In The Know: May 31, 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, three dozen legislators failed to get any bills enacted this session. One of those legislators, Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, said he is disappointed but not discouraged because the process is supposed to be difficult. Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, argued that committee leaders have too much power and every bill should get a committee hearing if the author asks for one. Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, and Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, did not file any legislation this year because they are frustrated with not being heard in the Republican House. Meanwhile, Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, wrote 72 bills and resolutions, of which 25 were signed into law.

Oklahoma Watch looks at the multitude of tax breaks in Oklahoma that cost the state as much as $5 billion a year. Oklahoma Policy Institute released our FY ’12 budget highlights, a one-page summary analysis of the budget for the upcoming year. Oklahoma moved up its 2012 primary elections by one month, from late July to late June. Rep. Dan Boren is calling for limiting campaign contributions to only individuals and groups that live within a candidate’s district. OKC Pride is beginning fundraising efforts to build a health clinic in Oklahoma City’s gay district.

The Tulsa World highlights the need to improve Tulsa’s public transit system. NewsOK takes issue with a proposal to invert state and local taxes so that we stop taking a higher percentage of income from the bottom 20 percent of Oklahomans than we do from the wealthiest. OK Policy previously discussed this proposal here. Batesline examines the fate of the Greenwood district in the 90 years that followed the Tulsa Race Riot. Okie Funk calls for finally reforming Oklahoma’s liquor laws. FOI Oklahoma has a new online map pinpointing conflicts over freedom of information in Oklahoma.

In today’s Policy Note, Stateline explains state initatives to shift Medicaid patients to managed care. These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Three dozen legislators failed to get legislation enacted

Some lawmakers don’t make law, or at least not much of it that has their own names on it. The Tulsa World reviewed the legislative histories of the 2,319 bills, joint resolutions and concurrent resolutions considered by the Oklahoma Legislature this year to determine which lawmakers were the most effective at getting their ideas into law and which were the least effective. Thirty-six of the state’s 145 lawmakers – 21 Democrats and 15 Republicans – didn’t take a single proposal to completion.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Representative says passing bills is supposed to be difficult from The Tulsa World; Lawmaker says too few control too much in committees from The Tulsa World; Two Dems too frustrated to offer legislation from The Tulsa World; Prolific lawmaker churned out 72 bills from The Tulsa World

Oklahoma Watch: Task force to examine state tax breaks

One hundred years ago, the Oklahoma Legislature approved what appears to be the state’s first special-interest tax break. The Old Soldiers bill, passed March 11, 1911, allowed poor and crippled Civil War veterans and their widows to give “illustrated lectures and magic lantern exhibitions” without paying the customary hawkers and peddlers license fee. At last count, the state was providing 480 exclusions, credits, deductions, deferrals, incentives and other special tax breaks. Although the Oklahoma Tax Commission has no official estimate of the cost of state tax breaks, unofficial estimates discussed in the Oklahoma legislature put this cost as high as $5 billion a year.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Hot off the presses: Our FY ’12 budget highlights

With the 2011 legislative session now wrapped up, we are pleased to release our FY ’12 Budget Highlights, a one-page summary analysis of the budget for the upcoming year, along with eight detailed charts and tables on revenues and appropriations. The state’s annual appropriated budget for FY ’12 is $6.511 billion. This is the third straight year of decreased funding for state agencies; total appropriations for next year will be $250 million less than in FY ’07.Of total appropriations, 89.2 percent, or $5.811 billion, will go to the ten largest agencies in the core areas of education, health care, human services, public safety and corrections, with all the remaining appropriated agencies – 68 of them – dividing up the remaining 10.8 percent ($699 million).

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma moves up 2012 primary election

Candidates will have less time to lollygag next year and many voters will have to make up their minds about a month earlier than usual. The filing period for statewide and legislative candidates has been pushed up about 45 days, from early June to mid-April, and the primary election has been moved up a month, from late July to late June. New state laws were passed this session to comply with a federal law requiring election officials to email ballots early enough so military members stationed overseas as well as registered voters living abroad have plenty of time to vote and return their ballots in time to be counted.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma’s U.S. Rep. Dan Boren proposes state and district limits on campaign contributions

Following again in his father’s footsteps, Rep. Dan Boren has taken on the thorny issue of campaign finance reform. The Muskogee Democrat wants the U.S. Constitution amended to prohibit individuals from donating to federal campaigns unless: For a U.S. Senate candidate, they live in the same state. For a U.S. House candidate, they live in the same congressional district. Boren said the proposal “would begin the process of re-establishing the importance of local influence in our elections.”

