In The Know: Ohio AG investigating Chesapeake Energy business practices

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 you should know that Ohio’s attorney general is investigating the business practices of Chesapeake Energy. A Downtown on the Range offers a defense of Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon. The Department of Agriculture will soon have a set of rules  in place for pet breeders that are similar to the rules of the now defunct Commercial Pet Breeder Board. The OK Policy Blog shows that despite a strong statewide unemployment rate, joblessness in some eastern Oklahoma counties remains very high.

The battle over a program that uses public education funds to help send special-needs children to private schools is going to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. NewsOK writes that a bill to create an online charter school and provide $30 million to schools for textbooks may be an unconstitutional combination of multiple subjects. Oklahoma’s four-year colleges and universities got high marks for efficiency and cost-effectiveness in a national report, but two year colleges didn’t fare as well. See here all of the report’s findings on Oklahoma higher education.

Oklahoma Policy Institute announced that Linda Edmondson, a social worker and community volunteer, has joined its Board of Directors. Urban Tulsa Weekly examines the complicated issues surrounding a mother charged with criminal neglect after her son tested positive for cocaine at birth. Okie Funk discusses what the state could lose if an Affirmative Action ban passes in November.

The Number of the Day is the percentage growth of Oklahoma’s labor force, those who are employed or unemployed and actively looking for work, since Dec. 2007. In today’s Policy Note, Governing examines the Affordable Care Act Prevention Fund that is putting billions of dollars into federal, state and local public health initiatives.

In The News

Ohio AG investigating Chesapeake Energy business practices

Ohio’s attorney general announced Tuesday he is investigating the business practices of Chesapeake Energy Corp., the same day the company said it plans to lay off 70 people in Texas. Mike DeWine’s office in Columbus has launched a preliminary review of “unfolding disclosures” about activities by the Oklahoma City-based company and its CEO, Aubrey McClendon. DeWine’s letter said if Chesapeake is shown to have manipulated core corporate activities to benefit McClendon’s personal interests, shareholders in the company, including Ohio’s retirement systems, may have suffered losses. His office is reviewing retirement system trading data to identify any losses attributable to Chesapeake.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: A defense of Aubrey McClendon from A Downtown on the Range

OK Department of Agriculture puts emergency rules in place for pet breeders

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture is deciding what to do with commercial pet breeders. In a controversial move, the legislature this year moved regulation of the industry from the Pet Breeders Board to the state agency. The Legislature gave the department more responsibilities but no more funding. Which some argued weakened the current law. The department has to have an emergency set of rules in place by July 1st. So Tuesday it held a public hearing with breeders, like Linda Roach, on the proposed rules. Linda says the new rules are essentially the same as when the Commercial Pet Breeder Board was regulating them.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Oklahoma’s long-term unemployed: Drowning in a sea of prosperity

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate continued on a descent to 4.8 percent in May, placing the state’s jobless rate 5th lowest in the nation. This new number implies an increase in overall economic security as Oklahoma moves toward near full employment levels. However, for some in the state, the news is more mixed. Federal unemployment benefits are tied to state unemployment numbers and Oklahoma will soon become ineligible for millions of dollars in support for the long-term unemployed. Among job seekers in parts of the state with persistently high unemployment, particularly in Eastern Oklahoma, occupational prospects remain limited and looming cuts in benefits are likely to be painful.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Fight over private school vouchers moves to Oklahoma Supreme Court

The battle over an Oklahoma scholarship program that uses public education funds to help send special-needs children to private schools has now moved into the arena of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. On Friday, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., filed a brief with the court on behalf of the parents of five special-needs students who accepted the scholarships. Union and Jenks school districts have until June 29 to file responses. Last September, Union and Jenks school districts countersued the parents of six special-needs children to challenge the constitutionality of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act signed into law two years ago. Since the state Legislature passed the law, Tulsa-area school administrators and public school advocates have denounced the use of state education funds for private schools, particularly those affiliated with a religion.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

NewsOK: Virtual charter school bill may be unconstitutional

In recent years, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has struck down several laws for violating a constitutional prohibition on placing multiple subjects into a single bill, a practice known as “logrolling.” The idea is simple: If your bill is unpopular, plug in an unrelated popular idea so legislators will be less likely to vote against the original measure. The latest apparent example comes via Senate Bill 1816, by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa. SB 1816, approved in the recently completed session, creates a single statewide virtual charter school. Online education providers opposed the single-charter plan, seeing it as a choke point for virtual education. Instead of revising the bill to address those concerns, lawmakers came up with another idea — add a provision regarding the “textbook” fund for public schools. In the final version of SB 1816, the first seven sections dealt with virtual education, and then the eighth suddenly designated $30 million for the textbook fund.

