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In The Know: Choctaw Nation picked to lead new anti-poverty effort

by | January 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.

Today you should know that the Obama administration has picked the Choctaw Nation as one of the first five organizations to test a new anti-poverty program for chronically poor areas. Twenty Republican lawmakers announced they are supporting Joy Hofmeister’s primary challenge to superintendent Janet Barresi. NewsOK reported on Governor Fallin’s efforts to more closely link education and workforce training. A NewsOK op-ed argues that the United States education reform debate is missing the bigger picture.

The OK Policy Blog discusses how declining revenues mean lawmakers will struggle to balance the state budget this year, even if they don’t pass additional tax cuts. State Treasurer Ken Miller said it might be time for Oklahoma to review the state’s tax break for horizontal drilling. The Tulsa World wrote that the tax break is unaffordable when Oklahoma is not meeting its fundamental moral obligations to educate children and hold prisoners safely.

An OU student activist who is facing potential “terrorism hoax” charges for hanging a banner at the Devon Tower released a statement about what happened. An Arkansas woman whose special-needs brother died in Oklahoma delivered a petition to Governor Fallin with 460,000 signatures expressing “outrage at the dysfunction” of the state’s child welfare system.

A report by The Population Institute gave Oklahoma gets a D- for reproductive health. Governor Fallin’s tribal liason released an annual on her negotiations with tribes. You can see the full report here. The Number of the Day is how much less is expected to be available for state appropriations in FY 2015 compared to FY 2014. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress assesses how America has changed 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty.

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Grim revenue forecast points to hard choices ahead

by | January 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

budget cutsDespite almost four years of economic growth, Oklahoma’s core services have never fully recovered from the steep drop in revenues and repeated budget cuts that accompanied the Great Recession. Now we are facing another stretch of rough budget times and hard choices.

Since the start of the current fiscal year, state General Revenue (GR) collections have been coming in below prior year totals and falling short of projections. The preliminary revenue estimates certified in late December by the State Board of Equalization confirm that this year’s revenues will continue to fall short and that there may be less money for next year’s budget than this year’s.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Labor Commissioner opposes letting public know about workplace accidents

by | January 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.

Today you should know that Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello plans to travel to Washington to testify against making information about workplace injuries available to the public. Governor Fallin handed out $4.5 million to two companies in 2013 using Quick Action Closing Fund incentives. The OK Policy Blog explained why claims that Obamacare is destroying jobs are over-hyped, and the overall impact of the law is good for business.

Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller said Oklahoma’s economy improved moderately in 2013 and early economic signs for 2014 appear positive as well. Public Radio Tulsa explained why a new tax deduction for foster parents is not likely to be enough to solve Oklahoma’s foster parent shortage. Tulsa Public Schools is turning to national experts for help with teacher recruitment in the face of worsening teacher shortages statewide.

A satanic group unveiled designs for a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan it wants to put at the Oklahoma state Capitol. NewsOK reported on how the TEEM ministry headed by former House Speaker Kris Steele is helping Oklahoma ex-felons find their second chances.

The Number of the Day is the decrease in the number of jobs in Oklahoma over the past 12 months. In today’s Policy Note, Theda Skocpol finds that the Affordable Care Act is working well where state-level officials are pitching in to help and lagging where they are engaged in obstruction.

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Obamacare destroying jobs? Not so fast.

by | January 6th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Healthcare | Comments (0)
Photo by photologue_np used under a Creative Commons License.

Photo by photologue_np used under a Creative Commons License.

Three years after it was signed into law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) remains contentious. Critics have especially focused on a provision that requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to offer affordable health insurance to workers or be fined $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30 employees. This “employer mandate” has been delayed until 2015; that didn’t stop The Oklahoman from running an editorial to claim that the employer mandate is killing jobs. The Oklahoman uses a single anecdotal example to make its criticism, while ignoring the many ways that the Affordable Care Act is a positive force for American business.

First, we can find many examples of how the ACA is directly creating jobs in Oklahoma and across the US. The ACA brought nearly 500 jobs to the city of Lawton, where a government contractor has built a facility to process applicants on the ACA health insurance marketplace. Oklahoma health centers have received over $61 million under the ACA “to provide primary care, establish new sites, and renovate existing centers”, all of which will support and create jobs.

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In The Know: House Speaker wants to make drilling tax break permanent

by | January 6th, 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.

Today you should know that Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon wants to make permanent a tax break for horizontal oil and gas drilling that will cost $252 million this year alone. Macy’s Inc. could receive as much as $21 million in tax breaks over the next 10 years as part of its deal to construct a facility in Tulsa County. A citizens’ group led by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid is hoping voters will scuttle plans for the current $252 million downtown convention center and end collection of the MAPS 3 sales tax early.

Emails released under an Open Records Act request show that despite Governor Fallin’s public support for criminal justice reforms, her staff worked behind the scenes to derail the law. The documents also show private prison companies lobbied to cash in on the reforms. Without effective reforms to reduce overcrowding and improve safety in prisons, observers are warning of a rising potential for deadly riots.

An Edmond church is launching a month-long effort to help uninsured Oklahomans enroll in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. A private rail company will chart three round-trip passages from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to test if there is even enough interest for a regular route. The okeducationtruths blog discussed four education issues to watch in the coming year.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally for wheat exports. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute discusses the impact of 4.5 million workers receiving higher pay this year due to rising minimum wages in thirteen states.

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Weekly Wonk January 5, 2014

by | January 5th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

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

Registration is still open for our first State Budget Summit Thursday, January 16th at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City! With the theme of “Navigating the Perilous Fiscal Waters,” the summit will offer important perspectives on budget and tax issues. You can click here to register for the event.

