In The Know: May 3, 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 Huffington Post reports on Oklahoma lawmakers’ push to restrict a program providing nutrition vouchers to low-income mothers of young children, in order to target Planned Parenthood. The House voted 76-16 to reprimand Sally Kern. On the OK Policy Blog, we find a legitimate policy idea hidden in Kern’s statements. Brittany Novotny warns about threats to Oklahoma civil rights posed by another bill making its way through the legislature.

The OKC School Board voted not to pay substitute teachers for the extra time they were required to work when the school days was extended to make up for snow closings. Tulsa firefighters are planning to sue the city over Mayor Bartlett’s order prohibiting city employees from participating in municipal election campaigns. NewsOK questions the wisdom of adding even more restrictions on where sex offenders can live. A bill ending social promotion for third graders who don’t pass a reading test and another bill that would measure school progress with letter grades are heading to Governor Fallin’s desk.

The Osage Nation is considering taking over the administration of Wah-Sha-She State Park, which is one of the 7 state parks set to be closed due to budget cuts. Superintendent Barresi said she wants to incorporate more lessons on Indian culture into the curriculum at Oklahoma schools. In today’s Policy Note, a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that contrary to the doomsday predictions of business lobbyists, paid sick and paid leave policies have not harmed business operations.

Read on for more.

In The News

Oklahoma GOP aims at Planned Parenthood, hits low-income food program

In order to stop Planned Parenthood from being able to distribute them, lawmakers in Oklahoma are mulling legislation that would make nutrition vouchers inaccessible to thousands of low-income mothers. The federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program provides federal grants to states for food vouchers, regular check-ups and nutrition education for low-income pregnant women and mothers of young children. The state distributes the funds through nine independent contractors, including Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, which is based in Tulsa, Okla. But state Rep. Jason Murphey (R), disturbed by Planned Parenthood’s abortion referral services, moved to amend the nutrition bill so that no independent contractors could administer the program.

Read more from this Huffington Post article at

Oklahoma House reprimands Sally Kern

The House of Representatives on Monday publicly reprimanded Rep. Sally Kern for disparaging comments she made against blacks and women during a debate last week on affirmative action. The House took the action about an hour after Kern, R-Oklahoma City, made a tearful apology on the House floor. Rep. Mike Shelton, one of four blacks in the 101-member House, made the motion to reprimand her. Kern made the motion to unanimously accept it. A member objected, and a roll-call vote was taken. The House voted 76-16 to reprimand Kern.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Notes from the House floor session with a transcript of Kern’s apology on Oklahoma Watchdog

Sally Kern could be on to something (but it’s not what she thinks)

Rep. Sally Kern is taking some well-deserved criticism for her comments on the House floor that women and African-Americans do not work as hard as white men. Yet amidst the flurry of condemnations and apologies, we can find a legitimate policy idea reflected in her statements. It’s just not the one she thinks. As Rep. Kern said, women want “to have a moderate work life with plenty of time for spouse and children and other things like that. They work very hard, but sometimes they aren’t willing to commit their whole life to their job like a lot of men do.” Rather than only dwelling on the sexism of her statement, we should recognize that many Oklahomans, both women and men, want a moderate work life with more time for their families. Yet in too many careers, that is not possible.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Brittany Novotny: SB 837 is a threat to civil rights in Oklahoma

Last week, while Representative Sally Kern drew national scorn for sexist and racist remarks made during a floor debate on affirmative action, a bill posing an incredibly serious threat to civil rights in Oklahoma quietly wended its way back to the Oklahoma Senate. SB 837 dramatically changes the state’s nondiscrimination statutes by: Deleting references to federal equal employment opportunity laws (Section 1, amending 25 O.S. § 1101). Creating an exclusion for bona fide membership clubs. SB 837 would legalize all-male clubs, all-white clubs, etc. Changing the definition of “employee” to exclude independent contractors. Thus, it would be permissible for an employer not to hire an independent contractor on the basis of race, sex, pregnancy, age, etc. Creating new law that impedes the civil rights complaint-filing process, raises the burden of proof for plaintiffs, and limits damages in discrimination cases. (Section 11, creating 25 O.S. § 1350).

