In The Know: Mullin, Wallace win runoffs to succeed Rep. Dan Boren

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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Republican Markwayne Mullin and Democrat Rob Wallace won primary runoff races and will compete to succeed U.S. Rep. Dan Boren in the November general election. Shawnee and Tulsa have new Senators after Ron Sharp and Nathan Dahm won Republican primary races in districts with no Democratic or independent candidates challenging for the seat. Rep. Joe Dorman says he plans to file legislation to allow all registered voters to vote in primaries when there is no general election, due to only one candidiate from one party filing for office.

Norman Superintendent Joe Siano wrote an op-ed to defend schools’ use of carry-over funds criticized by Rep. Jason Nelson. NewsOK writes that ACT scores show critical weaknesses in the science and math foundation of Oklahoma students. StateImpact Oklahoma collected stories from Oklahoma’s volunteer firefighters battling wildfire throughout the state. The OK Policy Blog proposes some regulations for Oklahoma to eliminate.

Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing spoke out against the Vision2 sales tax proposal, saying it was taking advantage of the potential loss of aviation industry jobs to fund a wide range of unrelated projects without sufficient public discussion. Twenty-four Oklahoma hospitals will stop sending baby formula home with new moms in order to encourage breastfeeding. Reuters reports that the weekly rig count data provided by oil service firms, often relied on by energy investors as an important indicator of future production, is highly unreliable.

The Number of the Day is how many years since Oklahoma has adjusted the gasoline tax for inflation. In today’s Policy Note, The Washington reports that out of 512 surveyed companies employing more than 1,000 workers each, none plan to stop providing health insurance when the Affordable Care Act fully goes into effect.

In The News

Mullin, Wallace cruise to victory in Oklahoma 2nd Congressional District runoff races

Republican Markwayne Mullin, of Westville, and Democrat Rob Wallace, of Fort Gibson, cruised to victories in Tuesday’s party runoff races and will compete to succeed U.S. Rep. Dan Boren in the November general election. Mullin, a plumbing company owner, defeated state Rep. George Faught, of Muskogee, by a vote of 12,046 (56.8 percent) to 9,159 (43.2 percent) to win the Republican runoff election. Meanwhile, Wallace, a former state and federal prosecutor, defeated Wayne Herriman, a Muskogee seed company owner, by a vote of 25,073 (57 percent) to 18,901 (43 percent) to win the Democratic runoff election.

Read more from NewsOK.

Republicans add two seats in Oklahoma Senate

Shawnee and Tulsa have new Senators after Ron Sharp, a retired Shawnee High School teacher, and Nathan Dahm, a former missionary, won Tuesday runoff elections. Because neither race drew candidates from the Democratic or independent parties, the Republicans fortified their stronghold Tuesday night in the Senate by two seats leading up to the November general election that will determine victors in 13 other seats. Sharp, 60, defeated fellow Republican Ed Moore, a Baptist minister from Shawnee, in a very close runoff election for Senate District 17, which is in parts of Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties. Republicans also gained a seat in the Tulsa Senate race where incumbent Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, didn’t seek re-election following redistricting. Voters selected Dahm for the seat.

Read more from NewsOK.

Dorman pushes for open primaries

Representative Joe Dorman of Rush Springs says he plans to file legislation in 2013 to allow all registered voters to vote in primaries when there is no general election, due to only one candidiate from one party filing for office. Dorman says this year, 15 state-level candidates were selected in a primary with no general election. “If only people running in one political party file for one office, I want to allow that opportunity to vote to be opened up to all registered voters within that area,” Dorman told KTOK. Dorman says he believes there’s no valid reason why all voters should not be allowed to help select an elected official. “I’m going to fight tooth and nail to make sure this gets out of committee,” Dorman said. ” I think there will be a lot of elected officials who will agree with me that the citizens should have the right to say who represents them.”

Read more from KTOK.

Norman shools superintendent: Carry-over funds help schools provide stability of services

Norman Public Schools’ carry-over funds represent approximately one month of the district’s operational expenses. That’s one month’s worth of salaries, utilities, fuel, meal costs, etc. Statewide, it may all add up to a headline-grabbing number, but it’s still a fraction of an entire year’s budget. Carry-over is highest at the beginning of the year and the balances are limited by law. Often, a large percentage of carry-over is committed for expenses for which districts are expecting invoices. By the end of this school year, Norman’s carry-over will be less than one month’s operational expenses because state funding has again unexpectantly been reduced.

Read more from NewsOK.

NewsOK: Academic foundation of Oklahoma students in need of repair

FOR more than a decade, the annual release of scores on the ACT exam has been promptly followed by calls for a more rigorous curriculum. Specifically, this newspaper and many policymakers have called for a four-year math requirement for all Oklahoma high school students. The call was echoed again last week with yet another year of results showing Oklahoma students still lag the nation in math achievement based on ACT results. Science is getting renewed attention, too, because that was the area where Oklahoma students appear to be lagging the most based on the scores. … The report references an earlier finding that student achievement by eighth grade “has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate high school than anything that happens academically in high school.” While high school graduation requirements and the rigor of high school courses are important factors, so too is the academic foundation of students entering high school. The foundation, it appears, has some critical weaknesses.

