In The Know: June 29, 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, amid outcry from educators, Department of Education officials are defending their decision to cut millions from the school activities budget. As the Cherokee Nation prepares for a recount, the Baker campaign is seeking an injunction for the immediate release of information on how election results changed in the certified totals. The Oklahoma Election Commission reprimanded an NRA lobbyist for exceeding the $100 limit in gifts to five lawmakers.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that birth dates of public employees are not public information. On the OK Policy Blog, we interview the director of “Women Behind Bars,” a new documentary on female incarceration in Oklahoma. OK Policy Director David Blatt spoke with CapitolBeatOK about flaws in an ALEC report that ranks states’ economic outlook based solely on low taxes and lack of worker and consumer protections. Urban Tulsa Weekly examines the history of Oklahoma newspapers and their future outlook.

In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities surveys state budgets for FY ’12 and warns about substantial cuts to services that will slow the economic recovery and undermine efforts to create jobs. These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Officials try to explain decisions on education cuts

Amid more outcry from leaders of Tulsa alternative education programs that have lost all state funding, Oklahoma education officials are explaining how they went about slashing more than $18.5 million from the school activities budget. Street School, which offers alternative classes and therapeutic counseling to about 90 students at a time, will have to do without $185,000 in state funding – nearly 15 percent of its overall revenue for the next school year. And the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau found out it will no longer be receiving $200,000 for its successful truancy prevention program, called “Check and Connect.” Part of the state’s $2.27 billion education budget, the school activities budget provides money for a variety of instructional programs across Oklahoma. While 2011’s school activities budget totaled $419.8 million, the new fiscal year’s budget has only $401.2 million.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Baker campaign seeks injunction against Cherokee election commission

Cherokee Nation principal chief candidate Bill John Baker filed a request for an emergency injunction against the Cherokee Nation’s election commission with the tribe’s Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon. According to the filing, the Baker campaign seeks the immediate release of the certified election results by district, the certified results of the absentee ballots and documentation detailing changes that occurred between the original vote totals and the certified vote totals. “The more we learn about the vote counting process the more it doesn’t add up,” the Baker campaign said in a statement. “We’re trying to get the facts and will accept nothing but an open and transparent process to determine the winner of this important election.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Cherokee Nation prepares for a recount in contested election from NewsOn6

Oklahoma Ethics Commission reprimands NRA lobbyist

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission on Tuesday issued a public reprimand to a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association of America. The reprimand indicates that lobbyist Ashley N. Varner violated ethics rules by exceeding the $100 annual limit on things of value a lobbyist can provide to lawmakers. Meals are included in things of value. The incident involved five lawmakers, whom the letter of reprimand did not identify. According to the letter, Varner also lobbies for the NRA in Indiana and confused the two state’s laws.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma Supreme Court stops release of public employee birth dates

Several state employee groups won expanded privacy protections Tuesday when the Oklahoma Supreme Court sided with them in a case over the disclosure of public employee birth dates. Open government groups criticized the ruling, saying it expanded privacy protections for public employees at the expense of governmental oversight by the press and the public. In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court said requests by the media, including The Oklahoman, for state employee birth dates and employee identification numbers were not in the public interest.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

An interview with Amina Benalioulhaj, director of “Women Behind Bars” documentary

Women Behind Bars is a new documentary about female incarceration in Oklahoma by University of Oklahoma student Amina Benalioulhaj. The film premiered in a packed showing at the deadCENTER Film Festival earlier this month. A Tulsa screening will be held on Thursday, June 30, from 4 to 6 pm at the Tulsa Community College West Campus Auditorium, 7505 W 41st Street South. Proceeds will benefit Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, which provides counseling and helps young girls to visit their mothers in correctional facilities. OK Policy spoke with Amina about her experience making the film.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Analysts debate study on state economic policies

Analysts working at the Sooner State’s two leading policy think tanks drew substantially different conclusions about the merits of a new study in interviews with CapitolBeatOK. “ALEC’s ‘Rich States, Poor States’ study is … the ‘test’ to see whether or not your state is promoting free markets, individual liberty and limited government, thus resulting in economic development,” said Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. However, Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt described the ALEC study as being “based on the simplistic and wrongheaded idea that low taxes are the be-all and end-all of state economic performance. In reality, years of research have shown that the most effective and efficient fiscal tools at the state level are those that provide quality public services to businesses and citizens alike.”

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

A history of Oklahoma newspapers and a glimpse of the future

Andy Rieger, a 30-year veteran of the newspaper business in Oklahoma who now serves as the editor and general manager of the Norman Transcript, has a daughter, Hannah, who graduated from journalism school last year. When she approached a small Oklahoma weekly newspaper about doing an internship there, the publication’s management had several questions for her. Did she know how to build a website? Did she know how to post information on a Twitter account? Did she know how to do an email blast? Her answer to all those questions was yes. “Good,” she was told, “because we need somebody to come here and teach us.”

Read more from this Urban Tulsa Weekly article at

Quote of the Day

Under their methodology, a state that had no income, property or sales tax would top the ALEC rankings — but it wouldn’t be a place anyone wanted to live, and it certainly wouldn’t be prosperous.

David Blatt, Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, responding to an ALEC study that ranks states’ economic outlook based solely on low taxes and lack of worker and consumer protections.

Number of the Day


The average age of mothers at first birth in Oklahoma, 2006; up 2.4 years since 1970’s average of 20.7.

Source: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

So far, so bad for states’ 2012 budgets

About two-thirds of states have enacted budgets for the 2012 fiscal year (which begins on Friday in most states), and the news to date isn’t encouraging:  most states are making substantial cuts to services that will slow the economic recovery and undermine efforts to create jobs. The long and deep recession has caused tax collections in most states — despite modest recent improvements — to lag far behind the growing cost of maintaining existing services.  Plus, the federal government isn’t renewing the emergency aid it gave states to help respond to the recession; a large piece of that aid will expire on June 30.  And many of the states that will make deep cuts in 2012 have failed to raise new revenue to replace some of the revenue lost to the recession.  Some states even added to the cutbacks needed by reducing corporate or other taxes. As our new report explains, the cuts are both deep and damaging.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at’-2012-budgets/.

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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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