In The Know: Okla. House Speaker OKs hefty raises for staff

by | December 10th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)
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In The KnowIn 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 House Speaker T.W. Shannon approved more than a quarter of a million dollars in annual pay increases for his staff. The New York-based Satanic Temple said they want to donate a monument to stand on Oklahoma state Capitol grounds near the Ten Commandments monument. The Brookings Institute found the Oklahoma Legislature introduced the second highest number of model bills from ALEC, a controversial group that connects state lawmakers with corporate interests.

The OK Policy Blog examined the progress and challenges for Oklahoma on addressing HIV/AIDS. Oklahoma ranks 6th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. An Oklahoma City mother said the state Department of Human Services is not giving her enough information after her six-year-old daughter died in foster care.

The Oklahoma Gazette reported on the battle between The Oklahoman newspaper and OKC mayoral candidate Ed Shadid over the release of court records from Shadid’s divorce. In today’s Policy Note, an Economic Policy Institute researcher examines the evidence that Native Americans are facing discrimination in the labor market. The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma high school students who smoke.

In The News

Okla. House Speaker OKs hefty raises for staff

While Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders waited for the completion of an independent study on state employee pay, House Speaker T.W. Shannon approved more than a quarter of a million dollars in annual pay increases for his staff. Figures released by House officials on Monday show about half of the 117 full-time House employees received raises totaling more than $280,000. The pay hikes for 52 House employees ranged from about 2 percent for a housekeeper to more than 30 percent for three staff attorneys.

Read more from NewsOK.

Satanists seek spot on Oklahoma statehouse steps

In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument on the Statehouse steps. The New York-based Satanic Temple notified the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Legislature introduces second highest number of ALEC bills in the nation

Today marks the close of the annual policy summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Washington D.C. ALEC is known for writing model legislation with major industries and then encouraging their introduction – through their legislative partners – in statehouses nationwide. What ALEC does during its closed-door meetings is largely a mystery. This week, ALEC opened its doors to the Washington media – who quickly found the most important doors slamming in their faces. Not only are their meetings private, but so too are their legislative successes and failures.

Read more from Brookings.

Examining HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma

In the 30 years since HIV/AIDS exploded into public consciousness in the 1980s, considerable progress has been made. Rates of infection and death related to HIV/AIDS have declined to well below peak levels—the number of new diagnoses each year are less than half of what they were. However, rates of infection have plateaued rather than continuing to decline, and discrepancies across class and race indicate that much work remains to be done.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma ranks 6th in spending on tobacco prevention

Fifteen years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, Oklahoma ranks 6th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations. Oklahoma currently spends $22.7 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 50.5 percent of the $45 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The tobacco companies spend $160.3 million a year to market their products in Oklahoma. This is 7 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.

Read more from PR Newswire.

See also: Oklahoma Spending on Tobacco Prevention from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

OKC mother speaks out after daughter dies in DHS custody

A child dies in Department of Human Services custody, and her biological mother does not believe the agency is giving her enough information about the death. Jessica Ellis says she lost rights to her daughter six years ago as a teenage mother. On Thursday, she found out her daughter died, but feels she wasn’t told a clear reason why. At 14-years-old, Jessica Ellis says she and her siblings had to live in DHS custody while her mom was incarcerated for five months. That’s the time Ellis had twin baby girls, but only one, named Miracle, survived. Miracle was kept in DHS custody and died Thursday in foster care.

Read more from News9.

Battle looms over OKC mayoral candidate Ed Shadid’s divorce records

Disclosing sealed court records connected to Oklahoma City mayoral candidate Ed Shadid’s divorce in 2007 outweighs embarrassment or harm it may cause the Ward 2 councilman, his ex-wife or their children, according to a leading expert on government openness and public records. Joey Senat, author of “Mass Communication in Oklahoma” and associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University, said divorce filings are as much a public record as lawsuits and criminal charges. Senat’s comments come on the heels of a legal battle between Shadid and The Daily Oklahoman, which is pushing to have the councilman’s sealed divorce documents made public.

Read more from Oklahoma Gazette.

Quote of the Day

Local governments are, indeed, in a pickle. Where are property taxes going to go for local governments? Let’s all say it together: Up.

-Hannes Zacharias, county manager for Johnson County in Kansas, on budget shortfalls facing local governments after the state dramatically reduced income taxes (Source: http://bit.ly/1cysIhV

Number of the Day

17.9%

Percentage of Oklahoma high school students who smoke.

Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Do Native Americans face discrimination in the labor market?

Since the start of the Great Recession in 2007, Native American employment has been lowest in the regions where white employment has been highest. In my research in 2009 and 2010, I found that while whites were doing relatively well in terms of employment in Alaska, the Northern Plains, and the Southwest, Native Americans were doing rather poorly in these very same regions. I also noted that these were the regions where the proportion of Native Americans was relatively high in relation to the proportion of non-Natives. These findings raised the question of whether racial discrimination might play a role in the high level of joblessness among Native Americans.

Read more from the Huffington Post.

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