In The Know: Future uncertain for horse slaughter in Oklahoma

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 an Oklahoma company considering leasing or selling a plant for horse slaughter is no longer pursuing the issue, and a lawsuit by the Humane Society has put horse slaughter projects on hold in other states. Gov. Fallin announced that improving education and workforce training systems will be her focus during her term as chairman of the National Governors Association. State Question 766 will cost $60 million for schools, career technology centers, and counties this year as it gives AT&T a $23 million tax break. Oklahoma schools are struggling to fill vacant teaching positions because salaries are too low.

Data on campaign fundraising and lobbyist spending activities posted on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s website isn’t accurate because of glitches in the agency’s outdated software. A freshman lawmaker who handled the workers’ comp bill was the top recipient of lobbyist contributions in the Legislature. Decades of unique death records are at risk of being destroyed by fire or flood as the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office continues to deteriorate. KOSU reported on how Oklahoma’s debate over overcrowded, underfunded prisons has not changed much in 10 years. A Republican challenger for state superintendent has outraised incumbent Janet Barresi in the first reporting period.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of all those arrested in Oklahoma on marijuana possession who are African American. In today’s Policy Note, Pro Publica reports on the aggressive tactics of payday and other high-cost lenders to prevent regulation of their business.

In The News

Future uncertain for horse slaughter in Oklahoma

A controversial law allowing for the slaughtering of horses takes effect Nov. 1, but whether or not the state will be home to such a facility remains to be seen. Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1999, by Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, and Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, despite concerns that the slaughtering of horses was not humane. Prior to the measure’s passage, Ahsan Amil of Oklahoma Meat Company was considering leasing or selling his plant and interested parties wanted him to seek approval. He is no longer pursuing the issue, he said. Meanwhile, horse-slaughter plants in New Mexico and Iowa have been approved, but a suit brought by the Humane Society of the United States and animal protection organizations put horse slaughter on hold.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Gov. Fallin to focus on workforce training, education as head of governors’ group

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced Sunday that improving education and workforce training systems will be her focus during her one-year term as chairman of the National Governors Association. Fallin, the first governor from Oklahoma to head the nonpartisan group, unveiled her initiative after formally being named chairman during the association’s meeting in Milwaukee. Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., was named vice chairman on Sunday.

Read more from NewsOK.

State Question 766 decreases school funding

State Question 766 cost to counties, school districts and career technology centers $60 million in revenue, according to data released by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. S.Q. 766 passed in November with the support of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, the Norman Chamber of Commerce, legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin. Prior to passage of S.Q. 766, legislation had already been signed into law preventing any new tax assessments on intangible personal property. S.Q. 766 expanded the tax exemption to eliminate tax assessments on all intangible personal property. This year Southwestern Bell (AT&T) received a $23 million tax break because of S.Q. 766.

Read more from the Norman Transcript.

Many OK school districts still struggling to fill vacant teaching positions

Students across Oklahoma are going back to school this month, but many school districts are still struggling to fill vacant teaching positions. Over the summer, News 9 contacted several of those school districts to ask about the shortage of educators. Many of them said the same thing. They pointed toward an overwhelming number of baby boomers who have taught in public schools for 20 or 30 years are ready to retire, and many of them are fed up with new programs that wipe out traditional teaching methods. However, the most repetitive reason we heard is money. Simply put: the salary for a teacher in Oklahoma isn’t competitive.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Outdated software plagues Oklahoma Ethics Commission

Financial information dealing with statewide and elected campaigns as well as lobbyist spending activities posted on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s website isn’t accurate because of glitches in the agency’s outdated software. “We’ve not been able to locate reports from lobbyists we know have filed, but we can find it under the lobbyist principal (who hires the lobbyist),” said Lee Slater, who took over as the agency’s executive director in February. “We’ve been frustrated trying to track that problem down.” Slater said he will be asking lawmakers for funds next year to buy a new software system, preferably the same kind used by federal election officials. No cost estimate is available.

Read more from NewsOK.

Lawmaker who handled workers’ comp bill top recipient of lobbyist contributions

A freshman lawmaker who handled two key pieces of legislation, including a measure that drastically changed how Oklahomans are compensated for on-the-job injuries, received the most gifts from lobbyists so far this year, reports filed with the state Ethics Commission show. The $1,541 that Rep. Jon Echols received in gifts from lobbyists is about $115 more than the leader of the Senate received for the first six months of this year. Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said he expected he would be among the top lawmakers receiving gifts from lawmakers because of his work on Senate Bill 1062. He presented the rewritten 284-page measure in a House of Representatives committee and helped present it on the House floor.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office awaits court decision on new facility

Wasp traps hang inside a laboratory. Ceiling tiles sag, stained yellow and brown from water leaks. Boxes holding medical records that document thousands of deaths line hallways. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office in Oklahoma City is in a state of disrepair, and more than 1,000 cases are pending. Each case represents a family waiting for an official determination on how a loved one died. Some must wait on the agency’s report to collect life insurance payments or other benefits to help survivors. Others just want answers.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

A look back 10 years shows little change in debate about corrections

It was all predictable – Governor Fallin and the Legislature didn’t increase the funding for corrections when controversy erupted this year, and soon after, a group of corrections officers took to a podium at the state Capitol and criticized legislators. They said the department was understaffed, underpaid, and workers often didn’t get time off. What’s perhaps most striking is the current debate isn’t very different from the one 10 years ago.

Read more from KOSU.

Challenger for state superintendent outraises incumbent

The latest campaign finance reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission reveal not one but two contenders for the Republican ticket in the 2014 race for state superintendent. The re-election campaign for incumbent Janet Barresi reported financial contributions of $182,755 through June 30, including a $100,000 campaign loan from the candidate herself. Tulsa Republican Joy Hofmeister has not officially declared her candidacy, but she has already reported to the state that she raised $146,376 in cash contributions from individuals and one committee. Bennington Superintendent Donna Anderson reported $18,682, including her own loan of $1,800, while Peggs Superintendent John Cox raised no money as of the reporting period. Both are Democrats.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

There’s any number of ways that this could have been done, but everybody had an objection with one of the ways to get it done. Rather than put the interest of public safety first, they’ve put how we get it done ahead of the families that can’t get autopsy results.

-Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, on lawmakers’ continuing failure to replace Oklahoma’s decrepit State Medical Examiner facility (Source:

Number of the Day

20.8 percent

Percentage of all those arrested in Oklahoma on marijuana possession who are African American; just 7.8 percent of the state’s population is comprised of African-American residents.

Source: ACLU via Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Payday Playbook: How High Cost Lenders Fight to Stay Legal

As the Rev. Susan McCann stood outside a public library in Springfield, Mo., last year, she did her best to persuade passers-by to sign an initiative to ban high-cost payday loans. But it was difficult to keep her composure, she remembers. A man was shouting in her face. He and several others had been paid to try to prevent people from signing. “Every time I tried to speak to somebody,” she recalls, “they would scream, ‘Liar! Liar! Liar! Don’t listen to her!’” Such confrontations, repeated across the state, exposed something that rarely comes into view so vividly: the high-cost lending industry’s ferocious effort to stay legal and stay in business.

Read more from Pro Publica.

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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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