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma City gay pride event to launch health clinic efforts

Kirk Martin’s doctor knew a lot of things about him, but there was one thing Martin kept a secret: his sexuality. “For many years,” Martin said, “I didn’t think it was any of my doctor’s business. That was a piece of information I was keeping secret. It still is not a comfortable thing for many people.” That’s why Martin and other leaders in the gay community are turning the annual OKC Pride festivities into a fundraiser they hope will lead to a new health care center in the gay district. “There are a lot of people in Oklahoma without health care insurance,” said Martin, president of OKC Pride. “Those in the gay community who do have access to care, many times don’t feel comfortable telling their doctor that they’re gay.”

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Tulsa World: Local transit issue must be addressed

We prairie folk aren’t big on public transportation. We love our cars, and when we die, someone will have to pry our cold, stiff fingers off the steering wheel. Actually, what’s more likely is that most of us will have to give up driving long before we die, and one of the few options we’ll have then for getting around will be some form of public transportation. Even now, many Tulsans are forced to rely on public transportation. And there’s a growing segment of the community that would like to use other modes – from bus to bike to rail – to get around.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at

NewsOK: “Flip It To Fix It” a bad idea

“CLICK It or Ticket” we’ve heard of. “Flip It to Fix It”? That’s a new one on us. You may be hearing more about the latter soon as the class envy lobby tightens the squeeze on “the rich.” They would pay more taxes mainly so state governments would have more to spend and could hire more public employees. To its great discredit, the Oklahoma Policy Institute (OPI) is trumpeting this effort. “Flip It to Fix It” is designed to invert the percentage of income going to state and local taxes. The percentage being paid by lower-income citizens would be applied to higher-income taxpayers. And vice versa. In Oklahoma the flip would invert the 5.9 percent figure applicable to higher incomes with the 9.9 percent applicable to lower incomes.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Previously: ‘Flip It To Fix It’ offers an immediate, fair solution to state budget shortfalls from the OK Policy Blog

Batesline: The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot and the 90 years that followed

Today is the 90th anniversary of a white mob’s attack on Tulsa’s African-American district, known as Greenwood after its principal avenue. The attack, which began the evening of May 31, 1921, killed hundreds and left thousands wounded and homeless. Once hushed up, the attack known as the Tulsa Race Riot has received an increasing amount of public attention over the last 30 years. I have half a shelf taken up with books on the topic, and I will leave that history to others who have told it far better than I could ever hope to do. What is often overlooked is the triumph and tragedy that followed the riot.

Read more from Batesline at

Okie Funk: Change Oklahoma’s archaic liquor laws

Let’s hope a legislative Oklahoma task force studying the issue of allowing the sale of cold strong beer and wine in grocery stores puts the interests of consumers above liquor retailers. The liquor retailers—basically liquor store owners—have made it clear in past years they don’t want to change Oklahoma’s archaic and ridiculous liquor laws that make our state seem backwards and make it a hassle for customers. But with the grocery store Whole Foods Market on its way to Oklahoma City and with the Thunder putting the city consistently in the national spotlight, maybe common sense can prevail on the issue and we can get real reform next legislative session.

Read more from Okie Funk at

Sunspots in Oklahoma

Sunspots in Oklahoma, an online map, pinpoints complaints of Oklahoma governments and other public entities not abiding by the letter or the spirit of the state’s sunshine laws. A BLUE pin means the issue has been resolved in favor of the public’s right and need to know. A RED pin indicates a conflict remains or the decision was contrary to the purposes of the Open Meeting and Records laws. The map is based on reports to FOI Oklahoma Inc.

Read more from FOI Oklahoma at

Quote of the Day

It makes my head hurt. These doggone legislators, every year, they chip away at the integrity of the tax base. They’re responding to pressures on the part of some of their constituents. But the overall result of it is a mess.

Larkin Warner, retired regents professor of economics at Oklahoma State University and a member of a state tax break review committee.

Number of the Day


Number of times the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down state redistricting on the basis of partisan gerrymandering; In 1986, the Court ruled that gerrymandering is justiciable – meaning an issue that is within its judicial authority to rule.

Source: Legislative Guide to Redistricting 2011, Oklahoma House of Representatives

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Managed care explained: Why a Medicaid innovation is spreading

One of the most controversial state health initiatives this year is a plan in Florida to cut Medicaid costs by dramatically expanding the use of managed care. Florida lawmakers voted to move all Medicaid enrollees in the state — more than 3 million people who are poor, elderly or disabled — to commercial managed care programs. Florida is not alone. At least a dozen other states are considering expanding managed care programs this year. That growth comes atop expansions in 20 states last year and 13 states the year before. Although most health care experts say managed care can improve care while lowering Medicaid costs, consumer advocates say states should proceed with caution.

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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