In The Know: April 1, 2011

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, the State Senate will not hear a bill that would establish a governing board for an Oklahoma health insurance exchange, a requirement of federal health care reform.  The House Insurance Committee passed a bill to allow out-of-state insurers to sell insurance in the state, despite concerns that plans might not have to provide Oklahoma-mandated coverage.  OK Policy Blog examines Gov. Fallin’s proposal for an executive ‘closing fund’ to lure businesses to the state, citing the fund’s history in Oklahoma and its mixed record in Texas.

A bill to strip the state Board of Education of control over the state Department of Education was sent to the Governor yesterday.  Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman reiterated yesterday that cuts of 5 to 7 percent to the education budget are more likely than proposed 3 percent cuts.  Meanwhile, House Democrats criticize GOP leaders for missing their own deadline for submitting a common education budget.

Sen. Ralph Shortey was successful in amending a bill to allow lawmakers to carry weapons anywhere in the state.  The Daily O’Collegian writes in an opinion column about the need to raise student awareness about sexual assaults on Big XII campuses.  Sen. Jim Inhofe questions the Army Corps of Engineers about federal funding commitments for planned development on the Arkansas River.

In our policy note, a new report from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute looks at the lessons learned about health insurance exchanges from Massachusetts and Utah.  Finally, April 1 brings a big announcement from Oklahoma Policy Institute.

More after the jump.

In The News

Oklahoma Senate won’t hear health insurance exchange bill

Without telling the Republican governor beforehand, Bingman, R-Sapulpa, announced the Senate would not hear House Bill 2130, which would oversee developing a website where Oklahomans could search for health insurance.  The federal health care law requires states to submit plans for their own health insurance exchanges if the state doesn’t want to use a federal system.  “I don’t think it’s helpful,” said Fallin, visibly perturbed. “I’m disappointed that the president pro tem has made a sudden announcement that he’s not going to hear the House bill.”  She added, “It puts us on a dangerous path of the Obama administration being able to come in and force a federal exchange on our state.”

Read more from The Oklahoman here

Out-of-state coverage bill passes House insurance panel

A bill that would allow out-of-state insurers to offer insurance in Oklahoma passed the House Insurance Committee Thursday, despite concerns that the insurance offered would not have to provide Oklahoma-mandated coverage.  The bill, SB 57, by Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow, and Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, passed the committee in an 8-to-2 vote. The panel also approved legislation relating to elective abortion coverage.

Read more from OETA here

A tale of two closing funds, the Chinese Communist Party, and genetically modified mice

As the state continues to grapple with severe budget shortfalls, Gov. Fallin’s agenda has mostly involved regulatory changes and managing additional cuts to state services. Yet the governor does have one major new program on her wish list: a deal-closing fund to entice new businesses to Oklahoma. The “Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund” would allow the Governor and Department of Commerce to help cover businesses’ relocation and expansion costs, pay for maintaining existing jobs that are at risk of termination, or invest in capital improvements requested by a company.  Political leaders may assure us that safeguards are in place, but by necessity any program meant as a last-minute deal closer will sacrifice oversight for speed. With the state budget already stretched to its limit, a closing fund is not a responsible use of limited public dollars.

Read more from OK Policy Blog here

Bill to disempower state Board of Education goes to Fallin

The Senate on Thursday sent Gov. Mary Fallin a measure that would strip the state Board of Education of control over the state Department of Education.  Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, said the measure is one of several that are “over-reaching.” He said several versions of the bill have been proposed in response to the board meeting.  The Senate also passed House Bill 1380, also by Ford, which would eliminate a terminated teacher’s right to appeal that decision to a district court. However, the teacher could still appeal if the teacher thought the termination violated his or her civil rights or federal employment law, Ford said.

Read more from this Tulsa World article here

GOP-backed education changes head to Oklahoma governor

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman on Thursday reiterated his projection that cuts to public education likely will be greater than the 3 percent proposed by Fallin in her executive budget. Bingman said cuts of 5 to 7 percent are more likely.  “There are no other revenue enhancements out there,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa.  The state is facing a $500 million shortfall in the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. Although a final budget agreement has not been reached between House and Senate leaders, House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said he predicts cuts to common education will not exceed 5 percent.

Read more from this Tulsa World article here

Oklahoma House Democrats criticize GOP for not having school budget by deadline

Flanked by about a dozen House Democrats and several superintendents, Inman said Republicans who pushed for the 2003 law setting the April 1 common education funding deadline “broke the law and broke their promise.”  There’s no penalty for legislators if the deadline is missed. The deadline is 10 days earlier than the traditional deadline for schools to have teacher contracts in place; legislation passed two years ago moved that deadline to the first Monday in June.  The Fund Education First Act, a self-imposed statute proposed by Republicans and adopted in 2003, was met in 2004, the last year Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, said Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague.

Read more from the Oklahoman here

Oklahoma Senate panels OKs bill allowing lawmakers to carry weapons anywhere

A Senate panel on Thursday passed a measure that would allow lawmakers to carry weapons anywhere in the state.  Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, was successful in amending House Bill 1255, which would allow any U.S. attorney or assistant U.S. attorney carry a firearm if the person has successfully completed an approved firearm training course.  Under the measure, the training would have to be equal to the minimum requirements for firearms training set forth by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training.

Read more from The Oklahoman here

Sexual assaults an ongoing problem in the Big XII

The story was about the case against Oklahoma State University basketball player Darrell Williams, who is charged with sexual battery and rape by instrumentation, as well as the student who was sexually assaulted in Booker Hall — also by someone she knew — in mid-November.  Eleven instances of assault, compared to other campuses, is not such a high number. The University of Oklahoma, for example, has had nine cases of forced sexual assault in the same time period. Texas Tech had six. But the University of Texas at Austin had 23 incidents.  Students still need to be educated about this ongoing problem occurring, according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, once every two minutes in the United States.

Read more from The Daily O’Collegian here

Inhofe questions Army Corps of Engineers on Arkansas River plan funding

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., concerned that work on the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan could go dormant, raised the issue of federal funding Thursday with a key official of the Army Corps of Engineers.  With work continuing on a budget for the current fiscal year and talk of spending cuts dominating almost everything in Congress, Inhofe asked Darcy how her agency will approach decisions on funding such local projects.  Darcy responded that once Congress finishes work on funding the rest of the current fiscal year, her agency will need to prioritize.  “We want to be in on that discussion,” Inhofe said afterward in an interview.

Read more from this Tulsa World article here

Quote of the Day

Irwin will not live if I have to give him up.  I can’t imagine a day living without him.

Christie Carr, in an appeal to the Broken Arrow City Council to be allowed to keep her disabled kangaroo as a house pet.

Number of the Day


Acres of Oklahoma land owned by the Federal Government, 2009.

Source: U.S. General Services Administration

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Massachusetts and Utah Health Insurance Exchanges: Lessons Learned

A new report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute examines the three primary dimensions of each exchange and concludes that UT and MA need not serve as “either-or” contrasts, but instead that elements from both may best serve the residents of other states.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires states to set-up health insurance exchanges. Once up and running, exchanges are expected to connect approximately 29 million people to coverage. Their design should help individuals and small businesses shop for and purchase health insurance, access premium and cost-sharing subsidies, and facilitate health plan competition based on price and quality.

Read more from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families here

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.