In The Know: May 4, 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 increased cost of infrastructure and services due to sprawl threatens to put Oklahoma City in the red by 2016. Rising fuel prices may threaten the state’s economic recovery as Oklahomans have less to spend on other goods. Tulsa Public Schools has begun implementing its consolidation plan, which will directly affect 7,000 students. The town of Turley, just north of Tulsa, is worried that the planned closing of their elementary school means the end of their community. CapitolBeatOK examines Oklahoma school superintendent salaries, finding that 22 superintendents make more than the governor.

NewsOn6 reports that a majority of the task force charged with examining Oklahoma’s liquor laws represent groups that are most likely opposed to reform. Though the House has passed new rules this session opening up conference committees to the public, the FOI Oklahoma blog points out that activities on the Senate side remain closed. The OK Policy Blog questions who lawmakers really represent when they sign a pledge sponsored by a special-interest group.

The House will continue working on an immigration bill, and the bill’s author, Rep. George Faught, said it will be overhauled in conference committee to concentrate solely on “public safety” and ways to help law enforcement target undocumented immigrants. A professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University says she was denied tenure and fired for being transgender. Ted Streuli writes how Oklahoma’s reputation for intolerance is hurting economic development efforts.

In today’s Policy Note, The Oregonian discusses how health reform is expanding the ability of nurse practitioners to treat patients without a physician’s oversight, which can substantially reduce the cost of care. These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Cost of Oklahoma City growth could surpass city revenues by 2016

Oklahoma City can’t sustain the level and direction of current growth unless something is done to offset costs of developing the city’s outer regions, city officials were warned Tuesday. People continue to move away from Oklahoma City’s core to outlying areas, Oklahoma City Planning Director Russell Claus said. Because those areas are undeveloped, it costs more to provide basic city infrastructure and services — such as utilities, public safety and road maintenance — than it does in the inner city. Several council members believe people are moving out of Oklahoma City’s core because of better school options farther out and in nearby cities.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

High fuel prices could cause roadblock to state’s economic recovery

Continued high fuel prices could put the brakes on Oklahoma’s slow but steady economic recovery, state Treasurer Ken Miller warned Tuesday. “If gas prices continue to stay high or go even higher as one might expect in the summer months, then that’s got to have an effect on consumption and our sales tax collections,” Miller said. “You can’t get blood out of a turnip and there’s only so much disposable income that families are going to have. So far, the higher gasoline prices, which averaged $3.85 per gallon in April in the state or about $1 more than a year ago, have not slowed down the state’s economic recovery, he said. But gasoline taxes in April showed a slight decline compared with the same month a year ago.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

With consolidation approved, Tulsa Public Schools works on redrawing boundaries

The superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, Dr. Keith Ballard, is moving full steam ahead with his plan to consolidate the district. The next step is redrawing the school boundaries and implementing the plan. News on Six Education Reporter Ashli Sims obtained a draft of the implementation plan. It’s a 45-page plan taking the district from closing schools to implementing new programs. Many folks feel like the devil may be in the details or more precisely between the boundary lines. The district says about 5,100 students will have to go to a new school next year because their neighborhood school was closed. Another 1,900 will go to a new school because of a boundary change.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

See also: Supporters say doomed elementary school is the heart of small, tight-knit Turley from Urban Tulsa Weekly

202 public school superintendents paid more than $100,000 a year

A CapitolBeatOK examination of public school data has found a total of 202 public school superintendents who are paid more than $100,000 a year. Of that group, 22 make more than $147,000, the salary of Oklahoma’s governor. The information was gathered by state officials for state Rep. David Dank, an Oklahoma City Republican, who provided the information to CapitolBeatOK. The highest pay among the 22 best-paid superintendents goes to Kirby Lehman of Jenks, earning total compensation of $266,917 this year for supervising a district of 10,371 students. Lehman has 530 certified staff, with a student/staff ratio of 19.6-1. The cost per student for his salary is $25.74. On a per student basis, the best-compensated superintendent among the top 22 was Gloria Griffin of Millwood, making $155.67 per student in her charge. Griffin had total compensation of $170,149, with a student enrollment of 1,093.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Change Oklahoma’s liquor laws: No easy task (force)

Oklahoma lawmakers are expected to approve legislation this session that could, potentially, lead to the most significant changes in the state’s liquor laws since liquor-by-the-drink was approved in the mid-1980s. SB 658 would create, for now, a simple legislative task force, but, ultimately, could create a path to expanded liquor sales — specifically, the sale of wine and ‘strong’ beer in grocery stores and convenience stores. The joint legislative task force will be comprised of 21 people. Six of the spots will be held by lawmakers, with the remaining 15 appointed to various stakeholders. Of those, only a handful — the chamber of commerce, a citizens group, and local wine-growers — would appear to be strong proponents of change. Opponents of change — or at least those wary of it — would seem to have the upper hand. Wholesalers, retailers, the ABLE Commission, and Department of Mental Health, to name a few, would prefer that the state not suddenly have an additional 2-thousand alcoholic beverage outlets.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Will state Senate stand in the way of a truly open conference committee process?