Read more from NewsOK.

Burned Out: In the field with overworked and unpaid Oklahoma firefighters

Oklahoma has more than 4,000 paid, professional firefighters at departments throughout the state, data from the state Firefighters Pension and Retirement System show. But its unpaid firefighting force is more than three times that size. “Volunteering right now is a full-time job,” says Maj. David Thompson, safety officer for the Slaughterville Fire Department. “And it’s wearing us down.” Men and women from Slaughterville’s department teamed up with other nearby departments — including teams from Little Axe and Cedar County — to battle a “firestorm” that erupted Friday, Aug. 3. Fires ravaged more than 8,900 acres in Cleveland County and destroyed 141 homes. Statewide, wildfires have destroyed 603 homes and torched 110,000 acres since late July, state emergency management officials say.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Summer Re-Run: When “business-friendly” regulations are bad for the rest of us

Yesterday, an Oklahoman editorial made the case that many of Oklahoma’s job licensing requirement are unnecessary and harmful to consumers. We made a similar argument in this blog post, originally published in February 2011. One theme of Gov. Fallin’s State of the State speech was that we should eliminate regulations to make the state more business-friendly. A common refrain from members of the business community is that environmental and safety regulations are too onerous. But even from free-market advocates, we hear much less about the regulations that protect existing businesses from competition. A case in point – the Wall Street Journal reports on the growing number of jobs that require state licenses.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Councilor: Vision2 is poorly conceived

Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing spoke out against the Vision2 package Tuesday, saying the proposal was taking advantage of the potential loss of aviation industry jobs to fund a wide range of unrelated projects without sufficient public discussion. Ewing is the first Tulsa City Council member to speak out against the proposal, which goes before voters Nov. 6. The $748.8 million initiative would extend the 0.6 percent Vision 2025 sales tax rate through 2029. Separate proposals would direct money to economic development improvements on key industrial sites at Tulsa International Airport and a closing fund and to quality-of-life improvements selected by Tulsa County and each of its cities.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma hospitals ‘ban the bag’ to encourage breastfeeding

Twenty-four Oklahoma hospitals will stop sending baby formula home with new moms. It’s part of a pilot program called “Ban the Bag.” The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) said as part of the program, participating hospitals have agreed to stop sending new mothers home with commercial formula discharge bags. “Oklahoma hospitals are working hard to encourage breastfeeding and provide quality care to breastfeeding families by joining the Ban the Bag project,” said Becky Mannel, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and the project leader. “Breastfeeding support is an important strategy toward improving the health of Oklahoma mothers and their children.” According to the OSDH, the free infant formula samples hospitals send home with new mothers has been known to reduce breastfeeding rates. In addition, it says new mothers who have any problems with breastfeeding are more likely to turn to the “free” formula given to them by their hospital than to call someone for help.

Read more from News9.

Widely eyed US energy data providing false readings

Energy investors have taken bets for years on what they thought was an important indicator of future energy production: the weekly rig count data provided by oil service firms. They may want to be careful about how much money they put on the table. A Reuters analysis of the data, and interviews with officials at companies involved in collecting and compiling it, shows that it may sometimes be an arbitrary and misleading gauge subject to revisions. The culprit appears to be the fracking boom and the complex geology that has made it much more difficult to decide whether a rig is likely to discover oil or gas in large quantities, often leading companies to rely on guesswork when drilling begins. At stake is not only the direction of U.S. natural gas prices, but the credibility of U.S. energy companies desperate to show investors that they are drilling for more oil — which is near $100 a barrel — and less gas, the price of which remains depressed at near a decade low.

Read more from Reuters.

Quote of the Day

The state Rainy Day Fund totals $556 million, yet public schools function at 2008 funding levels and with several thousand more students. It seems disingenuous for state leaders to favor a robust state reserve account and then criticize schools for maintaining a reserve for the same purpose, which is to provide stability of services when funding fails to meet basic obligations.

Norman Schools Superintendent Joe Siano, responding to Rep. Jason Nelson’s claim that schools aren’t suffering financial hardship because they have carryover balances from the previous year

Number of the Day


Number of years since Oklahoma has adjusted the gasoline tax for inflation

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Zero out of 512 employers plan to drop health insurance

Employers are getting closer and closer to making a very big decision: whether to continue providing health insurance to workers after the Affordable Care Act’s coverage subsidies come online. Health insurance is expensive, costing employers $15,073 on average to cover one worker and the employee’s family. If companies with more than 50 workers stopped offering coverage, they would face a fine that is significantly smaller than that cost, at $2,000 per employee. Which makes this Towers-Watson survey all the more surprising: The consulting firm polled 512 companies that employed more than 1,000 workers each. These are companies that spend at least $5 million in health benefits annually. They were asked how likely it was that they would drop coverage in 2014 and send employers to the new health care exchanges being created to accommodate the law. Not a single employer said that scenario was “very likely.” A mere 3 percent ranked it “somewhat likely.” The vast majority — 77 percent said — it was “not likely” that they would stop offering health insurance.

Read more from The Washington Post.

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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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