OK PolicyCast: Episode 10

by | October 3rd, 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 brings you the most important news in Oklahoma, and what it means. This week we talk with David Blatt about the state of Oklahoma’s democracy. It’s election season, but a whole lot of Oklahomans aren’t voting or participating in any way in choosing who will take office. What’s holding us back?

We also share the top headlines, numbers of the week, and more.

You can download the podcast here or play it in your browser:

How to strengthen nutrition and health for Women, Infants & Children (Guest Post: Monica Barczak)

by | October 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)
Photo by Bev Sykes

Photo by Bev Sykes

Monica Barczak is Director of Innovation Lab at CAP Tulsa, where she leads a small team responsible for a variety of research and program design and improvement efforts.

A child’s successful growth and development depends on many factors, including good nutrition and health from the pre-natal period through the earliest months and years of life. Unfortunately, too many Oklahoma children lack sufficient nutrition, hampering their readiness for school and learning and triggering other health issues ranging from obesity to infections to increased risk of social-emotional problems.

While the private sector and faith-based community play a significant role in alleviating hunger in Oklahoma, such services tend to limit the number of times families can access help. But pregnant women and young children in particular need a consistent source of adequate nutrition to ensure healthy development. Federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are invaluable in filling the gap. So it is critical that such programs are designed to make the most impact for clients while operating in the most effective and efficient way. While WIC generally receives high marks among users, improvements could be made to help clients take full advantage of the program benefits.

continue reading How to strengthen nutrition and health for Women, Infants & Children (Guest Post: Monica Barczak)

In The Know: Dorman, Fallin meet in only debate

by | October 3rd, 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.

Last night, Gov. Mary Fallin and Rep. Joe Dorman met in their only debate before November’s election. Transcript and video of the debate are available from C-SPAN. NewsOK reports that the gap between the parties of registered voters in Oklahoma is narrowing, with slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state. OK Policy announced an upcoming event on the 2014 elections and the future of health reform.

A lawsuit filed Thursday challenges a state law requiring doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It’s the second suit challenging the state’s abortion restrictions filed this week. The US Supreme Court has says it will hear the case of a Tulsa Muslim teenager who was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch because they said her hijab violated the chain’s employee dress code. State Rep. John Bennet (R-Sallisaw) doubled down on recent anti-Muslim comments on Thursday, suggesting that American Muslims lied when they condemned violence done by extremists.

NewsOK spoke with an attorney specializing in health law about the more restrictive reclassification of commonly-prescribed (and frequently abused) painkillers such as Lortab and Vicodin. We’ve written about painkiller addiction in Oklahoma before. The attorney for Oklahoma death row inmates argued that the drug cocktails allowed under revamped execution procedures have failed in other states, and shouldn’t be under consideration in Oklahoma. A rally at the state capitol on Thursday called for statewide criminal justice reform. You can see our suggestions for criminal justice reform here.

Pawnee Elementary’s new domed storm shelter has been declared ready for use. Walnut Creek State Park closed indefinitely last weekend due to shifting state budget priorities, and StateImpact spoke to the tourists and area businesspeople impacted. The Number of the Day is the percentage of income that renters in Oklahoma devoted to housing in 2013, up from 24.3 percent in 2000. In today’s Policy Note, Oxfam America explained why most businesspeople support raising the minimum wage.

continue reading In The Know: Dorman, Fallin meet in only debate

Upcoming Event: The 2014 Elections and the Future of Health Reform

by | October 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

poli-sci department u of mnOn Monday November 10th, Dr. Lawrence R. Jacobs, one of America’s foremost experts on health care policy, will give a lunchtime talk titled, “The 2014 Elections and the Future of Health Reform.” The talk, co-hosted by Oklahoma Policy Institute and the Oklahoma Scholars Strategy Network, will be will be held at the Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, 4040 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, beginning at 11:45 am. Tickets for this public event, which includes lunch (vegetarian options provided), are $15 and can be reserved online by clicking here.

continue reading Upcoming Event: The 2014 Elections and the Future of Health Reform

In The Know: Property rights group tells legislators Oklahoma wind farm tax credits are unsustainable

by and | October 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

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.

A representative from the Oklahoma Property Rights Association told legislators that millions of dollars in Oklahoma tax subsidies are being given to wind power companies, and as the industry grows, this level of support is quickly becoming unsustainable. Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health System dedicated a new 36-bed hospital that will provide a much needed increase in mental health beds in the Tulsa area. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed the chances of Oklahoma making real corrections reforms to stop the crisis in our state’s prisons and jails. The Oklahoman editorial board argued that a recent murder in Moore may make sensible reforms a tougher sell.

