In The Know: March 29, 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, Tulsa Public Schools released proposals to close up to 17 schools to save money. OK Policy has a new fact sheet and blog post looking at oil and gas tax breaks in Oklahoma. The Tulsa World reported on OK Policy’s research here.

In a party line vote, the Senate General Government Committee approved repealing the Municipal Employees Collective Bargaining Act. Edmond is filing a lawsuit against its police union after an arbitration board ruled in the union’s favor on a salary dispute. The Senate Education Committee voted to expand the State Superintendent’s powers over the Board of Education and end trial de novo for teachers. Governor Fallin is pushing to fast track several bills in the legislature, including the measure to begin implementing health care reform. Oklahoma Catholic Church leaders released a statement calling for immigration laws to treat the undocumented with dignity.

A bill requiring DHS to conduct deeper background checks before reuniting children with their parents is estimated to cost $450k and may not have saved Aja Johnson, since her biological father had custody of her when she was kidnapped and killed by Lester Hobbs. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would put a trailer park and ministry for rehabilitating sex offenders out of business by making stricter a state law that bans convicted sex offenders from living together. NewsOK warns against a mandate that OETA broadcast legislative proceedings without any extra money to do so.

More below the jump.

In The News

Tulsa could close up to 17 schools

Tulsa Public Schools released three scenarios to shake up the district, eliminate schools, and save millions of dollars. Under the three proposals, elementary schools will be hit the hardest with ten to fifteen of them slated to close. The district could shutter up to four middle schools. Only one of the district’s plans included shutting down a high school, Central High School, located at 3101 West Edison Street. All three proposals call for Addams, Barnard, Burroughs, Cherokee, Phillips, Sandburg, and Whitman elementary schools to be closed. TPS’s superintendent, Dr. Keith Ballard, says the district “has gone through a long slow period of decline that has left many of our schools greatly under capacity.”

Read more from NewsOn6 at

I don’t need it but I’ll take it – Revisiting oil and gas tax breaks

A recent news report examining proposals to limit the federal tax deduction for charitable giving concluded with a comment that gets to the crux of the debate over tax breaks: “As one donor explained, he doesn’t give to charity to get a deduction — but he’ll take it if it’s there.” It seems as though Oklahoma oil and gas producers think the same way. State tax breaks ranked last among 10 variables cited by Oklahoma oil industry executives as affecting their decision to drill, according to the findings of  a non-scientific 2008 survey by Oklahoma City University economics professor Steven Agee. However, most producers will gladly take them when they’re there: Agee found that 83 percent of respondents had claimed a gross production tax rebate.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

See also: Gross Production Tax Fact Sheet from Oklahoma Policy Institute; Drilling tax breaks add up from The Tulsa World

Oklahoma Senate panel OKs collective bargaining repeal

The Legislature continued to take aim Monday at repealing collective bargaining rights for city employees in some of Oklahoma’s largest cities. Republicans passed House Bill 1593 out of the Senate General Government Committee on a party-line vote amid more criticism it could amount to public employee union busting. The bill would repeal a 2004 law that requires cities with more than 35,000 residents to collectively bargain with nonuniformed employee unions. In Oklahoma, those unions consist mostly of city road and utility workers.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Edmond files lawsuit against police union over labor contract from NewsOK

Senate Education Committee advances bills to enhance superintendent’s power, end trial de novo for teachers

The Senate Education Committee has advanced to the floor two House bills that, if enacted, will strengthen the authority of Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction. … The committee today (Monday, March 28) unanimously passed House Bill 2139, authored by House Speaker Kris Steele, by a vote of 12-0. H.B. 2139 defines the responsibilities of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. … In other action, the committee passed House Bill 1380, by Rep. Corey Holland, by a 10-4 vote. The measure aims to simplify the system for dismissing ineffective or bad teachers in public schools, limiting access to district courts in the “trial de novo” process.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Governor Fallin describes push to ‘fast track’ bills, including health insurance exchanges

