In The Know: Report says increase in Oklahoma quakes "almost certainly man-made"

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 a U.S. Geological Survey study has found that the significant increase in Oklahoma earthquakes is “almost certainly man-made.” The inclusion of additional data on out-of-home care could put Oklahoma at no. 1 in the nation for abuse and neglect of children in foster care in next year’s rankings. Friends of Jake England, the suspect in a series of shootings of African-Americans in Tulsa, say he had a mental breakdown after witnessing his father’s homicide and girlfriend’s suicide.

Janet Pearson examines why even many pro-life advocates are not supporting Personhood bills. Language seeking to insert creationism into Oklahoma classrooms has been added as an amendment to another bill, despite the original bill being denied a hearing in the Senate Education Committee. Rep. Jason Murphey said lawmakers need to have more time to think about legislation before voting on it.

State Rep. Sue Tibbs has died at age 77 after a long fight with cancer. Candidate filing for the November elections begins Wednesday. A group of Oklahoma City-area convenience store owners has sued the Oklahoma Tax Commission for allegedly using race and religion as factors for selecting which stores to audit for tax violations.

With the deadline to file your federal income tax return (April 17th) fast approaching, the OK Policy Blog shares four ways to find free tax help. Oklahoma City is moving forward with plans for the first of four senior wellness centers to be built under MAPS. The Kialegee Tribal Town is close to opening a casino in a Tulsa suburb despite a state lawsuit and protests from area residents.

The Number of the Day is how many people in Oklahoma are living with HIV/AIDS. In today’s Policy Note, Demos discusses the increasing success of campaigns to pressure corporations to curb their political spending.

In The News

Report says increase in Oklahoma quakes “almost certainly man-made”

A spurt of small earthquakes in the central part of the United States – including a significant increase in Oklahoma quakes – is “almost certainly man-made,” a U.S. Geological Survey study has found. “A naturally occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region,” an online abstract of the report says. From 1970 to 2000, the rate of mid-continental U.S. earthquakes that were at least 3 in magnitude averaged 21 per year; the rate increased to 29 per year in the area from 2001 to 2008. In 2009, there were 50. In 2010, there were 87, and in 2011, there were 134. In Oklahoma, the rate of earthquakes of at least 3 magnitude increased from 1.2 per year in the previous half century to 25 per year in 2009, the abstract says. The report will not specifically identify hydraulic fracking or any other specific drilling activity as a cause of the increased seismic activity, according to the abstract. “It remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production,” the abstract says.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma could be #1 for abuse and neglect of children in foster care

Don’t be surprised if Oklahoma is No. 1 in the nation next year for abuse and neglect of children in foster care, state officials say. The expected rank won’t be due to more assaults on children, officials say. But there will be better data collection by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, a change in the standard confirming allegations and continued uneven national reporting to the federal government. The child welfare improvement plan submitted for approval March 30 would require DHS to include reports of abuse and neglect occurring at group homes, inpatient facilities and shelters, which are considered higher levels of foster care. These were left out when DHS would report the safety rating of children in out-of-home care. Oklahoma is one of 11 states omitting this information.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Suspect in Easter holiday killings haunted by father’s killing, friends say

A man who was arrested after a series of shootings in north Tulsa had a mental breakdown after witnessing his father’s homicide and then his girlfriend’s suicide, longtime family friends said. Jake England, then 17, watched as a man shot his father, Carl England, 47, after an attempted home invasion at Comanche Park Apartments on April 5, 2010, the friends said. Three months shy of the second anniversary of that shooting, Jake England’s girlfriend, Sheran Hart Wilde, 24, shot herself in front of him, the friends said. Her death notice was published Jan. 12 in the Tulsa World. Jake was left to care for their son, Jake England Jr., who was 4 months old when Wilde died, and his two younger sisters, the friends said. Jake England and his roommate Alvin Watts, 32, were arrested early Easter Sunday on allegations that they shot five people in north Tulsa early Friday, the day after the two-year anniversary of Carl England’s death. Three died.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

‘Personhood’ concerns even pro-life groups

Is it possible to draft a so-called pro-life measure that’s so objectionable even pro-life advocates won’t support it? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. The possible legal ramifications of defining an embryo as a full-fledged person are spawning endless debate, and with good reason. As if medical professionals’ concerns aren’t reason enough to torpedo such measures, there’s the fact these laws don’t come cheap, primarily because they are certain to spawn lawsuits. Last December, South Dakota’s Office of Risk Management predicted the state would face more than $1.2 million in extra legal fees for the fiscal year defending, among other cases, an abortion law challenged by Planned Parenthood in 2005. If the state loses the lawsuit, taxpayers could be required to pay Planned Parenthood’s legal fees – which they already were forced to do to the tune of about $410,000 in an earlier case brought by Planned Parenthood.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Opposition mounts against creationism amendment

An Oklahoma senator has made a fresh attempt to bring creationist ideas as a challenge to evolution theory into the state’s public science classrooms. State Sen. Steve Russell, an Oklahoma City Republican, has filed a floor amendment to House Bill 2341, which originally dealt with textbook adoptions. The amendment inserts the language of House Bill 1551 into the bill. HB 1551, originally sponsored by controversial state Rep. Sally Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican, finds certain topics, such as biological evolution, can cause controversy and requires school districts “to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.” The bill, passed by the House, didn’t receive a hearing in the Senate Education Committee and thus was presumed to be killed for the session.

Read more from Okie Funk.

