In The Know: April 25, 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 Tulsa World reports on a bill that could sunset the Sales Tax Relief Credit and raise taxes for 1 million low income Oklahomans. OK Policy previously wrote about this issue here. With the need for food stamps at an all time high, many Oklahomans still struggle to obtain affordable, healthy food due to lack of transportation. Okie Funk takes issue with In The Know’s inclusion of CapitolBeatOK articles. [Note: We try to feature informative articles on state policy issues from a variety of sources in ITK, and inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute.]

Wayne Greene looks at the political climate surrounding the success of the prison reform bill. NewsOK argues that the Oklahoma City should make greater use of bond issues to invest in schools. The New York Times explores how residents experienced the tornado that devastated Tushka, Oklahoma. NewsOK looks at financial hardship resulting from the tornado, and the Tulsa World relates Tulsa Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard’s detailed account of a similar disaster in 1991.

Oklahoma is planning to digitize and consolidate all of its court records. In today’s Policy Note, author Maggie Mahar explains why health care reform is happening, regardless of what the courts or legislatures might do.

Read on for more.

In The News

Tax-cutting lawmakers eye hike for low-income Oklahomans

Most people understand that the sales tax is regressive. It applies equally to every purchaser but falls harder on low-income families, those who spend a greater portion of their earnings on necessities like groceries, than it falls on higher income families. Most states, including Oklahoma – at least for the time being – attempt to make the sales tax less regressive by exempting groceries, some other necessities or by giving income tax credits to partially offset the sales tax paid on groceries. Since 1990, Oklahoma has allowed a Sales Tax Relief Credit of $40 for each household member in households whose earnings total $20,000 a year or less, or $50,000 or less for households with a dependent child, a senior or a disabled person. Now, however, that income tax credit, which provides $43.2 million in tax relief to about 1 million Oklahoma children, women and men, is threatened.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Previously: Bill would raise taxes for 1 million low-income Oklahomans from the OK Policy Blog

Food stamps a patch, not a panacea

Wilford Case tries to be conservative with his monthly $90 in food stamps. He knows which store knocks down meat prices mid-month, what grocer has longer-lasting produce and once in awhile he’ll find an unexpected sale at a retailer farther from his home. “It helps me survive,” Case said. “I don’t need much because it’s just me. I don’t have 19 kids or anything. I have to put a little money in to get dishwashing soap and things like that.” But bargain shopping is tough because Case does not drive. He is on Social Security disability income because of epileptic seizures and relies on family members, neighbors and friends for rides.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Food stamps help Walmart and other businesses earn millions from The Tulsa World

In The Right-Wing Know bills itself as an “independent, nonpartisan” site covering the state Capitol, but it’s operated by a former editorial page editor of the ultra-conservative The Oklahoman and “is contracted by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA),” one of the nation’s most right-wing think tanks. Despite this, a once promising state organization, the Oklahoma Policy Institute (OK Policy), a think tank based in Tulsa, has started to steadily drive web traffic to by consistently citing it in its daily “In The Know” corporate media news aggregator.

Read more from Okie Funk at

Prison reform bill no easy stretch

Wednesday’s Senate passage of prison reform legislation must have been one of the closest 44-3 votes in Senate history – at least you would have thought so, judging by the way some supporters were sweating the issue. Sometimes the final tallies don’t indicate how much work went into getting there. The measure – written by House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and shepherded through the Senate by Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid – addresses a range of long-standing problems in the state prison system, which has the highest per capita rate of female incarceration in the nation and the third-highest rate of male incarceration.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

NewsOK: OKC school district needs routine bond issues

In the three decades preceding MAPS for Kids, the Midwest City-Del City, Putnam City and Edmond school districts combined to pass more than 100 bond issues while failing only five. During the same time frame, voters in the city school district passed four while rejecting six. So it was really no wonder that so many city schools had fallen into a shameful state of disrepair. While other districts were building new schools and keeping up with routine maintenance, many of Oklahoma City’s classrooms were literally falling apart.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Tornado damages Oklahoma school, but shelter beneath stands strong

For 90 years, people in this small rural community have used an underground shelter next to the public school to escape the tornadoes that frequently wreak havoc in the green and rolling countryside here. So when a major twister hit the town at 7:35 p.m. Thursday, people instinctively rushed toward the Tushka Public School to seek haven. More than 100 — about a quarter of the town’s population — crammed into the main shelter, a 45-foot underground tube with steps leading up to metal doors at either end, to seek protection from storms that began in Oklahoma and have killed at least 21 people in five states.

Read more from this New York Times article at

See also: Tornado causes financial hardship in Tushka from NewsOK; Keith Ballard’s remarkable account of the 1991 tornado disaster from The Tulsa World

Oklahoma has plans to update, unify court record system

Plans are under way to roll out a new $30 million case management system for the state’s courts, moving away from paper-based to electronic processes and joining up all district and appeals courts under the same system. Currently, 13 counties in the state, including Tulsa and Oklahoma counties, use one case management system; 64 other counties use another. Officials say the state has outgrown the old systems. Officials hope to have the system complete and all state trial courts online within the next five years.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Quote of the Day

We are serving the most number of people we have ever served with the fewest number of people we have ever had.

DHS Director Howard Hendrick, on the record high need for food stamps and other services in Oklahoma amidst state budget cuts.

Number of the Day


Years a prospective Mexican immigrant would have to wait to gain legal admission to the U.S. after applying for an unskilled worker visa.

Source: The American Prospect

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Is health care reform already baked into the cake?

While markets may lack the rational intelligence needed to become the “invisible hand” that guides constructive change, free markets (and the shrewd marketing experts that corporations employ), can be quite astute when it comes to responding to changing trends. This is, after all, a matter of survival.  If they don’t get ahead of the trend, they risk a rendezvous with a moving train. Although members of the American public may not be at all certain what the Affordable Care Act will mean for them, insurers, hospitals, drug makers and device makers have made it their business to read the legislation carefully. These companies realize that it would be reckless to assume that the legislation will be repealed:  their competitors already are preparing for change. Thus, market-watchers say that in the medical marketplace, reform is becoming a reality as the health care industry implements fundamental changes in insurance coverage, access, payment, and how health care is delivered.

Read more from Health Beat

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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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