In The Know: Suit filed over Oklahoma personhood measure

In 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.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on behalf of doctors and residents in the state to block a ballot measure that would define a fertilized human egg as a person.  Gov. Fallin continued to push income tax cuts and urged lawmakers to get serious about eliminating tax credits.

State leaders will discuss details of a new plan to improve child welfare services.  The plan to improve DHS includes hiring more staff, decreasing reliance on shelters, and recruiting more foster parents.  Oklahoma topped a list of states with surging economic growth fueled by manufacturing and energy production.

Superintendents and lawmakers urged the Senate to pass a measure that would give students who failed graduation exams access to an appeals process.  A bill to resume an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline advanced in the Nebraska Senate.  The OK Policy Blog posted a video on the increasingly precarious nature of food security in the state.

The Supreme Court will decide today whether to hear a case on Oklahoma’s claim that its laws prohibit selling water across state lines.  The Number of the Day is the number of farms in Oklahoma principally operated by Native Americans, 2nd most in the nation.  In today’s Policy Note, Stateline discussed potential safety concerns with hundreds of thousands of miles of unregulated oil and natural gas pipeline in the United States.

In The News

Suit filed over Oklahoma personhood ballot measure

A petition to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to define a fertilized human egg as a person is unconstitutional and would have far-reaching implications that trump the rights of women, a group argued in a legal protest filed Thursday to stop the effort.  The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed the protest with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on behalf of several Oklahoma doctors and residents.  They want the court to stop Personhood Oklahoma from gathering signatures in an attempt to place a proposed amendment to the constitution on the November ballot.

Read more from KRMG at

Oklahoma governor holds out hope for state personal income tax cut of at least 1 percent

Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday she remains optimistic that the state’s top personal income tax rate could be cut by 1 percent or more for next year. But she conceded that lawmakers have to get serious about eliminating economic tax credits, something they haven’t done so far halfway through this year’s session.  “It will fall on the legislators’ hands to have the guts to step forward with major tax reform and overhaul,” Fallin said. “I’m going to continue to push. I’ve told them many times that this is our opportunity to do what we said we were going to do, and they need to do what they said they were going to do.

Read more from NewsOK at

Fallin, state leaders to announce DHS plan

Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders are expected to discuss a new plan for improving the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ child welfare program.  Fallin, House Speaker Kris Steele and Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman will outline the details of the plan Friday during a news conference at the state Capitol.  The so-called “Pinnacle Plan” includes improvements that are part of a settlement agreement reached with a children’s advocacy group that sued over DHS’ treatment of foster children.

Read more from NewsChannel10 at

DHS wants to hire 200 more child welfare specialists, cut back shelter use, recruit foster parents

DHS wants to add 200 new child welfare specialists to its workforce over the next two years and stop using its often-overcrowded shelters to care for abused and neglected babies.  DHS officials intend to recruit hundreds of new foster parents so the agency can place younger children in its care in family-like settings instead of at the shelters.  Those are the highlights in a draft of a five-year plan the Oklahoma Department of Human Services came up with to improve its child welfare operations.

Read more at NewsOK at

Recovery Pushes U.S. States to Most BEES Gains Since 2010

More than two-thirds of U.S. state economies strengthened during the last three months of 2011, the widest advance in more than year, illustrating the spread of a recovery fueled by manufacturing and energy production.  The Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States shows energy- rich North Dakota (STOND1) was the top performer in the fourth quarter, compared with the previous three months, followed by West Virginia, Nevada and Oklahoma. The gauge uses data on real estate, taxes, jobs and stock prices to chart the trajectory of 50 state economies. Michigan, Illinois, Idaho, Minnesota, Ohio and Florida rounded out the top 10.

Read more from Bloomberg at

Senate urged to OK end-of-instruction testing bill

Some superintendents and lawmakers urged Senate passage Wednesday of a measure that would give students who failed end-of-instruction tests a way to graduate.  Students must pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to receive a diploma. Some students have met all other graduation requirements but haven’t passed the tests, meaning they would not get a diploma.  Wagoner Public Schools Superintendent Monte Thompson said that as a result, those students won’t be able to find a job, get into the military or go to college.  The measure would set up an appeals process with the state Board of Education.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Bill to resume Neb. Keystone XL study advances

A bill that would let Nebraska resume its environmental study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline won first-round approval from lawmakers Thursday, while critics warned that the state was exposing itself to a legal challenge.  Lawmakers voted 35-2 on the measure that would allow the stalled review to proceed. President Barack Obama rejected a federal permit for the project in January, but pipeline developer TransCanada has said it will reapply.

Read more from Bloomberg Businessweek at

Watch This: Fighting Hunger, Feeding Hope

Oklahoma has the highest rate of households with very low food security in the nation; 7.5 percent of the state’s households reported being hungry at times during the year because they could not afford enough food.  This six minute video from the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma discusses the increasingly precarious nature of food security in the state and interviews individuals struggling to feed their families.  For additional information on hunger and food insecurity, click here for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma or click here for the food bank that serves eastern Oklahoma.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Supreme Court Weighing Tarrant Water District Lawsuit

Supreme Court Justices today will decide whether to hear a case that could affect the water supply in North Texas. KERA’s Shelley Kofler says a decision on importing Oklahoma water has implications for states across the country.  Faced with growing water needs the Tarrant Regional Water District filed a lawsuit nearly five years ago seeking to import water from Oklahoma. The State of Oklahoma claimed its laws prohibit selling or transferring the water across state lines.  The Supreme Court will decide Friday whether to hear the Tarrant Regional Water District’s lawsuit, but Justices won’t announce their decision until Monday.

Read more from KERA News

Quote of the Day

Let’s save the taxpayers of Oklahoma the time and expense of collecting and verifying signatures, placing this question on the ballot and sending something that we know is unconstitutional to a vote of the people.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of ACLU Oklahoma

Number of the Day


Number of farms in Oklahoma principally operated by Native Americans, 2nd most in the nation, 2007

Source: U.S. Census of Agriculture

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Unregulated pipelines raise safety concerns

About 240,000 miles of pipelines ferry oil and natural gas from wells to refineries across the U.S. And amid a boom in natural gas, the network continues to grow.  But state and federal regulators know little about each privately built “gathering” pipeline, and in some cases, may not even know where they lie. As a result, many of the pipelines are not inspected for damage, according to an audit released last week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.  The use of pipelines is largely seen as the safest way to carry oil and natural gas, killing hundreds fewer people each year when compared to transport by freight trucks or trains. But pipeline transport can still prove dangerous. Corrosion or other pipe damages can lead to leaks, ruptures and, in rare cases, explosions.

Read more at Stateline at

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