The “C-word” debate ignites pre-session passions (Steve Lewis Capitol Update)

by | January 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (2)
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.

Although many legislators like to wait until the deadline to file all their bills, a few House and Senate bills have already been filed for the 2015 session.  One interesting proposal is Senate Bill 15, the “Rural Education Empowerment Act,” filed by Senator Kyle Loveless, an Oklahoma City Republican serving his first term.  SB 15 provides that if the average daily membership of a school district falls below 250 students, the administrative functions of the district will be combined with those of a contiguous district when the current superintendent retires or otherwise departs. 

continue reading The “C-word” debate ignites pre-session passions (Steve Lewis Capitol Update)

Our 11 most popular blog posts in 2014

by | December 29th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

1024px-Internet1This year OK Policy reached more people through our web site than ever before. Visitors over the course of the year were up 70 percent from 2013, and we averaged more than 25,000 visitors per month. Of those, 65.1 percent of our visitors came from Oklahoma, 7.2 percent came from Texas, and 2.7 percent from California. No other state or country brought more than 2 percent of the visitors to our site. 

Within the state, readers in Oklahoma City led the way by making up 29.8 percent of our visits. OKC was followed by Tulsa at 17.9 percent and Norman at 7.4 percent. Just over half of visitors viewed our site on a desktop computer (51.3 percent), compared to 38.7 percent reading on a mobile phone and 10.0 percent on a tablet.

So what were they coming to see? Here are our top 11 most popular posts for the year. (This list includes only posts that were originally published in 2014. A couple of perennial favorites about private prisons and drug-testing welfare applicants also made the most-read list.)

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s 12-year-old Capitol Dome is significantly cracked

by | December 24th, 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.

In The Know will be on vacation beginning tomorrow. It will return after New Year’s Day. Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!

Engineers have discovered significant cracking in the cast stone panels that form the exterior of Oklahoma’s Capitol dome, completed amid much fanfare just 12 years ago. The unexpected problem could boost the overall cost of the exterior repairs. Oklahoma added nearly 25,000 residents in the past year ending July 1 but grew slower than the national rate, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. New state Rep. John Pfeiffer, R-Mulhall, has said he will fight a Senate bill that would consolidate rural school administrators.

The Cherokee Tribal Council unanimously voted to increase the tribe’s operating budget to expand staff at Cherokee Nation health centers. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition from Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to reconsider its ruling that allowed construction of a casino in Broken Arrow. Researchers at the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center are studying how effective financial incentives are in motivating young people to exercise regularly.

Devon Energy Corporation has donated $1 million to help the Oklahoma City Geological Society pay for a new headquarters. On the OK Policy, we shared 5 reasons NOT to donate to OK Policy this year. The Number of the Day is the per capita mental health and substance abuse treatment expenditures in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times shares data from industrialized countries that reveals a big safety net can actually promote a strong job market.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma’s 12-year-old Capitol Dome is significantly cracked

Five reasons NOT to donate to OK Policy

by | December 23rd, 2014 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

Close-up ScroogeTypically, when we reach out to ask you to contribute to Oklahoma Policy Institute, we list all the good reasons why you should support our work with a tax-deductible donation. But because we are a fair and nonpartisan organization, it’s become an end-of-year tradition for us to share a reminder that there are plenty of great reasons not to contribute to OK Policy as well. Here are five of them:

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In The Know: Continental Resources to cut spending 41 percent following oil crash

by and | December 23rd, 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.

Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources plans to cut spending by 41 percent after the plunge in oil prices, with crude prices falling to a five-year low amid a glut in supply fed in part by the rise of fracking. The state has selected a Kansas City, Mo.-based company to perform up to $25 million in repairs to the exterior of the nearly century-old Oklahoma Capitol. On the OK Policy Blog, Hannibal B. Johnson writes that we must move from angst to action in the wake of so many unarmed black men being killed by police.

A federal judge has rejected a request by Oklahoma death-row inmates to halt executions in the state. The Tulsa World filed a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma seeking release of records related to the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. The Tulsa World examined what is happening with the third graders who were retained because they didn’t pass a reading test. Oklahoma City Public Schools is moving forward with an alternative to Land Run re-enactments considered culturally insensitive and dishonest by some American Indian parents and students.

Tulsa-area police have partnered with a nonprofit to deliver 60 free computers to low-income families with children. An iconic arch over the Will Rogers Turnpike has been reopened after a $15.8 million renovation. After a nearly two-year-long pregnancy Asha, a 19-year-old Asian elephant, delivered a healthy, 332-pound female calf at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The Number of the Day is the amount budgeted for health care for incarcerated Oklahomans in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox examines how the big plunge in oil prices will affect the US economy.

continue reading In The Know: Continental Resources to cut spending 41 percent following oil crash

We must move from angst to action in the wake of Brown and Garner deaths (Guest post: Hannibal B. Johnson)

by | December 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (4)
Hannibal B. Johnson

Hannibal B. Johnson

Hannibal B. Johnson is a Harvard Law School graduate who teaches at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. His several books include Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District, Black Wall Street, Up from the Ashes, and Acres of Aspiration. A version of this article originally appeared in the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce newsletter.

The shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson and the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of the New York City Police Department officers added urgency to already-simmering frustrations over the perceived devaluation of black lives. The subsequent grand jury failures to indict the officers connected to these high-profile killings of unarmed black men by white police officers sparked a firestorm of protests. Some of these mostly-peaceful protests included ugly and unfortunate anarchic elements bent on violence and intent on stoking anti-police sentiment.

