In The Know: August 16, 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 Governor Fallin will ask lawmakers to replenish a state fund that reimburses local jurisdictions for disaster expenses.  Pottawatomie County District Attorney says child welfare workers withheld vital information in the Serenity Deal case from the court.  The Cherokee Nation has a temporary acting principal chief.

The National Association of Home Builders said its index of builder sentiment remained unchanged in August, with home builders just as pessimistic as they were two years ago.  A pipe bomb planted on a natural gas pipeline reveals the vulnerability of energy infrastructure.  Federal funding for terrorism prevention in Oklahoma has dropped steeply.

Tulsa County’s lagging property values could lead to a property tax hike.  In today’s Policy Note, Monica Barczak writes in the OK Policy Blog about Healthy Mothers, Healthy Futures, an innovative Tulsa health program aimed at reducing infant deaths.  Today’s Number of the Day is the percentage of law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma that have five or fewer officers.

In The News

Fallin seeks legislative help to begin pay-back of $36 million to locals, electric co-ops, for disaster costs

With a state emergency fund balanced of $944, the state has $36 million in outstanding obligations to counties, municipalities and rural electric cooperatives for funds the local entities have paid out to address disasters, Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday.  “We have a backlog,” the governor said.  She said the recent drought and wildfires have been particularly devastating on local entities.  “They have had to expend tremendous resources, money they didn’t have, especially coming out of a down economy that we’ve been experiencing for the last three years,” Fallin said.  The governor plans to ask lawmakers during the 2012 session to replenish the state fund so officials can at least begin paying that money back. She said that will be a priority for her next year.

Read more from 23rd & Lincoln at

DA decries DHS report in Serenity Deal’s death

Child welfare workers purposely withheld vital information in the Serenity Deal case from prosecutors and a judge, or otherwise a different decision would have been made about sending her to live with her father, Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon said.  At a news conference Monday, Smothermon was outspoken about his concerns over the child welfare case involving the 5-year-old girl and his distaste for a report issued by the state Department of Human Services last week about the events that led up to her death.  Smothermon said the report was incomplete, intentionally misleading and a deliberate attempt by DHS officials to shift blame from the agency.

Read more from NewsOK at

Acting principal chief for Cherokee Nation sworn in

As of Sunday afternoon, the Cherokee Nation has a new, albeit temporary, principal chief.  After being sworn in as deputy chief by Cherokee Supreme Court justice Darrell Dowty, S. Joe Crittenden of Stilwell took an additional oath of office amid a roar of support from spectators, making him acting principal chief.  Crittenden will remain in that capacity until a winner is declared in the principal chief’s race between now-former principal chief Chad Smith and Tribal Council member Bill John Baker.

Read more from NewsOK at

US home builders remain pessimistic in August

Homebuilders are just as pessimistic about the depressed housing market as they were two years ago.  The National Association of Home Builders said Monday that its index of builder sentiment in August was unchanged at 15. The index has been below 20 for all but one month during the past two years.  Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. It hasn’t reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

Read more from NewsOK at

Bomb on Natural Gas Pipeline in Oklahoma Epitomizes Their Vulnerability

Enerfin Resources owns and operates natural gas pipelines, compression, processing plants and treatment facilities, as well as explores and produces oil and gas. The company owns midstream facilities in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. In east-central Oklahoma, Enerfin Resources operates five contiguous natural gas gathering systems, with pipelines spanning more than 1,700 miles between the Anadarko and Arkoma Basins. The pipelines are located in the Cherokee-Seminole Platform area, covering 12 counties, including Okfuskee County, where the bomb was found.  The case illustrates many unpleasant truths, among them that energy infrastructures are vulnerable and that, far from worrying obsessively about Muslim terrorists, our society is perfectly capable of generating unhappy people creating “threats to infrastructure,” to quote FBI agent Fitch. Herriman does not fit into any class of  “terrorist” profiles. Finally, if there are more like Herriman out there, how will Enerfin Resources ensure security for more than 1,700 miles of pipelines?

Read more from 24/7 Wall St. at

Oklahoma getting less federal funding for terrorism prevention

After receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in homeland security funds since Sept. 11, 2001, Oklahoma has experienced a steep drop in homeland security funding in the past two years, records show.  During the 10-year period since the 9/11 attacks, Oklahoma has received about $206 million in federal funding for terrorism prevention and emergency response programs, according to data from Oklahoma’s Office of Homeland Security.  Between 2003 and 2007, the state garnered about $30 million a year to create a regional response system and a seamless radio network for firefighters, police and other emergency workers across the state, said Kim Edd Carter, director of Oklahoma’s Office of Homeland Security.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Tulsa County’s lagging net property value could cost taxpayers

Tulsa County’s net assessed property value could decrease next year, which could lead to a property tax hike, said County Assessor Ken Yazel.  “The growth rate came in at about half of what we thought it would,” Yazel said. “The handwriting is on the wall.”  The county’s net assessed property value increased this year by just 0.53 percent over last year, continuing a slide in the rate of growth that began three years ago.  The emerging problem, Yazel said, is that the demand for property tax revenue continues to increase while the growth rate of the county’s assessed property value continues to decrease.  Under such conditions, Yazel said, the only way to raise the needed property tax revenue is to raise the millage rate.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Quote of the Day

They have had to expend tremendous resources, money they didn’t have, especially coming out of a down economy that we’ve been experiencing for the last three years.

Gov. Mary Fallin, on cities and counties paying for disaster response efforts

Number of the Day

Percentage of all law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma that have five or fewer officers, 2010

Source: Center for Rural Affairs

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Guest Blog (Monica Barczak): Healthy Women are the foundation for a child’s Healthy Future

Oklahoma has the sixth highest infant mortality rate in the nation, with 8.5 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births; the rate of infant deaths for African Americans is more than twice the overall average.  Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate could be reduced if women had better access to basic health services, more knowledge about healthy behaviors and habits, and more opportunities to put that knowledge into action.  Healthy Women, Healthy Futures (HWHF) is a pilot program that has demonstrated tremendous success among the women fortunate enough to be able to participate over the past two years.  Operated by the College of Nursing at OU-Tulsa for women with children enrolled at several of Community Action Project’s (CAP) early childhood education centers and at Educare I, HWHF seeks to improve the health of at-risk women living in poverty before they become pregnant again, thereby minimizing their risk of premature birth or infant death.

Read more from OK Policy Blog at

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