In The Know: Attorney withdraws lawsuit against oil and gas tax changes

by and | September 16th, 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.

Attorney Jerry Fent asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to dismiss his lawsuit challenging oil and gas production tax changes. Fent said he would have no comment on why he filed for dismissal. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how Fent’s lawsuits could dramatically change tax politics in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog discussed a new report from Governor Fallin’s office that lays out a path forward for criminal justice reform. State Sen. David Holt called for lawmakers to do something to address Oklahoma’s low voter turnout. OK Policy previously made the case for finding alternatives to very low turnout runoff elections.

The Tulsa World looked at what’s behind numbers ranking Oklahoma the third-highest in the nation for the rate of women murdered by men. Leaders of the Family Safety Center wrote a Tulsa World op-ed on what’s needed to stop the cycle of violence in domestic abuse. The arrest of NFL star Adrian Peterson has ignited debate in Oklahoma over when discipline becomes child abuse.

Recently released crime statistics show a large spike in the number of reported rapes in Oklahoma over the last two years. Law enforcement officials attributed the increase to a broadened definition of rape and efforts to reduce the stigma attached to reporting sexual assaults. An Oklahoma Highway Patrolman arrested on allegations of sexually assaulting women while on duty turned his dashboard camera and microphone off six times this year during traffic stops.

The Oklahoma City Council voted unanimously to deregulate fare-setting and require toughened background checks for drivers of both taxis and and new rideshare services Uber and Lyft. They are also considering whether a physical exam should be required before drivers get behind the wheel. The Tulsa school board worked on refining the superintendent’s job description Monday in preparation for opening the position to applicants in early October.

Volunteers working out of Goldsby are helping veterans to navigate the VA health care system. Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences is hoping to recruit more Native American high school and college students into the medicine and science fields. Oklahoma authorities say rainy weather and a cooler summer have been good for wildlife population growth, especially for skunks.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma women killed by men in 2012 whose killer was someone they knew. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains why immigrants aren’t stealing American jobs.

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Has Governor Fallin turned a corner on criminal justice reform?

by | September 15th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (1)
House Speaker Steele shakes Gov. Fallin's hand upon signing of HB 3052. Photo by CapitolBeatOK.

House Speaker Steele shakes Gov. Fallin’s hand upon signing of HB 3052. Photo by CapitolBeatOK.

Two years ago, hopes were high that Oklahoma was finally taking a different approach to criminal justice, away from policies that had given us some of the highest levels of incarceration in the world without doing much to reduce crime and recidivism. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, spearheaded by former Speaker of the House Kris Steele, made recommendations to enhance public safety, strengthen post-release supervisions and treatment for addiction and mental health problems, and contain prison costs.

The effort culminated in HB 3052, a bill that left much undone but could have been an important first step towards a smart on crime state. Unfortunately, implementation of those reforms fell apart after Speaker Steele was term-limited out of the Legislature, and Governor Fallin’s office refused to cooperate with the oversight group he had set up.

Without a champion in the Legislature or Governor’s office, hopes have dimmed that we will see meaningful changes to reduce incarceration. However, a recent development may signal that Governor Fallin is becoming more supportive of reform. A new report made at the request of the Governor’s office lays strong recommendations for a path forward on this issue.

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In The Know: State lawmakers to consider execution by gas

by and | September 15th, 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.

Oklahoma would become the first state to execute condemned inmates using nitrogen gas under a proposal that will be presented next week to a legislative committee. The Tulsa World reported that room where Oklahoma has conducted executions since 1992 is so dimly lit that executioners are provided a flashlight to see, and if something goes wrong, the executioners stick colored pencils through holes in the drug room wall to communicate with the doctor. Travelers holding an Oklahoma driver’s license may need a second form of identification to board a commercial airliner by 2016, because the state is refusing to comply with an act of Congress to make these licenses more secure.

On the latest OK PolicyCast, we discuss a new event series aimed at growing citizen involvement across Oklahoma. Though the minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour for most Oklahomans, several tribal nations in the state are taking the lead to boost their minimum wage. A national report has given Oklahoma’s nursing homes a failing grade, ranking them third worst in the nation. You can read the full report here. A state constitutional amendment has protected tobacco settlement funds in Oklahoma, while other states signed away the funds to private investors for up front cash.

The president of the Oklahoma NAACP wants the U.S. attorney general to open a hate crimes and civil rights investigation into alleged sexual assaults on black women by an Oklahoma City police officer. Buzzfeed reported on how investigators finally caught the police officer, who is alleged to have targeted women who were unlikely to report the crime. Time Magazine shared an essay by an advocate working for marriage equality for same-sex couples in Oklahoma. New Journal Record columnist Arnold Hamilton wrote that Oklahoma’s Republican leaders need to better crack down on hate speech coming from elected officials in their party.

