In The Know: Criticism ignites over “impossible” Oklahoma petition demands

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.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot Nov. 4? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

After three petitions to put state questions on the Oklahoma ballot recently failed, advocates are criticizing the state’s petition laws. Compared to surrounding states, Oklahoma require substantially more signatures to be gathered over a shorter period of time to get a petition on the ballot. NewsOn6 examined why lottery revenues haven’t helped Oklahoma school funding as much as promised. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why the lottery didn’t fix Oklahoma’s education funding problems. David Blatt’s Journal Record column points out that lawmakers have taken away far more revenue by passing tax cuts and growing tax breaks than have been added by the lottery, Indian gaming, and tobacco taxes. Tulsa Public Schools is expanding the role of an outside contractor in assisting with teacher recruitment, amid a statewide teacher shortage.

NewsOK reported that Gov. Fallin personally has given substantial raises to state agency directors that are larger than any of the 48 agency director pay hikes that the governor criticized earlier this week. A new report from Oklahoma Policy Institute finds that states that expanded Medicaid are lowering their uninsured rate, improving the health of their people, and boosting their economies and state budgets. The Tulsa Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women is taking up the issue of Oklahoma’s high female incarceration rate. You  can see the Commission’s initial report on female incarceration here

An Oklahoma judge refused to block new restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs from going into effect Nov. 1. Developers looking at building an outlet mall in east Tulsa say the plan will not go forward without taxpayer help. Kansas has missed its tax revenue targets again, with revenues for the new fiscal year coming in more than 10 percent below estimates. Following major income tax cuts, the state has burned through its rainy day fund and now faces even larger budget cuts or tax increases to fill a growing budget hole.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of women in Oklahoma who have report having at least one poor mental health day each month. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discusses a new study showing that poor college graduates stay poor about as much as rich high school dropouts stay rich.

In The News

Criticism Ignites Over “Impossible” Oklahoma Petition Demands

Criticism over how to petition the government is now being expressed after three petitions recently failed. Advocates say the state’s demands are impossible. All three petitions failed to gather enough signatures in time. And supporters feel if Oklahoma were like other states, each petition would have a different outcome. “It’s basically setting Oklahomans up for failure, which is just a travesty,” said Amy Hilterbran, who advocates for Medical Marijuana to help her son. Failure was not an option for Hilterbran, when earlier this year she spent 90 days collecting signatures to put the issue of medical marijuana on the November ballot.

Read more from News9.

Oklahoma’s Education Lottery: Underperforming Or Undercut?

To most people, $625 million is a lot of money, but to critics of Oklahoma’s education lottery, $625 million is nothing, nothing more than proof the lottery has not delivered what voters were promised. Next month will mark ten years since voters approved the lottery and nine years since then Governor Brad Henry bought the first lottery tickets and officially started the flow of dollars into the state’s education trust fund. Since the first games debuted in October 2005, almost $1.8 billion has been spent on lottery tickets in Oklahoma. By law, 35 cents of each of those dollars has gone to education.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Previously: Why didn’t the lottery solve Oklahoma’s education funding problems? from the OK Policy Blog

Prosperity Policy: Still giving away the store

This year’s elections mark the 10th anniversary of Oklahoma voters’ approval of state questions on the state lottery, tribal gaming compacts, and increased tobacco taxes. The three measures were intended to boost state funding for education and health care. Today, as our public schools and health care systems struggle with serious budget shortfalls and unmet needs, it’s worth asking what’s happened. Here’s a clue: State lawmakers have been giving away the rest of the store.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Tulsa Public Schools hikes spending on teacher-recruiting consultants

Tulsa Public Schools is expanding the role of an outside contractor in assisting with teacher recruitment. The school board approved a contract renewal this week with TNTP, a national nonprofit formerly known as The New Teacher Project, bringing the total funds approved since January to nearly $1.05 million. The school district got rid of the two full-time teacher recruiters it previously employed in cost-cutting measures during the economic downturn of 2009. Since then, Oklahoma’s statewide teaching shortage has worsened, and resignations and retirements from Tulsa Public Schools have picked up.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Governor gives big raises to state agency directors

