In The Know: Feb 10, 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 gperry@okpolicy.org.

In today’s news, Lynn Schusterman warns us about the dangers of defunding child abuse prevention efforts to cope with budget cuts. See OK Policy’s earlier thoughts on these cuts here.

The Oklahoma Gazette reports that staffers rejected by the Board of Education will continue serving under Superintendent Barresi, paid by private funds. NewsOK’s Database Editor Paul Monies takes a first look at the state’s new open data site. A study commissioned by Sen. Andrew Rice finds evidence of employment discrimination against LGBT Oklahomans.

On the OK Policy Blog, we examine how occupational licensing can harm consumers and new entrepreneurs, and guest blogger Scott Stanley discusses a state program to strengthen relationships within low-income families.

In snow news, the Norman Transcript looks at what happens to all the sand and salt on the streets after a storm, and NewsOn6 covers the dangers to livestock on Oklahoma ranches.

More below the jump.

In The News

Lynn Schusterman: Budget cuts threaten the lives of our children

A 10-day-old infant dies after allegedly being put in a washing machine by her drug-addicted mother. A 2-year-old is killed by a daycare worker who tapes his mouth shut and binds his hands. Remains of a 12-year-old girl with spina bifida are found after reports of brutal routine beatings from her stepmother. These are not the storylines of a fictional Lifetime movie. They are the headlines from newspapers right here in Oklahoma, where each year, one in every 100 children are confirmed victims of abuse or neglect. These alarming facts undergird my deep shock and dismay at the proposed elimination of the Office of Child Abuse Prevention, announced recently by Dr. Terry Cline, commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, in response to any budget cuts to his agency.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=65&articleid=20110210_65_A21_CUTLIN495423.

See also: Pick your poison: Suffocating or amputating state services? on the OK Policy Blog

After rejection by Board of Education, staffers for Superintendent Barresi will stay on paid by private funds

Three of state Superintendent Janet Barresi’s hires rejected by the Oklahoma State Board of Education in a contentious January meeting will stay on board using private funds to pay their salaries. … Barresi said the staff members in question were paid for by a third party as a “stopgap measure.” The third party in this case is 3R Initiative. Communities Foundation of Oklahoma, which funds a large number of education-related organizations in the state, administers the nonprofit’s funds. The 3R Initiative was established on Dec. 27, 2010, according to Oklahoma Secretary of State records, and the registered agent of the corporation is Roger Stong, president of Crowe & Dunlevy law firm. Donors to the group include Devon Energy, Walt Helmerich, the Inasmuch Foundation and Bank of Oklahoma.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette at http://npaper-wehaa.com/oklahoma-gazette/2011/02/09/#?article=1162295.

First Look: data.ok.gov

The state’s new data site is here, and from my initial test drive, it’s pretty good. The site, at http://data.ok.gov, was live last night, and although I’ve seen nothing official from the Office of State Finance or the governor’s office, the website Gov2.0 Radio reported the launch. The data portal is something that I called for in a post last year, so it’s nice to see it come to fruition. With the launch, Oklahoma joins dozens of other states and countries with a central data archive. The site was made possible by legislation that came out of the 2010 Legislature. Senate Bill 1759, by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, and Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, set up the framework and requirements for the data site. Oklahoma’s site uses the Socrata data engine, which allows for customizable data visualizations, maps and data downloads.

Read more from the Data Watch blog at http://blog.newsok.com/datawatch/2011/02/09/first-look-data-ok-gov/.

When ‘business-friendly’ regulations are bad for the rest of us

One theme of Gov. Fallin’s State of the State speech was that we should eliminate regulations to make the state more business-friendly. A common refrain from members of the business community is that environmental and safety regulations are too onerous. But even from free-market advocates, we hear much less about the regulations that protect existing businesses from competition. A case in point – the Wall Street Journal reports on the growing number of jobs that require state licenses. For example, in Texas hair-salon “shampoo specialists” have to “take 150 hours of classes, 100 of them on the ‘theory and practice’ of shampooing, before they can sit for a licensing exam.” Oklahoma also makes an appearance in the WSJ story.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at https://okpolicy.org/when-business-friendly-regulations-are-bad-for-the-rest-of-us/.

