In The Know: July 11, 2011

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 on In The Know, all state funding for adult education was eliminated for 2012, putting many programs at risk.The legislative task force on tax breaks will start by examining historic building and insurance premium tax credits. OKC Central argues against claims that the historic building credit goes only to major metro areas. The Tulsa World finds that about two dozen state legislators have collected millions in federal farm subsidies. A second income check for families receiving the Oklahoma’s Promise Scholarship will take effect in 2012.

Interim studies conducted by the state House will for the first time be posted publicly online. Oklahoma’s state-sponsored insurance plan is underused and could benefit hundreds of Oklahomans who don’t know they qualify. A draft of the state’s Comprehensive Water Plan finds that water quality, not quantity, will be the biggest challenge for northeastern Oklahoma. A disparity in the number of absentee ballots in the first count and the recount may help incumbent Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith contest the election results.

Defenders of the MAPS 3 convention center argue that it will serve as a community center, not just a place for business conventions. With the deadline approaching for pet breeders to meet new state license requirements, many breeders have not submitted an application. In today’s Policy Note, Demos discusses how public sector job losses are hurting the economy. Today’s Number of the Day shows how many federal district courts have upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional.

Read on for more.

In The News

Oklahoma cuts funding for adult education

When Donald Prince, 38, lost his job with Cox Communications after 11 years, his little white lie caught up with him. “I’d told them I graduated from high school,” Prince admits. “Really, this day and age you have to have it now. Without a GED or high school diploma, it’s like a brick wall.” Today he is one of thousands of Oklahoma adults using a free state resource to earn his high school equivalency diploma. He plans to enroll in college courses to further increase his earning capacity. Adults in many communities are on waiting lists to take courses, and the wait likely will grow longer. All state funding for adult education was eliminated from the fiscal year 2012 budget, a $2.3 million loss.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Tax break task force will start with historic building and insurance tax credits

A newly created state task force will launch a study of state tax breaks by examining a taxpayer subsidy that has helped finance the rehabilitation of historic buildings, such as the Mayo Hotel in Tulsa and Skirvin Hilton in Oklahoma City. The 10-member panel also plans to review two insurance industry tax breaks when it holds its first session Friday at the Capitol. Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, task force co-chairman, said the historic building and insurance tax credits are the first of many the panel intends to scrutinize by the end of the year.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Not the full story that tax credits only used in major metros from OKC Central

Legislators collect millions in federal farm subsidies

Roughly two dozen state lawmakers – some who have railed against government spending – have collected federal farm subsidies in recent years, either directly or through payments to spouses, a Tulsa World investigation found. Some legislators who received payments are among the largest subsidy recipients in their communities. Others are not primarily farmers, and instead work as doctors or attorneys. At least three state legislators apparently violated Oklahoma law by failing to report the payments to the Ethics Commission, according to statements of financial interest.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma’s Promise recipients face second check on family income

Nearly 500 students whose family income was $100,000 or more received free college tuition in 2009-10 through a statewide scholarship program intended to help low-income families, according to information provided by the State Regents for Higher Education. Oklahoma’s Promise, a statewide program, is touted as a scholarship for students with a family income of $50,000 or less. Students must meet that income requirement when they enroll for the scholarship in eighth, ninth or 10th grade, but there is room for growth. In the past, there has been no check on how much a student’s family’s income changes after the student signs up for the program, which is why students whose family income is more than double the initial income requirement still are receiving the award. Several years ago, legislators passed a second income requirement that will take effect for students who start college in 2012, but it allows significant leeway. Students with families earning up to $100,000 still would be able to receive the scholarship, but if the family income exceeds that level they would be disqualified.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma House to share interim study reports online

The House of Representatives will conduct 80 interim studies this year and for the first time residents may review the findings. Interim study reports will be required to be publicly posted and archived, House Speaker Kris Steele said Friday. The studies will cover a wide range of topics, including public safety, education, government operations, health care, child and senior care and natural resources. The House received 126 interim study requests this year.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Insure Oklahoma offers low-cost health plans

