In The Know: March 3, 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, the Senate voted to abolish the state income tax after Democratic Sen. Tom Adelson attached an amendment to a bill reinstating the aerospace tax credit. With public services heavily dependent on income tax and no immediate revenue prospects to replace it, the language will likely be removed before the bill is finalized.

Lawmakers denied a request for $35 million in supplemental appropriations for the Department of Corrections to prevent furloughs. They did allow DOC to us $5.3 million from a fund paid into by manufacturing and agricultural programs that employ Oklahoma inmates.

Sen. Jim Reynolds and Sen. Mike Reynolds are claiming that assessors in 50 Oklahoma counties are not properly adjusting the taxable market value of properties each year. The Reynolds seek to reduce the cap on allowable increase of property value, currently 5 percent, and claim that the revenue to counties and school districts can be made up with better enforcement of assessment procedures. Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan found fault with Sen. and Rep. Reynolds’ analysis of the numbers.

A Tulsa city councilor has sent a letter to Gov. Fallin asking her to launch an investigation into the Tulsa mayor. A copy of the letter is available here.

These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Senate votes to abolish income tax

The GOP-controlled Oklahoma Senate voted on Wednesday to abolish the state’s income tax after a political maneuver by Democrats, who said they wanted to force a vote on the issue, even as they acknowledged the measure would likely never become law. Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, who attached the amendment to a Republican-sponsored bill, said Democrats have grown weary of being blamed by Republicans for standing in the way of lower taxes. … Adelson himself voted against his own amendment, saying he does not support lowering the state’s income tax. Democratic leader Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, who also opposed the amendment, said he expects Republican leaders eventually will strip the amended language from the bill.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Lawmakers deny funds for prisons

A state Department of Corrections request for a supplemental appropriation has been denied by lawmakers. “There is no money,” Senate Appropriations Chairman David Myers, R-Ponca City, said. But House and Senate budget panels passed a measure Wednesday that would allow the Corrections Department to tap into funds used to operate Oklahoma Correctional Industries to reduce furloughs. The Department of Corrections sought $35 million to get through the rest of the fiscal year, $9 million of which would be used to stop employee furloughs.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Conference on Effective Criminal Justice Strategies enlightens, challenges participants on CapitolBeatOK; Someone broke them, they broke the law…Women in Recovery an alternative to incarceration on CapitolBeatOK

Oklahoma Senator: County assessors breaking the law

A discovery by a state senator troubled him so much, he told the Oklahoma Impact Team all about it. “That just seems baffling to me,” said Senator Jim Reynolds, (R) Oklahoma City. “To me they’re willfully not doing their job.” Reynolds is talking about nearly 50 counties that are not properly adjusting the taxable market value, county wide, each year. That means, in some counties people are not paying their fair share of taxes. … The OIT talked to around 10 county assessors and only one said that she refuses to raise rates during these tough economic times. Most said they don’t have the technology to do it, there aren’t enough sales to come up with comps or they’re short staffed.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

See also: Oklahoma County Assessor Sullivan fires back at Reynolds from The McCarville Report Online.

Tulsa city councilor seeks mayor’s ouster

Councilor John Eagleton wants Mayor Dewey Bartlett ousted from office on allegations that he is guilty of violating his oath of office, malfeasance and criminal behavior over the past 14 months in office. In a two-page letter, Eagleton asks Gov. Mary Fallin to request that Attorney General Scott Pruitt investigate various allegations against the mayor. Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said Tuesday that Eagleton’s letter was accompanied by multiple exhibits and a computer zip drive full of supporting documents.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Eagleton’s presentation to oust Mayor Bartlett from Roemerman On Record; Eagleton’s letter to Gov. Fallin from Roemerman on Record.

OKC lawyer files open-records request for student directories of every Oklahoma school district

An Oklahoma City attorney who battled the state Education Department in court to help establish an online charter school filed a public records request in January with every school district in the state for student’s names, phone numbers and addresses. Brad Clark, an attorney with Hickman Law Group, wouldn’t say whether the requests were sent on behalf of Epic One on One Charter School, a virtual school he represented in court against the department.

“The request was made on behalf of a nonprofit organization that provides free education services to students,” Clark said, adding that they have several clients in education. Clark said the student information will be used for marketing and outreach as the organization seeks to inform parents and students about education opportunities.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma Indian gambling revenues increase, defying national trend

Oklahoma Indian gambling revenues rose nearly 7 percent in 2009, defying a national trend that saw tribal gambling revenues decline for the first time in recorded history, according to a report by a California economist released early today. Oklahoma’s tribes generated more than $3.1 billion in gambling revenue in 2009 — an increase of $200 million over the previous year, according to the 2011 edition of the “Indian Gaming Industry Report,” a publication authored by economist Alan Meister of Nathan Associates Inc.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Fact sheet on gaming revenues from the Oklahoma Policy Institute

Open carry, guns on campus bills pass out of committee

Oklahomans would vote next year whether to allow residents with concealed handgun permits to openly carry their weapons if a bill passed out of a House committee Wednesday becomes law. House Bill 1796, which passed 17-0, was one of three gun bills that won passage Wednesday in the House Public Safety Committee. HB 1652 would allow students, teachers and visitors who have permits to carry concealed weapons to take their guns to CareerTech centers and leave them locked in their vehicles. HB 2087 would allow licensed faculty and administrators at colleges and universities to carry concealed weapons on campus, unless the university president banned the practice.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Janet Barresi: Social promotion needs to go

Should people be allowed to practice medicine before they pass medical exams just as long as they are 25 or older? Of course not, you’re thinking, what a silly question. But that is in essence what is happening when students are promoted to the next grade, even if they’re not ready. “Social promotion” is the act of passing students from grade to grade, regardless of whether they have mastered the minimum skills required for their current grade level. The idea is that a child’s age and peer group are more important than the additional academic support the child needs.

Read more from this City Sentinel editorial at

Quote of the Day

Assessors are required to set the market values for all the properties in a county each year. If values are going down in an area, that will be reflected in the NEXT YEAR’S figures. Trying to blame someone for what’s happening in the real estate market is like trying to keep back the ocean.

Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan, responding to claims by Sen. Jim Reynolds and Rep. Mike Reynolds that Oklahoma properties are not being assessed at accurate values for tax collection.

Number of the Day

$298.3 million

Child support payments collected and distributed in Oklahoma by OKDHS, FY ’00 – FY ’10.

Source: OK Policy, Numbers You Need

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Oklahoma could save $143 million by decoupling from federal tax provision

A federal business tax cut that was part of the tax deal that President Obama and Congress enacted last December could cost states billions in lost tax revenue at a time when they are already struggling with recession-induced budget shortfalls and making deep cuts in education, health care and other key services.  Luckily, there’s a way for states to avoid taking the hit.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 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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