In The Know: May 23, 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, NewsOK and The Tulsa World have round-ups of some highlights from this year’s legislature. Lawmakers went into recess rather than adjourn the session early in case they need to return next week to respond to a veto by Gov. Fallin on part of the workers’ comp changes. A joint legislative committee will hold public hearings next fall on how the state should respond to health care reform. The leaders of the committee, Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, are both insurance agents.

The bill to abolish the Indian Affairs Commission and replace it with a single liaison appointed by the governor is getting mixed reviews from tribal leaders, who were given only 6 days’ notice before the bill was debated in the House. Parents who care for disabled children are worried that budget cuts will eliminate adult day care programs. Oklahoma schools received warning notices that they should expect insurance rate hikes averaging 19.5 percent. Some of the 14 Tulsa schools set to close in the consolidation plan opened their doors Saturday for alumni to say goodbye. The closing fund bill was amended to prohibit companies that win awards from the fund from making independent political expenditures.

More than 400 Oklahoma Army National Guard troops were told that they may be deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa. A new documentary premiering 9PM Tuesday on OETA tells the stories of five Oklahoma soldiers who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The OK Policy Blog has Andrew Baker’s remarks on how the Women in Recovery program saved her life. A teenager died after spending three years in a coma from suffering a beating at the Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Center. The Huffington Post praises efforts to restore historical memories of the Tulsa Race Riot.

In today’s Policy Note, Health Beat shows that even as Congressional Republicans are proposing to privatize Medicare, the costs of the program are increasing more slowly than the costs of private insurance. Read on for more.

In The News

Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed laws designed to improve the state’s business climate but experienced mixed results on bills involving social issues during the session that concluded Friday. Although lawmakers still could come back this week, they are not expected to do so. Here is a brief overview of some of the session’s highlights…

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: What you might have missed in the 2011 Legislature from The Tulsa World

Session left open over concern that Fallin might veto workers’ comp measure

The House of Representatives followed the Senate into a week of suspended animation by passing a resolution to recess rather than adjourning the session a week early. Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, denied rumors that the unusual step was taken in case Gov. Mary Fallin vetoes a last-minute workers compensation bill, but Democratic leader Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City, confirmed that that was the reason. The measure in question, a “trailer bill” to the main workers comp bill passed Wednesday, changes the wording in a way that generally favors doctors who sell medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and “implantables,” either directly or through associated businesses in which they have a financial interest. Specifically, the trailer changes the maximum charge for such items from 10 percent above cost to 90 percent of the amount allowed by Medicare.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Joint committee on insurance exchange will hold public meetings in Oklahoma City and Tulsa

Two Tulsa lawmakers have been chosen to deal with one of the hottest of political hot potatoes next fall. Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, are the leaders of a special joint legislative committee that will study how the state should respond to the federal mandate to create a state health insurance exchange. Stanislawski is an insurance agent and Mulready is a former insurance executive who now is an independent agent. The committee will likely meet five or six times, probably starting in late summer or early fall and splitting its public hearings between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Each session will be dedicated to a key topic in the debate.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Bill to abolish Indian Affairs Commission, create liaison gets mixed reviews

A bill that would alter the working relationship between the state government and Oklahoma’s Indian tribes has received a mixed reception from tribal governments. Authored by Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, House Bill 2172 would abolish the state’s Indian Affairs Commission and would replace it with a single governor-appointed liaison. The bill passed through the house by a 57-36 margin Wednesday and was approved by the Senate 26-18 Friday afternoon. Peters did not consult any tribes while drafting the bill. Instead, he gave tribal governments six days’ notice before it was to come up for debate in the House.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Adult day care cuts feared

Fred Holland is a humble man, the proud father of a severely disabled child, and by his own account, a poor factory worker who doesn’t care to complain about his family’s plight. He just has one simple message for state legislators on future budget cuts. “Please consider my child and our family,” said Holland, 51, of Oklahoma City. “We’re already on the edge.” Holland, like many Oklahomans, is nervous about prospective cuts to state-funded programs dealing with adult day cares, nursing homes and home health services.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma schools advised to expect insurance rate hikes

Warning notices have been sent to more than 400 Oklahoma school districts telling them to expect major property insurance rate hikes this year because of high weather-related insurance losses. The rate hikes will be a blow to school officials, who recently were told state appropriations to common education would be cut 4.1 percent this year because of the budget shortfall. School districts that obtain their property insurance through the Oklahoma Schools Insurance Group can expect rate increases that will average 19.5 percent, said David Martin, executive director of the group.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Alumni say goodbye to closing schools

Several Tulsa Public Schools slated to shut down under Project Schoolhouse opened their doors on Saturday to pay tribute to alumni students. The 14 schools set to close under Project Schoolhouse in a few weeks hold memories for thousands of alumni students. Project Schoolhouse cut 6,000 empty seats and aims to save the school district $5 million a year. Part of the plan called for shutting down schools with less than 400 students. Chouteau Elementary was one of those schools. “When we first heard it we were thinking ‘why us?’ like all the other schools that will close,” said Principal Michael Burk, who guided Chouteau Elementary through its last 27 years. “Especially since we’re high performing on academics.”

