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.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk October 12, 2014

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)

In The Know: State Medicaid program needs additional $164 million to avoid cuts in 2016

by | October 10th, 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.

State Medicaid leaders told lawmakers in Thursday’s board meeting that they need at least $164 million in additional state dollars in the next fiscal year just to maintain the state’s existing Medicaid program. The agency plans to ask for a total additional $275 million and hopes to increase the rate it pays providers, which has been cut in recent years. The state Department of Corrections opened its renovated execution chamber to the media, and says that it is ready for November’s scheduled executions.

The Red Dirt Report wrote that state prisons’ officers say that inmates are planning coordinated riots across the state in hopes of forcing a federal takeover of the state’s overcrowded prison system. Staffing levels are too low to restore order if riots break out, according to Oklahoma Corrections Professionals. 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. A former member of the state Board of Education lambasted Gov. Fallin for her silence regarding the chaos over winter testing.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed a study showing same-sex marriage in Oklahoma will boost the state’s income tax revenue. The State of Oklahoma has confirmed that state workers can enroll a same-sex spouse in employee benefit plans. A state panel has approved a laundry list of repairs needed at the Capitol. The state Department of Human Services collected a record nearly $1 million per day in child support on behalf of Oklahoma children and families between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.

Northeastern Oklahoma officials and business leaders urged the state transportation committee to fund needed repairs to the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation system, and they said continuing to defer maintenance could result in shipping and transport delays.  StateImpact spoke to landowners who have successfully turned to wind farming to preserve their family farms. The Number of the Day is the number of marriage licenses issued in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, a poll of low-income Southerners found that they preferred Medicaid over private health insurance.

continue reading In The Know: State Medicaid program needs additional $164 million to avoid cuts in 2016

Study: Same-sex marriage will boost Oklahoma income tax revenue

by | October 9th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)
Photo by Jose Antonio Navas.

Photo by Jose Antonio Navas.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Oklahoma, there’s one big question on everyone’s mind: how is it going to affect state tax revenue?

Okay, maybe that’s not on everyone’s mind, but researchers at Tulane, Vanderbilt, and Western Kentucky Universities have given it a lot of thought. Their research published earlier this year in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management makes an extremely detailed examination of how same-sex marriage will affect state and federal taxes in Oklahoma and across the nation. They also provide a hint on how many same-sex couples in the state may take advantage of their new right to marry.

continue reading Study: Same-sex marriage will boost Oklahoma income tax revenue

In The Know: Voter registration deadline for November elections is tomorrow

by and | October 9th, 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.

Oklahomans who want to cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 general election have until tomorrow to register to vote. The OK Policy Blog and David Blatt’s Journal Record Column discussed Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit that seeks to take health insurance away from 55,000 Oklahomans. About six weeks into the school year, school districts across the state still have teacher vacancies. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has begun studying how to boost pipeline safety throughout the state. The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration threatened to intervene if Oklahoma does not beef up its pipeline regulations.

Two news organizations are suing Oklahoma prison officials for preventing reporters from viewing portions of an execution that went awry in the spring and are asking a federal judge to stop new state execution protocols from going into effect. Only two of the nearly 1,500 inmates granted an early release by the state Corrections Department since March have returned to prison after they were set free. More than half of Oklahoma’s public college presidents went to the state Capitol to tell lawmakers not to allow guns on campus

A House interim study once again looked at a measure to ban texting while driving, which has failed multiple times in the Legislature. Oklahoma City has launched a new smartphone app for reporting problems to the city and finding public meetings. Oklahoma has adopted emergency regulations to govern health care navigator programs that help Oklahomans find coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The OK Policy Blog previously argued that the new regulations are unnecessary and could hamper efforts to reduce the number of uninsured.

