In The Know: April 14, 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, the state Senate barely passed a measure to lower the cap on property tax valuations from 5 percent to 3 percent. If passed by the House, the measure will go to a vote of the people. OK Policy previously wrote about this proposal and other property tax issues here. A new report from Oklahoma Policy Institute makes recommendations for revenue options to help protect core public services from further severe cuts.

The L.E. Rader Center, a juvenile detention facility in Sand Springs, is closing despite the failure of plans to construct a new facility. A Senate panel defeated another push to allow open carry of firearms amid angry protests from a few legislators and members of the public. The EPA heard comments from Oklahomans on its proposed regulations to reduce harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants. The University of Oklahoma is revising its sexual assault policy after students protested the 30 day statute of limitations for pressing charges to campus police.

A measure to make it easier to get on the ballot in Oklahoma is languishing in the Senate Rules Committee. A bill that would prevent insurance companies from offering abortion coverage on standard policies is headed to Governor Fallin. Tulsa parents and students are petitioning to keep their school open, but the Tulsa Superintendent says consolidation is long overdue. NewsOK writes that punishing the children of undocumented immigrants is the wrong approach.

In today’s Policy Note, a new short film provides expert perspectives on what open government data is and how it can be useful. More below the jump.

In The News

Senate votes to lower property tax cap

Oklahoma voters will decide whether to cap increases in property tax valuations of their homes to no more than 3 percent each year under a proposal narrowly approved Wednesday in the state Senate. The Senate voted 26-19 to send the proposal to a vote of the people over the objections of several members, who say the plan will decimate local funding for counties, schools and public libraries. The resolution, which now heads to the House for final consideration, needed 25 votes to pass the 48-member Senate.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Previously: Should Oklahoma expand its property tax caps and exemptions? from the OK Policy Blog

Institute suggests options for protecting services

A research group that studies state policy issues said Wednesday budget writers should consider closing income tax loopholes, eliminating some sales tax exemptions and tapping non-appropriated state revenue to prevent potentially drastic budget cuts to state-funded education, health care and law enforcement services. The Oklahoma Policy Institute said funding for public services has declined over the past two years due to the economic downturn and low energy prices and that more than half of all state agencies have absorbed funding cuts of 15 percent or more. Deeper cuts could harm seniors and persons with disabilities and mental illness who rely on state services.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

See also: Protecting core services: Revenue options for a balanced budget from Oklahoma Policy Institute

L.E. Rader Center to close with no plans for new site

The L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs will close Sept. 30, and the state Office of Juvenile Affairs, which operates the juvenile detention facility, has no plans to open a new one. The 50 juvenile offenders who are at Rader will be transferred to other facilities, OJA Executive Director Gene Christian said Wednesday. Rader’s 130 employees also could transfer to other facilities, but OJA also intends to offer voluntary buyouts and have a reduction in force, Christian said.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Committee defeats new push for open carry bill

Meeting Room 432A of the Oklahoma Capitol became a sort of verbal version of the OK Corral on Wednesday morning as open-carry gun enthusiasts and legislators faced off at a meeting of the House Public Safety Committee. Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, and those who want to carry guns openly berated Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, the committee’s chairwoman and vice chairman, for not allowing reconsideration of Senate Bill 129, a measure the committee rejected April 6 by a 9-8 vote. The bill would allow anyone with a concealed handgun permit to carry a nonconcealed gun.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma residents air views on EPA plan

About 40 people spoke out Wednesday about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reduce emissions that affect visibility in federal wildlife areas. The Sierra Club and the American Lung Association on Wednesday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect Oklahoma residents from the harmful emissions that come from coal-fired power plants. Business leaders contend the plan, which calls for scrubber technology at several coal-fired power plants in Oklahoma or a switch to natural gas for electrical generation, is too expensive, while environmental groups, health advocates and others argued in favor of efforts to clear the air.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Boren changes OU’s sexual assault policy after student protests

A proposed sit-in by a student organization in the building housing OU President David Boren’s office became a celebration on the North Oval on Wednesday after administrators agreed to change the university’s sexual-assault policies. OU students gathered at noon Wednesday outside Evans Hall to celebrate an increase in the statute of limitations for student-filed claims of sexual assault and the prospect of increased campus education regarding the issue. “We are celebrating the changes that apparently [President] Boren is going to be implementing: the one year statute of limitations from the 30 days, the possibility of mandatory sexual assault education for freshmen and then OUPD being more knowledgeable on the policies they’re supposed to be enforcing,” said Jordan Ward, social sciences and women’s and gender studies sophomore.

Read more from the OU Daily at

Candidate ballot access measure languishes in Senate Rules

The Oklahoma state Senate Rules Committee has not yet heard House Bill 1058, a measure intended to make less onerous Oklahoma’s ballot access rules for political candidates. Although the bill prevailed easily in the state House, it has encountered Republican opposition in the upper chamber and is at this date languishing in the Rules Committee. State Rep. Charles Key, an Oklahoma City Republican, is sponsor of H.B. 1058 and has led efforts to make ballot access strictures less challenging. His bill would cut in half the numbers of signatures needed to qualify new political parties or candidates for ballots.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Bill curbing abortion insurance heads to Okla. governor

The Oklahoma House approved a bill on Wednesday that prohibits health insurance companies from offering coverage of elective abortions in standard policies sold in the state. Under the bill, approved by an 84-10 vote, people seeking abortion coverage could do so only by paying a separate premium for optional supplemental coverage. The bill has already passed the Oklahoma Senate by a 36-10 vote and now heads to Governor Mary Fallin.

Read more from this Reuters article at

Tulsa elementary parents, students petition to keep school open

As plans to retool a Tulsa high school develop, some students say they feel like they’re being kicked out of their school. Residents who live around Rogers High School met Wednesday night to talk over Tulsa Public Schools consolidation efforts. Consolidation could prompt a ripple effect throughout the Rogers feeder pattern, from high school students to younger students at elementary schools, like Bell.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

See also: Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent says consolidation long overdue from NewsOn6

NewsOK: Punishing children of immigrants is the wrong approach

Whenever we read about efforts to deny in-state college tuition to Oklahomans who are the children of illegal immigrants, we can’t help but recall how staunchly former state Rep. Kevin Calvey used to champion the idea. Calvey is a conservative Republican who represented Del City in the House for eight years before running for Congress in 2006, volunteering for military duty in Iraq and, last year, running for Congress again. In 2003, he authored a bill that would give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants provided they attend Oklahoma secondary schools for at least three years. … “Their parents have been earning money, paying taxes just like your parents did, just like my parents did,” Calvey argued.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

For the average homeowner, going from 5 percent to 3 percent isn’t going to make much of a difference. But it will for the very rich.

Dave Herbert, legislative liaison for the County Government Legislative Council, pointing out that lowering the cap on property tax valuations would have little impact in rural counties and would disproportionately benefit wealthy areas where property values are rising rapidly.

Number of the Day


Hourly minimum wage in Oklahoma; state statute adopts the Federal minimum wage rate by reference.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What is open government data? What is it good for?

Open government data broadly refers to public sector records that have been made available to citizens. For a canonical resource on what makes such releases truly “open,” consult the 8 principles of open government data. Today, the Open Knowledge Foundation has released a terrific new short film entitled “#opendata” that offers expert perspectives on what open government data is and how it can be useful to society.

Read more from govFresh at

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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.

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