In The Know: June 23, 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, Aubrey McClendon was retained as CEO of Chesapeake Energy, despite an advisory firm’s recommendation to oust him. McClendon has been compensated more than $152 million since 2008, during which time the company’s stock prices fell. Starting July 10, Oklahomans will no longer be eligible for unemployment compensation beyond 60 weeks due to the declining unemployment rate. The OK Policy Blog reports on what’s been done and what still needs doing on corrections reform. This morning, a press conference will be held to announce Oklahoma is joining the justice reinvestment initiative to formulate smarter corrections policy.

The Oklahoma adjutant general says the Afghanistan drawdown should pave the way for lesser dependence on Oklahoma National Guard troops. Due to state budget cuts, OETA’s Oklahoma News Broadcast is being scaled back from a nightly broadcast to one show per week. Oklahoma college and university regents will vote on tuition and fee increases ranging between 4 and 8.3 percent. A judge ruled that despite a challenge by city council members, Tulsa can use the new district map for its next elections. Tulsa firefighters are suing the city and Mayor Barlett over an executive order that says they cannot directly participate in municipal elections.

NewsOK praises reform proposals by the Oklahoma City teachers’ union. In the Oklahoma Gazette, Nathan Gunter and Steve Kern debate a campaign to introduce gay Oklahomans as ordinary people. Scott Jones writes that Sally Kern needs learn that America’s diversity is not a threat. In today’s Policy Note, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who worked for The Washington Post tells his story of living as an undocumented immigrant.

Read on for more.

In The News

Aubrey McClendon retains Chesapeake CEO position, despite advisory firm’s recommendation to oust him

Chesapeake Energy Corp. leaders were able to stave off a recommendation to oust the Oklahoma City-based company’s CEO Aubrey McClendon and former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles from the board at June 10’s annual shareholder meeting. McClendon and Nickles, chairman of Chesapeake’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, had both come under fire by Institutional Shareholder Services Proxy Advisory Services, an advisory firm that recommended that shareholders not re-elect McClendon as chairman and vote to oust Nickles from the board. It is estimated McClendon has been compensated more than $152 million since 2008; during that time, the company’s stock prices fell because of decreasing natural gas prices.

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at

Long-term unemployed in Oklahoma eligible for fewer weeks of benefits

Starting July 10, unemployed Oklahomans won’t be able to file for unemployment compensation beyond 60 weeks. For the past 18 months, long-term unemployed Oklahomans could collect up to 13 weeks of additional federal emergency unemployment compensation — or a maximum of 73 weeks. But because of a drop in the state’s unemployment rate, workers no longer will be offered the added benefit, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission announced Wednesday. The federal law establishing the extra 13 weeks of “Tier 3” benefits requires states to have three-month average seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of 6 percent or higher. And Oklahoma’s 5.3 percent rate in May dropped the state average below that threshold, spokesman John Carpenter said.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

What’s been done and what still needs doing on corrections reform

After years of talk but little action, state leaders made real progress on corrections reform this year. Thanks to the leadership of House Speaker Kris Steele, Governor Mary Fallin and Senator Patrick Anderson, among others, the legislature passed HB 2131 to expand community sentencing and electronic monitoring, as well as streamline the parole process. These measures deserve praise, but much still needs to be done. To understand why, we can first look at what HB 2131 is expected to do, what will be the financial impact, and the limitations that remain.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

See also: House Speaker building on corrections reform with justice reinvestment initiative from NewsOK

Reliance on Oklahoma Guard may ease with Afghanistan drawdown

A drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as outlined by President Barack Obama, should pave the way for a lesser dependence on Oklahoma National Guard troops committed to that war-torn nation, according to Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma adjutant general. Since 2001, the Oklahoma National Guard has sent more than 15,000 troops – from both its Army and Air Guard units – to Iraq and Afghanistan, said Lt. Col. Max Moss, Guard spokesman. Many Guard troops have been to Iraq and Afghanistan more than once. Currently, more than 2,000 Oklahoma Army Guard troops with the 45th Infantry Brigade are in the process of deploying to Afghanistan for the next nine months.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma News Report scaled back from nightly to one show per week

On July 15, The Oklahoma News Report will move to Fridays at 7 p.m., with special encore presentations on Saturdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The reduction from a weeknightly newscast to weekly hour long program is the result of the recent 9% state budget cut OETA received during the 2011 legislative session.