It was a smart move by Speaker Kris Steele when he got the House to pass a rule opening up House conference committee meetings. But the next few weeks will demonstrate how well the new openness works. The Senate has not passed such a rule calling for openness in conference committee meetings. Therefore, the public will not be privy to what happens when bills go to Senate conference committees. A joint conference committee has both House and Senate members who need to approve a measure before it goes to the full House and Senate. So how will they do this? How can the House meet in the open and the Senate not abide by the same rule? It appears the result will be that only half the process will be open to the public, that is the activity on the House side.

Read more from the FOI Oklahoma blog at

When lawmakers sign a pledge, who are they working for?

When we elect someone to public office, should we expect them to use their best judgment in making decisions about the public interest? Or should they adhere to the dictates of outside groups that always take the most simplistic and extreme stance on their particular issue, regardless of the context for Oklahomans? And when politicians sign a pledge sponsored by a special interest, should that give the interest veto power over the legislators’ judgment? A couple of recent events have put these questions into dramatic relief.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma House plans more work on immigration bill

A bill to give police in Oklahoma broader powers to crack down on illegal immigrants was approved in the House on Tuesday and sent to a conference committee where lawmakers will develop the final language. In its current form, the bill authorizes federally trained police officers to question people about their immigration status in certain circumstances, allows the seizure of vehicles used in human trafficking, and makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek employment. Republican Rep. George Faught, of Muskogee, said his bill will be overhauled in conference to focus exclusively on “public safety” implications of illegal immigration. He said the bill will include language to promote cooperation among law enforcement agencies and give officers a clearer understanding of the resources available to target illegal immigrants.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Previously: Where angels fear to tread: Oklahoma wades back into immigration debate from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma professor allegedly terminated for being transgender

An Assistant Professor of English, Humanities and Literature at Southeastern Oklahoma State University was allegedly denied tenure and terminated because of her gender identity. Despite being a highly accomplished scholar who was recommended for tenure and a promotion by her colleagues last year, Dr. Rachel Tudor will be terminated from the university effective May 31. She claims to have been dismissed from the Southeastern Oklahoma State University because she is transgender. Tudor recently received the Faculty Senate Recognition Award for Excellence in Scholarship. In an unprecedented move, McMillan issued a memo prohibiting Tudor from applying for tenure. After she filed a grievance with the Faculty Appellate Committee, they unanimously ruled that Tudor should be allowed to apply for tenure, but President Minks refused to honor their decision.

Read more from this Raw Story article at

Ted Streuli: Extremist statements bad for business

A panel of those charged with developing Oklahoma’s economy from Duncan to Oklahoma City to Owasso told a Leadership Oklahoma class that the biggest challenge they face is the abyss of political extremism. In other words, it’s darn hard to persuade a company to move operations to Oklahoma when our elected officials are the subjects of ridicule on national television. When state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, made her anti-gay views clear to members of the John Birch Society, it nearly killed negotiations with CSAA, which was ready to move 1,000 jobs here from California. The CEO, a lesbian, got the impression that Oklahoma might not be a very welcoming state.

Read more from this Journal Record editorial at

Quote of the Day

Until we provide better schools in the inner city, we’re going to continue to have this push out. If we can’t solve that problem, everything we do here is going to be like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound.

OKC Councilman Pat Ryan, on the difficulties Oklahoma City is facing with sprawling development threatening to increase the cost of basic city infrastructure and services above revenues.

Number of the Day


Average number of payday loan transactions per Oklahoma borrower during the month of June 2010.

Source: Oklahoma Department of Consumer Credit

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Health reform likely to expand role of nurses

As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, Diane Solomon counsels patients in therapy, prescribes medications and practices independently in her medical office in downtown Portland. “I’m completely autonomous,” she says. Oregon and Washington are among 16 states with liberal practice laws to allow licensed nurse practitioners to care for patients, order diagnostic tests and prescribe pharmaceuticals without a physician’s oversight. As the U.S. extends health coverage to 32 million people, so-called “advanced practice” nurses are likely to be key in areas of medicine with too few doctors, such as primary care, obstetrics, geriatrics and mental health.

Read more from The Oregonian 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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