In The Know: April 21, 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, Gov. Fallin signed bills to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and prevent insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in standard policies. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt wants to break from a national coalition and make his own settlement with mortgage servicers who were discovered to be using flawed paperwork and forging foreclosure documents. Pruitt said he is opposed to forcing the companies to pay $20 billion in fines to help “underwater” borrowers.

The Oklahoma Senate passed a corrections reform bill, but they removed language that would make concurrent rather than consecutive sentencing the default option unless a judge states otherwise. The Senate also passed a bill that would make converting marijuana to hashish punishable by life in prison. A State Question that would lower the cap on property tax assessments from five to three percent will go to a vote of the people in 2012. Officials from Norman presented a report on many factors that could affect government budgets that are out of the city’s control. These include rising health care costs, more online purchases going untaxed, and inadequate job growth.

Only one out of nine regents attended a meeting meant to hear public feedback on tuition and fee increases. Next Friday, April 29, the Oklahoma Assets Coalition will host a webinar on financial education in public schools. CapitolBeatOK reports on a small group of conservatives who are joining with Democrats to defeat emergency clauses on bills in the Oklahoma House. Oklahoma is in the top 10 of all states for exclusive cell phone use without a land line. The study found that lower-income people are likelier to only have a cell phone.

Consultants named Santa Fe Depot as the best location for an Oklahoma City transit hub, and NewsOK writes on the questions still surrounding the future location of the MAPS 3 convention center. In today’s Policy Note, Governing Magazine looks at some implications when a single party controls all top state offices.

More below the jump.

In The News

Oklahoma is fourth state to ban abortions after 20 weeks

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed into law a prohibition on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, making it the fourth state to ban such late term abortions. Nebraska passed such a law last year, and Idaho and Kansas did so this year. About a dozen other states are considering similar measures. The other measure signed into law by Fallin prohibits health insurance companies from offering coverage of elective abortions in standard policies sold in the state. Elective abortion insurance coverage could still be obtained, but only by paying a separate premium for optional supplemental coverage.

Read more from this Reuters article at

Oklahoma attorney general wants to craft alternative deal in foreclosure settlement

Oklahoma’s attorney general said he is prepared to break ranks with a coalition that is crafting a settlement with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers, underscoring the challenges law enforcement officials face as they try to address widespread problems with foreclosure practices. E. Scott Pruitt said Wednesday that he is opposed to forcing the servicers to pay at least $20 billion in fines and use the money to reduce the principal on mortgages of “underwater” borrowers, who owe more on their loans than their homes are worth.

Read more from this Washington Post article at

Oklahoma Senate scraps part of corrections policy bill

The Senate on Wednesday sent House Speaker Kris Steele’s corrections policy measure back to the House after scrapping one of its key components. House Bill 2131 passed 44-3 after senators removed its proposal to change the state’s default criminal sentencing structure from consecutive to concurrent terms. Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, the bill’s Senate author, said he reluctantly removed the concurrent sentencing proposal after being told prosecutors and judges were concerned about whether it would be effective. “We’re going to fight that battle another day,” Anderson said. “We had to make a change to keep the bill moving.”

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Oklahoma Senate OKs life in prison for cooking hashish from NewsOK

Property tax curb will appear on ballot in 2012

The state House of Representatives gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit property tax assessment increases to 3 percent on owner-occupied homes and agricultural land. House Joint Resolution 1002 passed 77-16, sending it to a vote of the people. The proposal should appear on the 2012 general election ballot as State Question 758, the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office said. Kenny Chuculate, deputy director of the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said a state analysis of the impact of a 3 percent assessment limit shows that it would result in $6.5 million less property tax revenue growth statewide.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

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

City budget subject to many factors

As officials went over the proposed fiscal year 2012 budget during a recent meeting, it became clear that Norman’s financial health relies on several things largely beyond the city’s control. The budget estimates sales tax growth of 4.6 percent for the year, but also calls for the continued freezing of merit and cost-of-living raises. Finance Director Anthony Francisco said the proposed budget left him feeling a great deal of trepidation, noting the budget is based on nearly 5 percent growth in sales tax. Francisco said there are several factors that could impact sales tax and spending within the city, including rising health care costs, more online purchases going untaxed, and inadequate job growth.

