In The Know: Former State Senator Stipe passed away at 85

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

Former state Senator Gene Stipe, the longest-serving legislator in Oklahoma history, passed away on Saturday after a lengthy illness.  The Tulsa World reported the pros and cons of Medicaid expansion.  Oklahoma Policy Institute previously explained why Medicaid expansion is the right choice and why reforms in the federal health law could ultimately save the state moneyClick here for a short primer on SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

Gov. Fallin plans a State of the State address to business leaders in Tulsa on Tuesday.  A proposed ‘Pilots’ Bill of Rights,’ authored by Sen. Jim Inhofe after he was disciplined for landing a private plane on a closed runway, is expected to become law.  Gov. Fallin approved early release for inmate Patricia Spottedcrow, a young mother sentenced to 12 years for a first-time offense selling $31 of marijuana.

Oklahoma County Commissioners said a new program giving employees access to a health clinic for basic and preventive care at no cost to them has saved the county $965,000 in medical expenses for FY 2012.  A spokesman for Gov. Fallin said she would continue to support $2M in state funding for a youth livestock event; tax records revealed that in two out of three years, the Oklahoma Youth Expo lost money.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn accused anti-tax groups of obstructing deficit reduction in Congress by labeling efforts to close tax breaks and exemptions as tax increases.  An editorial in the Tulsa World showed that a poll purporting to show landslide opposition to the federal health care law among doctors is unscientific and has been criticized by national physicians’ groups who support the law.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of persons sent to prison for a crack cocaine offense in Oklahoma that were people of color.  In today’s Policy Note, an annual survey from Sallie Mae found that more families eliminated college choices due to cost and students are paying a larger share of their education expenses through work and student loans.

In The News

Former Oklahoma State Sen. Gene Stipe dies at 85

Former state Sen. Gene Stipe, one of the most powerful and colorful politicians in Oklahoma history died at 6:15 p.m. Saturday after a lengthy illness. He was 85.  Stipe was the youngest Oklahoman to be elected to the state House of Representatives when he was first joined the Legislature in 1948. The record was later broken.  He was elected to the Senate in 1956.  By the time Stipe left his Senate office in 2003, the Democrat from McAlester had served 53 years in the state Legislature — a record that still stands.

Read more from NewsOK at

Four good reasons to accept the federally paid Medicaid expansion

1. Medicaid expansion reduces the number of uninsured Oklahomans.  Oklahoma has 624,480 uninsured people, according to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. By accepting the Medicaid money, the number of uninsured poor people could be cut by 53.1 percent, according to a 2010 report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.  Reducing the number of uninsured Oklahomans reduces costs for everyone and makes the health-care system work better, said Dr. Gerard Clancy, president of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa and a physician.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Four arguments against Oklahoma expanding Medicaid

1. Medicaid expansion will cost the state too much.  During the first three years, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of newly eligible Medicaid patients. After that, the state picks up a gradually increasing share of the cost, eventually capping at 10 percent.  But the state’s cost doesn’t stop there.   Everyone expects that one result of the law is that people who are currently eligible for Medicaid, but not enrolled, will step forward for assistance.

Read more from the Tulsa World article at

Fallin to address business leaders in Tulsa

Gov. Mary Fallin plans to make a State of the State address next week to business leaders in Tulsa.  The governor scheduled the address for noon Tuesday at the Tulsa Convention Center.  Fallin will make the address two months after the Oklahoma Legislature declined to back her plan to cut the state’s income tax. The governor told The Associated Press in an interview afterward that she believes lobbying swayed some lawmakers away from eliminating tax credits and exemptions to pay for the income tax cut.  Fallin said in the interview that she’ll work with members of the House and Senate this summer and fall to build consensus on a tax cut before the Legislature convenes in January.

Read more from KTUL at

Oklahoma senator’s landing flap leads to legislation

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe has been pushing a bill to make major changes to the way the Federal Aviation Administration deals with pilots, saying a flap over his landing of a small plane on a closed Texas runway opened his eyes to the power the agency holds.  Oklahoma’s 77-year-old Republican denied having a personal vendetta against the FAA but acknowledged that his personal experience spurred him to introduce his so-called Pilots’ Bill of Rights. Among other things, the bill would require the FAA to notify pilots when they’re the subject of an investigation and provide pilots with evidence relevant to their cases at least 30 days before enforcement actions are launched.

