In The Know: Corrections closes halfway house over inmate abuses, hundreds need immediate replacement

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 Dept. of Corrections ordered the immediate closure of a Tulsa halfway house over security breaches and civil rights abuses; officials are ‘attempting to relocate’ over 200 inmates but there are only a handful of open beds in the area.  David Blatt evaluated a new report from the State Chamber that defends the spiraling cost of state tax subsidies for oil and gas drilling.

Legislative leaders, agency directors and academics are meeting today at a budget summit for panel discussions to assess the state’s fiscal future.  State Rep. Joe Dorman filed a joint resolution for a statewide vote on bond issues for school storm shelters.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board wrote that without effective public education, the state’s workforce will fall further behind and ‘offset the benefits of a pro-business tax and regulatory environment.’  Oklahoma’s five congressmen were divided on a federal budget bill to ease some of the automatic spending cuts that took effect last year.

State Sen. David Holt filed a bill to make state highway patrol dash cams a matter of open record.  Religious leaders on opposite sides of the marriage equality debate reacted to a federal ruling that declared Oklahoma’s marriage ban unconstitutional.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s unemployment rate with ‘marginally attached’ workers included.  In today’s Policy Note, a new report from the Institute For Women’s Policy Research explained how equal pay for working women would reduce poverty and spur economic growth. 

In The News

Department Of Corrections: All Offenders To Leave Tulsa’s Avalon Center
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says it is ending its contract with the Avalon Center in Tulsa for reasons of safety and security, and will move all the offenders out within ten days. In a letter to the Avalon Center President Brian Costello, the Department of Corrections said it is making the move because the center is the target of three active investigations.

Read more from NewsOn6

Tulsa’s Avalon halfway house to be depopulated due to inmate security issues
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections will empty the inmates out of Avalon Correctional Services’ Tulsa halfway house for men, due to investigations revealing “serious infractions” affecting inmate safety. In a letter sent Tuesday to Avalon, corrections officials told the private prison halfway house operator that their inmate count would be frozen and that “the violations are so serious that the department will begin depopulating Avalon immediately.”

Read more from Tulsa World

Chamber study fails to make persuasive case for maintaining oil and gas tax breaks
A new study by Mark Snead and Amy Jones released by the State Chamber of Oklahoma attempts to defend the current tax system and warns against changes that would raise tax rates. While the study makes a persuasive argument for the importance of the energy industry to Oklahoma’s economy, its case against curbing oil and gas incentives has two major shortcomings.

Read more from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Bipartisan panel to discuss Okla. budget picture
State legislative leaders, agency directors and academics are among those who will be discussing the state’s finances during an upcoming panel discussion. The Oklahoma Policy Institute is hosting a State Budget Summit Thursday at the Oklahoma History Center. The Tulsa-based think-tank advocates for increased funding for state services. Among the panelists scheduled for the summit include Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger, House Democratic Leader Scott Inman and Oklahoma Health Care Authority Director Nico Gomez.

Read more from Associated Press

Dorman calls for statewide vote on school storm shelters
Rep. Joe Dorman has filed legislation seeking a statewide vote on issuing bonds to allow schools to build storm shelters. Dorman, D-Rush Springs, is considering a race for governor. He is the author of House Joint Resolution 1078, which would put the issue on the ballot if it secured approval by the Legislature. It does not require the governor’s signature.

Read more from Tulsa World

‘Quality Counts’ report shows need for vigorous education reform in Oklahoma
THE recent “Quality Counts” report from Education Week was a mixed bag for Oklahoma. The state’s academic standards ranked among the nation’s best, but actual student achievement was at the other end of the spectrum. The report illustrates the need for policymakers to continue supporting meaningful education reform.

Read more from NewsOK

Okla. lawmakers split on $1.1 trillion budget bill
Oklahoma’s five congressmen were divided on a $1.1 trillion spending bill for operating the federal government until just before next fall’s election. U.S. Reps. Tom Cole and Frank Lucas voted for the measure that overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House Wednesday and provides money for virtually every federal agency. Reps. Jim Bridenstine, Markwayne Mullin and James Lankford voted against the bill.

Read more from Associated Press

Bill seeks to make public OHP troopers’ dash cam videos
The dash camera videos of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol could become public under a measure filed in the Oklahoma Senate. Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, filed Senate Bill 1513 that would remove the exemption from the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Currently, the Department of Public Safety can withhold the videos. Local law enforcement agencies are already required to produce them when requested.

Read more from Tulsa World

Religious leaders react to federal ruling against Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban
Saying that it is contrary to Scriptures and disregards a statewide vote, many church leaders across Oklahoma said they are extremely disappointed with a recent federal ruling against Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban. However, several religious leaders across the state said their congregations rejoiced at the news of the ruling declaring the state’s same-sex marriage prohibition as unconstitutional.

Read more from NewsOK

Quote of the Day

“In Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Texas, students outperformed Oklahoma students in NAEP math and reading proficiency (aside from fourth-grade reading in Texas). A much larger share of test takers in Arkansas and Texas got a high AP score.  This is a huge problem for Oklahoma’s long-term economic growth. Basically, the workforce produced by public schools in the average state is far more proficient in reading and math than in Oklahoma. This can offset the benefits of a pro-business tax and regulatory environment.”

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

Number of the Day

10.1 percent

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate with ‘marginally attached’ workers included (part-time workers who need a full-time job, temporary workers, and discouraged job seekers), up from 9.9 percent a year ago

Source:  BLS (Q4 2012-Q3 2013)

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Equal Pay for Working Women would Reduce Poverty and Grow the American Economy
Persistent earnings inequality for working women translates into lower pay, less family income, and more poverty in families with a working woman, which is of no small consequence to working families. About 71 percent of all mothers in the United States work for pay. Of these, about two-thirds (68 percent) are married and typically have access to men’s incomes, but married women’s earnings are nevertheless crucial to family support. One-third (32 percent) are single mothers and often the sole support of their families.

Read more from Institute For Women’s Policy Research

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