In The Know: June 7, 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 Tulsa World speaks with State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger, whose responsibilities will be increasing as several state agencies are consolidated under the Office of State Finance. Gov. Fallin has ordered an audit of the Grand River Dam Authority, a state-run entity that operates several hydroelectric and coal power plants. The OK Policy Blog gives an overview of measures last session that extended or created new tax breaks.

Oklahoma has become the second state to sign on to a Health Care Compact, which calls for federal health care funding to be administered by states as block grants. The measure is unlikely to have any effect, as it has no force of law unless it is approved by Congress and signed by the President. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why block grants are a bad approach to managing health care costs.

The chief clerk and two other Oklahoma House staffers are leaving to take new positions, and the House comptroller was firedOklahoma City’s new sustainability manager is planning several projects to increase energy-efficiency and reduce waste. State Rep. Mike Shelton is requesting an interim study on developing guidelines for the use of Tasers by police. NewsOK discusses the political challenges for Oklahoma in planning for its long-term water needs. In today’s Policy Note, Dana Goldstein finds several new studies that question the usefulness of evaluating teachers solely with student test results.

These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Ex-Tulsa auditor on front lines of state reorganization

When the dust settled from the legislative session, Tulsan Preston Doerflinger found himself with a larger agency and more responsibility as Office of State Finance director and Cabinet secretary of finance for Gov. Mary Fallin. Doerflinger was serving as Tulsa city auditor when he was asked in January to fill the high-profile positions, which made him one of Fallin’s top budget negotiators. Fallin recently signed two measures that significantly increase his responsibilities. House Bill 1304 consolidates information technology for state agencies under the chief information officer, Alex Pettit, who is located in the Office of State Finance. Fallin also signed House Bill 2140, which consolidates four free-standing agencies into the Office of State Finance.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

GRDA will have to pay for audit ordered by Fallin

The Grand River Dam Authority will have to pay the state Auditor and Inspector’s Office for a performance audit ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin, according to information to be presented at Wednesday’s GRDA board meeting. Fallin ordered the audit this spring after it was revealed that the state-owned utility’s directors had gotten around the statutory cap on Chief Executive Officer Kevin Easley’s salary by giving him a second job title. The GRDA was created in the 1930s to operate the hydroelectric dam at Pensacola. It is now responsible for three hydroelectric facilities and two coal-fired plants and is part-owner of a gas-fired generating plant. It also manages Grand Lake and Lake Hudson.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Eliminating tax breaks: The dog that didn’t bark

In her first State of the State speech, Gov. Fallin said, ”Our course of action will be simple: only tax credits that create jobs will stay. For instance, my budget begins the process of restoring the Aerospace Engineer Tax Credit, which brings good, high tech jobs to Oklahoma. But those tax credits that do not create jobs must be eliminated.” Reinstating the aerospace credit was among the Governor’s top goals this year, and she made good on that promise early in the session. Unfortunately, eliminating tax credits that aren’t worth the cost did not seem to be as much of a priority.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma second state to sign up for controversial health plan

Oklahoma is the second state to sign up for a conservative alternative to the federal health initiative – the Health Care Compact. Proponents say it is a more responsive, less bureaucratic alternative to President Barack Obama’s health care initiatives. Opponents say it’s a pipe dream that seeks to tinker with the nation’s health care funding mechanism for political reasons. Last month Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation to join the compact. So far, Georgia is the only other state to join.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Previously: Medicaid block grant proposal would hurt states, consumers, and providers from the OK Policy Blog

Chief clerk, 3 others leave Oklahoma House staff

Four key employees, including the chief clerk, have left or soon will be leaving the House of Representatives staff. The vacancies have nothing to do with budget concerns, unlike late last year when the House fired 23 full-time staffers because of looming budget cuts, a spokesman said Monday. All four employees will be replaced, said John Estus, press secretary for House Speaker Kris Steele. Chief Clerk Joel Kintsel, who also serves as the House parliamentarian, is leaving June 30 to accept a position with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank. Others leaving the House are David Ligon, who was acting deputy director of the House fiscal division, and Amy Alden, who was general counsel for the House. Craig Sanger, who served on the House staff as comptroller, was terminated.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

OKC sustainability manager aiming for efficiency

The city’s new sustainability manager intends to improve Oklahoma City’s energy-efficiency efforts as well as expand into a wider range of projects, she said Monday. Oklahoma City already supports a slate of sustainability programs such as retrofitting electric lighting systems to cut back on energy waste and converting to a compressed natural gas vehicle fleet, Jennifer Gooden said. She wants to look more closely at improving the city’s traffic light system to reduce stop-and-start fuel waste at intersections. She also cited Austin, Texas, as an example of setting an audacious goal worth moving toward: The City Council there last year said they wanted to see solid waste being sent to landfills reduced 90 percent by 2040.

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

Lawmakers studying new standards for use of Tasers by police

Among the various policies that lawmakers will study over the interim may be a to determine if statewide standards should be implemented regulating the use of Tasers and other high-voltage stun guns. State Rep. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City has announced that he will request a study electroshock weapons, which he says typically apply between 25,000 watts and 100,000 watts of power to targets. In some cases, the 100,000 watt level has resulted in heart damage and even death. “There are very serious consequences when officials employ these weapons, and I am concerned that the lack of standards can result in excessive force that can cause serious health consequences for the person subdued,” Shelton said.

Read more from the Jerrod Shouse blog at

NewsOK: Reaching consensus on water strategy a long shot

The closer we get to release of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, the farther we seem to get from any chance of reaching consensus on the best way to ensure that the state’s water needs are met for the next half century or more. Draft sections of the water plan estimate it will take $87 billion — that’s billion, with a B — to pay for the infrastructure improvements that are likely to be needed to move and supply drinking water during the next 50 years. That amount doesn’t include what it would cost to build additional reservoirs, which may be needed in some parts of the state.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

We can’t treat water the way we did Oklahoma’s roads and bridges, where the state only got serious about improving them after a motorist was killed by a chunk of concrete that fell from an aging bridge.

The NewsOK Editorial Board

Number of the Day


Number of state agencies receiving more appropriations in FY ‘12 than in FY ’09; the other 74 agencies will receive less

Source: OK Policy, FY 2012 Budget Highlights

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A glut of new reports raise doubt’s about Obama’s teacher agenda

Although much of the Obama administration’s education reform agenda promotes test score-based teacher evaluation and pay, the tide seems to be significantly turning against such policies, at least among wonks and academics. Last week the National Academies of Science published a synthesis of 10 years worth of research on 15 American test-based incentive programs, finding they demonstrated few good results and a lot of negative unintended consequences. Meanwhile, the National Center on Education and the Economy reported that high-achieving nations have focused on reforming their teacher education and professional development pipelines, not on efforts to measure student “growth” and tie such numbers to individual teachers.

Read more from Dana Goldstein 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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