In The Know: Oklahoma judge blocks abortion law

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 an Oklahoma judge temporarily blocked a law that restricted how doctors can treat women with abortion-inducing drugs. StateImpactOK looks back at history to find out why Oklahoma hates property taxes. Bill John Baker has been sworn in as Principal Chief after the Cherokee Supreme Court denied Chad Smith’s appeal of the election results. The OK Policy Blog looks at how the Supercommittee tasked with reducing the federal deficit might affect state budgets.

Oklahoma pharmacists are upset about a decision by the Oklahoma State Education and Employees Group Insurance Board to require that prescriptions for state employees be filled by mail order,  and some lawmakers are calling for the Governor to block the move. Tulsa’s attempt to take over collection of sales taxes from the state may jeopardize Oklahoma’s participation in the streamlined sales tax compact. The OK Policy Blog previously explained the history and purpose of this compact.

House Speaker Kris Steele has appointed a task force to address deaths of children in programs overseen by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Occupy OKC protesters are camping downtown in Kerr Park to demonstrate against rising inequality. Mayor Mick Cornett praised the EPA’s “brownfield” program for helping revitalize polluted areas in Oklahoma City. Even though implementation of stricter federal standards was delayed, air quality in central Oklahoma may not meet the current standards. Despite recent rains, extreme drought continues over 80 percent of the state.

Superintendent Barresi explained her agenda for education reform in The Edmond Sun. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally in prevalence of adult diabetes. In today’s Policy Note, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management discusses the problem of a rising number of “bad jobs” that don’t provide a living wage.

In The News

Oklahoma judge blocks abortion law

An Oklahoma judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked from taking effect a new law designed to reduce the number of abortions performed in the state by restricting the ways in which doctors can treat women with abortion-inducing drugs. The temporary injunction prevents the bill from going into effect on Nov. 1. Passed earlier this year by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, the measure requires doctors to follow the strict guidelines and protocols authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and prohibits off-label uses of the drugs. It also requires doctors to examine the women, document certain medical conditions and schedule follow-up appointments. Opponents of the measure say the off-label use of drugs — such as changing a recommended dosage or prescribing it for different symptoms than the drug was initially approved for — is common, and that the measure would prevent doctors from using their best medical judgment.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Why Oklahoma hates property taxes

There’s been a lot of talk lately about rejiggering Oklahoma’s tax code. Task forces at the state Capitol are hoping to trim some fat by way of an array of state-subsidized credits, rebates, breaks and economic incentives that reduce the tax base. Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin and other lawmakers are pushing to reduce or eliminate the personal income tax, which comprises roughly a third of all state tax collections. There’s a healthy debate on both sides of the income tax issue, as well as a lively discussion over what raising sales, excise and gross production taxes will do to Oklahoma families and businesses. But you’ll never hear any pleas for a state property tax here in Oklahoma. Just thank Bill Murray — the Governor, not the actor.

Read more from StateImpactOK.

New chief takes office after Cherokee court dismisses appeal of election results

The former chief of the Cherokee Nation lost an appeal Wednesday to prevent his opponent from being sworn into office until a federal court decides whether descendants of slaves once owned by tribal members are Cherokee citizens. The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court dismissed the request, paving the way for longtime tribal councilman Bill John Baker to take the oath of office as principal chief of Oklahoma’s largest American Indian tribe. He was sworn in Wednesday night by tribal Supreme Court Judge James Wilcoxen on the steps of the Cherokee Nation Courthouse, a tribal spokeswoman said. Former principal chief Chad Smith filed the appeal Monday, just days after results from a special election were certified and showed that Baker won by nearly 1,600 votes. Many believe Baker likely had more backing from the slaves’ descendants, known as freedmen, who are suing in an effort to remain Cherokee Nation members.

Read more from the Associated Press.