The parents of a woman killed in 2011 are proposing a new law to protect Oklahoma workers from termination or demotion if they attend court hearings in support of their loved ones. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is giving $3.5 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 16 Oklahoma health centers to expand primary care services. An NSU undergraduate and former foster student is advocating for a new foster recruitment model that ensures kids can stay in the same school. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission held a meeting to discuss how they will implement a new utility tariff for users of rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed what the new small solar and wind energy tariff could mean. 

Representative Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, said Oklahoma does not have enough inspectors to ensure oil and gas wastewater disposal wells are not contaminating drinking water supplies. The Number of the Day is Canadian County’s ranking out of 3,135 U.S. counties in a New York Times analysis of the least and most difficult places to live in the country, the best ranking of any Oklahoma county. In today’s Policy Note, CityLab discusses a new push to improve road safety by turning four lanes into three.

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The Weekly Wonk September 14, 2014

by | September 14th, 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 on the OK Policy Blog, a post in our Neglected Oklahoma series described hunger in Oklahoma. We followed up on the situation of the unaccompanied children from Central America who had been housed at Fort Sill and the labyrinthine removal proceedings they are encountering. We’ve written about the children before. 

We explained that Oklahoma legislators selected which public employees will receive raises this year with little input from the agencies involved, creating a disjointed system wherein some workers receiving raises and some who won’t occupy very similar positions.

At the community forum “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, Executive Director David Blatt spoke about how schools are still segregated by race and income. The Tulsa World wrote about the forum here. On this week’s PolicyCast, we discussed important headlines and announced an upcoming event series aimed at boosting citizen enrollment in Oklahoma. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

In his Journal Record column, Blatt explained how, contrary to popular prediction, the Affordable Care Act is working. Blatt was quoted in an MSNBC article on the increasing practice of levying court fines and fees to fund municipal budgets, and of imposing jail time if offenders are unable to pay.

The Okemah News Leader cited OK Policy in a discussion on raising the tipped wage. In our Editorial of the Week, the Tulsa World argues that Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma deserves a second look.

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OK PolicyCast: Episode 7

by | September 12th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

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

radio micIn this week’s OK PolicyCast, we talk about a new event series aimed at growing citizen involvement across Oklahoma. We also discuss controversy over militarized police in Oklahoma, and a private firm that has been training police officers to seize cash from drivers at highway stops, even though they have not been charged with a crime.

We also talk about a push to increase the tipped minimum wage for Oklahoma service workers, a new study on wage theft, and how rising court fees are feeding Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis, as well as what the City of Tulsa is doing to prepare for climate change and attract millenials.

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

In The Know: Oklahoma schools receive “F” grade from US Chamber

by | September 12th, 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.

The US Chamber of Commerce assigned gave Oklahoma schools an overall “F” grade in a report measuring educational effectiveness. Oklahoma schools received failing grades in the areas of academic achievement; academic achievement of low-income and minority students; and return on investment. The report is available here. Speaking at a community forum on “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, Executive Director David Blatt discussed race, poverty, and segregation in Tulsa schools.

A new report commissioned by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board found that 1 in 5 Oklahoma jobs are supported by the oil and natural gas industry. Last year, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate reached a record low, although it remains above the national average and infant mortality remains much higher for racial and ethnic minorities than for white babies. The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board called for the state to reconsider its rejection of Medicaid expansion and the infusion of federal funds that would come with it. We’ve noted before that rejecting the funds means a massive tax transfer to Washington.

The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board applauded the state’s move toward “performance-based budgeting,” which takes past performance into account when determining a budget item’s funding. Oklahoma State University and Stillwater have implemented employee wellness programs in an effort to reduce health care spending on preventable conditions, and say that the efforts are paying off. A planned “Cherokee Outlets” development is estimated to bring 1,000 permanent jobs to Catoosa.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is suing for access records from a intelligence networking website hosted by the Logan County sheriff’s office. The ACLU contends that the website, which allows law enforcement to share information about American motorists, is used to “track the activities of thousands of American citizens without their knowledge or consent.” You can read the ACLU’s statement here. Drought in southeast Oklahoma has the city of Duncan scrambling to locate new sources of water. Estimates say that the city’s primary water source, Lake Waurika, could be too depleted to use by 2016.

ABC News reported that a number of cities, including Tulsa, are quietly preparing for climate change in the name of “disaster preparedness” by limiting development in future flood zones and looking into infrastructure that can handle increased storm runoff. The Number of the Day is the median home price in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute assesses the impact of wage theft.

