In The Know: July 28, 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 you should know that a court battle over the state Senate’s redistricting plan could interfere with next year’s elections, since the State Election Board needs to begin transitioning to new boundaries by no later the the second week of September. The Education Department ordered Oklahoma’s first online charter school to stop enrolling students at physical sites that aren’t located in the rural district that granted the charter. Oklahoma City Public Schools is bringing in 26 new principals as part of an effort to change the culture in the district.

A federal disaster was declared for almost the entire state due to the continuing drought and heatwave in Oklahoma. Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said the FAA shutdown is costing the city jobs and money. The OK Policy Blog explains how airlines’ reaction to the shutdown disproves an argument commonly used by opponents of business taxes and regulations. A military court upheld Edmond native Michael Behenna’s conviction for murdering a man he suspected of being a terrorist while serving in Iraq.

A Tulsa police officer is suing the police chief and the City of Tulsa, saying he was ordered to attend the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade because he’s black. Oklahoma state officials are asking to reserve an airspace corridor between Fort Sill and Clinton for drones, in what would be the first civil airspace in the country where unmanned aircraft could be flown without prior FAA permission. A federal program will provide $13.2 million in seed money for promising Oklahoma technology startups.

The Tulsa World argues that requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine is a heavy-handed measure that would inconvenience allergy-sufferers but not stop meth-makers over the long term. Today’s Policy Note looks at what will happen to U.S. infrastructure if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally in job growth during the last 6 months.

In The News

Fight over Senate redistricting plan could affect next year’s elections

A long court battle over the state Senate’s redistricting plan could cause chaos in next year’s elections and interfere with the process of drawing new voting precincts, the state’s top election official said in papers filed with the state Supreme Court. State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax must know the Senate boundaries by no later than the second week of September in order to begin supervising county election boards in drawing precinct lines, according to papers filed late Tuesday by the state attorney general’s office. Ziriax’s office must also notify voters of their new precincts and new polling places, as well oversee the installation of new voting machines.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Virtual charter school ordered to stop enrolling students at physical sites

The state Education Department has ordered a virtual charter school to stop enrolling students at physical school sites planned to open in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman this September. State law says that any charter school must be physically located in the school district that grants the charter. In this case, Epic One on One Charter School is chartered through Graham Public Schools. Graham is a rural community in Okfuskee County just northwest of Ardmore. Charter schools are privately run but publicly funded and require the sponsorship of a school district, institution of higher education or career technology center to operate.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma City changes principals at 26 schools

Oklahoma City School District Superintendent Karl Springer said the naming of 26 new principals is part of a deliberate effort to change the culture in the urban district. “We want to be the center of the cultural change that you see across this country in urban education,” Springer said. “We really believe with the leadership we’ve brought into the school district this year that that will happen.” A number of the vacancies at some of the district’s 76 school sites came from retirements and principals taking other jobs, but others were the result of quiet resignations following public pressure for changes in leadership.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Two heat deaths reported, federal disaster declared as Oklahoma drought continues

A federal disaster declaration covered nearly the entire state Wednesday as Tulsa’s temperature hit a record 107, with the forecast offering no end in sight to the relentless drought. With the death toll rising and crops withering from one of the hottest, driest Julys in state history, the federal declaration included 74 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. Nowata, Craig and Ottawa counties – along the Kansas border in the northeast corner of the state – could be added later, qualifying farmers to receive aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, two recent deaths in Tulsa brought the state’s total number of heat-related fatalities to nine this summer.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

FAA shutdown costing Tulsa jobs and cash

Mayor Dewey Bartlett and Airports Director Jeff Mulder held a news conference Wednesday morning to discuss the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA’s operating authority expired at midnight Friday. As a result, dozens of airport construction projects across the country have been put on hold and thousands of federal employees furloughed. Tulsa International just completed one phase of a runway project and in two weeks would be asking for bids on the next section. That’s going to be delayed because FAA employees who handle paperwork – and distribute money – are on furlough.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

