In The Know: June 9, 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, Oklahoma City civil rights pioneer Clara Luper has died at age 88. Luper led the nation’s the first publicized sit-in against segregation. You can watch a 2008 interview with Luper here. Jerry Fent has filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court challenging the shift of $100 million in transportation funds to other agencies to make up the budget shortfall. A debate has erupted over how much increased participation in Medicaid under health care reform will cost the state. OK Policy gives an overview of how health care reform will affect Medicare.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling may have made several of Oklahoma’s campaign finance laws unenforceable. Some Oklahoma cities are trying to implement their own restrictions on allergy medication to fight meth, but they may be on questionable legal ground. A paperwork error may cost Mountain View-Gotebo Public Schools $480k they were owed as reimbursement for a property tax exemption granted to a nearby wind farm.

The air conditioning has broken down in several housing units at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. A new non-profit has been formed to advocate for public funding of the arts. In today’s Policy Note, Bruce Bartlett shows that Europeans do not pay substantially higher taxes that Americans when you account for the decrease in American wages due to health insurance premiums that Europeans pay through taxes.

Read on for more.

In The News

Civil rights leader Clara Luper dies in Oklahoma City

Long-time civil rights leader Clara Luper has died, a family member has confirmed. Luper was 88. Luper has been one of the most well-known Oklahoma civil rights activists since she led a sit-in protest inside Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City in 1958 where the owners had refused to serve black customers. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Luper helped establish the Youth Council of the Oklahoma City Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1950s and served as its advisor for 50 years. She is credited with directing a new type of non-violent protest, the sit-in, and for staging the first such publicized event in the nation.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: 2008 video interview with Luper from Oklahoma Horizon

Lawsuit challenges state’s budget package

An integral part of the state’s $6.5 billion 2012 fiscal year budget package that even some lawmakers were fuzzy about was challenged Wednesday in a lawsuit filed with the state Supreme Court. Jerry Fent claims in his lawsuit, which lists Gov. Mary Fallin and others as defendants, that legislators and the governor inappropriately are taking $100 million that is earmarked to be spent on roads and bridges and spending it instead on other purposes. The budget agreement instead calls for allocating that money to 10 other state agencies to balance the budget. If his lawsuit is successful, the state would come up $100 million short in paying its anticipated expenses for the 2012 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Groups debate financial impact of increased Medicaid coverage under health reform

Medicaid costs for Oklahoma will grow to $6.5 billion a year and represent more than half of the state budget by 2023 under the federal health care law, a conservative think tank says. Other groups – including the state’s Medicaid agency – say that although there would be an increase in the number of Oklahomans eligible for Medicaid and the costs to the state, the council exaggerates the financial impact. There seems to be little dispute that the federal law will increase the number of people covered. But the vast majority of those costs would be covered by the federal government. Initially, the federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs of clients included in the law’s increased eligibility. Eventually, the state would have to absorb about 10 percent of that cost.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

What’s happening to Medicare? Facts for older Oklahomans

Sweeping changes to the nation’s health care system were enacted in recent years and talk of even more changes continues to reverberate in debates over the federal budget.  Central to the discussion and always a lightning rod in health care debates is the future of Medicare, a federally subsidized health insurance program for people over 65 or with certain disabilities.  Beyond policy change, there are myriad factors potentially affecting older Oklahoman’s access to medical care:  the recent recession, rising health care and prescription drug costs, and the state’s budget shortfall.  This post provides older Oklahomans with information from and links to trusted sources what is changing with respect to Medicare.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://whats-happening-to-medicare-facts-for-older-oklahomans/.

Supreme Court decision could make Oklahoma election laws unenforceable

State laws restricting corporate independent campaign expenditures and requiring registration as a political action committee in Oklahoma are considered “unenforceable” in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, according to some state officials. During the contentious Oklahoma City Council election for wards 2, 5, 6 and 8 in March and the Ward 2 runoff election in April, two groups making independent expenditures participated in the election, spending more than half a million dollars combined on the races. Both groups — A Better Local Government Political Action Committee and Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum — received their funding from two separate nonprofit groups that were set up just prior to the election, thereby concealing the identity of the individual donors.

