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Should Oklahoma put a tax on carbon?

by | August 18th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Taxes | Comments (2)

Derek Wietelman is an OK Policy summer intern. He is an Oklahoma State University student pursuing a double major in statistics and political science, with minors in economics and environmental economics, politics, and policy.

AlfedPalmersmokestacksLast May, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) held a press conference to introduce a bill that would set a price of $45 on carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. What was most noteworthy about the occasion was not the content of the legislation itself, but where the two chose to introduce their legislation: the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

While economists have long endorsed a carbon tax as an economically efficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the idea hasn’t receive much political support. However, a growing number of voices from across the political spectrum have begun to endorse the idea of putting a price on carbon. Just last year, a joint report authored by economists from the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute concluded that “a well-designed carbon tax could improve the long-run U.S. fiscal situation while reducing emissions.” As pressure increases in states and nationally to come up with a better policy response to climate change, does a carbon tax make sense for a politically conservative, oil-and-gas dependent state like Oklahoma?

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In The Know: Credit agency says oil industry-linked earthquakes threaten economy

by | August 18th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Credit agency says oil industry-linked earthquakes threaten economy: Analysts with Standard and Poor’s said the seismic activity may be a liability for energy companies and the oil and gas industry, and the credit risk could also affect home and business owners, transportation, infrastructure and utilities [StateImpact Oklahoma]. You read the full report from Standard and Poor’s here.

Oklahomans with disabilities say finding affordable housing is a challenge: Any time Veldon Gray needs to leave his home, his wife, Betty Gray, must try to navigate him and his wheelchair down the steps of the couple’s Oklahoma City apartment. Veldon Gray, 76, and his wheelchair together weigh about 215 pounds, not an easy load for Betty, 67, who has a pain pump in her back for degenerative discs. Advocates say the Grays’ situation points to a larger problem: the shortage of affordable housing for residents with disabilities [NewsOK].

Interactive – What the jobs are in Oklahoma: Politicians love to talk about jobs. Promoting job creation is a go-to justification in many of Oklahoma’s policy decisions, whether it’s to extend tax breaks for oil companies or ban local minimum wage and paid sick leave laws. However, aside from talking about job creation in very broad strokes, we don’t hear much discussion about what the jobs actually are in Oklahoma. In a new interactive visualization, you can dive into what jobs Oklahomans are working and how much they earn by industry [OK Policy].

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Interactive: What the jobs are in Oklahoma

by | August 17th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Education, Financial Security | Comments (1)

Politicians love to talk about jobs. Promoting job creation is a go-to justification in many of Oklahoma’s policy decisions, whether it’s to extend tax breaks for oil companies or ban local minimum wage and paid sick leave laws.

However, aside from talking about job creation in very broad strokes, we don’t hear much discussion about what the jobs actually are in Oklahoma. That’s not for lack of data. Quarterly economic surveys by the U.S. Census give us a detailed portrait of where Oklahomans are working and what they earn by industry. These numbers may correct some popular misconceptions about Oklahoma’s economy.

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In The Know: Oklahoma teacher shortage crisis grows

by | August 17th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Crisis hits Oklahoma classrooms with teacher shortage, quality concerns: Oklahoma’s deepening teacher shortage has education officials trading in their “Help Wanted” signs for ones with a more urgent message: “Help Needed NOW.” As schools ring in the start of a new academic year, administrators are desperately trying to fill teacher vacancies amid a scarcity of applicants [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City school district begins discipline intervention training: The district is attempting to dig out from under one of the nation’s highest suspension rates and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights division. A district audit found the school system suspends minorities at a much higher rate than white students, inconsistently punishes students for similar offenses and suffers from missing paperwork and rampant record-keeping discrepancies [NewsOK].

Thorny questions on role of law enforcement in schools: You can probably look for some attention to the issue of school discipline next session in the wake of a lawsuit filed in Kentucky after a “school resource officer” handcuffed an 8-year old, 52-pound boy. In Oklahoma use of mechanical restraints is regulated by statute in various juvenile and mental health facilities, but I found nothing in the school code or regulations dealing with the situation [OK Policy].

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The Weekly Wonk: Voter turnout at record lows, financial security for Native Americans, and more

by | August 16th, 2015 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy blog, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that voter turnout in Oklahoma has reached all-time lows. He also described a new savings initiative to boost financial security for Native Americans. Blatt’s Journal Record column summarized the findings of OK Policy’s recent report on barriers to affordable housing for Oklahomans with criminal records. The full report is available here.

In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis probed the questions raised by the presence of law enforcement officers in schools. This video outlines the causes and consequences of growing incarceration in the US.

We Want You (and/or Your Students)!

