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 email@example.com. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today on In The Know, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is suing the EPA over their plan to reduce regional haze in Southwest Oklahoma by requiring three coal plants to install scrubbers or switch to natural gas. The EPA earlier rejected a state plan that would not have met the regional haze goal until 2026. NewsOn6 investigates state contracts that require agencies to spend more on some products than the best available price. The OK Policy Blog surveys the fates of all of the bills we blogged about this session.
CapitolBeatOK looks at the status of Gov. Fallin’s quick action closing fund, which was approved by the legislature but given no funding this year. OK Policy previously examined the questionable history of closing funds in Oklahoma and Texas. Americans for Tax Reform, the anti-tax group headed by Grover Norquist, is remaining silent over Oklahoma’s approval of a hospital provider fee despite AFR’s claims that it violates their pledge. OK Policy previously discussed this issue here.
This Land Press investigates the disproportionate number of misconduct complaints and lack of oversight in the Tulsa Police Department. A group of Tulsans are working to protect the few remaining buildings of historical Greenwood, which date from the immediate aftermath of the Tulsa Race Riot. Linda Terrell warns about cuts to programs needed by at-risk children in Oklahoma. Mainstream Baptist disputes NewsOK’s analysis of the ‘Flip It To Fix It’ report on inverting state tax structures. OK Policy previously explained this report here. NewsOK defends the jury ruling that gave a life sentence to Jerome Ersland for killing a robber in his pharmacy.
In today’s Policy Note, the Los Angeles Times reports on how the Obama administration is reducing prices and increasing the availability of insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions. Read on for more.
In The News
Oklahoma attorney general sues EPA over federal plan to reduce regional haze
Attorney General Scott Pruitt claimed in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority when it rejected a state plan to reduce regional haze in southwest Oklahoma and moved forward with its own federal plan. The EPA plan is designed to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants and industrial sources to improve visibility at federally managed wilderness areas like the 59,000-acre Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge near Lawton. It would target coal-fired power plants operated by Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. at Red Rock and Muskogee and another operated by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma at Oologah. Those three facilities, built more than 30 years ago, are responsible for more than one-third of the sulfur dioxide pollution from all the industrial and utility sources in the state, according to the EPA.
Read more from this Associated Press article at http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/d262611b988e4b33946219de046fcafb/OK–Okla-Lawsuit-EPA/.
State agency employees question state contract prices
Some state employees are speaking out, expressing concern about mandatory state contracts. They argue items are sometimes overpriced and they’re forced to spend tax dollars buying them. Like Quickkrete, one employee bought for DOC last year, on a mandatory state contract. The cost was three times higher than the price at a local lumber yard. The state’s bag was 10 pounds smaller. A three-wheel cart was $663 dollars more through the state contract. More than one agency complained about toilet paper, saying it typically runs $10 higher.
Read more from this NewsOn6 article at http://www.newson6.com/story/14772084/state-agency-employees-question-state-contract-prices.
Where are they now? Bills we kept our eye on
It was a busy session. Last Friday marked the deadline for Governor Fallin to take final action on bills that landed on her desk. Now that sine die has passed, we thought it would be useful for OK Policy to do inventory and update you on the status of the bills we wrote about this session on our blog.
Read more from the OK Policy Blog at https://okpolicy.org/where-are-they-now-bills-we-kept-our-eye-on/.
Fallin gets “quick action closing” mechanism, but no new funding
When she signed House Bill 1953 last week, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin put into state law the “Quick Action Closing Fund,” a priority economic development (ED) mechanism she had sought since her State of the State speech in January. It is also a program the State Chamber had wanted to add as another tool for attracting new or relocated jobs to the Sooner State. Fallin had persistently pressed legislators to create the fund so she can leverage deals to attract new or expanded business investment. House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Earl Sears, a Bartlesville Republican told CapitolBeatOK that the device is in place as result of the new law, but, barring unforeseen circumstances, there won’t be any new money in the fund before next year.
Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at http://capitolbeatok.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=3915230.
Previously: A tale of two closing funds, the Chinese Communist Party, and genetically modified mice from the OK Policy Blog
Americans for Tax Reform unusually silent on Oklahoma hospital fee
Back in April, Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to Oklahoma lawmakers stating in no uncertain terms that a ‘Yes’ vote on House Bill 1381, creating a hospital provider fee in order to leverage more federal Medicaid dollars, was a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. ATR has in the past sent out press releases when state lawmakers are found to violate their pledge, such as last week when seven Louisiana lawmakers voted to extend a tobacco tax or earlier in the month when 15 South Carolina lawmakers overrode a gubernatorial veto to increase tobacco taxes. But 18 lawmakers and a Governor breaking the pledge in Oklahoma did not warrant a press release at all.
Read more from this Oklahoma Watchdog article at http://oklahoma.watchdog.org/1952/americans-for-tax-reform-unusually-silent-on-oklahoma-hospital-fee/.
