In The Know: August 3, 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 despite having accepted more than $30 million in state and local incentives, American Airlines is considering moving 230 jobs out of Tulsa. Oklahoma legislators have been appointed to a joint committee that will study implementation of federal health care reform. The DHS Commission voted to defer a co-pay increase for subsidized child care until November. OK Policy previously discussed the impact this increase would have on low-income working families and kids.

Growth in tax revenues slowed down in July, and the State Treasurer blamed uncertainty over the debt ceiling. AEP-PSO customers in the Tulsa area broke their energy usage record for the second time in a week. OG&E announced they will not disconnect electricity service for unpaid bills during the heat wave. The Oklahoma State Medical Association is dropping its opposition to requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine tablets. Oklahoma City plans to start a bike-share program downtown.

The OK Policy Blog features a short film on reducing infant mortality. Holly Leach writes in about her experience with food insecurity. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline reports that states are waiting on details about how their funds will be affected by the debt limit deal. Today’s Number of the Day is the net gain in jobs created to date by the Oklahoma Main Street Center, a program that invests in preservation-based commercial-district revitalization.

In The News

Despite accepting more than $30 million in incentives, American Airlines plans to move 230 jobs out of Tulsa

American Airlines is one of Tulsa’s largest employers with more than 5600 people on the payroll. Since April 2010 American has been considering a plan that would move more than 230 of those jobs to Dallas. The Transport Workers Union made a public appeal Tuesday in an attempt to prevent the move from happening. The Union says if those jobs left it would mean $14-million taken out of the Tulsa economy. TWU is also accusing American of breaking promises it made to create jobs in Tulsa. The Union says American has received more than $30-million in state and local incentives since 2003.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Oklahoma lawmakers to study health reform implementation

Senate President Brian Bingman of Sapulpa and Speaker of the House Kris Steele have named members of a joint committee on Federal Health Care Law, “to ensure Oklahoma properly addresses the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Co-chairmen of the panel will be state Sen. Gary Stanislawski and state Rep. Glen Mulready, both Tulsa Republicans. Deliberations will commence on September 14 in Oklahoma City. A total of five meetings will be held through November. Today’s release identified these topics for the joint committee’s study: “the state of health care in Oklahoma, logistics and ramifications of implementing the federal health care law, implementation timelines, responses to the law and the costs local governments and businesses may face as a result of the law. The committee will also explore the implications Oklahoma’s lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality may have on the law’s implementation here.”

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

DHS Commission defers child care co-pay increase

At the OKDHS Commission meeting held on July 26, 2011, the Commission voted to delay a change in child care eligibility rates and client co-pays until November 1, 2011. According to OKDHS Director Howard Hendrick, this delay was in response to questions raised as to whether the Commission can amend the co-pay schedule. Despite OKDHS counsel giving an opinion that the Commission has the ability to amend the copay schedule, Commissioner Steven Dow contended the change should go through the legislative rule-making process. Through proposed changes to child care benefits recipients would see co-pay increases ranging from 48 cents per child per week to $13.60 per child per week with households of one child. OKDHS estimates the postponement of the changes to child care co-pays and eligibility to cost about $1.9 million.

Read more from the Oklahoma Public Employees Association at

Previously: Child care cuts deal a blow to low-income working families and kids from the OK Policy Blog

State Treasurer says debt-ceiling fears slowed down Oklahoma’s economy

The recent debt ceiling talks in Washington are being blamed for slowing down Oklahoma’s economic growth last month. State Treasurer Ken Miller said Tuesday it is likely the showdown over the federal debt ceiling negatively affected Oklahoma “by providing uncertainty to markets and eroding producer, consumer and investor confidence in the recovery.” Miller said gross revenues for the state in July were up nearly 7 percent compared with July a year ago. The figure was down, however, from double-digit numbers seen the past two months.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Tulsa area breaks energy use record for second time in a week

For the second time in seven days, AEP-PSO customers used a record amount of energy at the peak time. The new peak reached 4,331 megawatts on Monday, 60 megawatts higher than last week’s mark and 131 MW above the all-time official high of 4,200 megawatts set on Aug. 4, 2008, spokesman Stan Whiteford said. AEP-PSO’s total energy used Monday topped 83,464 megawatt hours, he added. The 2008 peak record held for nearly three years until one week ago – July 27. AEP-PSO’s customers cranked up the a/c and pulled 4,277 megawatts of the combined system of coal and natural gas-fired power plants, wind farms and offline purchases from outside producers.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