Scott Stanley: Family Expectations program is a promising approach for strengthening disadvantaged families

Something incredible is happening in Oklahoma!  It’s the innovative Family Expectations (FE) program in Oklahoma City. A large, rigorous federal study has now demonstrated that services to strengthen families successfully improved the stability and quality of unmarried parents’ relationships around the time of the birth of a child.  Run by Public Strategies —and funded by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the Administration for Children and Families —Family Expectations stands to make a major difference in the lives of children who gain an increased chance of being raised in a healthy, stable home. Why does this matter? While many children raised by single parents or step-parents thrive, decades of research show consistent advantages for children raised by both of their parents within a low-conflict household.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at https://okpolicy.org/guest-blog-scott-stanley-a-promising-approach-for-strengthening-disadvantaged-families/.

Study provides evidence of LGBT employment discrimination in Oklahoma

A new study from The Williams Institute, a think tank affiliated with University of California School of Law in Los Angeles, provides evidence of discrimination against LGBT people in Oklahoma. The study, titled “Employment Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Oklahoma,” combines data from national surveys and state statistics. Among the report’s findings were statistics indicating lower earnings for gay men, work place discrimination against LGBT people in Oklahoma, with specific statistics drawn from Tulsa, and the benefits of nondiscrimination policies in the public and private sector. State Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, said he commissioned the study because he was working with different groups concerned about discrimination. He was crafting new hate crimes legislation and wanted to get a lay of the land.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/print-article-10746-print.html.

Where the sand goes after the storm…

With two consecutive weeks of winter weather, major streets and thoroughfares in Norman have had plenty of salt and sand sprinkled on them. Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said at least some of that mix, designed to improve conditions for vehicles braving the roadways, ends up in the city’s drainage system and waterways. He said the salt is an issue unto itself, but the sand is “the biggest mess.” … According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sand gets moved to the side of roadways “where it collects oil, grease and other automotive byproducts” that can eventually end up in lakes, ponds, streams or other waterways.

Read more from this Norman Transcript article at http://normantranscript.com/local/x1878115807/Where-the-sand-goes-after-the-storm.

Oklahoma ranchers struggle after weeks of snow

In this type of weather lots of folks are forced to work from home or take a vacation day, but it’s a different story for Oklahoma ranchers. Livestock depend on them for food, shelter and water no matter how much snow we get. Mother nature packed a one two punch, and like everyone else, Green Country farms are feeling it. Last week’s snow had just started to melt when the next round hit. “This latest storm probably didn’t have quite as much preparation time, because we were still recovering and that gives us a big problem,” said Ron Hays of the Oklahoma Farm Report.

Read more from this NewsOn6 story at http://www.newson6.com/Global/story.asp?S=14002513.

Quote of the Day

“I got a clear indication and a direct indication from Mr. Gilpin and (former state Sen. Herb) Rozell that they had serious problems with my hires and they were angry I made those names public prior to their review. I knew I would have a great deal of resistance. We started looking at some remedies for that.”

State Superintendent Janet Barresi, who has been paying some of her top staff using private funds.

Number of the Day

8.2 million

Number of jobs lost in the United States since the start of the current recession in December 2007.  This is a loss of 5.9 percent of the job base, or about 1 out of 20 jobs.

Source: Economic Policy Institute, Corporate Profits

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Obama’s $53 bill national high-speed rail plan: Some historical perspective

In 1938, with his nation still fighting to recover from a powerful economic depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched a study about the feasibility of a national expressway system. The ensuing report praised the concept of a “higher standard” of roadways, but it worried about paying for such a vast network of infrastructure. The only region where traffic volume was high enough to recuperate its value through user fees — in this case, tolls — was the corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston, the report concluded. With that, the matter quietly slipped away. But a few years later, in 1941, Roosevelt tried again. He appointed a task force that ultimately proposed a national expressway system of nearly 39,000 miles. The employment potential from such a plan, both direct and indirect, would be widespread and immediate. Congress liked the idea but not the methods of achieving it, so it approved the plan in 1944 but gave it no funding — the equivalent of legislative purgatory.

Read more from The Infrastructurist at http://www.infrastructurist.com/2011/02/09/obamas-53-billion-national-high-speed-rail-plan-some-historical-perspective/.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gene Perry joined OK Policy in January 2011. 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. Gene also serves on the board of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, is a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, and has chaired the communications advisory committee for the State Priorities Partnership, a nationwide network of state fiscal policy think tanks. He lives in Tulsa with his wife Kara Joy McKee, who is a Tulsa City Councilor.

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