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.
Cherokee Nation principal chief candidate Bill John Baker requests a recount, by hand, of last weekend’s election. The Oklahoman has an editorial criticizing the state Supreme Court for their decision not to require the release of state employees birth dates and employee identification numbers. A program that helps adults complete their high-school education or learn English lost all state funding this year.
Former State Senator Debbe Leftwich has asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to dismiss the felony charge against her and stop a planned preliminary hearing. A challenge to Oklahoma’s new voter ID law was filed in Tulsa County district court. Former congressman Brad Carson has decided not to run for his former U.S. House seat.
The city of Norman officially creates a Rainy Day Fund, requiring a reserve of at least 3 percent of General Fund expenditures. A national study points to adolescent substance use as Oklahoma’s most pressing public health problem. The Bartlesville Police Department faces two discrimination lawsuits from its own officers for discriminating against women and Hispanics.
In Today’s Policy Note, Families USA shows how federal Medicaid cuts would harm state economies. Read on for more.
In The News
Cherokees to conduct recount in principal chief election
Cherokee Nation principal chief candidate Bill John Baker filed a request Wednesday afternoon for a full recount by hand of last weekend’s election. The Cherokee Nation Election Commission changed initial results posted on its website early Sunday after spending all night Saturday and part of Sunday morning tabulating votes. The initial tally – 7,600 to 7,589 – listed Bill John Baker as the apparent winner by 11 votes, but official figures released by the commission Monday afternoon declared current chief Chad Smith the victor by a 7,609-7,602 margin, or seven votes. “We demand to know what caused the change in vote tally. We want to know who demanded the change and why,” Baker said in a news conference Wednesday. “All Cherokees should demand to know the truth.”
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20110630_11_A1_CUTLIN405720&rss_lnk=12
Oklahoma court ruling will hurt media’s watchdog role
State workers won and the people who pay their salaries — the taxpayers — lost when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that it’s not in the public interest for the media to request state employees’ birth dates and employee identification numbers. Open records expert Joey Senat, a professor at Oklahoma State University, said it best about the court’s 7-2 ruling Tuesday: “The decision is based on the justices’ subjective fears rather than facts.” That is to say, the justices bought the argument forwarded by state employee groups and some members of the Legislature that this is a security issue — that disclosing a person’s date of birth could lead to identity theft, which of course can be devastating as anyone who has experienced that can attest.
Read more from the Oklahoman here http://newsok.com/oklahoma-court-ruling-will-hurt-medias-watchdog-role/article/3581399
Tulsa-based adult education program loses all state funding
A northeastern Oklahoma program that helps adults complete their high-school education or learn English has lost all state funding, a move that has major economic ramifications for the region, administrators say. “This is a devastating loss,” said Union Superintendent Cathy Burden. “In a time of economic downturn, this program is a generator of economic prosperity for our community.” The Oklahoma Board of Education last week slashed $2.3 million in fiscal 2012 state matching funds for all adult education programs statewide. Beginning July 1, the Tulsa-based program will no longer receive $275,000 in state funds typically required as a match to receive about $825,000 in federal funding. That equates to about 25 percent of total funding to provide classes to 1,000 adults who want to earn a GED diploma.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=19&articleid=20110630_19_A1_CUTLIN689846&rss_lnk=12
Former Sen. Debbe Leftwich asks state Supreme Court to review lower court decision
A former state senator charged with bribery has asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to review a state appellate court’s refusal to dismiss the felony charge against her and stop a planned preliminary hearing that her attorney claims will create a constitutional crisis. Former Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, asked the state’s highest court to weigh in on the case and decide whether her service in the Oklahoma Legislature gives her a constitutional exemption from prosecution for alleged wrongdoing in the performance of her official duties. “If legislators have to worry that their conversations and emails will be the subject of a subpoena, and if legislators have to be concerned with who in the room is taking notes and what those notes might say, that will materially chill and alter their ability to have candid conversations about legislation,” Leftwich’s defense attorney, Robert McCampbell, said in legal papers.
Read more from the Oklahoman here: http://newsok.com/former-sen.-debbe-leftwich-asks-state-supreme-court-to-review-lower-court-decision/article/3581421
Thomas files new challenge to voter ID law
As anticipated, Tulsa attorney James Thomas has filed a new challenge to Oklahoma’s new voter ID law, in Tulsa County district court. He told the court that under the new law, the election board secretary is charged with developing rules for use of provisional ballots. “[T]he impact of the voter identification measure, approved by the voters in Oklahoma, will create serious interference with the unrestricted right to vote for the 78,000 eligible and registered voters in Oklahoma who do not have appropriate identifying credentials or who are unwilling to accept any level of this statewide infringement on the right to vote,” Thomas told the court.
