In The Know: May 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.

Today on In The Know, the House rejected the last remaining immigration bill this session by a lopsided vote of 62-31. Though some improvements had been made, OK Policy explained serious remaining problems with the bill. In the Tulsa World, Michael Brose calls for greater understanding of the pain caused by immigration battles on the children of immigrants. The Senate passed the general appropriations bill but rejected a $70M transportation bond that was meant to partially make up for $100M taken out of transporation funds to help meet the budget shortfall. The Tulsa World considers what lessons might be learned from this year’s budget wrangling.

A 220-page workers’ comp overhaul bill was unveiled to its House committee with just three days left before the planned adjournment of session. A bill to end many state mandates on schools passed out of committee in a close vote and will go to the full Senate. The House rejected a measure to expand attorney-client privilege for public officials. Oklahoma CareerTech educators are hoping Gov. Fallin will veto a bill that allows guns to be left in cars on CareerTech campuses. Due to rising fuel costs, Tulsa Transit needs an extra $1M just to maintain existing services.

House Speaker Kris Steele writes in The Edmond Sun on what still needs to be done to reduce the strains of overcrowded prisons. Phil Busey writes that education reforms will result in little improvement if we don’t do something about child hunger. In today’s Policy Note, Dana Goldstein explains the large role of three major foundations in pushing current education reform ideas.

Read on for more.

In The News

House votes down immigration bill

Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives joined together Tuesday to reject by a 2-1 margin an anti-illegal immigration bill. Republicans mostly complained it was a watered-down version that did nothing to crack down on illegal immigration in the state while Democrats said either they opposed the concept altogether or asked that lawmakers spend more time on the issue. The House voted 62-31 to reject a conference report on the latest version of House Bill 1446, which is the only anti-illegal immigration measure left alive this session.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Final version of HB 1446 shows greater caution but still goes too far from the OK Policy Blog; Michael Brose: Children, immigration, and the American Dream from The Tulsa World

Transportation bond issue fails in Okla. Senate

A handful of Republicans opposed to borrowing money to help balance the state budget aligned with Democrats in the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday to derail a key component of the $6.5 billion budget deal to fund state government for the upcoming fiscal year. The GOP-controlled Senate voted 23-21 for a bill authorizing a $70 million bond issue for the Department of Transportation’s road and bridge construction program, falling short of the 25 votes needed for passage. Three Republican senators were absent, and the Senate sponsor of the bill said he plans to bring the bill back to the floor on Wednesday. “It’s not going to derail the budget,” Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City, said. “It could affect the infrastructure of transportation in the future.”

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Tulsa World: State budget could have been worse, should have been better

As World staff writer Randy Krehbiel noted in his analysis of the recently announced state budget plan, there are few winners. There also were few surprises. But are there some lessons? Let’s hope so. Lawmakers attempting to adjourn a week early announced last week they had agreed upon a fiscal 2012 budget of about $6.5 billion, which is about $218 million (or 3.2 percent) below the FY 2011 budget of $6.72 billion. Early estimates put the gap at somewhere around $500 million, but lawmakers were able to limit the impact of the cuts by scaring up $370 million in revenue from existing sources, according to an analysis by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Was this the best they could do under the circumstances? That’s what lawmakers would have Oklahomans believe. But there’s more to the story, as OK Policy Director David Blatt points out.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at

Workers’ compensation overhaul bill unveiled

A 220-page bill overhauling Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system was unveiled Tuesday to a House committee three days before legislative leaders hope to adjourn this year’s session. Among other things, the bill would for the first time in state history require physicians and the workers’ compensation court to adhere to nationally recognized treatment guidelines. Sullivan said this should limit unnecessary surgeries and significantly reduce medical costs. The bill also would direct the workers’ compensation court administrator to develop a schedule of medical and hospital fees intended to reduce the cost of medical care by 5 percent. The measure also intends to prevent doctor shopping by limiting when an injured worker can change from the treating physician chosen by the employer. If surgery is recommended, the employer would have an automatic right to a second opinion to determine its necessity.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Bill allowing schools to eliminate state mandates passes committee

Twenty-four hours after failing to get out of a conference committee a bill allowing schools to eliminate state mandates passes on to the full Senate. The measure got the minimum required signatures thanks to a special guest. Senate Bill 264 received the seventh signature from Speaker of the House Kris Steele who took part in the Conference Committee on Rules Tuesday morning.