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Schools, housing, & poverty: Thoughts on segregation in Tulsa

by | September 11th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

This is an edited version of remarks made to a community form hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice on “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” held September 4, 2014. All statistics, along with their sources, are compiled in this spreadsheet.

segregation-protest-public-domain-e1357376046603

In a 1974 paper in the American Journal of Sociology, two scholars examined data on segregation in public elementary schools. They looked at schools in 60 cities, just before the start of serious efforts by the federal government to enforce the desegregation of public schools in the South. The researchers used a statistical measure called the dissimilarity index to look at how segregated or integrated the schools were in each city.

Not surprisingly, the research found most US school systems were strongly segregated. On the index where 0 represents perfect integration and 100 represents perfect segregation, the average score for the 60 cities was 79 percent.  The scores ranged from a low of 39 in Sacramento to a high of 97 in two cities – Tulsa and Oklahoma City. We’ve clearly had a lot of ground to make up over the past 40 years.

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In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

by | September 11th, 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.

Chesapeake Energy will face trial in Michigan on charges of felony racketeering and using false pretenses related to its land-leasing practices, a state judge has ruled. State Rep. Steve Vaughn (R-Ponca City) said he was considering new rules governing oil and gas wastewater disposal wells due to concerns about water pollution caused by the wells. A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that a Texas insurance executive promised to pay former Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher’s legal bills in exchange for Fisher’s “non-cooperation” with a state investigation into his business activities. The lawsuit also alleges that the executive spent ten of thousands to support current Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s election bid.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column shared the latest evidence that Obamacare is working to expand health coverage and slow the growth of health care costs. Two Norman high schools ranked in the top 1 percent in a list by Newsweek of the best high schools in America. The Oklahoma School Security Institute and Homeland Security have launched an emergency tip line, hoping it will prevent school shootings before they happen. A Tulsa non-profit is launching an effort to connect foster families with children attending particular Tulsa schools. MSNBC reported on the growing trend of hiking court fees in Oklahoma and other states to make up for state budget cuts, resulting in those who can’t afford to pay being sent to jail. On the OK Policy Blog, Camille Landry shared stories from the numerous Oklahomans struggling with hunger.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke about race and inequality at a University of Tulsa event for students and faculty. Sotomayor also visited Booker T. Washington High School and will talk to law students at Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma Thursday and Friday. Several more religious and social justice groups denounced anti-Muslim comments made by a state legislator, but Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, said he is standing by his statement that people should be wary of those who say they are “Muslim American.” 

The Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce’s OneVoice consortium, which includes about 60 chambers of commerce, local governments and public and private institutions, released its legislative priorities for 2014. Top priorities include preserving and expanding education funding and preserving and expanding Insure Oklahoma to cover the uninsured. You can see the full OneVoice agenda here. Oklahomans concerned about the placement of wind farms and how a new state law on rooftop solar panels will work can attend two meetings Thursday at the Corporation Commission in Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking for the well-being of girls in the state by a Girl Scouts of America report. In today’s Policy Note, CNN reports on how the campaign for paid sick leave for all workers is picking up steam in cities and states throughout the country. Oklahoma is one of a few states that have banned local governments from requiring paid sick leave.

continue reading In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

Hunger all around (Neglected Oklahoma)

by | September 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (0)

empty pantryCamille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

Hunger is all around me:

At a pool in a suburban park on a steamy Oklahoma summer afternoon: “I used to love summer,” one mom said, “but I’ll be glad when school starts.” “Tired of having them underfoot already?” I asked. “Not really. It’s just a struggle to feed them when school is out. They get breakfast and lunch at school. In the summer I have to pay for child care while I work, plus the two extra meals each day. I can’t scrimp on daycare so I have to cut back on food.”

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In The Know: Oklahoma ranks third in rate of women killed by men

by | September 10th, 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 again ranked third for the rate at which men killed women, according to a new study released by the Violence Policy Center. The ACLU of Oklahoma asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to nullify a lower court’s decision that Gov. Fallin could use “deliberative process privilege” to withhold records from the public.

A Ponca City legislator hosted an interim study for constituents concerned that oil and gas drilling activities have contaminated water wells or caused wells to go dry. Representatives from the Oklahoma Geological Survey provided the Corporation Commission with an update on their study of the state’s ongoing earthquake swarm.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn criticized the practice of making military equipment available to state and local law enforcement agencies. The Oklahoma City Council is considering new ridesharing regulations in response to services like Uber that compete with taxi cabs.

The OK Policy Blog reports on where the children previously held at Ft. Sill are now and what their futures look like. The Number of the Day is the average mortgage debt in Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, Fivethirtyeight.com examined state variation in a new report on food insecurity across the country.

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