In The Know: Lawmakers have $16 million left over from failure of tax cuts

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 you should know that lawmakers will have an additional $16 million available when they return next year. It had previously been set aside for tax cuts. The child advocacy group that successfully sued Oklahoma over its child welfare system is asking for $9.5 million in legal fees. The OK Policy Blog has a post-session review of what happened to bills we wrote about this year.

Tulsa Public Schools will be able to save an additional 30 teaching positions because of the donation of $1.2 million from an anonymous local donor. The Oklahoma City school district is investigating allegations that the principal of Frederick A. Douglass Mid-High School ordered falsification of attendance records and grades. The Cklahoma City Council is considering how to spend a $1.3 million surplus from better-than-expected tax revenues.

A heavy turnout is expected Tuesday for a state Board of Agriculture hearing on emergency rules for Oklahoma commercial pet breeders. A Tulsa woman is suing the city’s code enforcement officers after she said they cut down her garden of edible and medicinal plants with no cause. This Land Press discusses an analysis of what affects abortion availability in different states and what it means for Oklahoma.

StateImpact Oklahoma discusses why it is difficult to calculate the economic impact of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rep. Dan Boren said he believes Democrats can still win statewide office and he may run for governor someday, but he will not challenge Gov. Fallin in 2014. Fallin has endorsed several Republican incumbents facing primary challenges.

The Number of the Day is suicide’s rank as a cause of death among Oklahomans aged 10-24. In today’s Policy Note, The New York Times reports on difficulties faced by underemployed and underpaid workers during the recession.

In The News

Lawmakers have $16 million left over from failure of tax cuts

Lawmakers will have an additional $16 million available when they return next year, a state budget board determined Monday. The money was part of the estimated cost of a personal income tax-cutting plan approved by legislative leaders and the governor in the closing days of this year’s session. It never was taken up on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives. The actual cost of the proposal to the state would have been $32.7 million for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1, said Shelly Paulk, deputy revenue director and revenue analyst for the state finance office. Once the income tax-cutting plan failed, that money became available for lawmakers; a bill intended to raise about $14 million in revenue didn’t get taken up in the House, which reduced the actual available money on hand to $16 million, she said.

Read more from NewsOK.

Attorneys want $9.5 million for legal work on child welfare lawsuit

A child advocacy group asked Monday for $9.5 million for the legal effort its attorneys and others put into a federal class-action lawsuit that pushed DHS into agreeing to reforms. Children’s Rights, a New York-based group, asked a federal judge for $8,345,588 for its attorneys’ time on the case and $912,711 for the group’s legal expenses. The group asked that a New York firm that helped in the case be paid $262,120 for the firm’s expenses. The advocacy group’s executive director, Marcia Lowry, is seeking to be paid at a New York City rate of $700 an hour. Other attorneys are seeking to be paid from $175 to $375 an hour. The attorneys argued their request is reasonable and that their dedicated work achieved a historic and life-altering result for Oklahoma’s children. Tulsa attorney Frederic Dorwart, who also helped Children’s Rights in the case, did not charge for any of his firm’s time or expenses. Officials at the Department of Human Services have budgeted only $4 million to pay the group.

Read more from NewsOK.

Post-session review: So whatever happened to…

Of the 1,934 bills filed this past legislative session, only a small fraction of those saw any significant action by legislators. Most bills are never heard by a committee, and almost all of them fall short of a hearing on the floor of either legislative chamber. This post reviews the bills from this session that OK Policy provided commentary and analysis on, some in-depth and some in passing, and reveals how far they made it through the legislative process. As we previously noted, there were far fewer bills this session targeting immigrants than in previous legislatures. HJR 1088, sponsored by Rep. Terrill would have denied bail to a person who has entered or remained in the country illegally. It was not heard in committee. Another Terrill bill, HB 3014, was a draconian proposal to implement English-only restrictions. It was similarly denied a committee hearing.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Anonymous $1.2 million gift to save 30 TPS teaching jobs

