In The Know: Diabetes rates tripled in Oklahoma, leading the nation

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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a new report from the CDC shows the diabetes rate in Oklahoma more than tripled since 1995.  The state’s largest insurers are enthusiastic about and supportive of a health insurance exchange.  Governor Fallin is expected to announce soon whether the state will build its own exchange, or have the federal government do so.

Legal experts say a Ten Commandments monument that Rep. Mike Ritze paid $10,000 to construct outside the state capitol is unconstitutional and will likely be the subject of a lawsuit; the granite structure also contains spelling errors, with the word “Sabbath” spelled as “Sabbeth.”  Oklahoma lawmakers heard from experts about why open government laws support the democratic process.

The OK Policy Blog posted new evidence that incomes of poor and middle-class families in Oklahoma have stagnated since the late 1990s, with nearly all of the growth in income going to the state’s wealthiest households.  Oklahoma would be hard hit if Congress fails to reach an agreement to avoid mandatory across-the-board spending cuts – a scenario that threatens federal military spending in the state and could drive up tax rates.

National Rural Health Day shines a spotlight on the troubling lack of rural health providers across Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, an interactive graph from the Russell Sage Foundation shows an increase in white males’ representation in managerial jobs in every employment sector between 1966 and 2005, but there was considerable variability in the trajectories by sector after the early 1970s.  The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma households that have difficulty accessing affordable fresh produce.

In The News

CDC report: Diabetes rates tripled in Oklahoma and more than doubled in some Southern states

The nation’s diabetes problem is getting worse, and the biggest jump over 15 years was in Oklahoma, according to a new federal report issued Thursday.  The diabetes rate in Oklahoma more than tripled, and Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama also saw dramatic increases since 1995, the study showed.  The South’s growing weight problem is the main explanation, said Linda Geiss, lead author of the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.  “The rise in diabetes has really gone hand in hand with the rise in obesity,” she said.

Read more from the Associated Press at

Even without Rick Scott and GOP governors, Obamacare exchanges should flourish

The nation’s health insurance industry, particularly carriers that are already active in selling policies to individuals and small businesses, stand at the ready no matter who operates the exchanges.  “To support our individual and small group market members and ensure a smooth transition to the new health insurance market in 2014, Health Care Service Corp. intends to participate in the exchanges to support their needs regardless if the exchanges are run by the federal or state governments, or jointly,” Chicago based Health Care Service Corp., the nation’s fourth-largest health insurance company and parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, said in a statement to Forbes.

Read more from Forbes at

Oklahoma Gov. Fallin expected to announce position on health exchange

Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to announce soon whether Oklahoma will have any role in a health insurance exchange to facilitate the federal Affordable Care Act – a hot-button political decision with legal, economic and health implications.  The issue is an incredibly complex one, so perhaps a brief step back is in order.  A health insurance exchange is an electronic supermarket for medical coverage. It’s a free-market idea that was created by the conservative Heritage Foundation long before the Affordable Care Act became law.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

10 Commandments monument in place at Okla. Capitol

Three years ago, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a similar Ten Commandments monument erected on the Haskell County Courthouse lawn in Stigler was unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized a similar monument at the Texas Capitol.  But Joseph Thai, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said the Supreme Court “grandfathered” in the Texas monument because it had been in place for decades and was surrounded by other monuments that he said helped secularize its religious message.  “The new and naked monument here is more likely to prove divisive and give the impression of state endorsement of religion — the very reasons the Ten Commandments display in Haskell County was struck down in court a few years ago,” Thai wrote in an email to The Associated Press.  “It hardly seems wise or fiscally responsible to thrust the state into expensive and unnecessary litigation over a religious wedge issue.”

Read more from the Associated Press at

Ten Commandments Monument Comes With Mistake at Capitol

A Ten Commandments monument unveiled at the state capitol Thursday comes with a mistake.  The 6-foot-tall monument has the word “Sabbath” spelled “Sabbeth.”  However local pastors and online sources all show Sabbath spelled with an “a” and not an “e.”  The word “maidservant” also appears misspelled.  The “v” appears to be a “u,” spelling the word “maidseruant.”  The monument was unveiled three years after state lawmakers approved the bill that would allow the monument to be erected on capitol grounds.

