In The Know is taking a short break.

by | November 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is taking a break Monday through Wednesday of this week while the OK Policy team at the State Fiscal Policy Conference. You can follow the conference on Twitter at @SFPConference and with the hashtag #sfp14. In The Know will return on Thursday, Nov. 20. See you then!

To help kids, help parents

by | November 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Children and Families, Poverty | Comments (0)
mother and child

Photo by Rolands Lakis.

About 168,000 children age 5 and younger in Oklahoma live in low-income families (making less than 200 percent of the poverty threshold, or $47,000 for a family of four). Like most families in America, the parents of these young children must juggle the demands of work, child care, school, and family time. Yet balancing those priorities can be impossible for parents without affordable child care, a predictable work schedule, or dependable transportation. The lack of a stable and enriching environment for kids in this crucial time in their lives can block the path out of poverty and lead to lifelong difficulties. Of those 168,000 children, 31 percent had parents expressing concern that their child was experiencing developmental delays.

These challenges are the focus of a new policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “Creating Opportunity for Families: A two-generation approach.” 

continue reading To help kids, help parents

The Weekly Wonk November 16, 2014

by | November 16th, 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.

This week on the OK Policy Blog, we offered some suggestions for the Governor’s second-term agenda. We crunched the numbers and found that Oklahoma failed to make gains in electing women and people of color in this month’s elections. In his weekly Capitol Update, Steve Lewis predicted changes in House leadership in the upcoming session.

Following up on a previous post on the topic, we showed how the US Postal Service could return to profitability while meeting a huge need in many Oklahoma communities. A post in our Neglected Oklahoma series examined an Oklahoma woman’s struggles to avoid homelessness. We’ve written before about why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions for homelessness.

On the OK PolicyCast, we feature an informal with the Oklahoma Sustainability Network‘s Montelle Clark on the pros and cons of Oklahoma’s various energy sources – including coal, natural gas, geothermal, and wind energy. Clark delivered the talk to students at the 2014 Summer Policy Institute. We also discuss the week’s headlines. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

On Tuesday, Dr. Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota spoke about the future of the Affordable Care Act in the aftermath of Republican gains in the 2014 mid-term elections to a lunchtime audience at the Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. The talk was presented by Oklahoma Scholars Strategy Network and Oklahoma Policy Institute. His presentation is available here. NewsOK’s coverage of Dr. Jacob’s talk can be found here. The Red Dirt Report covered the event here.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt argued that Oklahoma seems to have given up on state elections. The Oklahoman Editorial Board weighed in on our recommendations to restore health to our democracy. Our examination of elections in Oklahoma can be found here. In our Editorial of the Week, the Tulsa World discussed how state budget cuts are set to eliminate important juvenile justice services and make government more inefficient.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk November 16, 2014

OK PolicyCast Episode 14: Do you know where your electricity comes from?

by | November 14th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

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

This week, we’ll share a clip from OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute last August. The Oklahoma Sustainability Network’s Montelle Clarke gave a balanced, informative talk on the pros and cons of Oklahoma’s various energy sources – including coal, natural gas, geothermal, and wind energy.

You can download this week’s episode here or play it in your browser:

Expect changes in House leadership next session (Capitol Updates)

by | November 14th, 2014 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (0)
Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Last week’s elections produced few surprises and very little change.  The Republican Party extended its dominance in the legislature by “flipping” three Senate seats, meaning three seats formerly held by Democrats will now be held by Republicans.  The Republicans had already picked up one seat when Senator-Elect Marty Quinn won election without opposition to replace Democratic leader Sean Burrage.  The partisan mix in the Senate is now 40 Republicans and 8 Democrats.  In the House only one general election incumbent candidate was defeated, Republican Rep. Aaron Stiles of Norman.  To offset that loss the Republicans picked up the seat formerly held by Democrat Joe Dorman who was term limited.  The House mix remains 72-29 in favor of Republicans.

continue reading Expect changes in House leadership next session (Capitol Updates)

In The Know: State business tax breaks more than double in four years

by | November 14th, 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.

