In The Know: Lawsuit seeks higher rate to house Oklahoma prisoners

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 Bryan County is suing the state Corrections Department, saying that the per diem rates paid by the agency to house state inmates in county jails isn’t enough to cover the cost. The Oklahoma City homicide rate spiked in 2012, but the number of Tulsa homicides is at its lowest in a decade.

Oklahoma Senators Inhofe and Coburn said the fiscal cliff deal avoids tax hikes for most, but due to the expiration of a payroll tax break, it will actually increase taxes for 77 percent of households.  The OK Policy Blog shared a Word Cloud derived from Oklahoma legislators’ press release titles in 2012.

NewsOK responded to a post on the OK Policy Blog about what’s really being graded in the new A-F report cards for schools. See the original post here. The Oklahoma Motor Vehicle Commission has issued more than 100 fines in the past year to dealerships employing salespeople who haven’t paid their state income taxes.

In Urban Tulsa Weekly, Ray Pearcey argues that we should quit bashing public workers. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank for the rate of female death due to firearms. In today’s Policy Note, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out that a decade of tax cuts and reduced spending have not helped Missouri’s economy.

In The News

Lawsuit seeks higher rate to house Oklahoma prisoners

After years of public complaints, the Bryan County Board of Commissioners has filed a lawsuit against the state Corrections Department over per diem rates paid by the state agency to house prison-bound inmates in county jails. The lawsuit filed by the county doesn’t seek money — necessarily. Instead, the county’s attorney has asked an Oklahoma County district judge to determine what should happen if the per diem rate isn’t enough to cover the cost of an inmate’s incarceration in county jail. The state Corrections Department currently has roughly 1,700 inmates awaiting transfer to state prisons, a number that has grown nearly 300 percent over the last decade as state prisons struggle with overcrowding.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma City homicide rate spikes in 2012

Oklahoma City concludes 2012 with a grim record: the second highest number of homicides ever recorded in Oklahoma’s largest city. As of Monday, 99 people had been killed by another person in the city during the year, according to police records. Gang-related homicides doubled compared to the previous year, and sharp increases were also seen in justifiable homicides, such as self-defense. The total is the most since 102 homicides were reported in 1979, though the ranking does not include 1995, when the bombing at the downtown federal building killed 168 people. The city recorded 60 homicides in both 2010 and 2011.

Read more from the Enid News & Eagle.

Number of Tulsa homicides lowest in a decade

While several high-profile killings shocked many Tulsans in 2012, the number of homicides is the lowest it has been in a decade. Tulsa police reported 46 people killed by another person in 2012, the lowest number of homicides since 34 were reported in 2002, police said. The 46 deaths last year include three people killed and two more injured in seemingly random shootings on the streets of north Tulsa on Good Friday, two people shot to death outside a Best Buy on a Saturday afternoon, a teen who was shot the day after she graduated from high school and an elderly woman brutally beaten to death in her home.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

A word map for 2012: Out of the mouths of legislators

Over the past year, Oklahomans have coped with another year of severe drought, raging wildfires, rising poverty, sluggish job growth, rising health care and insurance costs, and the ongoing large scale deployment and return of National Guard and Army reservist citizen-soldiers. Has the legislature been responsive to these and other pressing issues? We decided to take a look at what Oklahoma legislators communicated to the public about their work in the past year. Below is a WordCloud derived from Oklahoma legislators’ press release titles. In some ways, press releases are a better barometer of what Senators and Representatives want their constituents to know that they care about than actual legislation, because they’re written explicitly for public and media consumption.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Inhofe, Coburn say deal avoids tax hikes for most

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said the deal struck late Monday to avert the so-called fiscal cliff “should be seen as a victory for conservatives.” Some conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives did not agree, but were outvoted as House passed the Senate measure late Tuesday. Inhofe and his Oklahoma Republican colleague, Sen. Tom Coburn, both voted for the deal in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, saying it preserved reduced tax rates for the vast majority of Americans while clearing the way for serious spending negotiations over the next two months.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Despite deal, taxes to rise for most Americans

While the tax package that Congress passed New Year’s Day will protect 99 percent of Americans from an income tax increase, most of them will still end up paying more federal taxes in 2013. That’s because the legislation did nothing to prevent a temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax from expiring. In 2012, that 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax was worth about $1,000 to a worker making $50,000 a year. The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington research group, estimates that 77 percent of American households will face higher federal taxes in 2013 under the agreement negotiated between President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans. High-income families will feel the biggest tax increases, but many middle- and low-income families will pay higher taxes too.

Read more from NewsOK.

More creative thinking about Oklahoma’s A-F grading system for schools

Release of A through F grades for state schools has led to some creative thinking. Sadly, much of that creativity has been expended explaining away bad grades rather than improving school performance. The latest example comes from an Oklahoma Policy Institute guest blog authored by Jonathan Willner, an economics professor at Oklahoma City University. Willner says “multivariate regression” analysis reveals “that a good part of what is being graded is the parents” and that it’s merely “convenient to blame the schools.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Previously: Guest Blog (Jonathan Willner): Public school grades – what’s really being graded? from the OK Policy Blog

Licensing issues lead to state fines for Oklahoma car dealers

A state agency that oversees automobile dealerships has issued more than 100 sanctions in the past year to dealerships connected with employing unlicensed salespeople. The penalties – fees in lieu of fines or outright fines – were levied by the Oklahoma Motor Vehicle Commission, which oversees vehicle dealerships and salespeople in the state. Many of the sanctions stem from a state law prohibiting agencies from issuing new or renewed licenses to individuals not in compliance with state income tax obligations, said Roy Dockum, executive director of the commission. The law was intended to encourage people to pay state taxes, or risk losing their license to do various kinds of work, including selling cars.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Can we quit bashing public workers?

My heroes have always included a passel of brash public servants. I’ve recently added Dawn Hochsprung, the intrepid Sandy Hook elementary school principal, to my personal pantheon. Hochsprung rushed the Newtown killer in an effort to stop him a few fateful days ago: she ended her extraordinary service to teaching and children by giving her life. Her journey is a rapturous, if very sad, counter to an emerging narrative: one that paints public employees as slugs and second raters, poorly motivated folks, people who don’t have improving public life at the core of their working world. There are many other, if less dramatic, examples.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Quote of the Day

If facts matter — call us crazy, but we think they should — then cutting taxes and starving social programs has done nothing but accelerate Missouri’s race to the bottom. Those policies haven’t led to the prosperity the GOP promised.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank for the rate of female death due to firearms, 4.6 women per 100,000, compared to just 2.8 women nationally

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

If tax cuts feed a healthy economy, where is Missouri’s prosperity?

For 10 years, the GOP has had near total control in both the Missouri House and Senate, with each body entering the new session with unprecedented majorities. They’ve cut taxes and reduced spending on social programs, which, for the most part, is what they said they’d do. If tax cuts really improve the economy, then Missouri’s should be booming. By nearly any measure, the state has among the lowest tax burdens in the nation, much of it the result of Republican policies since 2003. According to the Tax Foundation, Missouri ranks 47th out of 50 in state and local revenue collection. Yet nearly every Republican ran for re-election on a platform that said that because of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, Missouri’s economy was in the tank. And top GOP representatives and senators already are proposing the same old failed solutions to the economic malaise: more tax cuts.

Read more from the St. Louis Dispatch.

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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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