In The Know: First ‘personhood’ bill of session filed

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 Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City has filed a personhood bill identical to one last session that led to a bitter fight in the House before it failed to get a vote on the floor. The advocacy group that successfully sued to reform Oklahoma’s child welfare system is asking for an additional $363k in legal expenses. Christmas shoppers helped set a record for monthly sales tax collections in Oklahoma, but total general revenue collections so far this year remain 2.5 percent below the previous year.

Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, is proposing two new options to fund completion of the half-built American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. A major SandRidge Energy shareholder is objecting to company CEO and executives receiving hefty salaries while the company’s stock price dropped 80 percent.

The okeducationtruths blog examines the merits of changing the state superintendent to an appointed position. On the OK Policy Blog, a guest post from Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr argues that arming teachers is no solution for school safety. The OU Daily discussed how a hole in Oklahoma’s gun laws allows mentally ill individuals to purchase firearms.

A new novel by Rilla Askew explores families impacted by HB 1804, Oklahoma’s harsh anti-immigration law. Oklahoma Watchdog traced some of the history of black political leaders in Oklahoma. Urban Tulsa Weekly profiled Rep. Doug Cox, a Republican lawmaker and medical doctor who is speaking out in favor of the Medicaid expansion.

The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in college tuition costs since 1978. In today’s Policy Note, a new report finds that nearly a third of the nation’s working families earn salaries so low that they struggle to pay for their basic needs.

In The News

First ‘personhood’ bill of session filed

One of last year’s most emotional issues for the Oklahoma Legislature apparently will be revisited this spring, with at least one “personhood” bill already filed for the session that begins Feb. 4. “Personhood,” a concept popular among abortion-rights opponents, holds that individual rights and constitutional protections begin at conception. State Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, is the author of House Bill 1029, the Personhood Act of 2013. As written, the bill appears to be virtually identical to one that led to a bitter fight in the House of Representatives before it failed to get a vote on the floor.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Children’s Rights advocacy group wants $363,139 more in case versus Oklahoma

The child advocacy group that sued the DHS asked a judge Tuesday for an additional $236,553 in legal fees and $126,586 in expenses. Children’s Rights asked in June for $9,520,419 for the legal work on a lawsuit that forced the Department of Human Services to reform its child welfare procedures. It told a judge Tuesday it will not object to a federal magistrate’s recommendation that it be paid $7,031,928 for the lawsuit work. But it now wants extra funds for the time its attorneys and an Oklahoma law firm spent last year on the fee request. It also wants extra funds for expenses, mostly for two experts who testified at a three-day hearing on the fee request.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma tax revenue gets boost from Christmas shoppers

Christmas shoppers helped produce a record amount of monthly sales tax collections in Oklahoma and make up for lower gross production taxes on oil and natural gas, state finance officials said Tuesday. Through December, monthly sales tax increases over the previous year have averaged nearly 9 percent, Doerflinger said. Total collections for the general revenue fund, the state’s main operating fund, in December were $528.9 million, a decrease from a year ago of $13.5 million, or 2.5 percent.

Read more from NewsOK.

Plan proposed for funding rest of OKC American Indian museum

An Oklahoma City lawmaker is proposing two new options to fund completion of the state’s half-built American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, but opponents of the project – which has already cost the state $63 million – continue to question its future. Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, plans two bond issue proposals to fund the project’s completion. One proposal would authorize $40 million in bonds to match $40 million in pledged private funding. Alternatively, Loveless has a measure to authorize $32 million in bonds. That plan would come with instructions for fundraisers to come up with additional private money, he said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Sandridge CEO’s pay is among highest in energy industry

One of the central claims in the ongoing feud between SandRidge Energy Inc. and shareholder TPG-Axon is that the Oklahoma City energy company’s executives have reaped hefty profits over the past five years while its stock price dropped 80 percent. The shareholder has objected to the compensation CEO Tom Ward and other executives have received while shareholders have lost value. “The destruction of stockholder value has been caused by poor and erratic strategic decisions, reckless spending, and a culture of cronyism and waste that has drained value from the company,” the shareholder said in a regulatory filing last month. SandRidge has dismissed the claims, calling TPG-Axon an “opportunistic investor with short-term interests.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Appointed or elected?