Previously: When lawmakers sign a pledge, who are they working for? from the OK Policy Blog
Misconduct City: The assault of Arthur Bradley revelas a culture of chaos at the Tulsa Police Department
A new law enforcement watchdog group, dubbed The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP), recently released its 2010 numbers on police misconduct tracked across the United States. For a department its size (between 500 and 999 officers sworn), Tulsa ranked 3rd in the nation for police misconduct complaints. On a per capita basis, however, Tulsa far surpasses cities notorious for misconduct, such as Los Angeles, New York, Detroit and Philadelphia. The national average of credible misconduct complaints is around 977 per 100,000 officers, or less than one percent. Tulsa’s number was 42 credible complaints against 812 sworn officers—5,172 per 100,000, over five times the national average.
Read more from This Land Press at http://thislandpress.com/05/31/2011/misconduct-city-the-assault-of-arthur-bradley-reveals-a-culture-of-chaos-at-the-tpd/.
See also: The seeds of corruption from This Land Press
Tulsans working to preserve what’s left of Greenwood as historic district
The way Michael Reed sees it, Tulsa’s Greenwood district — which for decades was the heart of the city’s black community — has a story that is well known to many people around the nation, even the world. But it remains largely a secret here, he said. That’s why he and several other Greenwood supporters are in the early stages of mounting an effort to get what remains of the once-thriving district on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as have it rezoned as a historic preservation district within the city. While most of the district’s buildings were destroyed in the race riot of 1921, Reed there are still many structures in Greenwood that date from the immediate aftermath of that event, when much of the area was rebuilt.
Read more from this Urban Tulsa Weekly article at http://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=39569.
Linda Terrell: Strong families, healthy children must be policymakers’ priorities
Legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin should be acknowledged for their work this legislative session and their efforts to protect the handful of state agencies that serve vulnerable populations — including people served by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health. However, many programs are still struggling to absorb the cuts from the past two budget years. And the state budget cuts aren’t the only budget reductions Oklahoma’s children have to fear. At the federal level, there is discussion about cutting funding for Head Start programs and dollars that pay for health care for low-income children. This is a dangerous proposition for our state.
Read more from this NewsOK editorial at http://newsok.com/strong-families-healthy-children-must-be-policymakers-priorities/article/3572940.
Mainstream Baptist: Daily Oklahoma offering bad analysis
United for a Fair Economy (UFE) recently offered a simple solution to the budget shortfalls that the Oklahoma state legislature has been facing for the past few years. Their solution is to flip the percentage of the tax burden currently being paid by the most disadvantaged to the most advantaged. Today the Oklahoman says UFE’s “Flip It to Fix It” is a bad idea. The Oklahoman says, “In pushing this program, UFE pays only lip service to economic equality. The real goal is to increase the size of government” and lambasts the plan for increasing the taxes of those earning between $48K and $79K from 8.2 to 9.5%. The Oklahoman is offering an abysmally bad analysis. Nothing in UFE’s report talks about increasing the size of government. The report offers a solution that would enable lawmakers to maintain woefully underfunded services that are being cut back or eliminated for lack of funds.
Read more from the Mainstream Baptist blog at http://mainstreambaptist.blogspot.com/2011/05/daily-oklahoman-offering-bad-analysis.html.
Previously: ‘Flip it to Fix it’ offers an immediate, fair solution to state budget shortfalls from the OK Policy Blog
NewsOK: Appeals, second-guessing sure to follow Ersland verdict
It’s remarkable how people opposed to the Jerome Ersland verdict are questioning the wisdom of those who actually heard every argument in the case and sifted through every piece of evidence. That would be the jurors. High-profile crimes unleash a form of Monday morning quarterbacking by people who didn’t hear the arguments and didn’t see all the evidence. The law establishes boundaries. Parker crossed one by entering the pharmacy that day. Ersland crossed another by going beyond what he legally and rightfully should have done to end Parker’s threat.
Read more from this NewsOK editorial at http://newsok.com/appeals-second-guessing-sure-to-follow-ersland-verdict/article/3572933.
Quote of the Day
Cutting programs that serve children, including the vulnerable adults in their families, should be the last place to look for savings.
–Linda Terrell, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
Number of the Day
Amount spent on gasoline by the average Oklahoma driver in 2010
Government to lower prices, ease rules on health plans for people with preexisting conditions
The Obama administration, expanding a program created by the new healthcare law, moved Tuesday to make health insurance more affordable and accessible for Americans who have been denied coverage because they are sick. Across the country, the federal government is reducing premiums on special coverage available to uninsured people with preexisting conditions such as cancer or diabetes. And the administration is loosening restrictions on who can sign up for so-called preexisting condition insurance plans. These plans were created by the health overhaul that President Obama signed last year. They are meant to provide temporary aid to sick Americans until 2014, when insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to people who are sick.
Read more from this Los Angeles Times article at http://www.latimes.com/health/la-na-healthcare-high-risks-20110601,0,6959535.story.
Previously: Health Care Reform: Temporary high risk pools from the OK Policy Blog
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