In The Know: Tulsa World to be sold to Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group

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 Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group is buying the Tulsa World. Two bills that would restrict food stamp eligibility were approved by a House committee. Governor Fallin turned down federal funds that she had previously sought for the implementation of Oklahoma’s criminal justice reforms. Two bills to cut Oklahoma’s top personal income tax rate were approved by the House Appropriations and Budget committee. NewsOK criticized attempts by the Senate to partially pay for tax cuts.

Though killed in the Senate, a county severance tax on limestone mining advanced out of a House committee. The Senate unanimously confirmed Oklahoma City judge Robert E. Bacharach for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after Senate Republicans had blocked a vote on the nomination for nine months. A Senate committee passed a bill that would make the the labor commissioner, insurance commissioner and state superintendent appointed by the governor.

A Senate committee defeated a bill to allow medical marijuana in Oklahoma. A bill to insert anti-evolution messages in Oklahoma sciences class will not receive a hearing in a Senate committee. A similar bill is still alive in the House. On the OK Policy Blog, Paul Shinn discusses attempts to defund Oklahoma’s home-visiting programs for pregnant women and young children, which are proven to reduce child abuse and improve child development. THe okeducationtruths blog suggests revisions to the state’s A-F grades for schools.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of people on SNAP (food stamps) in Oklahoma who were found to be ineligible because of inaccurate information on their application. In today’s Policy Note, the Atlantic discusses why high-quality universal preschool is necessary but not enough to close the achievement gap for low-income children.

In The News

Tulsa World to be sold to Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group

Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group is buying the Tulsa World for an undisclosed price. World Publishing Co. Chairman Robert E. Lorton announced the sale in a meeting with newspaper employees Monday morning. Robert E. Lorton III, the company’s CEO and the newspaper’s publisher, will leave the newspaper and will be succeeded as publisher by John R. Bair, previously the company’s president and chief operating officer. BH Media Group owns 28 daily newspapers and 42 weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida. The World will be the third-largest newspaper in the BH Media Group chain, behind the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska and the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Bills restricting food stamp eligibility advance in Oklahoma House

People with felony drug convictions no longer would be able to receive food stamps in Oklahoma, according to a bill approved Monday by a legislative committee. The House of Representatives Human Services Committee voted 6-2 to pass House Bill 2014, which would prohibit those convicted of a drug felony from being eligible for food stamps. HB 2014 also would make those who have more than $5,000 in cash, in a bank account or in stocks and bonds ineligible to receive food stamps. The committee also approved House Bill 1909, which would require able-bodied recipients of food stamps between the ages of 18 to 50 and who are not disabled or raising a child to perform at least 35 hours of work activities to receive food stamps.

Read more from NewsOK.

Governor Fallin rebuffs justice reinvestment funds

Gov. Mary Fallin’s legal counsel told the Council of State Governments that Oklahoma will rebuff anticipated federal funds for implementation of criminal justice reform legislation passed in recent years. After the governor signed the historic legislation, her office joined a process to secure several hundred thousand dollars for the state, in the form of one-time money from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance. That effort was coordinated through the Council of State Governments, to finance training for law enforcement and criminal justice system personnel. In a reversal, Fallin’s attorney last week told members of a group working on implementation of the new laws that she will forego the assistance.

Read more from Oklahoma Watchdog.

Two bill advance to cut Oklahoma’s income tax

Two bills that call for cutting Oklahoma’s top personal income tax rate won easy approval Monday evening in a legislative committee. The House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee voted 17-5 to pass House Bill 1598, which would drop the top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.99 percent. Committee Chairman Scott Martin, R-Norman, said the reduction would cost the state about $47 million in revenue for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1, and about $121 million in future years when fully implemented. Personal income taxes are projected to bring in about $2.1 billion of the legislatively appropriated $7 billion budget for the 2014 fiscal year. The committee also passed HB 2032, by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, which would drop the personal income tax rate to 5 percent.

Read more from NewsOK.

Personal exemption a target in state Senate income tax bill

Call it a tale of two tax bills. Gov. Mary Fallin and state House leaders want to cut Oklahoma’s top income tax rate a quarter point to 5 percent. That proposal, contained in House Bill 1598, reduces the rate in 2014. The state Senate has another approach. Senate Bill 585, by Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, would lower the rate to 4.75 percent, but not until 2015. While Fallin’s plan is funded with existing growth revenue, the Senate bill repeals tax breaks in exchange for a lower rate. There’s definitely a pro-growth argument for repealing special breaks that reward narrow constituencies while lowering income tax rates for all. However, some breaks targeted in SB 585 are available to all and appear unlikely to cause economic distortions. Most notably, the Senate bill goes after the personal exemption.

Read more from NewsOK.

