Oklahoma’s broken democracy hurts millennials (Guest Post: Nikki Hager)

by | October 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (2)
Nikki Hager

Nikki Hager

Nikki Hager, a senior Political Science and Economics major at the University of Tulsa,  is the Co-founder and President of the TU chapter of Common Sense Action. This is one of a series of responses to OK Policy’s blog posts on Oklahoma’s “broken democracy”.

Oklahoma democracy is indeed broken. Voter turnout remains abysmally low. Young people especially are largely left out of the political process. Politics are dominated not by innovation and compromise but by partisan gridlock and stagnation.

Not only did Oklahoma have the third lowest overall voter turnout in 2012, but at 27 percent, it also had the second lowest youth turnout. In contrast, Mississippi—the only state to perform worse than Oklahoma in general turnout—had the highest relative turnout of young voters at just over 68 percent.

Turnout in party primary elections is especially low in Oklahoma – in this year’s primary elections, less than 1 in 3 registered voters cast ballots in the first round of primaries, and in the run-offs, turnout was under 20 percent. In districts where one political party dominates, primaries are particularly important, as the winner of the primary often determines the winner of the general election. When voter turnout falls to extremely low levels, it makes it easy for small groups of committed groups to mobilize their members, often over-representing extremist and single-interest groups. Extremist voters lead to extremist politicians, leading to extremist policies, and threatening the viability of a government that relies on compromise.

continue reading Oklahoma’s broken democracy hurts millennials (Guest Post: Nikki Hager)

In The Know: Superintendent candidates square off in debate

by | October 28th, 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.

Today you should know that the state’s superintendent candidates squared off in a public debate. Applications to vote by mail with an absentee ballot in Oklahoma can be requested until 5 p.m. Wednesday and the polls will be open for early voting this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The Cherokee Nation celebrated the construction of a $5 million treatment center for teens struggling with substance abuse. Amid predictions of a steep drop in oil prices, industry leaders are reassuring investors that even at much lower prices they can still return ample profits. Family Builders operates one of several domestic violence intervention programs, which provide court-ordered therapy and rehabilitation to perpetrators of abuse.

OK Policy posted the next in its series on ‘broken democracy’, soliciting ideas from citizen leaders to address lackluster voter participation in local elections. U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe says he’s spending “almost every waking moment” campaigning for other people and yesterday was in Lithuania for the opening of a port facility to handle liquefied natural gas.

In today’s Policy Note, the Legal Action Center highlights the case of a three year old toddler put into official immigration court proceedings on his own, without legal representation to help him explain to the court why he should be granted asylum and not be deported. The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans who acknowledge that the climate is changing. 

continue reading In The Know: Superintendent candidates square off in debate

Ideas for improving representative democracy in Oklahoma (Guest Blog: Dr. Randal Burris)

by | October 27th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (3)
randal burris

Dr. Randal Burris

Dr. Randal Burris is a life-long Oklahoman, a graduate of Oklahoma State University, and a practicing veterinarian from Broken Arrow. This is one of a series of responses to OK Policy’s blog posts on Oklahoma’s “broken democracy”.

Thank you for this opportunity to voice my concerns about the issues raised by OK Policy.
 
In my opinion, a number of factors impact the declining participation of voters in the political process. Among these are:
  1.  Large monetary contributions from a small number of very wealthy individuals leaves the average person with a sense that his or her voice matters very little, and that elections are bought and sold by narrow special interests with little regard to the needs and wants of the electorate. Additionally, people such as myself, who have considered running for public office at either the State legislative or Congressional level, feel excluded from the process because we lack the “deep pockets” to adequately finance a campaign in today’s market.
  2.  The closed party primary system allows no voice for independents and for those whose party is not represented in an election. This results in large segments of the electorate becoming effectively disenfranchised, and a small percentage of party hard-liners determining the outcome of an election.
  3.  The rancorous, hyper-partisan tone of political discourse, that portrays opponents as not just wrong, but evil or less patriotic or “American” than oneself, results in the inability of people to work with those of the other party, or to even socialize with those of different political persuasions. The resultant fossilization of skewed perspectives regarding persons of different parties has led to refusals to cooperate in necessary legislation that both sides may agree is needed, but that neither will support simply because it was proposed by a member of the other party, or may “give that party a victory at the polls.”
  4.  Finally, the homogenization within each party has led to an intolerance of persons within one’s own party who might differ from the “party line” on one or more issues. We have seen Republicans referred to as “RINOs” (Republican In Name Only) by primary opponents and talk radio hosts. In my own case, I am a staunch Democrat, while also being Pro-Life. I would like to run for office, because I believe the Democratic Party better represents the education and economic needs of the majority of Oklahomans, but I don’t want to be attacked for my Pro-Life advocacy, and I am worried about where to secure the funding for a campaign, since I don’t fit the “standard Democrat Profile”.

continue reading Ideas for improving representative democracy in Oklahoma (Guest Blog: Dr. Randal Burris)

The Weekly Wonk October 26, 2014

by | October 26th, 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.

