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 email@example.com. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today on In The Know, Governor Fallin reversed course and turned down a $54 million federal grant to develop information technology for a health insurance exchange. Insurance Commissioner John Doak also said he would return $1 million meant for reviewing unjustified and excessive insurance premium increases. Major opposition to accepting the grant first broke out at a meeting of Oklahoma insurance brokers, who as middlemen that help translate health insurance options to consumers were threatened by an online exchange that would provide that service without charge. On the OK Policy Blog, we analyze a proposal by federal Republicans to transform Medicaid into a block grant, finding that it would hurt states, consumers, and providers.
The EPA heard testimony in Tulsa on its plan to require Oklahoma coal plants to significantly reduce harmful sulphur dioxide emissions within three years. An attempt to make initiative petitions meet signature requirements for each congressional district instead of statewide will not pass this year. The bill had been suggested by opponents of SQ 744 who wanted to make it harder for future petitions to get on the ballot. A House committee approved a Congressional redistricting map with minor changes. They will now begin redrawing lines for state legislators.
The House voted to end social promotion for third graders who do not pass a reading test. Gov. Fallin signed a bill to require municipalities to get landowners’ consent before annexing property. A rally at that capitol for the Sooner Tea Party attracted fewer than 30 people. NewsOK writes that the argument against revenue increases is harder to make in Oklahoma than nationally, because “the state must balance its budget, and spending has already been cut drastically.” The Oklahoma Gazette discusses nine tax facts hardly anyone knows. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities assembles its top ten charts for understanding the U.S. tax system.
Read on for more.
In The News
Governor Fallin turns down insurance exchange grant
Gov. Mary Fallin reversed course Thursday by rejecting a $54.6 million federal grant to help create a health insurance exchange for uninsured Oklahoma residents that is required by the new federal health care law. The Republican, who previously said she would accept the money, said legislative leaders have agreed to consider using state and private funds to create the Health Insurance Private Enterprise Network. The program will identify private health insurance plans offered in Oklahoma, what they cover and how much they cost. … New Republican Insurance Commissioner John Doak praised Fallin’s action and said he was returning a $1 million federal health care grant. The grant was accepted by former Democratic Commissioner Kim Holland in August to conduct health insurance premium rate reviews to identify unjustified and excessive rate increases.
Read more from this Associated Press article at http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/04/14/business-us-insurance-exchange-oklahoma_8409083.html.
Previously: Gov. Fallin to Insurance Underwriters: Like it or not, health reform is the law of the land from the OK Policy Blog
Medicaid block grant proposal would hurt states, consumers, and providers
The U.S. House or Representatives is expected to vote tomorrow on a federal budget proposal for the coming year that would — among other things — force drastic cuts to Medicaid that would harm Oklahoma seniors, people with disabilities, and children. The budget plan, introduced by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would also shift costs and risks onto our state and likely would force the state to cut payments to hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, and pharmacies.
Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://medicaid-block-grant-proposal-would-hurt-states-consumers-and-providers/.
The debate continues: Should utilities pay up for cleaner air?
The debate waged inside Tulsa Technology Center’s Riverside campus lacked the fury of the storm raging outside Thursday, but EPA officials still heard a swirl of opinions on the regional haze reductions their agency may require for three Oklahoma coal-fired power plants. The public hearing was focused on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to reject a state plan and instead require AEP-PSO and OG&E to achieve huge reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions at their plants within three years.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/business/article.aspx?subjectid=49&articleid=20110415_49_E1_Thedeb948923.
Attempt to tighten process for initiative petition fails
A proposed state constitutional amendment that opponents say would make initiative petitions practically impossible for grass-roots organizations is dead for the year, a leading proponent said Thursday. Senate Joint Resolution 37 would require that groups passing initiative petitions get minimum numbers of voter signatures in each of the state’s congressional districts. Currently, the threshold is figured on a statewide basis. In other words, under SJR 37, an initiative petition that proposes a new state law would have to have voter signatures equal to 8 percent of the number of people who voted in the last governor’s election in each of the state’s five congressional districts. For constitutional amendments, the requirement would be 15 percent.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20110415_16_A9_Apropo559737.
