In The Know: Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice resigns

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 Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice is resigning because he and his family are moving out of state. A judge heard arguments on an Oklahoma law that restricts how physicians can treat women with abortion-inducing drugs. The OK Policy Blog shares the comments of five state agency leaders on what they’ve done to continue operating in hard times.

The Legislative Compensation Board voted to keep pay for lawmakers at the same level. A new report finds Oklahoma receives $1.31 in highway money for every $1 we pay in federal fuel taxes. The tax reform task force is examining how to respond to a court ruling that disrupts collection of intangible property taxes. A House committee heard testimony on whether the state should change requirements for publication of legal notices to help local governments save money.

The New York Times profiles how the baseball program at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus has produced more major league draft picks than OU and OSU by recruiting Latinos from the Northeast. Foster families gave emotional testimony at a hearing on DHS policies. The Director of the Food Bank of Oklahoma warns about potential cuts to federal nutrition aid that would make it impossible to get enough food to hungry Oklahomans.

Today’s Number of the Day is the number of states with no broad-based individual income tax that Oklahoma out-competed in per capita personal income growth. In today’s Policy Note, an unsettling graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows how Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan would be an extreme redistribution of the tax burden from the wealthy to everyone else.

In The News

Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice announces resignation

Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, who tried to unseat U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, three years ago, is resigning because he and his family are moving out of state. Shortly after Rice, D-Oklahoma City, made his announcement Tuesday, state Rep. Al McAffrey said he would seek Rice’s Senate District 46 seat. His House of Representatives district is in Rice’s Senate district. Rice is supporting McAffrey. A special election to fill Rice’s seat will be next year. Rice, 37, said he is resigning to move to Nashville, Tenn., where his wife, Apple, a doctor, has accepted a position. Rice, elected to the state Senate in 2006, said he will resign effective Jan. 15. His four-year term expires in 2014.

Read more from NewsOK at

Okla. judge hears arguments on abortion law

A proposed new Oklahoma law that restricts how physicians treat women with abortion-inducing drugs is bad for women’s health and should be delayed until a lawsuit challenging the measure is resolved, attorneys for an abortion rights group argued on Tuesday. Assistant Attorney General Victoria Tindall said there are numerous cases in which the use of various abortion-inducing drugs outside the guidelines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has caused health problems and even deaths among women. But attorney Michelle Movahed said all of those deaths were investigated by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and “there was absolutely no causal relationship found between those unfortunate deaths and the medications that had been used.” She added that as many as 21 percent of all drugs are prescribed “off-label,” a term that refers to using prescriptions beyond the recommended dosage or for symptoms other than those for which the drug was initially approved.

Read more from the Associated Press at–Abortion-Law-Challenged/.

Making more bricks with less straw: Agency heads share thoughts on operating in hard times

At last week’s Fall Legislative Forum organized by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, a panel of state agency directors discussed some of the accomplishments and continuing challenges facing Oklahoma government. Taking part in the panel were leaders from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Department of Human Services, the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Health Department, and the Health Care Authority. The panelists discussed several ways we have made progress in Oklahoma despite tough budget times.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma legislators won’t get raises, board decides

Granting an increase in pay or benefits for state lawmakers would send the wrong message to taxpayers, the chairman of the Legislative Compensation Board said Tuesday. The board voted 7-0 Tuesday to keep legislative pay at the same level it’s been the past 13 years. Board members said a pay hike couldn’t be justified with so many Oklahomans struggling financially as the state attempts to recover from the national recession. “I’m not even sure the state could afford it,” board member Bernard Jones said. Legislators are paid $38,400 a year. Oklahoma legislators are the 16th-highest paid, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oklahoma ranks first in pay in the region that consists of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma ranks 15th in return on federal fuel taxes

The federal government returns .31 cents on top of every dollar Oklahomans pay in federal fuel taxes, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. The numbers, analyzed by, show that Oklahoma and Arkansas tied for the No. 15 spot in a state-by-state breakdown of federal highway aid. Alaska topped the list at $4.99 per dollar return, while Texas took the No. 50 spot with only $1.03 per dollar. The study was requested by Congress, which is searching for a long-term surface transportation plan since the last major highway bill expired in 2009. According to the numbers, every U.S. state received more federal highway money than its drivers paid in federal fuel taxes.