Tulsa Public Schools will be able to save an additional 30 teaching positions because of the donation of $1.2 million from an anonymous local donor, officials announced Monday. The school board also approved a contract with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association to assist in an “abbreviated” search for internal and other local candidates to succeed Superintendent Keith Ballard in 2013. Earlier this month, another anonymous donor stepped forward with $620,000 to fund 15 teaching positions. Another 19 teaching positions will be funded because of vacant administrative positions being held open. Ballard has said he hopes to identify new savings and raise private funds to save all 75 teaching positions that otherwise would have been eliminated because of the end of federal Jobs Bill funding. Ballard noted that the donations will provide relief for just one year.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

OKC School District investigating charges of grade-tampering by high school principal

The Oklahoma City school district has quietly begun investigating allegations of falsification of attendance records and grades leveled by former teachers, employees and students against the principal of Frederick A. Douglass Mid-High School. The disclosure came following the June 4 district board meeting in which a former teacher and an official of the Oklahoma City NAACP made second appearances bringing the allegations to the board’s attention. Some parents have complained that their children are being advanced through the school system without being educated. They have accused Principal Brian Staples of being responsible, adding that they are standing up for teachers who were fired for fighting what they claim is a scandalous system at Douglass.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Oklahoma City Council faces choice with projected $1.3 million surplus

Oklahoma City Council members expect to have an extra $1.3 million to spend on top of the $952 million city budget for next year that they approved last week. But will the extra money go to Sunday bus service, more police officers or something else? City staff is presenting five options on how to spend the money at Tuesday’s council meeting, and the options are based on council discussions, resident survey responses and upcoming budget challenges. The council could decide as soon as Tuesday on a plan to spend it, which would be subject to a public hearing and vote next month. The projected $1.3 million surplus comes from continued economic growth in Oklahoma City fueling better-than-expected sales- and use-tax revenues, according to a city memo. A trend of strong tax collections in the past year has continued.

Read more from NewsOK.

Large turnout expected for hearing on pet breeder rules

A heavy turnout is expected Tuesday for a state Board of Agriculture hearing on emergency rules for Oklahoma commercial pet breeders. The 9:30 a.m. hearing is planned for the department’s atrium, the biggest room available, said Teena Gunter, general counsel to the board. The Board of Agriculture already had gotten a high number of written comments on the proposed rules, with comments coming from breeders and animal-rights groups and addressing nearly every aspect of the proposal, she said. To accommodate the large crowd, speakers probably will be given a time limit, Gunter said. Although comments from anyone interested in the final shape of the rules are welcome, there won’t be an opportunity for members of the public to address questions to the board concerning the rules, she said. Emergency rules will be in effect only until the end of the next legislative session. The board likely will send a set of permanent rules, which could look quite similar, to the Legislature for consideration in April.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Woman sues City of Tulsa for cutting down her edible garden

A Tulsa woman is suing the city’s code enforcement officers after she said they cut down her garden with no cause. She got a letter from the city saying there had been a complaint about her yard. She said she took pictures to meet with city inspectors, but they wouldn’t listen, so she invited them to her home so they could point out the problem areas. “Everything, everything needs to go,” Morrison said they told her. When she heard they wanted to cut it all down, she called police. The officer issued her a citation so it could be worked out in court. She said she went to court on August 15, and the judge told them to come back in October. But the very next day, men were cutting down most of her plants. Morrison said she used many of the plants that were destroyed to treat her diabetes, high-blood pressure and arthritis.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Access to abortion and what it reveals about Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmakers have spent the past legislative session (and most of the ones before that) trying to legislate abortion out of the state. (In fact, the state’s attorney general is busy appealing a court ruling against a recently passed anti-abortion law as we speak.) But Oklahoma has one of the lowest abortion rates in the country, with nine in 1,000 women undergoing the procedure annually. And, if The Atlantic Cities’ analysis of abortion availability and its correlation to states’ social and economic standing is accurate, then Oklahoma’s low rate reveals key information about its—and its citizens—wellbeing. The Atlantic Cities mapped the country’s abortion rate last week, offering a state-by-state analysis of the availability and procurement of the procedure. It revealed that a state’s abortion rate is correlated less to the morality of its citizens and more to the availability of services.

