In The Know: August 11, 2011

In 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 a task force of Oklahoma policymakers met again to analyze the merits of state tax credits.  OK Policy blog assessed arguments for and against tax breaks and exemptions.  Former state legislator Kenneth Corn has decided not to run for the House seat vacated by Rep. Dan Boren.  The FBI and state officials disarmed a pipe bomb found on a natural gas line five miles south of Okemah.

DHS released a report detailing the circumstances surrounding the death of Serenity Deal.  A boy held in a juvenile detention center suffered a fatal brain injury during a beating last week at the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh.  A planned escape by a federal prisoner being held in the Grady County Jail in Chickasha was foiled by U.S. Marshals and jail personnel.

Senator Tom Coburn will hold nine town hall meetings across Oklahoma next week.  Lawmaker’s who propose drug testing welfare recipients may face the same legal challenges of other states that enacted similar measures.  The Oklahoma Public Employees Association filed a temporary restraining order to halt personnel actions related to the closure of seven state parks.  In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress examines what a decline in Mexican migration means for U.S. immigration policy.  Today’s Number of the Day is the average hourly wage in Oklahoma City.

In The News

Okla. panel resumes study of state tax breaks

Oklahoma policymakers analyzed two more state tax subsidies on Wednesday as they searched for ways to shore up a state budget that has seen major cuts over the last two years.  A task force is examining some of the estimated $5 billion in state tax cuts, exemptions and deductions that are diverted from the state treasury every year, generally as an economic incentive to attract jobs to the state.  On Wednesday, the task force focused on two specific tax credits – one for the construction of energy-efficient homes and another five-year exemption from local property taxes for qualifying manufacturing facilities.

Read more from the Associated Press at

Tax Breaks: Setting out the case for and against

As much as tax preferences can be faulted on all these grounds, incentives and subsidies will still be defended as necessary tools for states competing against one another to attract or retain investment and jobs.  But as Arthur J. Rolnick, the Senior Vice-President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has contended, this competition “interferes with interstate commerce and undermines the national economic union by misallocating resources and causing states to provide too few public goods.” Even if the subsidies war as a whole leaves no winners other than the companies that can wring concessions from state and local governments, states are unlikely to withdraw unilaterally. Accordingly, Rolnick is among those who have called on Congress to exercise its Commerce Clause power to put an end to the economic war among the states. Conservatives and libertarian supporters of free-market principles have also consistently urged states to abandon the use of subsidies as a form of economic development.

Read more from OK Policy Blog at

Another Democrat backs out of race for Rep. Dan Boren’s congressional seat

Former state legislator Kenneth Corn has decided not to run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Dan Boren, becoming the second well-known Democrat to back out of a race to be run in the party’s historical stronghold.  Corn, of Poteau, said Tuesday night that pressing personal matters, including the recent death of his mother, “changed my needs and the needs of my family.”

Read more from NewsOK at

Officials disarm pipe bomb near Okemah

The Okfuskee County sheriff’s office found a pipe bomb on a natural gas line about five miles south of Okemah on Wednesday. Bomb technicians rendered the device safe.  FBI and state officials disarmed a pipe bomb found on a natural gas line near Okemah on Wednesday.  FBI Special Agent in Charge James Finch said the Okfuskee County Sheriff’s Department notified the FBI about 11 a.m. Wednesday about a device attached to a gas line.  It was described as a 12-inch-by-12-inch pipe bomb with a timing mechanism, FBI spokesman Clay Simmonds said.  Oklahoma Highway Patrol and FBI bomb technicians went to the remote site about five miles south of Okemah, about 70 miles east of Oklahoma City. The device was removed from the gas line, examined and rendered safe. The area was checked for additional devices, but none were found.