This week on the OK Policy Blog, the executive director of The Oklahoma Innocence Project wrote that exonerating wrongly-prisoners should be a shared priority. We found the state agency workforces are still well below pre-recession levels, and argued in favor of the Postal Service entering the financial services market. In his weekly Capitol Update, Steve Lewis notes that a recent report finding Oklahoma has not been making a good faith effort to institute reforms to the child welfare system has to be discouraging to everyone involved.

In a new issue brief, we examine the experiences of other states and conclude that accepting federal funds to expand health coverage to low-income Oklahomans is a good deal for the state. The brief was also the topic of discussion on this week’s OK PolicyCast. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column points out that lawmakers have taken away far more revenue by passing tax cuts and growing tax breaks than have been added by the lottery, Indian gaming, and tobacco taxes. Blatt is recognized as a Local Social Justice Champion by the inaugural Dan Allen Awards, sponsored by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, one of five local leaders honored.

The Edmond Sun cited OK Policy data in an examination of mental health in Oklahoma. The Lawton Constitution shared information about Together Oklahoma’s Together Tuesdays Tour. Learn more about Together Oklahoma and Together Tuesdays here. In our Editorial of the Week, Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham suggested that legislators ought to have their session in classrooms to see the effect their decisions have had on public schools.

 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. 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.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk October 26, 2014

OK PolicyCast: Episode 12

by | October 24th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

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

radio micEach week the OK PolicyCast brings you the most important news affecting Oklahoma and what it means. This week, we’ll discuss a new OK Policy report on the track record of the Medicaid expansion in other states, along with headlines, numbers of the day, and more.

Download this week’s episode here or play it in your browser:

Discouraging signs for child welfare reform (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | October 24th, 2014 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (0)

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 “co-neutrals” issued their third report this week on DHS’ progress toward improving our child welfare (foster care) system.  The state settled a class action lawsuit in January, 2012, that was brought on behalf of children in custody of DHS.  The parties agreed to develop what became known as the Pinnacle Plan and to appoint three child welfare experts “to evaluate and render judgment about the ongoing performance of DHS to strengthen its child welfare system to better meet the needs of vulnerable children, youth and families.”

The settlement charged DHS with making improvements in the seven categories:  Maltreatment (abuse and neglect) of children in the state’s legal custody; development of foster homes and therapeutic foster homes; regular and consistent visitation of caseworkers with children in the state’s legal custody; reduction in the number of children in shelters; placement stability, reducing the number of moves a child experiences while in the state’s legal custody; child permanency, through reunification, adoption or guardianship; and manageable caseloads for child welfare staff.

continue reading Discouraging signs for child welfare reform (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: state Department of Corrections needs additional $84 million

by | October 24th, 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 Oklahoma Department of Corrections says it needs $84 million in additional funds next year, with much of the new funds designated to deal with its record-high prison population. The Board of Corrections approved the budget on Thursday. On the OK Policy Blog, the executive director of The Oklahoma Innocence Project argued that exonerating innocent prisoners should be a shared priority. A federal judge has sealed documents related a lawsuit brought against Gov. Fallin and the state’s execution team by the family of an inmate who died during a botched execution. The sealed documents including the name of a physician involved in the execution, and state attorneys argue that revealing the name was a violation of state law.

In his Tulsa World column, Wayne Greene reviews a new report and points out that Oklahoma gets more money from the federal government than it pays in federal taxes. Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton argued in the Journal Record that legislators who call themselves pro-life should support such measures as banning texting while driving and disallowing carrying guns on college campuses. A new report from the CDC finds that heart disease death rates in Oklahoma and other Southern states are dropping less quickly than elsewhere in the US.

