol and medical examiner’s office, crumbling bridges, high infant mortality, a beleaguered foster care system, and unfunded teacher health benefits.

These diverse problems have a common denominator: they are all substantially caused by inadequate funding to core public services after three straight years of budget cuts. Rather than setting a bold course for Oklahoma’s future, we are playing catch-up just to repair what we have allowed to fall apart.

In the same speech, Governor Fallin proposed a huge cut to the personal income tax. The plan is estimated to cost $350 million in the first full year. It also includes triggers to automatically cut taxes again any time the budget begins to recover.

The effect is that for the foreseeable future, tax cuts are shoved to the front of the line. It won’t matter what problems or responsibilities we face as a state. It won’t matter if our infant mortality stays high, if our water isn’t safe, if our schools are failing, if our communities are devastated by extreme weather. Whenever there is additional revenue, the number one priority will always be tax cuts.

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In The Know: Senate Republicans stop short of endorsing Governor's tax cut plan

by | February 8th, 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.

Today you should know that Senate Republican leaders said they share Republican Gov. Mary Fallin’s goal of reducing the state income tax, but stopped short of endorsing her plan because it is not revenue neutral. The Tulsa World writes that the Governor’s math does not add up. StateImpact Oklahoma is hunting for business leaders who chose Texas over Oklahoma because of income tax concerns, but they have been unable to find a single name. More on the income tax debate at OK Policy’s tax reform information page.

The Senate Finance Committee killed a bill that would have removed the sales tax exemption for newspapers. The Finance Committee approved an expansion of the homestead exemption that reduces property tax for low-income homeowners. House Speaker-designate T.W. Shannon downplayed talk of an ouster of Speaker Kris Steele.

The OSU student government plans to oppose the legislature taking control of tuition from the State Regents. Now entering its 20th year, the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship has covered tuition for more than 58,000 graduates. The Affordable Care Act is expected to reduce the number of uninsured in Oklahoma by 57 percent and reduce uncompensated care by 69 percent.

Despite a request from the Governor, leaders of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations say they will not drop a water rights lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma until a “reasonable resolution” has been reached. Urban Tulsa Weekly reports on efforts by the American Airlines union to protect Tulsa workers from severe layoffs.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of births in Oklahoma attended by nurse-midwives. In today’s Policy Note, The Fact Checker blog explains why an anti-union claim made in a Super Bowl was total nonsense.

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Report: Affordable Care Act to substantially expand coverage, reduce uncompensated care in Oklahoma

by | February 7th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

The Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law that takes full effect in 2014, is expected to provide health insurance coverage to over 335,000 uninsured Oklahomans and reduce the state’s uncompensated health care costs by more than two-thirds , according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Currently, some 597,000 Oklahomans, or 19 percent of the non-elderly population, lack health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the number of uninsured is projected to fall by 57 percent to 259,000, or 10 percent of the non-elderly population. Oklahoma’s 57 percent drop exceeds the national average of 48 percent and is the tenth highest drop among the states.

The researchers, who are health care policy experts at the Urban Institute, use the Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model to build projections of how coverage will be affected by the new law. For Oklahoma and for the nation, they find that the ACA will lead to more people with both public and private health insurance. Specifically, they project that:

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin releases plan to abolish income tax

by | February 7th, 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. 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.

Today you should know that Gov. Fallin outlined a budget plan to deeply reduce Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate by eliminating dozens of tax exemptions, including many claimed by poor and working-class Oklahomans. It would also significantly reduce state revenues and include a trigger that cuts the rate further any time the budget begins to recover. OK Policy released a statement in response to the plan. Find more on the tax debate here, including a new action alert on why it’s important to save the income tax and what you can do today.

An overcrowded prison system, an outdated state water plan, and a child welfare system failing to properly care for vulnerable Oklahoma children are a few of the problems facing lawmakers in the 2012 legislative session, which began yesterday. OK Policy released an updated 2012 Legislative Primer explaining how state government and the legislative process works. Gov. Fallin announced that she has signed an executive order banning tobacco use on state property.

The Tulsa World summarizes a new report outlining how DHS failed to protect three young Oklahoma children. See the full report from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the DHS settlement of a lawsuit over foster care abuses. A Senate committee approved a “personhood bill” the defines life as beginning at conception. The OU Daily writes that this bill would bring dangerous and extreme consequences.

Rep. Jason Murphey said he believes it is only a matter of time before open records and open meetings laws are applied to the Oklahoma Legislature. NewsOK writes that cutting funding for OETA would be a disservice to the state. The Number of the Day is the average savings on Rx drugs per Oklahoma Medicare beneficiary in 2011 because of changes made by the new health care law. In today’s Policy Note, Governing Magazine discusses the crucial choice states face over essential health benefits as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

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