In The Know: Oklahoma businesses rally for online sales tax

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 a group of Oklahoma businesses and city officials are holding a rally to push for requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes. The Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates that the state and municipalities are losing $185 million to $225 million a year due to untaxed e-commerce and catalog sales. OK Policy previously discussed efforts in other states to fix this problem.

Gov. Fallin has announced that Oklahoma will apply for up to $60 million in a new federal grant program to improve early childhood education. OK Policy previously shared our analysis of how Oklahoma supports young children and the potential of this grant to advance what we are already doing in this area. Gov. Fallin will join other governors in a special “Education Nation” panel session, hosted by Brian Williams and correspondent Kate Snow of NBC News, Monday, Sept. 26 at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Oklahoma has gotten worse on a number of health indicators and in several areas is ranked last in the nation, according to the 2011 State of the State’s Health report. Oklahoma must change its campaign spending statutes to comply with the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allows unlimited contributions by corporations and unions to independent groups that seek to influence elections. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett is urging passage of President Obama’s jobs plan.

Lawmakers are studying how to proceed with new measures to allow open carry of handguns. OKDHS Director Howard Hendrick spoke to NewsOK to defend the agency and commissioners from recent criticisms over the Serenity Deal case. DHS has fired a second employee who was involved with that case. The Cherokee Nation has reached a deal allowing the freedmen descendants to vote in the upcoming election for principal chief.

The OK Policy Blog has a guest post from attorney Noble McIntyre on why Oklahoma should spend more on public safety education. Rep. Dank writes in NewsOK that in many cases tax credits are simply giveaways. Today’s Number of the Day is the percentage of Americans living in poverty in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline reports on how Arkansas has largely avoided the fiscal problems experienced by other states during the recession.

In The News

Group pushes for ‘e-fairness’ in sales tax collections

A group of Oklahoma businesses and city officials are banding together to push for “e-fairness” – requiring online-only retailers to collect and remit sales tax from customers living outside their states. The group is part of the Alliance for Main Street Fairness, which says online retailers are in a loophole that keeps millions of dollars away from cities and creates an unlevel playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses. They are petitioning congressional leaders to make the change. “Currently, there is one system of sales tax for small business and another system for online-only businesses,” said Edmond City Clerk Nancy Nichols, who has been active in the effort. “Local retailers are collecting the sales tax as required by law, but retailers operating on the Internet only are enjoying a loophole that allows them to forgo the collection of sales tax at the point of sale, leaving the burden of paying on the consumer, many of them unaware that they even have this obligation.”

Read more from The Journal Record [subscriber only] at

See also: OK rallying for online sales tax from KFOR

Previously: More states push to end the Amazon tax loophole. Will Oklahoma join them? from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma to apply for Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Oklahoma will compete for a share of $500 million in federal grants to improve the state’s early childhood education programs, Gov. Mary Fallin announced Tuesday. Fallin wasn’t among the governors of 36 states and the District of Columbia who in July submitted to the U.S. Department of Education notice of their intent to apply for the Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge. Fallin said she was waiting for the rules of the competition to be released so she could assess whether it was good for the state. After assessing the rules, which were released this month, Fallin said she decided to move forward. “We could qualify for as much as $60 million in what would be one-time expenditures, one-time funds,” Fallin said. “We would invest in upgrades to our teacher training, our data tracking and improved testing.”

Read more from NewsOK at

Previously: Will Oklahoma continue to lead the way in early childhood education? from the OK Policy Blog

Governor Fallin among ‘Education Nation’ panel members

Gov. Mary Fallin will participate in a special “Education Nation” panel session, hosted by Brian Williams and correspondent Kate Snow of NBC News, Monday, Sept. 26 at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. The session will stream live on at 1 p.m. Topics of the discussion include budget cuts, the Common Core and college readiness, No Child Left Behind, the role of teachers unions, early childhood education, teacher effectiveness, college affordability and completion, charter schools, online learning and Race to the Top. The assembly’s members will also field education questions from their own constituents, including teachers, principals, parents and students.

Read more from the NewsOK TV Blog at

Study ranks Oklahoma last nationally in health indicators

Oklahoma has worse death and disease rates than the national average and has gotten worse in the majority of health indicators studied, according to the 2011 State of the State’s Health report released Tuesday. Oklahoma is last in the nation in eating fruits and vegetables, chronic lower respiratory disease deaths and adult dental visits, according to the report, which was originally set to be released in 2010. The state received a grade of F for heart disease deaths, stroke deaths, injury deaths, diabetes, physical activity and smoking. There were a few small bright spots in the report. Oklahoma improved in vaccinated seniors against flu and pneumonia and in immunizing children younger than 3. The percentage of uninsured adults also decreased.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See the full report at

State must change campaign-spending statutes to comply with Citizens United decision, panel told

The U.S. Supreme Court radically changed the landscape for independent expenditures during election seasons when it issued its Citizens United decision in January 2010, the House Rules Committee was told Tuesday. House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, asked that the committee conduct an interim study of how state law needs to be amended to bring Oklahoma into compliance with the decision. The Ethics Commission has modified its rules to address both court decisions, but the legislature has yet to amend the relevant statutes to do the same. Adams said similar changes also need to be made in the Political Subdivisions Ethics Act, which covers local elections, and in statutes that make some campaign activities by corporations felonies.

