In The Know: Governor announces plan to fix bad bridges

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.

Today you should know that Gov. Fallin has proposed a plan to fix all of the state’s structurally deficient bridges by 2019. The plan would be paid for by diverting more income tax revenues into the ROADS fund without replacing that revenue for other areas of government. The Oklahoma City School Board will partner with a nonprofit to operate a new charter elementary school in downtown OKC. The OK Policy Blog features a video on the history of postwar recessions, putting the most recent economic downturn into grave perspective.

Two high-ranking supervisors in the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs were relieved of their duties following several violent incidents and the escape of three juveniles from the Tecumseh juvenile correctional center. Tulsa has set a new record with 326 meth labs found so far this year.  Patricia Spottedcrow’s sentence was reduced by 4 years, but she still faces 8 years in prison for selling $31 of marijuana.

A lawmaker is calling for more accountability of out-of-state construction sub-contractors, who some say are winning bids for publicly funded projects by avoiding state taxes and workers’ compensation. Oklahoma County district judge and former state legislator Twyla Gray has passed away from breast cancer at age 56.

Today’s Number of the Day is the percentage by which total compensation paid to state employees lagged behind their private sector counterparts in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, a new study by the International Monetary Fund shows that soaring income inequality may be holding the United States back from economic recovery.

In The News

Oklahoma Governor announces plan to fix bad bridges

Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday she wants to fix all 706 structurally deficient bridges in Oklahoma’s highway system to further her administration’s primary goal of growing the economy and creating jobs. A report released in April by The Road Information Program indicated Oklahoma ranked second in the nation, behind only Pennsylvania, in the number of bridges rated structurally deficient. The Washington, D.C.-based group’s report said 22 percent of bridges in Oklahoma were structurally deficient in 2010 and an additional 7 percent were functionally obsolete. But Fallin said she wants to reverse that reputation. Her Bridge Improvement & Turnpike Modernization Plan calls for lawmakers to increase the amount of state revenue set aside for road and bridge repairs by $15 million a year and raise the road and bridge maintenance cap to $550 million to repair all of the state’s structurally deficient bridges by 2019 without raising taxes, tolls or fees.

Read more from The Associated Press at

Oklahoma City school board, nonprofit group to operate downtown charter school

In an unprecedented collaboration, the Oklahoma City School Board agreed Monday night to apply jointly with a community group to open a charter school downtown. Voters 11 years ago approved a bond issue and sales tax that called for an elementary school to be built downtown. The elementary still is being designed and a parcel of land has been identified for construction. Former Mayor Kirk Humphreys, who heads Oklahoma City Quality Schools, said negotiations, which took more than a year, weren’t easy because they were plowing new ground. Charter schools are funded with public money based on student enrollment, similar to regular public schools. Students attend tuition free on a first-come first-served basis. The schools are privately run and operate outside of many state laws that govern ordinary public schools. Traditionally, it is a nonprofit group that applies to a school district to open a charter school. But in this case the charter school application will be drafted by a 15 person board composed of six members appointed by the school board, six members appointed by OKC Quality Schools and three members selected jointly.

Read more from NewsOK at

Watch This: The Great Recession

This video provides an excellent graphical overview of postwar recessions, putting the most recent economic downturn into grave perspective. The video was created and narrated by Colin Gordon of the Iowa Policy Project. For more videos like this, and additional research and resources on policies that affect working families, visit

Watch the video on the OK Policy Blog at

Tecumseh juvenile correctional supervisors relieved of duties after three escapes, mounting violence

The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs relieved two high-ranking supervisors of their duties Monday after a series of violent disturbances at a Tecumseh juvenile correctional center followed by the escape of three juveniles Sunday night. All three escapees were captured without incident Monday morning after an all-night search involving several law enforcement agencies, said Todd Beesley, public information officer for the Tecumseh Police Department. The three teenagers were described as having gang affiliations and violent criminal histories. One was 17 years old and the other two were 15. Elizabeth Stewart, administrative director of institutions for the Office of Juvenile Affairs, and Mike Moriarity, superintendent of the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh, were placed on forced annual leave, said Paula Christiansen, spokeswoman for the agency.

