In The Know: August 9, 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 today’s Republican primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Jim Reynolds will be the first state election under the new voter ID law. State officials deposited about $30 million more than anticipated into Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund because collections came in even further above what was projected than was originally thought. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed problems with the Rainy Day formula that is dependent on us making inaccurate projections of revenue. Today on the OK Policy Blog, we examine what the latest revenue numbers mean for the Oklahoma economy.

An OK Policy analyst investigates the Oklahoma coal industry for This Land Press. The Oklahoma State Medical Association is denying previously published claims that they support legislation to require prescriptions for allergy medicine, and the McAlester city council may rescind its vote to require prescriptions after the Attorney General released an opinion that municipalities do not have that authority. Oklahoma’s July was the hottest month ever recorded in any state.

About 220 Union sixth-graders will be the first in the state to participate in a nationally renowned program aimed at breaking down economic and social barriers to a quality education. The president of Langston University plans to resign at the end of the fall semester. An upcoming one-day conference in Oklahoma City will help participants learn more about funding early childhood programs and the impact of those programs on children and the state’s economy.

In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress finds that immigration from Mexico has decreased dramatically, and demographic and economic trends in that country will likely lead to further declines. Today’s Number of the Day is how many children and adults were enrolled in school throughout the country in October 2009 — from nursery school to college.

In The News

Special election for Senate seat will be first state election under new voter ID law

Voters who head to the polls Tuesday for a special primary election in Oklahoma City will be required to bring proof of identity under a new law that went into effect last month. The election for a vacant Senate seat that includes portions of southern Oklahoma County and northern Cleveland County is the first state election since nearly 75 percent of Oklahoma voters approved the voter ID law in November. Several local elections have been held since the new law took effect, and state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said voting with the new ID requirements has gone smoothly so far. Under the law, which took effect July 1, voters must present to precinct officials either a current government-issued photo ID or a voter registration card issued by the county election board. Voters without valid ID may sign an affidavit and cast a provisional ballot, Ziriax said.

Read more from this Associated Press article at–Voter-ID-Okla/.

Revenue boosts deposit to Rainy Day Fund

State officials deposited about $30 million more than anticipated into Oklahoma’s constitutional reserve fund because of stronger-than-expected revenue collections, finance officials announced Monday. A deposit of $249 million was put into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, compared to last month’s estimate of $219 million, Office of State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger said. Money is placed into the constitutional reserve fund, also called the Rainy Day Fund, at the end of the fiscal year when general revenue collections exceed the official estimate.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Previously: How the Rainy Day formula requires us to make mistakes from the OK Policy Blog

Up or down?

The Office of State Finance today released General Revenue collections for July, the first month of FY ’12. Total collections were $385.0 million, which was $14.9 million, or 4.0 percent above July 2010, and $17.0 million, or 4.6 percent, above the certified estimate for the month. While revenues continue to recover from their sharp decline during the downturn, the recovery remains only partial. FY ’12 collections remain 15.8 percent below their pre-downturn heights and have barely recovered to the levels of six years ago. Of particular concern are personal income tax collections. GR collections from the personal income tax last month were just $130.6 million, slightly lower than last year and the lowest July amount for the tax since FY ’03.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Ashes to Ashes

Just outside Bokoshe, Oklahoma is a winding stretch of properties known as “the loop.” The land is heavily wooded and sparsely populated—a place where you’d likelier see a bull snake crossing the road than a person. It’s hardly anyone’s idea of a center of pollution and disease. But as Tim Tanksley drove the loop, he pointed left and right and left again, indicating nearly every home we passed. “Someone there has cancer,” he said. At the next house, “There’s cancer in that one.” And the house after that, “A woman there is on oxygen.” A grandfather with a trimmed gray mustache, cowboy hat, patient demeanor, and heavy Oklahoma drawl, Tanksley is not the typical image of an activist or environmentalist. But he and other residents of Bokoshe have spent years battling a coal ash dump near their town. They believe the ash is causing serious health problems in the 450-person community.

Read more from This Land Press at

OSMA denies support for pseudoephedrine proposal

The Oklahoma State Medical Association doesn’t support legislation that would require a physician’s prescription to obtain pseudoephedrine, the organization said in a letter to newspaper editors. The OSMA said the letter – distributed on Aug. 5 – was written to clarify the organization’s position after several stories were published that said the OSMA had dropped opposition to a prescription requirement for pseudoephedrine. Those stories followed an attorney general’s opinion that said efforts by many cities and towns to regulate the pseudoephedrine conflicted with state law.

Read more from this Journal Record article at

See also: After AG opinion, McAlester council may rescind anti-pseudoephedrine vote from NewsOn6

Oklahoma July was hottest month ever recorded in U.S.

Last week, we gloated that, although Tulsa and OKC made the cut as two of the five hottest cities in the U.S., Lubbock, TX had the dubious honor of being awarded Very Most Hellish City of 2011 by The Daily Beast. “At least we don’t live in Texas,” we poked. We will now eat our words, because the Oklahoma Climatological Survey has just announced that July, 2011 in Oklahoma was the hottest month ever recorded in the contiguous United States. From Mesonet: Statewide average temperature records begin (in 1895) for the United States. There have been 1399 months pass by since 1895. Multiply that number by 48 and you have 67,152 months of temperature records for the contiguous states. How hot was it in Oklahoma last month? Of those statewide average temperature records for the 48 states, none has been hotter than July 2011 in Oklahoma.

Read more from This Land Press at

Union to launch education program for at-risk students

About 220 Union sixth-graders will be the first in the state to participate in a nationally renowned program aimed at breaking down economic and social barriers to a quality education. The intensive prevention program was developed in 1984 by Michael Carrera to educate children at an appropriate age about the consequences of sexual activity. It expanded to provide a full array of services, from tutors to mental health counselors and health care. “We don’t know what we’re going to prevent in prevention programs because we don’t know where kids fall out,” said Alice Blue, director of the Community Service Council’s Prevention Resource Center. “Some kids might fall out academically without supports. They might fall out because of mental health needs. It might be any number of things, drugs, violence. If the supports are there and it’s holistic, then we will be curing a problem before there is a problem.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Langston University president announces resignation

Langston University President JoAnn W. Haysbert announced Monday she plans to resign at the end of the fall semester. Haysbert, who has served as Langston University’s president for six years, told faculty members at a luncheon that she plans to return to Hampton University in Virginia, where she will serve as executive vice president. Haysbert spent 25 years serving in various academic and administrative positions at Hampton University before coming to Langston University. Haysbert was Langston University’s 15th president and first female president.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Upcoming Event: A chance to help set the agenda for young children in Oklahoma

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 OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

It is the (community school concept) on steroids.
Union Superintendent Cathy Burden, on an intensive prevention program being implemented in the district.


Number of the Day

77 million

The number of children and adults enrolled in school throughout the country in October 2009 — from nursery school to college.Source: U.S. Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What changes in Mexico mean for U.S. immigration policy

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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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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