Why we don’t vote

by | November 4th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (5)
Photo by Vox Efx.

Photo by Vox Efx.

Sunday’s Tulsa Word featured a series of short articles by nine Tulsans explaining why they vote. These citizens spoke eloquently of their sense of civic obligation and responsibility. They spoke of the hard struggles that prior generations had fought to earn the right to vote for women and African-Americans, and of the journeys from distant lands their ancestors had traveled to gain the privileges of a free and democratic society.  They spoke of the importance of elections to ensure that they have a voice and that their representatives are held accountable.

And yet the World may have been asking the wrong question of the wrong people. In 2010, the last Gubernatorial election, less than half of Oklahoma’s eligible voters – 40.4 percent – cast a ballot. In 2014, turnout is likely to be even lower. When a majority of citizens don’t turn out to select their Governors, Congressmen, and other top state and federal elected officials, the question that most urgently needs to be asked may not be “Why I vote” but rather “Why I don’t vote.”

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In The Know: It’s Election Day, go vote

by and | November 4th, 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.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot today? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

Oklahoma’s voter turnout has been one of the lowest in the nation in recent years, and political forecasters don’t expect the trend will change today. OK Policy has shared a series of posts on why democracy is broken in Oklahoma. A large number of state lawmakers have already been reelected because no one filed to challenge them in the general election. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed a few close state legislative races to watch today. An 81-year-old Democrat challenging Rep. Markwayne Mullin for a U.S. House seat in eastern Oklahoma has died from injuries he sustained in a car accident.

The Oklahoma Attorney General ruled that the Workers Compensation Commission must hold its deliberations in public. The Tulsa World discussed why a woman with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon to obtain a physician-assisted suicide would not be able to do that in Oklahoma. OETA’s Executive Director said he had been asked by the Legislature to develop plans for operating the public television network without state funding. Oklahoma City Public Schools has nearly quadrupled the size of its curriculum department in recent months, but officials say the district remains severely understaffed compared to similarly sized districts.

Since new abortion restrictions took effect in Oklahoma on Saturday, one of the two abortion clinics in the state has been forced to halt its services. Another law taking effect Saturday makes several prescription drugs now subject to Oklahoma’s drug trafficking laws. Customers wanting to generate power from small wind turbines and solar panels without being assessed fees rushed to make their installations fully operational by Saturday. Controversial statements by Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern and Rep. John Bennett were featured in a segment on John Oliver’s HBO show about the importance of voting in state elections. The Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice is launching a campaign against anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric by state legislators.

Thousands of newly digitized American Indian records held by the Oklahoma Historical Society are now available to Ancestry.com subscribers. October revenue numbers brought more bad news for Kansas’ budget, which has faced huge shortfalls after the state approved major income tax cuts. The Number of the Day is the median annual wage of a substance abuse counselor in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox discusses why the most important elections happening today are for state offices, not Congress.

continue reading In The Know: It’s Election Day, go vote

State legislative races to watch tomorrow (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | November 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (0)

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot tomorrow? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

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.

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

The 2014 elections are finally coming to an end tomorrow.  In several states there are hotly contested, well financed campaigns that have filled the airways and mail boxes with campaign ads.  In Oklahoma, not so much.  Joe Dorman has waged a creditable campaign but still faces long odds having been able to raise only about a third of the money Governor Fallin has raised.  The race for State Superintendent seems to be the most exciting-if only because the candidates had several publicized debates.  The candidates in the two U.S. Senate races and the governor’s race have hardly engaged each other.  You really can’t blame a candidate, especially an incumbent who is way ahead, for not agreeing to several debates.  The idea of an election is to win, not to be a good sport.  Why would you want to give your unknown opponent free publicity?

continue reading State legislative races to watch tomorrow (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: Close state superintendent race turns contentious

by and | November 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.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot Nov. 4? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

The rhetoric has grown more contentious in the race for state superintendent, which polls show remains very close on the eve of the election. The okeducationtruths blog argued that both candidates will be an effective advocate for funding and common sense when it comes to school regulations. Brett Dickerson wrote that there may be a power struggle between the governor’s office and state superintendent after the election. The state of education funding and whether to accept federal funds for health care have been key issues in the campaign for governor. With 53 Republicans in both chambers of the state Legislature running unopposed, Republicans’ super-majority control is unlikely to change in this election. New voter registration statistics for Oklahoma show Democrats still outnumber Republicans, but the gap is narrowing. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed why covering the uninsured is not a hard problem if we only have the political will to do it. A recent OK Policy issue brief found that the Medicaid expansion’s track record in other states shows it’s a good deal for Oklahoma. 

