In The Know: September 15, 2011

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 the co-chair of a committee looking at how the new federal health care law will affect Oklahoma said it “would probably make sense” for the state to take federal money to create its own exchange if they decide not to let the federal government run it entirely. With some Oklahoma lawmakers expressing admiration for the Utah health exchange, the OK Policy Blog warns about some problems with their example. See more analyses of health reform from OK Policy and others at our Health Care Reform Resources and Analyses page.

The percentage of OU’s revenues coming from the state has declined by almost half since 1995. OK Policy has completed an analysis of how Oklahoma supports early childhood health and education through federal, state, local, and private funds. The Cherokee Freedmen descendants will be allowed to vote in the upcoming principal chief election with challenge ballots, which can be excluded later if the courts decides they cannot vote. The Carter Center has made an agreement with the Cherokee Nation to observe the election.

An Oklahoma Supreme Court referee heard arguments yesterday on the constitutionality of the state’s new closing fund. OK Policy previously explained how a previous version of the closing fund was found unconstitutional. The Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging how transportation money was moved around to fill this year’s budget gap. Lawmakers are hearing from experts on more ways to reduce recidivism and costs in state prisons. OK Policy previously explained what has been done so far and what still needs doing on corrections reform. In the wake of OU linebacker Austin Box’s death, an interim study is looking at how the state might reduce prescription-drug abuse.

President Obama nominated former Oklahoma Congressman Brad Carson to become the next general counsel of the Army. The Tulsa World finds that one in four Oklahoma drivers do not have auto insurance. In today’s Policy Note, the new Census poverty numbers show the poverty rate is the second highest it has been in 45 years, with record numbers of Americans without health insurance and falling into deep poverty.

In The News

Oklahoma lawmakers discuss new health care law

The number of Oklahomans enrolled in Medicaid will increase by an estimated 140,000 once the new federal health law takes effect in 2014 and cost the state about $24 million more each year, state health officials said on Wednesday. The actual number of Oklahomans who will become eligible for Medicaid under the new law is actually projected at 250,000, which would cost the state more than $41 million each year, but not all of those who are eligible are expected to enroll, said Cindy Roberts, the chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. The OHCA operates the state’s Medicaid system, which provides health care primarily to children, pregnant women and disabled adults. “There will be a different way to determine eligibility under Medicaid,” Roberts told lawmakers. Roberts was one of several speakers at the first meeting of a joint House and Senate committee examining how the new federal health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will affect Oklahoma.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

See also: Xchange Factor: Why Oklahoma should be wary of buying the Utah model from the OK Policy Blog; Health Care Reform Resources and Analyses from Oklahoma Policy Institute


OU’s public revenue streams down this year

The University of Oklahoma expects to receive fives times more in tuition and mandatory fees this fiscal year than it did in 1995 to keep up with rising costs and sliding percentages in state appropriations. The Norman campus expects to receive $144.6 million from state appropriation in fiscal year 2012, up from $85.3 million in 1995. But with a campus’ operating revenue budget this year of nearly $810 million — three times more than the $263 million operating budget in 1995 — the Norman campus is getting 18 percent of its operating budget from the state compared to 31.3 percent in 1995. “Down to 18 percent — at what point are you no longer a public university?” Boren said. “It’s 11.7 percent at the Health Sciences Center, and the medical school alone is down to 8 percent. This should be of tremendous concern to all of us.” OU has relied more heavily on other revenue sources to make up the difference, primarily from tuition, mandatory fees and private gifts.

Read more from The Norman Transcript at at

Will Oklahoma continue to lead the way in early child education?

Young children have one of the strongest claims for public support. They are dependent on us and clearly not to blame for any economic hardships they face. Early childhood is also a smart investment of public dollars, since providing a better start can lead to gains over an entire lifetime, as well as a substantial boost to economic development. For these reasons, Oklahoma leaders in education, business, philanthropy, and politics have built early childhood programs and partnerships that earn national acclaim. At the same time, serious problems remain for Oklahoma children. We rank near the bottom of all states for infant mortality, child deaths, and teen births, and pressures on vulnerable children and families have only increased during the recession. To better understand the overall picture, OK Policy undertook a project funded by Smart Start Oklahoma to map out all the supports for young children in our state. We examined the major programs for children ages 0-5 as well as trends and sources of their funding.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Cherokee freedmen descendants to vote in election, but with challenge ballots

Previously registered Cherokee freedmen descendants will be able to cast challenge ballots in the upcoming principal chief’s election under the provisions of a vote taken Wednesday night by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission. That same day, Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons agreed with a request from Stilwell attorney Ralph Keen for the tribal Supreme Court to re-open the freedmen descendants’ class-action lawsuit. Hammons cited the potential damage the tribe could face if its federal housing funds remain frozen. A challenge ballot is one given to someone whose name is not on a voter registration list at a precinct. The challenge ballots are segregated from the regular ballots and are individually reviewed after the polls close. “The purpose of the challenge ballot is that it allows us to be prepared for any possible court decision on the issue,” Election Commission Chairwoman Susan Plumb said. “If a court decides the freedmen descendants can vote, we will have the ability to certify the election. If the court decides they cannot vote, we will still be able to preserve the election.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Carter Center to observe Cherokee Nation’s principal chief election from NewsOn6

Constitutionality of closing fund debated

Legislation changing a fund for attracting businesses to Oklahoma is constitutional, an assistant state attorney general argued Wednesday before a state Supreme Court referee. Jerry Fent, an Oklahoma City attorney, filed a legal challenge to the measure and wants the high court to strike down the legislation that was passed and approved this year. He said Wednesday that House Bill 1953 is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers set out in the state constitution. Fent said the bill also is unconstitutional because the state is using taxpayer money to give to private companies to help create private jobs.