Janet Barresi’s opponent in 2010, Sen. Susan Paddack, is proposing that Oklahoma eliminate the elected position of state superintendent. The Tulsa World agrees, and goes a step more, suggesting that we consider making many of the elected statewide positions appointed. This is a long-overdue idea, though I wish it had come from someone other than Paddack. Yes, she is one of the legislators I respect the most, but following the campaign, she’s just not the best champion for the cause. Public policy should be situational, meeting the needs of citizens as they arise. The structures supporting the services government provides, however, should be rooted with a deeper sense of permanency. When it comes to how the state provides services to public education, we should look periodically at the bureaucracy and see if it can be tweaked.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Arming teachers is no solution

The nation cried as we watched our humanity at its most vulnerable last month. We are teachers, and we cried as we lost twenty innocent, angelic, creative, children and six dedicated, caring, loving fellow servants forever. They do not have to be lost, however, from our thoughts and actions as a human race. As we grieved that horrible day, nowhere in my mind was the thought that arming our teachers would be an appropriate way of responding to such tragedy. We are teachers, both of my parents, my wife and I. I am father to two wonderful adult children, both of whom chose teaching as a profession. My son, the hunter, and my daughter (the wife of a farmer), never once mentioned that they thought it would be a good idea for the teachers to have been armed “so they could defend the children.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Hole in gun laws permits mentally ill to purchase weapons

A weakness in Oklahoma’s gun laws is allowing unfit individuals to purchase firearms. Oklahoma is failing to provide critical mental health information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System used in retail weapons sales. Instead, Oklahoma residents report mental status themselves on a form, which cannot be independently verified. Oklahoma must immediately begin reporting mental health to the system so that firearms dealers can easily comply to state law. State law prevents the sale of firearms to people Oklahoma courts have ruled mentally incompetent, but gun buyers can easily forge background check forms to obtain a weapon.

Read more from the OU Daily.

Novel explores families impacted by Oklahoma’s immigration law

Rilla Askew was laying the groundwork for the follow-up to her acclaimed novel “Harpsong” when House Bill 1804, Oklahoma’s anti-illegal immigration law, took effect on Nov. 1, 2007. She soon discovered that, whether she wanted it or not, her mind had turned a page. A new and different story needed to be told. “And then I woke up one morning with a voice talking in my head,” said Askew, who will sign copies and read from her new novel, “Kind of Kin,” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Full Circle Bookstore. That voice belonged to 10-year-old Dustin, one of the lead characters in “Kind of Kin,” a novel about one southeast Oklahoma family’s intensely personal relationship with a piece of sweeping legislation.

Read more from NewsOK.

On the shoulders of giants: Black political power in Oklahoma

On this day in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. T.W. Shannon and the other black leaders now or recently in the state Legislature – Kevin Cox, Judy Eason-McIntyre, Jabar Shumate, Connie Johnson, Michael Shelton, Anastasia Pittman, Angela Monson, Opio Toure — stand on the shoulders of such a giant. Like every state in the Union when it comes to race relations, Oklahoma has its share of shame, including the Jim Crow laws of early statehood, and the Tulsa Race Riot in the early 1920s. The plus-side of the story began, in many ways, with the first black man elected to the state Legislature — Republican A.C. Hamlin in 1908.

Read more from Oklahoma Watchdog.

Doctor/state rep favors Medicaid expansion that governor rejects

Rep. Doug Cox is quick to acknowledge that he’s “kind of the black sheep” among state House Republicans. Now in his fourth two-year term, the Grove emergency room physician never was one to march in lockstep with caucus leaders. But as they veer deeper into the Fox News echo-chamber — basic mantra: anything Obama or federal is e-v-i-l — Cox increasingly finds himself as a lone voice pleading for reason and sanity. This year’s session doesn’t get rolling until Feb. 4 but Cox already is at odds with his party’s leadership — this time over Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision that Oklahoma will not participate in the federal government’s Medicaid expansion.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Quote of the Day

It seems completely illogical that the state can argue that a reduction in education funding was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state’s diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further.

A three-judge panel in Kansas, which ruled that the state is unconstitutionally short-changing students by underfunding education

Number of the Day

1,120 percent

Percentage increase in college tuition costs since 1978, 4 times the rate of inflation.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Ranks of working poor increasing

Nearly a third of the nation’s working families earn salaries so low that they struggle to pay for their necessities, according to a new report. The ranks of the so-called working poor have grown even as the nation has created new jobs for 27 consecutive months and is showing other signs of shaking off the worst effects of the recession. “Although many people are returning to work, they are often taking jobs with lower wages and less job security, compared with the middle class jobs they held before the downturn,” according to a report released Tuesday by the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative aimed at fostering state policies to help low-income working families.

Read more from the Washington Post.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. 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.

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