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Today you should know that the Department of Education identified six low-performing schools that would be targeted for reforms by the state. A survey of Oklahoma businesses sponsored by Governor Fallin found their greatest concerns were workers compensation costs and availability to public funding sources. Former Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce chair Ken Fergeson writes in the OK Policy Blog that taxes are essential for Oklahoma’s quality of life.
A Tulsa father said Oklahoma’s mental health system is broken, after his son did not receive treatment following two suicide attempts and finally was jailed for robbing a QuikTrip while hoping to be killed by the police. A House Committee narrowly passed a bill that would allow Oklahomans who seek mental treatment to keep a concealed-carry handgun license. The two men accused of killing three black people and wounding two others in Tulsa have confessed to the police.
Tulsa’s sales-tax revenue for April increased 19.2 percent over the same month last year, due to higher sales and a rate increase. State officials don’t yet know precisely how many buildings the state owns. Two bills to eliminate state appropriations for OETA are likely dead for this session. The OneOK natural gas company announced a proposal to get into the crude oil business by building a pipeline from North Dakota to Cushing, Oklahoma.
The Number of the Day is the median hourly wage for all occupations in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the Christian Science Monitor finds that the U.S. is experiencing “net zero” migration from Mexico for the first time since the 1960s.
In The News
Six low-performing schools targeted for reforms by state Department of Education; charter school given second chance
A charter school in Oklahoma City will have one last chance to avoid the state Education Department’s list of Oklahoma’s worst schools. Santa Fe South Middle School will be allowed to rework its paperwork, and the state Board of Education will vote April 26 whether to label it as one of the lowest-performing schools in Oklahoma. Six of the seven remaining schools on the tentative reform list were approved: Keyes Elementary, Farris K-8, Okay High School, McLain High School in Tulsa, and Shidler Elementary and Roosevelt Middle School in Oklahoma City. Chris Brewster, superintendent of Santa Fe South Charter Schools, admitted that part of the reason his school got such a low score was because the report he completed didn’t follow the outline given by state workers.
Governor’s biz survey results: what surprised us
Business is a big deal in Oklahoma, and political talking points hinge on discussions over what policies will bring new ones here, and what practices might help existing ones expand. To that end, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Department of Commerce launched a website to survey Oklahoma employers about what’s hurting and helping business growth. Business leaders were most worried about workers’ compensation costs, according to the survey. And for all the attention the debate over Oklahoma’s personal income tax has generated, surveyed companies were more concerned about public funding sources and business incentive programs than “ business tax structure.” Twenty-five percent of businesses surveyed said it was difficult or very difficult to find skilled laborers, while 61 percent ranked the availability of skilled labor in Oklahoma as “fair” or “poor.”
Ken Fergeson: Taxes are essential for Oklahoma’s quality of life
I am really concerned about our State. The drum beat at 23rd and Lincoln to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax has me worried on many levels. I’m afraid that I haven’t paid as close attention to the arguments until a representative from Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs spoke at the Altus Rotary meeting the other day. That was when I realized that the proponents of eliminating the income tax were really single-purposed: ‘it’s all about business.’ I am also very pro-business and want our Oklahoma to have a healthy business climate. I saw former Oklahoma Congressman Dave McCurdy recently and it reminded me of going with him to California and recruiting businesses to expand or move to Oklahoma, and preferably to his district. When we called on CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, their first questions were about quality of life, not about tax rates. When I chaired the Oklahoma State Chamber, I traveled all across Oklahoma and visited many of its towns in every county. I couldn’t help but notice communities that have flourishing arts and cultural activities were on the move, business was being done and cash registers were ringing. At the time those observations were purely anecdotal, but now there are economic impact studies that prove my observations.
Tulsa father says state mental health system broken
In February, Paul McLaughlin tried to jump off a bridge in Owasso. A few weeks later, he attempted suicide in Broken Arrow. Both times, police took him to the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health. His father, Cliftain McLaughlin, is upset with what happened next. “Each time within an hour or two, he just had to sign a piece of paper and he was released,” McLaughlin said. One week after Paul’s second attempted suicide he robbed a QuikTrip. Cliftain said Paul was hoping the cops would shoot and kill him, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he was arrested and is now serving time in the Waggoner County Jail. The Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health falls under the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Within the last three years, the department has lost between $35 and $40 million in funding. That’s made it tough to treat Tulsa’s growing number of mental patients.
House bill would allow Oklahomans who seek mental health treatment to keep concealed carry license
Oklahomans who voluntarily seek mental counseling or treatment still would not forfeit their right to get a concealed-carry handgun license under a bill approved Monday by a House committee. Rep. John Enns, House author of Senate Bill 1055, said those who are found to be mentally unstable or who are being treated for mental disorders would be unable to buy a gun or get a concealed-carry license. The intent of the measure is to allow people to seek mental health care without the fear of giving up their right to get a concealed-carry license for a handgun, said Enns, R-Enid. “If they voluntarily go and seek treatment, that cannot be used to keep them from obtaining a carry-concealed license,” he said. “If you’re diagnosed by a physician or a psychologist as having a mental disorder, then that does not apply.” The House of Representatives Public Safety Committee voted 8-7 to pass SB 1055. It now goes to the full House.