The individual option of a state-sponsored health insurance plan is underused and could benefit hundreds more people who probably don’t know they qualify. It is an option for those with an income that is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, are receiving unemployment benefits in Oklahoma, are small business employees, are working 23 or fewer hours a week or are college students. Insure Oklahoma is funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. There are no limits for people with pre-existing conditions and the plan has relatively low co-pays and premiums on a sliding scale based on income.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Water quality, not quantity, biggest issue for northeastern Oklahoma

Even before this summer’s outbreak of potentially toxic blue-green algae at Grand Lake, at a popular swimming spot on Lake Fort Gibson and at Keystone Lake, a preliminary draft of the $13 million study said quality and not quantity of water will be the biggest issue for the middle Arkansas and Grand River watersheds over the next 50 years. The draft rates the Middle Arkansas region’s water quality as “fair to good” and the Grand River region “fair to poor” due to “high levels of dissolved solids, chlorides, sulfate and chlorophyll-a.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Disparity in absentee-ballot count may aid Smith appeal

Chad Smith’s appeal with the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court may have been gaining strength Sunday night in the race for principal chief. The Supreme Court is reviewing the controversial election and has narrowed its focus to absentee ballots. Justices with the Supreme Court ruled Sunday afternoon that they would enter the vault at the Election Commission to inspect the number of absentee ballots that were cast during the June 25 election. In the original count, machines recorded 6,144 absentee votes. In the recount, which was done by hand, 5,870 absentee ballots were recorded. What is in question isn’t which candidate the ballots were cast for, but rather the number of actual absentee ballots cast.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

MAPS 3 convention center is not just for business, defenders say

Supporters and detractors of the $280 million MAPS 3 convention center seem to be having trouble finding much middle ground. Critics say the center, which is supported by the business community, has been moved up 30 months on the timeline at the expense of other projects that would serve the public, such as an urban park. Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and a prominent proponent of the project, says the center is much more than just a business-oriented development. Like the present Cox Convention Center, it will host a wide variety of community events. High school dances and graduations, local conferences, holiday meals for the needy, prominent memorial services, sporting events and community gatherings are commonly held at Cox Convention Center.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Deadline looms for pet breeders to meet state licensing requirements

Less than a week from the deadline for commercial pet breeders to meet new state licensing requirements, only 24 operations have been approved by the state. Another 30 applications are being reviewed by the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders, and four or five are coming in every day, but that means hundreds of businesses covered by the state’s new puppy mill law have yet to meet state standards. Under the board’s rules, applications must be received by July 15. A U.S. Department of Agriculture database shows the state has 790 active licensed pet breeders. Most of those are wholesale breeders. When retail breeders are added to that number, some estimate the state has as many as 1,500 operations that would need state licenses.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Quote of the Day

I have enrolled people who – and I’m not kidding – are in the middle of chemotherapy.

Annie Berrett, who has been working to make people more aware of the Insure Oklahoma Individual Plan for Oklahomans without other access to affordable health insurance.

Number of the Day


Number of federal district courts that have upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional; 2 have ruled all or part of the health care reform law unconstitutional.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Public sector job losses hurt the economy

Everyone in both political parties says they want to bring down unemployment, and that sense of urgency is sure to grow after today’s dismal job numbers, which show unemployment creeping up to 9.2 percent. Given that high levels of joblessness are proving more stubborn than anticipated, now is a good moment to restate an obvious point: The single easiest way to keep people employed — and the one most clearly within the power of elected officials — is to stop laying off workers in the public sector. Today’s job numbers show once again how cuts in government payrolls are keeping the economy stuck in neutral. Even as the private sector added an anemic 18,000 jobs in June, the public sector — federal, state, and local government — handed pink slips to 39,000 workers. Three quarters of the public job losses at the local level were in education, many of them teachers.

Read more from Demos 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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