The editorial board of the Tulsa World writes that the state should invest the money and manpower in implementing the Pinnacle Plan, if only because failure to do so could return the issue to federal court, likely prompting a far more expensive outcome. The state Department of Education’s budget request for next year includes a $2,500 salary increase for teachers. The pay raise is expected to cost $213.4 million. Legislative studies on Thursday looked at revisions to the Reading Sufficiency Act. The consulting firm that runs the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative says that it expects “greater interface” with gay and lesbian couples now that same-gender marriage is legal in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has announced the first laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in Oklahoma for the 2014-2015 flu season. The Osage Nation is challenging development of a windfarm on Osage land. State economic officials say that Oklahoma’s dwindling water supply is impacting the decision of businesses to move to the state. Coal mining in eastern Oklahoma has stalled because demand from steel producers in China has dropped. The Number of the Day is the number of motor Vehicle thefts reported in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox argues that Americans need a constitutional right to vote.

continue reading In The Know: state Department of Corrections needs additional $84 million

Exonerating the wrongly-convicted should be a shared priority (Guest Post: Lawrence Hellman)

by | October 23rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (0)

Lawrence K. Hellman is Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Oklahoma City University School of Law. He serves as executive director of The Oklahoma Innocence Project.

innocence projectIt is no longer contestable: innocent people sometimes get convicted of serious crimes. How often? No one knows. But this we do know: since 1989, more than 1,400 people have been released from prisons in America based on evidence of innocence. Twenty-eight of these exonerations occurred in Oklahoma, including 7 people who had been sentenced to death.

A peer-reviewed, statistically-validated study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that at least 4.1 percent of defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent. The percentage of wrongful convictions for non-capital offenses may be even higher.

More than 26,000 people are currently incarcerated in Oklahoma. If “only” 2 percent of them are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, more than 500 inmates deserve to be exonerated and returned to freedom.

continue reading Exonerating the wrongly-convicted should be a shared priority (Guest Post: Lawrence Hellman)

In The Know: Criticism ignites over “impossible” Oklahoma petition demands

by | October 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.

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.

After three petitions to put state questions on the Oklahoma ballot recently failed, advocates are criticizing the state’s petition laws. Compared to surrounding states, Oklahoma require substantially more signatures to be gathered over a shorter period of time to get a petition on the ballot. NewsOn6 examined why lottery revenues haven’t helped Oklahoma school funding as much as promised. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why the lottery didn’t fix Oklahoma’s education funding problems. David Blatt’s Journal Record column points out that lawmakers have taken away far more revenue by passing tax cuts and growing tax breaks than have been added by the lottery, Indian gaming, and tobacco taxes. Tulsa Public Schools is expanding the role of an outside contractor in assisting with teacher recruitment, amid a statewide teacher shortage.

NewsOK reported that Gov. Fallin personally has given substantial raises to state agency directors that are larger than any of the 48 agency director pay hikes that the governor criticized earlier this week. A new report from Oklahoma Policy Institute finds that states that expanded Medicaid are lowering their uninsured rate, improving the health of their people, and boosting their economies and state budgets. The Tulsa Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women is taking up the issue of Oklahoma’s high female incarceration rate. You  can see the Commission’s initial report on female incarceration here

An Oklahoma judge refused to block new restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs from going into effect Nov. 1. Developers looking at building an outlet mall in east Tulsa say the plan will not go forward without taxpayer help. Kansas has missed its tax revenue targets again, with revenues for the new fiscal year coming in more than 10 percent below estimates. Following major income tax cuts, the state has burned through its rainy day fund and now faces even larger budget cuts or tax increases to fill a growing budget hole.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of women in Oklahoma who have report having at least one poor mental health day each month. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discusses a new study showing that poor college graduates stay poor about as much as rich high school dropouts stay rich.

continue reading In The Know: Criticism ignites over “impossible” Oklahoma petition demands

Medicaid Expansion’s Track Record Shows It’s a Good Deal for Oklahoma

In 2012, Gov. Fallin announced that Oklahoma would reject a central feature of the Affordable Care Act, refusing to expand health insurance coverage for low-income adults the infusion of federal funds that would have accompanied expansion. Two years after the Governor’s announcement, the experience in the state shows it was the wrong decision.

Expanding the state’s Medicaid program would have extended insurance coverage to roughly 150,000 people – approximately 1 in 5 of the state’s uninsured. Now, those 150,000 Oklahomans are caught in the “coverage crater.” They earn too much for traditional Medicaid, but don’t qualify for subsidies to purchase health insurance on the online marketplace.

Comparing Oklahoma to similar states that did accept expansion clearly shows that the Governor made the wrong choice. Arkansas, Kentucky and New Jersey are just three of the 28 states that have expanded their Medicaid programs, and are using the accompanying funding to in innovative ways to improve not only their states’ health outcomes, but also their local economies and state budgets.

continue reading Medicaid Expansion’s Track Record Shows It’s a Good Deal for Oklahoma

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