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The Weekly Wonk: The racial wealth gap, military food insecurity, who doesn’t vote, and more

by | November 13th, 2016 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

On the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst and Oklahoma Assets Network Coordinator DeVon Douglass highlighted the persistence of the racial wealth gap. In a guest blog post, Effie Craven of the Oklahoma Food Banks called for greater resources to be put towards veteran and military food insecurity.

Executive Director David Blatt discussed who doesn’t vote, and why. In his Journal Record column, Blatt examined small signs of change in the election outcomes. We released a statement on Tuesday night calling for lawmakers to take responsibility for school funding. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis suggested that the indictment of Supt. Joy Hofmeister highlights the need for campaign finance reform.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt appeared on Studio Tulsa, where he discussed Tuesday’s elections. Blatt shared election takeaways in a Tulsa World article. Blatt spoke to Oklahoma Watch about effects of SQ 779’s failure to pass. Prior to the election, Blatt spoke with NewsOK about the interest around the State Questions, and with Oklahoma Watch about the odds the State Questions would pass. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board quoted our statement on SQ 779’s failure

Policy Director Gene Perry and OCPA CEO Dave Bond spoke about the State Questions with the Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce. Julie Couch of the Stillwater News Press cited OK Policy analysis in her discussion of the election. The Ada News cited OK Policy on the 2017 Legislative session.

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Answering the Call: Food Security among Military Service Members and Veterans (Guest post: Effie Craven)

by | November 11th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Effie Craven serves as the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Oklahoma Food Banks — the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma — where she advocates for programs and policies that promote access to nutritious foods and economic security for all Oklahomans.

One in six Oklahomans struggles with hunger, 25 percent of Oklahoma children are at risk of going to bed hungry at night, and 16 percent of our population live at or below the federal poverty line. These staggering figures highlight the critical problem of hunger in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, our military service members and veterans are not immune.

With more than 300,000 veterans in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Food Banks are deeply concerned that tens of thousands of our state’s former service members may be struggling with hunger. According to a study published in 2015, more than one in four Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nationwide reported being food insecure in the past year. A separate 2015 study found that 24 percent of veterans who have accessed care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA) reported being food insecure. Feeding America’s Hunger in America report included data on veteran and military status among food pantry clients across the nation for the first time in 2014. The study found that than 1 in 5 households served by the Feeding America food bank network reported having at least one member who has served in the U.S. military.

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In The Know: Libertarian candidates exceed expectations

by | November 11th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Libertarian candidates exceed expectations: Despite losing in every race, Oklahoma Libertarians are in a celebratory mood. For the first time in more than a dozen years, the Libertarian Party appeared in federal, state and local races. With Oklahoma’s new ballot access laws, the party will be able to remain a recognized political party at least until the next statewide election in 2018. The party had to secure at least 2.5 percent of the electorate for its presidential nominee, Gary Johnson [Journal Record].

Big Ag Had A Very Bad Election Night: On a tense election night, when most eyes were fixed on the volatile presidential race, an unlikely coalition of environmentalists, animal welfare advocates and a spectrum of other organizations won a quiet, hard-fought victory in Oklahoma. In a major setback for industrialized agriculture in the Great Plains, Oklahoma voters resoundingly rejected a “right-to-farm” question that opponents say would have made it difficult to approve any new regulations of the state’s farmers going forward [Huffington Post]. Our fact sheet on SQ 777 is available here.

Defeat of SQ 779 sends clear message to Oklahoma lawmakers: In overwhelmingly rejecting a permanent 1-cent increase in the state sales tax to fund teacher pay raises and other education concerns, Oklahoma voters sent a clear message to the members of the Republican-controlled Legislature: Do your jobs. They haven’t shown much of a willingness to do so, which is how State Question 779 wound up on the ballot Tuesday. But that resistance must end in 2017, because the teacher pay raise issue isn’t going anywhere until it does [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]. Our fact sheet on SQ 779 is available here.

