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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today you should know that immigration experts are preparing for a surge of interest about President Obama’s decision to ease rules on the deportation of immigrants brought here as young children, but they are warning about misinformation when the specific rules haven’t been developed yet. The number of lawmakers coming back to the Legislature every year has returned to levels that existed before term limits. State Auditor Gary Jones plans to audit several state tax credit programs.
Oklahoma colleges and universities are seeking to improve the effectiveness of remediation courses. The Regents voted to approve tuition and fee increases ranging from 3 percent to 8 percent. The Associated Press spoke with some of the estimated 2,000 high school students who would otherwise have graduated last year but are still trying to pass end-of-instruction tests. See some sample questions from the tests here. The state of per pupil spending in Oklahoma was discussed on the okeducationtruths and Okie Funk blogs.
NewsOK examines the challenge to incumbent Republicans from Tea Partiers and social conservatives in tomorrow’s primary. Oklahoma Senate candidate Paul Blair filed a libel, defamation and false light lawsuit against his election opponent, Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, citing negative advertisements run by a political action committee. An appeals court temporarily blocked an EPA rule aimed at reducing air pollution emissions from three northeastern Oklahoma power plants.
NewsOK examined the state’s special review committee on child welfare, which was used as a model for the citizen advisory panels that would replace the DHS Commission if State Question 765 passes. Emergency rules regulating commercial pet breeders are ready to take effect July 1. Federal funding for Oklahoma tribes is helping road projects across the state. The Cherokee Nation and other tribes could receive millions more in reimbursements for money spent on federal programs due to a Supreme Court decision.
The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in premiums for family health coverage in Oklahoma between 2000 and 2009. In today’s Policy Note, The New Republic discusses the tens of millions of Americans without access to health care who could continue to be denied if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act.
In The News
Oklahoma immigration expert says misinformation abounds after Obama announcement
Immigration experts in Oklahoma are preparing for a surge of interest from people who want to take advantage of President Barack Obama’s decision to ease rules on the deportation of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as young children. But they warn the rules are far from set, and to be wary of anyone making promises. “There is literally so much misinformation and a lack of understanding out there,” said Richard Klinge, associate director of advocacy, outreach and legal services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. “The specific requirements haven’t been developed and no one should be saying otherwise.” So far, the government has released basic eligibility criteria: Undocumented immigrants must have been brought to the United States before age 16 and be no older than 30. They must have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have a clean criminal record, have graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or be military veterans in good standing. More details and an application process should be in place in the next 60 days.
Impact of term limits declines
The impact of term limits on the number of lawmakers returning to office every election cycle has passed, a Tulsa World analysis of 32 years of election returns shows. After a brief, dramatic decline in incumbent re-elections because of the landmark change in election law, the number of lawmakers coming back to the Legislature every year has returned to prelimit levels or higher. The biennial Oklahoma legislative election cycle renews itself Tuesday with the primary election. In anticipation of the election, the World analyzed contemporary election returns to get a better picture of how incumbent candidates have done historically and in recent years. Since 1980, incumbents have lost re-election bids 8.4 percent of the time. In the four most recent election cycles, the incumbent defeat rate was 6 percent. Meanwhile, the analysis shows term limits no longer seem to have any overall effect on the number of veteran legislators coming back to the Capitol.
State auditor plans to examine tax credit program
State Auditor Gary Jones announced Thursday he plans to audit several state tax credit programs, including one that financed an Altus aerospace project that failed to get off the ground and took a bank down with it. Jones said the goal of the audits will be to determine whether there has been compliance with legislative and Oklahoma Tax Commission program requirements and whether the economic benefits to the state justify the loss of potential tax revenue. “The Tax Credit Task Force identified numerous areas of concerns as a result of its lengthy review of all of Oklahoma’s various tax credit programs,” Jones said. “Among the recommendations submitted to the Legislature was the need for these tax credits to be audited by the state auditor to ensure compliance with statutory requirements granting the credits.”
Oklahoma higher education addresses effectiveness of remediation courses
Groups of students hover around desks in an Oklahoma City Community College classroom, conferring with each other about the math problems on the worksheets in front of them. Lauren McKenzie, Bhavini Patel and Tripp Robertson work together in a math class at Oklahoma City Community College. Today, the lesson is on factoring equations. Instructors walk from one group to another, talking to each about multiples, products and greatest common factors. Strictly speaking, this isn’t a college-level math class. Credit won’t count toward students’ degrees, and their GPAs won’t reflect how they did. But experts say courses like this one — and how they’re conducted — are a critical factor in whether a student graduates with a degree or leaves college empty-handed.