Read more from The Enid News & Eagle at

Young mother gets early release from Oklahoma prison

Gov. Mary Fallin has agreed to early release for inmate Patricia Spottedcrow, a young mother whose story of a lengthy sentence for a small marijuana deal was featured in a Tulsa World series on women in prison.  Under the governor’s stipulations, Spottedcrow will be required to complete 120 days at a community-level Department of Corrections facility before she is released.  Spottedcrow, 27, originally was handed a 12-year sentence in a blind plea before a judge for selling $31 of marijuana to a police informant.  Spottedcrow must wait until a bed is available at a community corrections center to serve her remaining 120 days.

Read more at NewsOK at

County sees drop in health care costs

Rivera said the clinic is convenient and the staff members are friendly, making it a good place to come for health care. They’re also flexible when it comes to scheduling, he said.  “They’re very straight with you. They’re very personable,” he said.  He said he’s thankful to be receiving proper treatment, noting that many others don’t get that type of care.    Rivera is not the only one enthused about the new clinic. County officials are excited about a partnership they say will help improve workers’ lives and save taxpayer dollars.

Read more from the Edmond Sun at

Sunday: State has given event $2.45 million since 2002

While the bill didn’t specify how the increased funding would be used, legislative leaders and a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin have said there was an informal agreement that the money would go to the expo.  “The governor was presented with a budget deal that included funding for the Youth Expo which she agreed to, along with legislative leaders,” said Alex Weintz, spokesman for Fallin. “She supported that funding at the time and continues to support it.”  But legislators who were part of the negotiations in the tripartite talks among the governor’s office, the House and the Senate, suggest that it was Fallin’s people who were advocating funding for the youth expo.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Oklahoma Youth Expo’s expenses outdistance revenue, records show

The Oklahoma Youth Expo — beneficiary of a planned $2 million state Agriculture Department donation that has brought controversy — previously has received $2.45 million from the department since 2002, state records show.  But tax forms filed by the charity earlier this year show expenses for the Oklahoma Youth Exposition Inc. were $693,866 higher than revenue in the year that ended May 31, 2011.  It was the second time in three years that expenses substantially outpaced revenue for the event, billed as the largest junior livestock show in the world, according to the expo’s reports to the IRS.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is back in the middle of the fight over taxes

Sen. Tom Coburn has again put himself in the middle of the debate over cutting the deficit, strongly rejecting the notion that his fellow Republicans won’t go along with a broad plan that raises more revenue because they’re too afraid of a man unknown to most people outside Washington.  In an interview last week, Coburn, R-Muskogee, said he agreed with Democrats that deficit reduction requires what they call “a balanced approach,” that is, more tax revenue along with more spending cuts.  “But how you get the balance is why it’s so hard to get there,” Coburn said. “Because their balance is to take it all from the job creators rather than create an economic dynamo by lowering the rates and broadening the (tax) base to create growth.”

Read more from News OK at

Dubious survey cited by Affordable Care Act opponents

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court upholding most of the Affordable Care Act, Oklahoma’s 1st District Rep. John Sullivan issued a statement blasting the ruling and claiming that the law threatens to drive doctors out of the profession and disrupt the nation’s health-care system. To support his assertions, Sullivan cited a survey that claims to show that 90 percent of doctors think the nation’s medical system is on the wrong track and 83 percent believe that current changes in the medical system make them think about retiring.

Read more from the Tulsa World article at

Quote of the Day

It’s not likely that these large groups of physicians would support health reform if they didn’t like it.  The truth is that they believe it will improve our health-care system, and that it will benefit their patients, as well as doctors.

Dr. Kathy Scheirman, on a de-bunked survey that claimed 83 percent of doctors were thinking about retiring because of the federal health law

Number of the Day

86 percent

Percentage of the total number of persons sent to prison for a crack cocaine offense in Oklahoma that were people of color, 2007-2011

Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections via The Sentencing Project

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How America Pays for College 2012

The percentage of families who eliminated college choices because of cost rose to the highest level (69%) in the five years since the study began. Virtually all families exercised cost-savings measures, including living at home (51%), adding a roommate (55%), and reducing spending by parents (50%) and students (66%).

Read more from Sallie Mae at

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