Read more from NewsOK.

National report praised Oklahoma’s four-year colleges for efficiency but says 2-year schools lag

Oklahoma’s four-year colleges and universities got high marks for efficiency and cost-effectiveness in a national report released Tuesday. But two-year colleges in the state didn’t fare as well, lagging behind similar institutions in nearby states. The report, “Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education,” comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce. Oklahoma’s four-year schools received a B for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The report noted the average cost of completion at Oklahoma’s four-year schools is $57,201, placing Oklahoma in the top 10 nationally.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: The full report on Oklahoma from the Institute for a Competitive Workforce

Linda Edmondson joins OK Policy board

Oklahoma Policy Institute has announced that Linda Edmondson, a social worker and community volunteer, has joined its Board of Directors. Edmondson, a resident of Oklahoma City, serves on numerous community boards including the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma, the Governor’s Hospice Advisory Board, the Oklahoma Hospice Foundation, the State Capitol Preservation Commission, and the Center for Poets and Writers at OSU Tulsa. “I am delighted to be joining the Board of Oklahoma Policy Institute,” Edmondson stated. “OK Policy has become known for serving a vital role in this state providing unbiased facts and analysis to policy-makers and the public. I hope to contribute to its efforts to provide adequate funding for public services and increased opportunities for Oklahomans.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Charges against Oklahoma mother for exposing fetus to drugs raises questions beyond simple guilt or innocence

Daiquiri Miller, 34, delivered a baby boy on March 31. Both mother and son tested positive for cocaine, according to a police affidavit. It wasn’t the first such test for Miller. The affidavit lists nine other positive tests recorded during two earlier pregnancies. Her drug use while recently pregnant is seemingly beyond dispute. Much less clear, however, is how the child neglect criminal case against Miller may test Oklahoma law or even spark up debate about personhood, the concept that a fetus is best thought of as an unborn child with certain legal protections. The case also spotlights the difficulty in addressing — or even assessing — the public health issue of babies born exposed to drugs. Tulsa County District Attorney The group National Advocates for Pregnant Women has fought similar prosecutions elsewhere, claiming such cases violate reproductive rights. “The prosecution includes, as an element of the crime, going to term with the pregnancy,” said Lynn Paltrow, the group’s executive director.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Limiting opportunities

A state question that will appear on the ballot in November will effectively end affirmative action in Oklahoma government, consequently furthering institutionalized discrimination in the state. SQ 759, which would amend the constitution, is a bad, needless measure that ignores the recent history of people being denied opportunity because of race or gender. It presumes discrimination no longer exists and that people now have equal opportunity, which is simply not true. The ACLU of Oklahoma is opposing the measure. One point it makes is that the measure could affect programs for a wide group of people. According to the state’s ACLU’s web site: “SQ 759 threatens . . . a range of targeted programs that most voters may not associate with ‘discrimination’ and ‘preferences’ at all: science and technology programs for girls, higher education funding for minority health professionals, review systems designed to monitor and address discrimination, domestic violence programs, breast cancer screenings, and much more.”

Read more from Okie Funk.

Quote of the Day

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.
-Constitution of the State of Oklahoma; Article II, Section 5. The Oklahoma Supreme Court is set to decide whether this section prohibits the use of public funds to send special-needs children to private schools, including religious schools.

Number of the Day

3.2 percent

Percentage growth of Oklahoma’s labor force, those who are employed or unemployed and actively looking for work, since Dec. 2007; the working age population grew 6 percent during that same period.

Source: Economic Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

ACA Prevention Fund at Work in State and Local Public Health

A mere 3 percent of U.S. health-care spending is invested in preventing health problems, although 75 percent of the nation’s health-care costs are related to preventable conditions, according to a new report released Wednesday by the American Public Health Association (APHA). But plans are in motion to reverse that trend. A key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and thus a program whose future is in limbo until the Supreme Court rules on the law, is the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a funding stream that is slated to pump billions of dollars into federal, state and local prevention efforts. The Prevention Fund has already invested $1.25 billion into public health initiatives during fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Another $1 billion is budgeted for FY 2012 and, under the ACA, the fund would increase to $2 billion annually by FY 2016.

Read more from Governing.

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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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