Read more from 23rd & Lincoln at http://journalrecord.com/23rd-and-Lincoln/2011/06/29/thomas-files-new-challenge-to-vote-id-law/
Brad Carson, a former Second District congressman for Oklahoma, apparently has given up his bid to regain the seat in 2012.
A Facebook posting by Carson early Wednesday said he has decided not to re-enter the public arena. Wednesday’s posting said: “Lots of people here on Facebook have asked me whether I intend to run for the U.S. House seat I held from 2001 to 2005. I very much appreciate the well wishes and encouragement, but wanted to let people know that I am not running for the seat. There will be many good candidates, and I look forward to helping one of them.”
Read more from the Tulsa World at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20110630_16_A7_CUTLIN673574&rss_lnk=12
City officially creates a Rainy Day Fund
The city of Norman officially has a Rainy Day Fund, putting the force of law behind long-held savings policies. Finance Director Anthony Francisco said creating the fund is especially important right now because the city has been spending more than it takes in for years now. He said new governmental budget guidelines recently changed, calling for different funds to be separated from one another. “It gives more strength and validity to what the city’s already doing,” Francisco said. “It is prudent.” The newly created fund, technically called the Net Revenue Stablization Fund, is supposed to be 3 percent of General Fund expenditures — at minimum. The target is 4.5 percent, while the maximum amount that can be socked away in the account is 6 percent.
Read more from the Norman Transcript at http://normantranscript.com/local/x999477219/City-officially-creates-a-Rainy-Day-Fund
Experts call adolescent substance use America’s – and Oklahoma’s – No. 1 public health scourge
Nine out of 10 addicts had their first cigarette, drink or other drug before their 18th birthday, according to a new national study of 1,000 students and other sources. And nearly half of all high school students use those substances, says the study released Wednesday by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. “Underage use of substances is clearly the number one public health problem in Oklahoma,” said Terri White, commissioner for the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The study came to the same conclusion nationally. With the teen brain still maturing, reasoning and judgment are still developing into the early to mid 20s. Substance abuse prompts a vicious cycle in which young people use poor judgment to try substances that damage their brains, impairing judgment and increasing the risk of addiction.
Bartlesville Police Department Facing Two Discrimination Lawsuits
Two different federal lawsuits accuse the Bartlesville police department of discriminating against women and Hispanics. The allegations come from two of their own. One current Bartlesville officer and a former officer are suing the department and their branch of the Fraternal Order of Police for more than $12 million. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Sergeant Beth Mitchell claims she’s been repeatedly discriminated against for 16 years. She says in the suit that she endured “a barrage of sexual references, obscene comments, sexually suggestive physical gestures and exposure to inappropriate photographs.”
Read more from NewsOn6 here: http://www.newson6.com/story/15001688/police-department-lawsuit
Quote of the Day
“[T]he impact of the voter identification measure, approved by the voters in Oklahoma, will create serious interference with the unrestricted right to vote for the 78,000 eligible and registered voters in Oklahoma who do not have appropriate identifying credentials or who are unwilling to accept any level of this statewide infringement on the right to vote,”
James Thomas, on Oklahoma’s new voter ID law
Number of the Day
Number of unemployed persons in Oklahoma in May 2011; 124,500 people were unemployed during the same month last year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Jobs at Risk: Federal Medicaid Cuts Would Harm State Economies
A report released yesterday by Families USA provides state-level data that show the devastating impact the House Republican budget proposal would have. The proposal’s substantial Medicaid cuts would harm program enrollees and their families and lead to a loss of business activity and jobs in all states. Every federal Medicaid dollar that flows into a state stimulates business activity and generates jobs. The loss of federal funding means there will be fewer dollars circulating through each state’s economy, as well as fewer dollars passing from one person to another in successive rounds of spending that drive economic growth. This loss of the “economic multiplier effect” that states would experience as a direct result of federal Medicaid cuts would be large and much greater than the amount of the dollar cuts themselves.
Read more from Families USA at http://www.familiesusa.org/resources/publications/reports/medicaid-cuts-hurt-states.html
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