In The Know: July 22, 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, dealing with the heat is straining the budgets of low-income families and non-profits that shelter the homeless. The heat is adding to the importance of summer feeding sites for low-income children. Forecasters expect the heat wave to continue throughout the summer.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi says she won’t back a supplemental appropriations request being considered by the CareerTech Board. The Cherokee Supreme Court invalidated the contested principal chief vote and ordered a new election. Sen. David Holt plans to revive a bill to change binding arbitration for disputes between cities and their employees. The measure passed the Senate but was not brought up in the House last session due to lack of support.

Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said a major cut in federal road funds could delay completion of an I-44 project in Tulsa and result in additional traffic deaths. The Tulsa area Regional Transit Plan released yesterday is putting emphasis on improving the bus system. The OK Policy Blog assesses the pros and cons of managed competition. Kurt Hochenauer argues that Oklahoma gets no advantage from being a low wage state. M. Scott Carter wonders whether Rep. Dank’s attempt to rein in tax credits will be more successful than previous efforts.

In today’s Policy Note, the Associated Press examines how some of the states hardest hit by the heat wave have drastically cut or entirely eliminated programs that help poor people pay their electric bills, forcing thousands to go without air conditioning. Today’s Number of the Day is the amount allocated by the health care reform law for programs that address shortages of primary care providers.

In The News

Heat putting hardships on homeless, low-income; local shelters seeing record numbers

Young and for the past month homeless, Jason Davis started staying overnight at the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless because of the heat wave. “Under a bridge there’s shade, but the concrete adds 5 to 10 degrees to the heat,” he said. “Here it’s cool, and I have a roof over my head.” More and more homeless people are seeking refuge in area shelters as the unrelenting high temperatures continue. And the efforts to keep cool, comfortable and hydrated are beginning to put a strain on the budgets of nonprofits, low-income families and those on fixed incomes.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Summer feeding sites helping some children who are facing extreme heat as well as hunger from NewsOK; Heat wave likely to continue through summer, Oklahoma officials say from NewsOK

Barresi won’t back supplemental appropriation for CareerTech

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said Thursday that she could not support a supplemental appropriation under consideration by the State Board of CareerTech. CareerTech Chief Financial Officer Jim Aulgur told the CareerTech Board the agency was considering seeking a nearly $6.4 million supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 2012, which began July 1. Barresi is board chairwoman. In a recent interview, Barresi said she would not ask for a supplemental appropriation for common education to restore some of the cuts made to its budget, including the elimination of funds to pay for $5,000 bonuses for teachers to attain National Board certification.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Cherokee court invalidates vote; chief to schedule new election

Incumbent Principal Chief Chad Smith will set a date for a new election in the contest for his position now that the tribe’s Supreme Court has invalidated the first election. Citing mathematical uncertainty, the court vacated all previous certifications of that election’s outcome Thursday morning, including the last one – issued on June 30 – that made Bill John Baker the chief-elect by 266 votes. Three days before that outcome, the Cherokee Nation Election Commission had declared Smith the winner by seven votes. Cherokee election laws state that in the event that the tribal Supreme Court invalidates an election, the Election Commission’s chairman must notify the principal chief, who then must order a new election “as soon as practical.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Legislator plans to revive measure that would change binding arbitration

A legislator said Thursday he will continue to seek passage of legislation that would change how work contract disputes are settled between cities and labor unions. Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, told members of the Northwest Chamber he plans to revive Senate Bill 826, which passed the Senate this year but failed to win approval in the House of Representatives. The upcoming session, which starts in February, is the second session of the 53rd Legislature so bills still considered alive may be taken up next year. Holt said the bill was not brought up for a vote on the House floor because not enough of the 70 GOP House members would provide the 51 votes it needed for passage. The 31 Democrats were expected to vote against it.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Ridley says cuts could delay I-44 work

Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley warned Thursday that a major cut in federal road funds could delay completion of a huge Interstate 44 project in Tulsa and result in additional traffic deaths. Testifying before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Ridley cited that section of road’s “high fatality” rate, terming it some of the worst in Oklahoma’s interstate system. Ridley’s dramatic testimony came in response to a question from U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a major player in efforts to come up with a measure to at least maintain current levels of road funding. Even though the Oklahoma Republican and others have agreed to scale back those efforts to a two-year bill, a $12 billion hole remains.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Transit plan puts focus on buses

The Regional Transit System Plan released Thursday won’t change the area’s transportation landscape overnight. It’s going to take time, officials say, and it’s going to take buses – lots of buses. Mike McAnelly, a consultant with the Jacobs engineering firm, explained why during an open house Thursday night at Central Center at Centennial Park, 1028 E. Sixth St. “We realized early in this discussion that a well-performing basic bus system is the essential backbone of any successful transit system around the country or around the world,” he said. “To focus on the higher-capacity, more exciting things, like rail, without paying attention to a bus system, we’d be doomed for failure.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

The pros and cons of managed competition

In June, government workers at Tulsa’s city hall successfully fought to keep their jobs in a process called managed competition. Unlike typical privatization, managed competition allows government employees to bid against private sector firms. For its first attempt at managed competition, Tulsa’s asked private companies and city employees to submit bids for complete maintenance of the city hall building for one year. Four private companies submitted bids, but the existing city hall workers beat the competition with a bid that saved $115,818 from the original $1 million that was budgeted for maintenance of the building. However, economic policies like managed competition have their benefits and shortcomings.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Kurt Hochenauer: City needs higher wages

The right wing here can and will spin it however it wants, but there’s simply no advantage in being known as a low-wage city or a low-wage state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to a article, recently released information that shows wages in Oklahoma City are 12 percent lower than the national average. Average hourly wages here are $18.81 compared to $21.35 nationally. Wages here have gone up a little bit, but we’re still behind in many occupations.

Read more from the Okie Funk blog at

M. Scott Carter: Tax credit review long overdue

Republican state Rep. David Dank’s call to review the state’s tax incentive programs seems, at first glance, to be a good idea. Dank has shown that he is serious about examining tax credits. He’s also proven that he’s willing to listen. But for several years now, the Legislature has had an incentive review committee charged with doing exactly what Dank is attempting to do now. Designed to show the public the Legislature was serious about tax issues, the rhetoric that created the incentive review committee was fierce. But the work done by the committee hasn’t met the same standard.

Read more from this Journal Record editorial at

Quote of the Day

In 2011, our public transportation system is about 30 percent smaller that it was at the turn of the century. We have actually gone in the wrong direction.
Bill Cartwright, general manager of Tulsa Transit

Number of the Day

$1.5 billion

Amount allocated by the health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, for programs that address shortages of primary care providers.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute via CapitolBeatOK

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

States cut programs to help poor cool their homes

Many states hit hardest by this week’s searing heat wave have drastically cut or entirely eliminated programs that help poor people pay their electric bills, forcing thousands to go without air conditioning when they need it most. Oklahoma ran out of money in just three days. Illinois cut its program to focus on offering heating money for the winter ahead. And Indiana isn’t taking any new applicants. When weighed against education and other budget needs, cooling assistance has been among the first items cut, and advocates for the poor say that could make this heat wave even more dangerous.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.