In The Know: June 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, the chief judge of Tulsa County’s Juvenile Court says the court is desperate for a better facility. Recent violent storms have prompted some lawmakers to consider mandating installation of storm shelters and tougher building codes. Opponents of SQ 759, which would ban affirmative action in Oklahoma, plan to reach out to women who have been the largest beneficiaries.

On the OK Policy Blog, summer intern Trevor Shanklin makes the case for reconsidering the criminalization of marijuana. OK Policy has a newly updated fact sheet on 10 things you should know about Oklahoma’s budget and tax system. The state defended a legal challenge to this year’s budget in front of an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee. DHS is providing emergency disaster food benefits to households affected by May 22-25 storms.

OKC Pride is negotiating to buy property for an LGBT health center in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City metro area was ranked as one of the strongest economic performers in the nation. NewsOK calls for lawmakers to finally put necessary resources into improving facilities for the state medical examiner. In today’s Policy Note, The Urban Institute has a new brief summarizing the effects of health reform on small businesses and their workers.

These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Juvenile Court desperate for decent conditions, advocates for new facility

District Judge Doris Fransein sat in her courtroom last week, recounting yet again what a comic tragedy the county’s Juvenile Bureau facility at 315 S. Gilcrease Museum Road has become. Of the building’s lack of security, she said: “It’s not unusual for prisoners and I to come in at the same time, together. In fact, a lot of the time I just hold the door for them and ask them how they are doing.” After years of advocating for a new facility, the chief judge of the Juvenile Court is beginning to believe her message has not been heard, or at least not understood.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Storms prompt lawmakers to call for tougher building codes

This spring’s rash of unusually violent tornadoes has renewed legislative interest in encouraging and perhaps even mandating safety measures such as storm shelters and tougher building codes. Two state representatives, Republican Pat Ownbey of Ardmore and Democrat Joe Dorman of Rush Springs, have asked for legislative studies on the issue. Ownbey, who unsuccessfully pursued legislation in the same vein a year ago, has requested a study of ways to improve access to storm shelters. Ownbey and Dorman together have asked for an examination of liability concerns related to group shelters for places such as mobile home parks and apartment complexes.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Affirmative Action supporters target women to oppose SQ 759

Women likely will cast the deciding votes on State Question 759, if Tuesday night’s gathering at the University of Tulsa was any indication. The state question, expected to be on the November 2012 general election ballot, is designed to eliminate what is commonly referred to as affirmative action in state government. Oklahoma’s affirmative action programs consist primarily of wider recruitment to meet hiring targets and some educational programs targeting women and minorities. Outright quotas are illegal.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma, we need to talk about drugs

During the recent Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson advocated weighing the cost of our nation’s current cannabis prohibition against any perceived benefit, challenging all Americans to, “look at this issue and see if you don’t come to the same conclusion I did…legalize marijuana-control it, regulate (it), tax it.” With our prison system currently operating at 96 percent capacity (over half of which are non-violent offenders), a recent Pew Center on the States study identifying corrections as the second fastest growing area of states budgets, and Oklahoma’s ongoing revenue shortfalls, the case for accepting Gov. Johnson’s challenge seems pretty clear cut.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

10 things you should know about Oklahoma’s budget and tax system

Here are ten facts to help anyone better understand Oklahoma’s budget and tax system. A great conversation starter! Download the recently updated fact sheet, or click on any of the links for additional information from one of OK Policy’s publications. 1) Oklahomans pay 9 cents of every dollar we earn in state and local taxes – Oklahomans’ taxes are 37th in the nation per capita as a share of personal income (2009). Personal income tax is the largest revenue source for state government, bringing in just over one in every three dollars of state revenue.  Property taxes are the largest revenue source for local government, and the sales tax is the second largest revenue source for both state and local government…

Read more from Oklahoma Policy Institute at

State defends legal challenge to Okla. budget

Attorneys wrangled Tuesday before a Supreme Court referee over the constitutionality of the Legislature’s decision to transfer more than $100 million in fuel tax and other revenue from a state transportation fund to help shore up a $500 million hole in Oklahoma’s state budget this year. Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, who has repeatedly challenged the way the state raises and spends revenue, has filed a lawsuit arguing the fund transfer was unconstitutional, because it violates a provision of the Oklahoma Constitution that says “no tax levied and collected for one purpose shall ever be devoted to another purpose.”

Read more from this Associated Press article at

DHS offering food assistance to storm victims

The state Department of Human Services is providing emergency disaster food benefits to households in areas affected by storms and tornadoes May 22-25. Disaster food stamps have been approved for Caddo, Canadian, Delaware, Grady, Kingfisher, Logan and McClain counties. Applications will be accepted from Friday through June 30 at the DHS offices in those counties. Current food-stamp recipients in those counties will complete a disaster-related affidavit declaring a sustained loss of income or other disaster-related expenses. Households not currently receiving food stamps also are encouraged to apply.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

OKC Pride negotiating to buy property for LGBT health center

OKC Pride, whose annual summertime celebration raises awareness about the state’s LGBT community, is negotiating to buy property for the eventual building of an LGBT health center. This year’s Pride weekend, beginning Friday, will serve as a fundraiser for the property, which is in The Strip, an LGBT area on NW 39th Street. Kirk Martin, OKC Pride board president, said that although the sale isn’t complete, the price tag for buying the 0.75-acre site and razing the existing structures will be $150,000 to $200,000. Martin said the idea for reimagining this year’s Pride came after the board’s discussion about the need for accessible, affordable health care for a part of the population who isn’t always comfortable sharing their sexual orientation with a medical provider.

Read more from this Journal Record article [subscriber only] at

Oklahoma City metro area among strongest economic performers in U.S.

Oklahoma City remains among the strongest-performing metropolitan areas based on its economic performance from the beginning of the recession through the first quarter of this year, according to a report by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. The June MetroMonitor, which analyzed data through the first quarter, is the ninth in a series of interactive quarterly reports that tracks the recession and recovery in the nation’s 100 largest metros. It looks at various indicators, including changes in employment, the unemployment rate, output and housing prices.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

NewsOK: Medical examiner’s office still has a long way to go

A visit to Oklahoma City last week by the president of the National Association of Medical Examiners left this question hanging: When will our Legislature get around to really fixing our state medical examiner’s office? We have said more than once that in determining the cause of suspicious and sudden deaths, the ME’s office provides a vitally important service for the state, and in particular for the families of murder victims. And while it is true that difficult budget years have left all state agencies wanting, the ME’s office has been foundering for far too long.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

White women have benefitted the most from affirmative action. The statistics are clear on that.

Tamya Cox of the American Civil Liberties Union

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank in a national survey of states with the highest concentration of Wal-Mart stores, with 103 locations in 2011

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The effects of health reform on small businesses and their workers

This brief consolidates the results of several Urban Institute studies addressing the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on small firms.  We find generally positive effects of the ACA on small employers and their workers.  Employers with fewer than 50 workers will experience substantial savings on health costs; employers with 50 to 100 workers will see a very small cost increase.  The smallest firms are expected to have higher offer rates, resulting in a small increase in employer coverage.  Small firm workers and their families will reap substantial benefits from the Medicaid expansion and subsidies to low-income families.

Read more from The Urban Institute 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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