In The Know: Gov. Fallin to lead anti-smoking drive

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 Gov. Mary Fallin plans to lead an initiative petition drive to put tobacco regulations that were defeated in the Legislature on the ballot. Oklahoma legislators will have $34 million more to appropriate this year than the amount the governor used in her budget, according to figures approved by the state Board of Equalization. The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would reduce the state’s top income tax rate in 2015, costing more than $100 million annually.

A new fact sheet from Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma has made some of the deepest cuts to funding for local schools of any state in the country, which is endangering our economic future. Twenty-five superintendents from across Oklahoma asked State Superintendent Janet Barresi to issue a formal response to a study that found problems with the formula behind Oklahoma’s new A-F school report cards. Speaking in Oklahoma, education reform expert Michael Fullan said that, as a result of years of neglecting the teaching profession, policymakers are attempting to compensate with heavy-handed accountability.

The okeducationtruths blog writes that bill approved by the House Education Committee would  block intellectually honest discussion of science. The OK Gazette reports on continuing controversy around Gov. Fallin’s decision to reject federal dollars to expand Medicaid. Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Dana Stone writes in the Gazette that equating contraception and emergency contraception with abortion will actually increase the number of abortions.

NewsOK has a Q&A on why many Oklahomans are unable to obtain healthy foods. The OU Daily gives an overview of the more than 50 bills introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature to protect gun rights and create loopholes in federal laws. The Tulsa World profiled Oklahoma teens in foster care who are facing adulthood alone. The Number of the Day is how many children receive SNAP, or ‘food stamps’, in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities describes four big budget threats facing states.

In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin to lead anti-smoking drive

Gov. Mary Fallin, foiled by lawmakers who rejected an anti-smoking proposal she backed, is taking her fight to the people. The Republican governor said Tuesday in a room filled with anti-smoking advocates and supporters that she is leading an initiative petition drive to put tobacco regulations on a ballot to be decided by the people. Details still are being worked out, but a spokesman for the governor said the proposal will contain language that would let cities and towns write their own anti-smoking laws. Oklahoma is one of two states that doesn’t allow cities and towns to write anti-smoking laws stricter than state law.

Read more from NewsOK.

Final figures for Oklahoma state budget approved

Oklahoma legislators will have $34 million more to appropriate this year than the amount the governor used in her budget, according to figures approved Tuesday by a state budget board. In all, lawmakers will have about $213 million more than a year ago to craft a state budget of $7.04 billion. Gov. Mary Fallin said she would like some of the extra money to go toward education, especially public schools, and to help pay for her proposed quarter percent cut in the state’s top personal income tax rate of 5.25 percent.

Read more from NewsOK.

Senate panel votes to advance income tax cut bill

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would reduce the state’s income tax rate. Senate Bill 585 by Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, would reduce the rate to 4.75 percent from 5.25 percent in 2015. The measure heads to the Senate after securing passage by a vote of 9-3. Gov. Mary Fallin has proposed reducing the rate to 5 percent from current levels. Mazzei’s bill would cost nothing in fiscal year 2014. In fiscal year 2015, it would cost $43.5 million, and in fiscal year 2016, it would cost $108 million, Mazzei said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Severe education cuts threaten Oklahoma’s economic future

Oklahoma has made some of the deepest cuts to funding for local schools of any state in the country. Over the last five years, the state has cut per-pupil education aid for primary and secondary schools by 20 percent, or $706 per student, after adjusting for inflation. Only Arizona and Alabama have cut funding more deeply over that time frame. These funding cuts have serious consequences for educational quality and for economic growth. Lawmakers have passed numerous new mandates on students and schools in recent years, even as they cut funding needed to implement them.

Read more from Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Educators ask Barresi for response to A-F school report card study

Twenty-five superintendents from across Oklahoma are asking that State Superintendent Janet Barresi issue a formal response to the A-F school report card study by researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. In an email sent Tuesday, the school administrators said they hope to see a “planned response to meet any or all of the recommendations within the report,” which was issued a month ago. “It is clear that the recommendations meet the expectation (and can be incorporated as a part) of the A-F legislation currently in place,” wrote Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr. “Our mutual interests are in developing a system of statistically, accurately and fairly analyzing schools and reporting that information to multiple stakeholders. I look forward to receiving your response and to the multiple improvements to a system that currently does little to achieve our mutual goals.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Education expert criticizes punitive reforms

Internationally-renowned education reform expert Michael Fullan’s strategies for positive change rang especially true with his audience of University of Oklahoma education students, professors and Norman Public Schools personnel Tuesday afternoon. Fullan is Professor Emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, has honorary doctorates from six universities and currently serving as Special Advisor to the Premier and Minister of Education in Ontario. On general education policy in the United States, Fullan said that, as a result of years of neglecting the teaching profession, the policy attempts have been to compensate with heavy-handed accountability.

