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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.
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Today you should know that the Oklahoma Senate voted to move all newly hired state workers from a traditional pension to a 401(k)-style retirement plan. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed the years long waiting-list for Oklahomans seeking home-based services for family members with severe developmental disabilities. DHS has asked for $5.6 million to provide services to 500 people on the list. But Gov. Mary Fallin recommended only $1 million more – while proposing an income tax cut that would reduce state revenues by some $115 million.
More potential cracks have been found in the Lexington-Purcell bridge, which could delay its reopening. While the bridge is closed, the commute between these towns less than a mile apart takes up to 45 minutes. The OK Policy Blog showed that despite claims to the contrary by tax cut boosters, past state income tax cuts did not cause revenues to rise.
A lawmaker is asking for a hearing on a resolution that would allow individual counties to vote on whether to allow horse slaughter facilities. The House passed a bill that allows physical therapists to treat ailments without a prior referral from a doctor. Several Oklahoma legislators accepted trips to Miami and Las Vegas from a group seeking to elect U.S. presidents by the national popular vote.
The Number of the Day is the average family size in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress discusses how American workers with no guaranteed paid sick leave are forced to sacrifice family values for the corporate bottom line.
In The News
Move to 401(k) style retirements clears Oklahoma Senate
Newly hired state workers would be shifted from a traditional pension to a 401(k)-style retirement plan under a bill that has been given final approval in the Oklahoma Senate. The Senate voted 34-11 Wednesday to approve the bill and send it to the House. Under the measure, state employees hired after Nov. 1, 2015, would be shifted from the current defined-benefit pension to the 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan. The changes do not apply to teachers or public safety employees like police, firefighters or prison guards.
Prosperity Policy: Not waiting for her wings
“The waiting list has lost another baby. My precious friend Kara received her wings this morning.” That was the tribute Wanda Felty posted on Facebook to young Kara Mitchell, who died just after Christmas, at age 9. Born with a rare birth defect, Kara suffered from multiple severe disabilities. For the last seven years of her life, Kara was one of thousands of Oklahoma children and adults stuck on a waiting list for home- and community-based services through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
More potential cracks found in Lexington-Purcell bridge
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says additional potential cracks have been found in the bridge connecting Lexington to Purcell, which could delay the planned reopening of the bridge. Head engineer Casey Shell told residents of the two towns Tuesday that the James C. Nance bridge over the Canadian River may not open within 45 days as originally planned. The bridge was shut down Jan. 31 after cracks were discovered in structural beams of the bridge.
One more time: Past income tax cuts did not cause revenues to rise
Despite frequent claims by proponents of cutting or eliminating Oklahoma’s personal income tax, it is a myth that tax revenues grew because Oklahoma cut income tax rates in the mid-2000s. Their claims are based on highly selective use of data and flawed methodology that is contradicted by more careful analysis. We can trace the myth that tax cuts sparked revenue growth to the 2011 study by Arthur Laffer and his colleagues for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
Resolution would send horse slaughter to county vote
Critics of horse slaughter asked a lawmaker on Wednesday to give a bill a hearing that could lead to up or down votes on the facilities. Last year, lawmakers passed and Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure to lift the state ban on horse slaughtering. However, federal funding for inspections has not been forthcoming, essentially putting such facilities on hold. The law bans the consumption of horse meat in the state.
House passes physical therapy bill
The Oklahoma House passed legislation Wednesday that allows physical therapists to treat ailments without a prior referral from a doctor or other medical professional. The House voted 68-21 for the legislation and sent it to the state Senate, where similar legislation is being considered. The bill removes restrictions in current state law that require a doctor or other medical professional, such as a dentist or podiatrist, to refer a patient before a physical therapist can diagnosis and treat an ailment.
Out of state trips precede Senate vote
Several Oklahoma legislators accepted expenses-paid trips to Miami and Las Vegas from a group that wants to change the way the U.S. elects a president, but because the travel was sponsored by a nonprofit group, rather than traditional lobbyists, there’s no requirement for the lawmakers to disclose the trips to the public. FairVote, which wants states to allocate electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally, extended invitations to legislators to attend seminars to learn more about the national popular vote proposal. Another one is set for next month in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Quote of the Day
We have too much money going out the back door in this state.
-Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, who said the huge amount of money the state has been giving back to corporations through tax credits may be a factor in Oklahoma’s budget shortfall this year (Source: http://bit.ly/1cZ8qeT)
Number of the Day
The average family size in Oklahoma. The national average is 3.14 people per family.
Source: U.S. Census
Family values versus the corporate bottom line
Two recent stories in the news have put a spotlight on the ways in which blind corporate allegiance to the bottom line can harm working families. The first story concerns the multibillion-dollar supermarket chain Whole Foods, which fired a female worker for taking a day off to care for her special-needs child during a snowstorm that closed Chicago schools. Forced to choose between going to work and leaving her child alone, Rhiannon Broschat did what any good parent would do—and lost her job. Unfortunately, she is one of millions of American workers, most of them on the lower end of the pay scale, who get no paid sick days.
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