Read more from Brittany Novotny’s blog at

OKC school district won’t pay substitutes for makeup hours

The Oklahoma City School Board voted Monday not to pay substitute teachers additional money for longer school days used to make up days the district closed for inclement weather. The Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers filed a grievance with the district on behalf of two substitute teachers who were not paid for the 45 minutes added to 64 school days in the 2009-10 school year. They did that to make up for six snow days rather than adding those days to the end of the year. Anthony DeGiusti, attorney for the local American Federation of Teachers union, said full-time teachers are salaried so they were paid for the snow days, while substitute teachers are paid by the hour and were not compensated on snow days.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Tulsa firefighters union to fight order prohibiting city employees from campaigning

The Tulsa firefighters union is gearing up for a fight against Tulsa’s mayor. Local 176 President Dennis Moseby said Monday he’s going to court to fight Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s executive order prohibiting city employees from participating in municipal election campaigns. During the last city campaign, some firefighters went door to door in support of certain candidates. The firefighters union says they have the same rights of free speech as the other citizens of Tulsa.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

NewsOK: Are living restrictions for sex offenders the answer?

No one wants to be caught defending sex offenders. But what if continuing to prosecute them does more harm than good? Lawmakers are considering a bill that would further restrict where sex offenders can live. The bill was requested by Oklahoma City police officials who are concerned about a mobile home park that’s housing sex offenders. Hands-Up Ministries uses the 14-acre mobile home park to provide housing for sex offenders who have jobs and are trying to re-establish their lives. Three offenders share a three-bedroom mobile home and must receive regular treatment in addition to keeping a job.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Two education proposals head to Gov. Fallin

Two education reforms central in the policy planks that Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi has pressed since coming to office this year, cleared the Legislature Monday (May 2) and are headed to Governor Mary Fallin for a likely signature and enactment into law. Senate Bill 346, intended to limit social promotion after third grade and putting new emphasis on reading instruction, gained final approval in the upper chamber on Monday. A legislative staff summary said the bill “would require students entering first grade in the 2011-2012 school year to master grade-appropriate reading skills by the end of third grade in order to be promoted to the fourth grade.” Another reform proposal, House Bill 1456, would fashion a report card system, with grades A-F for public schools as institutions.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Tribe considering taking over operation of state park forced to close due to budget cuts

The Osage Nation has begun assessing the feasibility of assuming control of Wah-Sha-She State Park in northeastern Osage County. The 1,100-acre Wah-Sha-She State Park is one of seven Oklahoma state parks forced to close in March due to budget cuts. According to a news release, the Osage Nation is currently evaluating the condition of the park’s facilities and roads. Once the assessment is complete, it will be presented to Osage Nation Principal Chief John Red Eagle for his consideration and possible submission to Congress for appropriations.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Barresi wants Indian culture taught in classrooms

State Superintendent Janet Barresi says she’d like to have American Indian culture taught on a regular basis in Oklahoma classrooms. Barresi spoke Monday to an audience of tribal educators and officials during a symposium in Norman, saying she wants to work with Oklahoma-based tribes on ways to incorporate Indian culture into curriculum. She says one of her key hires in the coming months will be for a director of Native American education at the state Department of Education.

Read more from OETA at

Quote of the Day

You get $6 worth of fresh produce every month for each child, you get some vouchers for eggs and the cheese, and you get others for cereal and peanut butter and dry beans and things of that nature.

Tara Capria, a 26-year-old mother of two who travels eight blocks to her nearest Planned Parenthood to pick up WIC food and formula. Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing a bill that would ban Planned Parenthood and eight other independent contractors from delivering the vouchers.

Number of the Day


Registered sex offenders that would be without a place to live if the legislature passes SB 852 and closes a mobile home park run by Hand Up Ministries, a Christian prison mission.

Source: The Oklahoman

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Paid leave days: Doomsday predictions are wrong

Despite the predictions of business lobbyists in Connecticut, the latest research shows no foundation for claims that paid leave policies would be disastrous for the economy. In fact, new evidence published this year shows that paid leave has been a non-event for most employers, and for many, has even helped their bottom line. In surveys of hundreds of employers in cities and states with paid sick days and paid family leave laws, researchers have found that the vast majority of employers report paid sick and paid leave policies have no effect or a positive effect on business operations. This research is borne out in interviews with managers and business owners.

Read more from the Center for Economic and Policy Research 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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