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 Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon wants to make permanent a tax break for horizontal oil and gas drilling that will cost $252 million this year alone. Macy’s Inc. could receive as much as $21 million in tax breaks over the next 10 years as part of its deal to construct a facility in Tulsa County. A citizens’ group led by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid is hoping voters will scuttle plans for the current $252 million downtown convention center and end collection of the MAPS 3 sales tax early.
Emails released under an Open Records Act request show that despite Governor Fallin’s public support for criminal justice reforms, her staff worked behind the scenes to derail the law. The documents also show private prison companies lobbied to cash in on the reforms. Without effective reforms to reduce overcrowding and improve safety in prisons, observers are warning of a rising potential for deadly riots.
An Edmond church is launching a month-long effort to help uninsured Oklahomans enroll in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. A private rail company will chart three round-trip passages from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to test if there is even enough interest for a regular route. The okeducationtruths blog discussed four education issues to watch in the coming year.
The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally for wheat exports. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute discusses the impact of 4.5 million workers receiving higher pay this year due to rising minimum wages in thirteen states.
In The News
Make drilling tax break permanent, House Speaker TW Shannon says
Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon wants to make permanent a $175 million a year tax break for horizontal oil and gas drilling operations, he said Friday. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the state began lowering the gross production tax for horizontal wells from 7 percent to 1 percent for the first 48 months of production. Oil and gas producers argued that the break was necessary to recover the great expense of what was then an experimental drilling technique. Today more than 80 percent of new wells in the state use horizontal technology.
Macy’s gets array of incentives to locate center in Tulsa County
Macy’s Inc. could receive as much as $21 million in tax breaks and other incentives over the next 10 years as part of its deal to construct an order fulfillment center in Tulsa County, records indicate. The largest incentives would come in the form of two tax-abatement programs, one to be established by Tulsa County and the other from an existing state program. The retail giant will be exempted from property taxes on new construction at the 72-acre site of the distribution center from 2016 to 2025.
Citizens’ group calls for vote to cancel MAPS 3 convention center
A citizens’ group led by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid is hoping voters will scuttle plans for the current $252 million downtown convention center and end collection of the MAPS 3 sales tax early. Advocates have filed two initiative petitions aimed at calling a citywide vote on their proposal. They have 90 days to collect signatures of at least 6,035 Oklahoma City voters. If they are successful, the question most likely would go before voters in March 2015, unless the city council agrees to call a special election.
Gov. Fallin’s staff derailed Oklahoma corrections reforms, emails show
It took less than a year for Oklahoma’s package of prison reform laws to go from political darling to albatross. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative was touted in 2012 as a way for Oklahoma to reduce its prison population, help inmates with health or mental problems, and save money on future spending within the Corrections Department. But within months, Gov. Mary Fallin’s office held meetings without key players and also took a pass on federal money that could have been used to fund key parts of the law. Emails obtained by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, and The Associated Press show that a Fallin aide expressed concern that President Barack Obama favored prison reform, too.
Private corrections companies hoped to cash in on Oklahoma reforms
Documents released by Gov. Mary Fallin’s office show concerns that may have quashed parts of Oklahoma’s prison reforms included the role private facilities would have under the new law. Operators of private prisons in Oklahoma also angled for a slice of the prison reform pie, campaigning to have their halfway houses serve as the “intermediate sanctions facilities” spelled out in the new law to handle low-level offenders who violated terms of their release. Leaders from Avalon Correctional Services and GEO both sought meetings with the governor’s office and Corrections Department officials regarding the JRI reforms, records show.
Oklahoma jail reform law derailed by political concerns
When Republican Jed Wright was first elected to the Oklahoma Senate in the 1980s, he thought the 8,000 inmates and $100 million annual price tag for the state’s prison system were too much. Fast-forwarding 25 years over a career that also included stints as a member of the Oklahoma Sentencing Commission and the Board of Corrections, Wright has seen Oklahoma’s prison population explode to nearly 27,000 inmates and the state’s corrections budget approach a half-billion dollars each year.
Edmond church launches Affordable Care Act outreach effort
In response to new federal health care laws that took effect Wednesday, an Edmond church is embracing a new mission to enroll uninsured Oklahoma consumers in affordable coverage offered in the new federally run online health insurance marketplace. Starting Jan. 8, the First United Methodist Church of Edmond will host free classes on the Affordable Care Act to interested people every Wednesday evening throughout January. Church leaders plan an introductory informational class, followed by a hands-on enrollment class, a class focused on small employers and a final class to enroll individuals and employers.
Interest in Tulsa-OKC passenger rail heightens again
Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, has boarded more than a million passengers since it started operation nearly 15 years ago and service to Tulsa was supposedly not far behind. But since then only a handful of tourist trains have made the slow, windy trek from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City, mostly filled with railroad enthusiasts. Starting next month a promotional rail company, Iowa Pacific Holdings, will chart three round-trip passages from Tulsa to the Oklahoma capital and back called the “Eastern Flyer,” a test for many to see if there is even enough interest to chart a regular service route.
Four critical issues for education in Oklahoma
The Oklahoman provided a good overview of several issues that we should watch closely during the upcoming legislative session and campaign season. The editorial posted this morning calls for a more cooperative tone between Barresi and the district superintendents and lists four critical points to achieving this wish – Common Core: Stay the course; A-F system: Keep working; Third-grade reading: Reality check; Teachers and funding: More support needed. The next few paragraphs will explore each these points, which are far more critical to public education than who meets with whom for political purposes.
Quote of the Day
The bottom line is Jesus teaches us to care about everybody, and this is a pathway to follow his teaching.
-The First United Methodist Church of Edmond’s Senior Pastor Bertha Potts, speaking about the church’s efforts to help uninsured Oklahomans enroll in the Affordable Care Act marketplace (Source: http://bit.ly/1f8hB37)
Number of the Day
Oklahoma’s rank nationally for wheat exports; the state grew and exported over 400 million dollars worth of wheat in 2012
4.5 million workers start the New Year with higher pay
On January 1st, thirteen states raised their state minimum wages, lifting the pay of more than 4.5 million workers. Eight of these states (Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington), have state minimum wages that are “indexed” to inflation so that every year, the minimum wage is automatically increased in order to protect the purchasing power of minimum-wage workers’ incomes. Colorado also automatically increases its minimum wage based on inflation, with the increase occurring each July. In the remaining 5 states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) citizens voted to raise their state minimum wages during the past year.
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