In The Know: State Rep. Kern files handful of anti-gay proposals

by | January 23rd, 2015 | 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 Rep. Sally Kern filed three anti-gay bills, including one to allow businesses to refuse service “to any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, group or association.” A new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Oklahoma women earn some of the lowest wages in the country.

The widow of a man killed by three Moore police officers and two off-duty game wardens in the parking lot of a movie theater filed a lawsuit alleging unreasonable force; Rodriguez had not committed any crime, didn’t attempt to resist or evade arrest and didn’t have a criminal record.

A proposal to ban oil and natural gas drilling in some parts of Stillwater was rejected by the city council. Gov. Mary Fallin announced Oklahoma’s new secretary of education and workforce development.

The OK Policy Blog discusses Governor Fallin’s goal of boosting educational attainment – and President Obama’s new plan to make that happen. The Number of the Day is the percentage of women incarcerated in Oklahoma who ran away from home before age 18. In today’s Policy Note, PolicyLink published new research to inform the debate about racial equity and the future of the American economy. 

continue reading In The Know: State Rep. Kern files handful of anti-gay proposals

Governor Fallin wants to boost educational attainment. President Obama has a new plan to do it.

by | January 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)
Photo by Turner Photography.

Photo by Turner Photography.

Rosie Nelson is a former OK Policy intern and is currently a PhD student at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

In the recent inaugural address for her second term, Governor Fallin said one of her top goals is to boost Oklahoma’s educational attainment. Now a new plan from President Obama provides a great opportunity to advance that goal.

Just after the New Year, President Obama unveiled his America’s College Promise proposal, which would provide a tuition waiver for two years of community college to all students attending at least half-time and maintaining a 2.5 GPA or higher. The program is modeled on the Tennessee Promise program, which was launched in 2014.

continue reading Governor Fallin wants to boost educational attainment. President Obama has a new plan to do it.

In The Know: State Rep. proposes barring marriage licenses for same-sex couples

by | January 22nd, 2015 | 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.

Today you should know that State Rep. Todd Russ proposes barring court clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman says Oklahoma teachers are underpaid.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt is accused of harassment and misconduct in a suit filed by the Humane Society, alleging a campaign of harassment of the organization at the behest of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. Authorities are quietly scrutinizing wells in earthquake-prone parts of the state.

Sen. Jim Inhofe supports an amendment declaring that climate change is real and not a hoax, but maintains that, “the hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate.” The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs began presenting its case against a Sequoyah County doctor who it says was overprescribing controlled substances at his clinics. 

The OK Policy Blog writes about the three biggest barriers that block Oklahomans with a felony record from putting their lives back together. The Number of the Day is the percentage of children receiving the full series of childhood vaccinations in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Howard University’s Center on Race and Wealth reports on how predatory lenders drain income and wealth from economically vulnerable communities.

continue reading In The Know: State Rep. proposes barring marriage licenses for same-sex couples

Every sentence is a life sentence: 3 barriers to life after prison

by | January 21st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (7)
Photo by Matteo Parrini.

Photo by Matteo Parrini.

Criminal justice reform is in the air for the upcoming legislative session. For more than a decade, experts and advocates have warned of a mounting incarceration crisis that has created huge costs for taxpayers while, perversely, possibly increasing crime. For years these warnings were ignored, but the situation may have finally gotten so dire that lawmakers will pay attention. Reports from prisons leave no doubt that they are “understaffed, overcrowded and badly in need of repair.” Already, both corrections officers and inmates have paid for our neglect with serious injuries or lost lives. House Speaker Jeff Hickman recently spoke out that Oklahoma risks losing control of our prison system to the federal government if we don’t manage it more responsibly.

As we consider the best reforms to reduce the number in prison, we should not forget to look at what happens after inmates return to the streets. In numerous ways, Oklahoma continues to punish ex-felons long after they have paid their debt to society. We put up so many obstacles that it can be extremely difficult just to survive out of prison without returning to crime. With an estimated 1 in 12 Oklahomans having a felony conviction in their past, these barriers affect a substantial part of our state’s population. Here are three barriers that can block Oklahomans with a felony record from putting their lives back together:

continue reading Every sentence is a life sentence: 3 barriers to life after prison

In The Know: Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks top $500 million this year

by and | January 21st, 2015 | 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.

