In The Know: Oklahoma case may be the next big abortion decision by US Supreme Court

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 the New York Times examined a case out of Oklahoma that could become the next big abortion decision before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Tulsa school board voted to expand a comprehensive sex education program for 7th, 9th, and 11th graders. About two dozen people rallied at the Capitol to draw attention to poor care in Oklahoma nursing homes.

The OK Policy Blog discussed how State Question 766 will give AT&T a $23 million tax break while costing schools $31 million. David Blatt’s Journal Record column examines how Oklahoma police, district attorneys, and private contractors are profiting from confiscating Oklahomans’ property without due process.

A new report finds that 40 percent of currently uninsured Oklahomans will have no way to access affordable health insurance if the state continues to reject federal Medicaid funds. Oklahoma lawmakers are opposing U.S. military action in Syria. The clash between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oklahoma Gas & Electric over pollution from coal-fired power plants continues to escalate.

The Number of the Day is the percentage drop in the number of persons receiving TANF (or ‘welfare’) cash assistance in Oklahoma from 1991 and 2011, the 9th largest drop in the U.S. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times profiled Americans living on the edge of poverty who could become caught up in Congressional Republicans’ attacks on the food stamp program.

In The News

The next abortion case is here

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, author of the 5-to-4 opinion in June that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, may well be a hero to the gay rights community, and deservedly so. But he’s also the author of the 5-to-4 opinion that upheld the federal ban on so-called partial birth abortion back in 2007, and abortion-rights advocates have viewed with something close to dread the prospect that he could play a similarly decisive role in the Supreme Court’s next abortion case. That case has arrived.

Read more from the New York Times.

Tulsa School Board votes to expand comprehensive sex education

Tulsa Public Schools voted Tuesday night to expand its sex education program. They’ll start with four schools, with plans to expand the program to classrooms across the district. The course is already offered in summer school. Now, it will be offered to 7th, 9th, and 11th at two high schools and two middle schools, as part of the day-to-day class schedule, if parents opt in. The district says the state’s alarming teen pregnancy rate has them looking to find ways to educate students. “Forty-four percent of students who become pregnant or who are married at that age fail to graduate from high school, and that’s something hat affects them for the rest of their life,” said Steve Mayfield, of TPS.

Read more from News9.

Oklahoma’s F on nursing home care spurs rally, study at Capitol

About two dozen people rallied on Wednesday at the Capitol to draw attention to what they say is poor care in Oklahoma nursing homes. Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, held an unofficial interim study following the rally after his request for one was turned down by House leadership. Both events were held after the Florida-based Families for Better Care gave Oklahoma a grade of F on nursing home care, saying it was among the worst nursing home states.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

SQ 766 gives AT&T a $23 million tax break while costing schools $31 million

State Question 766, which exempted businesses from paying taxes on their intangible property, will reduce local tax revenues by an estimated $60.2 million in 2013, according to figures provided by the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC). The biggest winners will be telecommunications companies and electric companies, which will receive an estimated $54.4 million tax cut. Nearly 40 percent of the tax cut could potentially go to a single company, AT&T.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Prosperity Policy: Smokey the Bandit

In July, a Caddo County special judge strongly condemned a shocking practice that was exposed after a woman driving along Interstate 40 was stopped and questioned by the owner of a Guthrie-based company, Desert Snow. Under an agreement with the Caddo County district attorney, Desert Snow received between 10 and 25 percent of cash and other property seized from drivers during stops in return for providing on-site training. According to The Oklahoman, “Sometimes, no drugs were found and no one was arrested, but task force officers took money found in the vehicles anyway after a drug-sniffing dog got excited.”

Read more from the Journal Record.

Report says some uninsured Oklahomans may lack health options

Two in every five adults who have recently been uninsured living in states that have not yet decided to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act would likely have no new affordable health insurance options if their states don’t eventually expand the program, according to a report released Wednesday. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government cannot require states to expand Medicaid eligibility. Oklahoma and roughly 25 other states have said they will not, or may not, expand their Medicaid programs in 2014.

Read more from NewsOK.

Syria action faces mounting opposition from Oklahoma lawmakers

Oklahoma lawmakers continued to voice opposition Wednesday to U.S. military action in Syria, as Rep. Frank Lucas joined colleagues in the delegation who don’t want to authorize force. Some members are leaving open a tiny crack in the door while making it clear that it would be tough to convince them to support the authorization sought by President Barack Obama. After attending a closed-door briefing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Tulsa, reiterated his opposition. Inhofe, the top Republican on the committee, said the president “must first explain our objectives and end state in Syria, present a long-term strategy for the region and the means to fund it, as well as clarify the risks associated with military intervention.”

Read more from NewsOK.

As One Battle Ends, Another Sparks Between the EPA and OG&E

The clash between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oklahoma Gas & Electric over pollution from coal-fired power plants continues to escalate. On Tuesday, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and OG&E both asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its July decision in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At issue was whether EPA has the authority to usurp the state’s plan for limiting haze on federal land; a plan EPA has deemed inadequate. So OG&E first lost the case, then the appeal, and now it’s calling for a review of the appellate decision.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Quote of the Day

We really view the teen pregnancy prevention program as a drop out prevention program. This is really going to help students stay in school, finish school, go onto college, get good jobs, make Tulsa a better place to live.

-Kim Schutz, Director of the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, on Tulsa Public Schools’ decision to expand a comprehensive sex education program for 7th, 9th, and 11th graders (Source: 

Number of the Day

83.7 percent

Percentage drop in the number of persons receiving TANF (or ‘welfare’) cash assistance in Oklahoma from 1991 and 2011, the 9th largest drop in the U.S.

Source: National Priorities Project

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

On the edge of poverty, at the center of a debate about food stamps

As a self-described “true Southern man” — and reluctant recipient of food stamps — Dustin Rigsby, a struggling mechanic, hunts deer, doves and squirrels to help feed his family. He shops for grocery bargains, cooks budget-stretching stews and limits himself to one meal a day. Related Tarnisha Adams, who left her job skinning hogs at a slaughterhouse when she became ill with cancer, gets $352 a month in food stamps for herself and three college-age sons. She buys discount meat and canned vegetables, cheaper than fresh. Like Mr. Rigsby, she eats once a day — “if I eat,” she said.

Read more from the New York Times.

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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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