Read more from NewsOK at

Tulsa sets record for number of meth labs

With 326 meth labs found in Tulsa so far this year, the city has already set a record, police said Monday. Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris told a legislative panel Monday that he expects the figure to rise to 450 or more by the end of the year. In all of 2010, Tulsa police worked 323 meth labs, setting the previous record. In 2009, 315 labs were reported. The legislative panel Harris addressed Monday is studying whether a prescription should be required for the pill form of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in cold and allergy medicines and in the production of methamphetamine. Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, said that last year the entire state had 818 meth labs, rising from 148 in 2007.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Mom who sold $31 in pot gets 4 years cut from 12-year prison term

A Kingfisher County judge took four years off a 12-year prison sentence for a first-time offender who sold $31 worth of marijuana to an informant. In an order issued Friday, Associate District Judge Robert Davis decided to suspend the final four years of the sentence for Patricia M. Spottedcrow, stating she has “done better in the structure of the Department of Corrections than she had during her adult years in the community.” Spottedcrow, 26, received the sentence last October after selling the marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, 51, was also charged. In blind guilty pleas before a judge, Spottedcrow received prison time and her mother received a 30-year suspended sentence. Neither had prior criminal convictions. Oklahoma City attorney Josh Welch, who represents Spottedcrow, said the punishment does not fit the crime.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Lawmaker calls for more accountability of out of state construction sub-contractors

Vance Whitlow works hard for a living. When he gets the chance. A masonry contractor, Whitlow spends a lot of his time these days doing odd projects for friends and struggling to find subcontracting work. It’s not that the work isn’t out there, Whitlow said. The problem is that he’s being undercut by out-of-state contractors who, he said, skirt the law, offer lower bids and walk away with the contract on publicly funded projects. Whitlow said the subcontractors don’t pay taxes or Social Security for their workers and many don’t pay workers’ compensation insurance, yet they still are successful in landing work on publicly financed construction projects. “It’s pretty bad,” he said. “You make a bid and you’re honest and you end up getting sent home. We’ve had some workers tell us the contractors pay them by putting their pay on Wal-Mart cards.” To fix the problem, Sen. Harry Coates said he’s writing legislation to create a registration program that references state agencies such as the Tax Commission, the Employment Security Commission and the labor commissioner’s office.

Read more from The Journal Record [subscriber only] at

Oklahoma County judge, former legislator Twyla Gray dies at 56

Oklahoma County District Judge Twyla Gray, 56, died Monday after a courageous battle against breast cancer, family members confirmed Monday. Services for Gray will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at St. Luke’s United Methodist, 222 N.W. 15th Street in Oklahoma City. They will be under the direction of Vondel Smith & Sons Mortuary-South. Judge Gray’s public service roles included service as a member of the Oklahoma Legislature from 1980-1984 and as chief of staff for the mayor of Tulsa. She also served as an assistant to Congressman James Jones, of Tulsa, and as a municipal judge for the City of Oklahoma City. She was first elected district judge in 1998 and was subsequently elected to three additional terms. In 2008 the Oklahoma Gang Investigators Association named her Judge of the Year. She was an active member of the Oklahoma and Oklahoma County Bar Associations and the Oklahoma Judicial Conference.

Read more from The Edmond Sun at

Quote of the Day

I don’t walk away from this feeling good even with four years knocked down, and I’m not going to give up until she is released.
Josh Welch, attorney for Patricia Spottedcrow, whose sentence was reduced by 4 years but still faces 8 years in prison for selling $31 in marijuana.

Number of the Day

-7.0 percent

Percentage by which total compensation paid to state employees ($62,215) lagged behind their private sector counterparts ($66,578), FY ‘10

Source:  Office of Personnel Management

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Graph of the Day: Income inequality weakens economic growth

Soaring income inequality may be holding the United States back from a broader economic recovery, according to a newly released study by the International Monetary Fund. Although political scientists have long debated whether social justice comes at the expense of social product—theoretically by reducing incentives to work and invest—the report provides strong evidence that an unequal distribution of wealth actually causes economies to experience deeper recessions and weaker recoveries. “Sustainable economic reform,” the authors warn, “is possible only when its benefits are widely shared.” The report’s authors studied a wide range of international data spanning nearly sixty years, and found that there was a positive correlation between the equality of a society and the strength and duration of its economic growth during expansionary periods. Based on their model, a 10 percent decrease in income inequality could actually extend U.S. economic growth by a full 50 percent. Higher levels of income equality were also found to correspond more strongly to sustained economic growth than any other factor, including trade openness, political institutions, and lower debt levels.

Read more from The Century Foundation at

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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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