In The Know: March 18, 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.

With many prison programs being cut and the inmate to guard ratio at an all-time low, there is rising concern that idle inmates will create a dangerous situation. House Speaker Kris Steele writes about taking a smarter approach to corrections that relies less on incarceration. A report sponsored by Children’s First argues that the Oklahoma DHS is responsible for the deaths of several children in state custody. Children’s First has filed a class-action lawsuit against OKDHS.

On the OK Policy Blog, we respond to claims that the wealthiest must always benefit most from tax cuts. We show that designing income tax cuts to mostly benefit high-income Oklahomans was a choice, not a foregone conclusion. The Oklahoma House voted to ban stem cell research and to allow lawmakers to take Cabinet-level state jobs sooner after leaving office. An initial hearing on the bribery probe of Rep. Randy Terrill and former Sen. Debbe Leftwich has been set for April 15.

Extreme drought is threatening wheat crops in several Oklahoma counties. Scott Carter writes that changes to the Oklahoma Promise Scholarship could threaten the dream of many Oklahomans to attend college. In today’s Policy Note, The Tulsa Initiative highlights statistics from a recent report by the White House Council on Women and Girls.

More below the jump.

In The News

As prison programs get cut, some fear what idle inmates will do

Growing inmate idleness could create problems as prison programs are reduced because of budget cuts, a longtime Board of Corrections member indicated Thursday. Cuts are expected to be made to Oklahoma Correctional Industries, an industrial and agricultural program that clothes, feeds and employs inmates. It also makes products that are sold to nonprofit organizations and governmental entities. … While these changes leave the inmates more idle, the agency has the lowest ratio of staff to prisoners, with the highest number of inmates in history, Henneke said.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Kris Steele: Time to get smart about incarceration from The McCarville Report

Report: Oklahoma’s welfare system failed several children

A new report released Thursday by a children’s advocacy group blames Oklahoma’s welfare system for the deaths of several children who were in state custody. The group Children’s Rights says the independent study says half those deaths could have been prevented. Children’s Rights is suing Oklahoma’s child welfare system in federal court. This latest report looks at the nine children who died between 2007 and 2009 as a result of abuse or neglect.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

See also: Children’s Rights report; the Oklahoma DHS response; DHS, foster parents settle lawsuit over foster child’s death from NewsO K

Tax cuts do not have to be regressive

A recent OK Policy fact sheet that analyzed the distribution of  benefits from cutting the state’s top personal income tax rate from 5.5 to 5.25 percent  has generated considerable interest and discussion. The tax cut would have a $120 million revenue impact; the analysis – conducted for us by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) –  found that: The top twenty percent of Oklahoma households – those with annual income above $85,800 – would receive 73 percent of the benefit of the tax cut; The average household would receive $24; More than two of every five households (43 percent) would receive no benefit at all.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

House passes bill banning embryonic stem cell research

With just a handful of Democrats opposing, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a measure Thursday that would prohibit embryonic stem cell research in Oklahoma. … House Bill 1442 would make it a misdemeanor to conduct embryonic stem cell research. It also would prohibit buying, selling or transferring an embryo for research. It would exclude certain procedures such as in vitro fertilization. The measure passed 86-8. It now goes to the Senate. A similar measure passed the Republican-controlled Legislature two years ago, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

House votes to let lawmakers take Cabinet-level state jobs sooner after leaving office

The House passed a measure Thursday to let voters decide whether to change a law that bans lawmakers from taking state jobs for two years after they leave office. An attorney general’s opinion said the law applies only when state dollars are involved. Agencies and statewide office holders have used federal dollars and fees to pay salaries. House Joint Resolution 1028 by Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, would exempt Cabinet-level positions from the ban. The resolution passed 80-10 and heads to the Senate.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Motion hearing set for Randy Terrill, Debbe Leftwich in bribery probe

An Oklahoma County judge has scheduled a hearing on motions filed in the felony bribery case against state Rep. Randy Terrill and former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich. Special Judge Stephen Alcorn on Thursday postponed a preliminary hearing conference and set an April 15 hearing. Terrill, a Republican, is charged with offering Leftwich, a Democrat, an $80,000-a-year state job in exchange for her not running for re-election to clear the way for a Republican to run for the Oklahoma City seat she held. Leftwich is charged with soliciting and/or accepting a bribe.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Drought grips the state; some counties classified as extreme

The new U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday shows extreme drought in Tillman and portions of Cotton and Jackson counties in southwestern Oklahoma. This is the first time this year that any counties in Oklahoma have been classified in an extreme drought. “I believe it,” said Brent Cassidy, of Cassidy Grain in Frederick. Rain gauges are gathering dust, not precipitation. For some in hard-hit drought areas, their hopes of a wheat crop are already gone, he said. … The area of extreme drought has had less than a half inch of rain in the last 120 days, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

M. Scott Carter: Changes to Oklahoma Promise Scholarship are dismantling a dream

… Known originally as the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Act, Horner’s bill was simple. For those students who qualified, stayed out of trouble, maintained at least a C grade point average and signed the contract, the state would cover the cost of their tuition at any college or university or CareerTech center. Simple, elegant and direct, OHLAC – now called the Oklahoma Promise scholarship – took two years of hard work before it became law. … Since then, the Oklahoma Promise scholarship program has grown to a $70-million-per-year enterprise, adding more students annually and providing the foundation for an education to many who otherwise would not have been able to afford it. But there’s trouble.

Read more from this Journal Record editorial at

Quote of the Day

We’ve had no measurable moisture. Wheat fields are on the teeter-totter of going south if we don’t get rain this week.

Brent Cassidy, who operates a grain elevator company in Frederick, Oklahoma.

Number of the Day

$1.14 billion

Gross receipts generated by Hispanic-owned businesses in Oklahoma in 2002.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Women in America

I have been meaning to post about the new(ish) report from the White House Council on Women and Girls for a couple of weeks now, but the time has just gotten away from me.  The report titled Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being provides readers with lots of helpful quantitative data on the current status of women in America as well as a look back data from previous years.  The information contained in the report is based on Federal data from a range of agencies including the Census Bureau, Department of Education, National Science Foundation, Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice.

Read more from The Tulsa Initiative Blog 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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