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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today you should know that President Obama accepted Mary Fallin’s request to declare an emergency disaster for Oklahoma, which allows the state to receive FEMA aid. Kurt Hochenauer points out on his Okie Funk blog that Oklahoma has the third highest number of declared disasters in the nation, behind only the much larger states of California and Texas. With the state of emergency, an anti-price gouging law has gone into effect.
Employment is showing slow growth in about half of Oklahoma counties, but the state’s jobless numbers dropped by only 0.1 percentage points. As the budget crisis continues, the legislature may consider suspending per diem and travel reimbursements for legislators who live more than 50 miles from the capitol. For more on Oklahoma’s key economic and budget trends, see OK Policy’s latest Numbers You Need.
These stories and more below the jump. Also: pictures of snow!
In The News
President Obama declares emergency for Oklahoma; approves FEMA disaster aid
Gov. Mary Fallin asked Wednesday for the federal government to approve an emergency disaster declaration request for the entire state. President Barack Obama took action on that request and authorized the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to supplement state and local response efforts that have been affected by the winter storm. Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize and provide at its discretion equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency in all of the state’s 77 counties. While no dollar amount was mentioned in the initial news release from FEMA, it did say that emergency protective measures will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/president-obama-declares-emergency-for-oklahoma-approves-fema-disaster-aid/article/3537787.
Okie Funk: Oklahoma Ranks High in Disaster Declarations
Here’s some information the state’s chamber of commerce officials won’t be touting anytime soon: Oklahoma ranks third in the number of declared disasters by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The state has received 66 disaster declarations, which means it ranks behind the large states of California, 84, and Texas, 77. Oklahoma has a population of 3.7 million and ranks 20th in terms of land size. By comparison, California, the most populated state, has 37.2 million people and is the third largest state in terms of land size. Texas, the second largest state in terms of size, has a population of 25.1 million.
Read more from the Okie Funk blog at http://www.okiefunk.com/node/871.
Anti-price gouging law in effect
No matter how desperate Oklahomans are in the wake of the blizzard of 2011, they should take care not to be snow-blinded by exorbitant offers to help – even if that offer comes from a freelancer with a snow plow. Oklahoma’s law against price gouging is in effect following a state of emergency declared by Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday. What the Emergency Price Stabilization Act means, said state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is that the price of most goods and services cannot increase more than 10 percent. The law will remain in effect on goods, services, storage spaces and dwellings for 30 days after the emergency, and 180 days for repairs, remodeling and construction.
Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=61&articleid=20110203_61_A8_Nomatt368485.
Employment numbers show slow growth in about half of Oklahoma counties
Nearly half of Oklahoma’s 77 counties recorded improved employment numbers in December, according to figures released Wednesday by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. “It was a month that we saw a little bit of improvement,” commission spokesman John Carpenter said. “We would like to see that go a lot more quickly.”
The gains reflected the latest state jobless numbers, which dipped to 6.8 percent from 6.9 percent, Carpenter said.
Read more from this NewsOK article http://newsok.com/unemployment-down-in-many-oklahoma-counties/article/3537614.
Oklahoma legislators may consider suspending per diem, travel reimbursements
Legislators will consider paying themselves less this year as they deal with another large budget shortfall. Bills have been filed that would suspend legislator per diem and travel reimbursements during times of fiscal uncertainty. The Oklahoman reported last year the state spent $2.5 million on legislator per diems and travel reimbursements the past two fiscal years, while state workers were laid off and services reduced because of budget shortfalls.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahoma-legislators-may-consider-suspending-per-diem-travel-reimbursements/article/3537595.
Janet Barresi: Tim Gilpin’s description of Board of Education meeting is ‘revisionist history’
Tim Gilpin’s description of the recent State Board of Education meeting counts as a classic in “Photoshop” history. But Gilpin’s revisionist picture is clearly refuted by the facts, as anyone who attended the meeting (or listened to the recording online) knows. The recent meeting was not only dominated by the partisan obstruction of board members, but also by the misogynist actions of Herb Rozell and Gilpin.
Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette editorial at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-10710-revisionist-history-by-state-board-members-won%E2%80%99t-whitewash-their-deplorable-actions.html.
President nominates federal prosecutor to be U.S. judge in Tulsa
President Barack Obama on Wednesday named a longtime federal prosecutor in Oklahoma City to be a U.S. district judge in Tulsa, but Sen. Tom Coburn immediately voiced his opposition. Arvo Mikkanen, an assistant U.S. attorney since 1994 in the western district, was nominated by Obama to be a judge in the northern district, based in Tulsa. Before working as a prosecutor, Mikkanen was in private practice while also serving as judge for the Court of Indian Offenses and the Court of Indian Appeals for the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Wichita, Caddo, Delaware, Fort Sill Apache, Ponca, Pawnee, Kaw, Otoe-Missouria and Tonkawa Tribes. He also has served as the chief justice of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Supreme Court.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/president-nominates-federal-prosecutor-to-be-u.s.-judge-in-tulsa/article/3537760.
EPA chief says people shouldn’t be afraid to drink Norman water
A study showing the presence of a cancer-causing chemical in Norman’s drinking water shouldn’t discourage people from drinking the water, but should be a reason for more testing and more study about the risk, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday. “I don’t think anybody should be afraid of drinking the water,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said after testifying before a Senate committee about the safety of the nation’s drinking water. She said people should be assured that the EPA is following up on an environmental group’s study by providing guidance and technical assistance to water system managers who want to do their own tests for chromium-6.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/epa-chief-says-people-shouldnt-be-afraid-to-drink-norman-water/article/3537598.
This Land Press: It snowed in Oklahoma and we have photos
We’re not sure if you’ve been watching the weather reports, but a few inches of snow recently dusted Tulsa and the surrounding areas. We asked our Facebook fans to contribute their best photos of the Tulsa Blizzard of 2011, and they responded with over 60 spectacular shots from around town.
Read more from This Land Press at http://thislandpress.com/02/02/2011/it-snowed-in-oklahoma-and-we-have-photos/.
Quote of the Day
I think he was hoping for a ‘Night at the Museum’ experience where the old portraits of mayors came alive and told him the history of the city of Oklahoma City.
Number of the Day
Poverty threshold for a family of 4 in 2009.
Source: Economic Policy Institute
Tax Expenditure of the Week: State and Local Tax Deduction
This week we’re looking at the IRS rule that allows taxpayers to deduct from their taxable income taxes paid to state and local governments. This tax break, the country’s fourth largest, is expected to cost Washington about $450 billion in forfeited revenue over the next five years.
Read more from the Center for American Progress at http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/02/te020211.html.