In The Know: May 24, 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 reports on the state of higher education revolving funds. Wind turbine maker Siemens plans to build its largest distribution center in Woodward, which the company says will create up to 40 jobs. Gov. Fallin is traveling to California to promote Oklahoma at a wind energy tradeshow. The toxicology report for OU linebacker Austin Box, who was found dead last Thursday from a possible overdose, has not been completed, in part due to a backlog of cases at the Oklahoma City medical examiner’s office.

In our continuing series on the effects of health care refom, the OK Policy Blog examines Oklahoma’s Temporary High Risk Pools. The Pawnee City Council voted that their newly elected mayor was unqualified to serve due to a felony conviction from 2000. Oklahoma law prohibits ex-felons from serving in public office for 15 years after they have completed their sentence. Gov. Fallin made a flurry of appointments to state boards in the last week of the legislative session.

Oklahoma City was again ranked at the bottom of a report on the health and fitness of large U.S. cities. University of Oklahoma architecture students are presenting ideas for eliminating the Cox Convention Center. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline explains how many influences on states’ fiscal outlooks are out of their control.

More below the jump.

In The News

As tuition increases loom, some Oklahoma higher education funds flush with cash

Some revolving funds for colleges and universities are flush with cash as higher education leaders warn of impending tuition increases from budget cuts. The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s three revolving funds had a combined balance of $93.4 million at the end of March, according to a list of balances provided by the Office of State Finance. That’s up from $75.5 million at the end of December. At the other end of the scale, several colleges and universities had large drops in their revolving fund balances. Oklahoma State University’s revolving funds for its Stillwater campus fell to $6.5 million in March, down from $12.6 million in March 2010.

Read more from Data Watch at

Turbine maker Siemens to open wind service warehouse in Oklahoma

Wind turbine maker Siemens on Monday announced plans to build it largest U.S. wind power service distribution center in Woodward by the end of the year. Construction is expected to begin this month on two new wind service warehousing facilities. Siemens expects to create as many as 40 “green-collar” jobs in Woodward over the next five years, as the company continues to focus on providing increased efficiency to its wind power customers.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Gov. Mary Fallin touts Oklahoma to wind industry in California from NewsOK

Austin Box’s toxicology report not yet completed

Results of the toxicology report on the death of University of Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box haven’t been returned yet. A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City medical examiner’s office said Box’s toxicology results are still pending, though an autopsy was begun last Friday. “We don’t have anything yet,” Cherokee Ballard told the Tulsa World in a telephone interview. “Results are still pending and toxicology could take from 2-6 weeks. That’s kind of the standard across the country.” She also said the Oklahoma City medical examiner’s office has a “backlog of cases.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Health care reform: Temporary high risk pools

Before the passage of federal health care reform, people with serious preexisting conditions were increasingly being pushed to the margins of the health care system.  Many of those with chronic illnesses, like diabetes, or life-threatening diagnosis, like cancer, were vulnerable to not only the symptoms of their medical conditions, but to the financial stress of mounting bills and expensive special treatments.   They faced lifetime claims limits, the possibility of being dropped by their carrier, or being perpetually uninsured because of exorbitant premiums or outright denial of coverage.  A central principle behind the push for health care reform and the resultant consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was that these most vulnerable consumers should not be locked out of the private insurance market.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://health-care-reform-8-temporary-high-risk-pools/.

Pawnee gets acting mayor after council tosses Linder

The City Council determined by a 5-0 vote Monday night that the man who was elected mayor, who has an out-of-state felony record, doesn’t meet the qualifications for that office. Following a roughly hourlong special meeting and the recommendation of City Attorney Matt Devlin, the council also voted unanimously to vacate the office of mayoral election winner Chris Linder and recognize Council President Brad Sewell as acting mayor. Linder, who owns the Pawnee Cafe, won the April 5 mayoral election by grabbing 253 votes against 165 for Alford Majors and 161 votes for incumbent Tom Briggs.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Fallin puts appointees in place for tourism, small colleges, other posts

With the consent of the state Senate, Governor Mary Fallin advanced a diverse range of appointments during the last week of the 2011 legislative session. The governor named her choices for the tourism commission, ABLE Commission, the accountancy board, an organ donor advisory panel, three small college boards, and the conservation commission. In the course of even a single four-term, governors of Oklahoma make thousands of appointments to boards and commissions with powers of governance; other posts have advisory power.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Oklahoma City ranked at bottom of health and fitness study

It’s enough to make a person drop the potato chips and shove on the running shoes: Another dead-last health ranking in Oklahoma. Oklahoma City is the most unfit city of all large U.S. cities, a new study shows. Oklahoma City ranked at the bottom of the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2011 American Fitness Index data report. Researchers looked at the 50 most populous metropolitan areas to find the healthiest and fittest places to live. The score of 24.6 out of 100 points is based on healthy lifestyles and physical activity.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Students’ concepts could help shape what lies ahead for OKC’s Cox Convention Center

The debate over where to locate a new convention center isn’t over yet, but that isn’t stopping architectural students at the University of Oklahoma from proposing concepts for redevelopment of the current Cox Convention Center. The ideas presented by students led by architecture professor Hans Butzer and Blair Humphreys, a fellow with the Institute for Quality Communities, all call for the existing convention center to be eliminated, though some suggest looking at maintaining the underground parking garage. While construction of a new convention center is almost a certainty with residents having voted to provide $280 million for its construction as part of MAPS 3, city leaders have not determined the ultimate outcome for the Cox Convention Center.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Quote of the Day

I absolutely didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t do anything where my feet touched the ground. Every time I’d move, I’d cry out.

Teresa Simpson, who was able to get knee replacements through the Temporary High Risk Pools created by the Affordable Care Act and has since returned to work.

Number of the Day


Properties in foreclosure in Oklahoma in the first quarter of 2011.

Source: RealtyTrac

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Do states control their fiscal destiny? Not as much as they may think.

California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas elected five very different governors last fall, but they all agreed on one thing: their capacity to solve their states’ problems. “Once we take the right steps,” Florida’s Rick Scott said in his inaugural address, “I am absolutely convinced that Florida will become the most exciting place in the world to live and work.” Likewise, New York’s Andrew Cuomo declared that “the decisions we make…this year will define the trajectory of this state for years to come.” No one said, “I hope our state does well, but there’s only so much I can do about it.” Perhaps they should have. For the uncomfortable truth is that when or whether the five most populous states make it back to budgetary stability and economic prosperity depends on a lot more than just what happens in their state capitols.

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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