In The Know: Oklahoma City drinking water supply at record low levels

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 three lakes supplying the Oklahoma City’s drinking water have reached alarmingly low levels due to two years of drought. Both Oklahoma Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn agree with President Barack Obama’s promise to improve mental healthcare. Gov. Fallin said she believes Oklahoma should earmark more money toward mental health.

Gov. Fallin will propose $1.5 million in new spending on DEQ to avoid having the EPA taking over water regulation in Oklahoma. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses the state’s continuing budget blues that are harming core services. A record for Oklahoma sales-tax collections was not set in December, as state officials previously reported. The adjustment downward puts general revenue collections down almost 2 percent, or $50 million, from this time last year.

The OK Policy Blog examines what could be the fate of Insure Oklahoma after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. Sen. Patrick Anderson has filed a bill that would allow Oklahoma cities to ban dog breeds. A new survey shows that teachers and principals overwhelmingly criticize Tulsa Public Schools’ current technology resources as “less than acceptable.”

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma workers under age 25 who are underemployed. In today’s Policy Note, Governing Magazine examines why GOP Governors are coming around on the Medicaid expansion.

In The News

Oklahoma City drinking water supply at record low levels

Oklahoma City officials are considering their options now that three lakes supplying the city’s drinking water have reached alarmingly low levels. Lake Hefner, the primary source of the city’s drinking water, is around 17 feet below maximum capacity, said Debbie Ragan, spokeswoman for the city utility department. In addition, Lake Overholser is 7 feet below maximum capacity; Lake Stanley Draper is also 17 feet below capacity; and Lake Atoka, which supplies Draper, is 12 feet below capacity. Many of the boats and docks at Hefner are mired in mud as a result of low lake levels, the ramifications of the region’s two-year drought.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Many Oklahomans support mental healthcare aspect of gun control plan

Both Oklahoma Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn agree with President Barack Obama’s promise to improve mental healthcare. Professionals in the mental health industry say the President’s proposal is a step in the right direction to remove the stigma associated with mental illness. And the President was very careful to emphasize that most people with mental illness are not violent. President Obama has already drafted a letter that will soon go out to healthcare providers nationwide. It’s to clarify that federal law does not prevent healthcare providers from reporting threats of violence, made by patients, to police.

Read more from News9.

Fallin calls for earmarking more for mental health

Gov. Mary Fallin, who recently passed criteria to get a permit to carry a handgun, said Wednesday she believes Oklahoma has responsible gun laws but should earmark more money toward mental health, which could help keep firearms out of the hands of those with mental health problems. Fallin said she hasn’t had a chance to review President Barack Obama’s proposed guns restrictions, which are intended to curb mass violence. Fallin said she doesn’t think legislators would pass a ban on the purchase of assault rifles, which is allowed in Oklahoma.

Read more from NewsOK.

Gov. Fallin supports $1.5 million in new spending to avoid EPA water takeover

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality says the state legislature has a choice: Set aside $1.5 million to comply with new federal clean water regulations, or turn over control of the state’s drinking water to Washington, D.C. StateImpact reported last week that DEQ has been asking for the money since not long after three new Environmental Protection Agency rules were put in place in 2006. So far, the agency hasn’t had any luck. This year could be different. A spokesman for the governor says she now supports new DEQ funds. “The governor plans to include $1.5 million in her executive budget — which will be released at the State of the State address next month — to address this issue,” press secretary Aaron Cooper says in an email to StateImpact.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Prosperity Policy: Budget Blues

The recent shooting death of a Jenks woman by a 14-year-old boy during the course of a burglary temporarily put the funding crisis at the Office of Juvenile Affairs into the spotlight. “The political will to support the agency and its mission has eroded over time,” said Terry Cline, the cabinet secretary with responsibility for the agency, in an interview with the Tulsa World. “If we’re not serving that population in an adequate fashion, it puts the public at risk.” In the last four years, state funding for the Office of Juvenile Affairs has been slashed by more than $16 million, or 14 percent.

Read more from the Journal Record.

State erroneously reported record sales-tax revenue

A record for Oklahoma sales-tax collections was not set in December, as state officials previously reported. The state Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported Tuesday that sales-tax collections for December were a record $172 million, beating the prior record of $165.4 million. However, an error at the Oklahoma Tax Commission resulted in the inclusion of funds remitted to cities and counties when they should not have been included in the state total, said John Estus, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The correct figure for December sales-tax collections going to the state’s general revenue funds is $163.1 million, Estus said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Whither Insure Oklahoma?

In announcing that Oklahoma would not take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand Medicaid to cover low-income adults, Governor Mary Fallin stated she was committed to developing an “Oklahoma Plan to reduce the number of uninsured and the costs of healthcare”. According to several news reports, the options under consideration include expansion of Insure Oklahoma. However, with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, the future of programs like Insure Oklahoma becomes highly uncertain.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Proposal would allow Oklahoma cities to ban dog breeds

The Central Oklahoma Humane Society is against the measure and an online petition to Gov. Mary Fallin on to oppose it has gotten more than 4,700 signatures in less than five days. Sherry Stinson, who owns a pit bull terrier she rescued three years ago, said she started the petition effort because the proposal is an attempt to outlaw pit bull terriers. “It’s a backdoor way to ban pit bulls,” said Stinson, of Bartlesville. Sen. Patrick Anderson said cities should have the right to restrict certain breeds if they determine them to be a threat. While his measure isn’t breed-specific, Anderson said he is leery of pit bull terriers.

Read more from NewsOK.

Survey: TPS behind in technology resources

A new survey shows that teachers and principals overwhelmingly criticize Tulsa Public Schools’ current technology resources as “less than acceptable,” despite their belief in its importance for affecting student achievement. About 1,360 employees, 80 percent of whom were teachers, participated in a districtwide survey that is now being used by a citizens-led committee to craft Tulsa Public Schools’ first bond issue in three years. A ballot issue is expected to be ready for school board consideration by early February. On a 5-point scale, with 3 considered “acceptable,” the average employee rating of the effectiveness of current technology was 2.8, and the age of software used on classroom technology was rated 2.67.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

Weigh the evidence and do the math. With the realities facing us, taking advantage of this federal assistance is the strategic way to reduce Medicaid pressure on the State budget. We can prevent health care expenses from eroding core services such as education and public safety, and improve Arizona’s ability to compete in the years ahead.

Republican Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer, announcing her support for her state joining the Medicaid expansion

Number of the Day

22.6 percent

Oklahoma workers under age 25 who are underemployed (no job, can’t find but want a full-time job, or given up looking), compared to 10.7 percent of all workers in 2011

Source: Economic Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why GOP Governors are coming around on the Medicaid expansion

Listen closely and each time a Republican governor decides to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you can hear advocates for President Barack Obama’s health reform law and the low-income insurance program softly whisper: We told you so. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June to give states the option of expanding Medicaid, most GOP governors and legislators rejected the idea, which would increase eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level and add up to 17 million to state Medicaid rolls. But lobbying from key stakeholders (hospitals and doctors chief among them) and the possibility of missing out on hundreds of millions of federal dollars has softened that opposition. Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval and New Mexico’s Susana Martinez were the first Republican governors to break from the national party and embrace the expansion — and they probably won’t be the last.

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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