Read more from the Norman Transcript.

I’m Not Making This Up (But That Would Be Allowable, I Suppose)

You’ll probably be shocked to hear this, but the House Education Committee went to a strange place today. They discussed and passed HB 1674 – the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act. Have you ever been around somebody who says, “I don’t mean to sound negative,” right before he or she sounds incredibly negative? That is how this bill sounds. For all the disclaimers about not promoting or discriminating against any particular belief, religion, nonbelief, or nonreligion, it sure sounds like it is doing exactly that. The author – and the eight other committee members voting for this bill – are running a play straight out of the ALEC playbook. It’s designed to block intellectually honest discussion of two scientific phenomena: climate change and evolution.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Coverage controversy

As Oklahoma pushes forward to form its own health care reform plan, several groups are trying to pressure Gov. Mary Fallin to reverse her previous decision not to expand the state’s Medicaid program. Oklahoma currently ranks near the bottom among states in terms of wellness. Both opponents and advocates of an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program say action is required to improve the state’s health. Fallin and other state leaders have said an expansion is cost-prohibitive, while those who favor it — including hospital and business organizations — argue that it actually would save money in the long run.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

The truth of emergency contraception

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” New rules under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, require contraception coverage without cost to women as part of basic healthcare coverage. Despite overwhelming evidence that the ability to plan and space pregnancies critically impacts a woman’s health and the health of her children, many employers, most notably the Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby, are suing the federal government, claiming that the requirement to cover contraception violates their personal religious beliefs. Logically, anti-abortion advocates should be among the strongest proponents of all types of contraception, but instead, they seem “fooled” as Kierkegaard’s quote above describes.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Q&A about access to vegetable, affordability of food

Even though Oklahoma has its roots in agriculture, studies show many residents do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, the state ranks worst in the nation for fruit and vegetable consumption. Only 1 in 7 Oklahoma adults eats fruits and vegetables five times or more per day, according to the state Health Department. Article Gallery: Q&A: An Oklahoma conversation about access to vegetables, affordability of food Danielle Nierenberg is co-founder of Food Tank, an organization that promotes sustainable solutions to alleviating hunger, obesity and poverty. Nierenberg answered questions on problems people face in maintaining a healthy diet.

Read more from NewsOK.

New batch of Oklahoma gun legislation poised to make deep impact

Oklahoma lawmakers are firing back against U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed gun controls with a barrage of legislation designed to expand gun rights, not restrict them. At the Capitol in Oklahoma City, lawmakers have introduced more than 50 bills to protect the right to bear arms and create loopholes to current and proposed federal laws. The authors have offered the bills for consideration in the 2013 legislative session that began Feb. 4. The bills include proposals to exempt Oklahoma-made guns from federal restrictions. Other measures would deputize school officials and permit district attorneys to carry firearms.

Read more from the OU Daily.

Aging out: DHS teens often face adulthood alone

Trevor Laird neared his 18th birthday with plans to leave his foster parents’ home and move in with his brothers – opting to “age out” of DHS custody without a strong family base under him. Jeff and Stephanie Warneke of Bartlesville, his foster parents since August, had asked him whether he wanted to be adopted into their family, but he graciously refused, preferring to enter adulthood with his older brothers, whom he considers his best friends. But on Nov. 27 – just shy of Laird’s 18th birthday on Jan. 3 – tragedy struck him in the form of a Chevrolet pickup that came over a hill as he crossed the street with no crosswalk.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

You and I assume every apartment has a working stove and a working refrigerator. That’s not the case for a lot of people in low-income housing. Telling someone, ‘Oh, why don’t you cook lentils instead of buying fast food?’ — that’s just insane to them because they don’t know when their appliances are going to be working or when they’ll be home to cook those things when they’re juggling three jobs.

Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank, an organization that promotes sustainable solutions to alleviating hunger, obesity and poverty

Number of the Day


Number of children receiving SNAP or ‘food stamps’ in Oklahoma, nearly half of all SNAP recipients in the state in FY 2011

Source: USDA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

States face four big budget threats

We rely on states and localities to provide public services like education, health care, and infrastructure that lay the groundwork for a prosperous future. But as we describe in a new paper, four serious challenges threaten their ability to pay for those programs. Some states likely will rise to these challenges, protecting their schools, transportation networks, and other public services and modernizing their revenue systems for the long term. Some other states likely won’t meet the challenges, choosing instead to accept depressed revenues and decaying public services as the “new normal.” The country’s future prosperity depends to a significant degree on the number of states that choose the first, more fruitful path.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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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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