These events ratcheted-up the debate about the entirety of the criminal justice system as it relates to African American men. The Brown and Garner cases, different both geographically and factually, highlight the distance we must go to close the wide gap in perception about the role of race in the criminal justice system. Many white Americans view the existing system as fair and even-handed, while many black and brown Americans see it as haphazard at best, and often tilted against them.

continue reading We must move from angst to action in the wake of Brown and Garner deaths (Guest post: Hannibal B. Johnson)

In The Know: Judge allows Oklahoma to bar press from seeing executions

by and | December 22nd, 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.

A federal judge in Oklahoma has allowed the state to press ahead with its restrictions on press access to executions, dismissing a legal challenge brought by the ACLU. Oklahoma’s prison system chief says the state plans to administer the same three drugs used in a botched execution when they execute four inmates early next year. Oklahoma’s State Treasurer Ken Miller and State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones both criticized a tax cut trigger that has scheduled another reduction in the top income tax rate for 2016 even though Oklahoma is already dealing with a $300 million budget shortfall. On our latest podcast, we talk with David Blatt about the budget and tax outlook and what it all means for regular Oklahomans.

Tulsa sheriff officers are transporting hundreds of mentally ill residents to hospitals across the state each month because there are no nearby mental health facilities. The Oklahoman editorial board wrote that increased mental health funding needs to be a top priority in the state budget. The Norman Transcript reported that health care is becoming more affordable for small business owners and their employees through the Affordable Care Act. A conservative law professor wrote in the Washington Post that Oklahoma and Nebraska’s lawsuit against marijuana legalization in Colorado has dangerous implications.

On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed the appointment of new committee chairs and vice-chairs who will be some of the most influential legislators over particular policy areas next year. The Oklahoma editorial board responded to OK Policy’s report outlining how democracy is broken in Oklahoma and suggesting ways to fix it. You can read the full report here. The Oklahoman reported on how the couple who successfully challenged Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban are continuing to work for nationwide marriage equality. The State Board of Education has suspended funding to the Alexis Rainbow Arts Academy charter school until it provides a variety of records and financial reports. 

The source of a fuel spill a few dozen miles long on the Arkansas River in the Three Forks area near Muskogee wasn’t located Saturday afternoon, but officials didn’t deem the substance a threat. About 60 demonstrators gathered in front of the Norman City Hall to rally for oil and gas drilling regulations that better protect the city’s drinking water. An overflowing crowd of concerned residents questioned representatives of an oil company at a public meeting about a proposal to drill near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City. As winter arrives, more than 60 percent of Oklahoma remains in drought.

The Number of the Day is the drop in the number of Oklahoma children receiving subsidized child care under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) since 2006. In today’s Policy Note, a New York public defender explains how the popular podcast ‘Serial’ missed its chance to show how unfair the criminal justice system really is.

continue reading In The Know: Judge allows Oklahoma to bar press from seeing executions

The Weekly Wonk December 21, 2014

by | December 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | 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, we released a new report examining why Oklahoma’s democracy is broken and how we can fix it. You can download the full report here, download an executive summary, or watch an animated video summarizing the report. In this week’s episode of the OK PolicyCast, we interviewed Executive Director David Blatt about the report and reviewed the major headlines of the week. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

More of our work on elections in Oklahoma is available here. A guest blog post from OK Policy research fellow Ryan Gentzler explains why the school funding problem is even worse than we thought. A new blog post discusses how Oklahoma lawmakers passed a “work requirement” for food assistance that imposed no actual new requirements, while stripping out funds for job training and education that could have actually helped the unemployed find work. In his weekly Capitol Update, Steve Lewis shares how committee appointments reveal who the most influential legislators will be next year.

On January 29th, OK Policy will host our second annual State Budget Summit, titled “Mind the Gap: Sensible Budget Policy in Challenging Times.” The keynote address will be delivered by columnist E.J. Dionne, whose work appears in the Washington Post, NPR and other publications. Tickets may be purchased here.

Writing in this week’s Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt discussed increasing calls for wind industry tax credit reforms. Oklahoma Watch quoted OK Policy in a discussion of an Affordable Care Act grant won by the state. KFOR included OK Policy’s statement in their coverage of the triggered tax break for the wealthy. Ballot Access News shared our report on repairing Oklahoma’s broken democracy. In our Editorial of the Week, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs’ Michael Carnuccio argued in favor of sensible criminal justice reform.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk December 21, 2014

OK PolicyCast Episode 17: Tax Cut Trigger and a Bad News Budget

by | December 19th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)
Hefner Canal guard dog "Otto the Great" and the canal's new resident donkey.

Hefner canal guard dog “Otto” and the canal’s new resident donkey.

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

Each week the OK PolicyCast brings you the most important news about Oklahoma and what it means. This week, we speak with OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt about the latest predictions for Oklahoma’s state budget, a tax cut that was triggered from 2016, and what it all means for regular Oklahomans. Also in this episode, we share the headlines, some recommended reading, and our closing good news of the week.

Download the episode here or play it in your browser:

This week’s recommendation: Natural gas: The fracking fallacy

The committee chair shuffle (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | December 19th, 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.

We move inexorably toward the next legislative session as some important milestones occurred last week.  The first, the deadline for making a bill request passed last Friday, December 12th.  That means any member of the House or Senate who plans to introduce a bill next session was required to identify his or her idea for legislation and make the bill drafting request to legislative staff.  The request is given a number, and the member now has until December 29th to submit suggested language for the bill.

The other important events were appointment of committee chairs and vice-chairs for the upcoming session by the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tempore. 

continue reading The committee chair shuffle (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

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