State tax breaks given to businesses have more than doubled in the last four years, and now total over half a billion dollars per year, according to Oklahoma Watch.  Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said Thursday that a flat appropriated budget could be the “best case scenario” in the next fiscal year. Tulsa’s Community Intervention Center, which works with arrested juveniles, will likely close in March because the funds required to keep it open aren’t available. Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period begins Saturday and will last through mid-February.

A judge has ruled that the Board of Adjustment must approve a wind farm development in Osage County. Ten years after Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the state to negotiated with tribes to operate casinos, the state has collected $900 million from the venture – well above initial estimates. Pension systems managers told a state House panel that Oklahoma’s public retirement systems are stronger than they  have been. We’ve discussed why the pension crisis is over before. Writing in his Journal Record column, Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton discussed the conflict between conservative attachment to local control and their fondness for school consolidation.

State Sen. Randy Bass (D-Lawton) says he plans to introduce a bill that would allow Oklahomans to register to vote online. Bass hopes the measure will boost voter turnout. In a series of recent blog posts, we discussed Oklahoma’s broken democracy and why people don’t vote. Some Oklahoma families whose children suffer from seizure disorders have moved to Colorado in order to get medical marijuana. In a new post in our Neglected Oklahoma series, we shared the story of a local woman’s struggle to avoid homelessness. We’ve written before about why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions for homelessness.

A new group is urging bars in Oklahoma to voluntarily go smoke-free. An annual study ranking American colleges and universities by their sexual health suggests Oklahoma institutions have a long way to go. Gov. Fallin has announced a new initiative to reduce the number of people driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. StateImpact described what Oklahoma can learn from a recently-passed municipal ban on fracking in Denton, Texas. The Number of the Day is the number of seniors who received meals through statewide nutrition sites in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News’s consumer guide on health law enrollment provides information on signing up for health insurance..

continue reading In The Know: State business tax breaks more than double in four years

Homeless in a heartbeat (Guest Post: Camille Landry)

by | November 13th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (1)
Camille Landry

Camille Landry

Camille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

Melinda Rogers is excited about her upcoming graduation from Oklahoma City Community College. She’s jumped a lot of hurdles to get there. Melinda and her sisters spent most of their childhood in foster care. “One of the hardest things about being in foster care is that when you turn 18, you really don’t have anybody. I’m on my own.” For someone who grew up in DHS custody, Melinda is considered a success. Unlike most foster kids, Melinda finished high school and went to college. She’s never been to jail. She isn’t an addict. But the simple task of finding and maintaining a home is one of the toughest challenges Melinda has faced.

continue reading Homeless in a heartbeat (Guest Post: Camille Landry)

In The Know: Health Insurance enrollment begins Saturday on healthcare.gov

by and | November 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.

The annual sign up window to buy health insurance through Healthcare.Gov begins this Saturday. Customers can already compare plans and prices being offered for 2015. Last we explained why it’s worth it to get coverage. A 4.8 magnitude earthquake centered in south-central Kansas was felt across Oklahoma yesterday. The Oklahoma State Election Board on Wednesday certified the election of U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, ruling that Oklahoma does not need to conduct a special election for the seat even though Rep. Mullin’s Democratic opponent died two days before the election. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a lesbian woman who helped raise her partner’s two biological children is entitled to a court hearing on her claim for parental rights. You can read the full ruling here.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed signs that Oklahomans seem to have given up on state politics. Nationwide, last week’s midterm elections saw the lowest turnout in 72 years. The Oklahoman Editorial Board weighed in on OK Policy’s recommendations to restore health to our democracy. On the OK Policy Blog, we gave suggestions for an agenda in Gov. Mary Fallin’s second term, following an election where she said almost nothing about what she would do.

A new report on early childhood development estimates that nearly a quarter of a million children in Oklahoma were living in poverty in 2012. You can read the full report here. The Inasmuch Foundation has given $1 million to the KIPP Reach College Preparatory charter school in Oklahoma City to expand with four new schools. School administrators told a legislative study that the state’s shortage of teachers has become a “scary” situation. House Speaker expressed frustration at foot-dragging by the State Board of Education on developing school standards to replace Common Core. Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said about 25 percent of Tulsa Public Schools’ next bond package could be dedicated to bolstering classroom technology.