While boards and commissions generally set pay hikes, Gov. Mary Fallin personally has given substantial raises to state agency directors. Fallin raised the pay for Oklahoma’s secretary of state by $50,000 when she appointed Chris Benge to the position a year ago. Benge is paid $140,000 a year. His predecessor was paid $90,000. The governor approved an even larger $63,833 a year raise for Preston Doerflinger, director of the state Office and Management and Enterprise Services. She bumped his annual pay in July from $108,000 to $171,833. Both raises were larger than any of the 48 agency director pay hikes approved by state boards and commissions that prompted the governor to express skepticism earlier this week.

Read more from NewsOK.

Medicaid expansion’s track record shows it’s a good deal for Oklahoma

In 2012, Gov. Fallin announced that Oklahoma would reject a central feature of the Affordable Care Act, refusing to expand health insurance coverage for low-income adults the infusion of federal funds that would have accompanied expansion. Two years after the Governor’s announcement, the experience in the state shows it was the wrong decision. Expanding the state’s Medicaid program would have extended insurance coverage to roughly 150,000 people – approximately 1 in 5 of the state’s uninsured. Now, those 150,000 Oklahomans are caught in the “coverage crater.”

Read more from Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Ways to cut state’s high female incarceration rate addressed in report

It’s not news that Oklahoma locks up more women per capita than any other state. That dubious crown was awarded at least 15 years ago. Now, it’s a crisis. It touches on everything from education to workforce to crime. It affects not just one woman but generations after her. An industry of research is cropping up to measure how significantly this high rate hurts families and communities. It’s to the point where the Tulsa Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women has taken up the issue as a comprehensive two-year initiative.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See the report from the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women

Judge agrees most of Oklahoma abortion law can go into effect

A judge Wednesday refused to block new restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs from going into effect Nov. 1. The law requires doctors to follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocols in giving medicine to end pregnancies. Oklahoma County District Judge Roger Stuart did rule doctors — for the time being — cannot be sued if they don’t follow the new law. A Tulsa clinic and a group known as the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice filed a lawsuit Sept. 30 challenging the law’s constitutionality. The judge criticized them for waiting a month before the law goes into effect to challenge it. The judge still could strike down the law after hearing evidence at a later date.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tulsa outlet mall developers ask for public help

Horizon Group Properties and Sooner Investment unveiled plans Wednesday for more than $120 million in east Tulsa commercial development, including an outlet mall. But the plan will not move forward without taxpayer help, said Horizon CEO and President Gary Skoien. Skoien said his company has been in negotiations with the city for more than a year over road access and storm-water management. He did not disclose the amounts of money that have been discussed. “I don’t think, in the last 10 years, there’s been an outlet center built in the U.S. that didn’t have some sort of assistance with the local government,” said Skoien, whose company developed the Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City provided $8 million in infrastructure improvements for that center.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Kansas faces additional revenue shortfalls after tax cuts

Kansas has missed its tax revenue targets again, and the state is in for new fiscal pain as a result. You may recall that Kansas gained national attention back in June because it had cut income taxes and lost a lot more revenue than lawmakers had anticipated. For fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30, the state collected $330 million less in taxes than it had forecast, and $700 million less than it had collected in the prior year. Those are big numbers in a state that spends about $6 billion annually from its general fund, and the revenue weakness led both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to cut Kansas’ credit rating this year.

Read more from the New York Times.

Quote of the Day

“It’s basically setting Oklahomans up for failure, which is just a travesty. People who gather these signatures are taking their own time. They’re taking off work. They’re using their own gas money.”

-Medical marijuana advocate Amy Hilterbran, speaking about Oklahoma’s initiative petition laws. Compared to surrounding states, Oklahoma require substantially more signatures to be gathered over a shorter period of time to get a petition on the ballot (Source:

Number of the Day

40 percent

Percentage of women in Oklahoma who report having at least one poor mental health day each month, compared to 30 percent of men.

Source: 2014 State of the State’s Health Report

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong

Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference, which is underway. Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.

Read more from the Washington Post.

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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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