In The Know: May 26, 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 gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, new Census statistics show seniors and children under 5 as the fastest growing age groups in Oklahoma. Tuesday’s tornadoes caused tens of millions of dollars in damages across the state, and hundreds of families have lost their homes. Newly empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, independent expenditures by non-profit groups made up half the spending in recent OKC Council elections. George Kaiser is joining with the Obama administration to launch a Race To The Top grant competition for early childhood programs. Kaiser said the large number of Oklahoma children in early learning programs should give the state a boost in winning a grant.

Gov. Fallin signed a bill to create a voluntary income tax contribution for classroom supplies in public schools. The governor also signed a bill allowing guns to be kept in cars on CareerTech campuses. Moore police released the names of officers involved in two shootings and the man killed by police, but they declined to release the name of the wounded 17-year-old. A new report by United for a Fair Economy shows that inverting the tax structure would immediately eliminate budget shortfalls while reducing or keeping taxes the same for the bottom 60 percent of Oklahomans.

The final public meeting on the state’s comprehensive water plan will be held today. Four southeastern Oklahoma lawmakers are charging that the study was rigged to allow selling of water from rural areas to Texas and Oklahoma City. The OK Gazette tells the story of an infamous Oklahoma postcard showing the lynching of a woman and her teenage son. In today’s Policy Note, Congressional Republicans are proposing cuts to the WIC program that provided nutrition assistance to malnourished mothers and young children. OK Policy previously wrote about an attempt to restrict WIC on the state level and the program’s importance for Oklahoma.

More below the jump.

In The News

Census shows median age increase, explosion in 5-and-younger category

Oklahoma grew a little older over the past decade as the median age of its residents increased by 2 percent, while some cities experienced a deeper graying, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released Wednesday. While the census data show the maturity of state residents, infants to 5-year-olds represent the biggest jump among non–Baby Boomer age groups, with 12 percent growth. The median age – meaning the midpoint of all the ages of residents in Oklahoma – was 36.2 years in 2010, compared to 35.5 years in 2000.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20110526_11_A1_CUTLIN328545.

“Tens of millions of dollars” in insured losses from tornadoes

Tuesday’s tornadoes caused “tens of millions of dollars” in insured losses across Oklahoma, but the losses could be much higher, an insurance industry spokesman said Wednesday. More exact estimates won’t be available for some time because adjusters are having some difficulty reaching all the areas that were hit by the tornado outbreak, said Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Services. Wind damage claims often are slow to be reported because many homeowners may not yet be aware of roof damage, he said.

Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahoma-tornadoes-tens-of-millions-of-dollars-in-insured-losses-from-tornadoes/article/3571246.

See also: Tornadoes wipe out homes, communities in Central Oklahoma from NewsOn6

Two non-profit groups behind nearly half the cash flow in contentious OKC Council election

The final campaign reports are filed from this year’s Oklahoma City Council elections, and the amount collected and spent in the four races, both by candidates and two groups making independent expenditures, is significant. Besides the spending by candidate committees themselves, two committees that registered to participate in the election received funding from nonprofit groups that were set up shortly before the election. Bolstered by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 2010 Federal Election Commission v. Citizens United case, the nonprofit groups were able to donate large amounts of cash to the committees, which in turn made independent expenditures in support of and against certain candidates. The two registered groups were A Better Local Government, backed by the 501(c)(4) group A Voice for Responsible Government, which was funded by local firefighters, and the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum, which was funded by the nonprofit A Better Oklahoma City Inc., a group backed by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber program, Forward OKC IV.

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-11762-show-me-the-money.html.

Kaiser helps launch Race to the Top for early learning programs

Tulsan George Kaiser joined two key members of the Obama administration Wednesday to announce a new Race to the Top competition for early learning and suggested that Oklahoma’s record in that area should give it a boost this time out. “In early learning, Oklahoma already has a national reputation,” Kaiser said, citing the number of children in the state who already are participating in preschool programs. In the new round announced by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, states will be asked to compete for $500 million to fund reforms in early learning.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=505&articleid=20110526_16_A9_CUTLIN812912.

Voluntary income tax contribution for classrooms signed into law

Oklahomans will have what sponsors call a new way to financially support teachers thanks to an income tax checkoff program signed into law today. House Bill 1852, by state Rep. Jabar Shumate and state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, creates the income tax checkoff and the “Public School Classroom Support Revolving Fund.” The two Tulsa Democrats gained passage of the reform late in the just-concluded legislative session. Under the bill, money donated through the voluntary income tax checkoff would be deposited in the “Public School Classroom Support Revolving Fund.” The Education Department, headed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, would use the money collected to provide annual grants to public school classroom teachers for supplies, materials, or equipment.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at http://capitolbeatok.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=3913861.

