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 will propose another income tax cut during next month’s State of the State speech, despite a projected $170 million shortfall in the budget. Agency leaders warned more than 7,000 Oklahomans could be without mental health services if the Legislature doesn’t allocate an additional $21 million to mental health and substance abuse treatment.
David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses how 25 years after Oklahoma committed to “never be last again” in supporting education, we’ve fallen back to near last. An Ada rancher and former mayor writes that we will pay now to improve education or pay more later.
State health officials and interest groups are debating the appropriation level of regulation and taxation for electronic cigarettes. A Denver appeals court heard arguments on the bribery conviction of former Oklahoma Senate leader Mike Morgan. The OK Policy Blog discussed how prominent African-Americans in Oklahoma’s justice system are carrying on the legacy of Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher.
This Land Press discussed a map showing Oklahoma has more abortion restrictions than any other state. Bank of Oklahoma on Wednesday became the last bank to discontinue short-term, high interest loans that had come under regulatory scrutiny. The University of Oklahoma Norman campus was locked down after a report of gunshots that was likely a false alarm.
The Number of the Day is how many Oklahoma handgun licenses were denied in 2013 due to a criminal history or failure to meet eligibility requirements. In today’s Policy Note, Matthew Yglesias discusses how extreme inequality in America is stifling innovation.
In The News
Governor Fallin to propose another income tax cut
Republican Gov. Mary Fallin will propose a “responsible, measured” income tax cut during next month’s State of the State speech, despite a projected $170 million shortfall in the budget for the next fiscal year, a top aide confirmed on Wednesday. Spokesman Alex Weintz declined to discuss the plan’s details, which he said will be included in her executive budget presented to lawmakers on Feb. 3 at the start of the legislative session.
More than 7,000 Oklahomans could lose mental health services
More than 7,000 Oklahomans could be without mental health services if the Legislature doesn’t allocate an additional $21 million to the state’s mental health and substance abuse agency, leaders warned Wednesday. To a room full of lawmakers, lobbyists and private mental health providers, Terry White, the commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, addressed the potentially dismal future some Oklahomans might face without additional funding to the agency. The potential cut to services only further threatens an overworked state mental health system.
Prosperity Policy: Last again
On a cold, rainy April day in 1990, thousands of Oklahoma teachers gathered outside the state Capitol to push for passage of one of the most significant pieces of legislation in Oklahoma history. One young legislator addressing the crowd promised, “Oklahoma will never be last again.” A day later, by a single vote, House Bill 1017 cleared its last legislative hurdle and was quickly signed by then-Gov. Henry Bellmon. The bill, crafted by educational experts, business leaders and politicians from both parties, aimed to fix two related problems plaguing Oklahoma schools: poor performance and chronic lack of financial support. It worked – at least for a while.
Pay now or pay later
I don’t remember the product being advertised, but there was a commercial on television several years ago that really stuck with me. The punch line was “You can pay me now or you can pay me later,” with the implication that you can pay some now or a lot more later. I think of that when I keep a piece of machinery past its useful life and spend more on repairs than a new one would cost. Nowhere is the concept more true than in the area of education, whether you are talking about a plumber or a scientist.
E-cigarettes hot topic at Oklahoma Legislature
A joint legislative panel heard the benefits and criticisms of electronic cigarettes as a means to reduce smoking levels Wednesday. At issue is the level of regulation and taxation the growing industry will receive. Electronic cigarettes currently are not taxed at the same rate as regular cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but many do contain nicotine. Supporters of electronic cigarettes say taxing them at the same rate as cigarettes would reduce an incentive for smokers to switch to the devices, which they say are much less harmful. But critics, such as Terry Cline, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, said more information about their effects is needed.
Denver appeals court hears arguments on former Oklahoma Senate leader convicted of bribery
Neither side is satisfied with the outcome of the 2012 conviction of former Oklahoma State Senate leader Mike Morgan for bribery. Prosecutors want the court to order the trial judge, Robin Cauthron of the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, to put Morgan in prison for a “substantial period,” rather than the sentence of probation she imposed. Both sides argued their positions Wednesday at the Denver-based appeals court.
Legacy of Oklahoma’s first Black law student grows stronger in 2014
This year marked a new milestone for Oklahoma’s legal system, when Judge Carlos Chappelle became the first African-American to be presiding district judge in Tulsa County. Judge Chappelle joins several other African-Americans occupying prominent roles in the Oklahoma legal community. These leaders in our justice system are living up to the legacy set sixty-six years ago by Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher when she integrated the University of Oklahoma College of Law.
Map of the Week: Oklahoma’s abortion restrictions
It’s more difficult to get an abortion in Oklahoma than it is in any other state in the country. A new map from The Atlantic indicates that Oklahoma has 22 restrictions on abortion—more than any other state. According to Remapping Debate, which enumerated each state’s abortion restrictions, Oklahoma has four restrictions in the area of waiting period and counseling, five in the category of physician and hospital requirements, one ultrasound requirement, two “later-term” and “partial-birth” restrictions, one targeted regulation of abortion providers, one restriction related to scarcity of abortion providers, two limitations on public financing of abortions, and one “near-total abortion ban, unenforceable per Roe.”
Bank of Oklahoma exits market for short-term, high-interest loans
Bank of Oklahoma on Wednesday became the last bank to discontinue a short-term, high interest loan product that has come under regulatory scrutiny. The move has consumer advocates cheering the demise of a product they say carried the same triple-digit interest rates and balloon payments as payday loans. Industry groups, however, have decried regulators for forcing banks out of a market that could be taken over by less regulated operators. In the past week, six banks have abandoned “deposit advance loans,” a form of credit tied to consumers’ paychecks, government benefits or other income directly deposited into their bank accounts.
University of Oklahoma lockdown likely false alarm
The president of the University of Oklahoma says a campus lockdown likely was the result of a false alarm. President David Boren said what was reported as gunfire Wednesday could have been related to construction projects near the university’s architecture building. He said it was likely that noises near Gould Hall could have been misinterpreted as gunshots. University officials issued a notice late Wednesday morning that shots had been reported near the center of campus and that people should stay where they were. Within an hour, police issued an all-clear for most of the 30,000-student campus.
Quote of the Day
It defies credibility to say we can afford cutting taxes even deeper when class sizes are rising, corrections officers are risking their lives in overcrowded prisons, and we still don’t have enough foster homes to protect our most vulnerable children. These are preventable tragedies, but only if we stop the march of unnecessary tax cuts, take sensible steps to curb unnecessary tax breaks, and invest in Oklahomans.
-OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt, responding to news that Governor Fallin will propose another income tax cut this year (Source: http://bit.ly/1cYy02P)
Number of the Day
Number of Oklahoma handgun licenses denied in 2013 due to a criminal history or failure to meet eligibility requirements; 60,628 licenses were approved.
How extreme inequality is stifling innovation
The majority of commentary on Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, the makers of a well-regarded smart thermostat, has been skeptical of the value proposition. Alongside the soaring stock market and a few other recent mega-acquisitions, for many it’s the latest data point in an ongoing story about a bubble mentality in Silicon Valley. But in this case, the skepticism about Nest isn’t skepticism about the business model. Selling manufactured goods through stores and websites works for many firms. Nor is it about the merits of the product. Everyone agrees Nest makes good stuff. It’s about price. Does anyone really want to spend this much to get something better? And that, in turn, is a sad commentary on the state of the American economy.
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