The Supercommittee and the states

Though revenue collections continue to show steady growth, state budgets remain under great stress. Budget-cutting efforts in Washington are adding to the perils. The federal government spent $38.5 billion in Oklahoma last year, which works out to $10,256 for each resident. The federal government also transferred $7.8 billion in grants to state and local governments for over 530 programs. In 2008, almost one dollar of every three in Oklahoma’s total state revenue came from the federal government. Under the Budget Control Act approved this summer, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, known as the Supercommittee, has until November to propose at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction measures over the next decade. The impact that the Budget Control Act will have on Oklahoma and other states will depend decisively on whether the Joint Committee reaches an agreement, and what the agreement looks like.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Pharmacists fighting mail-order prescriptions for state employees

Independent pharmacists are fighting mail order companies over where patients should fill their prescriptions. In August, the Oklahoma State Education and Employees Group Insurance Board made mail order prescriptions mandatory for all state employees. Oklahoma Pharmacy Association says Oklahoma is at risk of losing money and jobs if mail order prescriptions become the norm. Campbell says last quarter, she filled 1,500 prescriptions for state employees, about 15 percent of her total volume. Cost is the primary driver for meds in the mail. Some customers prefer the ease and consistency of getting bigger quantities for less money.

Read more from NewsOn6.

See also: Prescription plan upsets local lawmakers from The Enid News and Eagle.

Non-centralized collection efforts may jeopardize Oklahoma’s participation in streamlined sales tax compact

Efforts by Oklahoma municipalities to handle their own sales tax collection efforts, rather than relying on the Oklahoma Tax Commission, could affect the state’s participation in the streamlined sales tax compact, legislators were told Wednesday. In May, Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves ruled unconstitutional language in a 2010 law, HB 2359, requiring cities to go through the Oklahoma Tax Commission for collection of local sales taxes. Graves’ ruling, which has been appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, allowed Tulsa to collect its own taxes. Tulsa decided to take its tax collection effort into its own hands after concern arose that some businesses were not remitting sales taxes but were not being penalized for it by the state. A representative from the Main Street Fairness Coalition said that what Tulsa wanted to do flies in the face of the multi-state sales tax simplification system.

Read more from the 23rd and Lincoln blog.


Previously: What is the  the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement? from the OK Policy Blog.

Steele appoints task force to study DHS

House Speaker Kris Steele today unveiled legislative strategies to address deaths of children in programs overseen by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Speaking from the Capitol, Steele announced a five-member bipartisan task force to review and potentially overhaul DHS with policy and structural changes. During the press conference, Steele was flanked by the five House members who will make up the task force: Republicans Pam Peterson, Pat Ownbey and Jason Nelson and Democrats Wade Rousselot and Rebecca Hamilton. The legislative task force will look into reform in four key areas: government structure, agency structure, personnel policy and resource allocation. Also attending the press conference was embattled DHS director Howard Hendrick. Hendrick said he had not been asked to step down when asked by the Tulsa World.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Occupy OKC demands change for the greater good

The 21-year Army veteran at first was unsure whether he wanted his name included in this story. Spending years in a hole of debt and uncertainty while participating in a movement aimed at taking power from the wealthy, elite minority in America has a tendency to make one nervous about putting their name out there, he said. Finally, after talking with Oklahoma Gazette about the issues he faced, Mike Galletly decided to allow his name to be published. “I love my country with all my heart,” said Galletly, who had three deployments into combat as an infantryman, his eyes filling with tears. “I just wish our country loved us back.”

Read more from The Oklahoma Gazette.

Oklahoma City mayor praises EPA program for cleaning up ‘brownfields’

At a time when congressional Republicans are hammering the Environmental Protection Agency for stifling the economy with regulations, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett praised an EPA program Wednesday for helping revitalize some problem areas. Cornett said the agency’s “brownfields” program, which helps cities, states and American Indian tribes clean up abandoned industrial sites or community eyesores to prepare them for redevelopment, has “made a remarkable difference in Oklahoma City.” Testifying to a Senate subcommittee, Cornett cited the Skirvin Hotel, “which was built 100 years ago this week, and shuttered for 20 years, with really no hope of ever being reopened without some level of government assistance.” “We used brownfields money to go in there and help close that gap. We had an environmental site along our river — which 60 years ago had been a city dump — and we were able to address the environmental needs there, and Dell Computers has built a campus with 1,500 employees,” he said.