Read more from 23rd and Lincoln at

Oklahoma City mayor urges passage of Obama’s jobs plan

Six Democratic mayors were joined by a Republican mayor in urging President Barack Obama and Congress to work together to create jobs and rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The mayors spoke Tuesday after meeting with White House officials about Obama’s recently proposed $447 billion jobs plan. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, a Republican, joined Democrats Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter, Charlotte’s Anthony Foxx, Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, Baltimore’s Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Hartford’s Pedro Segarra. Villaraigosa, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said there is solid bipartisan support among mayors for parts of the president’s plan, particularly public works projects spending.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Okla. lawmakers eye open carry of handguns

Lawmakers took aim on Tuesday at expanding gun rights in Oklahoma by allowing citizens to openly carry firearms, an issue that has become an emotionally charged one at the Capitol with differing opinions on just how far legislation should go. Rep. Mark McCullough, who requested the study, said his plan is to take a strategic approach to expanding firearm rights that would include drafting a variety of bills on the subject. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed an open carry bill two years ago that would allow anyone with a concealed-carry permit to carry a firearm openly, but that measure was vetoed by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat. Earlier this year, with extended GOP majorities and a Republican governor, gun rights advocates were confident a bill would make it to the governor’s desk, but the measure got bogged down in the House Public Safety Committee.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Oklahoma DHS director defends agency, commissioners

The longtime DHS director on Tuesday defended his often-criticized agency and the commissioners who oversee it. “We have a lot of things that are going right,” Director Howard H. Hendrick told The Oklahoman. Hendrick said “what keeps me going” is the difference his employees make in the lives of vulnerable people. “The reason why I stay is, primarily, because we have a lot of good people who make this work worthwhile,” he said. “And, that’s really what I’m motivated by.” But, asked how much longer he wanted to hang on to his job, he said, “I don’t know.”

Read more from NewsOK at

See also: Second Oklahoma DHS worker fired in Serenity Deal case from NewsOK

Cherokee Nation makes deal allowing freedmen vote

Just as a federal judge was about to get involved, the Cherokee Nation reached an agreement Tuesday to allow descendants of slaves once owned by the Oklahoma tribe’s members to vote for its principal chief. Attorneys for the slave descendants, called freedmen, said the agreement calls for extending balloting for this Saturday’s special election until Oct. 8 so that those qualified to vote can be notified and participate. The agreement came during a hearing in federal court in Washington, where U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy was poised to deliver his ruling on whether Saturday’s election could continue without the freedman participation. Freedmen attorney Jon Velie asked the judge for a 15-minute recess to negotiate over a proposal made by the tribe. After more than an hour huddling in the hallway with his clients and discussing the proposal with other attorneys, Velie returned to court to announce the deal.

Read more from NewsOK at

Guest Blog (Noble McIntyre): Oklahoma must spend more on public safety education

Traffic fatalities in Oklahoma decreased from 765 in 2006, to 627 in 2010, according to the Oklahoma Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY2012). That’s an encouraging trend, but I don’t think anyone would disagree that it could be improved. Unfortunately, the state of Oklahoma seems to feel those numbers are good enough because the budget for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (ODPS) is being cut by 3 percent for Fiscal Year 2012. While this may mean a reduction in law enforcement, or fewer personnel working to provide Oklahomans with drivers’ licenses, what’s really going to suffer are public safety education programs, which could further reduce traffic fatalities in the state.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Rep. Dank: Work of tax credit task force critically important for Oklahoma

The Oklahoman reported Saturday that coal tax credits cost our strapped state budget more than $60 million in eight years, and that most of those credits were actually cashed in by insurance companies that had nothing to do with producing or using coal. Few news articles have so starkly illuminated the worrisome disconnect between the jobs and economic growth these tax credits are supposed to produce and the harsh reality that in many cases they are simply giveaways. A bipartisan task force currently examining our state tax credit system will take up these questionable coal credits soon, but we have already learned some important lessons about similar programs we have reviewed.

Read more from NewsOK at

Quote of the Day

I’ve had customers who will come in and ask questions about the product, get to touch and feel the product, then they can get it online less expensively because they’re offered no tax and free shipping, and I lose the sale even though I’ve gone to the trouble of explaining the product to them.
Patti Tepper-Rasmussen, owner of Learning Tree Toys, Books and Games in Nichols Hills

Number of the Day

15.1 percent
Percentage of Americans living in poverty in 2010; a family of four is living in poverty if their annual income is less than $22,113.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Arkansas approach: How one state has avoided fiscal disaster

A few states have escaped the worst of the recession, and for the most part that is for one reason: They derive massive amounts of revenue from oil and gas or other mineral extraction. It’s not easy to find states without major wealth in the ground that have managed to avoid fiscal crisis. But there is at least one: Arkansas. With money in the bank at the end of every budget year since 2007 and only minor spending cuts, it has averted employee layoffs, short-term borrowing and protracted budget debates. At 8.2 percent, the state’s unemployment rate is considerably lower than the national average — although it is the highest in state history.

Read more from Stateline at

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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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