In The Know: April 20, 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 OK Policy Blog has a quick take on the latest economic data for Oklahoma. NewsOK looks at uncertainty around the unemployment rate as the state switches to a new procedure for calculating it. Lawmakers may end runoffs for state elections to bring Oklahoma into compliance with federal law. Wayne Greene writes on a measure that would help ensure multi-state corporations pay their fair share of Oklahoma taxes. The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill to end collective bargaining rights for many municipal employees.

The Pension Oversight Committee chaired by Treasurer Ken Miller is preparing to release its recommendations, and the Senate advanced a measure to disallow unfunded cost-of-living adjustments for state pensions. Senior citizens are organizing through CARE Oklahoma to protest state Medicaid cuts that are putting many nursing homes at risk. NewsOn6 reports on continued resistance at the capitol against requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatments. An Oklahoma fertilizer producer will pay a $625k fine and install $17M in new pollution controls to settle a suit over violations of the Clean Air Act.

The Senate voted to increase the filing fees for several court actions to help fund the judicial system. The state House voted to merge Oklahoma’s Human Rights Commission into the Attorney General’s office. In today’s Policy Note, Public Citizen looks at the extensive process any new federal regulations must undergo before they can take effect.

Read on for more.

In The News

Quick take on the economy: Income picks up steam, unemployment edges downward

The nation continues to show signs that it is emerging from the deep and prolonged economic recession that began in late 2007.  April’s edition of Numbers You Need, our monthly bulletin of key economic and budget trends, paints a mixed but mostly positive picture of economic recovery in Oklahoma. While the state was not the hardest hit during the recession, we saw noticeable spikes in unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcies, and increased reliance on social safety nets like food stamps. The most recent data suggest that Oklahoma may be slightly outpacing the nation in two key areas of economic growth: personal income and employment.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

See also: New procedure produces lowest Oklahoma unemployment rate in 2 years from NewsOK

Officials may end runoffs to get state in line with feds

Oklahoma’s primary runoff elections could be eliminated in order to bring the state into compliance with a federal law intended to help overseas military personnel vote, state officials say. To bring Oklahoma into compliance, the Legislature is considering two proposals. One, House Bill 1615, would move the primary from July to June and retain the runoff. Many state lawmakers, especially in the House, don’t like this proposal because it pushes the filing period into April – the heart of the legislative session. As an alternative, SB 602 would move the primary to August and eliminate the runoff.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

State corporate taxes taking flight

In honor of tax day (observed), I thought I’d take a look at how many states – but not Oklahoma — are working to prevent companies from shifting their corporate income out of state to avoid taxes. An increasing number of states are using a “combined reporting” strategy to prevent a variety of income shifting strategies. Here’s a hypothetical example of how income shifting might work…

Read more from the Wayne’s World blog at

Oklahoma Senate approves anti-union rights bill

The Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate gave final legislative approval on Tuesday to a bill that eliminates collective bargaining rights for city workers in the state’s largest municipalities.The Senate voted 29-19 for the bill and sent it to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin over the objection of members who argued it will leave municipal workers without a voice. Under current law, cities with more than 35,000 residents are required to collectively bargain with their employees. The bill only applies to non-uniformed personnel in 12 Oklahoma municipalities – not to teachers or police and firefighters.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller preparing pension recommendations

State Treasurer Ken Miller is finalizing recommendations to correct Oklahoma’s huge unfunded pension liability and expects to make them public within the coming days. Miller, chairman of the Pension Oversight Commission, said he will first meet with Governor Mary Fallin and then with the commission at a special meeting. Miller said his recommendations would likely include a two-step approach to reforming the systems. “Step one is to correct the immediate problem,” he said. “Step two is to develop a cost-effective pension system designed to meet the demands of a modern workforce and a leaner government.”

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

See also: Oklahoma Senate advances pension reform measure from CapitolBeatOK

Oklahoma senior citizens, advocates fight state Medicaid cuts

Senior citizens across Oklahoma are asking state leaders to leave their Medicaid funding alone. The amount of money nursing home facilities receive from the state could be on the decline. “We don’t mind saying that we don’t think our state is holding up their end of the partnership,” Bill Pierce said. Scott Procter says as state funding drops, nursing homes close. He says, on average, one home closes each month and more than a hundred have closed in the last decade.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Battle over autism insurance coverage brews at capitol

Year after year, families fight to get health insurance coverage for therapy they say their kids need. Every year the legislature disappoints them and this year is no different. It looks like the legislature won’t consider the issue of providing coverage for children with autism.”When I hear about the legislature delaying for another year, all I think about is in terms of who’s kid is regressing during these twelve months,” said Juliet Burk, mother and advocate for Nick’s Law.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Oklahoma fertilizer producer to pay $625k pollution penalty

A nitrogen fertilizer producer with plants at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and in Woodward has agreed to pay $625,000 in civil penalties to settle alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday. As part of the settlement, Terra Industries Inc. will spend an estimated $17 million to implement new controls and install new equipment to lower nitrous oxide emissions at its nitric acid facilities in Iowa, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Senate votes to increase case-filing fees

Some court filing fees would increase under a measure approved by the Senate on Tuesday. The Senate passed House Bill 1414, which would slap additional fees on certain civil case filings, including divorce, probate, guardianship, adoption and garnishment. A $5 fee would be added to pay for training of Court Appointed Special Advocates, volunteers who represent children in legal proceedings. A $2 fee would go to fund the Council on Judicial Complaints, which investigates allegations of misconduct against judges.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

House passes bill changing human rights commission, state discrimination laws

A Democratic House member called on his Republican peers Tuesday to remember the spirit of former GOP Gov. Henry Bellmon and vote against a bill that would consolidate an agency he created nearly 50 years ago with the state attorney general’s office. Only two Republicans in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted with Democrats against Senate Bill 763, which would move the state Human Rights Commission under the attorney general’s office. It passed 61-32 and now goes back to the Senate.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Quote of the Day

That would mean unemployment rates are falling because we have fewer and fewer people participating in the labor process at all, which is markedly bad news. The whole thing suggests to me that revisions are going to have to come into place at some point.

Russell Evans, director of the Center for Applied Economic Research at Oklahoma State University, reacting to news that the falling unemployment rate does not account for 25,000 Oklahomans who have left the workforce.

Number of the Day


Annual payroll and receipts of Oklahoma firms with less than 20 employees, 2007.

Source: United States Small Business Administration

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Regulators run amok? Hardly.

The current Congress has held dozens of hearings on the effects of regulation. Nearly all of these hearings have been overly negative and one-sided, with the majority of members’ and witnesses’ time dedicated to discussion of the perceived costs of regulations for industry, with little or no mention of the life-saving benefits for people. Among the tropes that appear in statements by opponents of regulation is the assertion that the regulatory process is out of control—that agency personnel are run amok and issuing rules at a breakneck pace, with no time for review or input from affected parties. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the regulatory process is a laborious, nearly Sisyphean struggle to complete a rule in spite of numerous constraints placed on agencies by Congress and the President.

Read more from Public Citizen 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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