Refilling prescription painkillers will now be more difficult after new rules went into effect this week that put popular hydrocodone medications in a stricter drug class. Tulsa is hosting a drug take-back day on October 18 for people to dispose of unwanted prescription medications. Governor Fallin’s office declined to issue a state of emergency declaration requested by Rep. Mike Ritze due to “the potential spread of Ebola.” Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said that “declaring a state of emergency when no Oklahomans are actually sick would be premature.”

The Number of the Day is the drop in crude oil prices at the Cushing oil hub since mid-June. In today’s Policy Note, Vox examines why oil prices are plummeting and what that could mean for the economy.

continue reading In The Know: Voter registration deadline for November elections is tomorrow

Misguided ruling could rob health care from 55,000 Oklahomans

by | October 8th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

ACA_SupremeCourtThe ruling by Oklahoma federal District Court Judge Ronald A. White that Oklahomans buying health insurance on healthcare.gov are ineligible for tax credits may have been a victory for Attorney General Scott Pruitt. But if upheld by higher courts, it would be a huge defeat for tens of thousands of previously-uninsured Oklahomans who are using these credits to purchase affordable health coverage. The good news is that the ruling rests on a misguided interpretation of the Affordable Care Act that may still be overturned.

Premium tax credits are a central mechanism of the Affordable Care Act’s goal of extending health insurance coverage to tens of millions of  uninsured Americans. Individuals and families with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level are eligible for the tax credits on a sliding-scale basis. The credits can only be used to buy certain health plans on the new health insurance marketplaces, known also as Exchanges. Under the ACA, states were given the opportunity to operate their own exchange; where they chose not to do so, as in Oklahoma and a majority of states, the exchange is operated by the federal government at HealthCare.gov.

continue reading Misguided ruling could rob health care from 55,000 Oklahomans

In The Know: Same-Sex married couples must wait for new drivers’ licenses

by and | October 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.

Although same sex marriage is now legal in Oklahoma, couples seeking to change their name on state identification cards, such as a drivers’ licenses, may have to wait a few days as the Department of Public Safety and tag agencies work out a process. An attorney told NewsOK that private sector employers with self-funded health plans still can decide whether to extend health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses. With same-sex couples on front pages across the state, Oklahoman reporter Chris Casteel looked back to the first time the paper did a feature on gay and lesbian Oklahomans in 1983.

Almost simultaneously last night, debates were held for the state superintendent’s race, the open US Senate race, and local judicial candidates. U.S. Rep. James Lankford and state Sen. Connie Johnson differed on drug policy, same-sex marriage and use of military force as they brought their U.S. Senate campaigns to Oklahoma State University. The candidates for state superintendent squared off on the issues of Common Core standards, standardized testing and teacher pay at a debate in Claremore. The College Board is releasing SAT scores for the graduating class of 2014, and the news is good for Oklahoma, even though fewer students showed up to take the test. You can see the full Oklahoma SAT report here.

A state lawmaker said she will reintroduce legislation to require a DNA sample from everyone arrested for a felony in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how this kind of indiscriminate DNA testing can lead to innocent Oklahomans being wrongfully convicted. NewsOK reported that law enforcement agencies neglected to perform DNA tests on tens of thousands of people convicted of serious misdemeanors, despite a provision in state law for such testing. Inmates inside Okmulgee County jail are threatening to resume rioting due to severe overcrowding. Fox 25 reported on new hopes that Oklahoma will implement real corrections reforms. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed signs that Governor Fallin may begin supporting criminal justice reform.

The OK Policy Blog discussed how there are limited economic opportunities for women in Oklahoma and what we can do to fix that. Oklahoma Watch launched an online data center to search for useful and revealing facts about public agencies, cities and towns, and the state as a whole. The Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah has been gifted a heard of bison and will tend to the animals for the first time since the 1970s.

The Number of the Day is percentage of Oklahoma students who took the SAT in 2014 who met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discussed a surprising Obamacare experiment that is improving health in low-income communities while saving taxpayers $24 million last year.

continue reading In The Know: Same-Sex married couples must wait for new drivers’ licenses

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