Read more from OETA at

Oklahoma college presidents discuss proposed tuition increase

Regents who govern the state’s public colleges and universities will vote Thursday whether to approve tuition and mandatory fee increases that range between 4 and 8.3 percent for next school year. Presidents and administrators presented their recommendations to the State Regents for Higher Education during a meeting Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Revenue from students has made up an increasing percentage of higher education’s total budgeted income during the past decade. Tuition and fees made up about 42 percent of the budget in 2011, compared with 25 percent in 2000. Meanwhile, state appropriations made up about 42 percent of the budget this year compared to 62 percent in 2000. Tuition and fees have doubled during the past 10 years.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: OU Regents vote for 5 percent tuition increase from NewsOn6

City of Tulsa can use new election map, judge rules

A Tulsa judge ruled Wednesday the next city council elections would use new maps based on the latest census, instead of maps drawn up 10 years ago. The court’s decision is significant for voters because the new maps reflect more equal representation. The old districts, because of population changes, had gotten out of balance by as much as 20 percent. The challenge to the new map came from the councilors, all of whom are up for election, and some of whom did not like the way their district is changing, but who argued the new map wasn’t really final.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Tulsa firefighters sue mayor, city over right to campaign

Mayor Dewey Bartlett violated the rights of city firefighters when he ordered them not to campaign actively in municipal elections, a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Tulsa Fire Fighters Association claims. Earlier this year, Bartlett filed an executive order that says the City Charter’s prohibition of active campaigning by firefighters in municipal elections includes speaking at rallies, picketing and publicly soliciting votes for candidates. The policy also prohibits political fundraising by classified city employees. Bartlett’s order reversed policy under Mayor Kathy Taylor, whose policy allowed city employees to participate in campaigns so long as they were off-duty and out of uniform.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

NewsOK: Teacher union’s slate of ideas commendable

The local American Federation of Teachers shared its “blueprint” this week for items it wants negotiated, including changes to teacher evaluation, professional development, retention practices, behavior contracts, termination hearings, and bonus and performance pay. As The Oklahoman’s Megan Rolland noted, the union’s plan comes amid a national discussion about similar types of reform. But nationally and in many cities, union officials are far from embracing new evaluation systems that include student achievement data or changes to the last-in, first-out method of dismissing teachers when budget cuts hit. Education reform discussion at all levels has made mention of elevating the status of teachers relative to other professions. Unions can be out front in that regard if they make high expectations and raising the bar for all teachers the primary message.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Nathan Gunter: This is not a culture war

“I grew up in Oklahoma,” said Don. “I believe passionately in Oklahoma values. I’m a former Eagle Scout, a former U.S. Air Force officer, and a Vietnam veteran. I’ve attended church regularly for over 60 years. I married my high school sweetheart. Together, the two of us raised three wonderful children who share our same values. Our eldest son is gay, and he married another man. We wouldn’t change a thing about our family.” Don’s story is only one of many highlighted in a multimedia awareness campaign launched by the Cimarron Alliance, Central Oklahoma’s premier gay advocacy organization. In a video series, gay Okies and the people who love them talk about who they are: your neighbors, friends, co-workers, family.

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at

See also: Steve Kern: Soul Concern; and Scott Jones: Kern needs to learn that America is diverse from the Oklahoma Gazette

Quote of the Day

Waging a war against our neighbors — against our own family — is a road to somewhere worse than nowhere.

Nathan Gunter, writing a counterpoint to Steve Kern in The Oklahoma Gazette

Number of the Day


Amount paid by 8 pharmaceutical companies to Oklahoma providers between 2009-2011.

Source: ProPublica, Journalism in the Public Interest

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

My life as an undocumented immigrant

I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it. I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream. But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality.  There are believed to be 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. We’re not always who you think we are. Some pick your strawberries or care for your children. Some are in high school or college. And some, it turns out, write news articles you might read. I grew up here. This is my home. Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.

Read more from this New York Times 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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