Read more from this KJRH article at

Closing fund bill amended to prohibit political expenditures by recipients

Following the Senate passage of House Bill 1953 on Tuesday, Sen. John Sparks said his successful amendment of the proposal marked a victory for transparency in state government. The bill establishes the Oklahoma Quick-Action Closing Fund, an economic development tool that would enable the Governor to use public funds to provide companies with a financial incentive to relocate to Oklahoma or expand existing facilities. Sparks, a co-author of HB 1953, amended the measure on April 27 to require that companies not be involved in independent expenditures intended for political purposes for a specified period before and after the acceptance of an award from the fund. The amended proposal was approved by a vote of 42-3.

Read more from this Norman Transcript article at

More than 400 Oklahoma soldiers prepare for possible deployment

Five more Oklahoma National Guard units are preparing for possible deployments. According to a news release from the Oklahoma Military Department, 448 soldiers were told this week they may be going to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa. The majority of them are from units based in Okmulgee, Okemah and Muskogee. This call-up is in addition to the 3,200 soldiers who are members of the 45th and are already in Louisiana and Mississippi preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

See also: Film tells story of 5 soldier killed in Iraq, Afghanistan wars from NewsOK

Andrea Baker: Women in Recovery has changed my life forever

The following are the remarks of Andrea Baker delivered at the signing ceremony for HB 2131, the corrections reform bill authored by House Speaker Kris Steele and Sen. Patrick Anderson. Good afternoon, my name is Andrea Baker. I am 39 years old and I am in recovery from 23 years of addiction to methamphetamine and alcohol,  among other things. While in addiction I lost everything. I never thought I was worth anything more than the addict life I was living. Filled with despair, crippled by fear I had no hope for my future. Feeling trapped and not equipped to handle what was happening in my life, I thought I would always be an addict. I accepted that’s just who I was. As a result, I neglected my family and my responsibilities.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Teen dies three years after juvenile center beating

Funeral services are today for a teen who spent three years in a coma after injuries he suffered at Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Center sent him to a hospital intensive care unit. Smith’s family said he suffered a beating while at the Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Center. Smith was taken to a hospital in April 2008 with major injuries that left the teen unable to walk, speak or breathe on his own. In November 2008, Colbert filed a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma County Commissioners and others for $27.5 million in damages. Detention officers deliberately failed to protect her son, according to the lawsuit.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

The resurrection of a race riot

Tulsans — both white and black — always managed to sweep the riot’s history under the rug and pretend it didn’t exist. For white residents, it was an embarrassment, a smear on the city’s “can do” past and opportunistic future. For blacks, it boiled down to a matter of retribution. Could this happen again? What costs would their community pay if word about the riot leaked? For nearly eight decades, the riot remained Tulsa’s closeted skeleton. That is changing.

Read more from this Huffington Post article at

Quote of the Day

If we didn’t have the adult day care, I’d be forced to quit my job so I could stay at home and take care of my son. I would no longer be able to go out and make a living for us.

Angela Brown, the parent of a developmentally disabled 19-year-old, who is worried that budget cuts will lead to the closing of her son’s adult day care program.

Number of the Day

$167 million

Amount cut from higher and common education budgets in the state’s FY’ 12 budget.

Source: Tulsa World

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicare costs rising more slowly than private insurers

Today, S&P released data tracking the growth of health care costs which showed that over the year ending March 2011, Medicare spending rose at an annual rate of 2.78%—the lowest rate posted for the Medicare Index in its six-year history. By contrast, over the same 12 months, health care costs covered by commercial insurers rose by 7.57%.  Why is Medicare cost growth slowing? It appears that “costs for Medicare patients are being better contained than those covered under commercial insurance plans,” observes David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Index Committee. And the provisions in the Affordable Care Act that will put Medicare on the road to financial solvency haven’t even begun to kick in.

Read more from Health Beat 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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