In The Know: April 11, 2011

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. 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, legislators are planning to tap into cash reserve funds to help balance the budget this year. The funds, sometimes referred to as 5 percent money because they come from revenues that go above 95 percent of what is projected by the State Tax Commission, are typically carried over to the next budget year. Lawmakers are also considering a tax increase on smokeless tobacco to help fund programs that attract physicians to rural areas. The Tulsa World reports on the role of lobbyists at the capitol, both from private industry and public agencies.

Gov. Fallin is disbanding three ethnic advisory councils for Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and Middle Eastern Americans after criticism from social conservatives. On Friday, House Speaker Kris Steele spoke with a group of these conservatives affiliated with the High Noon Club, who complained that Republicans were bottling up Sharia, anti-immigration, and open carry laws. In Today’s Policy Note, Kansas City is seeing population growth and economic development while neighboring St. Louis declines, partially because KC is more open to Hispanic immigrants.

Two Oklahoma Indian tribes are threatening to sue the state over water rights at Sardis Lake. A proposal to require state licensing for music therapists so that they can be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements is moving forward in the legislature. OK Policy previously discussed concerns about the growing numbers of state licenses on our blog. Oklahoma Watch reports on some Oklahoma judges who defend the state’s high incarceration rate. NewsOK editorializes on puppy mill opponents and aborted attempts to build a new juvenile detention center.

Read on for more.

In The News

Oklahoma budget negotiators prepare to tap cash reserve fund to help balance budget

Legislative leaders are planning to use some of the extra cash the state will have on hand after the start of the 2012 fiscal year, an option that some in the ruling Republican Party had considered taboo. Not using any of the money would result in deeper cuts to agencies, many of which have had their budgets cut up to 20 percent the past three years. “There are (Republican legislative) members out there that say those funds should not be used at this time,” said Rep. Earl Sears, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. “That philosophy is there, and what has pre-empted that philosophy is we’ve got a $500 million shortfall.”

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Tax increase on some smokeless tobacco proposed

A proposal to increase the state tax on some forms of smokeless tobacco – moist snuff – to fund programs to recruit doctors to rural and underserved parts of the state is working its way through the Legislature. Senate Bill 233 is expected to raise $8 million to $9 million a year for recruitment programs of the Physician Manpower Training Commission. It would eliminate the current 20 percent tax on moist snuff and replace it with a $1.20 per ounce tax.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Lobbyists, lawmakers have ‘educational relationships’

Tour the state Capitol, and you’re likely to be told the House and Senate chambers face each other on the fourth floor, the House of Representatives on the west, the Senate on the east, with the yawning chasm of the rotunda in between. But that isn’t exactly true. The rooms actually facing each other are the House and Senate lobbies.On days when the House and Senate are in session, those lobbies are crowded with – who else? – lobbyists. Lots of them.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: State employees see difference between lobbyist, educator from The Tulsa World

Oklahoma governor to disband 3 ethnic advisory councils

Gov. Mary Fallin will abolish three gubernatorial advisory councils dealing with different races and cultures, a spokesman said Friday. Social conservatives have been calling on the governor to get rid of the three groups. They especially are upset with councils dealing with Hispanic and Middle Eastern races. More than a dozen people critical of the advisory councils began showing up this year at the meetings of the Hispanic and Middle Eastern councils. Members of the social conservative High Noon Club, based in Oklahoma City, asked House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, earlier Friday to pass on to the Republican governor their disapproval of the councils.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: House Speaker Kris Steele hears from frustrated Oklahoma conservatives on NewsOK

Oklahoma tribes threaten to sue over Sardis Lake water deal

Two of Oklahoma’s largest tribal nations in February made a direct threat to sue over the state’s high-profile sale of Sardis Lake to Oklahoma City, records show. Since then, the city has continued Sardis Lake development work that a tribal attorney in February warned was “profoundly unwise” and could spur a lawsuit. A lawsuit over the Sardis Lake deal would strike at the heart of a decades-old dispute over water rights in Oklahoma, where tribal nations have various treaties for water and other resources that predate statehood.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Lawmakers consider requiring state license for music therapists