FAA shutdown proves business taxes aren’t always passed on to consumers

With Congress unable to agree on a bill to extend operations of the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency has been partially shut down since last Friday. Numerous construction projects were halted, nearly 4,000 federal workers have been furloughed, and $200 million a week in aviation taxes are not being collected. The situation is another unfortunate example of how gridlock in Washington is imperiling economic recovery. Yet it also serves as a useful natural experiment– one that contradicts an argument commonly used by opponents of taxes and government regulation.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Military court upholds Edmond soldier’s conviction

A military appeals court has upheld Lt. Michael Behenna’s conviction of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone, unanimously rejecting his claims that he received an unfair trial for killing an Iraqi man he suspected of being a terrorist. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals also upheld Behenna’s 15-year sentence, which the Edmond native is serving at a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Behenna, who was seeking a new trial, is planning to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, his mother said Wednesday. A military justice expert said the court does not have to accept the case and that, if it doesn’t, Behenna will have no more legal avenues to pursue his appeals.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Black Tulsa officer sues, says he was forced to attend MLK parade

A Tulsa police captain is suing his major, the police chief and the City of Tulsa, saying he was ordered to attend the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade because he’s black. Captain Walter Busby has been on the department for about 30 years. He says the department violated his civil rights. Busby says he was ordered by Major Walter Evans to attend the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade last year, even though he didn’t want to. Busby says he felt his participation would make it look like he agrees with how the department treats African American citizens, but he does not.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Oklahoma wants to reserve airspace for drones

A new air corridor to be reserved exclusively for unmanned aerial drones could turn Oklahoma into the prime drone development region of the United States. Oklahoma state officials are currently pushing for the corridor, which would stretch for approximately 80 miles between Fort Sill and the town of Clinton, to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. If approved, the air corridor would be the first civil airspace in the country where unmanned aircraft could be flown without prior FAA permission.

Read more from Talking Points Memo at

Federal funds will boost Oklahoma startups

Promising Oklahoma technology startups will get money to make money — and create jobs — from $13.2 million in federal seed money meant to sprout into some $130 million in total investment to create and expand high-growth businesses. The money, from the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative, will be allocated through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and managed by i2E Inc. Commerce and i2E, a private corporation focused on technology-based wealth creation in Oklahoma, are partnering in “Accelerate Oklahoma!” to provide three investment funds for new, promising businesses.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Tulsa World: Requiring prescription for allergy-medicine is heavy-handed way to fight meth

The District Attorneys Council supports legislation that would require a prescription for the tablet form of a common cold remedy – pseudoephedrine – which is the major ingredient in the manufacture of illegal methamphetamine. DAC also supported a bill years ago that limited over-the-counter pseudoephedrine sales to 9 grams per month per customer. But more recently meth-makers wired around that impediment. A prescription for formerly over-the-counter medication would slow them down for awhile. And then the meth-makers would rise to the occasion and do what they’ve always done: wire around the impediment. Meanwhile, law-abiding consumers will be stuck into perpetuity with having to acquire a prescription to buy medicine for their colds or allergy woes.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at

Quote of the Day

It costs a lot of jobs; it costs us a lot of money, and it gives a lot of uncertainty on what the future is, so we’re asking Congress to please look at the unintended consequences of their decisions.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, on the shutdown of the FAA due to Congress failing to extend the agency’s operating authority.

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank nationally in job growth during the last 6 months (December 2010-June 2011).  The number of jobs in the state grew 2.1 percent

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, what will happen to U.S. infrastructure?

The Bipartisan Policy Center has released a report (pdf) on what will happen to various federal programs if the United States fails to raise the debt ceiling by August 2. Under the report’s first scenario, which funds “big ticket” programs like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, all but five major federal programs are cut off from Uncle Sam, including transportation. For infrastructure advocates that’s not a pretty picture. The Federal Highway Administration would be out $4.3 billion, the Transit Administration would lose $1.3 billion, and HUD programs would be short $6.7 billion. And that’s just for August. That may mean immediate employee furloughs and stop-work orders on big projects, as with the current F.A.A. shutdown.

Read more from The Infrastructurist 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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