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 an Oklahoma County judge ruled that a law barring girls younger than 17 from getting an over-the-counter emergency contraceptive is unconstitutional. Oklahoma is considering moving additional inmates into halfway houses run by a private-prison company that has lobbied the governor’s office and legislators heavily for such a move. The OK Policy Blog discussed misconceptions about prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma, which has overtaken car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death.
Forty-three states are expected to see revenues increase this year, but not Oklahoma. A businessman who founded several successful oil and gas exploration and production companies in Oklahoma wrote that it’s time for the horizontal drilling tax break to go. Business leaders in support of giving more funding to Oklahoma CareerTech education said well-paid jobs are going unfilled because companies can’t find trained workers.
Republican State Senator Clark Jolley and Democrats including a retired child welfare worker and a federal contractor announced that they are running for the Congressional seat being vacated by James Lankford. Gov. Fallin announced a new statewide energy savings program intended to reduce energy use in state buildings at least 20 percent by 2020. NewsOK discussed a study that found positive results from the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, which provides relationship counseling to low-income couples and individuals.
The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans work for the state’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. In today’s Policy Note, Nicholas Kristof assesses the debate over single-parent households and poverty.
In The News
Judge strikes down law barring access to emergency contraceptive
An Oklahoma County judge ruled Thursday that a law barring young girls from an over-the-counter emergency contraceptive is unconstitutional. The law, contained in House Bill 2226, prevented girls under the age of 17 from getting Plan B One-Step without first seeing a doctor. Oklahoma County District Judge Lisa Davis said that the law did not adhere to the single-subject provision of the state constitution.
Private prison company that has lobbied state could get more inmates
Oklahoma is considering moving additional inmates into halfway houses run by a private-prison company that has lobbied the governor’s office and legislators heavily for such a move, Oklahoma Watch has learned. Jerry Massie, of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, confirmed on Monday that the agency is considering a shift of inmates from its own intermediate sanction or revocation beds to ones provided by Avalon Correctional Facilities. Avalon operates halfway houses on contract with the state and has been pressing state officials since at least 2011 to shift inmates from state-run space to Avalon facilities.
Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem isn’t what you think
New National Vital Statistics data released early this month showed that the American life expectancy has reached a record high: a child born in 2009 has a life expectancy of 78.5 years, up 0.4 years since 2008. The data also showed that the racial life expectancy gap, or the difference in projected life expectancy for Black and White Americans, is at a historical low. Unfortunately, while health outcomes have improved for Black Americans, the narrowing is also due to slowing improvement for Whites. So what’s happening?
Most states to see revenue gains; not Okla.
For the first time since becoming governor, Mary Fallin will deliver a state of the state address next month with fewer money to spend than the previous year. Oklahoma’s projected appropriations for Fiscal Year 2015 stand at $6.958 billion, which is nearly $200 million short of the previous year. Oklahoma’s recent story of economic growth will be curbed this year, which bucks the trend nationwide. Forty-three states are expected to see revenues increase this year, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. Oklahoma won’t be one of them.
It’s time to give the taxpayers a break instead of horizontal drillers
Oklahoma has been the best place to be in the oil and gas business for the past 50 years. We have the most enlightened regulators and legislators of any state. Our tax laws are fair and equitable. In Oklahoma our normal well head taxes (gross production tax, ad valorem tax and excise taxes) are 7.1 percent. In Texas they are 7.54 percent. In North Dakota they are 11.5 percent. These are the states where most of the horizontal wells are being drilled.
Oklahoma has well-paid jobs going unfilled for lack of skilled workers, business leaders say
Good jobs in Oklahoma go begging because companies can’t find trained workers, business leaders said Thursday in support of giving more funding to the CareerTech education program. Oklahoma’s education system must equip people with the academic and technical skills needed to step into wealth-building jobs, CareerTech Director Robert Sommers said during a Capitol news conference. CareerTech officials have requested an additional $35 million in funding for 2014-15, with $24.6 million going to local schools in the form of performance-based funding.
Oklahoma State Senator Clark Jolley, two Democrats enter Congressional race
Republican state Sen. Clark Jolley announced Thursday he will join the growing list of candidates running for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. “Too much government, too much spending, too many taxes — they’re all destroying our country, our freedoms and our way of life,” Jolley, 43, of Edmond, said at a news conference. Jolley noted that the state’s top income tax rate has been reduced from 7 percent to 5.25 percent during the nine years he has served in the state Senate. He said he plans to continue serving as Appropriations Committee chairman while running for office.
Fallin announces new Oklahoma energy savings program
Gov. Mary Fallin has announced a new statewide energy savings program intended to reduce energy use in state buildings. Fallin said Wednesday that the program called 20 percent by 2020 (20%x2020) seeks to reduce energy use in state agency buildings by 20 percent by the year 2020. Under the program, each agency will designate energy managers who will identify and implement ways to reduce energy use within their agencies. The governor’s office says a similar program at Oklahoma State University cut energy costs by $30 million at its campuses across the state in the six years since its implementation.
Study provides encouraging data about Oklahoma Marriage Initiative
Last year the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative was criticized because Oklahoma’s divorce rate remains high despite spending more than $70 million in federal money over a 12-year period. We agreed the marriage initiative — like any government program — should be carefully scrutinized. But we also cautioned against holding it to a tougher standard than other government initiatives. The food stamp program hasn’t exactly eliminated hunger, but no one seriously calls for its abolition. Now Alan Hawkins, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University, is making the case for the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, citing research showing OMI generates positive results.
Quote of the Day
It’s hard to give up an incentive tax break after 20 years, but it’s time to “give the taxpayers a break” and restore the gross production tax to the same as normal oil and gas wells.
-John A. Brock, the founder of several successful oil and gas exploration and production companies in Oklahoma (Source: http://bit.ly/1g8hhC1)
Number of the Day
Number of Oklahomans who work for the state’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Modern Family Matters
When I asked readers for “neglected topics” that journalists should cover more in 2014, one of the suggestions was a delicate but vital topic: family breakdown and the rise of single-parent households. Yet if the issue is critical, it often emerges as part of a narrative that hectors the poor for their poverty. Republicans focus on “personal irresponsibility” or suggest that there’s nothing to be done about poverty until “those people” stop having kids outside of marriage. As I see it, conservatives are right in their diagnosis that the issue is critical in addressing poverty, but they are wrong in their prescriptions, while liberals are often too politically correct to address the issue at all.
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