In The Know: March 1, 2011

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.

In today’s news, a House committee approved a bill that would expand the powers of law enforcement to check immigration status at traffic stops and confiscate property connected to undocumented immigration. The panel also approved a measure to prohibit foreign law being enforced in state courtrooms, similar to the ballot measure to ban Sharia law that has been held back in the courts. The Mid-Del School Board is selling two elementary schools and the district’s enrollment building to cut back on costs. The two elementary schools put up for sale each have almost 400 students.

Oklahoma City and several other metros are holding elections today for city council, mayoral, and school bond issues. The OKC council race has attracted attention due to incumbents beings challenged by several tea party-affiliated candidates. Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, is launching a push for public financing of elections. Morrissette’s “Oklahoma Public Campaign Finance Act” would allow candidates who gather signatures of 2 percent of voters in a district and raise $200 on their own to receive $1,200 from a tax-funded campaign fund.

Changes in alcohol law to allow strong-beer and wine sales in grocery stores is being put on hold until at least next year. The change was opposed by alcohol retailers and distributors who profit from the current laws.

The OK Policy Blog writes about programs to improve financial security for low-income individuals with matched savings account programs. Fox 23 reports on a severe shortage of primary care physicians in Green Country, especially North Tulsa. The problem is fueled by many Baby Boomers retiring and new doctors becoming higher-paid specialists. A House committee approved a bill to ban abortions from 20 weeks after conception. Rep. Randy Terrill is refusing to appear before the House committee investigating him for bribery unless the hearing is made public.

More below the jump.

In The News

Oklahoma House panel backs comprehensive anti-illegal immigration measure

A House committee approved a bill Monday that would give law enforcement officials more authority to check the immigration status of motorists. Its author said the measure mirrors some parts of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigrant law passed last year. The House Judiciary Committee also approved a bill that would prohibit foreign laws from being enforced in state courtrooms. Rep. Sally Kern, the bill’s author, said it mirrors a ballot measure approved in November by state voters, but has been legally challenged.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Mid-Del School Board votes to sell two elementaries

Braelyn Polite shook his head and covered his eyes. The 12-year-old cried into his mother’s shoulder. His elementary school — the one his older brother attended and his younger brother still goes to — had been put up for sale. Mid-Del School Board votes to sell two elementaries His mom, Nikki, wiped tears from her eyes as she talked about volunteering there with other parents. “There’s nothing wrong with that school,” she said. The Midwest City-Del City School Board voted unanimously Monday night to sell Sooner Rose Elementary, Traub Elementary and the district’s enrollment building.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma elections: Voters head to polls today to decide area city council races, school bond issues

Voters head to the polls today in four city council wards in Oklahoma City, as well as several other city council, mayoral and school bond issues in the area. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In Oklahoma City, three incumbents have drawn opponents as the fallout continues from the MAPS 3 sales tax election in late 2009; several challengers have picked up backing from tea party allies in the nonpartisan council election.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Morrissette pushes for public financing of election campaigns

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, an Oklahoma City Democrat, recently kicked off a push for his House Bill 1537, a proposal for public (taxpayer) financing of elections through small grants. … Rep. Morrissette’s proposal has been dubbed a “voter-owned elections” proposal, and would carry the official title of “Oklahoma Public Campaign Finance Act.” It would allow candidates who gather signatures equal to 2 percent of voters in a district, and who raised $200 on their own, to access a tax-funded campaign fund. Candidates could get a 6-1 match for that seed money, or $1,200, in Morrissette’s plan.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOk article at

Alcohol law changes put on hold in Oklahoma legislature

A legislative proposal to allow strong-beer and wine sales in state grocery and convenience stores has been put off until next year. Legislators said they will create a task force to further study the proposal, which turned out to be more complicated than initially thought. … The proposal to allow the sales in grocery and convenience stores is supported by state chambers of commerce and consumer groups who say Oklahoma’s alcohol laws are antiquated. But it faces strong opposition from state alcohol retailers and distributors whose business models are dependent on the existing state alcohol laws targeted for change.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Promoting financial security: Matched savings account programs

Most Americans recognize the value of savings, yet over time, American savings have declined sharply. Even before the losses incurred during the Great Recession, a large segment of the population in Oklahoma and across the nation had little or no savings with which to weather a setback or move ahead by investing in the future.  According to the 2009-10 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, nearly one out of every four Oklahoma households (22.7 percent) lacked sufficient financial assets to subsist at the poverty level for three months. … Fortunately, a growing body of research and practice is demonstrating that when barriers are removed and replaced with the right structures, opportunities, and incentives, most people, including those with low and modest incomes, are both willing to save and capable of doing so.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Green Country needs doctors

Brittney Yarbrough is an asthmatic. She tells me about a recent experience when she had an attack. “I need some albuterol sulfate they told me I had to wait a week,” says Brittney Yarbrough. “I could be dead and gone by then. I could have stopped breathing, you know it’s like, I am sorry.” She can’t believe how few primary care and family physicians practice in Tulsa. Statewide physician to patient ratio ranks the worst in the nation, according to the American Medical Association.

Read from from Fox 23 at

House committee passes bill to ban abortions 20 weeks after conception

… The House Public Health Committee last week advanced House Bill 1888, known as the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” The measure sailed through the panel on an 11-2 vote and is now eligible for consideration before the full House, which is scheduled to come back into session Monday afternoon (February 28). In the description of Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life, H.B. 1888, sponsored by state Rep. Pam Peterson of Tulsa and state Sen. Clark Jolley of Edmond, would “would ban the aborting of an unborn child who is capable of feeling pain. Medical evidence shows that a baby can feel pain by 20 weeks after fertilization.”

Read more from this CapitolBeatOk article at

Terrill won’t appear before House committee investigating him unless it is made public, attorney says

Rep. Randy Terrill, who is charged with bribery in what prosecutors say was part of a scheme to get an $80,000-per-year job for another lawmaker, will not take part in a special House investigation until the process is open to the public, his lawyer said in a letter to the investigative panel’s attorney. Terrill, R-Moore, is declining to appear before the committee “unless it changes its rules to provide for open and public testimony,” Stephen Jones, of Enid, wrote in a letter last week to Andy Lester, who is representing the House of Representatives investigatory committee.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Quote of the Day

I’m going to call it exactly as I see it. I’m not going to be very diplomatic about it. We’re not going to go over lightly on this thing.

J.P. Richard, president of the Retail Liquor Association of America, who is opposing attempts to modernize Oklahoma liquor laws by allowing grocery stores to sell strong-beer and wine.

Number of the Day

58 percent

Percentage of Oklahoma children under age 5 with a single working parent or two working parents that require daycare.

Source: Oklahoma Child Care Annual Report, 2009

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Regulation lax as gas wells’ tainted water hits rivers

The American landscape is dotted with hundreds of thousands of new wells and drilling rigs, as the country scrambles to tap into this century’s gold rush — for natural gas. … Drilling companies have only in recent years developed techniques to unlock the enormous reserves, thought to be enough to supply the country with gas for heating buildings, generating electricity and powering vehicles for up to a hundred years. … But the relatively new drilling method — known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas. With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground.

Read more from the New York Times at

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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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