In The Know: March 22, 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.

Today on In The Know, Rep. Earl Sears, chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, is facing conflict of interest accusations because his daughter is a lobbyist for the state regents. The Senate has approved using $15 million in stimulus money to shore up the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which funds Medicaid. An Oklahoma inmate is receiving wide support after being profiled by Oklahoma Watch. The 25-year-old mother of four received a 12-year prison sentence for selling $31 in marijuana to a police informant.

A House committee has approved two changes to personal injury lawsuits that previously passed the Senate, eliminating joint and several liability and requiring that juries are notified damages won’t be subject to income taxes. The full House approved a new ban on using foreign law in Oklahoma courts. The state question to ban foreign law that passed in 2010 has been held up due to a court challenge. Thousands are lining up across the state to apply for a program offered by DHS with federal money to help low-income Oklahomans pay their heating bills.

In the Oklahoma Economic Report, State Treasurer Ken Miller defends a base level of public spending as the “foundation of the free market economy.” The Tulsa World questions the reasoning behind an attempt to repeal puppy mill regulations that were developed after five months of study, public hearings and citizen input. Tulsa area publication This Land Press is featured in the Columbia Journalism Review as “Oklahoma’s first (or at least strongest) new media company.” [Full disclosure: This Land Press publisher Vincent LoVoi is also Board President of Oklahoma Policy Institute.]

In today’s Policy Note, Good Jobs First has a new report on how state can save money by targeting ineffective economic development programs. One of the wasteful programs profiled by Good Jobs First is the Texas Enterprise Fund, which has been cited as a model for the Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund sought by Governor Fallin.

More below the jump.

In The News

Conflict of interest question raised in lawmaker-regents family link

The state’s higher education system gets close to $1 billion a year in appropriations – all of which will pass through a committee led by Rep. Earl Sears. Sears, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, is the father of Hollye Hunt, associate state chancellor for governmental affairs, which makes her the state regents’ top lobbyist, several lawmakers say. “If it’s not a conflict of interest, there surely is an appearance of a conflict of interest,” said state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma Senate approves stimulus money for Oklahoma Health Care Authority

The Senate on Monday approved sending an additional $15 million in federal stimulus money to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to help cover Medicaid costs. House Bill 2169 passed 32-8 and now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin. A spokesman for Fallin said the governor plans to sign the bill into law soon. The Legislature acted quickly to advance the bill because the money is needed to continue funding several Medicaid programs that serve low-income people for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Story on mom jailed for marijuana prompts wide support

An Oklahoma inmate profiled in a Tulsa World story examining the state’s high female incarceration rate has prompted a groundswell of support ranging from attorney services to an online petition circulating across the globe. Patricia M. Spottedcrow of Kingfisher was featured in a Tulsa World article on Feb. 20 and published in media across the state through the nonprofit journalism group Oklahoma Watch. The 25-year-old received a 12-year prison sentence in October after selling a total of $31 in marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

House panel approves changing damages in personal injury lawsuits

With no debate, a House of Representatives committee passed two proposals Monday that are part of the Republican legislative leadership’s and GOP governor’s package to change how lawsuits are treated in the state. The House Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 862, which would eliminate joint and several liability, making defendants liable only for their share of harm. It passed 10-5, with all five Democratic committee members opposing it. It now goes to the House. By the same vote, the committee passed SB 865, which would require that juries in professional negligence cases be told that damages awarded in the case are not subject to federal or state income taxes.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

House approves new ban on use of foreign law in state courts

Legislation banning the use of foreign law in Oklahoma courts passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives with bipartisan support last Friday. House Bill 1552, by state Rep. Sally Kern, declares that any court action will be “void and unenforceable” if the court ruling is based “on any law, rule, legal code or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions.” … State Question 755 , which prohibited the use of foreign law and expressly prohibited reliance on Sharia law in Oklahoma courts, passed with 70 percent of the vote last November. However, its implementation has been blocked due to a lawsuit.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Thousands apply for energy assistance in Tulsa

Winter may be officially over, but thousands across Green Country are still having trouble paying off their heating bills. Monday the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, came to the rescue.The line of people applying for assistance at DHS stretched out the door for most of the day Monday. Thousands across the state were also applying for their share of the $5.5 million Oklahoma received in federal funds for the program. “Mainly right now my heating bill, I have a cut-off notice,” Tulsan Ricardo Smith said. “So they said if you don’t have a cut-off notice you couldn’t be here. I’m not employed right now so I need the assistance.”

Read more from Fox 23 at

State Treasurer: Public spending provides the “foundation of a free market economy”

In a blog post last summer, we took issue with the polarizing concept of “the government versus the private sector”.  We argued that you cannot have a vibrant, productive private sector without government undertaking a whole array of activities that serve as the foundation of a functioning economy and society: helping to educate our children and train our workforce; protect property and prosecute lawbreakers; enforce  patents, copyrights and torts; coordinate the response to natural disasters and outbreaks of disease; maintain and upgrade our roads and bridges; and protect our air and water quality, among many others. We were pleased to find echoes of our argument in a column by State Treasurer Ken Miller, which appears in the Oklahoma Economic Report, a new monthly publication from the Treasurer’s Office.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Tulsa World: Pet breeding regulations targeted for no good reason

It’s not entirely clear why a lawmaker wants to repeal puppy mill regulations that were developed after five months of study, public hearings and citizen input. Senate Bill 637, authored by Sen. Charles Wyrick, D-Fairland, would wipe out the regulations that in effect are the nuts and bolts of a puppy mill law passed by the Legislature last year. Wyrick said he supports some of the new provisions but has concerns about “imprecise language” regarding breeder complaints. He also said his bill is an attempt “to bring people to the table to talk about issues of concern.” We’re not experts in crafting laws, but we submit it’s possible to “bring people to the table” and improve upon “imprecise language” without tossing out the entire set of regulations.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at

Oklahoma’s first new media company

It’s official: This Land Press is now Oklahoma’s first New Media company, and we’ve just hired a veritable dream-team of Oklahoma’s top talents to make it all happen. Our growth has just been announced in a recent article published in the Columbia Journalism Review. Reporter Michael Meyer writes: “Founded in the spring of 2010 by journalist and native Oklahoman Michael Mason, [This Land] has quickly established itself as a rare example of literary journalism on the community level…”

Read more from This Land Press at

Quote of the Day

Some base level of spending on safety, infrastructure and education provides the very foundation for a functioning free market economy. Therefore, policymakers must consider both the positive and negative effects while seeking the government spending level that maximizes economic output.
State Treasurer Ken Miller, writing in the Oklahoma Economic Report, a new monthly publication from the Treasurer’s office.

Number of the Day


Total number of undocumented students enrolled in Oklahoma public higher education institutions, 2008/2009 school-year.

Source: Advancement of Hispanic Students in Higher Education Task Force

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Slashing Subsidies, Bolstering Budgets: How States Can Save Money by Targeting Ineffective Economic Development Programs

States that are responding to large budget deficits by targeting public employees and slashing vital public services such as education and healthcare are overlooking billions of dollars wasted each year on ineffective programs that provide subsidies to corporations. Although they were enacted in the name of job creation and economic development, these programs often fail as public policies. As examples of such wasteful subsidies, Good Jobs First profiles ten state programs that have a clear track record of under-performance and suffer fundamental problems…

Read more from Good Jobs First 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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