In The Know: Exotic pet laws dangerously lacking in Oklahoma

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

Today you should know that Oklahoma tops a list of states with inadequate regulations on keeping exotic animals as pets.  Representatives from chambers of commerce around the state told a legislative committee not to eliminate the state income tax.  Governor Fallin reiterated calls to eliminate tax breaks that do not create jobs and stressed the importance of investments in infrastructure and education to Oklahoma’s economy.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe criticized the EPA for moving to develop wastewater standards for natural gas extraction.  Members of a legislative panel examining state laws governing wine and beer sales voted to disband without taking action or making any recommendations for reform.  NewsOK reports that revenue generated by gaming, tobacco and the lottery have shown elasticity in a tough economy.  For the data used in this story, click here to access OK Policy fact sheets on sin taxes as state revenue sources.

Oklahoma applied this week for $60 million in federal ‘Race to the Top’ funds to help early childhood education programs better serve impoverished children.  Sara Amberg of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma highlighted the extent of our state’s severe food insecurity on the OK Policy Blog.  In today’s Policy Note, FamiliesUSA released a paper on how key provisions of the federal health care law set to take effect in 2014 will buoy the economy and bolster family finances.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of people per square mile in Oklahoma.

In The News

State needs new wildlife regulation

Oklahoma is one of several U.S. states lacking regulations for people who want to keep exotic, non-native animals as pets.  Ohio and Oklahoma rank among the worst states for having adequate regulations regarding the keeping of wild animals, according to the Humane Society of the United States.  Native Oklahoma wildlife – including mountain lions, black bears, bison and bobcats – cannot be kept or bred without a license from the state Department of Wildlife Conservation.  Only 10 such permits are active statewide. They must be renewed annually, and wildlife keepers and breeders are subject to inspection by state game wardens, said Micah Holmes of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Chambers of commerce officials decry elimination of state income tax

Eliminating the state’s personal income tax will not guarantee greater economic activity and could be detrimental, three business development officials – including former Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge and former state Treasurer Scott Meacham – told a legislative task force Thursday.  “I can’t sit here and say having no income tax, having low property tax, whatever, is going to make a big difference,” said Ardmore Chamber of Commerce President Wes Stucky. “We have to have a state that’s known for excellence.”  Meacham, now a lawyer in Oklahoma City and a director of the State Chamber, said the notion that states without personal income taxes – such as Texas – have a big advantage in attracting new business is largely illusory.  Texas, Meacham said, has much higher property taxes, as well as a business franchise tax that is really a thinly disguised income tax.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Governor: State ‘headed in the right direction’

Gov. Mary Fallin commended Norman Rotarians for their community service and work on problems such as literacy, homelessness, and more during her luncheon

Fallin also addressed roads and bridges. Being ranked No. 1 in football is a good thing. Being ranked No. 1 for the worst roads and bridges is not good, and Fallin said she is determined to change that. Oklahoma small business leaders indicated they need educated, skilled workers. To that end, legislators have worked on education reform and filling those gaps.  Tax issues are now under the microscope. Tax incentives to create wealth, jobs and investment will be examined. If those incentives don’t create those things, the incentives will be eliminated.  “The legislature has been working on our tax issues,” Fallin said. “It’s been a good year in the legislature for business.”

Read more from the Norman Transcript at

Inhofe criticizes EPA’s proposed fracking regs

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe characterized EPA’s announcement on wastewater standards for natural gas extraction as yet another attack by the Obama administration on fossil fuels.  Inhofe’s comments came in response to an announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its schedule to develop standards for wastewater discharges produced by natural gas extraction.  Standards for coalbed methane are expected in 2013, followed a year later by those for shale gas extraction.  EPA stressed its efforts are part of the administration’s priority to ensure natural gas development continues safely and responsibly.  “The president has made clear that natural gas has a central role to play in our energy economy,’’ EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Oklahoma legislative panel ends study into strong beer, wine sales

Members of a panel looking at the potential sale of wine and high-point beer in grocery and convenience stores abruptly ended their task Thursday by voting to hold no more meetings.  The decision was made after nearly two hours of sometimes heated discussion on the issue. The action means the task force, which was created earlier this year in a measure passed by the Legislature and was made up of members mostly opposed to changing the alcohol laws, will not have a recommendation on the proposal.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma ‘sin taxes’ show elasticity in tough economy

The Great Recession has driven down many of Oklahoma’s revenue sources in the past few years, forcing agencies to cut budgets and furlough employees. But not every revenue stream has slowed to a trickle.  Turns out revenue generated by gaming, tobacco and the lottery have shown a pretty strong resistance to the recession. The Oklahoma Policy Institute points out that for fiscal year 2011, those three sources produced $346 million for the state, an increase of nearly $11 million over the previous fiscal year.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma seeks $60 million for pre-K programs

Oklahoma applied this week for up to $60 million in federal funds that would help early childhood education programs better serve impoverished 4- and 5-year-olds.  Competition for $500 million in Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants is fierce with 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico all applying this week for a share of the federal funds.  Oklahoma long has been considered a leader in early childhood education and was among the first states to fully fund all-day prekindergarten for 4-year-olds in public schools.  State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said the grant would not create new programs requiring ongoing funding.  Rather, she said, the application will focus on improving the quality of the programs that currently exists, particularly for students living in poverty.

Read more from NewsOK at

Guest Blog (Sara Amberg): A forecast we can’t ignore

The USDA’s 2010 report on Household Food Security was released in September. While the nation’s food insecurity rates have declined slightly, Oklahoma’s rates continue to increase. We are officially tied with Arkansas for the highest percentage of families with very low food security.  Also last month, Feeding America released their child food insecurity data. One in four children in Oklahoma is now at risk of going to bed hungry. One-third of those that struggle with limited or uncertain access to adequate food are not even eligible for nutrition programs, such as SNAP or WIC.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

If our ability to educate and train employees for a 21st century economy is damaged through lack of funding, if we can’t maintain our roads and bridges, strong health care system, robust research and technology infrastructure, safe streets, etc., then the benefits of a reduction in the income tax rates may be limited.

Chris Benge, former Oklahoma House Speaker and Tulsa Metro Chamber’s senior vice president for government affairs

Number of the Day


People per square mile in Oklahoma in 2010, compared to 87.3 people per square mile in the country as a whole

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Bottom Line: How the Affordable Care Act Helps America’s Families

To measure the net bottom line impact of the Affordable Care Act on family budgets, our analysis used a sophisticated economic model built on publicly available data that was able to look simultaneously at all of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act and to measure their impact on families in 2019.  We used the year 2019 for our analysis in order to capture the effects of the Affordable Care Act when it is fully implemented. Many key provisions of the new law go into effect in 2014, and providing a five-year window for implementation allows us to capture both full enrollment in programs that expand coverage and the effects of initiatives that are designed to slow the growth in health care costs.  Our examination found that both lower- and middle-income families will be financial winners, and both uninsured and insured families will come out ahead.

Read more from FamiliesUSA at

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