In The Know: May 6, 2011

In 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.

Oklahoma tops a list of states in terms of its residents’ charitable giving.  The city of Norman was named a “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists after re-striping and expanding bike lanes.  Residents and officials in northeastern Oklahoma debate the effect of proposed wind farms on Osage county’s prairie chicken population.

A comprehensive corrections reform bill designed to relieve prison-overcrowding heads to the governor for signature.  OK Policy reported this week on how draft legislation to set up the state’s insurance exchange, SB 971, falls short of the standards of the federal health-care law.  The Tulsa World reported today that SB 971 faces criticism from both sides of the isle.

A new law expands requirements for municipal and county candidates to file campaign finance records with the Ethics Commission.  Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett vetoed a waiver of attorney-client privilege relating to an ouster petition against him.  A bill authorizing tax credits for contributions to private school scholarships, touted as an effort to increase opportunities for low-income children, could benefit wealthy families.

In today’s policy note, a new report outlines the persistence of America’s racial wealth gap, disparities in assets and ownership between communities of color and whites.

Read on for more

In The News

Oklahoma’s reputation for charitable giving grows

In last week’s issue that detailed “America: By the Numbers,” one of the categories was charitable giving. At the top of the list was Oklahoma, whose residents gave on average nearly $1,600 to charity in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available. Oklahoma’s ranking in Parade originally came from an organization called the Bundle Report. Its website has a breakdown of a similar measurement that also puts Oklahoma as No. 1 nationally in charitable giving. “I never would have guessed that in a million years,” said the person who wrote the accompanying report for Bundle.

Read more from the Oklahoman at

Norman named ‘bicycle friendly’ city

The city of Norman recently was named a “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists. The League of American Bicyclists announced the award earlier in the week to kick off Bike Month in Norman. In order to become a Bicycle Friendly Community, Norman recently updated the Norman Bike Plan to include both restriping and adding to the old bike lanes in various parts of the city. The city also recently passed a bicycle parking ordinance for all new construction projects.

Read more from The Norman Transcript at

Wind farms: Plan one, then plan on hearing complaints

A debate in northeastern Oklahoma over two proposed wind farms has a familiar ring to it: Green energy is just fine, unless it isn’t.  Officials with the preserve fear that the wind farms planned for nearby private property will affect the habitat, and thus the population, of the greater prairie chicken. Hamilton says his staff isn’t trying to be obstructionists, but that “wind blows in many areas.” “Let’s just prioritize the areas that we are going to develop,” he said. “Let’s be smart about it, make sure that it is truly green.”

Read more from the Oklahoman at

Corrections Reform Goes to Governor

Landmark corrections legislation designed to relieve widespread fiscal and social strains caused by Oklahoma’s nation-leading incarceration rates is headed to the governor.  House Bill 2131, by House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, makes a series of responsible reforms to sentencing and parole policies in effort to ease problems related to overcrowding in the state prison system.  “The current incarceration trend places a strain on the state budget, stretches the prison system too thin and harms communities,” Steele said. “The ripple effect is staggering, but this measure is a step in the right direction.”

Read more from the Pauls Valley Democrat at

Oklahoma health insurance exchange draws fire

The latest legislative attempt to create a state health insurance exchange is drawing criticism from the left and the right.  Senate Bill 971 would create a state exchange along the lines of an agreement worked out by Gov. Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and House Speaker Kris Steele – the three most powerful Republicans in state government – after two previous legislative attempts at exchanges fell apart politically.  Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, a member of the conservative bloc that successfully fought the previous plans, said any legislation that sets up a state exchange would be the means of imposing “Obamacare” on the state.

Read more from the Tulsa World at and from OK Policy Blog at http://short-changed-on-a-health-exchange/

New Law Extends Campaign Finance Reporting

Learning the identities of municipal and county campaign donors is easier now with the signing of House Bill 1776 into law.  The bill, by Rep. Sean Roberts, requires major candidates to file a campaign contributions and expenditures report electronically with the Ethics Commission, and requires the report to be posted online.  The legislation applies to all candidates for state office, candidates for municipal office in towns with populations greater than 250,000, and candidates for county office in counties with over 250,000 citizens.

Read more from the McCarville Report at

Bartlett vetoes waiver of attorney-client privilege

Mayor Dewey Bartlett vetoed a City Council resolution Thursday that waived attorney-client privilege in certain matters regarding an ouster petition against him. Last month, Councilor John Eagleton mailed Attorney General Scott Pruitt signatures and backup materials that were, in Eagleton’s opinion, sufficient to trigger a probe.  One of the 11 allegations the councilor has made against Bartlett is that the mayor solicited people to file lawsuits against the city and assisted them in doing so.

Read more from this Tulsa World at

Proposed tax credit in Oklahoma for private school scholarships could go to wealthy

A proposed tax credit, touted as an opportunity for low-income children to attend a private school of their choice on a scholarship, would be available to any middle-class family in Oklahoma and many wealthy families as well.  Even if the law were based on the income level to qualify for free meals, $28,665 for a family of four, it still would allow a family with an annual income of $85,995 to qualify for the scholarship.  The median household income in Oklahoma, according to 2009 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau is $41,664.

Read more from the Oklahoman at

Quote of the Day

“This is a ruse for the upper-middle class to subsidize kids in private schools,”

Senator Jim Wilson, on SB 969 to provide tax credits for donations to private school scholarships

Number of the Day

$30 million

The cost of transitioning from a paper-based to an electronic case management system for the state’s courts.

Source: The Tulsa World

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Disparities in Assets and Ownership: Limitations to the American Dream in Communities of Color

A new report from the Illinois Asset Building Group outlines the persistence of America’s racial wealth gap, disparities in assets and ownership between communities of color and whites. There are significant disparities in assets and ownership between communities of color and whites. This racial wealth gap, as it is called, illustrates a troubling problem in Illinois. Although this inequality is far from new, the systematic roots of the disparity have yet to be widely discussed and addressed through research, public policy and programming. Addressing the racial wealth gap reveals how best to secure access to the American dream for all.

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