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Today you should know that the first bill of the session passed by the Oklahoma Senate was an anti-abortion statement that life begins at the moment of conception. Republican lawmaker and emergency room physician Rep. Doug Cox decried a new effort to cut off funding to Oklahoma Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide many services for children and women, including tests to detect cancer. OK Policy shared its overview of all of the bills filed this legislative session, which looks better for immigrants but terrible for poor people.
Kingfisher mother Patricia Spottedcrow, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence for selling $31 in marijuana, will get an early chance at parole. A LeFlore County judge ruled that Oklahoma’s commercial pet breeding rules are constitutional. A bill to gradually increase the legal age to purchase tobacco in Oklahoma from 18 to 21 has passed out of a House committee.
NewsOK writes that the claim that sales tax revenue can make up for income tax cuts is problematic hype. Developers say a tax credit being targeted for elimination as part of the effort to roll back income taxes is key to saving historic buildings around the state. Gov. Fallin wrote a letter urging members of Congress to extend a federal tax credit for wind energy production.
A Tulsa-area recycling agency has found a way to increase the value of its products while creating jobs for ex-felons. Five fields account for about half of all four-year degrees earned at Oklahoma colleges and universities, and the number one degree awarded is business and management. A new report card measures how Oklahoma City and Tulsa are doing on racial equity.
The Number of the Day is the year by which Oklahoma is expected to have the highest obesity rate in the nation. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports on how even critics of the safety net increasingly depend on it.
In The News
Oklahoma Senate passes personhood bill, saying life begins at conception
The first bill of the session passed by the Oklahoma Senate was an anti-abortion statement that life begins at the moment of conception, approved by senators Wednesday after two hours of debate. The practical effect of the bill is open to question. Its author, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said it’s merely a statement that Oklahoma is “pro-life.” He labeled as fear mongering contentions by opponents that it could lead to restrictions on abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research. The Personhood Act, Senate Bill 1433, received international attention in the wake of a proposed amendment from Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Holdenville. The amendment said it was an act against unborn children for men to waste sperm. Johnson, whose amendment was tabled, said she is sick of legislation that pries into the private lives of women with no mention of the men who are co-actors in the process of conception.
Oklahoma lawmaker says by cutting funds to Planned Parenthood, bill harms women, children
A measure that calls for prioritizing where Oklahoma allocates state and federal funds is meant to cut off money to Planned Parenthood clinics, a lawmaker said Wednesday. Rep. Doug Cox, an emergency room physician, said clinics operated by Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, based in Tulsa, provide many services for children and women, including tests to detect precancerous and cancerous conditions. He spoke against the bill, which House committee passed. About 70 percent of the women going to Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma receive Medicaid, and the others are low income, he said. They would be unable to receive counseling, cancer tests and children’s services if Planned Parenthood clinics weren’t available. “It’s sad that we have a knee-jerk reaction to a national controversy and penalize the women of Oklahoma and the medical education system of Oklahoma needlessly,” said Cox, R-Grove.
2012 Session: Prospects look better for immigrants, worse for the poor, loaded for gun enthusiasts
The 2012 legislative session convened last Monday and will run until the end of May. With 1,934 new bills filed, it takes awhile before we know for certain which priorities will dominate the session. But now that our merry gang of bill-trackers have taken a first look, a few themes have emerged. One is a subject more notable by its absence than its presence: immigration. Although the passage of restrictive immigration laws in Alabama and elsewhere last year has sparked a wave of new legislation in some states, it hasn’t happened here. Immigrants may hope to escape the session unscathed, but the prospects for poor people look bleaker.
Oklahoma Parole Board agrees to give early hearing to mother jailed for selling $31 in pot
A Kingfisher woman serving an eight-year prison sentence on a first-time offense for selling $31 in marijuana is getting a chance at parole after the board unanimously agreed to hear her case early. Patricia Spottedcrow, 26, is scheduled to appear on the Pardon and Parole Board’s docket April 17-20 in Oklahoma City. Spottedcrow was arrested and charged for selling the marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, 51, was also charged. Because children were in the home, a charge of possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor was added. In blind pleas before a judge, Spottedcrow received a 12-year sentence and her mother received a 30-year suspended sentence. Neither had prior criminal convictions.
Regulation of pet breeders constitutional, Oklahoma judge finds
Oklahoma’s commercial pet breeding rules are constitutional, a LeFlore County judge has ruled. In a six-page decision filed Monday, District Judge Jonathan Sullivan found against a LeFlore County breeder, who had argued that the rules were unconstitutionally vague, were being enforced arbitrarily, violated a provision of the constitution that gives the state Agriculture Board exclusive authority on animal industry regulation and violated the constitution’s ban on “special” laws. Tulsa attorney Misty Fields, attorney for breeder Charles Evans, said Sullivan’s ruling will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
House panel OKs raising age limit to buy tobacco
A bill to gradually increase the legal age to purchase tobacco in Oklahoma from 18 to 21 has passed out of a House committee. The House Public Health Committee approved the bill Tuesday on a 7-5 vote and it now heads to the full House for consideration. Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, says her bill would not apply to tribal smoke shops, prompting concern from some members that those stores would have an unfair advantage. Under the bill, the age limit would be increased to 19 in 2013, 20 in 2014 and 21 in 2015. Coody says a handful of states have increased the legal age to purchase tobacco to 19, but that Oklahoma would be the first to increase the age to 21.