Tax breaks for Oklahoma oil and gas production will result in $516 million less in state revenues in this fiscal year. The cost of the oil and gas tax breaks is some $130 million greater than what state officials projected back in February, a few months before the Legislature voted to make most of the multi-million dollar tax breaks permanent. Oil services company Baker Hughes Inc. says it will lay off about 7,000 workers, possibly including hundreds in northeast Oklahoma, even as the company is reporting record revenues. 

New state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has fired two more key members of Janet Barresi’s leadership team. The Tulsa school board is set to hold final interviews later this week with candidates to replace retiring superintendent Keith Ballard. The final two candidates are Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist and former Tulsa Deputy Superintendent Millard House II. At a panel hosted by the Oklahoma Coalition Against High-Stakes Testing, Rep. Katie Henke said parents possess the most clout in the growing fight over the use of high-stakes tests in public education.

On the OK Policy Blog, our research fellow Michael Thomas examined how investing in higher education contributes to economic growth. A state lawmaker has filed a measure to allow offenders convicted of crimes requiring them to serve 85 percent of a sentence to begin earning credits toward early release at the beginning of their sentence, though the credits would not change the 85 percent requirement. This reform was originally part of Oklahoma’s justice reinvestment bill and has been repeatedly requested by state corrections officers as a tool to improve their safety, but lawmakers have voted it down for the past two years. For the second straight year, Tulsa claimed the award for the best tasting water at a regional conference.

A Chickasha lawmaker has filed a bill targeting automated political calls. Candidate filing begins Monday for a special election in state Senate District 11 to replace Sen. Jabar Shumate, who resigned to become state director of private school voucher advocacy organization. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s latest budget proposal cuts about $127.4 million from state support to local school districts. The Number of the Day is the annual income level at which a family of 3 makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Vox has a guide to the policies proposed by President Obama at last night’s State of the Union address.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks top $500 million this year

Higher Education: A sound investment towards Oklahoma’s economic prosperity (Guest Post: Michael Thomas)

by | January 20th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

MichaelThomasMichael Thomas is one of four 2014-2015 OK Policy Research Fellows. Michael is a Master’s student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at Oklahoma State University. He works as a Graduate Research Assistant for the department of Graduate Studies, Outreach, and Research, focusing on the recruitment and retention of graduate students within the College of Education. He aspires to become a Professor of Higher Education Leadership and Policy.

The vitality of higher education is a fundamental and increasingly important determinant of a nation’s position in the world economy. Oklahoma is no stranger to this concept. In 2008, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education contracted with Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) to analyze the economic contribution of Oklahoma’s higher education system on the state’s economy. Examining current and future contributions of higher education through the development of a single-region, 70-sector Policy Insight Model, REMI demonstrated that by 2048, increased earnings from college graduates will contribute $8.825 billion annually to state disposable income. As a result, economic activity will increase, leading to more economic growth for the region.

continue reading Higher Education: A sound investment towards Oklahoma’s economic prosperity (Guest Post: Michael Thomas)

One-year price tag for oil and gas tax breaks to exceed $500 million

by | January 20th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

oil productionThe cost of tax breaks for the oil and gas industry will exceed $500 million this year, according to projections recently released by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. This is substantially more than the projections made a year ago, reflecting the growing shift of production to minimally-taxed horizontal wells. The tax break for horizontal production alone is now estimated at a whopping $379 million for FY 2015.

The Tax Commission presented forecasts of gross production tax revenues on oil and gas for FY 2015 and FY 2016 in mid-December. For FY 2015, the OTC projects the state will collect $590.5 million in gross production taxes based on an average oil price of $76.32 per barrel and an average natural gas price of $4.25 mcf. Of this total amount, $63.1 million will be collected at the 1 percent tax rate, which is the rate currently assessed on horizontal wells during the first years of production, and $5.6 million at the 4 percent rate assessed on deep wells.

continue reading One-year price tag for oil and gas tax breaks to exceed $500 million

In The Know: New Oklahoma schools superintendent fires three top administrators

by and | January 20th, 2015 | 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.