The deaths of 17 developmentally disabled people transferring or already transferred out of two large state-run institutions are raising questions about whether the closing of the centers put residents’ health at risk. Former caretakers at the facility said they believed the private-care providers residents had been transferred to were too inexperienced. NewsOK examined how home builders are seeking to make homes more accessible for seniors to remain in. Oklahoma’s large number of earthquakes is overwhelming the Oklahoma Geological Survey’s attempts to make timely recommendations about oil and gas wastewater disposal wells that are likely to be triggering them.

Laws that expand gun rights, help combat domestic violence, create new abortion restrictions and expand the punishment for human trafficking are among about 250 new Oklahoma laws that went into effect Saturday. The Tulsa World examined how a fight over funding the Tulsa County Jail could lead to tax increases, service cuts, and costly litigation. Wayne Greene wrote that Oklahoma’s lottery has been a modest success at boosting education funding. The OK Policy Blog previously explained why the lottery hasn’t solved all of Oklahoma’s education funding struggles. Oklahoma’s gross revenue collections during September grew by more than 8 percent compared to the prior year, with every major state tax growing except for the corporate income tax. Although Oklahoma’s unemployment rate remains stable, the total labor force has shrunk by 38,410 over the last 12 months.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans received aid purchasing food from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Journalist’s Resource summarizes the state of research into the environmental impact of fracking.

continue reading In The Know: Close state superintendent race turns contentious

The Weekly Wonk November 2, 2014

by | November 2nd, 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.

As Oklahoma voters get ready to go to the polls on Tuesday, our 2014 Elections page provides you all the information you need on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

This week on the OK Policy blog, we ran a series of guest posts as part of our “Broken Democracy” project. Dr. Randal Buriss offered several ideas for improving representative democracy in Oklahoma; University of Tulsa student Nikki Hager looked at what could be done to boost voter turnout among the millennial generation, and Ryan Kiesel made the case for multi-member electoral districts as a way to give Oklahoma voters more and better electoral choices.  Meanwhile, David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed what’s behind the decline in voting among Oklahomans. You can find more discussion of Oklahoma’s broken democracy here.

Also on our blog, Steve Lewis’ weekly Capitol Update discusses a recent legislative study on how to cover Oklahoma’s uninsured. An article in the Daily Ardmorite about the legislative study cites OK Policy’s recent issue brief shows how the track record of Medicaid expansion in other states shows why it would be a good deal for Oklahoma. Our health care data is also cited in a Muskoee Pheoeix article about the candidates for Senate District 8. In our Editorial of the Week, The Oklahoman Editorial Board argued that lawmakers can’t be ‘tough on crime’ if they aren’t fully funding corrections.

Next Monday, November 10th, OK Policy will host Dr. Lawrence R. Jacobs, a leading national expert on health care policy, for his lunchtime talk, “The 2014 Elections and the Future of Health Reform,” at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. There are just a few days left to purchase tickets, which are $15 and include a full meal.

Quote of the Week

“In the last 16 years, only three initiative petitions qualified for the statewide ballot. Every other state question reached the ballot via action by the state’s elected powers that be – the Legislature. This begs the question: Is it too difficult – nigh on impossible, really – for rank-and-file Oklahomans to take matters into their own hands when they can’t get lawmakers to act?”

-Journal Record columnist Arnold Hamilton (Source: http://bit.ly/1wNeNyQ)

See prior Quotes of the Day here

Numbers of the Day

  • 22% – Graduation success rate of Oklahoma State University men’s basketball players who enrolled in 2007, the lowest in the Big 12

  • 260 – The number of Atmospheric and Space Scientists who worked in Oklahoma in 2013.

