In The Know: April 13, 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.

In March, the Department of Commerce pledged another $3.5 million in cash rebates to four companies under the Quality Jobs Program.  Yesterday, a major employer closed up shop in Oklahoma after cashing in on $260,000 in tax rebates from the state under the same program.  When asked yesterday about her decision to abolish three gubernatorial ethnic advisory panels, Governor Fallin explained to reporters that she was focusing on economic priorities and executive orders from her predecessors were “not within the realm of economic issues.

A survey of 1,400 public education workers for Tulsa Public Schools found that most would be willing to change schools if it meant improvements in the quality of programming for students.  Governor Fallin signed into law a bill that eliminates teachers’ right to appeal a firing in district court.  The director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education argues against a bill that would allow guns on technology center campuses, citing opposition from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud was praised at a Senate hearing on natural-gas drilling and public health for Oklahoma’s practice of segregating fluids used in ‘hydraulic fracking’ from the state’s drinking water.  Oklahoma City Council members pushed back against efforts by some on the council to funnel economic development funds into a new non-profit organization that would be exempt from open records and meetings laws.  Oklahoma City and Cleveland County took steps to expand and extend their current burn bans.

Read on for more.

In The News

Four companies added to Oklahoma Quality Jobs roster in March

Four companies have pledged to add more than 500 jobs through the state Department of Commerce’s Quality Jobs Program.  Cox Communications said it will increase its workforce by 218 in Oklahoma City for a customer care center focusing on its new wireless cell phone service. The company could earn up to $3.5 million in incentives over 10 years in the program.

Read more from the Oklahoman here and NewsOn6 here

Fallin discusses ‘trial de novo’ issues with reporters

The governor spoke briefly with Capitol reporters, and was asked about the decision to allow to lapse executive orders creating advisory panels representing ethnic groups in Oklahoma. Latino and Islamic leaders have expressed disappointment over the end of committees that included prominent leaders of those communities.  Governor Fallin told reporters that she was focusing her energy on economic issues and priorities and commented that taking the time to focus on numerous executive orders and decisions from her predecessor was “not within the realm of economic issues and other concerns” she is primarily focused on. She said her personnel decisions will continue to reflect respect for the state’s diversity.

Read more from Capitol Beat OK here

Survey Finds Tulsa Teachers Willing To Change For ‘Trade Ups’

Most teachers at Tulsa Public Schools are willing to change schools if it means greater student access to various “trade ups,” the district said Tuesday.  Tulsa Public Schools released the results of its survey of nearly 1,400 teachers, principals and certified staff regarding the district’s Project Schoolhouse proposals. The three proposals are aimed at making the district leaner and more efficient.  According to the district, the survey also found that 52.8 percent of the educators questioned rated the accessibility and equity of current programs to all children in the district as “not equitable.”

Read more from NewsOn6 here

Fallin signs bill to eliminate teachers’ right to appeal firing

Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday signed a measure to make it easier for school boards to fire teachers.  House Bill 1380 eliminates a teacher’s right to appeal a firing in district court, a process called “trial de novo.”  “Currently, it is nearly impossible to dismiss an ineffective teacher due to the lengthy and expensive appeals process known as trial de novo,” Fallin said.  Most state teachers are dedicated and highly effective, the governor said, but school boards need the ability to easily find replacements for those who are not.

Read more from the Tulsa World here

Guns on technology center campuses a bad idea

Those involved in education and training at Oklahoma’s technology centers have grave concerns about House Bill 1652, which would allow students, teachers and visitors who have permits to carry concealed weapons to take their guns to technology centers and leave them locked in their vehicles.  The IACLEA board of directors believes allowing a concealed weapon does not make campuses safer. “There is no credible evidence to suggest that the presence of students carrying concealed weapons would reduce violence on our college campuses.”

Read more from NewsOK here:

‘Fracking’ is safe at hearing

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud told key U.S. senators Tuesday that his agency’s record on protecting water from pollution makes it clear that states, not the federal government, should regulate hydraulic fracturing.  What especially impressed Cardin was Cloud’s explanation that Oklahoma requires the fluids used in fracking to be either recycled or injected into wells.  Cloud repeatedly offered assurances that those fluids never get into the state’s water.  Cardin urged other states to follow Oklahoma’s lead.  “I think we need to learn from best practices, and we have seen some of that catch on from other states,” he said, also citing the record in Colorado.  In some areas, the fluids reportedly are taken to municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Oklahoma City Council members raise questions about city funding for nonprofit

Organizers of a new nonprofit seeking $424,000 in public funding were hit with intense questioning Tuesday by Oklahoma City Council members over the geographic and ethnic diversity of the group set to target economic development.  All the group’s members are white and live in north Oklahoma City.  White cautioned against trying to exempt the group from the Oklahoma open records and meetings laws, noting the community remains divided over the recent municipal elections in which a mysterious group called “Oklahoma City Momentum” funneled more than $400,000 into four city council races.

Read more from the Oklahoman here

Burn ban includes outdoor welders

Cleveland County is still under a burn ban with new restrictions. Cleveland County Commissioners voted to extend the ban another week and added a restriction to outdoor welders.  Emergency Director Dan Cary said the fire chiefs in the county have requested that the burn ban be extended.  He also said that outdoor welders will need to get a permit from the county.

Read more from the Norman Transcript here

Barbecue bans

Oklahoma City takes the burn ban to the next level by outlawing charcoal grilling.  Firefighters say charcoal and wood grills can send ash into the air, which could start other fires.  Barbeque supply stores say they are now talking to customers about how to be safe while grilling.

Read more from Fox 25 here

Quote of the Day

“I’m struck by the lack of diversity on this group, both geographic, which doesn’t exist, and ethnic, which doesn’t exist,” White said. “The biggest place where we are leaking retail revenues is in south Oklahoma City, yet there isn’t anyone in this group from south Oklahoma City — no one.”

-Oklahoma City Council Member Pete White on a proposed plan to funnel $424,000 in economic development funds to a private group called The Alliance for the Economic Development of Oklahoma City

Number of the Day


Recreation visits to National Parks in Oklahoma in 2010.

Source: National Park Service, Statistical Abstract 2010

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A report from the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy, White Paper—Guns on Campus, examines state campus gun statutes and the history of campus gun violence in the United States.  Educators and lawmakers alike seek to curb this violence and provide reasonably safe and secure educational environments, especially for our students.  Currently, 26 states plus the District of Columbia ban concealed weapons on college and university property. Twenty-three states allow individual campuses to decide. Only Utah allows guns on the campuses at public institutions; the state allows private institutions to set their own policies.

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