In The Know: Lawmakers first reject, then pass $2 million for private OKC livestock show

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

Today you should know that controversy has erupted over an additional $2 million appropriated for a private Oklahoma City livestock show. The Oklahoma Corrections Department is struggling to come up with a $2 million legislatively mandated increase in payments to private prisons and halfway houses.

The Tulsa World asked if Oklahoma will be the next criminal justice reform success story. Mike Connelly responded that the effectiveness of reforms in both Oklahoma and Texas have been overstated. The OK Policy Blog previously looked at what the criminal justice reform bill does and what stands in the way, and proposed what should be Oklahoma’s next steps.

After significant delays and data errors by state testing contractor Pearson last year, the state Education Department has a new vendor for end-of-instruction tests. Oklahoma business leaders are warning that industry needs could soon outstrip the number of available workers with college degrees. House Speaker Kris Steele approved 59 interim studies. See the full list of House interim studies here and Senate interim studies here. Gov. Mary Fallin on Sunday was named vice chair of the National Governors Association.

The Tulsa World writes that the new health care reform law is already taking root and will be very hard to roll back. Okie Funk discussed a one-sided hearing on energy regulations hosted by Rep. James Lankford. The Number of the Day is the net number of migrants moving to Oklahoma from Texas between 2009 and 2010. In today’s Policy Note, economist Nancy Folbre discusses why the United States provides far less support for child-rearing than other advanced industrial countries.

In The News

Lawmakers first reject, then pass $2 million for private OKC livestock show

On the next to the last day of the legislative session, lawmakers rejected — then, a few hours later, approved — an appropriations bill that included $2 million for a private Oklahoma City livestock show. High school students participate in the Oklahoma Youth Expo on March 13 at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. Photo By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman Archives Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, is questioning the constitutionality of the funding for the Oklahoma Youth Expo, the world’s largest junior livestock show, and whether the expo’s politically generous leadership played a role in the funding decision. “The Constitution specifically prohibits the state of Oklahoma from giving money to private institutions,” he said. The event — originally a project of the state fairgrounds, but later spun off as an independent charity — attracts 7,000 young people and 14,000 animals to Oklahoma City every year. It rewards the state’s future leaders with cash and scholarship prizes that recognize their hard work, Funk said.

Read more from NewsOK.

Corrections agency works to come up with additional $2 million to pay private prisons

The Oklahoma Corrections Department is struggling to come up with a $2 million legislatively mandated increase in payments to private prisons and halfway houses. Senate Bill 1988, by Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, was passed in the waning days of the legislative session. “For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, the Department of Corrections shall spend an amount equal to what it spent on private prisons and halfway houses for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, plus an additional $2 million,” the measure says. Corrections Department Director Justin Jones said his agency was not appropriated additional dollars for the increase in payments for private bed space, which were given effective July 1.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma: Next criminal justice success story?

Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele is thinking big. He almost sounded like a Texan in an interview last week when he predicted that “Oklahoma might well be the next national criminal justice success story.” Is that possible? Absolutely, based on what’s happening in Texas, a state that five years ago adopted the very same Justice Reinvestment strategy that the Oklahoma Legislature passed into law this session. Last week, Texas proudly announced an 8.3 percent reduction in its violent crime rate for 2011 and a 1.45 percent drop in its incarceration rate. To paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden: This is a big (blankety blank) deal. It’s also validation that the Oklahoma Legislature, the perennial Cowardly Lion of criminal justice reform, finally had the courage to adopt a rational approach to crime and punishment – and to fund it.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Op-ed overstates effectiveness of reforms in Oklahoma and Texas from JCO Consulting

Previously: Reforming criminal justice: What the latest bill does and what stands in the way from the OK Policy Blog; The next criminal justice reforms: Escaping the downward spiral from the OK Policy Blog

Education Department selects new vendor for end-of-year tests

After significant delays and data errors by state testing contractor Pearson last year, the state Education Department has selected CTB/McGraw-Hill as the new vendor for end-of-instruction tests. “After the problems we had last year, we just informed Pearson that we would be going out to bid for the contract. They had an opportunity to bid, along with four others, but they weren’t the winning bid this time,” said Maridyth McBee, assistant state superintendent for accountability and assessments. The first assessments under McGraw-Hill will begin the last week of November during the winter testing window, she said. CTB/McGraw-Hill was selected because of its overall plan and inclusion of benchmark testing, along with having the second-lowest bid, she said.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma business leaders support college completion agenda

Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, has called for an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates to be awarded in Oklahoma over the next 12 years. That goal is a part of Complete College America, a nationwide initiative designed to boost college completion. That effort isn’t limited to Oklahoma. Others, including Obama administration officials and education advocacy organizations, have joined the call for more Americans to earn some kind of postsecondary degree or certification. In a report released earlier this year, the nonprofit Lumina Foundation for Education warned industry demands soon could outstrip the number of available workers with degrees. That’s particularly true in Oklahoma, said Matt Robison, the State Chamber of Oklahoma’s vice president for government affairs.