  • College students are invited to apply for our fall internship and research fellowship. The internship is available to any student enrolled in an Oklahoma college with at least four semesters of credit who can travel to Tulsa at least once per week. Internships are paid, and are available for both research and advocacy. Research fellowships are available to graduate students. Research Fellows are each expected to prepare a blog post on issues related to their research in the fall and to conduct a legislative bill analysis in the spring. OK Policy provides each fellow a stipend. Click here to learn more about these opportunities and how to apply. The application deadline for the internships and research fellowships is Friday, August 28th.
  • OK Policy is also hiring a full-time policy analyst to conduct research and analysis on issues of economic opportunity and financial security affecting low- and moderate-income Oklahomans. The position will also involve substantial work with the Oklahoma Assets Network, a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations led by OK Policy working to build stronger financial foundations for all Oklahomans. Click here to see more about the job description and how to apply. The application deadline for the policy analyst position is close of business on Monday, August 24th.

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Thorny questions on the role of law enforcement in schools (Capitol Updates)

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.

You can probably look for some attention to the issue of school discipline next session in the wake of a lawsuit filed in Kentucky after a “school resource officer” handcuffed an 8-year old, 52-pound boy.  The handcuffs were too big for the boy’s wrists so the officer handcuffed him around the biceps.  In the video of the incident that went viral the officer looks to weigh at least 200 pounds.  The boy, diagnosed with ADHD, was unruly in the classroom.  The principal’s office called in the officer after the teacher’s efforts to “deescalate” the situation failed and the boy tried to leave the principal’s office.  The officer took the boy to the restroom where the boy “elbowed” the officer.  Kentucky school regulations prohibit restraining students in a public school unless the “students’ behavior poses an imminent danger of physical harm to self or others.”  The officer’s boss, the county sheriff, defended the officer’s actions.

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In The Know: Deadline arrives for earthquake-linked injection wells to install monitoring equipment

by | August 14th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Today is deadline for earthquake-linked injection wells to install monitoring equipment: Friday will mark the first of four deadlines for certain wastewater injection well operators in Oklahoma and Logan Counties as the State Corporation Commission attempts to reduce the risk of earthquakes potentially triggered by them. The operators are required to have gauges and flow meters in place by today so that Commission Field Inspectors can verify pressues and volumes [OK Energy Today].

Drought returns in southeast Oklahoma: The newest drought area makes up only 1.32 percent of the state. At the same time, the latest Drought Monitor showed a spreading area of abnormally dry conditions in the southeast and now 9 counties fall under the condition or 12.04 percent of the state [OK Energy Today].

Samson Resources expected to file bankruptcy soon: Tulsa-based Samson is more than $4 billion in debt. The company must pay a $110 million interest payment on its bonds Aug. 15, but according to a story from Business Insider, Samson “doesn’t have the money, can’t pay, and won’t pay.” After recent layoffs, the company employs fewer than 400 people in Tulsa [Tulsa World].

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Watch This: Causes and Consequences of the Growth of Incarceration in the United States

by | August 13th, 2015 | Posted in Criminal Justice, Watch This | Comments (1)

After decades of stability from the 1920s to the early 1970s, the rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. A recent report from the National Research Council, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States, examines what’s behind this dramatic rise of incarceration.

The study reviews decades of research on incarceration and finds that the United States has gone far past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by social benefits. It finds that these high incarceration rates have themselves become a source of injustice and social harm. This short video summarizes the study and what we can do to improve criminal justice policies.

In The Know: Oklahoma cuts health care for aged, blind, and disabled

by | August 13th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma cuts health care for aged, blind, and disabled: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority board went ahead and approved the 3.5 percent rate cut for developmental disabilities service providers. The action will reduce spending on the programs by $11 million. including about $7 million in federal funds and $4 million in state funds. The Health Care Authority also approved a $5 million cut for health care providers who serve aged, blind and disabled Oklahomans [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma voter turnout hits all-time lows: Every two years, the U.S. Census Bureau issues a report on voter participation in the most recent elections based on a national survey conducted the previous November. The news from this year’s report ain’t pretty. Fewer Americans voted in the 2104 midterm elections than in any election in at least 45 years. In Oklahoma, barely one out of three adults (34.2 percent) went to the polls [OK Policy].

No home for Oklahomans with felony records: Locating affordable housing is one of the toughest barriers for Oklahomans with a past felony conviction. Homelessness surveys and anecdotal reports from re-entry programs indicate that inadequate access to housing is a substantial hardship for ex-prisoners [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Oklahoma’s major public housing assistance programs frequently exclude people with felony records, and even those who have been arrested without being charged, from getting help [OK Policy].

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Grim and Grimmer: Voter turnout hits all-time lows

by | August 12th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (4)

Every two years, the U.S. Census Bureau issues a report on voter participation in the most recent elections based on a national survey conducted the previous November. The news from this year’s report ain’t pretty. Fewer Americans voted in the 2014  midterm elections than in any election in at least 45 years. In Oklahoma, barely one out of three adults (34.2 percent) went to the polls. Among voters age 45 and under in Oklahoma, less than one in five voted. All this makes the efforts to repair Oklahoma’s broken democracy, which gained some momentum and enjoyed some modest progress this past legislative session, all the more urgent.

Here are three major takeaways from the report:

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