In The Know: Chesapeake and rival plotted to suppress land prices

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 Reuters has uncovered emails showing Chesapeake discussing with a Canadian natural gas company how to avoid bidding against each other in a public land auction, a possible violation of federal antitrust law. NewsOK examines what Oklahoma’s new open carry law means for employers who wish to prohibit handguns on the premises. An estimated 519,000 Oklahoma residents suffered substantial financial losses in 2010.

Sen. Ralph Shortey said Supreme Court decision overturning most of Arizona’s immigration law actually clears the way for his bill to confiscate property of undocumented immigrants and charge anyone who transports, rents to, or does business with undocumented immigrants with a felony. OK Policy previously discussed problems with Shortey’s bill and other immigration measures proposed in the Legislature last year. These Oklahoma bills contradict the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal government has broad discretion to decide whether and how to enforce immigration law and states cannot impose their own restrictions on immigrants.

Oklahoma City councilman Ed Shadid says his cousin, Anthony Shadid, blamed the New York Times for his death while reporting in Syria. The OK Policy Blog shares data on the shrinking state employee workforce, which has dropped by 1,633 workers since 2001. NewsOK complained that it is class warfare for OK Policy and Citizens for Tax Justice to explain how taxpayers at different income levels would be affected by competing plans for the Bush tax cuts. Businessweek writes that the nine states with the highest personal income taxes on residents outperformed or kept pace on average with the nine that don’t tax their residents’ incomes.

The Number of the Day is the amount general revenue collections through May 2012 remain below pre-downturn FY ’07 levels. In today’s Policy Note, SCOTUSblog provides a summary in plain English of the Supreme Court’s immigration decision.

In The News

Reuters: Chesapeake and rival plotted to suppress land prices

Under the direction of CEO Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake Energy Corp. plotted with its top competitor to suppress land prices in one of America’s most promising oil and gas plays, a Reuters investigation has found. In emails between Chesapeake and Encana Corp, Canada’s largest natural gas company, the rivals repeatedly discussed how to avoid bidding against each other in a public land auction in Michigan two years ago and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners here. In one email, dated June 16, 2010, McClendon told a Chesapeake deputy that it was time “to smoke a peace pipe” with Encana “if we are bidding each other up.” That exchange – and a dozen other emails reviewed by Reuters – could provide evidence that the two companies violated federal and state laws by seeking to keep land prices down, antitrust lawyers said.

Read more from Reuters.

New open carry laws raise issues for Oklahoma employers

SB 1733, recently signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, allows individuals licensed to carry a firearm under the Oklahoma Self Defense Act the option of carrying a handgun openly or concealing it. SB 1733 specifically prohibits carrying firearms on properties owned or leased by the city, state or federal government, at corrections facilities, in schools or college campuses, liquor stores and at sports arenas during sporting events. Further, nothing in Oklahoma’s new law prohibits a private business owner or employer from establishing and enforcing any policy that prohibits individuals from carrying handguns onto the premises. Therefore, employers who wish to prohibit handguns on the premises but have not yet adopted a handgun policy may wish to do so now.

Read more from NewsOK.

Study: More than 500k Oklahomans suffered substantial financial losses in 2010

An estimated 519,000 Oklahoma residents suffered substantial financial losses in 2010, according to a new report that evaluates the economic insecurity of each state over the last several years. According to the report titled “Economic Insecurity Across the American States,” 18.6 percent of the people in Oklahoma experienced large economic losses in 2010 compared with a national average of 20.2 percent. The Economic Security Index, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, measures the share of Americans who lose at least 25 percent of their available household income from one year to the next because of either changes in income or changes in out-of-pocket medical spending, and who lack an adequate safety net to replace the lost income. Large losses are more prevalent among individuals who reside in a household headed by someone who has less than a college degree, is black or Hispanic, or is a single parent, according to the report.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma lawmaker has plans after immigration ruling by Supreme Court

With today’s developments about Arizona’s tough immigration enforcement law and the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, we wanted to know what it meant for Oklahoma. Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey took the ruling as a victory and he believes it clears the way for states to enforce federal immigration laws. Shortey says the federal government determines what the immigration policy is and who can come into the country legally. “But when they are here illegally, the ability to enforce those should be in the hands of the states and that is what the Supreme Court has said. And so absolutely, it is a victory because next year we are going to have a law that I offered last year, Senate Bill 908 that I will bring back and it is a very strict enforcement bill,” says Shortey.

