In The Know: June 3, 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, more Oklahoma counties are signing onto a program that uses fingerprinting to check immigration status in jails. State revenue collections topped $10 billion over a 12 month period for the first time since August 2009. Severe drought continues to ravage west Texas and large parts of Oklahoma. On the OK Policy Blog, we assess recently passed state pension reforms.

Tulsa city employees won the right to keep their jobs maintaining city hall in a competitive bidding process with 12 private companies. The employees put in a bid about $115,000 below the current budget. Oklahoma City TV stations will not appeal a ruling that bans their cameras from hallways outside a courtroom where a district judge and her husband are being tried. Two district courtrooms in Drumright, Oklahoma may be closed to save money.

M. Scott Carter argues that state leaders should be listening more to State Treasurer Ken Miller. In today’s Policy Note, The New York Times reports on decreasing influence of rural legislators as populations shifts to more urban areas.

Read on for more.

In The News

More Oklahoma counties using federal immigration fingerprint system

More than a dozen Oklahoma jails have recently started using fingerprints to check immigration status, adding to the growing number of jails trying to weed illegal immigrants out of their system. In the past month, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Noble, Ottawa, Choctaw, Cotton, Haskell, Jefferson, Le Flore and Marshall counties have signed up to use the Secure Communities program. In all, 48 Oklahoma jurisdictions send fingerprint information to be compared against the federal immigration databases. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data shows that since 2009, more than 80,000 fingerprints from Oklahoma have been submitted. Those matches have resulted in 781 deportations. Of those deportations, nearly 40 percent were for noncriminal offenses.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

State revenue collection tops $10 billion mark

Oklahoma’s revenue collections for 12 months ending in May topped $10 billion for the first time since August 2009, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Thursday. Miller said it is an indication that there will not be a double-dip recession for the state, and he called the $10 billion a milestone. Revenue collections peaked in December 2008 with a 12-month total of nearly $11.3 billion. Totals dropped sharply during the next 13 months, bottoming out in February 2010 at nearly $9.4 billion. Each month since, collections have increased at a slightly accelerating pace.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Drought grows more dire in Texas and Oklahoma

A devastating drought tightened its grip on Texas over the last week with more than half the state now suffering the most extreme level of drought measured by climatologists. Meanwhile, to the north in Oklahoma, another key farming and ranching state, about 30 percent of the state continued to suffer severe and exceptional drought levels. The drought conditions have ravaged the region, sparking thousands of wildfires, drying up grazing land needed for cattle, and ruining thousands of acres of wheat and other crops.

Read more from this Reuters article at

Legislative action on pensions shores up system, defuses rhetoric

The 2011 legislative session was marked by passage of legislation to limit lawsuit damages, restrict the collective bargaining rights of public employees and the legal rights of teachers, revamp the workers compensation system, and consolidate state agencies. Yet when asked to name the session’s biggest accomplishment, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman identified an issue that largely flew under the public radar: ” The biggest thing is going to have to be pension reform.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Tulsa city employees win bid over private contractors

A consultant group conducted a study on ways city government could be more efficent. One of the many recommendations was to look at putting some jobs “up for bid” against the private sector. The first group city leaders looked at was city hall building maintenance. There are 10 positions. The employees do everything from plumbing to electrical work for the building. City employees had to look at ways to find efficiencies and save money so they could come in as a “lower bid.” 12 private contracting companies also put in bids. The city is also in the process of putting six other employee groups out for bid.

Read more from this KJRH article at

See also: City employees win first Tulsa ‘managed competition’ bid from NewsOn6

Media attorney says OKC tv stations will not appeal order banning cameras from halls outside courtroom

A Garfield County judge’s ruling that restricts the location of television cameras outside an Oklahoma County courtroom where he is presiding over a felony fraud and perjury case against another judge will not be appealed, a media attorney said Thursday. Four Oklahoma City TV stations had asked District Judge Paul Woodward to rescind his May 13 order barring TV cameras from public hallways outside the courtroom where the case against Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure and her husband, Karlos LeSure, is being heard. The media’s motion had argued that Woodward’s order is unconstitutionally vague and does not describe the problem that would be solved by excluding the broadcast media from hallways around the courtroom.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Drumright courtrooms may be closed to save money

A study is under way to determine whether Creek County’s two district courtrooms in Drumright should be closed to save money. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Taylor has asked whether keeping the Drumright courtrooms is efficient, said Mike Evans, the administrative director of the courts. The courtrooms are used two Thursdays each month for preliminary hearings, small-claims cases and traffic matters. On one or two Mondays each month, the court handles civil cases, divorces and probate matters. If the Drumright courtrooms are closed, all cases would be shifted to Bristow.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

M. Scott Carter: It’s time to listen to Ken Miller

While lawmakers continue to send out media statements touting their work during the 2011 legislative session, political scientists, pundits and many in the media will spend the next few months handicapping the state Legislature’s performance. But lost in all of the reflection is the work of other elected officials. For example, state Treasurer Ken Miller. Conservative, but firmly placed in the center of the political spectrum, Miller doesn’t throw angry political tirades or push silly examples of social policy. Instead, Miller has focused on the state’s economy and how to make it stronger. Yet instead of embracing Miller, picking his brain for ideas, or looking at his suggestions, many state lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin’s administrative team have pushed him to stage left.

Read more from this Journal Record editorial at

Quote of the Day

I would say we have been through a tough two years, but next year I think will be better and we can start getting away from crisis management and better long-term planning.

State Treasurer Ken Miller

Number of the Day


Total retail sales for prescription drugs filled at Oklahoma pharmacies in 2009.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Rural legislators’ power ebbs as population shifts

The people who remain in rural parts of the country are used to seeing declining enrollment at schools and shuttered businesses on Main Street, as well as weakening political muscle in Washington. But now they are watching their political power falter even in states that have long been considered synonymous with rural America. As capitals across the country tackle the contentious work of redrawing state legislative districts, one sure loser will be rural representation. Even here in the Great Plains, farmland areas are more often being overpowered in political tugs of war for state budget dollars.

Read more from this New York Times article at

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.