Read more from KOSU at

House rejects move to expand attorney-client privilege

The House of Representatives turned down a measure Tuesday that would have expanded the definition of attorney-client privilege as it applies to school boards and other local government entities. By a vote of 64-35, the House rejected a conference committee report for House Bill 1559, which author Fred Jordan, R-Jenks, said would protect government entities from having to disclose confidential information. HB 1559 was opposed by the Oklahoma Press Association, which said the legislation would make it more difficult for members of the public to keep tabs on elected officials.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma CareerTech educators hope Fallin will veto gun bill

CareerTech leaders who want to stop a proposal to allow guns on their campuses are pinning their hopes on a veto by Gov. Mary Fallin. House Bill 1652 passed the House with a 75-5 vote Tuesday. The measure is expected to pass the Senate on Wednesday. The proposal would allow concealed-weapons licensees to leave their guns inside locked cars on CareerTech campuses or to carry them to other areas with permission of the CareerTech superintendent – the same rules that apply to college campuses.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Tulsa transit officials say even a $1M hike won’t offset increasing fuel costs

Treading water isn’t enough, says Bill Leighty, chairman of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and a member of the city’s Transportation Advisory Board. “We really have a lot of catching up to do,” he said, assessing Tulsa’s mass transit system, which, for each of the last two fiscal years, has received almost $2.5 million less in city funding than it drew before the recession led to across-the-board cutbacks in city services. But as hard as those reductions have been on other departments, Leighty believes the mass transit system has suffered even more. He said that because of anticipated reductions in state and federal funding, Tulsa Transit needed an additional $1 million in city funding for FY 2012 just to maintain the level of service it provides now.

Read more from this Urban Tulsa Weekly article at

Kris Steele: Corrections reform continues for Oklahoma

When House Bill 2131 was signed into law recently, Gov. Mary Fallin declared it landmark corrections legislation. A landmark is a development that marks a turning point. With the signing of this measure, Oklahoma has indeed reached a turning point on corrections reform. This new law takes a step toward easing the many fiscal and social strains placed upon our state by overcrowded prisons. While reaching this milestone is important, Oklahoma’s incarceration dilemma and all the ancillary problems associated with it cannot be solved overnight. We must do more.

Read more from this Edmond Sun editorial at

Phil Busey: Tackling childhood hunger should be goal No. 1

Reforms in public education are gradual at the Capitol. Typically, there is reluctance to take on more controversial issues from additional funding for teachers pay, consolidation of overextended districts and really getting more money into the classroom. With continuing budget woes, more than likely this battered can will get kicked forward again by the Legislature. While we debate and address more political partisan agendas, a crisis is brewing — the desperate and underlying systemic social issues driven by unchecked poverty. Countless children in our state go to school every day hungry. This alone will silently derail any reforms crafted in the sanctity of the halls of government.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

I see a lot of folks who are much more disabled than me, and they have to rely on it. It is exhausting trying to get across town. A round trip can take them five or six hours, even if they’re just at the doctor for 30 or 40 minutes.

Bryan Huling, a Tulsa area resident who can’t drive due to vision problems and is frustrated with inadequate mass transit options.

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank out of 50 states for percentage of citizens with at least a Bachelor’s degree, 2007.

Source: US Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Education reform philanthropy has changed radically over the past decade

The NewSchools Venture Fund is one of the founding institutions of “venture philanthropy,” a school of charitable giving that borrows its ethos from the world of venture capital.  When NewSchools was just 2-years old, the “New Big Three” education foundations (Gates, Broad, and Walton) donated about the same amount to American schools as the “Old Big Three” (Ford, Carnegie, and Annenberg). Just five years later, the New Big Three were spending almost four times as much as the Old Big Three. Why do we care? Well, the priorities of the Gates, Walton, and Broad foundations–charter schools, mayoral control, and teacher evaluation and pay tied to student test scores–not only match up with one another, but stand in contrast to some of the priorities of the older funders.

Read more from Dana Goldstein 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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