In The Know: August 1, 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 you should know that DREAM Act Oklahoma is working to put a face on the immigration issue. Oklahoma Watch profiles immigrant Oklahomans in a new series of articles. The combination of reduced funding and an extended fire season due to the drought is putting a strain on rural fire departments. The heat wave is increasing isolation of the elderly in small Oklahoma towns, with many afraid to go outside. Doctors are urging precaution as dangerously high temperatures continue.

Lobbyists are paying special attention to freshman lawmakers in the state legislature. The number of families with children that end up in homeless shelters is growing. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has moved out of the Capitol. The OKC School District’s switch to a new academic calendar is creating challenges for parents with children split between districts. An upcoming SmartStart Conference will provide a chance to help set the agenda for supporting young children in Oklahoma.

In today’s Policy Note, legislation has been introduced in Congress to require large Internet retailers to collect sales taxes as their competitors with bricks-and-mortar stores do. OK Policy previously discussed the implications of ending this sales tax loophole for Oklahoma. Today’s Number of the Day is the annual federal funding the state receives for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare.

In The News

DREAM Act Oklahoma wants to put faces on immigration issue

The DREAM Act is a symbol of hope for thousands of immigrant youth in America as a pathway to legal residency and eventual citizenship. The 10-year-old federal legislative proposal has taken various shapes. But it has kept the key provisions of giving undocumented immigrant youth an application process to residency if they graduate high school and attend college or join the military. In recent years, the most vocal supporters have been teenagers and college students, calling themselves “Dreamers.” “I’m a fourth-generation Mexican-American, and my friends who are undocumented depend on me to be their voice,” said Tulsa University student Kasey Hughart, president of DREAM Act Oklahoma.

Read more from this Oklahoma Watch article at

See also: More Oklahoma Watch immigration articles on NewsOK

Small Oklahoma fire departments feeling budget heat

This year’s drought and heat wave have taken a toll not only on the land, but on fire department budgets. Oklahoma has 880 rural and volunteer fire departments. Last year, 400 former Department of Defense vehicles were turned into tanker trucks and brush pumpers, according to Gary Williams, Oklahoma Department of Forestry rural fire staff forester. The vehicles are allocated on a rotational basis each year according to need, he said. Rural fire departments also get annual operational grants. For the fiscal years 2011 and 2012, a little over $3.8 million in grants has been authorized. That breaks down to about $4,300 per department, according to the forestry service. The grant amount is down from $4.5 million in 2008 and 2009, and about $4.3 million in 2010.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Heat wave threatens elderly in remote towns

The air is cool inside Ray Knight’s makeshift coffee shop on the main strip in this tiny northern Oklahoma farming community, but there aren’t many customers. With temperatures topping 100 degrees, the elderly farmers and retirees who Knight says like to gather and “swap lies” are nowhere to be seen. They’re also probably not at their doctor’s appointments, shopping at the store or at their club meetings. Many are afraid to go outside. The heat wave scorching the Great Plains has turned many rural communities into virtual ghost towns for the last month, and also heightened a sense of isolation among the elderly residents who make up much of their population these days.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

See also: Doctors urge precaution as deadly heat wave continues from NewsOn6

Oklahoma lobbyists are paying attention to freshman lawmakers

Lobbyists zeroed in on the 30 freshman state representatives and senators this past session, and the lawmakers apparently liked the attention. Six of the 10 lawmakers receiving the most in meals and gifts from lobbyists during this year’s session are members serving their first year in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, records filed with the state Ethics Commission show. Lobbyists spent $17,052 on the rookie lawmakers, or about 28 percent, of the $60,585 they reported spending on meals, tickets to sporting events or chamber of commerce banquets, gifts or other items during the first six months of the year.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma family in trouble turns to homeless shelter

James Pigg has filled many roles, loving husband, proud father, Army veteran, college graduate and a successful business owner. But, Pigg, 49, never imagined he and his family would be homeless. First, the family’s car was repossessed. Then, they couldn’t afford to stay in the house they had been renting. For the past 10 months they and their five children have lived at the City Rescue Mission’s shelter. According to an annual Point in Time survey conducted by the Homeless Alliance, in Oklahoma City alone, there were 80 families in need of permanent housing in January 2011. Of those families, 38 lived in shelters, 27 lived in transitional shelters and 15 lived on the street or in their cars. The families are also among a growing national trend.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma high courts move out of Capitol

For Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger, a nearly 30-year dream was realized in July. Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals moved out of the Capitol and into the recently renovated Wiley Post Building across from the statehouse. The revamped facility has 89,000 square feet of new construction and 56,000 square feet of renovated space on four floors, said Sara Cowden, Department of Central Services spokeswoman. The cost was about $47 million and involved three bond issues dating to 1999, she said.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

New Oklahoma City School District calendar presents challenges for parents

Tina Anderson has three children split between two school districts with drastically different academic calendars, but she said the crosstown shuffle and the awkward holiday juggle will be worth the end result for her kids. Anderson’s oldest daughter, Claire, begins middle school Monday in the Oklahoma City School District under a new calendar that has students back in school almost three weeks earlier than last year. Anderson’s younger daughters, Gracie and Sophie, don’t return to class at James L. Dennis Elementary School in the Putnam City School District until Thursday, Aug. 18. The variation in start date is just the tip of the iceberg for families caught between Oklahoma City’s new calendar, which shortens summer break while creating longer fall, winter and spring vacations.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

A chance to learn more about young children in Oklahoma and help set the agenda

As Oklahoma’s Early Childhood Advisory Council, Smart Start Oklahoma is charged with making recommendations to Governor Mary Fallin on actions we can take at the state level to better support young children. Interested members of the public will get their chance to review and comment on the recommendations at a forum on August 18 in Oklahoma City. This opportunity comes in the context of a day-long, free conference where participants will learn more about funding early childhood programs and the impact of those programs on children and the state’s economy.

Read more from The Tulsa Initiative Blog at

Quote of the Day

Somehow, David Beckham, the soccer playing star, can get his papers in less than a day, but other people wait almost 20 years.
Adriana Mireles Robles, an 18 year old Oklahoman who has lived in the United States since she was 2 and is still waiting on an immigration residency application.

Number of the Day


Annual federal funding the state receives for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, FY 2010

Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Congress takes up Amazon sales tax issue

Congress is wading into the roiling dispute between states and giant Internet retailer Inc. over collecting sales taxes on online purchases. On Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced legislation that would require Internet-only retailers to add sales taxes to customers’ bills, just as their competitors with bricks-and-mortar stores do. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) plans to introduce a similar measure in the House. The congressional effort is aimed at closing a legal loophole created by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that freed online and catalog sellers from the obligation of collecting sales taxes if their businesses had no physical presence in the state where a buyer lives.

Read more from this Los Angeles Times article at,0,6544519.story.

Previously: More states push to end the Amazon sales tax loophole. Will Oklahoma join them? from The OK Policy Blog

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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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