In The Know: April 19, 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.

An op-ed in the Oklahoman today criticized the state’s decision to give back $54 million dollars in federal grant money for Oklahoma’s health care IT infrastructure.  See OK Policy’s blog post on the Early Innovator Grant for more on upgrades the state will have to forgo by refusing the grant.  Gov. Fallin signed a law yesterday prohibiting funeral protests from within two hours or 1,000 feet of a funeral.  The House Redistricting Committee prepares to present its proposed legislative districts to lawmakers in the next week.

Since 2006, the $748mil dollars in additional revenue appropriated to the state Transportation Department resulted in a 32 percent decrease in the number of structurally deficient state bridges.  Oklahoma still ranks 2nd worst in the nation in bridge quality and condition.  The Oklahoma City School Board approved an $11 million dollar bond issue for new buses and technology improvements.

The University of Oklahoma’s student government denied the mental health department additional funding in student-activity fees to promote the department’s lone psychiatrist from part-time to full-time.  A Tulsa landfill operator creates 40 new jobs by expanding recycling operations.  Oklahoma Senator Inhofe is once again at odds with the EPA, joining other national lawmakers in protesting new rules for lead-based paint removal.

In today’s Policy Note, a new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute lays out revenue options for protecting the state’s core public services.

Read on for more.

In The News

Oklahoma decision on insurance exchange funds is puzzling

The state had in its hands a $54.6 million federal grant to set up an insurance exchange system. Due to ideological overload at the state Capitol, Uncle Sam got a punch to his midriff.  But the federal government won’t feel a thing. Only Oklahomans will. Rejecting the grant does nothing to reduce the federal deficit. It may do a lot to increase state budget cuts in order to fund an Oklahoma alternative.

Read more from the Oklahoman here

New Oklahoma Law Restricts Funeral Protests

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law Monday that adds restrictions to funeral protests.  Under Senate Bill 406, protests would not be allowed two hours before or after a funeral. Protests would also not be allowed to take place within 1,000 feet of a funeral. Under the previous law, protests were allowed to take place within 500 feet.

Read more from NewsOn6 here

Oklahoma legislative redistricting proposals advance

Proposed legislative districts may be available to lawmakers in the next week or so, the chairman of the House of Representatives Redistricting Committee said Monday.  Language will be added later to two bills approved Monday by the committee.  House Bill 2145 and Senate Bill 821 will go to a House conference committee after the lines are redrawn and the proposed language is inserted, said Rep. Dale DeWitt, the committee’s chairman.  “That’s going to be a difficult task,” said DeWitt, R-Braman.

Read more from the Oklahoman here

State funding boost helps Oklahoma make gains on roads, bridges, report shows

The report shows that since 2006 legislators have pumped in an additional $748 million for the state’s highways and bridges. An additional $1.1 billion is expected in state funds to keep construction projects on schedule and continue maintenance on roads and bridges through 2015.  The additional money appropriated by legislators to the state Transportation Department resulted in a 32 percent decrease in the number of structurally deficient state bridges, Moretti said. By 2015, if funding continues, the number of deficient bridges should decrease 57 percent from the number of deficient bridges in 2005.

Read more from the Oklahoman here

OKC School Board approves $11 million in bond sale

The Oklahoma City School Board authorized the sale of $11 million in bonds Monday night to buy new school buses and improve technology in the district.  Voters approved the bonds in 2007 as part of a $248 million package that will eventually build gymnasiums at the district’s elementary schools and add about 50 classrooms.

Read more from the Oklahoman here

Mental health department denied additional funding

The university’s mental-health department did not receive the extra funding it requested from student-activity fee revenues this semester even though the money was available.  Counseling and Testing’s request included two proposals: an extra $41,250 to promote its lone psychiatrist from part-time to full-time and $7,980 to increase the salaries of its interns from $19,000 to $21,000 per intern.  Counseling and Testing’s application for funding states its interns’ salaries have remained the same for the last seven years, while other Big 12 institutions have increased salaries to a median salary of approximately $25,000 per intern.

Read more from the OU Daily here

Expansion Helps Tulsa Company Sort Recyclables

A trash hauler and landfill operator has expanded its recycling side, adding almost 40 new jobs picking recyclables out of trash.  Traditional recycling has people sorting out everything at home, but a Tulsa company is working on the other end, taking mixed trash, and sorting it out when it would otherwise be headed to a landfill.  The company says it has invested $5 million in what’s called a MRF, a Material Recovery Facility.

Read more from NewsOn6 here

EPA pressed on paint rules

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who battled a federal agency over lead paint removal rules last year, joined other senators Monday in raising new concerns over the matter.  Inhofe and several other senators, including Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., also signed letters to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.  One letter questions the EPA’s proposed amendments to its rules to require “clearance testing” to prove the presence or absence of lead after a project’s completion.  Proper removal of flaking paint by trained personnel is important to ensure that lead-based paint dust does not contaminate living spaces, according to the agency.

Read more from the Tulsa World here

Quote of the Day

That’s a pretty good deal for the district.

George Kimball, CIO for OKC Public Schools on receiving $21 million dollars in federal matching funds to improve classroom wireless access, tripling the district’s investment.

Number of the Day


Number of states where 30 percent or more of the population is obese, 2009; Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Protecting Core Services: Revenue Options for a Balanced Budget

A new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute lays out revenue options for protecting the state’s core public services.  Even as revenues recover, they remain far below pre-downturn levels, and leaders are now warning of additional cuts to state agencies.  To help reduce the harm that steep cuts would inflict on Oklahoma, OK Policy has published a new report, titled “Protecting Core Services: Revenue Options for a Balanced Budget,” that sets out a number of options to bolster state revenues for next year. These include budgeting measures to make existing state money available for appropriations, income tax measures such as closing tax loopholes and suspending or cancelling additional cuts to the top income tax rate, and sales tax measures such as requiring online retailers to collect sales tax and eliminating unnecessary exemptions.  You can find the full report and a 1-page summary 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.