Read more from State Impact Oklahoma at

Task force looks at problematic court ruling on intangible property taxes

Thorny issues of “intangible property” taxation and the broader structure of Oklahoma’s tax system are the focus of a major task force of legislators and private citizens. Prior to a controversial judicial decision, so-called intangible personal property was taxed only via “unit valuations.” However, the outcome in the state Supreme Court case of “S.W. Bell vs. State Board of Equalization” (2009) triggered the possibility that localities might begin to tax intangible property in other ways. In his presentation at the September hearing, David Blatt of Oklahoma Policy Institute warned doing away with “taxation of intangible property for centrally assessed entitles” could yield revenue loss and make assessments difficult. However, he said, expansion of the tax on locally-assessed entities might lead to substantial tax hikes and make assessment more difficult. Blatt said the best outcome, on the “intangible” issue, would be a state constitutional amendment to restore “the status quo ante,” i.e. to limit intangible property taxation to centrally-assessed entities.

Read more from CapitolBeatOK at

House committee studies publication of legal notices

A proposal intended to save counties and cities money would result in less information being provided to the public, the head of a newspaper group told a legislative committee Monday. Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, said it’s best when legal notices are published by an entity outside of government. Thomas said some requirements on counties to publish legal notices in the paper, such as the listing of surplus property, were the result of the state’s county commissioner scandal in the early 1980s. More than 70 sitting commissioners resigned after taking kickbacks from various suppliers. Oklahoma County District 3 Commissioner Ray Vaughn said county and city governments are facing tough times as they have to deal with a smaller budget for the fourth straight year. The requirement for counties to publish certain legal notices should be modified, Vaughn said.

Read more from NewsOK at

For Latino baseball players, an opportunity in Oklahoma

More than 1,500 miles from his home campus in Altus, Okla., a junior-college baseball coach might have seemed out of place recently at a rundown diamond in Brooklyn. Russell had traveled to New York on a tip from one of his connections in the city: a tall right-hander with a 94-mile-per-hour fastball had recently arrived from the Dominican Republic. Such connections — and the players they unearth — have allowed Russell to build a baseball juggernaut in Altus, continually replenishing a roster loaded with talented Latino players from the Northeast. He capitalized on a quirk in the American collegiate baseball system that other junior colleges have exploited for years: if a student accepts a baseball scholarship to an N.C.A.A. Division I university, he cannot enter the Major League Baseball draft for three years. If he attends a junior college, however, he does not forsake any eligibility and can enter the draft after one season. But what makes Russell’s recruiting strategy different is the players he brings in: often overlooked Latinos looking for another chance to play. In 2010, Western produced eight major league draft picks, more than Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the state’s most prominent Division I programs.

Read more from The New York Times at

Tales of foster child adoption experiences spark emotions

The little boy has been in the home of Keith and Tammy Winn since April of last year. He arrived with burns on his feet, ear, mouth, arms and elsewhere on his body, removed from the home of a meth-addicted relative for failure to thrive. The Winns have been trying to adopt the child. They appeared before the House Judiciary Committee Monday to tell their story. Tammy Winn said the biological mother, who was never charged with anything relating to the boy’s burns, said she did not cause them but did not know where they occurred. She said that the Department of Human Services recently started overnight visits between the mother and child, and the Winns are under the impression that reunification may take place as early as November. Winn said that at least one caseworker seemed overwhelmed by his caseload and it has been difficult to get assistance or information about their case and the child’s situation.

Read more from the 23rd and Lincoln blog at

Cuts to federal nutrition program would be costly

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma faces challenging times. Food donations are expected to drop significantly in upcoming months and the demand for food shows no signs of leveling off. If the demand for food escalates dramatically due to budget cuts in federal nutrition programs, the food bank will be in the almost untenable situation of having a tremendous increase for our services at a time when less food is available. Without proper nutrition, chronically hungry children in Oklahoma won’t have the ability to grow and learn to become productive leaders. Families and individuals will struggle to maintain employment and stay healthy. Many seniors will find their limited resources stretched to the point that something has to give. One of our partner agencies recently reported that 25 percent of the families it serves have never asked for food before. Sadly, 600,000 Oklahomans struggle with not having enough food.

Read more from NewsOK at

Quote of the Day

We should be embarrassed that I have more beds for substance abuse treatment than DMHSAS. They have to commit a crime before they can get treatment.
Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Gene Christian

Number of the Day


Number of states with no broad-based individual income tax that Oklahoma out-competed in per capita personal income growth, 2000-2010; Wyoming was the only state with no income tax to grow faster than Oklahoma.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

9-9-9 in one (really long) graph

In my previous post decrying the extreme redistribution of the tax burden from the wealthy to everyone else, I had to use two graphs to tell the story. I couldn’t fit the increase in tax liabilities for the bottom 80% on the same graph that include the over $1 million decrease in tax liability for the top 0.1%. But my CBPP colleague Brian Highsmith could. So here you have it: the change in tax liabilities, compared to current tax policy, under 9-9-9, for different income groups, in one incredibly unsettling graph.

See the graph at

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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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