A group of educators urged lawmakers Wednesday to stop the high-stakes testing of children with significant learning disabilities. The okeducationtruths blog discussed what Oklahoma may do now that CTB/McGraw-Hill has withdrawn from the bidding process to conduct winter testing. Superintendent Rob Neu and Associate Superintendent Aurora Lora spoke about the challenges facing Oklahoma City Public Schools at a community forum sponsored by Oklahoma Watch. A new report reveals nearly 500 Green Country schools are in close proximity to chemical plants, putting students at risk in the event of a chemical catastrophe. On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed why the lottery hasn’t solved Oklahoma’s education funding problems.

A new study by Ibis Reproductive Health found that states with the highest number of abortion restrictions also have the fewest policies in place to support women and children’s health and well-being. Oklahoma scored highest for abortion restrictions and lowest in the nation for supporting women and children’s well-being. A new report by Standard & Poor’s finds that extreme income inequality is contributing to state and local budget shortfalls. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why the extreme levels of inequality that have developed in the U.S. are bad for business.

A monthly economic survey index for nine Midwestern and Plains states suggests economic growth in the region will slow down in the months ahead due to a drop in grain prices. A drier than normal September has diminished drought recovery in Oklahoma, and weather experts say the dry pattern will continue through October. The Number of the Day is how many critical access hospitals are in Oklahoma. These hospitals are typically small and rural, and the only acute-care option in isolated areas. In today’s Policy Note, the Associated Press reports on how aggressive spending on education by wealthy parents is widening inequality.

continue reading In The Know: Property rights group tells legislators Oklahoma wind farm tax credits are unsustainable

Why didn’t the lottery solve Oklahoma’s education funding problems?

by | October 1st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (1)
Photo by Lisa Brewster used under Creative Commons License.

Photo by Lisa Brewster used under Creative Commons License.

Almost without fail, any news story related to money for Oklahoma schools will attract commenters bitterly pointing out they thought the lottery was supposed to solve our education funding problems. So why hasn’t the lottery gotten Oklahoma out of the bottom rungs for education funding? The short answer is that the lottery helps some, but the boost it provides is far less than what has been cut from other revenue sources in recent years. For the long answer, read on.

continue reading Why didn’t the lottery solve Oklahoma’s education funding problems?

In The Know: District judge upholds Oklahoma’s attempt to defund Affordable Care Act

by and | October 1st, 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.

U.S. District Judge Ronald White, a George W. Bush appointee, upheld Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit that seeks to take away tax credits to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The ruling will be appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and may ultimately go to the Supreme Court. If Pruitt’s lawsuit is successful, about 55,000 Oklahomans will lose tax credits that enable them to purchase affordable health insurance. ThinkProgress identified serious flaws in Judge White’s legal reasoning, which ignores binding Supreme Court precedent and engages in selective quotation out of context to support his conclusion.

In a new execution protocol released by the state, Oklahoma is not backing down from using a controversial execution drug, and the number of media witnesses allowed to view executions has been cut by more than half. Oklahoma Watch reported that Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that does not allow juvenile courts to determine whether youths in delinquency cases have the mental competency to go through court proceedings. On the OK Policy Blog, we examine what’s stopping Oklahomans from voting or participating in democracy. A previous post shared statistics showing that Oklahoma’s democracy is broken in several ways.

A lawsuit seeking to strike down a law that puts restrictions on the use of the drug RU486 for abortions was filed Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court. Some Oklahoma sheriffs are pushing back against legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn that seeks to stop the flow of wartime military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. Though the bridge connecting Purcell and Lexington is reopened for traffic, transportation officials say they will keep a load limit on the bridge as they construct a new bridge.

In an interim study at the state Capitol yesterday, Oklahoma educators and other community members asked lawmakers to send a message a to Congress to fully fund a federal program that provides aid to school districts that have had property lands seized by the federal government or Native American tribes. A rally to end mass incarceration will be held Thursday at the state Capitol, with speakers including Democratic State Sen. Connie Johnson and family members of prisoners serving long sentences. Walmart is getting into the banking industry, which could provide a new option for the one in three Oklahoma households that are unbanked or underbanked. A report for the Oklahoma Assets Network authored by OK Policy examined the barriers to fair banking services and other ways to save for low-income families in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahoma children received subsidized childcare in 2013 so their parents could participate in employment or education. In today’s Policy Note, a ProPublica investigation finds that American oil and gas workers – men and women often performing high-risk jobs – are routinely being underpaid, and the companies hiring them often are using accounting techniques to deny workers benefits such as medical leave or unemployment insurance.

continue reading In The Know: District judge upholds Oklahoma’s attempt to defund Affordable Care Act

Broken Democracy, Part II: What’s getting in the way of voting?

by | September 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (13)
Photo by Vox Efx.