Vox discussed how Oklahoma conservative billionaire Harold Hamm has taken to arguing that he made his fortune through luck to avoid a large divorce settlement. Several county sheriffs in Oklahoma have begun selling e-cigarettes to inmates to help fund their jails. The Tulsa World discussed how state budget cuts are set to eliminate important juvenile justice services and make government more inefficient. A new study found that many Indian Health Service facilities are still putting an age limit on who can purchase Plan B contraception, even though that violates federal law. A report from a civil rights group says the city of Norman ranks higher than the national average and best in Oklahoma for supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. You can see the full report here.

The Number of the Day is poverty rate for African-Americans in Oklahoma, nearly double the white poverty rate. In today’s Policy Note, the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses how complicated financial-aid jargon is a barrier to college access, especially for first-generation college students.

continue reading In The Know: Health Insurance enrollment begins Saturday on healthcare.gov

Now what?

by | November 12th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (2)

Governor Mary FallinThis is an expanded and edited version of a column that appeared in the Journal Record

As expected, Oklahoma voters have re-elected Governor Mary Fallin to a second term. Backed by a strong Republican majority in the legislature, the Governor will have another four years to put her policies in place.

Yet even those voters who were paying attention during the campaign can be forgiven for lacking a clear sense of the Governor’s second-term agenda.

Last month, the Tulsa World provided Governor Fallin space for 600 words to make the case for her re-election. She wrote at length in praise of her accomplishments in her first term and against the policies of her opponent, Rep. Joe Dorman. But in 29 sentences, exactly one spoke to the future:

continue reading Now what?

In The Know: Oklahoma economists eye slumping oil prices

by and | November 12th, 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.

Crude oil prices have plummeted to the lowest level in three years, and economists and state finance officials are concerned due to the Oklahoma economy’s heavy dependence on oil drilling. The average price of gasoline is down by nearly 15 cents per gallon across Oklahoma since last week. An automobile parts manufacturer said it will close its Oklahoma City plant next year, eliminating 165 jobs. The factory had received almost $900,000 in Quality Jobs Payments from the state since 2007 to create new jobs at the plant, but the program doesn’t include provisions that require companies to repay the incentives if workers later lose their jobs. An OK Policy report has examined the rapidly growing cost and gaps in oversight of the Quality Jobs Programs.

The Oklahoma State Election Board will meet behind closed doors today to discuss whether a special election should be called in the 2nd Congressional District. Suzan Harjo, an Oklahoma native who has spent decades advocating for Indian rights and dignity, is among those who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, later this month. Former Oklahoma House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate T.W. Shannon has taken a job with a financial services firm in Tulsa. The New York Times examined the revival of downtown Tulsa.

On the OK Policy Blog, we describe how the U.S. Postal Service could return to profitability while meeting a huge need for banking services in many Oklahoma communities. By Tuesday morning, all 14 of an Oklahoma City homeless shelter’s makeshift cold-weather beds are full, but there were many more homeless people with no refuge from the wintry weather. OK Policy shared the slides from a presentation by Dr. Lawrence Jacobs about the future of the Affordable Care Act in the aftermath of recent elections. 

Oklahoma is in compliance with a national standard for ozone in 2014, after exceeding the standard in 2011 and 2012. The Salvation Army is expanding its ACT Prep Program for students in the Tulsa metro area. In a narrow victory that required a manual recount, a Republican has being elected to the Carter County Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1922. Amid a fourth consecutive year of drought, the cotton harvest has begun in southwest Oklahoma. A new Oklahoma law effective this month says that no governmental entity can have the final say on a parent’s right to make what he or she feels is the best decision for their child’s physical and mental health and educational upbringing.

The Number of the Day is how many children found to be victims of abuse and/or neglect in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, NPR looked at how a program that doubles food stamp benefits when purchasing local fruits and vegetables has proved remarkably popular and spread across the country.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma economists eye slumping oil prices

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