Read more from KOKH at

Okla. Senate panel hears from open govt. advocates

Oklahoma remains one of just a few states in which the Legislature is specifically exempted from laws regarding open records and open meetings — a dubious distinction lawmakers should change, an open government advocate told a Senate panel on Tuesday.  Joey Senat, a journalism professor at Oklahoma State University, told members of the Senate Rules Committee that Oklahoma is one of just three states in which the Legislature has a specific exemption to the Open Records Act that applies to other government entities, and one of eight states that have an exemption from the Open Meetings Act.  “These are basic principles that are applied to other areas of government,” Senat said. “Operating in the open is not always the most convenient or the easiest way to conduct business, but in a Democratic society, it is the best way.”

Read more from the Associated Press at

Rising inequality in Oklahoma as lower- and middle-class incomes stagnate

Incomes for poor and middle-class families in Oklahoma have stagnated since the late 1990s, with nearly all of the growth in income going to the wealthiest households, according to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute.  The report, Pulling Apart: A State-by-State Analysis of Income Trends, provides a troubling snapshot of how households at different income levels are doing in Oklahoma. Since the 1970s, inequality between the top and middle saw the third highest increase in the nation, behind only Connecticut and California. Over that time, average household incomes for the wealthiest fifth of Oklahomans grew 63.9 percent, compared to just 16.0 percent for the middle fifth and 5.3 percent for the poorest fifth. Today Oklahoma ranks eighth worst for the income gap between the top and the middle.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Fiscal cliff’s biggest impact could be on defense

Federal spending on purchases, salaries and wages makes up 5.5 percent of Oklahoma’s gross domestic product, according to a new report measuring the potential impact of looming spending cuts. But the biggest impact on the state could be on federal defense spending.  The report released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States is the latest to warn of the impact on states if Congress and President Barack Obama fail to reach an agreement on the impending tax hikes and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff.” 

Read more from NewsOK at

‘Fiscal cliff’ could push Oklahomans’ taxes up

State taxes could rise $23.8 million next year unless national leaders find a way to steer away from the “fiscal cliff,” a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Tax Commission said Thursday.  In subsequent years, the pending Dec. 31 expiration of Bush administration cuts in federal taxes would result in a state tax hike of $46 million a year, said commission spokeswoman Paula Ross.   Several Bush administration tax cuts end Dec. 31, the same day that some taxes from the Affordable Care Act begin and a massive cut in federal spending, or sequestration, hits many non-entitlement programs.  The combined effect has raised concerns among economists that it could renew the U.S. recession and drive up unemployment rates. The Tax Commission calculations do not take into consideration the effects of such a slowdown.

Good works showcased: Today is National Rural Health Day

Health care providers and stakeholders across the nation today will pause to observe National Rural Health Day, billed as a day to “showcase the good works of health care providers who serve Oklahoma’s 1.35 million and America’s 59.5 million rural citizens.”  Even as the health care profession celebrates its rural providers today, it also faces a continued shortage of physicians, nurses and other medical staff who want to live and work in rural communities.  Turnover often is high at rural hospitals and clinics as younger practitioners gravitate toward urban centers, and in some rural communities open medical staff positions remain unfilled for months, or even years.

Read more from the Enid News and Eagle at

Quote of the Day

“I think some of the resistance is certainly legitimate and I respect it, but let’s work through that.  Nobody in this building should feel like they own the status quo. It’s nobody’s fault. This is a system and a culture that we inherited, and I think my colleagues ought to feel inspired to change it and continue to increase transparency in the legislative process.”

Sen. David Holt (R), on a legislative hearing about Oklahoma’s lax transparency and open government laws

Number of the Day

11.9 percent

Percentage of Oklahoma households that have difficulty accessing affordable fresh produce, 10th highest in the nation, 2010

Source:  Food Research and Action Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

White Male Managerial Representation by Sector, 1966-2005

The figure below, taken from the RSF book Documenting Desegregation, reports sector trends in white male managerial representation. A score of zero indicates that a group is represented on average at the same rate at which its members are employed in local labor markets. A score of 40 indicates that a group is over-represented by 40 percent.  In all sectors other than social services, white men were over-represented in managerial jobs. All sectors showed an increase in white males’ access to managerial jobs after 1966, but there was considerable variability in trajectories after the early 1970s.

Read more from the Russell Sage Foundation at

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