In The Know: August 5, 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 a report by the conservative Tax Foundation found that sales tax holidays, such as the one taking place in Oklahoma this weekend, do not promote economic growth. A measure in the federal debt limit agreement will cost some Oklahoma graduate and professional students hundreds or thousands more in interest for their student loans. In response to a question during a Facebook town hall, Gov. Fallin said she opposes legalizing marijuana, including for medical purposes. The OK Policy Blog previously made the case for a smarter approach to drug policy.

With continued high temperatures and record-breaking demand for electricity, AEP-PSO and OG&E are asking customers to conserve energy to avoid blackouts. Rep. George Faught dropped out of the race for House Speaker, which leaves only Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, and Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton as candidates to replace Kris Steele next year. Senator Ralph Shortey is urging lawmakers to close a loophole allowing bounty hunters to carry guns in Oklahoma after a group of bounty hunters terrorized a Midwest City family who they had mistaken for someone else.

The CEO of OG&E writes in NewsOK that investing in early education is crucial for economic development. Kurt Hochenauer argues that Oklahoma needs to improve its internet speed. The OK Policy Blog discusses a new report showing that widespread tax flight is a myth. OK Policy is looking for one or two students for a paid part-time internship during the fall 2011 semester. In today’s Policy Note, a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City finds that low and moderate income individuals in Oklahoma and surrounding states are seeing continuing financial deterioration. Today’s Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma 3rd graders with unsatisfactory reading scores in 2009.

In The News

Report: Tax free weekends don’t promote economic growth

Tax-free weekends can seem like a boon to shoppers looking for a break in the cost of clothing and shoes for back-to-school, but how much do those weekends actually save shoppers, and what are the effects on the cities and towns in the Sooner state? Oklahoma law has required retailers to participate in the annual Tax Holiday each August since 2008. According to a special report on tax-free holidays by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., 18 states held sales tax holidays in 2010. But findings by the Tax Foundation indicate “sales tax holidays do not promote economic growth or significantly increase consumer purchases; the evidence shows that they simply shift the timing of purchases.” The Tax Foundation further states that some retailers actually raise prices during the special holiday, resulting in a reduction of consumer savings.

Read more from this Norman Transcript article at

U.S. debt plan will cause college costs to increase for some Oklahoma students

The federal debt agreement approved this week will cost some graduate and professional students hundreds or thousands of dollars more in interest for their student loans, financial aid experts said. The plan eliminates federal subsidies for interest on graduate student loans. In the past, the federal government has paid the interest on Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans as long as a student was enrolled at least half-time and for a six-month grace period after the student graduated. Next year, graduate students will be required to start paying interest on those loans immediately. The change will apply to new loans after July 1, 2012.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Fallin snuffs out talk of legalizing marijuana

Gov. Mary Fallin told Internet viewers Thursday she opposes legalizing marijuana, including for medical purposes. Fallin was the first person featured on the Facebook town hall meeting sponsored by the Oklahoma Republican Party. Dozens of people asked whether the governor supported legalizing marijuana in the state. The governor said her opposition is derived mostly from her going through pardon and parole requests, where inmates’ troubles usually can be traced to drug abuse. Of about 475 cases she reviewed last month, she estimated as many as 90 percent included substance abuse problems. “One of the things that I find over and over and over that just frankly sickens my heart is the amount of substance abuse, drug abuse, that we have in the state of Oklahoma and how many people have just frankly ruined their lives by spending a huge amount of time in our prison system,” Fallin said.

Read more from this NewsOK article

Previously: Oklahoma, we need to talk about drugs from the OK Policy Blog

AEP-PSO asks customers to conserve power to avoid blackouts

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma on Thursday issued an emergency appeal for customers to conserve electricity. The company cited continued high temperatures, record-breaking demand for electricity, and the loss of some generating facilities in other parts of this region in asking customers to immediately reduce their electricity use as much as possible. The emergency appeal for energy conservation was specific to Thursday, but PSO customers are urged to conserve as much as possible while these extreme weather conditions persist. A spokesman said the company has never conducted controlled blackouts nor does it anticipate doing so. However, he added, “we would be remiss if we didn’t communicate with people up front that the possibility exists. If we ever had to implement planned outages, we would have to do so very quickly.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: OG&E asks customers to conserve energy from NewsOK

Oklahoma House: Faught drops out of Speaker’s race

The race to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives is now a two-man contest. Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, is running for Congress and no longer is seeking the position. Faught officially kicked off his bid last weekend to succeed U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, who is not seeking re-election to the 2nd Congressional District seat. Remaining announced contenders are Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, and Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton. House Republicans, who have a 69-31 edge in the House, will meet Oct. 17 to select the designated speaker to succeed House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. Steele, elected speaker this year, is term-limited and cannot seek re-election in 2012 to his House seat.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma lawmaker urges House to hear bounty hunter bill

