In 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 Gov. Fallin and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell will be in D.C. to deliver the National Governors Association’s first-ever address on conditions and challenges facing the states. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to intervene in a water dispute between Oklahoma and Texas. Tom Colbert became the first black person to serve as chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court when he was sworn in Friday. NewsOK discussed the racism against A.C. Hamlin, the first black man elected to the Oklahoma Legislature in 1908.
A report by the Kaiser foundation estimates that expanding Medicaid would cost Oklahoma $689 million through 2022, not including savings from federal funding of health programs that are currently funded with all state money and increased state revenue from increased economic activity. Rep. Jason Murphey wants to change state employees’ health benefits to give them more stake in limiting the cost. The leaders of the five professional societies that represent the majority of American physicians cited an Oklahoma law as an example of legislators wrongly interfering with the doctor-patient relationship.
The State Chamber released their legislative agenda for this year, including more changes to the workers’ compensation system and business tax cuts. NewsOK writes that it may take someone other than an inmate getting hurt or killed in prison for Oklahoma to make real corrections reforms. A Tulsa-area education summit will discuss communitywide dropout prevention strategies. The executive director of OETA wrote an op-ed on why public television is important for education.
The Number of the Day is the share of Oklahoma households’ median income that is paid in premiums for employer-based family health insurance coverage. In today’s Policy Note, Jared Bernstein examined why the national policy agenda is so biased toward fiscal policy instead of job creation.
In The News
Gov. Fallin will deliver ‘state of the states’ speech in Washington D.C.
Gov. Mary Fallin, who as vice chairman of a national group of governors met with the president last month, will be back in the nation’s capital this week urging Congress and the president not to unfairly slash funding to states in their effort to reduce the federal deficit. Part of the message Fallin hopes to deliver is that states should be freed from spending mandates if federal budget cuts make them unaffordable, the Republican governor said. Fallin, along with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat and chairman of the National Governors Association, will deliver the group’s first-ever address on conditions and challenges facing the states.
U.S. Supreme Court to hear water case pitting Oklahoma against Texas
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to intervene in a high-stakes case brought by a North Texas agency that wants to tap water from drought-stricken Oklahoma to supply a growing urban area. Justices are expected to determine whether a 1980 compact gives Texas the right to take water from Oklahoma to fulfill the share allocated to Texas from the Red River Basin. But, according to the Obama administration, even a ruling favoring Texas wouldn’t necessarily mean the Fort Worth-Arlington area would get Oklahoma water every year. The administration asked the Supreme Court to take the case, as did the Tarrant Regional Water District. The state of Oklahoma urged the high court to reject the case, arguing that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals properly decided that Texas has no right to Oklahoma’s water.
Tom Colbert becomes Oklahoma Supreme Court’s first black chief justice
Tom Colbert became the first black person to serve as chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court when he was sworn in Friday. Former Gov. Brad Henry appointed Colbert, who graduated from Sapulpa High School, to the court in 2004. Henry attended the ceremony. Colbert thanked Henry for his commitment to diversity in the judiciary. Justice Steven Taylor, who finished his term as chief justice, called it a historic day. Colbert is the first African-American to serve on the state’s nine-member high court. He was sworn in by retired Oklahoma County District Judge Charles Owens. A soft-spoken, humble and gracious Colbert thanked those who broke the color barrier, enabling him to climb the ladder to his current position. He also thanked those who helped him advance in his education and career.
NewsOK: Oklahoma should feel pride about new House speaker
In 1908, A.C. Hamlin, R-Guthrie, became the first black man elected to the Oklahoma Legislature. On Tuesday, another black Republican, state Rep. T.W. Shannon of Lawton, will formally become speaker of the House during an organizational session. Shannon stresses policy and conservative ideology rather than race, but as the first black Oklahoma House speaker — and only black Republican leading a legislative chamber in the country — he’ll get national attention reflecting positively on Oklahoma. The same can’t be said of reaction to Hamlin’s legislative tenure a century ago. On Jan. 11, 1909, the Norman Daily Independent ran a piece saying Guthrie deserved to lose its status as Oklahoma’s state capital because its citizens had elected “a coal black Negro,” calling Hamlin “the dark spot” of the Legislature.
Kaiser report says Medicaid expansion would cost state $689 million through 2022
A report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured gives credence to Gov. Mary Fallin’s concerns that expanding the state’s Medicaid program – a key element of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare – would be expensive for Oklahoma and even more expensive to the federal government. But the report also shows that not expanding Medicaid would come at a high price and would mean thousands of state residents would remain without health coverage. The Kaiser report shows the proposed Medicaid expansion would mean a $689 million increase in state Medicaid costs between 2013 and 2022. That number is higher than the potential $475 million cost increase cited by Fallin in her decision, but Fallin’s number represented only the period through 2020.
