In The Know: Investigation reveals failure to protect nursing home residents

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 a NewsOn6 investigation found that we are failing to prevent serious abuse of nursing home residents. Senator Coburn released a report finding that subsidies and tax breaks for millionaires cost the U.S. government an average of $30 billion a year. The state Supreme Court received numerous statements from law enforcement and business opposing removal of identifying information from court records.

The OK Policy Blog shares excerpts from a speech by Angela Glover Blackwell on why reducing inequality is the best strategy for growth. DHS Commissioner Wes Lane spoke with NewsOn6 about the committee he is putting together to investigate child deaths. Sen. Andrew Rice and Rep. Mike Reynolds shared positive assessments of how the tax credit task force has been conducted.

The Tulsa World writes that it is time to fix the unfairness of allowing online retailers to avoid collecting sales tax. Okie Funk warns Oklahomans not to forget that reducing the unfunded liability of the state pension programs was the result of reducing benefits of current and future retirees.

The Number of the Day is the median monthly gross rent -rent plus utilities- for renters in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, North Dakota could become the first state in the nation to implement an insurance exchange under the new health care reform law.

In The News

Investigation reveals failure to protect Oklahoma nursing home residents

Nurses who used to work at Rest Haven Nursing Home in Tulsa describe it as a house of horrors. “There was verbal abuse, physical abuse, lots of things reported,” said Rita Rodriguez, a former nurse at Rest Haven. She says Rest Haven was an unsafe environment that, even after complaints, never got better, listing some of the worst offenses. “The rats, the roaches the filth,” said Rodriguez. Complaints at Rest Haven show one resident had his hand slammed in a door on purpose and felt he was going to be “jumped” by employees. That same report shows another man was kept in involuntary seclusion because nurses said he was gay. There are five state agencies with the power to investigate nursing homes, but not a single one has the power to remove employees or close down a facility for ongoing problems.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Sen. Coburn releases report on government subsidies to millionaires

Subsidies and tax breaks for millionaires cost the U.S. government an average of $30 billion a year, according to a report released Monday by Sen. Tom Coburn, who wants to put new caps on federal benefits. Coburn, R-Muskogee, wants to limit Social Security benefits for the wealthiest Americans and make them pay more for Medicare. The senator is also calling for an end to farm payments, unemployment benefits and certain tax write-offs for those with adjusted gross incomes above $1 million. Coburn said Monday that government programs and tax policies are “subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Proposal to remove personal info from court records meets opposition

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma’s proposed rule change that would remove personal information such as dates of birth and addresses from court records would likely impede law enforcement as well as legal and business activity, according to responses submitted to the court. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt wrote that, if enacted, the rule would remove prosecutors’ ability to determine people’s criminal histories. The attorney general pointed out that the Federal Trade Commission does not include the theft of personal data from court documents among the risks for identity theft.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Angela Glover Blackwell: ‘Equity is the superior growth model’

This is a critical moment. The economy is in crisis. The middle class is shrinking. Inequality has come front and center in our conversation in America and we have rapidly changing demographics in which the racial and ethnic composition of the country is changing fast. This economic crisis really represents a failed growth model, one that was based on a housing bubble; one that was allowed to present itself as opportunity when it was really only credit-fueled consumption that was improving the lifestyles of people. We have a moment in time in which everyone is looking up and deciding that it’s okay to talk about inequality. That we have to talk about inequality. That as we struggle and work together as a nation to find our footing again in the global economy, as we try to reverse this crisis that we’re in, we need to make it clear that we cannot be nostalgic for a time that never was, while avoiding a future that is inevitable. We cannot go back to what we had.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

New DHS Commissioner talks about future of agency

What does the future hold for DHS, now that Commissioners are taking a closer look at their policies and procedures? We sat down with newly appointed Commissioner Wes Lane. He is in the process of forming a committee to look into all the recent death cases involving kids in state custody. So far, Lane and his committee have met twice since its inception. And he is in the process of recruiting several more people to serve on it. So far Lane has recruited a district judge, the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Deputy Superintendent from the Oklahoma City public schools. He hopes to form a group of between 15 and 20 individuals who will be looking at 18 child deaths that have occurred over the last year.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Rice and Reynolds share assessment of tax credit task force

At last week’s meeting of the Oklahoma Task Force on Tax Credits and Economic Incentives, two Oklahoma City legislators with generally conflicting views found themselves agreeing, at least about the usefulness of the hearings and the approach state Rep. David Dank took in guiding the hearings. Rice marveled at occasional agreement among legislators as diverse as Tulsa Democratic Sen. Tom Adelson and the conservative Rep. Reynolds, each of whom was critical of policies and practices in certain incentive plans. While not opposed to reforms, Rice laid out cautions about the increased use of the auditor’s office. He said, “Absolutely some of these need to be eliminated, but let’s tread carefully.”

Read more from CapitolBeatOK.

Tulsa World: Online tax issues need fix

There’s plenty of room for disagreement about taxes, but one thing most Americans likely would agree upon is that a tax should be as fair as possible. What’s fair about letting an online retailer sell popular products through the Internet without collecting sales taxes on them, while a local retailer selling the exact same products has to collect and remit sales taxes hovering around 10 percent? That’s the question lots of retailers have been asking for years. Finally, they’re starting to get some attention – although their battle is far from won. But the political and legal landscapes are starting to change.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Okie Funk: State retirees pay price for pension reform

Oklahoma House Republicans are touting what they perceive to be “historic” pension reform, but let’s remember reducing the unfunded liability of the state pension programs was the result of reducing future benefits of current and future retirees. According to a press release issued Thursday, the unfunded liability of the state pension programs has supposedly been reduced from $16 billion to $10.6 billion. Buried in the press release in the last paragraph is this: “The reforms enacted this year included House Bill 2132, which requires a funding source before cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) can be granted, and several acts that increased the retirement age for future employees.” One can only speculate why this significant information was given in the last paragraph. It should have been in the first paragraph, which might have read something like this: Recent cuts to current and future Oklahoma retiree benefits have made the state’s pension programs more solvent.

Read more from Okie Funk.

Quote of the Day

This is not a poor country. We have more wealthy people than anyone could ever think would be possible. We have more infrastructure – crumbling as it is – than most places ever dream of. We have the ability; we have the money to do what we need to do. We have a crisis, but it’s not a crisis that comes of not having any resources to address it.
Angela Glover Blackwell,  founder and CEO of PolicyLink

Number of the Day


Median monthly gross rent -rent plus utilities- for renters in Oklahoma, 8th lowest in the nation in 2009.

Source: U.S. Census

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

North Dakota health insurance exchange could be nation’s first

North Dakota could become one of the first states in the country to implement a key provision of the 2010 federal health care reform legislation if lawmakers approve a bill during this week’s special session. Under the federal legislation, all states must have an operational health benefit exchange by Jan. 1, 2014 or the secretary of Health and Human Services must create one. North Dakota’s exchange is expected to cost $39.6 million to implement, which would be covered by federal funds. All state exchanges would be required to be self-sustaining by 2015. Sharp said the plan under HB 1474 would assess a tax on insurance companies to pay for the exchange, which is projected to cost an additional $10.2 million per biennium to cover additional staffing and technology expenses. A 13-member board made up of health insurance, small business, health care and consumer representatives would establish the policy of the exchange, which would be operational by Oct. 1, 2013.

Read more from The Grand Forks Herald.

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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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