A state lawmaker is pushing the Bounty Hunter Bill. Senator Ralph Shortey said Senate Bill 805 would close a loophole allowing bounty hunters to carry guns in Oklahoma. “This bill passed unanimously in the Senate and was approved by the House Public Safety Committee. Unfortunately, it was never heard on the House floor,” said Shortey, R-Oklahoma City. “I hope recent events and public outcry will convince the House to take up this bill when the session reconvenes in February.” This comes just one day after Midwest City police say the Bounty Boys admitted terrorizing a metro family and then leaving after realizing they had the wrong man.

Read more from this News9 article at

OG&E CEO: early childhood ed, economic development go hand in hand

As the leader of one of Oklahoma’s largest energy workforces, I recognize that early learning programs are key to developing a strong future workforce. The vast majority of a child’s brain is developed by age 3. This is a critical time to give that child the tools necessary for academics and life. Failing to do so can have serious consequences. Kids who don’t have access to early education opportunities are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school and 60 percent more likely to never attend college. They are more likely to succumb to social ills such as drug or alcohol abuse, and more likely to need the help of welfare. People often talk about economic development and education as if the two are wholly separate subjects. In fact, they are inexorably linked. We won’t see sustainable economic growth without first seeing excellence in education.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Will Oklahoma get left behind in the information age?

Oklahoma is doing some good things when it comes to technology at the university level and elsewhere, but the pressing question remains: Will our state be able to keep up with the latest technology in the future given its overall low Internet speed rate? According to a report in the Huffington Post, Oklahoma has the sixth lowest Internet speed rate in the nation. This information on HuffPo comes from Pando Networks, which recently conducted a study on Internet speed rates. Oklahoma has an Internet speed rate of 376 KBps, according to the study. By comparison, Rhode Island, which has the fastest speed, has a rate of 894 KBps. This is a sizeable difference, and it shows that Oklahoma has a real problem that needs to be addressed.

Read more from the Okie Funk blog at

New report shows tax flight is a myth

Gov. Fallin and other state leaders have set a long-term goal to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax. One reason frequently offered by opponents of the income tax is that it will encourage people and businesses to move to Oklahoma from other states. A report released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that this argument is wrong. The report found that migration between states is rare. Between 2001 and 2010, just 1.7 percent of U.S. residents moved from one state to another per year, and only about 30 percent of Americans change states over their entire lifetime. The ties of a job, family, and friends keep most people from leaving their community.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Fall student internship opportunity with OK Policy

OK Policy is looking for one or two students for a paid part-time internship during the fall 2011 semester. Students would be expected to work between 8 and 15 hours over one to three days per week, depending on their schedules and availability. Work will be primarily in our Tulsa office, with occasional opportunities to work from home or school. We are looking for highly-motivated students with strong writing and quantitative skills, research experience, and a demonstrated interest in public policy. Students should be in at least their junior year. We are happy to cooperate with an institution’s requirements for academic credit. Interested candidates should e-mail a resume and cover letter to David Blatt – – by August 19th.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

It’s a smoke-and-mirrors kind of deal. When it’s all said and done, you probably didn’t gain much of anything. You probably bought something you wouldn’t have, so maybe it helps the merchants, but it probably doesn’t help families.
Former State Representative Wallace Collins, speaking about sales tax holidays.

Number of the Day

30 percent

Percentage of Oklahoma 3rd graders with unsatisfactory reading scores in 2009. During the 2011/2012 school year, 3rd graders not satisfactory or above will not advance to 4th grade.

Source: Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Survey of low and moderate income individuals in Oklahoma and surrounding states reveals continuing financial deterioration

The Low and Moderate Income (LMI) Financial Condition Index continued to reveal significant deterioration in the financial status of the Tenth District LMI community, despite a modest recovery in the larger economy. The index, which is the broadest measure of the financial health of the LMI population in the District, was flat in the second quarter of 2011, following a significant drop in the index in the fourth quarter. 1 The second quarter index value was 42.4, compared to 45.2 in the fourth quarter of 2010 and 60.4 in the third quarter of 2010. 2 Persistent unemployment, diminished credit standing, and rising costs for basic needs were noted as impediments to financial recovery in the LMI community. Looking forward, survey respondents feared that federal, state, and local government budget cuts would place additional stress on their LMI clients.

Read more from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City 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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