Read more from NewsOK at

Previously: A tale of two closing funds, the Chinese Communist Party, and genetically modified mice from the OK Policy Blog

See also: State Supreme Court refuses to hear road-funding challenge from NewsOK

Lawmakers seek to lower recidivism and reduce costs in state prisons

The most effective way to prevent incarcerated criminals from reoffending is through programs focusing on changing behaviors, a national expert on criminal justice reform said Wednesday. Ed Latessa, director of the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, said most research shows punishment alone doesn’t reduce recidivism, and not all programs designed to help are useful, either. They aren’t one-size-fits-all programs, and include cognitive behavioral approaches and teaching new behaviors. The event was presented by House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and The Council of State Governments as a part of The Justice Reinvestment Initiative. Oklahoma Corrections Department Director Justin Jones said legislators are doing the right thing listening to experts, analyzing data and looking for ways to reform the packed and expensive state corrections system.

Read more from NewsOK at

Previously: What’s been done and what still needs doing on corrections reform from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma lawmakers explore ways to fight prescription-drug abuse

With the backdrop of the drug toxicity that killed University of Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box, the state’s high ranking for accidental prescription overdose deaths, and the estimated 76 million Americans suffering pain each day, Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, oversaw an interim study at the Capitol. Robert Saenz, chief executive of Tulsa Pain Consultants, said a Tulsa police officer told him the demand among abusers for prescription drugs is so high that some make their own high-quality copies of prescriptions to submit to pharmacies. “There are so many of these scripts that in many cases, sometimes they are outnumbering legitimate scripts that are going to pharmacies,” he said. The officer told Saenz that the solution would be requiring electronic prescriptions for the common, powerful painkillers opioids. The doctor would order the prescription electronically from the pharmacy, rather than a piece of paper that could be duplicated. However, the idea is cost-prohibitive for some rural communities.

Read more from NewsOK at

Obama nominates Brad Carson for Army counsel position

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that he will nominate former U.S. Rep. Brad Carson, D-Okla., to become the next general counsel of the Army. Carson served in Congress from 2001 until 2005. He gave up a safe seat in 2004 to launch an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate, a race he lost to Republican Sen. Tom Coburn. After leaving Congress, he joined a Navy Reserve Unit and served in Iraq with the Army on active military duty. He received the Bronze Star for that service. A Rhodes Scholar, Carson was a White House Fellow from 1997 to 1998 and worked as a special assistant to the defense secretary. Several months ago, Carson took a serious look at re-entering elective politics and running at his old House seat, which is being vacated by incumbent Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla. Carson unexpectedly decided against running for that post again.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Uninsured motorist ranks swell

Few public safety issues rile up Oklahomans more than uninsured motorists. Bring up the subject and the anecdotes spew. Unfortunately, far too many folks can relate a story about being on the losing end of an accident with an uninsured motorist. Here’s why: One in four Oklahoma drivers does not have insurance. According to a story by the Tulsa World’s Omer Gillham, a new law allowing law enforcement officers to tow vehicles without insurance so far hasn’t had much of an impact on changing the number of uninsured motorists. That number remains an alarming 23.9 percent, compared with 24.2 percent in 2005. Oklahoma has ranked in the top 10 among states for the number of uninsured motorists for the past six years.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Quote of the Day

If it looks like we’re going to go down the road of creating an exchange, then taking federal dollars would probably make sense, but we’re not even at the point of thinking about that yet.
Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, who is co-chairing a House and Senate committee examining how the new federal health care law will affect Oklahoma.

Policy Note

Poverty rate second highest in 45 years; record numbers lacked health insurance, lived in deep poverty

Driven by the persistent weakness in the economy, the poverty rate in 2010 reached its second-highest point since 1965, median income declined, and the number and percentage of Americans without health insurance stood at record highs, the Census Bureau said yesterday. The share of Americans in “deep poverty” — with incomes below half of the poverty line — also hit the highest level on record, with data going back to 1975. Contributing to the high percentage of Americans who have no health insurance was the decline in the percentage of Americans with employer-provided health coverage. The new data also highlight the importance of implementing health care reform, slated to take full effect in 2014. The new Census figures also show that millions more Americans would have fallen into poverty or become uninsured if not for programs like unemployment insurance, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and Medicaid, which face major decisions by federal and state policymakers — and could face substantial cuts.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 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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