See also: The Cost and Coverage Implications of the ACA Medicaid Expansion: National and State-by-State Analysis from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured
Rep. Murphey proposes change to state employees’ health coverage
Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie says state employees have too little stake in limiting the state’s health benefits cost. He proposes reworking state employee health insurance to give workers a financial interest in holding down costs. The issue is complex, but here are the basics: Oklahoma self-funds its employees’ health insurance coverage. Money allocated by the Legislature for that cost is pooled and invested conservatively. If the fund grows, the state has historically used any money left over after accounting for the costs of its employees’ medical services to lower premiums on the policies. Murphey proposes using the insurance pool’s investment income to fund health savings accounts for state workers. Instead of lowering the premium costs, the state would encourage its workers to take on high-deductible policies and use the health savings account money to pay any out-of-pocket expenses they encounter.
Doctors, providers fight back against ‘legislative interference’
The leaders of the five professional societies that represent the majority of American physicians have a message for lawmakers like some of our own: Stay out of the doctor-patient relationship. In a strongly worded article published in the Oct. 18 edition of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, the executive staff leadership of the five groups singled out a type of law passed in Oklahoma several years ago – and since found unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court – as an example of this “alarming” trend and “inappropriate legislative interference.” Will this unusual response from the medical community make much if any difference in the antics of legislatures across the land? It’s doubtful. But we can still hope that this growing chorus of professional voices, joined by those voices of more and more everyday citizens every day, might eventually get their attention.
State lawmakers look to policy goals in the new year
In less than a month, lawmakers will return to Oklahoma City for the first session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature. Republicans strengthened their majorities in the House and Senate in November’s general election, so we can expect a more conservative bent on legislation coming out of the Capitol. The Oklahoma State Chamber has set its priorities, chief among them a change in the workers’ compensation system. The chamber has sought the change to an administrative approach for years. The chamber also wants to see the franchise tax for small businesses eliminated, and the corporate income tax cut. The chamber, though, did not endorse cutting the state personal income tax, which Gov. Mary Fallin has talked about again, and which failed to gain support last session.
No reason to believe sweeping corrections changes coming soon to Oklahoma
At some point, it’s reasonable to assume, the situation inside one of Oklahoma’s packed prisons will turn very ugly, and someone other than another inmate will get hurt or killed. Only then will we hear declarations that something ought to be done about a problem that’s been festering for years. Until that happens, though, it will most assuredly be business as usual for the Legislature. That business includes dismissing any suggestion of sentencing reform designed to ease prison crowding, and instead pursuing legislation that locks more offenders away for longer amounts of time. This includes working to weaken existing reform efforts. An example is a move to expand the state’s list of violent crimes in order to limit the number of paroles that can be granted exclusively by the state Pardon and Parole Board.
School, community leaders to meet at education summit
An education summit set for Wednesday will bring together Tulsa-area educators and government officials with leaders of local chambers of commerce, churches and nonprofit organizations to discuss communitywide dropout prevention strategies. Jonah Edelman, founder and chief executive officer of Stand for Children, will be the keynote speaker at the event hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber and sponsored by State Farm. “Kids who don’t finish high school will not be able to get a job that has a sustainable wage. So it’s important to Tulsa that we keep every child in school through graduation,” said Susan Harris, senior vice president of education and workforce at the Tulsa Regional Chamber. The summit is set for 8:30-10:30 a.m. in Room 150 at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa. Attendance is open to the public and admission is free.
Dan Schiedel: OETA is creating a brighter future
Serious discussions are under way in the Oklahoma legislature about state funding for OETA. Whether educating our children, preserving Oklahoma history or entertaining our seniors, OETA’s core services are only possible through a combination of continued state funding and private support. For every $1 received from the State of Oklahoma, OETA (which is locally owned and controlled) raises almost $3. OETA treats its audience as citizens, not consumers. Its value is proven: 1.8 million Oklahomans watch OETA each week, making it the most-watched public television network in America.
Quote of the Day
When those incentive packages were first designed, it was to help get high-cost gas out of the ground. Now as time has gone by and technology has improved so much, most of the gas that is coming out of the ground now is what was previously considered high-cost gas, and I think most of our drilling now is horizontal and deep.
-State Treasurer Ken Miller, who said lawmakers should revisit tax exemptions for horizontal drilling that have contributed to a deep plunge in gross production tax revenues
Number of the Day
Share of Oklahoma households’ median income that is paid in premiums for employer-based family health insurance coverage, 2009
Source: The Commonwealth Fund
Why Is Our Policy Agenda So Biased Toward Fiscal Policy? (As Opposed to Jobs…)
I recently pledged to myself and readers that I would stop paying so much attention to crazy fiscal fights—cliff, ceiling, etc.—and more to what people actually, and appropriately, care more about: jobs, income, wages, wealth. Not that I’ll ignore the fiscal fights, of course. But here at OTE, we’re all about balance, and the post-count here has been imbalanced in this regard. I’ve got my own type of jobs deficit that I intend to address. But first, have you ever wondered why, post-Recovery-Act at least, we’ve spent almost all of our domestic policy time on fiscal issues, despite the fact that the economy, while improving, has been doing so too slowly by everyone’s estimation? Here are my explanations.
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