Read more from NewsOK.

Speaker Steele approves 59 House interim studies

Building a museum of popular culture in Tulsa is among the subjects of 59 interim studies announced Friday by House Speaker Kris Steele. A proposed $20 million bond issue for the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa’s Brady District failed to secure legislative approval last session. Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, requested the study and said it will look at the value the museum would bring to the state. It also will evaluate how much support it has from the private sector, he said. Peters said he also wants to determine how many people are willing to donate memorabilia to the proposed museum. “Finally, we want to assess the viability of it generating enough money for operational costs,” Peters said. The House received 89 requests for interim studies this year. Approved interim studies cover topics ranging from education to public finance and prison staffing.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: The full list of House interim studies; The full list of Senate interim studies

Governor Fallin named vice chair of National Governors Association

Gov. Mary Fallin on Sunday was named the vice chairman of the National Governors Association, the bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors. Fallin, elected governor in November 2010, is the first Oklahoma governor to serve as vice chairman of the group. She was named last year to the organization’s nine-member executive committee. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell was named chairman of the National Governors Association. Markell is a Democrat; the chairman and vice chairman rotate political parties each year.

Read more from NewsOK.

History shows reform efforts hard to kill

Oklahoma leaders and those of a few other states continue to fiercely resist federal health-care reform, but that’s not the case everywhere. While the tenor of talk around here would suggest “Obamacare” is the most despised piece of legislation ever drafted, some states – and their stakeholders – are eager to forge ahead with reform. In fact, some are even well along in implementing reform measures. What’s more, there’s evidence that significant numbers of Americans support provisions of the reform act – and equally large numbers of Americans just want the arguing and rancor to end. Even if Republicans get everything they need to move forward with repeal, they still must face the fact that some reforms already are helping huge numbers of Americans. How do they make the case for taking away such precious and welcome benefits?

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Lankford ‘hearing’ on EPA rules one-sided

The state power structure’s defense of the fossil fuel industry is beginning to take on new levels of absurdity and insularity. U.S. Rep. James Lankford has held a supposed government hearing with two fellow Republican lawmakers, local energy company representatives and other local Republican politicians at the University of Central Oklahoma in which new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and other federal rules were criticized as detrimental to business. In other words, the bottom line is the bottom line for energy companies, such as Devon, OG&E and Triad, all of which were represented at the Friday meeting. The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association was represented as well. (Note: Devon and OG&E are listed in the top five of Lankford’s recent campaign contributors.) The problem is no one who supports the EPA and its new regulations, no one who believes pollution is a serious problem, was apparently invited to address Lankford and the two other Republican members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Read more from Okie Funk.

Quote of the Day

Despite the political uncertainty, private-sector initiatives, accentuated and accelerated by the health reform law, are moving forward,. The pressure for innovative ways to provider higher quality, more affordable health care continues. Health care organizations that have been sitting on the sidelines will now have to get in the game and play catch-up.

Kelly Barnes, a health care industry analyst with PricewaterhouseCoopers

Number of the Day


The net number of migrants moving to Oklahoma from Texas between 2009 and 2010.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau via the Texas Tribune

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Credits for children

Unless Congress takes action before the end of the year, the child tax credit (currently $1,000 a child) will be cut in half when other Bush-era tax policies formally lapse. Like the earned-income tax credit, which offers considerably more assistance to parents than other earners, the child tax credit enjoys fairly strong bipartisan support, and some conservatives have proposed increases to it. Yet both tax credits show scars of partisan sparring over what kinds of behavior deserve public support and send mixed signals regarding the value of parental contributions. Debate over family tax reform should be part of a larger effort to reconsider family policy in the United States. Many cross-national comparisons, including a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “Doing Better for Families,” show that the United States provides far less support for child-rearing than other advanced industrial countries.

Read more from Economix.

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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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