At the end of her first week in office, state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister fired three key members of her predecessor’s staff. Former State Superintendent Janet Barresi has taken to the Internet and written letters to the editors of multiple news outlets to respond to criticism of her moves to hire several new staffers and give others large raises and promotions during her last days in office. The public education blogger “okeducationtruths” has stepped out from behind the veil of anonymity after nearly three years. You can read the blog post here by Assistant Superintendent of Moore Public Schools Rick Cobb revealing himself to be okeducationtruths. The Oklahoma Gazette reported on how a twitter hashtag and a network of blogs have helped unite educators across Oklahoma to push back against attacks on public schools. Some education advocates say the controversial Teacher and Leader Effectiveness evaluation system may be this year’s Common Core in the legislative session.

Three major energy industry firms with strong northeastern Oklahoma ties have begun laying off employees in response to the oil price crash of the past six months. An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute found that in Oklahoma, fewer than half of undocumented immigrants are eligible for President Obama’s programs to defer deportation. On the OK PolicyCast, we discussed a report showing low- and middle-income Oklahomans pay a much higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthiest in the state.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Oklahoma is “one lawsuit away” from a federal takeover of its prison system. For the sixth time in two weeks, an inmate has escaped the J.H. Lilley Correctional Center in Boley. The Oklahoman editorial board questioned Governor Mary Fallin’s decision to set the deadline a full two years away for leaders to make recommendations on reforming criminal justice. More than a dozen ministers in the Tulsa area wore hooded sweatshirts Sunday and preached against a proposed state law that’s become known as the “hoodie bill.” Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan wrote an op-ed in the Tulsa World calling for Oklahomans to stop letting domestic violence go “under the radar.”

Wayne Greene shared eight reasons you should care about the health of Morton Comprehensive Health Services. OK Policy previously discussed how state budget cuts are threatening Morton and other community health centers. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed how a new state law threatens the “grand bargain” that has been the basis for workers’ compensation programs since the early 20th Century. More than 3,200 same-sex couples have gotten married in Oklahoma in less than three months since it was made legal.

The Number of the Day is the number of abandoned well sites cleaned up by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board since 1994. In today’s Policy Note, NPR examines how driver’s license suspensions unfairly target the poor.

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The Weekly Wonk January 18, 2015

by | January 18th, 2015 | 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, we showed that low- and middle-income Oklahomans pay the highest state and local taxes. Esquire Magazine picked it up on their politics blog, and the Tulsa World reported on the issue – as did the Edmond Sun, the Duncan Banner and Public Radio Tulsa. We also covered the topic on our latest OK PolicyCast. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis discussed the implications of a recent ruling that opens the door for employees to sue employers for on-the-job injury. Policy analyst Carly Putnam shared how Tulsa’s Family Drug Court has already created a great model for criminal justice reform.

New, updated and improved interactive county-level data tables developed by OK Policy staffer Kate Richey provide data on a wide range of economic indicators, including time series data, while an interactive table creator allows users to build comparative tables of state- and county-wide data. In a guest post, Lori Smith, Chief Financial Officer for Edmond Public Schools, delivers questions and answers on school funding. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt examined why a called-for Constitutional Convention could go terribly wrong.

Ticket are still available – although selling quickly – for our 2015 State Budget Summit on Thursday, January 29th. Titled “Mind the Gap: Sensible Budget Policy in Challenging Times,” the event will feature top experts discussing key issues shaping the state’s economic and fiscal outlook, followed by a lunchtime talk with keynote speaker E.J. Dionne. We invite all to attend a screening of “Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes” at Tulsa’s Circle Cinema on Wednesday, January 21st. A discussion with Dr. Robert Kerr, a leading First Amendment scholar and professor in OU’s Gaylord School of Journalism, will follow. 

continue reading The Weekly Wonk January 18, 2015

OK PolicyCast Episode 19: Who pays taxes in Oklahoma?

by | January 16th, 2015 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

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

Photo by Dave Herholz.

Photo by Dave Herholz.

The OK PolicyCast brings you the most important news affecting Oklahoma and what it means. This week we talk about about a new study on who really pays the highest rates of state and local taxes in Oklahoma, and why it’s not what many people think.

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