In The Know: July 13, 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, school districts are facing larger class sizes and fewer teachers due to state funding cuts and the expiration of federal stimulus money. The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ordered another hand recount in the contested principal chief election. Former state Senator Debbe Leftwich is taking her bribery case to the state Supreme Court. An Oklahoma watchdog group is asking lawmakers not to rush into making a “Caylee’s Law,” warning that it may be unconstitutional.

The Oklahoma water plan will create a definition of “surplus water” to determine if Oklahoma has enough water to sell to North Texas. A Tulsa firefighters’ lawsuit over an ordinance that prohibits them from campaigning in city elections may move to federal court. Tulsa County has agreed to purchase land for a new juvenile justice facility. The Tulsa World praised the move but warns that more investment is needed to build the direly needed replacement. A tribe and two municipalities are planning to take over 3 of the 7 state parks scheduled to close due to budget cuts. Kurt Hochenauer argues that Oklahoma’s poor public health shows a need for better city planning.

In today’s Policy Note, Health Beat explains why raising the eligibility age for Medicare would increase the nation’s health care costs. Today’s Number of the Day is how many concealed carry license applications were denied by the State of Oklahoma in 2010. These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Tulsa area schools cutting teachers as state funds evaporate

Tulsa-area school districts are facing larger class sizes and fewer teachers this fall as state funding is slashed and federal stimulus dollars dwindle. Congress provided about $100 billion in stimulus funding for U.S. education the past two years to offset the effects of declining state coffers. The funding expires in September. Oklahoma will cut another 4.1 percent from the common education budget in fiscal year 2012. But there will be no extra federal dollars to fill those budget holes. Now, many school districts across the country are facing what many are calling a “massive fiscal cliff.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Cherokee court orders recount of chief election ballots

The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a hand count of all ballots from the tribe’s June 25 election to determine exactly which candidate received the most votes in the disputed chief’s race. Attorneys for both candidates are treating the court-ordered action as an official second recount, but Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons said she believes that the results will be relevant to the court only for the purposes of deciding an appeal by incumbent Chief Chad Smith. According to Cherokee constitutional law, the results of the previous recount remain valid until the tribal Supreme Court issues a ruling on the appeal.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Leftwich takes bribery case to state Supreme Court

The defense attorney for a former state senator charged with bribery said Tuesday the state appellate court’s recent decision to reject his request to dismiss the case raises constitutional issues that the state Supreme Court needs to resolve. Oklahoma County prosecutors have charged Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, and current state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, with felony bribery. Both have pleaded not guilty. McCampbell filed a motion to dismiss the case and has argued that Leftwich’s service in the Legislature exempted her from prosecution for alleged wrongdoing in the performance of her professional duties under the speech and debate clause of the state Constitution. At least eight current and former lawmakers are scheduled to testify in the bribery case at a preliminary hearing set to begin on Aug. 8.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Lawmakers asked not to rush into writing ‘Caylee’s Law’

Lawmakers should refrain from plans to write legislation responding to last week’s acquittal of a Florida mother charged with murdering her 2-year-old daughter, the head of an Oklahoma conservative watchdog group said Tuesday. “I expect more from our legislators than to just jump on the bandwagon,” said David Tackett, founder of Oklahomans for Liberty. Two state legislators already have announced plans to file a bill that would make it a felony for adults not to report a child who is missing or dead. Tackett said such a law could violate the U.S. Constitution’s 5th Amendment, which prohibits a person from self-incrimination during a trial.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma water plan to define ‘surplus water’

Oklahoma water officials suggested new guidelines Tuesday for how policymakers determine whether regions of the state have enough excess water to transfer from one area of the state to another, or even to another state. The new guidelines were discussed during a regular meeting of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, which is developing a comprehensive water plan that will determine whether the state has enough excess water to sell to North Texas. The plan is expected to be completed in October. Kyle Arthur, OWRB’s director of planning, suggested the plan include a definition of “excess and surplus” water that would include projected local water needs through 2060 plus a 10 percent cushion for unforeseen decreases in availability.