Rep. Murphey wants to give legislators more time to think about their votes

Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, floated a revolutionary idea the other day: allowing lawmakers to think about legislation before voting on it. Murphey pointed out that for most bills considered in the Legislature, the process is the same: The bill is called up, the author answers a few questions (sometimes none), there is no debate and everyone votes. “There is no chance to deliberate, take a walk and think about the facts, or research the veracity of the advocates’ or opponents’ statements on the bill,” Murphey wrote. “The vote is taken in the emotion of the moment. This emotion is only heightened during the two-minute time period during which the vote takes place. Legislators may initially vote for a bill and then change their vote when the bill loses momentum and it appears that they risk being on the losing side. Legislators may also wait to see how other legislators vote before casting their votes. Murphey’s solution: Force lawmakers to split the process of considering the bill and voting on it.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Sue Tibbs, District 23 state lawmaker, dies at 77

State Rep. Sue Tibbs, a six-term Republican from east Tulsa, has died. The 77-year-old Tibbs died Friday morning of complications related to her long fight with cancer, the Tulsa County Republican Party said in an emailed announcement. Services are pending with Floral Haven Funeral Home in Broken Arrow. Tibbs was elected to six terms from House District 23. She defeated the late Betty Boyd, a well-known television personality and Democrat, to win her first term in 2000. Because of term limits, the current session would have been her last.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Candidate filing for November election starts Wednesday

In November, 132 state and congressional offices are up for grabs in Oklahoma, but the long road to political office begins Wednesday for potential candidates. Political hopefuls must file their declaration of candidacy with the state Election Board and pay a fee or get enough petition signatures by 5 p.m. Friday to have their name on the ballot in November. In 2010, a gubernatorial year with almost every statewide office up for election, almost 600 candidates filed. This year’s filing is expected to be more in line with 2008, when 300 people filed, or 2004, with 412 candidates. Recent redistricting for 2012 elections has changed the composition of the five congressional districts and many state House and Senate seats. This will be the first major election using the new district lines. State law requires a candidate be a registered voter in his or her district for six months before the candidate filing day.

Read more from NewsOK.

OKC convenience store owners allege race, religion factors in suit over Tax Commission audits

A group of Oklahoma City-area convenience store owners has sued the Oklahoma Tax Commission for allegedly using race and religion as factors for selecting which stores to audit for tax violations, an accusation the Tax Commission denies. Thirty-seven local owners have sued the agency, alleging they were targeted for unusually harsh sales tax audits. “They’re Muslims or Vietnamese,” said Oklahoma City attorney Natalie Nhu Mai, who is representing the store owners. Through litigation, Mai said, she has learned there are about 150 open Tax Commission convenience store audits. Oklahoma Tax Commission Attorney Marjorie Welch said the computer program that targeted most of the owners for audits doesn’t contain data about the race or religion of the convenience store owners, Welch said.

Read more from The Associated Press.

Four ways to find free tax help

The deadline to file your federal income tax return (April 17th) is fast approaching. The Internal Revenue Service offers free tax help by computer, telephone, and in person. Free tax preparation sites sponsored by community organizations and staffed by volunteers are also available for those who are income-eligible. Rather than turning to commercial tax preparers, whose fees can eat into your refund, here are four free and easy ways to get help.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

OKC moving forward with first MAPS senior wellness center

Oklahoma City leaders want potential partners for the MAPS 3 senior wellness centers to know they’re willing to be flexible on the design and purpose of the four facilities planned under the program. Design work is set to begin this year on the first of the four senior wellness centers. About $52 million in MAPS 3 money has been earmarked for the centers, which are intended to be built over the next decade. After several organizations in the Oklahoma City area expressed interest in operating one of the centers, only the YMCA and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department ended up filing formal bids for the first one. But every group that has expressed interest so far has said they’ll need a subsidy to operate the building.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tribe close to opening casino in Tulsa suburb despite area efforts to stop it

A tiny Oklahoma Indian tribe of fewer than 450 members could partly open a casino in this Tulsa suburb by the end of the month despite protest from thousands of residents, a pending state lawsuit seeking to stop the building and permission from a national gaming organization. The Kialegee Tribal Town, headquartered in Wetumka in southeastern Oklahoma, broke ground on the 20-acre site near the Creek Turnpike late last year and has trucked in several pre-fabricated buildings in recent weeks to temporarily house the Red Clay Casino. When it opens, the gaming center will be among several larger casinos already operating in Tulsa County — the closest is about 10 miles away from the site. The casino quickly drew the ire of residents, pastors and school administrators, who fear the tribe is trying to force the development on the conservative bedroom community of 99,000. Opponents say the casino will only be a few blocks from the future site of an elementary school and pre-kindergarten center and worry it could attract a flurry of criminal activity to the area.

Read more from The Associated Press.

Quote of the Day

This is not 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma (referring to the race riot of that year). This is 2012. We stand together.
Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church, speaking about the community’s response to five random shootings of African-Americans Friday night

Number of the Day


Number of people in Oklahoma currently living with HIV/AIDS, 2009

Source: AIDS United

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Corporations under pressure to curb political spending

Corporate accountability campaigns are gaining steam and already racking up victories.This week has seen several stunning victories for direct citizen action. On Wednesday, Coca-cola renounced its membership on the private enterprise board of ALEC. Already this year Pepsi had chosen to end its decade-long membership with the organization, and yesterday Kraft followed suit. ALEC is the conservative group that connects businesses to conservative state legislators to push for legislation that prioritizes corporate special interests over the public interest. But ALEC is also behind the voter ID and other voter suppression laws that threaten to disenfranchise millions of voters in this year’s elections. These laws attempt to determine the outcome of an election by choosing who votes, instead of the old-fashioned way of convincing voters to choose you. Now ALEC has been unmasked as the proponents behind the “Stand Your Ground” law — otherwise known as “Kill at Will” — that has resulted in no arrest for the killer of Trayvon Martin.

Read more from Demos.

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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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