In The Know: Oil pipeline from Canada to Cushing fast-tracked for approval

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 a plan to build an oil pipeline that would carry tar sands from Canada to Cushing is on the fast-track to approval – and it’s not the Keystone XL.  The State Department of Education has not disclosed whether or not it will seek damages from a standardized testing vendor for widespread disruptions of online testing; Indiana is seeking more than half a million dollars from CTB/McGraw-Hill for the same failures there.  Oklahoma House Democrats argued that taxpayers should not have to pay for a special legislative session.

Education blogger John Thompson argued in the Oklahoma Gazette that Superintendent Barresi avoided a fiasco by pulling out of PARCC.  The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a multi-state consortium working to develop assessments in line with new standards for common education known nationally as Common Core and locally as Oklahoma Academic Standards.  OKPolicy Blog previously detailed the state’s progress implementing Common Core standards.

Gene Perry explained in the Oklahoma Gazette why policy that supports the middle-class would grow the economy better than more tax cuts or incentives for the wealthy.  A guest blogger for The Christian Science Monitor explored how fracking for oil and gas amid water scarcity brings public-private interests to a crossroads.  

Moore school board members voted to temporarily suspend traditional geographical restrictions, to give about 1,000 students displaced by the May tornadoes the option to enroll in their home schools.  OKPolicy Blog explored why health care spending growth over the last 4 years was at its lowest since the government started tracking spending in 1960.  

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. eliminated 50 jobs at their recently-acquired newspaper, Tulsa World.  The Number of the Day is the percentage growth in non-labor income in Oklahoma since 1970, versus growth labor earnings.  In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examined the relationship between SNAP (‘food stamps’) and labor force participation; the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so.

In The News

Oil pipeline to Cushing on fast-track to approval — and it’s not the Keystone XL
A Canadian company’s plan to build an oil pipeline that will stretch for hundreds of miles through the Midwest, including through many sensitive waterways, is quietly on the fast-track to approval — just not the one you’re thinking of. As the Keystone XL pipeline remains mired in the national debate over environmental safety and climate change, another company, Enbridge Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, is hoping to begin construction early next month on a 600-mile-long pipeline that would carry tar sands from Flanagan, Ill., about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, to the company’s terminal in Cushing, Okla. From there the company could move it through existing pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries.

Read more from Associated Press

State’s handling of online testing disruptions questioned as settlement with vendor nears
The Oklahoma State Department of Education won’t disclose what damages it is seeking from its standardized testing vendor for widespread disruptions of online tests, but officials expect a settlement to be announced in the next week. CTB/McGraw-Hill, the second-largest educational testing service in the U.S., has apologized for the computer issues that disrupted thousands of online tests in Oklahoma and Indiana in late April. The Indiana Department of Education recently announced it is seeking preliminary damages that will be “not less than $613,600 and could reasonably go into the millions” and hasn’t ruled out seeking additional damages, but Oklahoma officials remain mum on the subject.

Read more from Tulsa World

Oklahoma House Democrats: Any special session can’t cost taxpayers
House Democrats on Tuesday said taxpayers should not have to pay for a possible special legislative session to address, among other things, a law that the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently found unconstitutional. Gov. Mary Fallin last week said she is considering a special session to address the ill-fated 2009 lawsuit reform law that was thrown out last month by the state’s high court. The Supreme Court said it amounted to “logrolling,” a bill that contains more than one subject, in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.

Read more from Tulsa World

Avoiding a fiasco in education
Nationally, a train wreck is coming to urban school systems. That disaster is much less likely in Oklahoma, however, and we must give state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi credit for that. High-stakes testing forced schools to narrow the curriculum, focus on remediation and test prep, and commit to basic skills instruction that verges on educational malpractice. Worse, states must start using primitive bubble-in tests for teacher evaluations.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette

No, Common Core is not a ‘federal takeover’ of schools
Oklahoma lawmakers voted to adopt the Common Core education standards in 2010. For the last three years, Oklahoma schools have spent millions of dollars and thousands of person-hours transitioning to Common Core learning standards. The scope of what’s already been done is enormous.

Read more from OKPolicy Blog

Time for middle-out economics
In 2006, Gov. Brad Henry signed a tax cut that, in some ways, mirrored the cut approved this year under Gov. Mary Fallin. The top income tax rate was ratcheted down over several years, with a final reduction depending on a revenue trigger. Yet the 2006 tax cut also increased the standard deduction.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette

Fracking for oil and gas amid water scarcity has created a public-private crossroads
There is no greater example of the water-energy nexus than the juncture where water meets the hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, of natural gas and oil. This nexus has created a public-private crossroads, with both sides attempting to further their goals. For legislating and rulemaking bodies, their goals revolve around protecting public safety and natural resources needed by society.

Read more from Christian Science Monitor

Moore students displaced by tornadoes can return for classes
Students who attended Moore schools last year and were displaced by the May tornadoes can go back in August no matter where they live. “We want them to have the option to be able to come back home,” Superintendent Robert Romines said. School board members approved a motion Monday to suspend the traditional geographical restrictions for the coming school year. Last year, about 23,000 students attended Moore schools. About 1,000 students were displaced by the storms, Romines said.

Read more from NewsOK

Health care spending slowdown warrants sigh of relief
America spends more than any other nation on health care. In 2011, health care spending accounted for 18 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Yet, we have millions who lack health insurance and our health outcomes are barely average compared to other OCED countries: in short, we pay too much for too little.

Read more from OK Policy Blog

Buffett’s Tulsa World Is Latest Berkshire Newspaper to Cut Staff
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (A:US), acquirer of more than 25 daily newspapers in the last two years, is eliminating about 50 jobs at the Tulsa World in Oklahoma after making cuts at other publications. A dozen positions in the administrative, information technology and production departments were cut immediately, according to a report posted today on the newspaper’s website. The World announced other changes including the creation of distribution centers where carriers will pick up newspapers, eliminating transportation costs for the company.

Read more from Businessweek

Quote of the Day

“You didn’t need a law degree to know that this bill was unconstitutional when it was passed.”

Rep. Jerry McPeak (D-Warner), arguing against asking taxpayers to pay for a special legislative session to address a 2009 lawsuit reform law that the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently ruled as unconstitutional “logrolling”

Number of the Day

224 percent

Percentage growth in non-labor income (dividends, interest, and rent) in Oklahoma since 1970, versus just 137 percent increase in labor earnings 

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis, 1970-2011

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Relationship Between SNAP and Work Among Low-Income Households
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) primary purpose is to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households in order to improve their nutrition and alleviate hunger and malnutrition. The program’s success in meeting this core goal has been well documented. Less well understood is the fact that the program has become quite effective in supporting work and that its performance in this area has improved substantially in recent years.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

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