Personal spending piece of Oklahoma tax cut hype is problematic
ONE of the selling points of an immediate cut in the state personal income tax is that people would buy more goods with the money not being withheld from their paychecks. This means sales tax revenue would increase and offset the loss in revenues from income taxes, right? Also, local governments — which don’t directly benefit from the income tax — would get more revenue from the source of tax upon which they so heavily depend, particularly cities and towns. But the argument that an income tax reduction to, say, a 3 percent top rate could be “paid for” by increased consumer spending is problematic. First, not all of the saved money would be spent. Some would be saved and draw interest (on which the federal and state governments will collect income taxes). Some would be spent out of state with retailers who don’t collect sales taxes for the state and its cities. Some would be given to tax-exempt churches and charities and further reduce income tax receipts because such giving is deductible.
Cutting tax credits could hurt Oklahoma preservation efforts
Key legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin appear to be targeting a state tax program that preservationists and developers say is key to saving historic buildings in Tulsa and around the state. The Oklahoma Credit for Qualified Rehabilitation Expenditures provides a transferable tax credit of 20 percent of qualifying building rehabilitation costs. Typically, buildings must be on the National Register of Historic Places for the tax credits to be claimed. “In order to keep these historic buildings, this program is 100 percent critical because it’s cheaper to knock it down and go up with new construction,” said developer Mark Larson, who plans to have a 74,000-square-foot historic preservation project finished in about a year. The historic tax credit is included in a preliminary list of tax programs that are to be eliminated in connection with Fallin’s efforts to roll back the state’s personal income tax rate.
Gov. Fallin urges Congress to extend wind energy tax credit
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) yesterday wrote members of the Congressional conference committee on the payroll tax bill, saying “As you draft legislation to address the expiring payroll tax cut and other provisions, I urge you to include an extension of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), currently set to expire at the end of this year.” Gov. Fallin joins fellow Republican governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and Sam Brownback of Kansas, who have also written to the conferees in support of a PTC extension (see “Republican governors push for PTC extension; Senators express support,” February 2, 2012). Added Gov. Fallin, “The wind energy sector is an American success story that is helping us build our manufacturing base, create jobs, lower energy costs, and strengthen our energy security. Our states have experienced the economic benefits of wind energy first hand, and I cannot overstate the importance of extending this tax provision early in the year so the wind industry has the certainty it needs to grow.”
New recycling technique brings jobs for Tulsa-area ex-felons
The Metropolitan Environmental Trust has figured out a way to take something as simple as a milk jug and make it three times as valuable as it used to be. When plastic jugs and bottle are sold for recycling, they’re worth about a third of a cent each. But when those same bottles are squeezed into a bale and wrapped, they’re worth a penny each. When you’re dealing with more than 100 trailer loads of bottles a month – those pennies add up. That’s why the MET opened a baling center to get more for what they sell. The George Kaiser Family Foundation bought the critical piece of equipment – the $30,000 baling machine that makes anything recyclable worth a whole lot more. The added value of the recyclables supports seven new jobs – for people who normally have a hard time finding work. Every one of the employees is fresh out of prison, usually on parole, and in this job, training to do something else.
Business and management is most common degree at Oklahoma universities
Employment usually parallels education, and state education officials have made boosting college completion their No. 1 mission. Higher education officials want to add more than 20,000 degrees and certificates over the next 12 years. Moving forward, it’s important to know where Oklahoma currently is. Five fields of study account for about half of all four-year degrees earned at state colleges and universities, data from the Regents for Higher Education show. The most-common Bachelor’s Degree: business and management, which has twice as many degree holders as the No. 2 most-common degree type, education.
Report card measures racial equity for Oklahoma City, Tulsa
While America has made great strides in racial equity in recent decades, every now and then we get a reminder that we still have room to improve. How does Oklahoma compare in terms of racial equity? An interactive report card illustrates opportunity gaps in the nation’s top 100 metro areas. The map, from the Urban Institute’s MetroTrends team (www.urban.org), combines data from Brown University’s US2010 project and the 2010 Census. Oklahoma City achieved good marks for equity between blacks and whites; Tulsa didn’t fare as well. In Latino-white equity, both metro areas are mediocre. The grades are based on residential segregation, neighborhood income, school test scores, employment and homeownership. Each metro area gets a grade in each category, an overall grade and a ranking.
Quote of the Day
It’s sad that we have a knee-jerk reaction to a national controversy and penalize the women of Oklahoma and the medical education system of Oklahoma needlessly.
–Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, on efforts to deny funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide many services for children and women, including tests to detect cancer.
Number of the Day
The year by which Oklahoma is expected to have the highest obesity rate in the nation.
Even critics of safety net increasingly depend on it
Ki Gulbranson owns a logo apparel shop, deals in jewelry on the side and referees youth soccer games. He makes about $39,000 a year and wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government. Multimedia He says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means. He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman. Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.
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