In a Blue Room press conference with members of the state Capitol press corps, Governor Mary Fallin today (Monday, March 28) said she had asked Senate Republicans to “fast track” their consideration of her priorities, including at least one proposal that has provoked criticisms from some of her conservative base. Describing meetings held Monday with members of the Republican caucus in both the House and Senate, the governor said she had asked senators for quick movement on several measures that have cleared the House, including House Bill 2130, creating an Oklahoma health care exchange board.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Oklahoma Catholic Church leaders speak out on immigration

Immigration is the responsibility of the federal government, and laws passed should treat the undocumented with dignity, respecting the disadvantaged, families and children, Oklahoma Catholic Church leaders said Monday. A joint statement released by the Most Rev. Paul Coakley, archbishop of Oklahoma City, and the Most Rev. Edward Slattery, bishop of Tulsa, said immigration laws are necessary, but new laws should focus on the country’s dependence on undocumented workers, fair wages and working conditions and a path to legal status that “will bring these undocumented persons out of the shadows, where they are so easily preyed upon by human traffickers and unscrupulous profiteers.” Citing biblical tenets, Coakley and Slattery state Catholic social teachings stress treating neighbors as “brothers,” particularly when it comes to those who are underprivileged.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Bill would require DHS to conduct deeper background checks

It’s another series of mandates proposed for Oklahoma’s embattled child welfare system. Some lawmakers want DHS to perform deeper background checks before reuniting children with their parents. Kidnapped and brutalized by her stepfather, Aja Johnson’s tragic death not only sparked outrage, but has now inspired a lawmaker. Speaker Kris Steele proposed House Bill 2136, which calls for more vigorous background checks into parents seeking to regain custody of their children. … DHS says it already checks the Child Abuse and Neglect Information system, its own records, and pertinent police reports. It’s not clear if more background checks would have saved Aja Johnson. After all, her biological father had custody of her, not Lester Hobbs, when she was kidnapped and killed.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Bill threatens Oklahoma City mobile home park and ministry for sex offenders

Despite the protest of the founder of an Oklahoma City mobile home park that provides housing for more than 250 men who are registered sex offenders, a House panel approved a measure Monday that he said would put his Christian prison ministry out of business and put about 100 convicted sex offenders out on the streets. About 40 residents of Hand Up Ministries watched as the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 852 by a vote of 8-4. It now goes to the full House. Rep. Colby Schwartz, R-Yukon, said the Oklahoma City Police Department requested the bill to clarify an existing state law that was intended to keep convicted sexual offenders from living together.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

NewsOK: Should state’s legislative proceedings be aired on TV/web?

As much as we like having state government open and accessible, it’s a stretch to make the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority air proceedings of the Legislature without giving OETA any additional money. Then again, OETA has a history of unfunded mandates: The Legislature created it in 1953 but appropriated no money. Initial funding came from a donation by E.K. Gaylord, the former publisher of this newspaper. Two Republican lawmakers want to make OETA a state version of C-SPAN, the cable TV network that televises the proceedings of Congress.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

We steadfastly believe that, since everyone is created by God, human dignity and human rights are not commodities to be allocated according to nationality.

A joint statement on immigration released by Oklahoma Catholic Church leaders Monday.

Number of the Day


Annual savings to the state per offender sentenced to drug courts compared to prison.

Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS)

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Don’t blame state budget problems on progressive income tax

Wall Street Journal story on Saturday suggested that some states set themselves up for budget problems by relying too heavily on income tax revenue from wealthy residents.  The reality is far more complicated. The story focused on California, which has had legendary budget problems and — yes — a progressive income tax, which taxes higher incomes at higher rates.  On the other hand, Nevada, Florida, New Hampshire, Texas, and Washington have no income tax, yet all have had above-average budget shortfalls in one or more recent years, as our analysis of state budget conditions shows.  So a state can’t protect itself against revenue busts by doing without an income tax. Nor does it help much to have a flat-rate income tax instead of a progressive one.  Several states with flat systems like Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which tax all income at the same rate, have faced budget gaps comparable to states with progressive income taxes.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

One thought on “In The Know: March 29, 2011

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.