Read more from this Associated Press article at–Water-Plan-Okla/.

Tulsa files to move firefighters’ election rights lawsuit to federal court

A lawsuit alleging that Mayor Dewey Bartlett violated the rights of Tulsa firefighters when he ordered them not to campaign in municipal elections has become a federal case. Attorneys for the city filed documents this week to move the lawsuit – originally filed in state court – to U.S. District Court in Tulsa, stating that the plaintiffs’ claim of a violation of their First Amendment rights establishes federal jurisdiction. The complaint, which was filed June 22, takes issue with an April 1 executive order that says the City Charter’s prohibition of active campaigning by firefighters in municipal elections includes speaking at rallies, picketing and publicly soliciting votes for candidates.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Land purchased for new juvenile justice center

Tulsa County has agreed to purchase a tract of land for future development of a juvenile justice and family courts center. Commissioner Fred Perry, acting on behalf of Tulsa County, announced tuesday that he signed a contract to buy the seven and a half acrew. The downtown site, currently occupied by Storey Wrecker, is bordered by Elwood and Guthrie Avenues on its east and west sides and Archer Street on the north.  Railroad tracks border the property’s south side. The contract, which Perry negotiated, allows Tulsa County to purchase the land for $2.5 million.

Read more from this KJRH article at

See also: Tulsa World: New juvenile justice center a good first step

Local groups taking over some state parks scheduled for closure

The city of Heavener has taken over Runestone Park, the town of Beaver will assume management of Beaver Dunes State Park in August, and now the Osage Nation is stepping up to operate Wah-Sha-She State Park upon approval of its tribal governing body. The parks are three of seven the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department set for closure due to budget cuts. “The Osage people have made it clear that one of their priorities is to expand and improve water recreation on the reservation, including swimming, boating, camping and fishing,” said Osage Principal Chief John Red Eagle. “This one step enables Osage Nation to begin realizing that goal.”

Read more from the 23rd and Lincoln blog at

Okie Funk: Does health philosophy determine planning?

A recent editorial in The Oklahoman shows just how intractable and narrow minded some city leaders are when it comes to significantly improving the quality of life here. The headline says it all: “More bad news on obesity, but government isn’t the solution.” Individual responsibility over community. Survival of the fittest—literally—over advocating common sense planning choices. The state, and especially the Oklahoma City area, needs more sidewalks, bike lanes, ball diamonds, soccer facilities and parks. It needs more swimming pools and jogging trails. People need to walk more and drive less. People need better access to medical care. These arguments are not part of some “government fiat.” They simple argue for better planning to improve the quality of life for everyone, even those in the best physical shape.

Read more from the Okie Funk blog at

Quote of the Day

I’m trying to be as understanding as I can, but there are students who need to know that they have a teacher.

Debra Jacoby, chief financial officer for Union Public Schools, on the delay in receiving information
from the Department of Education on how many dollars will be cut from their state funding.

Number of the Day


Number of concealed carry license applications denied by the State of Oklahoma in 2010.  247 were denied because of a pending criminal case or a previous criminal conviction.

Source: Self‐Defense Act Licensing Unit

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why raising the eligibility age for Medicare would hike the nation’s health care bill

Not long ago the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report which projects that raising Medicare eligibility to 67 in 2014 would generate an estimated $7.6 billion in net savings to the federal government. But it also would lead to an estimated net increase of $5.6 billion in out-of-pocket costs for 65- and 66-year-olds, and $4.5 billion in employer retiree health-care costs. In other words, as a nation, we would spend $10 billion in order to save $7.6 billion. Why would the change cost us so much? If 65 and 66- year olds are forced to buy private insurance, their average co-pays and deductibles will be higher than they are under Medicare. If their employer offers insurance, many will put off retirement until they are 67, hiking employers’ costs (and reducing the number of available jobs). If they don’t have employer-based insurance they will need government subsidies to help them buy private insurance in the Exchanges. That insurance will be more expensive than Medicare because in the private sector, administrative costs are higher.

Read more from the Health Beat blog 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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