In The Know: Legislators to study privatization of Commerce Department

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

Legislators to study privatization of Commerce Department: A joint House-Senate interim study led by Sen. Ron Justice and State Rep. Leslie Osborn will look at privatizing all or part of the state Department of Commerce. Several other states have handed over business recruitment to privately run boards. Greg LeRoy, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Good Jobs First, said they’ve found that allowing businesses to run an economic development agency is inherently corrupting [Journal Record].

Oklahoma environmental violators fund projects in lieu of fines: Fines for dumping or polluting don’t always have to be paid in cash. Since 1995, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Policy has allowed polluters to fund what it calls supplemental environmental projects as part of their fine. DEQ recently added water loss audits as a qualifying initiative, to help municipalities find how and where aging pipeline infrastructure leaks [Journal Record].

‘Illegal activity’ fine print compounds an Oklahoma tragedy: Monroe Bird III, a 21-year-old Tulsan, was shot by a security guard while sitting in a car with a friend and left paralyzed from the neck down. Mr. Bird’s insurance company declined to cover his medical bills, claiming that his injuries resulted from “illegal activity.” Yet Mr. Bird was not convicted of any crime in connection with the incident. He was not even charged. Without insurance, he was discharged from the hospital and died at home last month from a preventable complication often seen in paralyzed patients [New York Times].

Parole board hires new director: The board voted Monday to hire DeLynn Fudge, the federal grants director at the District Attorneys Council, as its new executive director. Fudge will replace Van Guillotte, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol chief who resigned abruptly May 11 [NewsOK]. Parole approvals by the board plummeted this year after Governor Fallin appointed three new members with close ties to law enforcement [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s income inequality is at an all-time high: Rising income inequality has become one of the biggest concerns for U.S. and world leaders in recent years, and for good reason. As recent data from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows, income inequality in the United States is near a historic high not reached since just before the Great Depression. While incomes for Oklahoma households are slightly more equal than the nation as a whole, they are still the highest they have been in the state’s 107-year history [OK Policy Blog].

Nearly a quarter of Oklahoma children living in poverty: Oklahoma’s child poverty rate has not improved since the Great Recession, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. In addition, 30 percent of the state’s children in Oklahoma have parents who lack secure employment [NewsOK].

Summer child nutrition programs not meeting need: Thousands of Oklahoma children who depend on school meals for nutrition likely don’t have access to the same level of nutrition during the summer, a federal agriculture leader said. Part of the issue is not enough community leaders know about the summer food program and that they could start it in their cities. Another issue is transportation for the children to get to the program [NewsOK].

Two 4.0 magnitude earthquakes recorded: Yesterday the U.S. Geological Survey recorded two 4.0 magnitude or greater earthquakes near Cherokee in northwest Oklahoma. Oklahoma recorded 23 earthquakes in the past seven days, and 133 earthquakes of at least 2.5 magnitude [Tulsa World].

Stillwater approves new drilling rules: The Stillwater City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance for oil and gas drilling, establishing noise limits and requiring setbacks from homes, schools and hospitals. Oil and gas industry officials claim the ordinance could violate a new state law that prohibits cities from banning drilling [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“I told her, ‘It sounds like to me you’re about to become the judge, prosecutor and jury.’ I said, ‘Please ma’am, don’t turn my son into a statistic. He needs care.’”

-Johnny Magness, the stepfather of Monroe Bird III, a 21-year-old Tulsan who was shot by a security guard while sitting in a car with a friend and left paralyzed from the neck down. Magness was speaking to an offical with HealthCare Solutions Group, an insurance claims processor that denied coverage to the young because they said his injuries resulted from “illegal activity”, even though he was never charged with a crime. Bird was sent home from the hospital and later died  from a preventable complication often seen in paralyzed patients (Source).

Number of the Day

17 percent

Share of households in the Lawton metro area with “severe cost burdens” because housing costs consumed more than 50 percent of their income. Lawton has the highest percentage of residents burdened by housing costs in the state.

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Americans making under $30,000 can already send their children to college for free: Yet fewer than half of students from low-income families enroll in college, and 12 percent of those who do enroll fail to apply for financial aid. A recent Urban Institute report speculates that too many low-income Americans mistakenly assume that college is too expensive for them and aren’t given information about financial aid early enough to prepare for college [Hechinger Report].

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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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