In The Know: Legislature passes open-carry bill

In 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.

The Legislature passed a bill to allow residents with a concealed carry permit to also openly carry their guns in a holster.  Gov. Fallin urged lawmakers to agree to a significant tax cut.  Parents and educators in Norman are worried that a tax cut will raise class sizes, already in the mid-to high 30s, even higher.  OU President David Boren urged a conservative approach on tax cuts and advised lawmakers to “fix education first.”

An employment report found that the ten best jobs in Oklahoma require a high level of education.  Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele said this session’s criminal justice reforms are merely the first step in a series of needed policy changes.  Persistent poverty in rural Oklahoma means long lines for food aid.  A bill requiring some welfare recipients to pass a drug test passed the Legislature.

The OKDHS Policy & Practice Lecture series will host a lecture on the well being of low-income senior citizens.  The Number of the Day is the median age in the state of Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times examined the questionable practice of medical debt collectors posing as hospital employees confronting patients in the ER and in recovery rooms after surgery.

In The News

Open-carry firearms bill awaits Gov. Fallins approval

Oklahomans soon could be allowed to openly carry holstered firearms under a bill that passed the Senate on Thursday and is heading to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk.  The Senate voted 33-10 for legislation that would allow residents who apply for a concealed carry permit to also openly carry their guns in a holster. Fallin generally withholds comment on legislation until her staff has had time to review it, but she has previously indicated she supports a “responsible” open-carry bill.

Read more from KRMG at

Governor urges Oklahoma lawmakers to cut state’s personal income tax rate

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she would like lawmakers to agree to a significant tax cut, saying Kansas legislators have passed a measure that would put that state’s top personal income tax rate below Oklahoma’s.  Now is not the time for the Republican-controlled Legislature to wilt in coming up with a significant cut in Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate, Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday.  “Our members in the House and Senate — those who have gone out for years and talked about reducing our income taxes — need to not only talk the talk but walk the walk,” Fallin said. “This is the year.”

Read more from NewsOK at

Tax cut bodes ill for area schools

As the state Legislature works on a plan for Oklahoma’s income tax, educators and parents in Norman and across the state have expressed growing concern about the devastating effects the bill will have on the state’s educational institutions.  An immediate result of this trend is larger class sizes and greater strain on the district and state middle and high school teachers, impeding the educators’ abilities to provide students with quality education, educators have said.  Currently class size in Norman schools are in the mid-to high 30s.

Read more from the Norman Transcript at

OU President David Boren says Oklahoma lawmakers need to think ahead

Crucial decisions will be made at the state Capitol in the next few days. They will affect our state for years to come. They should be made conservatively, carefully and prudently.  To secure our future, we must invest in the next generation. Gov. Mary Fallin has set a public goal of achieving more economic growth through investment in education. It’s important to do just that. A recent survey of top business leaders conducted by the state Department of Commerce ranked excellence in education, including increasing the number of college and university graduates, as the single most important step to increase economic growth and create more jobs. Chambers of commerce and business leaders are saying we should fix education first, then see what changes should be made in the income tax.

Read more from NewsOK at

Report: Petroleum engineering top job in Oklahoma

Due to increased hiring in the state’s energy sector, petroleum engineers rank as Oklahoma’s best job. Not only are jobs plentiful, but working conditions are ideal and the pay is great, according to a 2012 report from  Nationwide, the Jobs Rated Report looks at 200 jobs – from accountant to zoologist – ranking each profession based on factual analysis and data. It lists the top 10 best and worst jobs in Oklahoma.  The common factor among Oklahoma’s 10 best jobs is that they all have a high level of education.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

More changes are needed to control prison growth, Oklahoma legislative leader says

Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele led efforts this year to get legislation passed that requires supervision of all felons leaving prison and a grant program for local law enforcement agencies.  House Speaker Kris Steele, who led a three-year effort to pass legislation intended to control prison growth and change how Oklahoma handles prison matters, challenged lawmakers Thursday to continue similar efforts to reduce the state’s nation-leading incarceration rates.  “The tide has truly turned,” said Steele, who couldn’t seek re-election this year because of 12-year legislative term limits.

Read more from NewsOK at

Poverty and Hunger are High in Rural Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation and the state’s tax coffers are relatively full.  But cupboards in rural parts of the state are increasingly bare.  KOSU’s Ben Allen reports on long lines for charity food deliveries in small-town Oklahoma:  They reach beyond the senior center, past the pharmacy, to the next corner, and the next, and the next. An older lady, Melba, was towards the front of the line. A line she never thought she would need.  “No, not when we was younger, I didn’t. But when you get older, it’s a lot different.”

Read more from StateImpactOK at

Welfare Recipient Drug Test Bill On Governor’s Desk

A bill that would require some welfare recipients pass a drug test as a condition of eligibility has reached the desk of Governor Mary Fallin.  The state House of Representatives voted 86-to-6 in approval of House Bill 2388, which would allow the Department of Human Resources to drug screen adults who apply for the Temporary Assistance of Needy Families program if there is reasonable cause to believe the person applying may be using drugs.  If the applicant refused to take the drug test or is determined to be using an illegal drug, they would be denied benefits. Applicants who undergo a substance abuse treatment program would be allowed to re-apply after six months.

Read more from KTUL at

Upcoming Event: The Senior Safety Net in Jeopardy, OKDHS Policy & Practice Lectures

The recession has had a devastating impact on the economic well-being of low income senior citizens, particularly people of color.  The ongoing debate over the future of Social Security and Medicare leaves seniors living near the poverty line with an uncertain future.  The OKDHS Policy and Practice Lecture Series will host Karyne Jones, President and CEO of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, to discuss the growing economic threats faced by low income elderly African Americans.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

Our community must continue to communicate to legislators that a budget which is 4 to 5 years behind the demand is unacceptable — the words of parents and taxpayers carry the most significant weight in situations like this.

Dr. Joe Siano, Norman schools’ superintendent

Number of the Day


The median age in the state of Oklahoma, 2010

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Debt Collector Is Faulted for Tough Tactics in Hospitals

This and other aggressive tactics by one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debts, Accretive Health, were revealed on Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general, raising concerns that such practices have become common at hospitals across the country.  The tactics, like embedding debt collectors as employees in emergency rooms and demanding that patients pay before receiving treatment, were outlined in hundreds of company documents released by the attorney general. And they cast a spotlight on the increasingly desperate strategies among hospitals to recoup payments as their unpaid debts mount.

Read more from the New York Times at

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