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at

Cities’ attempts to restrict allergy medicine runs into legal questions

movement to use city ordinances to restrict the sale of an allergy medicine used to make methamphetamine is running into legal questions. On Monday, the Wagoner City Council approved an ordinance requiring a prescription for all dry tablet pseudoephedrine. The Oklahoma Legislature considered a similar proposal this year but took no definitive action on it. Robert Garner, municipal prosecutor for Tulsa, said he hasn’t researched the issue completely, but an initial investigation leaves him dubious about the city’s ability to regulate drug sales. State law makes violation of prescription statutes a felony, and Tulsa can’t prosecute anything covered by felony statutes as misdemeanors in city court, he said.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Paperwork error costs Mountain View-Gotebo Public Schools $480,000

A paperwork error has cost one rural Oklahoma school district $480,000, or about 25 percent of its annual budget, leaving the superintendent struggling to make payroll. The state offers property tax exemptions to major manufacturers for the first five years qualifying companies operate or expand in Oklahoma. However, lawmakers didn’t want the exemption, created in 1986, to harm school districts or other local entities that would be missing out on ad valorem revenue, so it started a fund that promised to reimburse counties for the revenue lost due to the tax exemption. This year Blue Canyon II Wind Farm, owned by Horizon Wind Energy in Houston, received its property tax exemption as usual, but the form for reimbursement did not make it to the Oklahoma Tax Commission Ad Valorem office by the June 15 deadline.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Air conditioning breaks at Oklahoma state prison

Inmates, including those on death row, and prison staff dealt with a lack of air conditioning in three units at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Wednesday. Warden’s assistant Terry Crenshaw said Wednesday that the 20- to 30-year-old air conditioning units broke down Friday and the housing units were without air conditioning during the weekend, but that partial air conditioning has been restored and fans also were being used. “We do have partial air in all three,” he said. “We’ve made sure security staff and our medical and mental health staff are monitoring the situation and the inmates. We went out and purchased additional fans to make sure we do have air circulating.”

Read more from this NewsOK article at

New nonprofit will advocate for public funding of art

Amid proposed budget cuts to state art funding, three arts leaders have established the first nonprofit to formally advocate for public funding of the arts. Oklahoma City businessman Jim Tolbert is set to lead the new group, Oklahomans for the Arts, and is joined by public relations executive Kym Koch Thompson and Tulsa arts advocate and volunteer Linda Frazier. Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders recently announced a proposed budget cut of 9 percent to the Oklahoma Arts Council. The reduction compares to cuts of 3 to 7 percent proposed for most agencies.

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at

Quote of the Day

I want to be remembered as a lover of people who wanted more than anything else to help somebody, knowing that if I could help somebody, I would not have lived in vain.

Clara Luper, a civil rights pioneer who led one of the first sit-in protests against desegregation in Oklahoma City. Luper died Wednesday night at age 88.

Number of the Day

51.3 percent

Percentage of married-couple families in Oklahoma where both spouses work

Source: American Community Survey, 2009

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What your taxes do (and don’t) buy for you

The burden of taxes plus private health care spending substantially equalizes the loss of disposable income in the United States and other countries, because we pay 8.6 percent of G.D.P. for health care over and above what the government pays, whereas those in other major countries pay an average of just 2.3 percent of G.D.P. out of their pockets. Looking at taxes alone, the burden in the United States is 25 percent below the O.E.C.D. average, but including the additional health costs Americans pay, the United States is just 4.7 percent below average. In short, a substantial portion of the higher tax burden that Europeans pay is really illusory. They are really just paying their health insurance premiums through their taxes rather than through lower wages, as we do.

Read more from the Economix blog 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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