Read more from KRMG.

Previously: Where angels fear to tread: Oklahoma wades back into immigration debate from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma City councilman says his cousin, Anthony Shadid, blamed New York Times for his death

Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid says his late cousin, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, blamed his employer for his death this year in Syria. Ed Shadid made the remarks during a speech this weekend at the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee convention in Washington. Shadid said his cousin had a heated phone conversation with his New York Times editors before he departed for Syria, the last of many assignments in Anthony Shadid’s career that took him to war-torn foreign soil. “It was at this time that he called his wife and gave his last haunting directive that, ‘If anything happens to me, I want the world to know The New York Times killed me,’” according to a transcript of Ed Shadid’s remarks reported by Politico.

Read more from NewsOK.

The shrinking state employee workforce

In the wake of three consecutive years of steep budget cuts, the number of state employees staffing correctional facilities, inspecting restaurants and nursing homes, serving victims of abuse and neglect, and performing other public functions has declined sharply. In FY 2012, state government employed 35,504 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employees. (The FY 2012 numbers are the year-to-date average for the first nine months of the fiscal year.) This is a drop of 3,804 workers, or 9.8, percent, since FY 2009. Oklahoma’s total population has grown by some 330,000 since 2001, while the state employment has dropped by 1,633 workers, a decline of 4.4 percent. Across state government, changes in the size of the workforce have varied considerably depending on legislative decisions and the availability of other revenue sources, such as federal funds, fees, or non-appropriated state revenues. The table below presents annual employee counts for the 15 state agencies that had the largest employee count in 2001.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

NewsOK: Tax cut extension debate devolving into class warfare

Call it the lesser-of-two-evils federal income tax cut strategy. This is how the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) view competing plans for extending the so-called Bush tax cuts when they expire at the end of this year. With rhetoric mirroring Occupy Wall Street mentality and an endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute (which touts an ITEP/CTJ analysis of the rival plans), President Barack Obama’s plan is clearly preferred by these liberal groups. “Both President Obama and congressional Republicans have proposed to extend far too many of these unaffordable tax cuts,” said Robert S. McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice. “But if we have to choose between the congressional Republicans and President Obama’s approach, the president’s proposal is fairer and more responsible.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Previously: How Oklahomans fare under competing plans for the Bush tax cuts from the OK Policy Blog

States lacking income tax get no boost in growth

Governors seeking to expand their economies by eliminating income taxes find little support for the idea in the record of U.S. states that lack such a levy. The BGOV Barometer shows the nine states with the highest personal income taxes on residents outperformed or kept pace on average with the nine that don’t tax their residents’ incomes, according to a study of economic output, unemployment and household income by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The findings show cutting state income taxes to stimulate growth relies on “flawed analysis” based on the theories of economist Arthur Laffer, said Carl Davis, a senior analyst at ITEP in Washington and author of the report. Laffer’s work was cited by Republican Governors Sam Brownback of Kansas and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma as a reason to cut income taxes as a way to stimulate job growth and attract business.

Read more from Businessweek.

Quote of the Day

The famous phrase is a ‘smoking gun.’ That’s a smoking H-bomb. When the talk is explicitly about getting together to avoid bidding each other up, it’s a red flag for collusion, bid-rigging, market allocation.
-Harry First, a former antitrust lawyer for the Department of Justice, on e-mails uncovered by Reuters that show Chesapeake and Encana Corp, Canada’s largest natural gas company, discussing how to avoid bidding against each other in a public land auction

Number of the Day

$366 million

Amount general revenue collections through May 2012 remain below pre-downturn FY ’07 levels, or 6.8 percent

Source:  Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Immigration opinion recap in plain English

The Court didn’t rule on the health care cases today, but it still issued a blockbuster:  its decision in Arizona v. United States, the federal government’s challenge to Arizona’s controversial immigration law.  And although Arizona prevailed last year at the Court in a case involving a different effort to regulate immigration (in that case, by punishing businesses that hire illegal immigrants), it did not fare as well this year.  Instead, the decision was largely (but not entirely) a victory for the federal government:  the Court held that three of the four provisions of the law at issue in the case cannot not go into effect at all because they are “preempted,” or trumped, by federal immigration laws.  And while the Court allowed one provision – which requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone whom they detain or arrest before they release that person – to go into effect, even here it left open the possibility that this provision would eventually be held unconstitutional if not applied narrowly in Arizona.

Read more from SCOTUSblog.

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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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