In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court overturns lawsuit reform 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has overturned a wide-ranging tort reform law passed in 2009 because it violates the single-subject rule. Urban Tulsa Weekly examines the situation of working poor adults in Oklahoma who are denied access to Medicaid. Governing Magazine reports on how a rise in extreme weather disasters in Oklahoma is putting a strain on policymakers. The tornado that ripped through El Reno on Friday has been upgraded to an EF-5 and was the widest tornado ever recorded.

The Boeing Co. and Devon Energy Corp. may receive up to $121.7 million in job-creation incentives from Oklahoma over the next 10 years. OETA has received 11 Heartland Chapter Emmy Award nominations. UCO business dean Mickey Hepner writes in the Oklahoma Gazette that tax cuts are crippling Oklahoma’s core services. The Tulsa World discusses how a flurry of brief, simplistic bills introduced by House Speaker TW Shannon this session had to be rewritten or dumped.

The OK Policy Blog shares a photography project presenting images and words of incarcerated women in Oklahoma. The Number of the Day is the amount of funding Oklahoma lost for FY 2013 as a result of federal ’sequestration’ budget cuts. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog shares graphs from an ACLU report showing the extreme gap in marijuana arrests between blacks and whites, even though marijuana use is not more prevalent among blacks. In Oklahoma, blacks were 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in 2010, and arrests for marijuana possession made up more than half of all drug arrests.

In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court overturns lawsuit reform law

Lawmakers likely will be asked next year to pass several bills to restore key elements of a comprehensive lawsuit measure that has been tossed out by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, a legislative leader said Tuesday. The state’s high court in a 7-2 ruling Tuesday stated the measure, called the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009, was unconstitutional because it violated the single-subject rule of the state constitution by logrolling several subjects into one. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said the court’s decision on House Bill 1603 is being reviewed. Some provisions of the measure, such as a cap on pain and suffering, were changed in legislation passed in 2011 and will remain in effect.

Read more from NewsOK.

Medicaid program helps, but many working adults left out

In the last five years, the number of Oklahomans receiving health care help through Medicaid has increased by almost one-third. Just over 1 million were listed as enrolled in what’s known as SoonerCare or Insure Oklahoma for the 12-month period beginning July 2011. “What you see is, when families can’t afford healthcare for anyone else, they’ll make sure their kids are covered,” said Community Service Council Associate Director Jan Figart. The state numbers seem to at least back up the idea that young people rely on Medicaid more than others: just over 60 percent of all Medicaid recipients were under 21 during the 12-month period beginning July 2011, according to state health authorities.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

How Oklahoma deals with America’s most extreme weather

A series of deadly tornadoes has devastated Oklahoma in the last two weeks, killing dozens and leaving billions of dollars in damage in their wake. The disasters have captured the national attention, but they are an unfortunate fact of life for this Great Plains state. In recent years, Oklahoma has dealt with what is arguably the most extreme weather in the United States, from record winters to vicious summers, and it is putting a strain on policymakers. Here’s the eye-catching figure: Since 2000, 37 presidential emergency declarations have been issued in response to the state’s extreme weather events, eight more than the next closest state.

Read more from Governing.

El Reno tornado was the widest ever recorded

The tornado that ripped through El Reno, Okla., on Friday was the widest tornado ever recorded and had winds that hit nearly 300 miles per hour, close to the highest wind speed ever measured, the National Weather Service reported Tuesday. The record-setting twister was 2.6 miles wide at its maximum and carved a 16.2 mile path across mostly rural land west of Oklahoma City. It tops the previous record-holding tornado, which hit Hallam, Neb., on May 22, 2004, and was 2.5 miles wide. For comparison, USA Today notes that Manhattan is 2.3 miles wide at its widest point.

Read more from the Christian Science Monitor.