Read more from this Norman Transcript article at

Previously: Unfair, inefficient, and bad for business: Why Oklahoma needs sales tax reform from the OK Policy Blog

Only one out of nine regents attends hearing on state tuition

Only one of the nine members of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education was present at the tuition hearing Wednesday at the Presbyterian Research Park in Oklahoma City — State Regent John Massey of Durant. “Essentially, the other regents just weren’t able to attend today,” said Ben Hardcastle, spokesman for the State Regents. “[The meeting] did meet all of the statutory requirements.” Hardcastle said it was a process that started on the campuses and included a variety of inputs. Hardcastle could not cite another instance in which only one regent attended a public hearing on tuition and fees, but he didn’t think it should be interpreted as a lack of concern, he said.

Read more from this OU Daily article at

Upcoming event: Webinar on financial education in public schools, April 29

Oklahoma Assets will host the second in a series of webinars on asset-building next Friday, April 29th from 10:00 to 11:00am CDT.  The 60 minute webinar, ‘Financial Education in Our Public Schools: Oklahoma’s Passport to Personal Financial Literacy,’ will explore financial education as an asset-building strategy, Oklahoma’s legislation requiring financial education to be taught in our public schools, its requirements and how it is being implemented in the state.  You can register for the webinar by clicking here.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Small group of the conservatives joining with Democrats to defeat emergency clause on many bills

Four strong conservatives are working consistently in an alliance with state Rep. Randy Terrill of Oklahoma City. They have voted against “emergency” clauses as a bloc to effectively denying fast-tracked enactment of several policy priorities. An emergency clause allows a bill to become law as soon as the governor signs it. It requires the support of two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber to pass an emergency clause. If a bill passes and is signed into law but its emergency clause fails in either chamber, the bill will not take effect until 90 days after the end of session.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Oklahomans in top 10 for exclusive cell phone use

Oklahoma is one of 10 states where people are relying more and more on the cell phone – without having a land line at home. The reason? Saving money. America’s abandonment of the land line phone in favor of the cell phone is accelerating, but nowhere has it gone further than in Arkansas and Mississippi. The states where the smallest proportion of people depend solely on wireless phones and no land lines: New Jersey and Rhode Island. In eight states besides Arkansas and Mississippi — mostly in the West — at least 30 percent of adults rely strictly on cell phones. They are Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Consultants name Santa Fe depot as best site for downtown OKC transit hub

Consultants tasked with guiding site selection for a multimodal transit hub advised Wednesday that the Santa Fe Train Depot is the best fit for a streetcar system and could easily be expanded to accommodate regional commuter rail and national high-speed trains. A committee convened by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments agreed with the choice, but it remains to be seen if the same site will be chosen by a MAPS 3 committee charged with overseeing creation of a $120 million streetcar system.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

NewsOK: Many questions remain about convention center

The convention center that will be built as part of the MAPS 3 package is the largest of the projects that were approved by Oklahoma City voters last year, so perhaps it’s only natural that it has generated so much discussion and left so many unanswered questions. The latest turn of the crank came Tuesday when several city council members said they didn’t like the fact the MAPS 3 master plan for scheduling and budgeting still puts aside $30 million to move an Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. substation.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Quote of the Day

The answer’s obvious. No one has money here.

John N. Daggle, a professor at the University of Mississippi, on why his state is leading in exclusive cell phone use. Oklahoma is also in the top ten.

Number of the Day


Drug-free infants born to drug-court participants in Oklahoma, FY07-FY09.

Source: Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services ODMHSAS

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

One party dominates the top 5 offices in 29 states

Are more states becoming dominated by one party at the state level? Quite possibly, according to evidence from the 2010 elections. Looking at five state-level positions — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer — I found that one party has unanimous control of these offices in 29 states. In these elections, Republicans went five for five in these offices in 15 states and four for four (with one overlapping office) in an additional three states. The Democrats, for their part, went five for five in eight states and four for four in an additional three states. These numbers represent an increase in partisan control. Prior to the elections, 26 states had these four or five offices dominated by one party — 11 Republican and 15 Democratic.

Read more from this Governing Magazine article 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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