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 hundreds of people rallied at the state Capitol on Tuesday and urged Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to accept federal funds that would provide health insurance to an estimated 200,000 working poor in the state. The Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 agenda states that acceptance of federal funds to cover the uninsured should be considered. Oklahoma parents advocating for improved school funding are not satisfied with Gov. Fallin’s proposed budget.
Gross state revenue in January exceeded $1 billion, the highest one month total in state history. A school safety professional told legislators that a “culture of complicity” is sending a message to students that it’s OK to bring guns to school. Mental Health Commissioner Terri White said schools need to create an atmosphere of trust in which students feel free to report their concerns and suspicions to school administrators.
Attorneys for three convicted sex offenders who are challenging Oklahoma’s sex offender registry laws told the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday that the regulations are being applied retroactively, which makes them unconstitutional. Reuters reports that SandRidge Energy is giving its CEO Tom Ward wide latitude to profit from personal oil-and-gas deals in ways that pose potential conflicts of interest with the company.
OK Policy is helping bring to Oklahoma the Scholars Strategy Network, a new national initiative is aimed at getting scholars more actively engaged in public policy debates. The Number of the Day is the amount spent per capita annually in Oklahoma on gasoline. In today’s Policy Note, an MIT political scientist belonging to the Scholars Strategy Network explains how compared with other developed countries, the United States has very low taxes, does little to fight inequality, and has an extraordinarily complex tax code that undermines faith in the system.
In The News
Hundreds rally at Oklahoma capitol to urge governor to reconsider Medicaid expansion
Hundreds of people rallied at the state Capitol on Tuesday and urged Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to reconsider her rejection of a Medicaid expansion that would provide health insurance to an estimated 200,000 working poor in the state. After about 200 people gathered on the north steps of the Capitol, some holding signs that read “Health Care is a Human Right” and “Expand Medicaid Now,” organizers delivered more than 5,000 signatures from an online petition urging the Republican governor to reconsider her decision. Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor’s office received the petition but has no plans to revisit the issue.
Oklahoma parents not satisfied with Gov. Fallin’s 2014 school funding
During her state of the state address Monday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced a plan to give public schools an additional $22 million in funding this fiscal year, but some parents don’t believe that is enough. Under Fallin’s plan, $13.5 million would pay for newly enacted reforms and $8.5 million would be used to pay for teacher benefits. The amount in the governor’s proposal is about $267 million less than what State Superintendent Janet Baressi requested from the Legislature [Editor’s note: The story says $15 million, but that refers to the supplemental request for this year, not Barresi’s requested 2014 budget.]. “I felt like there was a lot of hype going into the State of the State address on how education was going to be the forefront of the discussion, and to me it was a huge letdown,” said Tulsa mother Marlow Perkins Sipes.
State revenue for month tops $1 billion for first time
Gross revenue exceeded $1 billion in January, the first time in history that that has happened, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Tuesday. Gross collections in January brought in $1.009 billion, up 1.4 percent from January of last year. Personal income tax collections brought in $363.89 million, up 7.7 percent from the previous year. Corporate collections brought in $37.75 million, down 0.7 percent. Sales tax collections, including remittances to cities and counties, brought in $365.29 million, 0.9 percent more than in January 2012. Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $58.05 million, a drop of 15.6 percent from January 2012.
School safety professional: ‘Culture of complicity’ sends message to students that it’s OK to bring guns to school
A culture of complicity has sent a message to Oklahoma students that it’s OK to bring firearms to school, an expert told a state commission on school safety Tuesday afternoon. Educators, law enforcement and prosecutors are often unwilling to punish students for the crime of bringing weapons to school, said Stephen Mortensen, vice president of Providence Working Canines. Some are lazy and arrogant, he said. “They’ll often say, ‘Well, there was no intent,’” Mortensen told the Oklahoma Commission on School Security. “No lawmaker puts intent in a law of possession.” Mortensen’s company does security sweeps of schools in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Guns are typically found loaded and left in unlocked student cars.
Mental Health Commissioner: Climate of trust can abate school violence
Proven programs can reduce school violence and suicides if they are funded and implemented, the state’s top mental health official told the Commission on School Security one day after a Coweta school suicide again focused attention on the issue. Monday’s shooting death of 15-year-old Coweta Intermediate High School student Triston Stephens and earlier incidents of Oklahoma school violence came up repeatedly during Tuesday’s commission meeting at the state Capitol. State Mental Health Commissioner Terri White praised Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to include $16 million in new funding for programs to include a new crisis center for the state and the first state funding for suicide prevention. Talking about youth suicide is uncomfortable for many, but White said she insists on confronting the issue.
Oklahoma court considers sex offender registry rules
Attorneys for three convicted sex offenders who are challenging Oklahoma’s sex offender registry laws told the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday that the regulations are being applied retroactively, which makes them unconstitutional. Attorneys Jim Drummond, of Norman, and John Dunn, of Tulsa, urged the state’s highest court to keep the state from placing their clients’ names on the registry. An attorney for the state, Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader, urged the nine-member court to uphold the rules, saying residents need to know whether convicted sex offenders are living in their neighborhoods. Drummond represents two men who claim they are exempt from the state’s sex offender registry rules because their crimes predate the creation of the registry in November 1989.
SandRidge gives CEO wide scope to cut his own land deals
SandRidge Energy Corp is giving its chief executive wide latitude to profit from personal oil-and-gas deals in ways that pose potential conflicts of interest with the company, according to a review of employment contracts and recent transactions. SandRidge has lifted most restrictions on CEO Tom Ward’s ability to sell mineral rights or drill wells, through little-noticed changes to his employment agreement in 2011. Before the changes, Ward was permitted to receive royalties from SandRidge, or jointly own wells with it, on land he had owned before joining the company in 2006. The 2011 agreement allows him to do deals with SandRidge competitors in the oil and gas business, and to do business with SandRidge on any land that he owns or acquires.
Scholars Strategy Network: Connecting research and practice
Recently, I had the honor of becoming the first Oklahoma member of the Scholars Strategy Network, a new national initiative aimed at getting scholars more actively engaged in public policy issues and debates. Led by renowned Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol, the network seeks to bridge the ususal divide between academic research and public policy by having its members produce concise research pieces on timely topics intended for a general audience. Among the recent briefs from network members are pieces looking at efforts to foster advanced manufacturing in the United States, the impact of poverty on education, the war on drugs and terror in Mexico, and the strengths and limits of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Quote of the Day
If you’re in rural Oklahoma and you’re a mom or dad looking for (child mental health) help, it’s incredibly hard and it’s incredibly heartbreaking.
–Terri White, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Number of the Day
Amount spent per capita annually in Oklahoma on gasoline, compared to $1,217 nationally
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
America’s Low Taxes in Comparative Perspective
The most important debates in U.S. politics concern the size and role of government, as the polarized parties offer contrasting paths forward. Republicans urge holding the line on taxes and limiting domestic expenditures. Democrats aim to preserve government functions and make some new investments—and call for tax increases to support these choices. As citizens and analysts weigh these options, it helps to put U.S. fiscal policy in cross-national perspective. Compared with other developed countries, the United States has very low taxes, does little to fight inequality, and has an extraordinarily complex tax code that undermines faith in the system.
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.