In The Know: Oklahoma infant mortality rate declines

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 Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate is declining but remains above the national rate. Michael McNutt, a longtime Capitol reporter for the Oklahoman, will join Gov. Fallin’s staff as press secretary. A new study from Headwater Economics in conjunction with Oklahoma Policy Institute, shows that Oklahoma’s taxes on oil and gas production are among the nation’s lowest, and they would remain relatively low even if the state eliminated tax breaks for horizontal drilling. StateImpact Oklahoma reported on the study’s findings and industry response.

A poll sponsored by a conservative group found a majority of Oklahomans support judicial term limits and elections for appellate judges.  At the first meeting of a task force on Oklahoma’s education workforce shortage, low teacher salaries, strong competition with the private sector, and border state competition for higher-paying jobs were mentioned as the biggest problems districts face in recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. The OK Gazette examined what’s happening with the rollout of Common Core Standards in Oklahoma schools.

The Oklahoman explained the new opportunities for state residents to get health insurance on Affordable Care Act marketplaces. Urban Tulsa Weekly discussed how the Affordable Care Act is encouraging technology development in Oklahoma to improve health care. Oklahomans already pay some of the highest rates for homeowners insurance in the nation, and rates are going up following recent devastating tornadoes.

Thanks to better than expected sales tax revenue, OKC now has an $8 million budget surplus. The Piedmont City Council voted to support legal action against the developers of a planned wind farm and declared the wind farm a public nuisance. The Number of the Day is the amount deposited this fiscal year into the state’s rainy day fund. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute discusses what speakers at 1963 March on Washington said about defeating poverty.

In The News

Oklahoma infant mortality rate declines

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Tuesday that the state’s infant mortality rate has declined from 8.6 per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 7.9 per 1,000 live births in 2012. But the state’s infant mortality rate remains above the national rate of 6.15 per 1,000 live births recorded in 2010. Suzanna Dooley, director of the agency’s Maternal and Child Health Service, says about 90 fewer Oklahoma babies would die each year if the state matched the national rate.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Longtime Oklahoman reporter Michael McNutt to join Fallin staff

Michael McNutt, longtime State Capitol bureau chief for the Sooner State’s largest newspaper, will soon join Gov. Mary Fallin’s staff, CapitolBeatOK has learned. A source close to the Fallin administration confirmed McNutt will begin working for the Republican governor next week. McNutt will serve as Fallin’s press secretary and report to Alex Weintz, the chief executive’s communications director.

Read more from CapitolBeatOK.

Study: Oklahoma’s taxes on horizontal drilling are among the very lowest

Oklahoma’s taxes on unconventional production of oil and gas, or horizontal drilling, are among the nation’s lowest and would remain relatively low even if the state eliminated the tax breaks currently benefiting horizontal drilling, according to a new study from Headwater Economics, in conjunction with Oklahoma Policy Institute. The study applies state tax policies to average production yields for typical unconventional oil and natural gas wells to determine comparable effective tax rates over a ten-year period.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: Oklahoma’s Drilling Incentives Reduce Modest Oil and Gas Tax Rates from StateImpact Oklahoma

Survey shows support for electing Oklahoma appellate judges, justices

Oklahomans overwhelmingly prefer electing state appellate judges and justices compared with the existing system of using an independent commission, according to findings of a survey released Tuesday.The poll showed 69 percent of those surveyed would support an amendment to the state constitution that would abandon the existing commission and instead allow voters to elect all appellate judges and justices. It showed 25 percent opposed it. It also showed that 76 percent of those responding favored term limits for appellate judges and justices while 22 percent opposed them.

Read more from NewsOK.

Task Force discusses Oklahoma’s education workforce shortage

Several dozen education leaders convened today for the first meeting of State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s Oklahoma Education Workforce Shortage Task Force. Low teacher salaries, strong competition with the private sector and border state competition for higher-paying jobs were mentioned as the biggest factors districts face in recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. Lesser factors were divorce rates forcing single parent teachers to find better-paying jobs and isolation that sometimes exists in rural areas where the teacher shortage is more acutely felt.

