Judges on the Ballot in Oklahoma: What you need to know

by | October 15th, 2014 | Posted in Elections | Comments (3)
Photo by julochka.

Photo by julochka.

This post is by OK Policy intern Forrest Farjadian. He is a senior at the University of Tulsa studying political science and Spanish.

Oklahoma is one of 39 states where voters have a role in selecting judges. On November 4, nine appellate court justices will appear on the statewide ballot for retention. Voters in many parts of the state will also be asked to select district and associate district judges in nonpartisan, competitive elections. Judicial elections usually don’t attract as much publicity as other races, so we’re taking a look at how judges are chosen, what’s at stake in the elections, and how you can learn about the candidates.

continue reading Judges on the Ballot in Oklahoma: What you need to know

“The 2014 Elections and the Future of Health Reform” Dr. Lawrence R. Jacobs, Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Hubert H. Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota

by | October 15th, 2014 | Posted in Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

Oklahoma Scholars Strategy Network & Oklahoma Policy Institute invite you to hear Dr. Lawrence R. Jacobs, Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Hubert H. Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota on Monday, November 10th at the Jim Thorpe Association & Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Event Center, 4040 N. Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City. Lunch will be served at 11:45am.

Dr. Jacobs will give a public talk on “The 2014 Elections and the Future of Health Reform”. The 2014 elections are likely to strengthen the power of Republicans in Congress, where Democrats may lose their majority. The Republican victory may, ironically, end up being good news for health reform by shifting the opposition from repeal toward accepting the Affordable Care Act and focusing both parties on reforms of its basic structure. This shift will be fostered by the institutional checks in Washington, the expansion of state health reform, and the new set of rights and expectations that are emerging. 

Jacobs has published 14 books and edited volumes and dozens of articles on elections, legislative and presidential politics, elections and public opinion, and a range of public policies including health care reform and American politics. His book, Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know (revised and updated 2012), co-authored with Dr. Theda Skocpol, provides a definitive account of the political struggles that led to passage of the Affordable Care Act and the impact of the new law on American health care. Dr. Jacobs is a member of the national Steering Committee of the Scholars Strategy Network (SSN) and Director of the Minneapolis-St. Paul SSN Regional Network.
Seating is limited so please reserve your spot today!

In The Know: State Supreme Court hears arguments in tax cut challenge

by | October 15th, 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.

Oklahoma Supreme Court justices interrupted the state’s solicitor general repeatedly with questions during oral argument in a case challenging the constitutionality of an income tax cut passed earlier this year. State Health Commissioner Terry Cline says no cases of Ebola have been reported in Oklahoma, but the state is ready in case of outbreak.

The OK Policy Blog examines two state ballot questions that would expand property tax breaks for certain military personnel and their families. An editorial in The Oklahoman pointed out that a bill to expand DNA testing of persons charged with some crimes might be set back by testimony from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation that thousands of tests already mandated under existing law go undone. 

Only 2 percent of U.S. colleges and universities are giving students the best tools for success, according to a new report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma is among them. Protesters are planning to demonstrate at Oklahoma City University’s International Energy Conference this week.

The Number of the Day is the number of active underground storage tanks in Oklahoma carrying hazardous substances or petroleum. In today’s Policy Note, Politico surveys the fluid, confusing legal environment facing immigration courts as thousands of migrant children from Central America process through the system, many without representation.

continue reading In The Know: State Supreme Court hears arguments in tax cut challenge

SQ 770 & 771 would expand property tax breaks for some veterans and their families

by | October 14th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

pennsylvania national guardAfter Oklahoma voters decided twenty state questions in 2010 and 2012, including several broad and contentious issues, this November’s ballot may seem anticlimactic. Oklahoma voters will have just three state questions to decide, none of which are especially momentous. Two of these, SQ 770 & SQ 771, involve homestead exemptions for certain military personnel and their families.

In Oklahoma, most homeowners get the first $1,000 of the assessed value of their primary residence, also known as their homestead, exempted from property tax.  Some categories of homeowners, including low-income families and seniors, are provided a larger exemption.

In 2004, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved SQ 715. The measure amended the state Constitution (Article X, Section 8E) to fully exempt veterans with a 100 percent permanent disability from paying any property tax on their homestead property. The exemption also applied to the disabled veteran’s surviving spouse.

continue reading SQ 770 & 771 would expand property tax breaks for some veterans and their families

In The Know: Attorney General says state not ready for executions

by | October 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.