Gov. Fallin signs CareerTech gun bill

Despite objections from the director of the CareerTech system, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Wednesday that allows students, teachers and visitors with a valid concealed-carry permit to store a handgun in their vehicles on the technology center’s parking lots. House Bill 1652 takes effect Nov. 1. The provisions in the bill are similar to existing law covering colleges and universities. Gun owners who have concealed-carry permits must leave their handguns secured in their vehicles on college and university parking lots; written permission from the college or university president is required for the gun owner to carry the gun on campus.

Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/gov.-mary-fallin-signs-careertech-gun-bill/article/3571341.

Moore police release name of man fatally shot by officers, identify officers involved in two shootings, but refuse to identify 17-year-old wounded by police

Dax Buck Anthony Minor, 30, of New Caney, Texas, was the man fatally shot by Moore police last week, officials told The Oklahoman on Tuesday. But Moore police officials still refuse to identify a 17-year-old shot by an officer in another incident more than a week ago. They told the newspaper that state law prevents them from identifying the teen unless he is arrested or charged in connection with a felony. That seems likely given that police previously said the teen was driving a stolen car when he tried to elude officers and was shot in the stomach when he left the car and tried to run. But if he’s not, does that mean the public will never know who was shot by a police officer?

Read more from FOI Oklahoma at http://foioklahoma.blogspot.com/2011/05/moore-police-release-name-of-man.html.

“Flip It To Fix It” report offers an immediate, fair solution to state budget shortfalls

A study released today finds that inverting state tax structures—whereby the highest income earners would be taxed at the current percentage of income for the lowest income earners, and vice versa—would raise more than $4 billion in new revenue for Oklahoma (a 35 percent increase). The additional revenue would immediately eliminate state budget shortfalls and avoid the serious consequences of budget cuts. The report, titled “Flip It to Fix It: An Immediate, Fair Solution to State Budget Shortfalls,” attributes a large part of states’ current deficits to regressive tax structures that are designed to fail.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at https://okpolicy.org/flip-it-to-fix-it-report-offers-an-immediate-fair-solution-to-state-budget-shortfalls/.

See also: The full report from United for a Fair Economy

Final public meetings held on Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan

As the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill might have put it, discussion of Oklahoma’s Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP) is nearing the end of the beginning. On the eve of the last two regional meetings and hearings on the plan, four Democrats in the state Legislature are pressing for an attorney general’s opinion on whether or not the process has complied with state law. On May 25 in Lawton and May 26 in Oklahoma City, the last two sessions in a series of public hearings on the 2012 OCWP update are being held. But the last two public sessions on the plan are almost certainly merely the start of renewed focus on the politics of water.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at http://capitolbeatok.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=3913847.

See also: Lawmakers challenge state’s water plan from The Tulsa World

A century later, the photograph of an Oklahoma lynching still resonates

The graphic image began as a photograph, then a postcard. It appeared in a book, inspired a folk song and was exhibited at a New York art gallery. On May 25, 1911, the lynching of a black woman and her teenage son six miles west of Woody Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah nearly erupted a race war with the neighboring all-black town of Boley. Photographer George H. Farnum captured the image of two corpses dangling over the river as several dozen Caucasian onlookers posed on the bridge. After no one claimed the bodies, the two Nelsons were buried at nearby Greenleaf Cemetery. The elder Nelson went to prison, and the baby’s fate is unclear, according to conflicting reports. The Okemah Ledger published the lynching photo, which became a reprinted postcard sold as a novelty item at local stores.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette article at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-11750-picture-of-horror.html.

Quote of the Day

The schools are not catching up to the reality of where children live and the culture shift. Children with complex language and diverse culture will be the trend.

Jan Figart, associate director at the Community Service Council, on the large increase in Oklahoma’s under-5 population, especially among Hispanics.

Number of the Day

240,855

Number of Oklahomans who are registered to vote as Independent as of January 2011; 11.5 percent of registered voters in the state.

Source: Oklahoma State Election Board

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Proposed WIC Cuts Would End Food Assistance for 325,000 to 475,000 Low-Income Women and Children

House Republicans are proposing a cut in the WIC nutrition program that would force WIC to turn away 325,000 to 475,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year. This cut — part of the 2012 appropriations bill that Rep. Jack Kingston, chairman of the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee, unveiled today — would break a 15-year commitment by Administrations and Congresses of both parties to provide enough WIC funding to serve all eligible women, infants, and children who apply. WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — provides nutritious foods, counseling on healthy eating, and health care referrals to roughly 9 million low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under age five who are at nutritional risk.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3499&emailView=1.

Previously: Out of the mouths of babes: Legislature moves to cut child nutrition benefits from the OK Policy Blog

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gene Perry joined OK Policy in January 2011. 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. Gene also serves on the board of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, is a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, and has chaired the communications advisory committee for the State Priorities Partnership, a nationwide network of state fiscal policy think tanks. He lives in Tulsa with his wife Kara Joy McKee, who is a Tulsa City Councilor.

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