Photo by Vox Efx.

It may have been hard for Oklahomans and other Americans not to develop an acute case of election envy during the recent Scottish referendum on independence. Eighty-five percent of eligible Scottish voters cast a ballot; in some districts, turnout topped 90 percent. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, less than half of registered voters went to the polls in 2012, and in this year’s November elections, fewer than 40 percent are likely to show up to decide who will represent us in statewide offices, Congress, and the state legislature. Oklahoma’s voter turnout is now among the very lowest in the nation.

As we discussed in this recent blog post, low voter turnout is one major indicator of the breakdown of democracy in Oklahoma, along with declining voter registration, the growing number of uncontested elections, and a demographically unrepresentative legislature.  Here we look at factors that may be hindering Oklahomans from participating fully in the electoral process.

continue reading Broken Democracy, Part II: What’s getting in the way of voting?

In The Know: CTB/McGraw-Hill backs out of consideration for winter testing contract

by and | September 30th, 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.

CTB/McGraw-Hill, the testing vendor at the center of controversy after two years of statewide testing disruptions, is withdrawing itself from consideration for a new contract for Oklahoma’s winter testing. The state Department of Education had earlier requested CTB/McGraw-Hill be awarded a no-bid contract to administer the testing, but the State Board of Education tabled that recommendation. The Tulsa World examined by many of Oklahoma’s teachers of the year have ended up leaving the classroom. On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed the conservative case for raising the minimum wage.

Gov. Mary Fallin and Democratic challenger Joe Dorman will meet Thursday at Oklahoma State University for their only debate before the Nov. 4 general election. The debate will air live on OETA and stream online at www.oeta.tv. OETA is encouraging viewers to discuss the debate on social media using the hashtag #okvotes14. While most state schools face a rising non-English-speaking Hispanic population, Enid Schools are working with a growing number of students from the Marshal Islands. Enid has the fourth largest concentration of Marshallese nationals in the United States. Tulsa County commissioners voted Monday to set the daily cost to house inmates at the Tulsa Jail.

An Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper arrested earlier this month on accusations that he raped and sexually assaulted three women during traffic stops has resigned from the patrol. A former Wewoka police officer was jailed Monday on charges of statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl multiple times while on duty. The widow of a man who died after a struggle with law enforcement in the Warren Theatre parking lot is suing the City of Moore for $10 million. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is taking over a stalking case from the Rogers County District Attorney’s Office because he is concerned about the victim’s safety. The Oklahoman examined some of what’s faced by the one in three Oklahoma women who experience domestic violence.

KGOU shared audio from a panel on the legacy of Governor Henry Bellmon at OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute. The Oklahoman shared arguments made in a lawsuit over the state’s latest income tax reduction measure. We previously examined what’s behind the lawsuit on the OK Policy Blog. Severe drought is causing numerous water lines to leak and break in Chickasha. Many of Chickasha’s water lines were laid as long as 80 years ago. Boeing plans to move most of its defense and support-related services from Washington state to cities that include Oklahoma City and St. Louis.  The company says about 900 jobs could move to Oklahoma City in three years. Union workers with Spirit AeroSystems voted an overwhelming “no” on a new contract that was presented as a “best and final offer” from company management. Spirit is trying to sell its Tulsa operations which employ 2,300 people, and workers are afraid a sale will mean massive layoffs and loss of benefits. Oklahoma Corporation Commission staff and commissioners revisited their ongoing effort to update decades-old laws and regulations for rapidly changing drilling processes.

The Number of the Day is the median hourly wage for statisticians in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, The Atlantic discusses how police have a much bigger domestic abuse problem than the NFL.

continue reading In The Know: CTB/McGraw-Hill backs out of consideration for winter testing contract

The conservative case for raising the minimum wage

by | September 29th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Poverty | Comments (0)
Fast food workers strike at McDonald's in Chicago. Photo by Steve Rhodes.

Fast food workers strike at McDonald’s in Chicago. Photo by Steve Rhodes.

For many working Oklahomans, low-wage jobs aren’t paying enough to support themselves and their families without public assistance. Raising the minimum wage would boost the overall economy while properly shifting the responsibility for ensuring family economic security back towards the private sector and away from government and taxpayers.

Oklahoma is a state with a high concentration of low-wage jobs. Nearly one of every three jobs in Oklahoma (31.9 percent) is in an occupation where the median annual pay is below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, the fifth highest prevalence among the states. Of this low-wage population, some 60,000 workers earned the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between 2008 and 2012, some 67,000 Oklahomans worked full-time year round yet earned less than $15,000 for the year, four-fifths of whom were supporting or helping to support an entire household with their wages. 

continue reading The conservative case for raising the minimum wage

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