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Hofmeister indictment highlights need for better campaign finance laws (Capitol Updates)

by | November 10th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | 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.

dark moneyAlmost everyone seems to agree that excessive money has fouled our politics in this country, but no one can figure out what to do about it. The latest manifestation of the problem is the surprise filing of felony counts by Oklahoma County DA David Prater against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, the leaders of two respected Oklahoma education organizations, and two Republican political operatives.

The shocking case is a tragedy for those charged, their families and close friends, and the entire state, especially public education. It will also be a negative influence in the lives of those close to the situation who were not charged but whose actions will be scrutinized and who will be witnesses at trial. No matter the eventual outcome, a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money will be expended by everyone involved. Looking at the charges and the affidavit accompanying them, it seems unlikely the case will go away quickly or inexpensively.

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In The Know: Backers of Failed Education Tax Vow to Press On at Capitol

by | November 10th, 2016 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Backers of Failed Education Tax Vow to Press On at Capitol: Count them down but not out. With the defeat of State Question 779, which proposed to raise the state sales tax by one cent for education, some supporters say their voices will be even louder at the Capitol next year. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was among them. …The outlook, however, is somewhat bleak, at least in the short term [Oklahoma Watch]. Educators and supporters of more education funding who claimed seats in the Legislature could help push the issue when the next session starts in February [Oklahoma Watch]. Our fact sheet on SQ 779 is available here.

Counties along state borders to east, south show most support for failed education sales tax: Reaction to Tuesday’s State Question 779 vote ranged from relief from those opposed to raising Oklahoma’s sales tax to more vows by demoralized teachers to “abandon ship.” …After more than two years of public education groups documenting the relationship of pay to a deepening teacher shortage across the state, only eight counties approved the ballot initiative led by University of Oklahoma President David Boren [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Voters Soundly Reject State Question to Constitutionally Protect Farming and Ranching: Oklahoma voters on Tuesday rejected State Question 777 — known by supporters as the right-to-farm amendment. The final vote was 60-40 against the measure, which would’ve elevated farming and ranching to a constitutional right. The ‘Yes on 777’ coalition raised more money, earlier, and polling showed a race in flux weeks before the vote [StateImpact Oklahoma]. OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 777 is available here.

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In The Know: Oklahoma voters strike down ‘penny sales tax’ for education

by | November 9th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma voters strike down ‘penny sales tax’ for education: A state question dealing with a tax increase was a highly debated issue leading up to the polls. State Question 779 would implement a one percent sales tax to fund teacher pay raises and other educational causes. Supporters say the bill would generate more than $600 million for teacher pay raises and education. “Education is hurting. Our kids are hurting. They are the ones who are feeling the effects of this,” said OEA President Alicia Priest. Critics opposed raising taxes in the midst of a budget crisis, and also took issue with the bill’s nickname [KFOR]. Read OK Policy’s statement on the SQ 779 vote here. Full Oklahoma election results are available here.

Voters back criminal justice reform: Faced with some of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, Oklahoma voters were backing two ballot measures Tuesday designed to reduce the state’s overflowing prison population. In early returns, voters were approving State Question 780, 161,935 to 112,479, or 59.01 percent to 40.99 percent, and State Question 781, 157,544 to 114,496, or 57.91 percent to 42.09 percent. State Question 780 makes certain low-level crimes a misdemeanor instead of a felony [NewsOK].

Oklahomans vote against ‘Right to Farm’: You’ve probably seen signs around town dealing with the so-called ‘Right to Farm’ state question. State Question 777 would prevent lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate broad farming and ranching practices unless there is a compelling state interest. The so-called ‘Right to Farm’ bill would amend the constitution and create guaranteed rights for the agriculture industry. Critics of the bill say that it would benefit corporate farms the most, and would hinder local leaders’ abilities to protect their communities from harmful practices [KFOR].