Read more from NewsOK at

DHS Releases Report On Serenity Deal’s Death

It has taken DHS more than two months to release a six-page report giving us a glimpse into the shattered world of Serenity Deal.  In their report, DHS reveals they had four referrals concerning Serenity Deal in the three years before her death.  The first came in 2009 when DHS received a referral alleging Serenity’s biological mother, Samantha Deal, was accused of sexually molesting a relative.  Later DHS received another referral that serenity was having unsupervised contact with her mother and her live-in boyfriend, who happens to be a registered sex offender.  Powell admits mistakes were made by the DHS and are being corrected.  “We’ve conducted a thorough review of the case and we will hold staff accountable for not following policies and procedures,” she said.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Oklahoma agency denies facilities are ill-equipped to handle violent youths

A boy suffered a brain injury in a beating last week — about a month after being transferred to the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh from the L.E. Rader Center. The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs said an investigation is ongoing.  The injured boy previously was held at the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs, Oklahoma’s most secure juvenile detention center, but was transferred to the Tecumseh detention center because Rader is in the process of closing.

Read more from NewsOK at

U.S. marshals say Grady County Jail escape foiled

The United States Marshals Service said a planned escape by a federal prisoner being held in the Grady County Jail in Chickasha was discovered and stopped by marshals and Grady County Jail personnel.  Deputy U.S. Marshal Kim Heath said in a Wednesday news release that inmate Sergio Contreras-Sanchez and his girlfriend — Maria Jimenez — planned the escape.  Heath said Jimenez offered an officer a bribe to help in the escape shortly after Contreras-Sanchez was sentenced last Thursday to 235 months in prison for heroin trafficking.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Coburn town halls across Oklahoma next week

Beginning next Monday, August 15, 2011, and continuing through Thursday, August 18, 2011, U. S. Sen. Tom Coburn will be conducting 9 town halls across the state, in Guymon, Woodward, Enid, Tulsa, Claremore, Langley, Pryor, Muskogee, and Oklahoma City.

Read more from Batesline at

Lawmaker’s idea to drug test welfare recipients may face legal hurdles

State. Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City, said he wants Oklahoma to be among the states requiring tests. A majority of states have considered the idea; only Arizona and Florida got measures passed this year.  Liebmann extolled the Florida law in a news release announcing his proposal. He didn’t mention that the Florida law is under serious legal challenge and that a pilot drug-testing program in Michigan was ruled unconstitutional in 2003.

Read more from NewsOK at

OPEA Files Temporary Restraining Order and Injunction on Tourism Positions

Wednesday, August 10, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association filed a temporary restraining order and injunction to halt personnel actions related to the closure of seven parks in the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.  Workers at the parks slated for closure were told by the agency to report for duty at other parks because their positions were being abolished at their current location. While some employees wanted to take the positions and remain with the agency, the proposed locations would put undue hardship on several workers because of increased commuting time.  OPEA contends that the agency should comply with the “Reduction-in-Force and Severance Benefit Act.” The Act protects the rights of affected employees when facilities are being closed and positions abolished. According to the Act, affected employees must be offered displacement opportunities or the severance package outlined in the RIF statutes.

Read more from OPEA at

Quote of the Day

“We could exempt almost everything from taxation.  Then I suppose we could apply for a historic preservation tax credit to turn the State Capitol building into a casino or something of the like, because state government would be broke and out of business.”

Rep. David Dank

Number of the Day


Average hourly wage in Oklahoma City in May 2010, 12 percent below the national average wage of $21.35.

Source: Oklahoman

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What Changes in Mexico Mean for U.S. Immigration Policy: A Decline in Migration Gives Us Breathing Room to Assess Current Practices

The New York Times reported last month that the “extraordinary Mexican migration” of the past three decades that brought millions of people to America “has sputtered to a trickle.” Net unauthorized migration from Mexico—the combined number of undocumented immigrants entering and leaving the country—has been reduced to nil.  But the fact that the great migration slowed is not in and of itself major news. Scholars point out that the Great Recession and enhanced border security severely cut down on the number of Mexican immigrants seeking to enter the United States. When this decline in attempted entries is coupled with historically high rates of apprehensions at the border, we are left with a dramatic decline in undocumented immigration.  But what will happen to migration flows once the recession ends and the American economy revs up again? To answer this question, we must understand a lesser-known story: how much Mexico itself has changed over the last few decades and what these changes will mean for the future.

Read more from the Center for American Progress at

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