In The Know: July 5, 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, freshman state Representative Rusty Farley, who represented most of McCurtain County in southeast Oklahoma, died Monday of an aneurysm. Chief Chad Smith is petitioning the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court for another recount by machine after the hand recount awarded the election to his opponent. The OKC Council is expected to vote today on a MAPS 3 implementation schedule, with continuing controversy over how to prioritize quality of life versus economic development projects.

The Tulsa World explains the dispute between district leaders and Superintendent Barresi over whether teachers’ health insurance payments have been fully funded. The TU education program is changing its name and curriculum to focus on urban education. A successful program in Oklahoma County is helping juvenile offenders re-enter society with counseling and mentoring. The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology awarded a combine $1.6M for seven Oklahoma research projects that show significant potential for benefiting the state’s economy.

In today’s Policy Note, Stateline looks at efforts in several states to increase tax revenue by removing restrictions on the sale of alcohol. These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Freshman lawmaker from southeastern Oklahoma dies

A freshman state House of Representatives member died Monday at a Texas hospital, officials said. Rusty Farley, believed to be the first Republican elected from a heavily Democratic area in southeast Oklahoma, died in a Paris, Texas, hospital after suffering a pulmonary aneurysm, said John Estus, spokesman for House Speaker Kris Steele. Farley, from Haworth, was 57. Farley represented District 1, which covers most of McCurtain County. The governor will call a special election to fill the vacancy. It’s possible a successor could be elected late this year.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Cherokee Chief looks to justices for recount

After a quiet Independence Day weekend, the fireworks in the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief race could reignite as early as Tuesday morning. Tuesday is the soonest that the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court can rule on a request for an injunction filed by current principal chief Chadwick “Corntassel” Smith just before 5 p.m. Friday. In his petition to the court, Smith demanded that the election commission finish Thursday night’s recount using a machine. The results of Thursday night’s hand recount were certified as official, but the Smith campaign maintains the recount is incomplete because there is a 251-vote discrepancy between the sum of the votes counted Thursday and those in the original certified results announced Monday.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

MAPS 3 implementation vote will leave some unhappy, Oklahoma City officials predict

Oklahoma City leaders know some people will be left unhappy by the result of the city council’s expected vote Tuesday on the MAPS 3 implementation guideline. But officials want to reassure local residents that they’ll build what they promised voters two years ago. Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch says, “We’ve got eight projects we’re going to build over 10 years. We’re going to do all of them, and we’re going to do them all well.” The crux of the debate is whether to start MAPS 3 projects aimed mostly at economic development first or those intended primarily as ways to improve the quality of life in Oklahoma City. The projects with the greatest expected economic impact were among the least popular in city polling before the 2009 MAPS 3 vote, and the quality-of-life projects were among the most popular.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

State, schools differ on health insurance payment requirements

In the tug-of-war over the state’s newly approved education budget, payment of school employees’ health insurance premiums is the one issue that may be far from over. State Superintendent Janet Barresi says her school activities budget “fully funds” the obligation, just in a different manner than previous administrations’ budgets. School district leaders say they will come out short for two months’ worth of insurance premiums, or $34 million. Under Barresi’s budget, flexible benefit allowance costs were calculated from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012. Previously, they were calculated from July 1 through the end of the following August. Trish Williams, chief financial officer for Tulsa Public Schools, said that wasn’t done because economic times weren’t so tough before, but because of basic accounting laws.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

TU education department focuses on urban teaching

Several years ago a faculty member of the University of Tulsa’s education program pointed out that the school was actually doing its undergraduate students a disservice. Last month, the TU Board of Trustees approved the name change to the School of Urban Education, which is just a step in adjusting the department’s focus. New courses are being considered and curriculum is being revised to reflect the new mission. There is also a search for a new director who has experience with urban education. In addition to traditional education training, urban education also emphasizes multiculturalism and sociology.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma County program aids juvenile offenders with re-entry

Jimmy Rogers held the telephone next to his ear, trying to make sense of the angry words coming from the other end. Sam scrimped and saved to buy a used car, but he lost his money in a soured deal. He was raging and frustrated. He had been cheated and he wanted to do something about it, but the scenarios racing through his mind would have landed the 19-year-old former gang member back in jail. Instead, he called Rogers, a rehabilitative specialist for Youth and Family Services of Oklahoma County. Rogers drove more than an hour to see Sam, and they hashed out the problem on a basketball court.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

OCAST awards $1.6M for Oklahoma research projects

Seven researchers are receiving a combined $1.6 million in funding from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Techonology. Those receiving the awards must match the funding and have their research and development projects completed within three years. The OCAST funds target accelerated and proof-of-concept technology that has a significant potential for producing a commercially successful product, process or service with a high potential to benefit the state’s economy.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Quote of the Day

We’re having our students practice teaching at nice, white suburban schools, but the only jobs they can get is at the urban schools.

Thomas Benediktson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at TU and interim director of the newly renamed School of Urban Education

Number of the Day


Foster care homes in Oklahoma, March 2011.

Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS)

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

States find new ways to tap alcohol for revenue

Last month, the owner of the Wine Chap store in Nashville did something that would have been illegal just a few weeks before. He held two wine tastings in the store, letting customers sample high-end summer whites and sip expensive Bordeaux for free. Richard Payne figures he sold 10 cases of wine because of those tastings. The successful promotions also meant extra tax revenue for the state of Tennessee. Across the country, Republicans swept into office in 2010 vowing to cut, not raise taxes, even “sin” taxes like those on alcohol and tobacco, which historically have tended to go up when budgets get tight. In the recession year of 2009, more than a dozen states relied on higher alcohol or cigarette taxes to help dig themselves out of budget holes. But this year, Republican governors and legislatures decided they could generate needed revenue by changing their alcohol laws and leaving the tax rates alone.

Read more from this Stateline article 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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