Despite earlier reassurances from the Department of Corrections that the state was prepared to move forward with executions scheduled for November, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed a 60-day stay on all upcoming executions. The family of Clayton Lockett, who was killed during a botched, 43-minute execution in April, is planning to sue Gov. Fallin and the state’s execution team, claiming that the procedure constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments today in a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, which claims that an income tax cut passed and signed into last spring is unconstitutional. We’ve written about the lawsuit before. Steven K. Mullins, a top attorney in Gov. Fallin’s administration is applying for an open seat on the state Court of Criminal Appeals. A Judicial Nomination Commission will narrow the field of 11 applicants down to three, one of whom is then chosen by Gov. Fallin to fill the open seat. Last week, during an intermission of an interim study on the state’s Common Core repeal, some educators and parents requested assistance fighting changes to the AP U.S. History curriculum. Opponents claim that the new curriculum overemphasizes the role of racism and oppression in American history.

Google has designated Tulsa an eCity of the year, citing the state’s strong online business community. The award is given to one city in each state, with Edmond having received it last  year. The cost for the city of Tulsa to house municipal inmates in the Tulsa Jail may increase in November from $45 per inmate per day to $52.02, plus a new $118 booking fee. Oklahoma City Public Schools plans to recruit 150 community members to help the district devise a district improvement plan focusing on student learning and achievement.

Owasso residents will have the chance to vote on a half-cent sales tax increase in January. City officials say that the tax will help cover things the general revenue fund can’t. The water level in Skiatook Lake is over 15 feet below normal, the lowest level noted since the lake’s impoundment in 1984, due to drought and the lake’s small drainage area. The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma’s public elementary school teachers who are women. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post explains why connecting employees to social services can reduce employee turnover, particularly in entry-level, low-income jobs.

continue reading In The Know: Attorney General says state not ready for executions

State Question 769: Allowing military guard and reserve members to hold elected office (Guest Post: David Dickerson)

by | October 13th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections, State Questions | Comments (1)
Oklahoma Air National Guard soldiers prepare to conduct search and rescue operations in Moore after the May 2013 tornado. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James.

Oklahoma Air National Guard conduct search and rescue operations after the Moore May 2013 tornado. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James.

David Dickerson is a retired military officer who served in the active component, Reserve, and National Guard. He now works as an advocate for veterans at the local, state, and national level.

During the last thirteen years of sustained war in Afghanistan and Iraq, National Guard and Reserve units and personnel have been deployed with unprecedented frequency to augment the active component forces. Thousands of Oklahoma’s National Guard and Reserve service members have served with distinction while having their “normal” lives disrupted. Some of those mobilized and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom also held elected and appointed offices in state and local governments.

continue reading State Question 769: Allowing military guard and reserve members to hold elected office (Guest Post: David Dickerson)

In The Know: Hispanic Oklahomans underrepresented in state government

by | October 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.

Analysis by Oklahoma Watch notes that despite a large and growing Hispanic population in Oklahoma, Hispanic legislators are underrepresented at all levels of Oklahoma’s government. Community leaders are working to not only convince Hispanic candidates to vote and run for office, and representatives from both political parties are increasingly urging Hispanic Oklahomans to get involved. The Tulsa World described some of the lower-profile statewide races, and The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board urged Oklahomans to vote in  upcoming elections. We’ve written about some of the factors prompting Oklahoma’s chronically low voter turnout before.

State officials reiterated that access to scholarships, such as Oklahoma’s Promise, is a major determining factor in whether Oklahoma students go to college. We’ve written about the mechanics of the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship before. Oklahoma Watch discussed the disparity in college- and career-readiness forecasted by SAT and ACT results in Oklahoma: the SAT is taken by fewer than 5 percent of Oklahoma graduating seniors, but indicates that those who take it are overwhelmingly likely to be ready for college, while results from the more widely-taken ACT suggest that only one in five students are.