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Statement: With failure of SQ 779, lawmakers must take responsibility for restoring school funding

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the failure of SQ 779, the sales tax increase for education:

SQ 779 did not reach majority support even though Oklahomans widely acknowledge that we must improve school funding. The results of this vote show that many believed that SQ 779 was the wrong solution to the right problem. Many voters were not willing to add to the sales tax — our state’s most regressive major tax, which takes the biggest share of income from low-income seniors and working families — after years of income tax cuts heavily slanted to benefit the wealthiest Oklahomans. Going forward, lawmakers must find a more balanced approach to restore school funding. The failure of SQ 779 does not take lawmakers off the hook, because our state’s children and economic future still depend on better funding of schools and teachers.

America’s racial wealth gap was 397 years in the making; we shouldn’t take that long to close it

man jumping across gapChattel slavery of African-Americans lasted for 246 years, from when the first slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619 to when it was finally abolished in 1865. Another 99 years passed until the 1964 Civil Rights Act ended Jim Crow laws that had systematically denied equal opportunity to African-Americans. Even after the end of Jim Crow, discrimination against African-Americans has continued in numerous well-documented ways, and all people of color in the United States continue to lag well behind whites when it comes to income and wealth.

The impact of this history is very much with us today. As a recent report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) points out, if the wealth of average Black families continues to grow at the same pace as it is growing today, it will take 228 years to reach the wealth of average White families today — nearly as long as the 246-year span of slavery. And that’s just to reach the current wealth levels of White families, not to catch up with White family wealth that is still growing at three times the rate of the Black population. For the average Latino family, it would take 84 years to reach the amount of wealth that White families have today.

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In The Know: Oklahoma questions provide suspense

by | November 8th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Happy Election Day! Before you vote, make sure you’re informed: read our State Questions Guide for information on the seven questions on the ballot, check out the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters and several other groups, and use the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool to confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and view sample ballots.

Today In The News

Oklahoma questions provide suspense: With Republicans strong favorites to keep control of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and state Legislature, much of the suspense in Tuesday’s general election surrounds seven state questions on the ballot. Voters will decide a range of issues, including raising the state sales tax to fund teacher pay raises, overhauling liquor laws, easing drug penalties, enshrining the death penalty in the state constitution, making it harder to regulate farming and ranching, and deleting a section of the constitution that prohibits the use of public money to support religion [Associated Press].

Large-scale change unlikely in Oklahoma with legislative races: With 126 state legislative seats up for election, 2016 came as a potential change year in Oklahoma. But with 39 candidates running unopposed and only a handful of seats appearing competitive, the political makeup of the Republican-controlled Legislature is likely to remain mostly intact past Election Day. Voter frustration appeared to run high following a legislative session of budget cuts and inaction on some key issues, providing a possible opening for Democrats [NewsOK].

Nearly a third of state campaign spending goes out-of-state: Campaign spending on state elections has totaled $19.5 million thus far in 2016, with about 30 cents of every dollar going to out-of-state firms, according to a Tulsa World analysis of expenditure data. Companies in California and Iowa were among the top recipients of spending on campaigns this year. While yard signs and postage fees make up the costs of nearly every political campaign, the top two recipients of campaign spending went to companies associated with two state questions on the Tuesday ballot [Tulsa World].

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Who’s not voting, and why

by | November 7th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (0)

With Election Day tomorrow, many of us are busily getting prepared to exercise one of our basic civic rights by attending candidate forums, poring over election guides, studying the seven state ballot measures, and reviewing sample ballots.  But many Oklahomans — close to half — will likely not vote on November 8th. Who are these non-voters, why aren’t they voting, and what can we do about it?

Who Doesn’t Vote

Four years ago, just 51.3 percent of voting-age Oklahomans cast a ballot in the Presidential election, one of the lowest turnout rates in the nation. Two years ago, turnout in Oklahoma and nationally fell to its lowest level in decades, with fewer than one in three (32.3 percent) of eligible voters in this state casting a ballot in the contest for Governor and other state and federal races. Nationally, turnout in the 2014 midterm elections was just 41.9 percent of the voting-age population.

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