Read more from the Edmond Sun.

Can Common Core improve public education?

It takes something big to get people excited about parsing a nuanced education policy, and that’s what the implementation of Common Core state standards has done. If things go as planned, Common Core could reorganize curriculum, change old-school teaching styles, add more weight to literacy and redefine standardized testing. In one year, it’s supposed to be fully implemented in all Oklahoma schools, and the Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE) just started looking for new tests.

Read more from the OK Gazette.

Attention Cowboy and Sooner fans: Get your head in the health care game

My OSU and OU friends are burning up Facebook with posts about this weekend’s football season openers — from a Bomber classmate’s pick for the Sooners’ starting quarterback to a Theta sister’s road trip to Houston. Meanwhile, there’s little talk online or off and a lack of awareness of another opener that’s just around the corner. Open enrollment to buy private medical insurance in new health insurance marketplaces kicks off Oct. 1. For 12 months’ coverage effective Jan. 1, Oklahomans will have bronze, silver, gold and platinum options to choose from a variety of plays, er plans — from going deep with Hail Mary passes, or a high out-of-pocket deductible to cover mainly medical emergencies — to playing it closer with off-tackles runs, or higher monthly premiums for more covered benefits — to plans in between.

Read more from NewsOK.

Affordable Care Act fostering health technology projects

Dr. David Kendrick and state leaders — including those in the insurance industry — are chasing millions set aside for federal Health Care Innovation Awards. But a grant application can be successful in more ways than one, according to Kendrick, chief executive officer and founder of the MyHealth Access Network. The application seems to have further fostered partnerships between the state’s Oklahoma Health Care Authority and insurance groups, also known as “payers” in the lexicon of health care policy.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Oklahomans’ homeowners insurance will remain among most expensive

Residents of tornado-prone Oklahoma already pay some of the highest rates for homeowners insurance in the nation — and rates are only going up. It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to raise rates in a region after a catastrophe like the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma in May, said Amy Bach, executive director for the consumer nonprofit United Policyholders. “As consumer advocates, we often feel that there is an overreaction there by the insurers,” Bach said. Since May 20, when an EF5 tornado tore through Moore, 19 insurance companies have filed rate increase notices ranging from 5.4 percent to 40.6 percent.

Read more from NewsOK.

Sales tax revenue gives OKC $8 million budget surplus

Thanks to a better than expected sales tax revenue, OKC now has an $8 million budget surplus. News 9 has learned that every city council member will received one million dollars in each of their wards under a new proposal. So how will the money be spent? Several council members expressed an interest in using the money to repave roads in their wards. The need to cover certain bus stop locations has also been expressed by council members.

Read more from News9.

Piedmont City Council approves lawsuit against wind companies

A planned wind farm between Piedmont and Okarche could be up in the air after the Piedmont City Council voted to support legal action against the developers of the project and declared the wind farm a public nuisance. The actions, which came at a city council meeting Monday evening, were aimed at the Kingfisher wind farm, a 300-megawatt development in northern Canadian County and southern Kingfisher County. The project is being developed by Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy Inc.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

We know that we haven’t been able to fund our schools adequately, and our corrections systems, child welfare and services for the developmentally disabled. So when you have a tax break in place that is costing the state such substantial revenue, it has real consequences.

-OK Policy Director David Blatt, on why Oklahoma needs to rein in skyrocketing tax breaks for horizontal drilling which totaled $148 million this year (Source:

Number of the Day

$2.7 million

Amount deposited this fiscal year (FY 2014) into the state’s ‘rainy day fund’, officially Oklahoma’s Constitutional Reserve Fund

Source: Office of Management and Enterprise Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The 1963 March on Washington’s strategy for defeating poverty

This August will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a seminal moment for the civil rights movement. It was at this march that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, a speech so eloquent in its appeals for freedom, justice, and equality that it has also obscured in our nation’s memory some of the march’s other powerful messages. Today, as some cite the election of the nation’s first black president as the culmination of King’s dream, it is useful to take the opportunity to study the March for Jobs and Freedom in order to better understand what the movement was about and what goals remain unmet.

Read more from Economic Policy Institute.

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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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