On the OK Policy Blog, Executive Director David Blatt compared how the state governments of Oklahoma and Kentucky are taking very different approaches to the Affordable Care Act. He previously discussed the topic in a Journal Record column. Legislative Liaison Damario Solomon-Simmons wrote that Bowl Championship Series schools are failing their Black male athletes.  A guest post examined the importance of updated ordinances related to urban agriculture in Oklahoma City. We counted down our top ten most popular blog posts of 2013. 

In his Journal Record columns, Blatt shared the story of an Oklahoma family who were able to purchase affordable, comprehensive health insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. He also suggested that the “feel-good story” of a Tulsa high school teacher volunteering her time to teach at 7am at after budget cuts eliminated a class is emblematic of the ongoing failure of the Oklahoma Legislature to properly  fund public education. 

Numbers of the Day

  • 19,400 – Number of Oklahomans who will be cut off from unemployment benefits by June 2014 if Congress does not extend the Emergency Unemployment program
  • 11,418 – Number of children in Oklahoma who were victims of child abuse or neglect during fiscal year 2013, nearly 58 percent increase since 2010
  • 20.2 percent – The share of total state expenditures for undergraduate student aid in Oklahoma that is based only on financial need, 8th lowest among the states in 2012
 
Policy Notes 

In The Know: Superintendent Barresi won’t speak to Oklahoma Education Association

by | January 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog | 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 State Superintendent Janet Barresi declined a request speak to the Oklahoma Education Association, whose members represent 35,000 teachers, school staff and retirees, saying she didn’t want to have her views “filtered through the lens of liberal union bosses.”  

A new rule requires oil and natural gas producers in the state to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’.  New records shed light on how NORCE, a residential care facility for the developmentally disabled, deals with abuse and neglect reports.  

An Oklahoma man was arrested on a complaint alleging that he committed a hate crime against a woman he assumed to be a Muslim.  Damario Solomon-Simmons, OKPolicy’s new Legislative Liaison, asked whether university football programs should take more responsibility in supporting their athletes’ academic success.  

The Number of the Day is the share of total state expenditures for undergraduate student aid in Oklahoma that is based only on financial need.  In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities suggested the real reason the poor go without bank accounts.

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In The Know: Emails reveal how Governor Fallin’s staff weakened criminal justice reforms

by | January 2nd, 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.

Today you should know that Oklahoma Watch reported on how behind-the-scenes moves by Gov. Mary Fallin’s senior staff severely weakened a program designed to cut the state’s high incarceration rates. Although the Oklahoma Corrections Department is able to fill only about 60 percent of its staff positions, Governor Fallin’s top lawyer said the governor is not concerned. The Oklahoman editorial board warned that that the next big quake in Oklahoma may come from prisons, not underground.

The Oklahoma Gazette examined how Oklahoma law enforcement is profiting from the War on Drugs by seizing assets from drug crime suspects. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed concerns about policing for profit in Oklahoma. Officials expect newly legal marijuana sales in Colorado to lead to more of the drug coming into Oklahoma.

While other states have taken action to prevent them from opening to the public, the number of online charter schools is set to grow significantly in Oklahoma. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how a Tulsa teacher has volunteered to teach classes at 7 am after budget cuts eliminated advanced language classes. The number of Oklahoma children who were mistreated physically and emotionally has increased for a third consecutive year.

The Tulsa World gave a rundown of bills introduced in the last legislative session that could potentially be taken up again. NewsOK questioned whether Oklahoma is ready for a major earthquake. The Oklahoma City Council approved an ordinance to allow more urban agriculture, but they voted down a measure to allow backyard chickens. The OK Policy Blog previously shared a guest post making the case for urban chickens, and we counted down the 10 most popular OK Policy Blog posts in 2013.

The Number of the Day is how many children in Oklahoma were victims of child abuse or neglect during fiscal year 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog discusses what 2014 means for Obamacare.

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Counting down our ten most popular blog posts in 2013

by | December 31st, 2013 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

2013-1360709932dc9It’s been a busy year for Oklahoma Policy Institute. We celebrated our 5th Anniversary with a packed crowd at Cain’s Ballroom and the release of our anniversary video. We convened the first Summer Policy Institute with more than 50 of Oklahoma’s future leaders from across the state. We put out a steady stream of resources and information: CountySTATS 2013 data sheets, the 2013 Legislative Primer, our Action Items for Oklahoma series of policy recommendations, In The Know daily news updates, and many other reports and fact sheets to help keep Oklahomans informed about state government and what we can do to ensure broad-based prosperity in Oklahoma.

We also posted on our blog almost every weekday throughout the year. Here’s a rundown of our most popular blog posts in 2013:

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The eggs have it (Guest Post: Shauna Struby)

by | December 30th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)

Shauna Lawyer Struby is the co-founder of Transition OKC, a catalyst for healthier, more resilient and sustainable communities. She lives in Oklahoma City with her family and two remarkably affable cats. 

Photo by mazaletel used under a Creative Commons License.

Photo by mazaletel used under a Creative Commons License.

After decades of relative obscurity, urban agricultural practices that help citizens become more self-sufficient and resilient, such as vegetable gardening, mini-orchards, composting, rainwater harvesting and keeping a few hens for fresh eggs, have plowed their way back into the mainstream. Advocates for urban agriculture note that updated ordinances provide cities and their citizens numerous health, economic, ecological and social benefits.

On December 31, the Oklahoma City Council will vote on whether to adopt updated ordinances related to urban agriculture. The ordinances, which were crafted by OKC Planning Department with input from the public, were unanimously passed by the Oklahoma City Planning Commission.

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