Boeing and Devon Corporations claim $121.7 million in tax incentives

The Boeing Co. and Devon Energy Corp. have pledged to create up to 1,817 new jobs in Oklahoma over the next 10 years to claim up to $121.7 million in job-creation incentives from the state. The Boeing Co. has qualified for up to $43.8 million in state tax incentives to create 459 high-paying skilled jobs in Oklahoma City through Oklahoma’s 21st Century Quality Jobs Program. Boeing can recoup up to 7 percent of its taxable payroll on the engineering jobs through the 21st Century Quality Jobs program, versus the maximum 5 percent for the Quality Jobs incentive. The 21st Century Jobs incentives the company has been cleared for are on top of $11 million in tax rebates Boeing also is qualified to get by creating an additional 369 new jobs over the next 10 years in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Commerce Department announced Tuesday.

Read more from NewsOK.

OETA nominated for 11 Emmy Awards

The Oklahoma Network has received 11 Heartland Chapter Emmy Award nominations, including one in the Community Service category. Nominations include a record four going to OETA’s arts and culture series GALLERY, two for OKLAHOMA NEWS REPORT, two for documentary series STATELINE, one for OETA’s news and public affairs series OKLAHOMA FORUM, and one for OETA’s interview series ON THE RECORD. In addition, OETA’s Lessons from the Dust Bowl outreach project was nominated for Community Service. The statewide project engaged thousands of Oklahomans across the state around the issue of conservation.

Read more from NewsOK.

Death by a thousand cuts

It’s just a little tax cut. It can’t hurt anything, can it? Oh, but it can. The state Legislature this session passed House Bill 2032 to decrease the maximum Oklahoma personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent in 2015 and then again to 4.85 percent in 2016 if there is sufficient revenue growth. When fully implemented, the Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates the measure will reduce state revenues by $237 million per year. Although it represents only 3 percent of the total state budget, $237 million is a lot of money. As the Oklahoma Policy Institute has pointed out, for the cost of the tax cut the state could hire 1,800 teachers, offer free tuition for 10,000 college students, provide SoonerCare coverage for 37,000 children, incarcerate 1,000 inmates … and still have $55 million left over.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Some of Shannon’s bills were rewritten or dumped

Early in the session House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, introduced a flurry of brief, simplistic bills seemingly designed to appeal to his party’s primary voters. Among them were bills opposing “Obamacare,” requiring work for welfare, promoting marriage (using federal funds for the poor) and placing a moratorium on fees charged by state agencies – all measures that would look great on an ambitious young politician’s resume. Problem was, some of them conflicted with federal law, or proposed things that were already being done, or had dire unintended consequences. Some of his bills didn’t pass. One passed and was vetoed by the governor. A few passed in drastically re-written form.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Yousef Khanfar and Invisible Eve

Yousef Khanfar is a noted author and photographer. In his latest project, Invisible Eve, he turns his lens on incarcerated Oklahoma women, presenting their images and words in an effort to reach empathy and understanding. Here is Yousef’s artist statement for the project, which we reprint with permission: The faces and voices I have captured from the penitentiaries for my project, Invisible Eve, were a challenge indeed; perhaps my lenses have never labored so much on a subject more utterly restricted. Since United States has the highest incarceration of women per capita in the world, I decided to take on this project, not to condemn, but to serve as bridges of understanding.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Quote of the Day

I think we have to acknowledge that climate change is coming, and that’s why we’re having such extremes.

-Broken Arrow Mayor Craig Thurmond, on the growing number of weather-related disasters in Oklahoma (Source:

Number of the Day

$289 million

Amount of funding Oklahoma lost for FY 2013 as a result of federal ’sequestration’ budget cuts

Source: Federal Funds Information for States and Bureau of Economic Analysis

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The black/white marijuana arrest gap, in nine charts

As you’re probably aware, black Americans are arrested for marijuana possession far more frequently than whites. You may also know that there’s not much evidence that black people consume marijuana with greater regularity than whites do. But the extent of the disparity between the rate of arrest and the rate of use for white and black Americans may surprise you. The ACLU has an absurdly comprehensive new report tracking marijuana possession arrests for blacks and whites at the national, state and county level.

Read more from Wonkblog.

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.