Read more from NewsOK.

Bad air quality year for Oklahoma City area could mean trouble

Central Oklahoma might get lucky and not have poor air quality this year count against it in the eyes of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. But something has to be done sooner or later, and even a concentrated effort using a variety of solutions might not be enough to escape federal penalties, officials said. The record-shattering drought and heat wave, along with calm winds, created ideal conditions this year for ozone to form when chemical reactions occur between gases emitted by vehicles, power plants and other natural and man-made sources. The EPA and President Barack Obama’s administration have flip-flopped in recent months on whether to implement tougher air quality standards, which Rex said would almost surely be too tough for the Oklahoma City area to meet. But even the present standards would mean Oklahoma City was afoul of the rules in 2011.

Read more from NewsOK.

Despite recent rains, extreme drought continues

The recent rains are appreciated, but it’s just a drop in a very big bucket. About 80 percent of the state, including Central Oklahoma, continues to be in a persistent, expansive, “extreme” drought. The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association issued Oct. 11, showed the entire state is in a “severe” drought, or worse. Fifty-nine percent of Oklahoma is in an “exceptional” drought, the worst category. Three months ago, about 43 percent of the state had the “exceptional” drought label. Current long-range predictions have the drought continuing and intensifying, with a similar weather pattern predicted for the fall and winter months.

Read more from The Oklahoma Gazette.

Superintendent Janet Barresi: Empowering through reforms

I had the wonderful opportunity last week to meet with education reformers from all across the country at the 2011 National Summit on Education Reform titled “Education Everywhere.” On Friday, I participated in a roundtable discussion with my fellow Chiefs for Change members talking about reforms we’ve implemented here in Oklahoma and listening to ideas from other states. I shared about reforms that were passed this year — thanks to the heroic efforts of our state Legislature and our governor — that will allow us to put the interest of our children first. One of my goals is that every child who graduates from an Oklahoma school should be college, career and citizen ready. I call this my C3 initiative. Students who earn a diploma in Oklahoma should be ready to go directly into the work force or into college without the need for remediation, and they should know something about their country, their history and their government.

Read more from The Edmond Sun.

Quote of the Day

I acknowledge that Bill John Baker has been elected to the Office of Principal Chief and offer him any help I may provide in building the Nation I so love, and have been honored to serve for the past 12 years.
former Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank nationally in prevalence of adult diabetes; 11.0 percent of the adult population in Oklahoma had diabetes in 2010, compared to only 8.3 percent nationally

Source: America’s Health Rankings

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How to create ‘good jobs’

Job creation has become a hot phrase in the national discourse. A question asked less often: What kind of jobs should be created? Paul Osterman, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, took that issue to task in a new book, Good Jobs America: Making Work Better for Everyone. Osterman estimates that 20 percent of Americans currently stuck in “bad jobs.” There is no singular source for this, he says, but a stagnant minimum wage, which is lower when adjusted for inflation than it was in 1968, and the weakening of workers unions served as a couple of catalysts to the influx of bad jobs. In the book, Osterman made the Rio Grande Valley in Texas a focal point of his research. According to his estimates, from January 2000 to January 2010, employment in that area grew by 42 percent, compared to one percent nationally. Osterman’s closer look found that between 2005 and 2008, the median wage for adults was $8.14, well below Osterman’s target for a living wage. He documents stories of hardship from people living on meager compensation. Type 2 diabetics declined to treat their disease; parents were forced to miss teacher conferences for their kids because they couldn’t take time off work. Those conditions aren’t sustainable for a healthy society, Osterman says.

Read more from Governing Magazine.

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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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