Congressional redistricting plan wins initial approval from Oklahoma House committee
Redrawing the state’s congressional districts, which ended up in a legal battle that had to be decided by a judge in 2002, is proving to be an easier task so far this year. The state House of Representatives Redistricting Committee on Thursday voted 21-0 to accept a plan that would establish Oklahoma’s five congressional districts for a 10-year period beginning in January 2013. The proposal has minor changes to the existing five congressional districts. Unlike 10 years ago, lawmakers this year don’t have to wrestle with the loss of a congressional seat
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/congressional-redistricting-plan-wins-initial-approval-from-oklahoma-house-committee/article/3558538.
See also: House begins redrawing district lines for state legislators from NewsOK
House Republicans advance Kern’s bill to end social promotion
The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted today (Thursday, April 14) to end social promotion in Oklahoma schools, ensuring that grade school students have mastered reading before they advance to more challenging courses. … Senate Bill 346, by state Sen. Clark Jolley of Edmond, also a Republican, and Kern, would require students entering first grade in the 2011-2012 school year to master grade-appropriate reading skills by the end of third grade in order to be promoted to the fourth grade.
Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at http://capitolbeatok.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=3868558.
Fallin signs bill requiring consent for city annexation
Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday signed legislation making it more difficult for cities and towns to annex property. House Bill 1296 requires the written consent of property owners before their land can be annexed into a city or town. It removes exceptions when written consent is not required. The Oklahoma Municipal League opposed the measure.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=16&articleid=20110415_16_A9_OKLAHO194255.
Small gathering seen for Sooner Tea Party at Oklahoma Capitol
A local tea party group that has splintered from other tea party groups held a small gathering billed as a rally outside the Capitol on Thursday. Small gathering seen for Sooner Tea Party at Oklahoma Capitol. Sooner Tea Party drew less than 30 people to its event Thursday. The group’s leader, Al Gerhart, told the small crowd that the group spent $1,000 on radio advertising for the event. The turnout was a far cry from the 5,000 who showed up to a similar event on April 15 two years ago outside the Capitol.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/small-gathering-seen-for-sooner-tea-party-at-oklahoma-capitol/article/3558559.
NewsOK: Harder to argue there is a spending problem in Oklahoma
Tax Freedom Day in Oklahoma was April 2, 10 days ahead of the nation as a whole. If President Obama and the Oklahoma Policy Institute get their way, next year’s Tax Freedom Day will be later for the state and the nation. … The Oklahoma Policy Institute urged consideration of policy changes that would increase taxes for nearly every Oklahoman. These two events Wednesday show that progressives are in full-throttle tax hike mode. Republicans counter that the nation doesn’t have a revenue problem but a spending problem. That argument is harder to make in Oklahoma: The state must balance its budget, and spending has already been cut drastically.
Read more from this NewsOK editorial at http://newsok.com/obama-reid-lead-charge-to-snag-more-tax-dollars/article/3558463.
OK Gazette: Nine tax facts hardly anyone knows
… Tax policy is something the Framers left to politics. And in politics, the facts often matter less than who has the biggest bullhorn. The Mad Men who once ran campaigns featuring doctors extolling the health benefits of smoking are now busy marketing the dogma that tax cuts mean broad prosperity, no matter what the facts show. As millions of Americans prepare to file their annual taxes, they do so in an environment of media-perpetuated tax myths. Here are a few points about taxes and the economy that you may not know, to consider as you prepare to file your taxes.
Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-11375-nine-tax-facts-hardly-anyone-knows.html.
Quote of the Day
I have pride in Oklahoma and care about the future of this state. I am a ratepayer and will gladly pay to protect our environment.
–Tulsa resident Araceli Tiger, testifying at EPA hearings about a plan to require Oklahoma coal plants to significantly reduce harmful sulphur dioxide emissions in three years.
Number of the Day
Tornadoes in Oklahoma in 2010; 6th most in the country.
Source: National Weather Service
Top ten tax charts
With the April 18 tax filing deadline fast approaching, we’ve assembled these charts to provide a big-picture look at the U.S. tax system.
Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at http://www.offthechartsblog.org/top-ten-tax-charts/.
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