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 email@example.com.
Today on In The Know; revised revenue estimates have reduced the state’s anticipated budget hole to about $500M, down from $600M. On the OK Policy Blog, we find that while the progress is encouraging, income tax revenue remains stagnant, and overall the state continues to lag behind pre-downturn levels.
Oklahoma will receive a federal award of $54.6 million to develop information technology needed to operate health insurance exchanges. Exchanges, created by the Affordable Care Act, are state-regulated insurance marketplaces where individuals and small businesses join a pool to buy health insurance with the same affordability as large businesses. OK Policy covered how Oklahoma is implementing insurance exchanges here.
The latest Census numbers show that Hispanics have for the first time surpassed Native Americans in Oklahoma. The number of Hispanics grew 85 percent, to about 332,000 people. Suburban areas in Oklahoma saw strong population growth, while urban areas saw moderate growth and many rural areas declined. The population of Oklahoma City increased by 15 percent since 2000, and Tulsa decreased by 0.3 percent, though several Tulsa-area suburbs showed heavy growth.
A state Senate panel has approved harsh new immigration laws to allow confiscation of property connected to undocumented immigration and deny birthright citizenship to Oklahoma children. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled against challenges to the Judicial Nominating Commission, paving the way for the appointment of Judge Noma Gurich to the Supreme Court.
These stories and more below the jump.
In The News
Oklahoma’s anticipated budget hole shrinks with revised tax estimates
The state’s anticipated budget hole of about $600 million will shrink by about $100 million based on revised estimates of tax revenues for the 2012 fiscal year. The Oklahoma Tax Commission certified revised estimates Tuesday that show an overall increase in state revenue for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The improvement is based largely on stronger oil prices and individual income tax payments, said Reece Womack, the Tax Commission’s economist who prepared the estimate. “The numbers are coming in a little stronger,” Womack told the Tax Commission. “I think we’re looking at a recovery. It may be a little more modest than people would like.”
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahomas-anticipated-budget-hole-shrinks-with-revised-tax-estimates/article/3541230.
See also: Quick Take: Revenue rebounding — except for the income tax on OK Policy Blog
Oklahoma honored as early innovator under health care reform act
Oklahoma is being honored as an early innovator of the health care reform act even as it sues to withdraw from the plan. The state will receive $54.6 million in federal money to develop information technology to share with other states. Oklahoma received one of seven awards totaling $241 million to help states design and use information technology needed to operate health insurance exchanges. Exchanges are state-regulated plans in which small businesses and individuals are to pool money to buy health insurance.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahoma-honored-as-innovator/article/3541176.
See also: Health Care Reform: Implementing Insurance ‘Exchanges’ on the OK Policy Blog
Oklahoma Census: State Hispanic population grows 85 percent since 2000
At the La Michoacana Meat Market, Stephen Hodges is a minority. Hodges, 44, of Mustang, was there Tuesday to pick up three pounds of freshly cut fajita meat. The Hispanic grocery store on SW 29 was recommended by an employee, but Hodges is familiar with the neighborhood because he grew up in the area. And the changes since his youth have been drastic. “It’s gone from an area of poor white people to Mexican people,” said Hodges, who is white. His observations are in line with Census Bureau data released Tuesday showing an 85 percent increase in Oklahoma’s Hispanic population over the past decade.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahoma-census-state-hispanic-population-grows-85-percent-since-2000/article/3541308.
See also: New Census figures show growth in Tulsa’s urban and Hispanic populations from The Tulsa World; Wagoner, Rogers counties among fastest-growing from The Tulsa World; Census shows Oklahoma has more Hispanics than Native Americans from The Associated Press; Population growth, declines will have polical implications from NewsOK
Undocumented immigrants property, state ‘citizenship’ targets of legislation
A Senate panel approved a measure Tuesday that could result in the seizure of illegal immigrants’ property if the property was used in the commission of a crime. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 908 by Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City. Another bill that made it out of committee sets up criteria for people to be declared “citizens” of Oklahoma. Shortey said that under the first measure, the state could seize property and sell it at auction. The property could range from a vehicle to a home if it were used in a crime, he said. … “We are not saying they are less than human,” Shortey said in response to a question. “What we are saying is they are not Americans and have no rights thereof.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=16&articleid=20110215_11_0_OKLAHO482604.
See also: On immigration, Oklahoma policymakers should proceed with caution from NewsOK
Ruling paves way for new Oklahoma Supreme Court justice
The state Supreme Court likely paved the way Tuesday for the court’s newest justice to be seated, by rejecting a challenge against the Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission exists to send nominations to fill judicial vacancies to the governor. Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent filed a lawsuit claiming the commission is unconstitutional because some of its members were chosen based on congressional districts that no longer exist. The high court had allowed Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, to intervene in Fent’s lawsuit with his request that the commission’s work be halted until it is reorganized under a constitutional change approved by voters in November. In a unanimous decision, the court rejected both claims Tuesday.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/ruling-paves-way-for-new-oklahoma-supreme-court-justice/article/3541270.
Governor Fallin’s budget cuts too drastic for state agencies
The level of public awareness about state regulatory agencies is probably limited to the state’s recent ban of “Four Loko” alcoholic beverages. But when it comes to the state budget crisis that affects such agencies and every public program in the state, Oklahomans needs access to detailed and critical analysis of budget proposals. The Tulsa World failed to provide this kind of analysis for the public in a recent opinion piece on the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission. The article was misleading and unhelpful. Titled “ABLE Commission goes easy on offenders,” the article appears to be addressing important departmental inefficiencies. However, by initially plugging Gov. Mary Fallin’s budget proposal — which would dramatically slash funding to smaller agencies like ABLE — the article quietly bolsters the governor’s plan, subtly casting ABLE in a negative light and prematurely dismissing vital functions the agency provides to the people of Oklahoma.
Read more from this Daily O’Collegian editorial at http://www.ocolly.com/opinion/governor-fallin-s-budget-cuts-too-drastic-for-state-agencies-1.1997426. [FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this editorial is a former OK Policy Institute intern.]
See also: Balance, with relatively small cuts? Fallin says Doerflinger and Coffee can on CapitolBeatOK.
Quote of the Day
“He just wants to deny them even the right to breathe, it looks like. It is a very mean-spirited bill. States can’t circumvent what the U.S. Constitution says, and that is what he is trying to do.”
–Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorn, on a bill by Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, that would attempt to end birthright citizenship for Oklahoma children.
Number of the Day
Number of non-institutionalized Oklahomans aged 5-20 with a disability, 2009.
Source: US Census Bureau
Bad idea to reign in regulators
These should be tough times for deregulators, who critics now link to a host of recent calamities: a massive oil spill, an economic collapse that has cost millions of jobs, countless food and toy recalls and repeated tragedies in mines and other workplaces. Much of Congress’s activity over the past few years has been dedicated to cleaning up these messes — equipping agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission with the resources and laws they need to keep Americans safe. So why, in the past week alone, have House Republicans held four hearings attacking government regulations?
Read more from Politico at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/49439.html.