In The Know: March 8, 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 Muskogee Phoenix examines increasing poverty levels across Oklahoma. NewsOK reports on how an emergency measure to force members to vote in the House may have exposed rifts in the GOP. The OK Policy Blog looks at why Oklahoma was awarded $54M for developing technology to implement health care reform and what the money will be used for.

This Land Press has a second feature on the life of Bradley Manning, the Oklahoman who released hundreds of documents to Wikileaks and is today being kept in solitary confinement under harsh conditions pending a trial. Advocates for a variety of approaches to immigration presented their views at that Immigration in the Heartland Conference hosted by the University of Oklahoma. The EPA will require three of Oklahoma’s oldest coal plants to install better pollution-reducing technology or switch to natural gas. The sulfur dioxide pollution targeted by the EPA has been linked to asthma attacks, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and other illnesses.

Seven Oklahoma state parks will be closing due to budget cuts. The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department is facing cuts of at least 5 percent, on top of a 13 percent cut last year. Batesline reports that the Oklahoma House has set up a new web page with a summary of the data that they will use for redistricting, and  NewsOK points out flaws in an attempt to change the initiative petitioning process in Oklahoma/

These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Many counties seeing increasing poverty levels

Few Oklahoma counties saw an uptick in the number of people climbing above the poverty line in recent years, according to new information released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Latimer, Marshall and Roger Mills are the only three counties in the state to see a statistically significant increase in the percent of their population living above the poverty line during an average time between 2005 and 2009 compared to 2000. The 74 other counties either experienced an increase in the percent of their population living below the poverty line or an increase or decrease that is statistically insignificant because of the survey’s margin of error.

Read more from this Muskogee Phoenix article at

Emergency measure vote exposes rift in House GOP

A rarely used parliamentary procedure of rounding up absent House members and keeping those in the chamber from leaving was not enough Monday to pressure a small group of social conservative Republicans to support a measure that would have speeded up when a bill authored by the speaker would take effect. The failure of the so-called emergency clause exposes a rift in the House Republican caucus and the determination of several GOP members to undermine House Speaker Kris Steele, who is serving his first session as leader of the 101-member chamber.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Why Oklahoma was awarded $54M to build the best health care technology in the country

The ‘Oklahoma Health Insurance Exchange’ will begin serving as an online marketplace for individual and small group consumers to buy private insurance in 2014.  Online insurance exchanges – which we discussed in this recent blog post –  are one of the primary requirements of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress last year. News from the governor’s office that the state has accepted a $54 million dollar ‘early innovator’ grant from the federal government means that Oklahoma is now poised to build the most advanced insurance exchange in the country. Why was Oklahoma one of only six states selected for this grant?

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://oklahoma-named-early-innovator-54-million-to-build-the-best-health-care-technology-in-the-country/.

Manning in the making

In September of 2010, This Land published the first feature article about the life of Bradley Manning, the Oklahoman behind the largest military intelligence leak in history. The article below focuses on the important transitional time Manning spent in Tulsa, and offers an unprecedented glimpse into Manning’s personality and his decision to join the military. “He moved to America, and it was just like, chaos after chaos after chaos,” said Jordan Davis at his home near Edmond, Oklahoma. Amid the detritus of a 23-year-old man’s trailer dwelling—dirty dishes and a lived-in video game zone—he talked about his longtime friend Bradley Manning, the suspected source of nearly all the classified documents WikiLeaks released in 2010.

Read more from This Land Press at

Immigration views aired at OU conference

States are passing immigration laws, even laws outside the scope of their authority, because federal lawmakers have not tackled the issue, according to a panel of national advocates Monday. Leaders from groups advocating for different solutions to immigration regulation spoke at the Immigration in the Heartland Conference at the University of Oklahoma to groups of students and journalists. … Don Kerwin, of the Migration Policy Institute, said the federal government is deporting more than 400,000 immigrants a year and growing numbers of administrative immigration hearings than in the past decade. “It’s overstating it to say the federal government is not enforcing the laws,” Kerwin said. “It is not legitimate to say the federal government can’t establish priorities. But with the state laws, the solution is worse than the status quo. That is why we need federal reform.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Some key pieces of active immigration legislation at a glance from NewsOK

EPA pushes emission cut at three Oklahoma coal plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed Monday to require three of Oklahoma’s oldest coal-fired power plants to switch to cleaner-burning natural gas or install technology to reduce regional haze pollution. The announcement triggered immediate criticism from U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., for EPA’s rejection of a plan put forth by the state. … Built more than three decades ago, the three power plants are operated by American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma northeast of Tulsa in Oologah, and Oklahoma Gas & Electric near Muskogee and in north-central Oklahoma. EPA said the companies have three years to add sulfur dioxide scrubbers, switch to natural gas or use a combination of those two approaches.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Seven state parks closing due to budget cuts

The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department says seven state parks will close for good this year because of budget cuts. Officials announced Friday that Adair State Park in Stilwell; Beaver Dunes in Beaver; Boggy Depot in Atoka; Brushy Lake in Sallisaw; Heavener Runestone in Heavener; Lake Eucha in Jay; and Wah-Sha-She in Copan will shut down Aug. 15. The Tulsa World reports that agency officials say the closures will save the state nearly $700,000 annually.

Read more from OETA at

Oklahoma Census date: The State House map

The redistricting committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has set up a redistricting webpage with some interesting summary data that they will use to redraw the lines for their chamber of the State Legislature. They provide a very helpful link to the U. S. Census Bureau’s Redistricting Data Office, where you can download population data (down to the block), maps, and shapefiles for GIS. The Oklahoma House redistricting page also has spreadsheets summarizing population changes between 2000 and 2010 for each county, State House district, State Senate district, and congressional district, and maps illustrating State House district population change and deviation from the ideal population (state population / 101).

Read more from the Batesline blog at

NewsOK: Initiative petition idea ought to be rejected

Every legislative session has its share of controversial bills, the sort that stir passionate debate by all parties involved. … And then there’s the just plain baffling, which is how we would categorize Senate Joint Resolution 37 by Sen. Mike Schultz, R-Altus. The resolution would let voters decide whether to change the process used to collect signatures for initiative petitions. Instead of allowing petition organizers to collect the required number of signatures — a total that’s already terribly burdensome — anywhere in the state, Schultz wants petitioners to meet those thresholds in each of the state’s five congressional districts. … The proposal is baffling because not only does it presume that rural Oklahomans don’t ever go to the fair, or to football games, or to shopping malls in larger cities, but also because rural voters have the opportunity on Election Day to decide how they feel about state questions, no matter where those signatures were gathered.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

When you’re confined with other people under the conditions that exist on this range of cells, you develop a sense of solidarity with them regardless of any differences or misgivings.

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, sharing his recollections of interactions with Timothy McVeigh in prison

Number of the Day


Manufacturing jobs added to the Oklahoma economy in 2010.

Source: Economic Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Virtual education boom hits the states

A few years ago, when he was governor of West Virginia, Bob Wise attended a graduation ceremony at Pickens High School in Randolph County, a tiny school on top of a mountain where the graduating class consisted of only two students. As he was leaving, he asked the principal how the school was able to attract foreign language teachers. “He laughed and said, ‘We have one of the best Spanish instructors in the country.’ And I said, ‘How could that be possible here on this mountain?’ And he pointed to a satellite dish and he said, ‘she comes in every day at 10 o’clock from San Antonio, Texas.’”

Read more from this Stateline article 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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