Regents approve 3 to 8 percent tuition and fee increases
Regents approved increases in college tuition and fees Thursday, ranging from about 3 percent to 8 percent, prompting criticism from some student leaders. The University of Central Oklahoma topped the list with a 7.9-percent increase for undergraduate tuition and fees, taking the total cost for 30 hours from $4,717.50 to $5,091. The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University had the smallest percentage tuition increases. OU’s tuition and fees will increase by 3 percent, while OSU’s will rise by 2.8 percent. Joe Sangirardi, president of University of Oklahoma Student Association, said he was frustrated that higher education isn’t a greater priority when it comes time for the Oklahoma Legislature to pass a budget. The amount of money allocated to higher education is a direct reflection of the value the state places on it, he said.
Failing Oklahoma students try again for diploma
Graduation gowns and mortar boards have long been packed away, but the high school experience continues for hundreds of Oklahoma teenagers unable to prove they have learned enough to earn a diploma. Unless they want to re-enroll for another senior year or do without a diploma, an estimated 2,000 students have until July 27 to pass end-of-instruction tests in algebra I, English II and two tests from among algebra II, biology, English III, geometry and U.S. history. If they don’t pass and don’t want to go back to high school, they can still enroll in some colleges but they will not be able to take out federally backed student loans or enter the military. “I’m like, shaking. I don’t know what to do. I need help. That’s why I came here, to do this, to get my diploma, pass the test,” said Rodney Bryant, who had to turn down a financial aid package from Oklahoma State after his senior year at Centennial Mid-High School in Oklahoma City. Bryant, 19, is attending a school district-sponsored “boot camp” in which about 150 students attend group tutorial sessions in an effort to help them pass.
okeducationtruths: Per pupil spending
Not wanting to break form, the Oklahoman and Oklahoma State Department of Education are again showing that they just don’t understand public education. An article in the paper this morning highlights the fact that Oklahoma spent more than only three states per student in 2010. The map below shows state-by-state spending more clearly. In the article, SDE spokesman Damon Gardenhire glibly states, “If you look at academic results, per-pupil spending doesn’t necessarily correlate to good academic results…Most people would agree Washington, D.C., is … very challenged academically.” Referencing D.C. schools makes for a nice distraction, but it isn’t relevant to Oklahoma, for a number of reasons. While only slightly larger than OKC and Tulsa Public, the political and socio-economic structure of the population served is altogether different. It bears repeating that the legislature and SDE are implementing more reforms at one time than public education in this state has ever seen. It also bears repeating that schools have to do more, for more students, and more poor students than ever before – but with less money.
See also: Oklahoma school funding dilemma from Okie Funk
Social conservatives, Tea Party challenge GOP incumbents
Continuing efforts by House Republicans to focus on job growth and issues intended to improve the state’s business climate could be sidetracked if several social conservatives defeat incumbent GOP members in Tuesday’s primary elections, political observers said. The defeat of six House Republicans by social conservative challengers who are mostly opposed to bond issues and keeping caps in lawsuit damage awards could put The State Chamber and other pro-business groups in the awkward position of supporting Democrats in the Nov. 6 general elections, said Pat Hall, a political consultant for Democratic candidates and a former executive director of the state Democratic Party. “We’ll look like Kansas, where there are two Republican parties,” he said. The Sooner Tea Party is supporting candidates who are seeking to unseat six House Republicans — Liebmann, Cooksey and Reps. Todd Thomsen, of Ada, Don Armes, of Faxon, Glen Mulready, of Tulsa, and Elise Hall, of Oklahoma City.
Election opponent sues Oklahoma State Sen. Clark Jolley
Oklahoma Senate District 41 candidate Paul Blair filed a libel, defamation and false light lawsuit Thursday against his election opponent, Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, claiming advertisements run by a political action committee were aired with “reckless disregard for the truth and a malicious intent to injure.” The radio and television ads state that Blair violated state tax laws, and they continued to run even after Blair called for them to be taken off the air. Blair said in his lawsuit that the ads are intentionally misleading and are not truthful. Voters in Edmond go to the polls Tuesday to decide between Blair, an evangelist and former professional football player, and Jolley, a two-term incumbent who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The ads in question are not being paid for by Jolley’s campaign, but rather a political action committee known as the Coalition for Oklahoma’s Future Inc., also a defendant in the lawsuit.
