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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today you should know that House Speaker Kris Steele told reporters that he doubts a bill to require the Oklahoma Legislature to be subjected to Open Records and Meetings laws will pass. Budget cuts have created long waiting lists and deteriorated the quality of care at the state’s substance abuse treatment facilities. A letter to the editors of the Tulsa World explained why a ‘flat’ tax burdens poor families to benefit the rich.
HB 1551 and SB 1742 would undermine the credibility of science education in Oklahoma schools. Three leading Oklahoma economists released reviews of bills to eliminate the state income tax and found serious errors and shortcomings. The state Senate passed a bill to require high schools in Oklahoma to teach students about the Tulsa Race Riot. The House of Representatives approved five bills this week to address concerns about the Department of Human Services raised in a federal class-action lawsuit.
A letter to the editors of the Oklahoman defended tax credits for rehabilitating historic buildings as a way to create local jobs and businesses while retaining pieces of our history. The Number of the Day is the average per capita property tax collections in Oklahoma, compared to states with no income tax. In today’s Policy Note, the National Women’s Law Center answers frequently asked questions about preventive health services for women in the new health care law.
In The News
Speaker: Open records for Okla. lawmakers unlikely
House Speaker Kris Steele says he doubts a bill to require the Oklahoma Legislature to be subjected to provisions of the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws will pass this year. Steele told reporters it’s “unlikely” the bill would be considered before Thursday’s deadline for hearing bills on the floor. A House committee already approved the bill by Guthrie Republican Rep. Jason Murphey. The plan was likely to face resistance in the Senate, where a similar measure was not granted a hearing in committee. Oklahoma is 1 of the few states in which the Legislature is not subjected to so-called “sunshine” laws that require meetings and records to be open to the public.
Read more from NewsOn6 at http://www.newson6.com/story/17168038/speaker-open-records-for-okla-lawmakers-unlikely
State of Addiction: Cash-Strapped State Rehabs are Looking for a Fix
Oklahoma was one of the country’s biggest abusers of prescription medications last year, news that comes after several years of budget cuts that have reduced state treatment programs. Dramatic TV news coverage can make it look like methamphetamine is Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem. But Terri White, Commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, says that’s never really been the case.
Read more from StateImpactOK at http://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/2012/03/15/state-of-addiction-cash-strapped-state-rehabs-are-looking-for-a-fix/
Tax ‘fairness’ not fair proposal for all
It wears me out listening to the right wing of the Republican Party – which includes all of their candidates for the nomination for president – whine that almost 50 percent of the people in the country pay no income tax. In the spirit of fairness, they propose a flat tax of 15 percent on everyone or something similar. Americans are nothing if not fair. There is not class warfare; the poor do not begrudge the rich their wealth; we are a nation of “haves” and “soon-to-haves,” they tell us. Let’s take a look at the real effect of a 15 percent flat tax on two groups: 1) those living at the poverty line of $22,314 for a family of four, and 2) those living at the median household income of $42,076 in Oklahoma for a family of four. Median is the point at which half make more and half make less.
Read more from the Tulsa World at http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=65&articleid=20120316_65_A19_ULNSbf797809
Two bills in Oklahoma Legislature promote nonscience agenda
Ewert wrote, “Science lends credence to an agenda because it’s revered as the bastion of objectivity and truth.” This is indisputable; we entrust our very lives to the science that keeps planes aloft and our medical procedures effective. Neither realm is perfect, but in the past two centuries while modern science’s rigorous standards have come into practice, travel has accelerated astonishingly, communication technology has been revolutionized, human life spans have roughly tripled, etc. The overall methodology provides extraordinary benefits to society and shows no sign of faltering. It follows that undermining those standards is unwise. Yet that is precisely what House Bill 1551 and Senate Bill 1742 aim to do. Wrapped in the deceptive language of promoting critical thinking, they aim to get the nose of a malodorous camel (pseudoscience) inside the tent of science. This camel has tried before, many times, and been rebuffed — for good reason.
Oklahoma economists give Laffer a failing grade
The push to eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax relies heavily for intellectual support on a study done for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs by economist Arthur Laffer and his colleagues at Aduin, Laffer & Moore econometrics. Last month we reported on a pair of studies from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a leading national tax policy think-tank, that revealed fundamental flaws with the Laffer/OCPA report.
Read more from OK Policy at https://okpolicy.org/oklahoma-economists-give-laffer-a-failing-grade/
Senate passes bill requiring teaching of Tulsa Race Riot history
The Senate passed a measure Thursday that would require high schools in the state to teach students about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Senate Bill 1381 by Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, passed by a vote of 33-6 and now heads to the House. “School districts shall ensure that information concerning the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 is presented in high school courses in U.S. history or Oklahoma history,” the bill states. The measure would be effective July 1. McIntyre said no cost would be associated with it.
Read more from the Tulsa World at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20120316_16_A9_CUTLIN688290
Work to improve Oklahoma DHS continues apace at the Capitol
The House of Representatives this week approved five bills crafted following meetings held last year by five House members. They were appointed by House Speaker Kris Steele after DHS came under fire for not publicly addressing high-profile instances of children dying while in the agency’s care. The bills approved this week seek to address concerns about DHS including those raised in a federal class-action lawsuit filed against DHS in 2008 by a New York-based nonprofit. The state agreed in December to settle the lawsuit, and work continues on a DHS improvement plan that will be submitted to a federal judge. Specifics of the legislation are being hashed out in conjunction with the formulation of the improvement plan. The speaker’s office says it expects substantive, specific policy to be added to the bills in the near future.
Rehabilitating historic buildings good use of tax credits
The goal of our historic renovation of the Ward Building, in the Brady District of Tulsa, was to encourage private business, especially startups, and to transform a building that was an abandoned warehouse into an asset that would increase productivity and jobs. The tax credit process involved is totally transparent; no credits will be earned until the project is complete. Just as small businesses can’t afford to wait years on construction, small investors don’t have the capital to wait years to see a return on investment; “transferable” credits allow those with limited tax liability to access the capital needed to undertake these projects through a legal process used all over the country. In short, transferability makes the economics work.
Quote of the Day
Like it or not, when we deal with changes in tax law, some people win and some people lose. This is just what happens. It is not class warfare or envy, it is real.
Brice Bogle, CPA who lives in Broken Arrow
Number of the Day
Average per capita property tax collections in Oklahoma, compared to $1,507 in states with no income tax, 2008
Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute
Women’s Preventive Health Services in the New Health Care Law: Frequently Asked Questions
The new health care law makes preventive care more accessible and affordable to millions of Americans. This is especially important to women, who are more likely than men to avoid needed health care, including preventive care, because of cost. To help address these cost barriers and make sure all women have access to preventive health care, one section of the new health care law requires all new private insurance plans to cover a wide range of preventive services, including services such as mammograms, pap smears, smoking prevention and contraceptives without co-payments or other cost sharing requirements.
Read more from the National Women’s Law Center at http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/faq_contraceptive_coverage_rule.pdf
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