Read more from This Land Press.

OKC Thunder has a big economic impact, but it’s hard to say how much

The $89 million Chesapeake Arena was built with public money from a dedicated sales tax. So did Oklahoma City get its tax money’s worth? Yes, economists tell The Oklahoman’s Don Mecoy — even if the impact is incalculable. “We don’t have mountains. We don’t have a coastline. We don’t have a ski resort,” economist Mark Snead tells the paper. “Amenities include pro sports franchises. It’s one of those components that now make Oklahoma City completely in a different category.” There are ways to estimate the real-world economic impact of sports teams, but it’s an imprecise science. OKC officials base their Thunder impact estimates on data collected during the New Orleans Hornets’ temporary stay in Oklahoma. Using that methodology, OKC is looking at more than $53 million in economic impact, Mecoy writes. Such studies often exaggerate the benefits, Robert Dauffenbach, director of the Center for Economic and Management Research at OU’s Price Business College tells The Oklahoman. Major sporting events often replace other entertainment spending and disrupt normal economic activity, which makes calculations even more difficult.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Dan Boren says he may run for Governor in future

U.S. Rep. Dan Boren told a room full of business people on Monday that a Democrat who “works with the business community” could still be elected to statewide office in Oklahoma. Oh, and Boren, a Democrat, might want to be governor someday. “If I were ever to run for something, and it’s a small chance, that’s the only thing I would do,” he told the Tulsa Metro Chamber. Boren, 38, announced more than a year ago that he would not seek re-election to the 2nd Congressional District this November, and he reiterated at Monday’s breakfast that he won’t be re-entering the game soon. If Boren were to return to politics, it appears unlikely to happen before 2018. He has said, and repeated Monday, that he would not challenge current Gov. Mary Fallin, who is expected to seek a second term as governor in 2014.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Governor Fallin endorses several Republican incumbents facing primary challenges

Gov. Mary Fallin is doing more than voting in next week’s Republican primary election. She is endorsing at least three GOP legislators in their re-election bids. Fallin appears in campaign literature for State Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and state Reps. Guy Liebmann and Elise Hall, both Oklahoma City Republicans. Fallin, whose approval rating was 64 percent according to a survey last month, said she understands the risk that a defeat of a lawmaker she is backing could be interpreted as a rejection of her policies. Fallin has endorsed Republican candidates who mostly drew opponents who are focused more on social issues and are opposed to bond issues for various projects that would increase the state’s bond indebtedness of about $2.2 billion.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

Not only are the plants my livelihood, they’re my food and I was unemployed at the time and had no food left, no medicine left, and I didn’t have insurance. They took away my life and livelihood.
Denise Morrison, who is suing the City of Tulsa for cutting down her edible garden after someone submitted a code complaint.

Number of the Day


Suicide’s rank as a cause of death among Oklahomans aged 10-24.

Source: NewsOK

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Lost in recession, toll on underemployed and underpaid

Throughout the Great Recession and the not-so-great recovery, the most commonly discussed measure of misery has been unemployment. But many middle-class and working-class people who are fortunate enough to have work are struggling as well, which is why Sherry Woods, a 59-year-old van driver from Atlanta, found herself standing in line at a jobs fair this month, with her résumé tucked inside a Bible. Ms. Woods’s current job has not been meeting her needs. When she began driving a passenger van last year, she earned $9 an hour and worked 40 hours a week. Then her wage was cut to $8 an hour, and her hours were drastically scaled back. Last month she earned just $233. So Ms. Woods, who said that she had been threatened with eviction for missing rent payments and had been postponing an appointment with the eye doctor because she lacks insurance, has been looking for another, better job. It has not been easy.

Read more from The New York Times.

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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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