  • 1,900 -The number of Oklahomans with physical or mental disabilities who obtained gainful employment through services provided by the Department of Rehabilitation Services in 2013.

  • 87 percent – The percentage of Oklahomans who acknowledge that the climate is changing; 72 percent believe past warming has been caused by humans.

See prior Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

 

 

Covering the uninsured is not a hard problem (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | October 31st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates, Healthcare | Comments (1)

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.

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

The House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Public Health and Social Services, chaired by Rep. Doug Cox (R-Grove), an emergency room physician, took up three interim studies this week on the topic of trying to find a way to provide healthcare for Oklahoma’s 665,000 uninsured.  Over 17% of our population is uninsured which means over 1 in 6 people.  The three studies were requested by Rep. Emily Virgin, Rep. David Perryman, Rep. Joe Dorman and Rep. Chuck Hoskin, all Democrats.  It’s encouraging that Speaker Jeff Hickman, our Republican Speaker, approved the studies, something he didn’t have to do.

continue reading Covering the uninsured is not a hard problem (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: Tulsa City Council votes not to pay new jail fees

by | October 31st, 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.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot Nov. 4? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

The Tulsa City Council voted 8-0 to approve a resolution that the city will not pay two of the three fees approved by Tulsa County for holding city inmates in the Tulsa Jail. Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett has denied an Open Records Act request for ethics complaints filed against him regarding a decision to remove a planned sidewalk near a new city park. Gov. Mary Fallin’s general counsel is among the applicants for a seat the governor will appoint to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The judge who ruled against a Norman doctor challenging a state law restricting abortions authored more than a dozen pieces of anti-abortion legislation when he was a state legislator, and he has written that abortion caused more carnage than Nazi Germany. The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay of the judge’s order.

Under a bill being considered by a legislative interim study, Oklahomans could be left in the dark about life insurance payments owed to them. A judge has thrown out a lawsuit over an earthquake that injured a woman, finding that the case should instead be heard by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. An Oklahoma County court divorce judge ruled that records in the divorce trial of billionaire oilman Harold Hamm will remain sealed from the public. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted to increase a fee on land lines that is used to fund internet service for rural hospitals and schools. The Corporation Commission had previously voted down the fee increase, causing phone companies to go unreimbursed, because they wanted to send a message to the Legislature about reforming the program.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services will host a panel discussion on teen pregnancy on Thursday, November 6 in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma State Department of Health is concerned about reports that Oklahomans who have traveled to Africa are facing exclusion from work, school, or community activities upon their return due to fear of Ebola, even when they have not been in countries affected by the disease. In the Journal Record, Arnold Hamilton discussed how Oklahoma’s restrictive ballot initiative laws keep good ideas off the ballot.

The Number of the Day is the graduation success rate of Oklahoma State University men’s basketball players who enrolled in 2007, the lowest in the Big 12. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times shared county-level data showing how the Affordable Care has affected the uninsured rate across the nation. The Affordable Care Act has cut the uninsured rate nearly in half in several eastern Oklahoma counties where previously more than 1 in 4 residents were uninsured.

continue reading In The Know: Tulsa City Council votes not to pay new jail fees

In The Know: Early in-person voting begins today in Oklahoma

by and | October 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.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot Nov. 4? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

Three days of early, in-person voting is set to begin today at county election board offices across the state as most political experts predict turnout will be relatively light for next week’s general election. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed what’s behind the decline in voting among Oklahomans. On the OK Policy Blog, Ryan Kiesel makes the case for creating multi-member districts to expand the number of voices at the Legislature. See more from our series on Oklahoma’s broken democracy here.

Gov. Mary Fallin raised more than $932,000 from donors in the final push toward Tuesday’s election while her main challenger, Joe Dorman, raised more than $828,000, their latest campaign reports show. Overall, Dorman has received almost $1.5 million in contributions since beginning fundraising in December while Fallin, who began her reelection effort in 2011, has raised more than $4.5 million. Campaign finance reports show state schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister has outraised and outspent her opponent, John Cox, heading into the closing days of their campaign. U.S. Rep. James Lankford collected $1.2 million in the last quarter, as former foe T.W. Shannon and a host of special interest groups kicked in cash for his U.S. Senate race.