OG&E will not disconnect electricity for unpaid bills during heat wave

In light of July’s record heat, Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. announced it will not disconnect residential service for nonpayment of electric bills in August. The company also plans to work with customers who are having trouble paying their bills. “Because it’s been so hot – over 100 degrees almost every day for the past month – we have not been disconnecting service,” OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said. “And in the interest of public health and safety, we will not resume disconnects during August.” He said all charges will continue to accumulate on customer bills, which will be much higher as a result of greater air conditioner use.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma State Medical Association drops opposition to pseudoephedrine legislation

The state’s medical association has dropped its opposition to the idea of requiring Oklahomans to have a prescription to buy popular allergy tablets. Dr. Jack Beller, chairman of the Oklahoma State Medical Association legislative council, said the association wants to work with the state narcotics bureau to pass legislation requiring a prescription for medications containing the tablet form of pseudoephedrine, the most common of which is Sudafed. Geltabs and liquid forms aren’t targeted for regulation because they typically aren’t used to make meth. The state medical association initially opposed requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine tablets, saying the requirement would inconvenience people and further clog already crowded doctors’ offices.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Bike-share program coming to downtown areas of Oklahoma City

A bike share program like those embraced in other cities will be started later this year in downtown Oklahoma City. Steve Schlegel, owner of Schlegel Bicycles, displays a typical commuting bicycle similar to those that will be used as part of a downtown bike share program. Such programs have “stations” where bicycles are checked in and out with a deposit placed on one’s credit card. A nominal charge is sometimes paid for use of the bicycles; final details of the downtown arrangements are pending negotiation of a vendor contract. Jennifer Gooden, director of the city’s sustainability office, hopes to start a pilot program with four locations this fall, with a full program launch next spring.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Watch This: Reducing infant mortality

Oklahoma has the 6th highest infant mortality rate and 2nd highest black infant mortality rate in the country. Among black babies, the infant mortality rate in Oklahoma today is comparable to the 1970s national average for all races. This fantastic short film, Reducing Infant Mortality, by independent filmmaker Debby Takikawa explores the underlying and immediate causes of infant death. The film interviews researchers, maternal health care providers, and public policy experts who delve into the complicated aspects of poverty, pregnancy and neonatal care in the age of modern medicine.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Food insecurity in the land of plenty

I have been hungry a few times in my life. Not the kind of hungry where you can’t wait for lunch; the kind where you know there is not going to be any lunch or dinner tonight and it’s a toss up if there will be food tomorrow. One memory stands out: I was a young military wife with two boys under the age of two. We had just come back from overseas. The move took all the money we had but we got there. We were really short on funds and payday was almost a two weeks away. I took what money we had and went to the commissary. First, I made sure the boys had formula and baby cereal till we got paid. There really wasn’t much money left but we had to have something so I bought peanut butter and pasta for me and my husband. We were in bad shape, but we made it to payday. We found a place to live and things got better, but getting back to normal took a couple of months. It was a scary time in my life- one I don’t want to experience again. I did not know it then but what I was experiencing was food insecurity.

Read more from at

Quote of the Day

I think they have a commitment when you get the incentives that they have, there’s a commitment there to keep jobs here in Tulsa.
Local Transportation Workers Union President Sam Cirri, on a plan by American Airlines to move 230 jobs out of Tulsa, despite having accepted more than $30 million in state and local incentives.

Number of the Day

13, 524

Net gain in jobs created to date by the Oklahoma Main Street Center, a program that invests in preservation-based commercial-district revitalization.

Source: Oklahoma Department of Commerce

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

For states, debt deal is short on details

As state officials begin to decipher Washington’s spending reduction deal, it’s clear that federal aid to states for certain programs will take a hit over the next decade. But it will be a while before they know exactly which programs and how big a hit. That’s because the deal, which the U.S. House passed Monday night (August 1), leaves a lot of choices hanging into the future. It calls for $917 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years by setting caps on discretionary spending. But exactly how to meet those caps — and what funds to states might be cut — is a question for Washington to answer another day. Also undetermined is how much a joint congressional committee charged with finding another $1.5 trillion in deficit savings would cut from aid to states.

Read more from this Stateline article 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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