In The Know: Law enforcement takes $47.5 million with controversial asset seizures

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Highway patrol led in controversial asset seizures: More than 100 Oklahoma law enforcement agencies received $47.5 million over more than a decade through a controversial U.S. Department of Justice program that shared forfeited private assets with state and local agencies. Nearly three-fourths of the money and property went to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol [Oklahoma Watch]. Property is seized by law enforcement supposedly because it’s connected to criminal activity. Yet many seizures are not accompanied by a conviction, or even the filing of charges [Trent England & Gene Perry / NewsOK].  Canadian County Sheriff Randall R. Edwards is pushing back against a lawmakers attempt to reform asset forfeiture laws [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma City Council questions jail plan: A county study committee has recommended seeking a sales tax increase to pay for a new jail amid threats of a federal lawsuit over the condition of the current jail. Oklahoma City councilwoman Meg Salyer said it could be the “perfect opportunity” to consider consolidation of some law enforcement duties. Councilman Ed Shadid said a proposed permanent sales tax increase to fund jail operations could endanger transit improvements and other projects [NewsOK].

How Oklahoma is turning around its tragic history with Indian education: As of 2013, 15 percent of students in Oklahoma public schools are identified as American Indian, which put them tied with Hispanics as the second largest group of students in the state. The state’s recent efforts to create an informative, culturally-inclusive curriculum on American Indian issues is a stark contrast to how Indian Education was handled earlier in Oklahoma’s history [OK Policy].

Oklahoma teacher pay lags behind neighboring states: The Oklahoma branch of Stand for Children, a non-profit education advocacy group, recently published a map that compares starting teaching pay in Oklahoma to a sampling of cities in neighboring states [NewsOK]. Starting teacher pay in a north Texas school district like Denton has reached $50,000. Meanwhile, minimum starting teacher pay in Oklahoma is $31,600 (the equivalent of a full-time job paying $15 per hour) and it hasn’t increased since the 2007-08 school year, which means Oklahoma’s already low pay isn’t even keeping pace with inflation [Stand for Children].

Rural schools struggling with budget gaps: Woodall Schools Superintendent Linda Clinkenbeard said arranging a master schedule for the school year became difficult after a career teacher with credentials in three different areas retired. To save money, the district did not hire another teacher to take her place. This is not the first time Woodall has decided to let a position “go dark,” as some refer to the practice of not hiring replacements when a person leaves [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Oklahoma rural hospitals in critical condition: About 56 percent of Oklahoma’s rural hospitals operated at a financial loss between 2009 and 2013. Seven have been involved in bankruptcy reorganizations since 2011. “I would say probably 70 (percent to) 75 percent of the hospitals in rural Oklahoma are having some kind of financial struggle,” said hospital consultant Val Schott [NewsOK]. Oklahoma’s rejection of federal Medicaid funds is a big part of rural hospitals’ struggles [OK Policy].

We have to breathe, even if it is ‘Obama-Air’: It is political suicide for any politician to even hint that he or she might endorse, accept or even tolerate one of the president’s policies. But thankfully, I am an accountant, not a politician, and I tend to look at things from a dollars and cents perspective. One thing I have come to accept is that the Affordable Care Act — affectionately called “ObamaCare” — is not going away; just as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid did not go away once they were fully implemented. So now what do we do? [Don Millican / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma officials vow to keep fighting Obama plan to cut power plant pollution: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday finalized its Clean Power Plan, the Obama Administration’s attempt to cut carbon emissions from power plants by more than 30 percent nationwide. Though just finalized, the plan has been in the works for two years, and Oklahoma officials have opposed it every step of the way [NewsOK]. By refusing to cooperate with the law, all that will be accomplished is Oklahoma officials will have less say in how the emissions goal is reached in our state. On the other hand, a good faith effort to cooperate by state leaders would not involve great disruptions or cost to the state [OK Policy Blog].

How a multinational company left Hugo with unsafe water: About 7,000 Hugo-area residents didn’t have safe drinking water for months because Severn Trent Services corporation failed to properly disinfect the city’s supply and misreported data to city and state officials. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality discovered Severn Trent Services didn’t use enough chlorine for more than 300 days over the course of two years [Journal Record].

Oklahoma regulators put new restrictions on energy companies injecting wastewater underground: In the latest effort to stem a sharp increase in earthquakes, the new rules by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission require operators in parts of two Oklahoma counties to reduce the amount of saltwater they inject underground by 38 percent from current levels in the next 60 days [Reuters].

Under federal order, state agencies will assist with voter registration: The Department of Human Services, the state Health Department and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority are required to ask their clients whether they want to register to vote, offer them voter registration materials and help them complete registration forms. Oklahoma had not been complying with the federal rules until pressured by voter advocacy groups, including the League of Women Voters [NewsOK].

We’re accepting student applications for our paid internships and research fellowships: Students working with OK Policy have a wide range of opportunities to conduct research, write blog posts, and contribute to OK Policy projects and events. The deadline to apply for both programs is Friday, August 28th [OK Policy].

We just finished the 3rd annual Summer Policy Institute: It’s often easy to feel discouraged about today’s young adults and their level of engagement with the world beyond cellphones and social media. Yet this week I got a healthy reminder that while there’s much work needed to restore young people’s trust and interest in electoral politics, there’s also an extraordinary amount of passion for their communities and commitment to creating change among the rising generation [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“Our governor says she wants to address the issue of uninsured medical care through an ‘Oklahoma Plan.’ We’re waiting. If it is SoonerCare and Insure Oklahoma, it is not working. We continue to have over 500,000 uninsured using our emergency rooms for their primary care, and we continue to refuse $10.5 billion in our tax dollars being returned to our state.”

-Don Millican, Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. chief financial officer and OK Policy board member (Source)

Number of the Day


How much Oklahoma’s revenue from gross production taxes on oil and gas drilling ($6.5 million) came in below the state’s official estimate ($33.1 million) in FY 2015.

Source: Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

State income tax cuts still a bad idea: The record is clear that tax cuts have not boosted growth. When growth is (appropriately) measured from peak to peak of the business cycle, the vaunted Reagan tax cuts in the early 1980s produced a period of average growth. Virtually no one claims the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts stimulated growth. Tax rates as determinants of growth fare no better in cross-country comparisons [Brookings Institution].

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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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