New severance tax on limestone not dead after all

For years, south-central Oklahoma lawmakers have been pushing for a new tax on companies that mine for stone and sand, particularly in the sensitive Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, location of some of the world’s best limestone. Springer Republican Frank Simpson’s Senate bill would’ve allowed counties to impose a ‘severance tax’ on each ton of aggregate removed from the ground and sold in a different county or out of state. That bill got a hearing, but didn’t make it out of committee, and Simpson expressed little hope for similar legislation in the House. But after passing through a subcommittee, the House version still has a chance.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Robert E. Bacharach confirmed as federal appeals court judge

The Senate on Monday unanimously confirmed Robert E. Bacharach to be a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ending a Republican blockade that kept the Oklahoma City magistrate’s nomination in limbo for nearly nine months. The vote for Bacharach was 93-0. Bacharach will fill a seat that has been open since July 2010, when Robert Henry stepped down to become president of Oklahoma City University. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, is a step below the U.S. Supreme Court and hears cases from Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico.

Read more from NewsOK.

Governor-appointment reform bill advances

Labor Commissioner Mark Costello said Monday he supports a measure that would make his office subject to the appointment of the governor. The Senate General Committee on Monday passed Senate Bill 598 by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. The measure would let people vote on whether, beginning in 2018, the governor would appoint the labor commissioner, insurance commissioner and state superintendent of public instruction subject to Senate confirmation. Costello, a Republican serving his first term, said that although he supports the measure, it doesn’t go far enough. Costello said government has gotten too big. He said the governor should have the authority to hire directors of state agencies and convert their boards and commissions to advisory roles.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Senate panel kills medical marijuana bill

A Senate committee on Monday defeated a proposal to legalize the medical use of marijuana in Oklahoma, but the bill’s author said she considers it a victory that the measure was even granted a legislative hearing. Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 6-2 against the measure in a party-line vote with Republicans in opposition. “I think it’s a step in the right direction in terms of moving it forward and getting some indication of what people’s reservations are so we’ll know what to address,” said Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, who has introduced several bills over the last six years to allow for the medical use of marijuana or ease the penalties for possession of the drug.

Read more from the Norman Transcript.

Antiscience bill dies in Oklahoma

Senate Bill 758, the so-called Oklahoma Science Education Act, which would have undermined the integrity of science education in the Sooner State, is dead. February 25, 2013, was the deadline for Senate bills to pass their committees, but the Senate Education Committee adjourned its February 25, 2013, meeting without considering it. Still active in the Oklahoma legislature is House Bill 1674, styled the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act, which differs from SB 758 primarily in mentioning “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as supposedly controversial topics. HB 1674 passed the House Education Committee on a 9-8 vote on February 19, 2013.

Read more from the National Center for Science Education.

Home visiting programs work for young children, their parents and Oklahoma

Earlier this month a House committee passed HB 1063, which would suspend most of Oklahoma’s home visiting programs for pregnant women and young children. The bill’s author, Rep. Mark McCullough (R-Sapulpa), reported that after extensive research, he had determined that these programs do not work. However, evidence is overwhelming that home visiting programs do work and that the state needs to protect this important investment in our youngest and most vulnerable Oklahomans. Home visiting programs are designed to improve the parenting skills of low-income and teen mothers and to provide the supports their children need to develop and be ready for school.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

A-F proposed revisions part one

As I mentioned Friday, the SDE has issued new proposed rules for the A-F Report Cards. The rollout of school grades last October was a disaster, and frankly, a waste of time. By the time schools received their reports, their improvement efforts were well under way. Nothing in the A-F Report Cards was what you would consider new information. The proposed rules offer little in the way of substantive change. I’m going to take multiple posts this week to go through the four sections of the report card.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Quote of the Day

When it comes to news, you’re not going to hear from me. I just want to assure you that there’s no one from Omaha looking down your throats and trying to tell you how to cover Tulsa.

Larry King, vice president for news and content at BH Media Group, which is purchasing the Tulsa World

Number of the Day

1/2 of 1 percent

 Percentage of people on SNAP (or food stamps) in Oklahoma that were found to be ineligible for the program because of inaccurate information listed on their application, 3,465 out of nearly 615,000 Oklahomans in 2011

 Source: USDA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why Preschool isn’t enough

At a Georgia preschool last week, President Obama sat in a tiny wooden chair and played a science game with a group of four-year-olds. He held up a magnifying glass and peered playfully at the little boy next to him. For a second it looked as if he was trying to figure him out. It is an apt metaphor of where our country stands on education these days. Obama’s preschool plan builds on a decade’s fascination with studies on brain growth. We recognize the importance of children’s early years in setting the foundation for social-emotional intelligence and strong academic skills. Yet instead of bringing early learning to more children, we remain frozen with our magnifying glasses. What holds us back? One factor is “fade-out” — the concern that preschool’s ability to help disadvantaged children may fade over time, not lasting beyond kindergarten or first grade.

Read more from The Atlantic.

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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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