In The Know: Oklahoma electric utilities take different paths on future of coal

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 with pressure mounting to curb greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, Oklahoma’s two largest electric utilities are taking different paths toward the future of their coal power plants. A jury trial has been scheduled for Nov. 18 for the five Pardon and Parole Board members charged with violating the Open Meeting Act. The Tulsa World reports that the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage will have little immediate impact in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended a former Oklahoma County prosecutor for his misconduct in two death penalty cases. A new grassroots advocacy group, Moms Demand Action, is calling for stronger gun laws in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog discussed how Oklahoma disenfranchises felons. David Blatt’s Journal Record column explains why food stamps’ success at alleviating hunger and poverty are an achievement worth preserving.

The Tulsa World spoke to working poor Oklahomans who are worried about the end of Insure Oklahoma. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the federal government to keep funding Insure Oklahoma, even though the state has not complied with federal law.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans were unemployed as of May 2013, roughly the same as were unemployed this time last year. In today’s Policy Note, the Moody’s rating has announced a “super-downgrade” of Kansas bonds due to the state’s large income tax cuts.

In The News

Oklahoma’s largest electric utilities take different paths on future of coal

The Environmental Protection Agency will ask states to get industry input on new plans to curb greenhouse gases at power plants, part of several environmental proposals released Tuesday by the Obama administration. In Oklahoma, the state’s two largest electric utilities are taking different paths toward the future of their power plants. Tulsa-based Public Service Co. of Oklahoma has taken several regulatory steps toward phasing out its last two coal-generating units in the state by 2026. Oklahoma City-based Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. wants to use energy efficiency programs to delay building a new fossil-fueled plant until at least 2020.

Read more from NewsOK.

Jury trial for Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members set for Nov. 18

A jury trial has been scheduled for Nov. 18 for the five Pardon and Parole Board members. All five are accused of violating the Open Meeting Act when they first voted on early release requests. Charged with 10 misdemeanor counts are board Chairman Marc Dreyer and board members Currie Ballard, Richard Dugger and Lynnell Harkins. Charged with nine misdemeanor counts is board member David Moore. They have denied that they ever knowingly or willfully violated the law. Defense attorneys are asking Special Judge Roma McElwee to dismiss the cases or disqualify Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater from prosecuting them.

Read more from NewsOK.

Little immediate impact in Oklahoma from court’s same-sex marriage rulings

Tulsa’s LGBT community – and its straight friends – celebrated on Wednesday, all the while acknowledging the day’s two Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage will have little immediate effect in Oklahoma. “It doesn’t change anything in Oklahoma today except to continue to see justice done,” said Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality. Many Oklahomans, including Gov. Mary Fallin, disagree with the last part of Jenkins’ assessment. Just about everyone following the cases, though, are in accord on the first part: Not much change is on the horizon for same-sex couples in Oklahoma.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Ex-prosecutor suspended over death penalty case

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended a former Oklahoma County prosecutor for his misconduct in two separate murder trials nearly 20 years ago that eventually led to the release of two convicted killers from death row. In a 5-2 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered attorney Robert Bradley Miller be suspended for 180 days and pay more than $12,800 in court costs. The court found that Miller abused the subpoena process to force witnesses to cooperate, failed to disclose evidence to the defense and even obstructed the defense’s access to evidence.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Grassroots advocacy group pushing for gun-buying restrictions in Oklahoma

Oklahoma might seem an unlikely place for a fledgling organization of gun-control advocates, but a grassroots effort under way in the state is calling for stronger gun laws. The local chapter of Moms Demand Action is part of a national group founded in the days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Nationally, Moms Demand Action has more than 100,000 members, with 90 chapters in 40 states. In Oklahoma, organizers say it is gaining more members every day. “We have been pleasantly surprised by the support we have received,” said Sabine Brown, a founder of the state chapter.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Felons and the right to vote

Virginia made headlines earlier this month when Governor Bob McDonnell signed an order automatically reinstating voting rights to nonviolent offenders who had completed their sentences and fulfilled other requirements. This has sparked a national conversation on felon disenfranchisement, so we thought we’d take a look at how things stand on the topic in Oklahoma. Under Oklahoma law, felons are disenfranchised, or have their voting rights suspended, for the full lengths of their sentences. This means, for example, that a felon who is sentenced to eight years in prison but serves only four is unable to register to vote for a full eight years.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Prosperity Policy: A SNAP success story

Congress this month was locked in a divisive debate over reauthorizing the Farm Bill, which includes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, known as food stamps. The House bill defeated last week included new food stamp eligibility requirements that would have cut off benefits for an estimated 2 million Americans. For decades, food stamps have been a cornerstone of the nation’s efforts to address hunger and bolster family economic security. In his recent book, So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, Peter Edelman recounts how the food stamp program grew in the wake of well-publicized trips by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy to Mississippi and eastern Kentucky in the late 1960s.

Read more from The Journal Record.

Pending end of Insure Oklahoma worries working poor

Melody Cauthon knows the value of health insurance – that’s why the pending end of the state’s Insure Oklahoma program worries her. “What are my options? I have to have insurance,” the 39-year-old mother of three said Wednesday. She works for a living and has held second jobs in the past, but the insurance offered by her employer wasn’t affordable, so she joined Insure Oklahoma in 2012. Cauthon had a bout of Rocky Mountain spotted fever that could have destroyed her financially. That expense was essentially wiped away because she was covered by Insure Oklahoma, but now she faces uncertain prospects.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

AG asks feds to keep funding state insurance program

Attorney General Scott Pruitt is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider its decision to eliminate federal funding for the state’s Insure Oklahoma program. Pruitt sent a letter to the agency on Tuesday questioning the legality of HHS’ decision not to renew a waiver for the Oklahoma program that provides health insurance subsidies to working Oklahomans. Federal funding was pulled from the program because most of the recipients would have been covered under an expansion of Medicaid that states were allowed to do under the federal health care law. But Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma rejected that opportunity to expand Medicaid.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Quote of the Day

For kids that aren’t even born yet, for generations that don’t even exist yet, that this will be a case that they will know by name. United States v. Windsor will be a case that they know by name.

–Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found it was unconstitutional to deny federal benefits to legally recognized same-sex marriages.

Number of the Day


The number of unemployed Oklahomans as of May 2013, roughly the same as were unemployed this time last year

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Income tax cuts lead to “super-downgrade” of Kansas bonds

There’s more fallout as the result of Kansas income tax cuts. The 2012 and 2013 Kansas Legislature’s income tax reduction legislation has resulted in a Moody’s “super-downgrade” of Kansas Department of Commerce IMPACT bonds, which finance a major state economic development program. The bond ratings change announced on Tuesday lowers the IMPACT bonds from Aa3 to A3 with a “negative outlook.” The change affects almost $200 million of outstanding debts. In the parlance of Wall Street, that’s known as a “super downgrade” because it skips over more than one level of rating. Aa3 is the fourth highest level of bond rating by Moody’s, while A3 is the 7th highest.

Read more from the Kansas Economic Progress Council.

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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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