In The Know: Shannon elected first black Oklahoma House Speaker

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 House elected T.W. Shannon as the state’s first black speaker.  The Lawton Constitution reflected on his historic election.  Employees at a fast food chain in Guthrie spoke out against the company’s decision to cut full-time employees’ hours to skirt new health care coverage requirements.

Rep. Doug Cox explained why expanding Medicaid is not only a responsible course of action, but a moral imperative for state leaders.  Insurance Commissioner John Doak is the second most frequent flyer on state-owned aircraft, crisscrossing Oklahoma for speaking engagements and meetings with chambers of commerce, local leaders, and insurance agents.

Inadequate pay and benefits means Oklahomans working retail are on precarious financial footing, and are likely to stay that way regardless of how hard or how much they work.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a decision limiting state bonding practices.  Voters in El Reno approved $45.3 million in bond issues to build a new elementary school and a new math and science wing onto the high school.

In today’s Policy Note, Urban Institute analyzed the Affordable Care Act’s impact on businesses’ costs, by size of firm.  The Number of the Day is the number of states with a photo ID requirement for voters.

In The News

Shannon elected 1st black Oklahoma House speaker
The Oklahoma House elected T.W. Shannon Tuesday as the state’s first black speaker, and the Lawton Republican vowed to reach across the party aisle and focus on making the state more prosperous and business friendly. A member of the Chickasaw Nation and at age 34 the youngest-ever Oklahoma speaker of the House, Shannon downplayed the significance of his race after the House voted 69-28 along party lines to select him over Del City Democratic Rep. Scott Inman.

Read more from the Associated Press

Lawtonian T.W. Shannon formally elected House speaker
Lawton’s T.W. Shannon made history several times Tuesday when the Oklahoma House of Representatives elected him as speaker for the next two-year legislative session. Shannon’s election was a foregone conclusion: Republicans had already chosen him to become speaker, and the party holds an overwhelming majority. But the final 69-28 vote was momentous on a personal level and in state and regional history: Shannon becomes the first African-American to sit in the speaker’s chair; at 34 he’s the youngest person to hold that position; and he’s also the first Lawtonian to serve as speaker.

Read more from the Lawton Constitution

Guthrie Taco Bell Worker Speaks After Hours Cut To Avoid Health Insurance Mandate
The Taco Bell in Guthrie cuts its full-time employees’ hours to avoid mandates under the new health care law. Now, a mother of three who works at that restaurant is speaking out. Under the Affordable Care Act, any company that has more than 50 full-time workers falls under the new health insurance mandate. We talked to the company that owns the Guthrie restaurant today, and it confirmed the cuts. Now, employees there aren’t allowed to work more than 28 hours a week.

Read more from News9

Decisions of politics and compassion
Jane is in the emergency room complaining of stomach pain. This is her third ER visit in two weeks. She is worried about losing her job because of the missed time. We know what is causing the pain. Jane has a bad gallbladder that is full of stones — easy to fix. In the hospital Friday morning for surgery, home Friday afternoon, back at work Monday morning. Like hundreds of thousands of hardworking Oklahomans, Jane has no insurance and no way to pay for the surgery. With two kids, she and her husband work at minimum-wage jobs for small companies that don’t provide health insurance.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner No. 2 User of State-Owned Plane
Doak, who has been in office two years, said his use of state-owned aircraft is infrequent. He said he only uses the plane when it is available and when he travels to multiple counties. Doak used state-owned aircraft in April to view damage caused by a tornado. He said he didn’t travel with Fallin because they were not on the same schedule. Other trips included speaking engagements and meetings with chambers of commerce, local leaders, insurance agents and consumers.

Read more from the Insurance Journal

Crappy Holidays: Retail work in Oklahoma
Early January is a busy time of year for retail stores. Shoppers flock to malls and shopping centers to take advantage of storewide after-holiday sales, spend their gift cards, and return or exchange items. While many consumers find the holiday shopping environment stressful, the stress of the season is likely to fall heavier on retail employees dealing with sharp increases in workload, but not necessarily increased compensation. Inadequate pay and benefits means Oklahomans working retail are on precarious financial footing, and are likely to stay that way regardless of how hard or how much they work.

Read more from OK Policy Blog

OK: State Supreme Court decision may tighten bond issue standards
Critics of recent Oklahoma state bonding practices are cheering an important Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that limits the reach of state bonds aimed primarily at financing purely local improvements. While significant in its own right, the decision might lead to tighter standards across the board for incurring state debt. The outcome gains resonance because the court, viewed by many activists as more liberal than the rest of the state government, in a unanimous ruling boosted at least one brand of fiscal conservatism, namely the reluctance to incur unnecessary state debt.

Read more from Oklahoma Watchdog

El Reno School District voters approved $45.3 million in bond issues
Voters in the El Reno School District approved $45.3 million in bond issues to build a new math and science wing onto the high school and a brand new elementary school during Tuesday’s election. The bonds will increase property taxes in the school district by roughly 6.5 percent. Voters had defeated a similar bond issue just over a year ago.

Read more from NewsOK

Quote of the Day

“John is unable to afford the medication to treat his condition. He certainly can’t afford a liver transplant. Unless John moves to a state that is expanding Medicaid under the ACA, he could die of this treatable disease. Living in Oklahoma may be John’s death sentence. That is not what I want Oklahoma to be known for.”

Rep. Doug Cox, on the Governor’s decision to reject federal money to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income adults

Number of the Day


Number of states with a photo ID requirement for voters; 6 of those states passed the requirement in the past year

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Implications of the Affordable Care Act for American Business
Critics frequently characterize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a threat to American business and to the survival of employer-based health insurance. The law’s new requirements, they argue, create business uncertainty, delay economic recovery, and will cost jobs. But objective analysis of the ACA’s impact on coverage and costs demonstrates the opposite. In fact, the ACA’s requirements have a negligible impact on total employer-sponsored coverage and its costs. The law leaves large businesses’ costs per person insured largely untouched and reduces them for small businesses.

Read more from Urban Institute

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