On the OK Policy Blog, a Tulsa high school teacher described how he sees the state’s education crisis play out in his classroom. The state Office of Juvenile Affairs is proposing opening a charter school inside its detention facilities, arguing that their students’ needs can’t be adequately handled by the local public school system. A new program from the state Department of Human services can provide intensive, home-based services to parents who are at risk of losing custody of their children. The recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Oklahoma has been somewhat subdued in Oklahoma’s rural counties, with only a few couples applying for marriage licenses outside the state’s metro areas. On Friday’s PolicyCast, we discussed a new report in which Oklahoma scored poorly on a nationwide ranking of the economic status of women. We’ve written about the topic before. 

A column in the Tulsa World explained why upcoming judicial elections are important, and urged voters to inform themselves before going to the polls. On average, Tulsa has the lowest gas prices in the US, according to industry analysts. Due to the current drought, Oklahoma wheat farmers are urging the USDA to implement a new crop insurance policy planned for 2016 ahead of schedule. The Number of the Day is the number of deaths due to stroke in Oklahoma in 2012. Strokes were the fifth leading cause of death in Oklahoma that year. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains why racial disparities in the criminal justice system mean that African Americans are the people most likely to be affected by death penalty cases and least likely to have a say in those cases.

continue reading In The Know: Hispanic Oklahomans underrepresented in state government

The Weekly Wonk October 12, 2014

by | October 12th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | 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 KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

On the OK Policy Blog this week, we found that same-sex marriage will boost Oklahoma’s income tax revenue. We argued that we shouldn’t allow criminal justice reform in Oklahoma to be driven by fear. In a guest post, a local high school history teacher describes what Oklahoma’s education crisis looks like from the ground.

Executive Director David Blatt wrote in a blog post and in his Journal Record column that the state Attorney General’s lawsuit to take away the subsidies that allowed 55,000 Oklahomans to purchase affordable health insurance is based on a misguided reading of the law.

On the heels of new poverty data from the Census Bureau, we’ve released our 2013 Oklahoma Poverty Profile. We reviewed the new poverty data earlier, and found that Oklahoma’s economy is leaving too many people behind.

Mark your calendars: On November 10th, OK Policy will host Dr. Lawrence R. Jacobs, a leading expert on health care policy, for his lunchtime talk “The 2014 Elections and the Future of Health Reform.” Click here to purchase tickets.

This week on the OK PolicyCast, we talked to policy analyst Carly Putnam about economic opportunities for women in Oklahoma, a topic she wrote about on the OK Policy Blog. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

In our Editorial of the Week, The Tulsa World’s editorial board argued that the state Department of Education still needs to meet its testing mandate this winter despite unrest over standardized testing and having no testing vendor lined up. 

And finally – if you receive the Weekly Wonk by email and want more information and analysis from OK Policy, you can sign up anytime to receive In The Know, our weekday morning news brief. Click here to sign up for In The Know.

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OK PolicyCast: Episode 11

by | October 10th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

radio micThe OK PolicyCast discusses the most important news in Oklahoma and what it means. This week, we’ll speak with Carly Putnam about economic opportunities for women in Oklahoma, and what we can do to make it easier for women to get ahead. Also this week’s headlines, numbers of the day, and more!

Download this week’s episode here or play it in your browser:

The public education crunch goes from bad to worse (Guest Post: John Waldron)

by | October 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (8)

john waldronJohn Waldron is a high school history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School

There is a crisis in Oklahoma education. Here’s the view from the ground.

I teach at one of the finest high schools in Oklahoma – Booker T. Washington in Tulsa – and I have long been concerned about the effects of budget cuts on our programs. Since 2008 we have cut our staff approximately 20 percent, while adding 6-7 percent to the student population.

For me, this has meant larger class sizes. Prior to 2008, class loads were capped at 140 students per teacher. Typically, I had about 110 in my classes, which are generally upper-level history courses. Today, after six years of cuts, I have 147 students. To give you a sense of what that means, consider this: if I give an essay question to each student (something I believe is a critical part of an upper-level course) and spend five minutes on each essay, it takes over 13 hours to grade them. That’s about how much planning time I have in three weeks of school. It has also meant eliminating my elective classes to teach more survey courses. And, of course, 147 students means 147 names to memorize, and 147 sets of individual circumstances to respond to. You see the dilemma. How can we deliver quality instruction to every student, under increasingly stressed conditions? How can we make bricks without straw?

continue reading The public education crunch goes from bad to worse (Guest Post: John Waldron)

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