Robbin Buford seems to float into the classroom of 2-year-olds with a guitar slung over one shoulder and a bag filled to the brim with musical instruments tucked under her other arm. Her movements are fluid as she swings to the floor, playing a rock-a-billy-influenced “Hello” song as the children sway to the beat. The class is in the Rise Early Childhood Center on the Oklahoma State University campus, and specializes in educating children who have disabilities. The special needs children are integrated with other children. … House Bill 1462 would require music therapists to obtain licensing from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. It passed the House and is pending in a Senate committee.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: When ‘business friendly’ regulations are bad for the rest of us on the OK Policy Blog

Some judges defend state’s high incarceration rate

Many judges say they are not to blame for the high number of women who go to prison in Oklahoma. “I was a trial judge for 21 years. I sent a lot of women to prison and there’s not one who didn’t deserve it,” said state Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Taylor, who is from McAlester. … Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliott specifically mentioned legislators in 2009 when he sentenced a heroin addict to life in prison for shoplifting a $275 purse and a $380 purse. The judge pointed out the woman had a record of theft-related crimes that dated back to 1971. He called her a “poster child” for why it’s OK to send thieves to prison. A split Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction last year. A dissenting appeals judge, though, wrote, “She is a drug addict who steals to feed her addiction. Most of her convictions, like this one, were for property offenses. While she is a nuisance and a lawbreaker, she is neither a violent criminal nor an imminent danger to society. This life sentence is a miscarriage of justice.”

Read more from this Oklahoma Watch article at

NewsOK: Foes of puppy mill regulations show true colors

A reasonable law aimed at regulating puppy and kitten mills in Oklahoma has potentially been watered down before even having a chance to work, but not before those who have fought these regulations showed their true colors. At a state House committee meeting last week, one dog breeder brought along a copy of “Mein Kampf” and said members of the board created to oversee the new rules want to exterminate pet breeders. … The House committee approved Senate Bill 637, but an amendment was attached that would exempt commercial breeders who are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a victory for many unscrupulous breeders — and Oklahoma has a bunch of those — because USDA enforcement is lacking.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

NewsOK: After Ada plan’s scuttling, juvenile detention concerns remain

In late February, the board that oversees the Office of Juvenile Affairs put an end to plans to build a juvenile detention center in Ada. The board cited rising operation costs and expected budget cuts to the agency, although the project clearly was left with wobbly political support after complaints by companies that failed to win the bid on the project, and by a highly publicized affair involving a state senator and a lobbyist who represented the winning bidder. … The Ada and Rite of Passage representatives left us with one plea in particular: that no matter where it might land, a new juvenile facility that incorporates modern and productive ways to rehabilitate young offenders is badly needed in Oklahoma. Building another traditional lockup, they argued, shouldn’t be an option.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

The average businessman and the average citizen (have) no idea of the intricacies of Oklahoma state government. A lobbyist holds your hand and helps you move through the process.

Tulsa Metro Chamber President Mike Neal

Number of the Day


Students per teacher in Oklahoma public education classrooms, 2008-2009; the national average is 15.3.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Hispanic factor helps KC outpace St. Louis

… The surge in the number of Hispanics, combined with geographic advantages over St. Louis that the much larger Kansas City enjoys, allowed the city to grow over the last 10 years while St. Louis lost population, say demographers and economic development analysts. Kansas City’s population grew 4.1 percent. Of the city’s 18,000 new residents, 15,000 identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino. Hispanics now make up 10 percent of the city’s 459,787 residents. St. Louis lost 29,000 residents during the decade, an 8 percent drop. … “It’s good to see people come in, regardless of who they are, who are willing to invest and start families and careers,” said Carlos Gomez, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City. “We need that tax base, and so do all the other services and businesses that rely on it.”

Read more from St. Louis Today at

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


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

Leave a Reply

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