2 Tulsa shooting suspects confess, police say
The two men accused of killing three black people and wounding two others in shootings that terrified this city over the Easter weekend confessed to the police shortly after their arrest Sunday morning, the authorities said on Monday. The men — Jacob C. England, 19, and Alvin L. Watts, 32 — were arrested after a series of shootings on Friday that city and community leaders believe were racially motivated attacks. Mr. England and Mr. Watts randomly shot pedestrians and residents as they drove a pickup truck through the predominantly black neighborhoods of north Tulsa, the authorities said. Mr. England told the police that he shot three of the victims and Mr. Watts admitted to shooting two of them, said Officer Jason Willingham, a spokesman for the Tulsa police. Mr. England said he drove the pickup during all the shootings, Officer Willingham said. Investigators were able to later determine that Mr. England shot one of the victims who died and the two who were wounded, and that Mr. Watts shot the two other fatal victims, Officer Willingham said. The spokesman said he could not discuss what the two men said about their motivations during their interviews, citing the continuing investigation.
Tulsa sales tax revenue up 19 percent for month
Tulsa’s sales-tax revenue for April increased a hefty 19.2 percent over the same month last year, new reports show. The city’s check from the Oklahoma Tax Commission was for $18,505,135, compared to $15,520,785 in April 2011 – a nearly $3 million difference. The money was collected on purchases made from Feb. 16 to March 15. About 13.3 percent can be attributed to a growth in sales. The rest is the result of an increase in the city’s sales-tax rate from 3 cents to 3.157 cents in October to capture Tulsa County’s 4-to-Fix revenue to use for the Fix Our Streets effort. Finance Director Mike Kier said the city’s revenue growth has been strong but that it needs to be put into perspective. If you discount the rate change of the last seven months and compare the month’s increase to the April 2008 sales-tax check of $17.3 million – four years later, the city is only 1.4 percent ahead in actual growth.
Inventory of state-owned buildings in Oklahoma proves elusive
State officials don’t yet know precisely how many buildings the state owns, but the current best estimate is about 4,500, said Carol McFarland, acting director of the Office of State Finance. McFarland said officials in her agency are working diligently with state risk management officials to develop a complete inventory of buildings owned and leased by the state, as well as properties owned by the state that don’t have structures on them. They hope to have the task completed by fall, she said. Gary Jones, state auditor and inspector, released a performance audit of the state Department of Central Services on Friday that criticized the shortsightedness of legislative leadership for failure to fund routine maintenance of state buildings. That failure has resulted in crumbling buildings that will cost millions to repair, the audit said. The audit also noted that a division of the Department of Central Services has been unsuccessful in several efforts to develop a comprehensive inventory of state-owned buildings and land, despite several efforts to do so since 1991.
OETA funding is likely spared for now
Oklahoma’s public television network has had a rough year at the Capitol, defending the state funding it receives while narrowly missing elimination in a Senate committee meeting by a single vote changed at the last minute. “I’ve been in this business since 1985 and from the very first day I got into it there were people who said ‘I don’t believe in what you are doing,’” said John McCarroll, executive director of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. But McCarroll said the noise about eliminating state funding for OETA has been louder than usual this fiscal year. Two bills were proposed to eliminate the roughly $4 million spent annually by the state on the public broadcasting station — one over the course of several years and one beginning immediately. Both bills were not heard in committee meetings and are likely dead for this session.
Natural gas company OneOK propose ND-Okla. oil pipeline
A natural gas company on Monday announced a proposal to get into the crude oil business by building its own 1,300-mile oil pipeline from North Dakota to the nation’s biggest storage terminal in central Oklahoma. Tulsa, Okla.-based Oneok Partners LP said the proposed Bakken Crude Express Pipeline would cost between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion and have the capacity to move 200,000 barrels of crude daily from the heart of North Dakota’s rich oil patch to the hub in Cushing, Okla. Oneok’s plan brings to six the number of pipeline projects proposed to help ship crude out of the rich Bakken shale and Three Forks-Sanish oil reservoirs in the western North Dakota, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. Which projects becomes a reality will depend on which get commitments from suppliers. Oneok spokesman Brad Borror said his company is negotiating commitments that could put it on track to begin construction next year and complete a pipeline by 2015.
Quote of the Day
Tulsa and Oklahoma City together represent about 15 percent of the students in this state. We are working hard to make things better. Here we’re all about labeling and sorting, and the thing is, the kids I represent have been labeled and sorted all their lives.
–Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Karl Springer, speaking to the state Board of Education
Number of the Day
The median hourly wage for all occupations in Oklahoma, 2011
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Illegal immigration hits net zero
At this time of year in this tiny rural outpost that sits on a mountainside in Guanajuato State, most able-bodied men are gone. They’re off plucking and cutting chicken in processing plants in Georgia or pruning the backyards of Seattle. But this year, Pedro Laguna and his wife, Silvia Arellano, are clearing rocks from their yard to prepare a field for corn. They’ve returned home to Tamaula, Mexico, with their four young children, after 20 years in the United States working illegally. This is the new face of rural Mexico. Villages emptied out in the 1980s and ’90s in one of the largest waves of migration in history. Today there are clear signs that a human tide is returning to towns both small and large across Mexico. One million Mexicans said they returned from the US between 2005 and 2010, according to a new demographic study of Mexican census data. That’s three times the number who said they’d returned in the previous five-year period. And they aren’t just home for a visit: One prominent sociologist in the US has counted “net zero” migration for the first time since the 1960s.
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