In The Know: April 6, 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 met with legislative leaders to try to get past the impasse over using a federal grant to build an insurance exchange. In today’s Policy Note, Governing magazine looks at widespread confusion in the states over whether they should be implementing health care reform, even though they are legally obligated to do so. A Senate committee passed a measure that would expand attorney-client privilege to cover all communications between government entities and their lawyers. Open government advocates warn that the bill would make it too easy for public bodies to hide what they are doing.

The Senate passed a measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The bill now goes to Gov. Fallin. Fallin signed three lawsuit reform bills yesterday, and a bipartisan group of legislators held a press conference to criticize the cap on pain and suffering damages. The lawmakers argued that the cap has constitutional problems and called for a lawsuit.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discuss the racial wealth gap in Oklahoma created by years of discrimination and historical inequities. Meanwhile, Republicans in the legislature are pushing a bill to abolish minority scholarships. Oklahoma is experiencing its driest four months since the Dust Bowl, and many wheat crops are at serious risk. The state is ineligible for federal aid for the second snow storm in February, which could leave local governments to pick up the tab for hundreds of thousands of dollars in clean-up costs.

Read on for more.

In The News

Fallin, leaders discuss health insurance grant

Gov. Mary Fallin met with legislative leaders Tuesday to discuss whether and how the state should pursue a health insurance exchange – a debate that has divided the state’s Republican Party and put a $54 million federal grant in doubt. A key lawmaker in the process says if he gets his way any state exchange will be very simple and won’t spend a penny of federal money. Health insurance exchanges – which connect health insurance customers with providers, typically through a website – are an important element in the Obama administration’s health-care law. Only consumers who purchase insurance through a state’s exchange are eligible for federal tax credits to subsidize the costs.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Measure would expand attorney-client privilege for government entities

A Senate panel passed a measure Tuesday that is designed to expand the attorney-client privilege between government entities and their lawyers. House Bill 1559 by Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks, and Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 6-3 and now heads to the full Senate. Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, said: “Public bodies currently have a limited attorney-client privilege. We think that limitation should stay in place. This bill removes the limitation. Public bodies could hide anything behind their attorney-client privilege.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Partial abortion ban passes in Oklahoma Senate

The Oklahoma Senate passed a measure Tuesday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Dubbed the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” House Bill 1888 passed by a vote of 38-8 and returns to the House. …The bill allows an exemption if the mother’s life is in danger or if she might lose a bodily function as a result of bringing the pregnancy to term. It does not contain an exemption for a fetus that is nonviable.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Bipartisan group of Senators object to message and methods of ‘hard cap’

A bipartisan group of six state Senators today (Tuesday, April 5) objected to yesterday’s passage of House Bill 2128, the capstone piece of Governor Mary Fallin’s lawsuit reform agenda. The measure’s “hard cap” on non-economic damages in tort cases was strongly assailed in today’s press conference. The group attending consisted of Republican state Sens. Steve Russell of Oklahoma City and Harry Coates of Seminole, and Democratic Sens. Charlie Laster of Shawnee, Tom Ivester of Oklahoma City, Judy Eason-McIntyre of Tulsa and Charles Wyrick of Fairland.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

See also: Fallin signs lawsuit reform bills before Republican allies, business leaders and medical doctors from CapitolBeatOK

Wealth and worth: What’s race got to do with it?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a conference hosted by the Ford Foundation and Howard University’s Center on Race and Wealth.  The three-day meeting was the first annual gathering of a diverse group of representatives supported by grants from the Ford Foundation’s Building Economic Security Over a Lifetime initiative.  The initiative promotes programs that help low-income families achieve and maintain economic stability throughout their lives.  The conference focused on a particular and troubling aspect of economic achievement in the United States:  the racial wealth gap.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma Republicans push to abolish minority scholarships

A Republican-backed plan to wipe out affirmative action programs in Oklahoma appears headed for approval by the Legislature, prompting a bitter response from some minority lawmakers that it is merely a political ploy to play on racial fears and draw conservative voters to the polls. If approved, the measure would go on the 2012 state ballot. The affirmative action proposal by state Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Kingfisher, and Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, would prohibit special treatment based on race or sex in public employment, education or contracts. The bill, which already passed the Senate on a party-line vote, is scheduled for a hearing today in a House committee.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma sees driest 4 months since Dust Bowl

In most years, the dark clouds over western Oklahoma in the spring would be bringing rain. This year, they’re more likely to be smoke from wildfires that have burned thousands of acres in the past month as the state and its farmers struggle with a severe drought. Oklahoma was drier in the four months following Thanksgiving than it has been in any similar period since 1921. That’s saying a lot in the state known for the 1930s Dust Bowl, when drought and high winds generated severe dust storms that stripped the land of its topsoil.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

State ineligible for federal aid for second snow storm

State officials will not pursue federal aid to deal with the recovery costs associated with the second February snowstorm to strike the state – meaning Tulsa will get stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses. On Tuesday, Gov. Mary Fallin asked the federal government for a major disaster declaration for 16 Oklahoma counties – including Tulsa County – related to snowstorm recovery costs between Jan. 31 and Feb. 5. But subsequent storms to strike the area weren’t severe enough to satisfy federal rules, meaning any federal aid would cut off at Feb. 5, said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Quote of the Day

If there’s no problem and you’re looking for a solution, there has to be a conclusion that there’s an effort to stir up the fears of people.

State Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, on GOP attempts to abolish affirmative action even though it would affect only a handful of state scholarships that target minority students.

Number of the Day


Oklahoma farms in operation in 2010.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Health care reform: To implement or not to implement?

Confusion reigns over the status of health-care reform, as reported by a recent Kaiser Health poll. This lack of clarity could spell trouble for public officials as they develop strategies and plans that will affect the health care of millions of Americans. The poll released by Kaiser in late February found that 22 percent of the population thinks the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been repealed and is no longer law, while another 26 percent don’t know enough to say whether it’s still law or not. Perhaps more alarming is that even states are unsure about whether they should continue implementing ACA, according to an article from In January, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson declared the entire health-care reform law unconstitutional, leaving states confused about whether they should continue rolling out the new health-care provisions. With confusion mounting, the judge ruled on March 2 that states must continue implementation while the case makes its way through the courts.

Read more from Governing 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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