OG&E, state win delay on EPA power plant rule
An appeals court on Friday temporarily blocked an Environmental Protection Agency rule aimed at reducing air pollution emissions from three northeastern Oklahoma power plants. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay requested by Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. The stay had been opposed by the EPA and the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, which contended that a delay of the rule would cause premature deaths from pollutants. The coal-fired plants are operated by OG&E, near Pawnee and Muskogee, and by American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, near Oologah. The plants are responsible for more than one-third of the sulfur-dioxide pollution from all industrial and utility sources in the state, according to the EPA.
Panel studies Oklahoma child abuse, deaths
Twenty-one Oklahomans get together for eight hours once a month to understand why children are dying from abuse and neglect in the state. Each has a different perspective, experience and expertise in the development, education, health and safety of children. Each has been frustrated by public apathy, inaction and missteps by agencies and officials in child abuse and neglect cases. But it’s different now, they say, pointing to pending reforms in the state’s child-welfare system and involvement by elected and appointed leaders. The panel is the model lawmakers used when crafting DHS governance-reform measures, which include asking voters in November to abolish the oversight commission. If State Question 765 passes, a director hired by the governor with Senate approval would lead DHS, and four citizen advisory panels would be created to make recommendations to the director.
Gov. Fallin signs emergency pet breeder rules
Rules regulating commercial pet breeders are ready to take effect July 1. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the emergency rules Thursday night. The rules set regulations, fees, procedures and guidelines for the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department to oversee commercial pet breeders. Lawmakers this year approved legislation that eliminated the Oklahoma Board of Commercial Pet Breeders and transferred regulation and licensing of kennels to the Agriculture Department. Rules adopted by the pet breeders’ board expire June 30. The Board of Agriculture approved the emergency rules this week a couple hours after holding a public hearing. As under existing rules, only pet breeders with 11 or more breeding females are subject to state regulation. An unspayed female at least 9 months old is considered a breeding female. The board lowered proposed licensing fees and eliminated a requirement that veterinarians must conduct annual physical examinations at dog and cat kennels.
Oklahoma tribes’ funding helps road projects across state
Often seen only for flashy casinos, Oklahoma tribes have intricate governments that do construction work with local, county and state agencies, contributing millions every year to public roads in the state. Oklahoma tribes, 44 in total, received almost $67 million in 2011 through a multi-agency federal agreement that administers road funding to all tribes in the U.S., according to U.S. Department of Transportation reports. The Indian Reservation Roads Program provides funds for the planning, designing, construction and maintenance of roads on Indian reservations, trust land, restricted Indian land and Alaska native villages, according to information on the Bureau of Indian Affairs website. In Oklahoma, many of those areas are shared, and non-Indian Oklahomans benefit from the upkeep and construction of those roadways.
Cherokee Nation could receive millions via Supreme Court ruling
The Cherokee Nation could get back approximately $40 million thanks to a June 18 U.S. Supreme Court ruling calling for the federal government to fully reimburse Native American tribes for monies spent on their respective federal programs. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter that the federal government did not honor its contractual promises to tribes and provided insufficient funding for contracts and contract support costs from self-governance agreements. The federal government had initially agreed to fully fund those contracts, but Congress placed a cap on the money earmarked for payments. The Ramah Navajo Chapter sued the Department of Interior and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver initially ruled the money must be fully reimbursed. The government appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled the Ramah Navajo Chapter and other Native American tribes must get their money back.
Quote of the Day
We have kids living in fear. One minute a kid is getting ready for graduation and the next they’re in general population at the jail awaiting deportation because of a broken headlight. We have to get these kids on to higher education and on to careers.
-Chris Brewster, superintendent of Santa Fe South charter schools, where educators estimate up to 25 percent of high school students are undocumented.
Number of the Day
Percentage increase in premiums for family health coverage in Oklahoma between 2000 and 2009
Real people, real problems: The stakes of the Obamacare lawsuit
Do you care how the Supreme Court rules on health care reform this week? I don’t mean in the political sense. I mean in the personal sense—because the law’s fate is a very personal matter for many millions of Americans. They’re the Americans who have diabetes and Crohn’s disease, cancer and hay fever. They’re the Americans who don’t have access to health benefits and the Americans who have access to health benefits but can’t afford to pay for them. There are a lot of these people, more perhaps than you realize—at least tens of millions and perhaps more than a hundred million, depending on how you want to define the categories. If by now you’re thinking, gee, maybe I could end up becoming one of those people, you’re right. Death and taxes aren’t the only certain things in life. Accident, illness, and injury are too. They’ve plunged the lives of plenty of Americans, even those who thought they had good insurance, into financial and physical chaos. The Affordable Care Act won’t help all of these people. But it will help an awful lot of them. In fact, it’s already starting to make a difference.
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.