In The Know: Lawmakers pass several lawsuit reform bills in special session

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 Oklahoma lawmakers passed several lawsuit reform measures – one very similar to a bill already struck down as unconstitutional by the state’s highest court.  Former Governor Brad Henry said he is not seeking a third term of office in 2014, but hasn’t ruled out a future run.

The OKPolicy Blog explained how an Oklahoman editorial covering a Cato Institute report presents wildly inaccurate information about poverty and safety net programs in the state.  Oklahoma City has been awarded a $13.6 million grant to transform a downtown train station into an intermodal transit hub. 

A judge is scheduled to hear evidence in the blackmail case against the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party, Al Gerhart, for allegedly sending a threatening email to a state senator.  The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank for the share of its residents who are “engaged” workers –  involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and their organization.  In today’s Policy Note, the National Employment Law Project reports that most low wage food service jobs do not provide stepping stones towards higher-paying managerial positions.

In The News

Oklahoma lawmakers approve numerous lawsuit reform bills in special session
The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday passed a lawsuit reform measure that Democrats say will be struck down again as unconstitutional. Senate Bill 1x requires plaintiffs in negligence cases where an expert would testify to find an authority in advance to certify that the case has merit before it can proceed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court twice tossed out the requirement for medical malpractice cases and professional negligence cases, saying it was an illegal special law and created a barrier to the courthouse.

Read more from Tulsa World

Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry ends 2014 speculation, won’t run for third term
Former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry on Thursday put rumors to rest. He is not seeking a third term of office in 2014. Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said recently that Henry had left the door open when asked about running for governor. Collins said he asked Henry the question during a recent fundraiser at the request of an Associated Press reporter. “He certainly didn’t commit to anything, but he didn’t shut the door,” Collins said. On Thursday, Henry said that “I cannot imagine considering a run in 2014,” but he didn’t rule out a potential future race for the governor’s seat or another elective office.

Read more from Tulsa World

The Oklahoman’s distorted case for cutting the safety net
A recent report by the Cato Institute claims to calculate the total value of a “welfare benefit package”, and it contrasts that value with the salary of a full-time worker earning minimum wage. On Tuesday, the Oklahoman published an editorial about this report. They claim that Oklahomans can receive welfare benefits worth more than the starting salary of many entry level positions, and that this acts as a disincentive to work.

Read more from OKPolicy Blog

OKC gets $13.6 million for downtown transit hub
Oklahoma City has been awarded a $13.6 million grant to help transform downtown’s Santa Fe Station into an intermodal transit hub. The U.S. Department of Transportation grant will help renovate the historic depot into the future hub for the city’s modern streetcar service and will eventually serve as a regional transportation center. The 79-year old station is already home to Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer. The grant will be matched locally with funds from Oklahoma City’s Metropolitan Area Projects sales tax initiative, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Read more from News9

Court hearing Friday for Sooner Tea Party co-founder

An Oklahoma County judge is scheduled to hear evidence in the blackmail and computer crimes case against the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party. Special Judge Susan Johnson will preside over a preliminary hearing Friday for 54-year-old Al Gerhart. Prosecutors filed charges in April alleging Gerhart sent an email intended to intimidate Republican Sen. Cliff Branan of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.

Read more from NewsOK  

Quote of the Day

“The reality is that the vast majority of Oklahoma’s poorest families work hard, but they do not earn a living wage. Public assistance programs are not subsidizing people who choose not to work; they’re subsidizing companies that don’t pay workers enough to live on.”

Gene Perry, OKPolicy analyst on an Oklahoman editorial 

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank for the share of its residents who are “engaged” workers (36 percent) –  involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and their organization – compared to 30 percent nationally

Source:  GALLUP, Inc.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Going Nowhere Fast: Limited Occupational Mobility in the Fast Food Industry
In response to growing criticism, industry spokespersons have defended low wages for front-line fast food workers by arguing that these jobs serve as stepping stones to higher-paying managerial positions, as well as to opportunities to eventually own and operate a fast food franchise. These claims, however, are not supported by the facts. Managerial positions account for only a tiny fraction of jobs in the fast food industry, and opportunities for franchise ownership are even fewer. Moreover, the substantial financial resources required to open a fast food franchise make entrepreneurship an unrealistic option for front-line fast food workers earning poverty-level wages.

Read more from National Employment Law Project

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