In The Know: May 25, 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 storms that swept through last night killed at least 13 people in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas. A tornado in Goldsby, OK damaged or destroyed 50 to 60 homes. Urban Tulsa Weekly profiles the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency and asks how prepared is Tulsa for a catastrophe. The Tulsa World lists several ways that Oklahomans can help tornado victims in Joplin.

The Director of DHS says the agency is $38M short of what is needed to keep programs at current levels. In a Tulsa World op-ed, OK Policy assesses this year’s budget deal. The president of the Oklahoma Bankers Association is reversing his earlier position and endorsing Oklahoma native Elizabeth Warren to head the new federal consumer protection agency. The OK Policy Blog explains why restricting employment opportunities for ex-felons is counterproductive.

Moore police are refusing to release incident reports or the names of people shot by officers last week in two separate incidents. Oklahoma Watchdog has the first part in a series on improving transparency in the legislature. In NewsOK, Lori Dickinson shares findings on proven methods of education reform from around the world. In today’s Policy Note, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must reduce its prison population by 30k in two years, because extreme overcrowding is endangering both guards and inmates.

Read on for more.

In The News

Violent storms kill 13 in central US

Violent storms that swept through a chunk of the central U.S. killed at least 13 people in three states, while toppling trees, crushing cars and ripping apart a rural Arkansas fire station. The high-powered storms arrived Tuesday night and early Wednesday, just days after a massive tornado tore up the southwest Missouri city of Joplin and killed 122 people. The latest storms killed eight people in Oklahoma, two in Kansas and three more in Arkansas, before petering out. Most of the Oklahoma fatalities occurred in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office, said early Wednesday that the storms killed five people in Canadian County, two in Logan County and one in Grady County.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Goldsby residents pick up pieces after heavy damage from The Norman Transcript; Preparing for the next big one – Is Tulsa ready for catastrophe? from Urban Tulsa Weekly

After Sunday’s disaster, the message is clear: ‘Joplin needs us’

After seeing news accounts of the devastating tornado that ripped through Joplin, the Park Plaza Church of Christ issued a plea to its members – “Joplin needs us.” Since Monday, the church has been collecting bottled water for relief workers and displaced Missourians who lost their homes in the deadly storm. At the same time the Park Plaza members were organizing their water drive, the leadership team at Tulsa Young Professionals was looking for ways that its nearly 8,000 members could aid recovery. After learning that the church had a system in place to deliver the water bottles, TYPros immediately set up donation locations to assist the efforts.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Proposed DHS budget short $38 million, director says

A proposed budget for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is short $38 million to keep its services and programs at the current level, meaning cuts are necessary, Director Howard Hendrick said Tuesday at a commission meeting. The commission was presented an overview of possible reductions for the 2012 budget and will vote on a final budget in June. DHS is considering moving federal funds from block-grant programs to eligible state programs to free up legislative appropriations. Of the federal programs allowing this transfer are the Child Care Development Block Grant and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Playing your best hand with only half your cards

With the latest budget agreement, most state agencies now face a third consecutive year of funding cuts. Almost all agencies will have seen their funding cut by more than 10 percent in this period, and many by more than 20 percent. Despite reduced budgets, agencies must deal with higher employee health care and retirement costs, general inflation, and, in most cases, caseload growth. With fewer staff and resources, the ability of state agencies to perform their core missions continues to weaken.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at

Oklahoma banking leader backs Elizabeth Warren for consumer protection agency head

To the dismay of some of his peers, the head of the Oklahoma Bankers Association has written to President Barack Obama backing the appointment of Oklahoma native Elizabeth Warren to lead the new consumer protection agency. Roger Beverage, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, reversed his earlier opposition. Beverage called on the president to use his recess appointment powers to name Warren after 44 Republican senators said earlier this month they would oppose any nominee unless changes are made to the bureau’s structure. “I encourage you to wait no longer and give Elizabeth a recess appointment before the July 21st transfer date,” Beverage wrote in a letter delivered last week.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Why restricting employment for ex-felons is counterproductive

Last Wednesday, Chris Linder was sworn into office as mayor of Pawnee, but he may not be allowed to serve. In 2000, Linder was convicted of a felony in Arizona for his role in a drug deal and gun battle. He served five years in prison and three years of probation. After completing his sentence two years ago, Linder moved to Pawnee with his wife. He bought a local restaurant, volunteered with the Chamber of Commerce and as a baseball coach, and joined the First Baptist Church. He was elected mayor in April, beating out the incumbent and another former mayor. The felony became public during the campaign, but a plurality of voters believed he was the right person to lead the city anyway. What they didn’t know was that Oklahoma law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from holding a public office for 15 years after their sentence is completed.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Moore police won’t identify people shot by officers, refuse to release incident reports

Moore police shot two people last week — one fatally — but the department won’t release their names or the reports on the separate incidents, The Oklahoman reports this morning. At this point, Moore police officials aren’t telling the public much about the shootings. A 17-year-old was driving a stolen car a week ago when he tried to elude officers. He was shot in the stomach when he left the car and tried to run. The Oklahoman reports that police won’t say if he threatened officers, if he was armed or why they shot him. We also don’t know much about the fatal shooting on Friday. Police got a call about a suicidal man, found him driving on Interstate 35, and chased him. He was shot when the pursuit ended. How did the pursuit end? Did he have a gun? Why did officers shoot him? Officials won’t say.

Read more from FOI Oklahoma at

See also: Moore police mum on shootings from NewsOK

Improving legislative transparency Part 1

Now that the legislative session is over, Oklahoma Watchdog will present a series of blog posts on ideas for improving transparency in the legislative process.  After sitting through 59 session days and even more committee meetings this year, there is no doubt that the process is better than it ever has been in the past and that it also needs more work. For Part 1, the focus will be on the State Senate which lags behind the House in terms of transparency, especially when it comes to committee votes.

Read more from Oklahoma Watchdog at

Lori Dickinson: Proven methods for reform in education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called education “the civil rights issue of our generation.” Billions of dollars and time are being invested in the pursuit of a panacea to reform public education. It is sought via races between states, curriculum programs, charter schools, vouchers, mass firings, virtual learning, longer days … the list is endless. In March, a policy paper titled “What the U.S. Can Learn from the World’s Most Successful Education Reform Efforts” was released by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation. The paper details four distinguishing differences between the United States and other high-performing countries.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

Compared to some of the other names I’ve heard, … Elizabeth Warren is head and shoulders above them.

Oklahoma Banking Associating CEO Roger Beverage, who reversed his earlier position and endorsed Oklahoma native Elizabeth Warren for head of the new consumer protection agency that would oversee financial services.

Number of the Day

65.8 percent

Of Oklahoma’s nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay for their nursing home care.

Source: Families USA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Supreme Court rules that California must reduce prison population by 30k

The U.S. Supreme Court ordered California on Monday to reduce the population of its jammed prisons by more than 30,000 in two years to repair a health care system that lower courts found was defying constitutional standards and endangering guards as well as inmates. Federal judges rightly found that overcrowding in a prison system that has held nearly twice its designed capacity for more than a decade was the main cause of “grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care,” the court said in a 5-4 ruling. “Needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the majority opinion.

Read more from this San Francisco Chronicle 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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