Since it began operations in February, the state Workers Compensation Commission has not sought payment from businesses to replenish a fund that pays injured workers when self-insured companies cannot pay their claims, even though the fund is far below levels required by law. For more than two months, the state Workers Compensation Commission has refused to hear appeals involving injured workers’ claims until the Attorney General’s Office decides whether the commission can close its deliberations to the public. An appeals court ruled that Tulsa County will have to pay the legal fees for one of two couples involved in a lawsuit that led to Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriages being overturned.

The director of the Oklahoma State Climatological Survey said Oklahomans should prepare for a drought that could extend through the spring and possibly for years. State officials and researchers updated a legislative committee on their efforts to study the state’s ongoing earthquake swarm, which has been connected to wastewater disposal practices by the oil and gas industry. The Senate Insurance Committee examined applying the state’s unclaimed property laws to unclaimed life insurance benefits. NewsOn6 examined a new Oklahoma law that makes it easier for prosecutors to confiscate cars that belong to drunk drivers.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton told legislators that county jails are inadequate holding facilities for those with long-term criminal sentences, but the state still has a backlog of 240 inmates in county jails. The Tulsa World discussed why Oklahoma continues to lead the nation in incarcerating women. An Oklahoma Watch investigation found that serious violations by inmates plagued Oklahoma’s largest private halfway houses for three years before the state took action in January by removing all inmates from one and later demanding a corrective plan at the other.

The Number of the Day is the number of Atmospheric and Space Scientists who worked in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox shows how the Affordable Care Act is significantly reducing inequality as it expands access to health insurance.

continue reading In The Know: Early in-person voting begins today in Oklahoma

Multi-member districts: More choices, more voices (Guest Blog Post: Ryan Kiesel)

by | October 29th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (3)

kiesel-updated-300x200Ryan Kiesel is Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, as well as a former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, alt-music aficionado and fierce truth-to-power speaker. Ryan‘s comments do not necessarily reflect the views of the ACLU of Oklahoma. This is one of a series of responses to OK Policy’s blog posts on Oklahoma’s “broken democracy”.

At a recent forum on the upcoming elections in Oklahoma, an audience member posed a question asking why substantive issues are non-existent in campaigns. In response, a member of the panel, a well-known and respected political consultant, blamed the voters. If the voters wanted to hear robust debates on the issues of the day, he claimed, then they would reject campaigns that are essentially copy-and-paste jobs.

That’s like owning an ice cream shop that only serves vanilla, and then being surprised to learn vanilla is your best seller.

The truth is voters make the choices they make because they have very few options at the ballot box. The current single-member district system of electing legislators creates a very strong disincentive to increasing those choices. It is time we reverse this incentive system, and that process begins with understanding the single-member majority system, killing it, and replacing it with a plan that encourages more voices and more choices for voters.

continue reading Multi-member districts: More choices, more voices (Guest Blog Post: Ryan Kiesel)

In The Know: Candidates spar over the direction of public schools

by | October 29th, 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 superintendent candidates John Cox and Joy Hofmeister debated the direction of public schools during a televised debate. Under new guidance from the Health Dept., Oklahoma will not require a blanket quarantine for all health-care workers who visited West Africa.

The House Utility and Environmental Regulation Committee held an interim study on the link between fracking and earthquakes in Oklahoma. The Oklahoman Editorial Board argued that lawmakers can’t be ‘tough on crime’ if they aren’t fully funding corrections.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa rank among the most-affordable big cities in the United States according to Kiplinger. A guest post on the OK Policy Blog discussed a new effort to bring millennial voters to the polls and millennial voices to the policy-making table.

In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities demonstrated the long-term economic growth potential for states who would choose to spend less in maintaining extremely high prison populations and spent more instead on public education. The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans with physical or mental disabilities obtained gainful employment through services provided by the Department of Rehabilitation Service.

continue reading In The Know: Candidates spar over the direction of public schools

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