In The Know: July 27, 2011

In 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.

Calls and emails prompted by a televised Presidential address on the debt ceiling poured into Oklahoma lawmakers’ offices yesterday, periodically crashing email servers and websites and tying up phone lines.  NewsOn6 reports that the majority of constituent calls to Senator Tom Coburn’s office supported a balanced approach or compromising with the President and Democrats.  A DHS commission has delayed a vote on increasing child care co-payments for low income Oklahoma families pending an attorney general opinion on whether they have the authority to do so.

The EPA delayed announcement on a new ozone standard that could land Tulsa County on the “dirty air list.”  A Tulsa city councilor is raising questions about how impending changes at an area cement plant could affect air quality.  The state board charged with enforcing a new puppy-mill law voted to give commercial pet breeders an amnesty period until October 3rd before they are subject to the full force of the law.

The OK Policy Blog examined the persistence of racial disparities in the state’s unemployment rate.  An editorial in the Oklahoman urges state policymakers to continue to strive for excellence in early childhood education.  The U.S. Postal Service is considering closing 100 post offices in Oklahoma to cut costs.

In today’s Policy Note, a report released by the Pew Research Center shows a widening racial wealth gap; the median wealth of white households is now 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of people on food stamps in Oklahoma.

In The News

President Barack Obama’s speech prompts calls to Oklahoma lawmakers about debt ceiling

Calls prompted by a televised address from President Barack Obama poured into Oklahoma lawmakers’ offices Tuesday, as the House and Senate prepared to consider deficit-reduction legislation that would trigger an increase in the nation’s borrowing authority.  Several Oklahoma offices reported high volumes of calls and emails the day after Obama urged people to press their lawmakers for a compromise and a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction.  Jared Young, spokesman for Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said the senator’s Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Washington offices received nearly 500 calls combined and all lines in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices were busy at times. Young said the senator’s website crashed periodically as more than 3,400 emails were logged.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma Lawmakers Get Earful From Voters On Debt Impasse

The President called on Americans to pressure lawmakers to reach a deal. And Tuesday, Oklahoma’s lawmakers have gotten an earful.  Congressional phone lines are ringing off the hook, tying up the switchboard and even crashing email servers after an appeal from the President.  Of the 601 constituent calls, his office says it received on Tuesday, nearly a third support the House Republican plan of cut, cap and balance and sticking with conservative principles.  A majority supported a balanced approach or compromising with the President and Democrats.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Oklahoma panel delays vote on child care cost hike

DHS Commissioner Howard Hendrick said Tuesday a vote on the proposed increases will be delayed until Nov. 1 while an attorney general opinion is sought on whether the commission has the authority to modify the rates.  Hendrick says the department’s general counsel has determined the commission does have the authority, but at least one commissioner disagrees.

Read more from NewsOK at

New ozone standard won’t be released this month, EPA says

A federal agency once again has delayed an announcement on a new ozone standard that could put Tulsa County on the so-called “dirty air list,” it was learned Tuesday.  No new deadline was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  That is expected to be viewed as good news by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a vocal critic of EPA’s efforts to beef up ozone standards.  Despite the latest delay, Gilfillan said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson ”is fully committed to finalizing EPA’s reconsideration of the Clean Air Act health standard for ground-level ozone.”

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Tulsa Councilman Fired Up Over Cement Plant Upgrade

A Tulsa city councilor raised environmental concerns about an area cement plant Monday. He’s worried changes at the plant could land Tulsa on the dirty air list.  Tulsa city councilor Roscoe Turner says the plant could soon produce 40 times the pollution it does. The plant manager says Turner’s numbers are just plain wrong.  Lafarge currently burns everything from coal to used tires to keep the operation running, now it wants to replace all that with what they call fuel quality waste.  Plant manager Jim Bachmann says that’s basically stuff you could find under your kitchen sink or your garage, like used oils, paints, and cleaners. Some people are worried burning those hazardous materials could be hazardous to your health.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

State board votes amnesty for pet breeders till Oct. 3

The state board charged with enforcing the state’s puppy-mill law voted Tuesday to give commercial pet breeders through Oct. 3 to get their kennels licensed before they will face the full brunt of the law.  After the amnesty period ends, board members promised aggressive enforcement of the state’s rules.  Based on feedback he has gotten from other breeders, Brogden estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent of the commercial breeders are refusing to comply out of defiance and will have to be fined by the board before they will comply with the rules.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Oklahoma’s Unemployment Gap: The labor market isn’t colorblind

Black unemployment in the United States has reached depression-era levels in the wake of the Great Recession, and some speculate that long-term unemployment is reversing decades of black economic gains.  Black unemployment at the state level mirrors the national trend.  Oklahoma experienced a comparatively less severe recession and maintains one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.  Yet black workers in the state were unemployed at more than twice the rate (13.1 percent) of white workers (5.9 percent) in 2010.  This is comparable to the national gap – where the unemployment rate for black workers is about twice (16.2 percent) that of whites (8 percent).

Read more from OK Policy Blog at

Efforts to enhance early learning in Oklahoma must continue

Oklahoma is no stranger to lists. And too often, we find ourselves on the wrong end. Poor health. High incarceration rates. Unimpressive student achievement results. But there’s one list where Oklahoma is consistently on the right end — early childhood education.  So it’s puzzling and even disconcerting that Oklahoma isn’t on the list of states that are giving the U.S. Department of Education an early heads-up that our state will be applying for Race to the Top funds set aside for early learning. States aren’t required to give the department an early notice, but even the trade newspaper Education Week found Oklahoma’s absence a curious omission.

Read more from NewsOK at

Postal Service to study closing 100 post offices in Oklahoma, mostly in rural areas

The U.S. Postal Service is considering closing 100 “low-activity” post offices in Oklahoma, mostly in rural areas, as a cost-cutting move.  The Oklahoma sites are among nearly 3,700 being studied for closure nationwide — more than 10 percent of the retail offices. The Postal Service is hoping to set up “Village Post Offices” at convenience stores and other locations to sell stamps, accept packages and, in some instances, provide post office boxes in many of the affected areas.

Read more from NewsOK at

Quote of the Day

“These facilities are extremely important to their communities. We will use everything at our disposal to protect rural Oklahoma post offices. They are vital for seniors, veterans and farmers in my district.”

Rep. Dan Boren on the potential closure of hundreds of rural post offices

Number of the Day


Number of people on food stamps in Oklahoma in April 2011, up 4.5 percent, or 26,446 people, from the same month last year

Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics

The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009.  These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009.

Read more from the Pew Research Center at

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