In The Know: Education funding tops Tulsa Chamber’s agenda

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.

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Today you should know that more funds for education is the top priority on this year’s legislative agenda for the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. In the past five years, the percentage of incarcerated Oklahomans diagnosed with mental illness has nearly doubled, reaching more than one-third of all inmates. On StudioTulsa, OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt gave a detailed preview of the legislative session that begins today. OETA will live-stream Governor Fallin’s State of the State address today beginning at 12:30 pm.

The Legislature spent $5.2 million to renovate their conference rooms and offices at the state Capitol while the building’s exterior continues to crumble. Several bills have been filed this session to reform Oklahoma’s liquor laws. A number of bills seek to expand where Oklahomans can carry handguns, including in schools, on public transit, and at public meetings. The Tulsa World shared a sampling of odd legislation filed this year in Oklahoma.

On the OK Policy Blog, Jia Wang shares research showing that increased government spending on business incentives appears to be undercutting funding for public services, and this trade-off actually harms economic growth. The okeducationtruths blog assessed the latest changes in Oklahoma’s A-F grading system. With propane costs at a record high, Governor Fallin ordered the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to expedite applications for a federal assistance program that helps low-income families with heating costs.

As of 2011, Oklahoma ranked seventh in the nation in its reliance on federal funding to supplement state revenue. Julie Delcour discussed how conservatives and liberals are sending the same message about the need to reduce incarceration. The Oklahoman editorial board hoped that lawmakers will avoid ideological posturing and unconstitutional bills this year.

The Number of the Day is the portion of each dollar the state of Oklahoma spent in FY 2011 that came from federal funds. In today’s Policy Note, New York Magazine discusses how President Obama’s “MyRA” proposal could solve two big problems with retirement saving.

In The News

Education funding tops Tulsa Chamber’s OneVoice agenda

The Tulsa-area OneVoice agenda released Thursday seems an aggressive one given the outlook for the legislative session that begins Monday. The agenda calls for more money for education, a state bond issue to build the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa and a precedent-setting annual appropriation for the Oklahoma State University Medical Center. OneVoice is a regional advocacy effort involving more than 60 partners and led by the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Prison meds reveal disorders severe for mentally ill inmates

Two times a day, seven days a week, hundreds of prisoners at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington break into four lines to receive medications from prison staff. There is Thorazine and Geodon for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Wellbutrin for depression and Trilafon for schizophrenia. Inmates step up to get one or more drugs in a paper cup, pop them into their mouth, and must prove they swallowed them by opening their mouth again for inspection. “Cheeking” a pill to trade later results in discipline.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

A detailed preview of the upcoming legislative session with David Blatt

The Oklahoma Legislature will convene for this year’s session on Monday, February 3rd, at noon. Which issues, both greater and lesser, will our state’s lawmakers be focused on throughout 2014? We explore that multi-faceted question on this edition of StudioTulsa; our guest is David Blatt, executive director of the OK Policy Institute.

Listen to the interview by StudioTulsa.

See also: OETA State of the State live stream (beginning at 12:30 pm)

Cost of Oklahoma state Capitol renovations raises questions

Ugly yellow barriers and even uglier plywood-covered scaffolding will welcome lawmakers Monday when they return to the state Capitol for the start of the 2014 legislative session. Their reward for passing the obstacles will be the pleasure of conducting the state’s business in some attractive new legislative conference rooms and offices — courtesy of about $5.2 million in taxpayer-funded interior renovations completed while the Legislature was out of session. The Capitol’s unsightly exterior barriers and striking interior renovations — which are particularly regal on the Senate side — present lawmakers with some public perception challenges.

Read more NewsOK.

Oklahoma Legislature may address state’s liquor laws

State lawmakers have proposed numerous changes to the alcohol industry, including allowing wineries to ship to consumers and eliminating the agency that now enforces the state’s alcohol laws. There’s also a measure that would allow grocery stores to sell wine and liquor stores to sell nonalcoholic beverages and refrigerated beer and wine — changes seemingly popular with consumers but not so with politicians. If passed, House Joint Resolution 1001 would require the approval of voters. But as written, with changes to grocery stores and liquor stores, it is likely unconstitutional, said J.P. Richard, president of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma.

Read more from NewsOK.

Fate of Oklahoma gun legislation uncertain in 2014

In 2012, shortly after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb announced the formation of a task force to address the issue of school security. A key component of their discussions was what lawmakers could do to make schools safer for both students and teachers. In the end, the result of the commission’s efforts were four bills signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. However, dozens of gun-related bills pertaining to school security stalled during the Legislative session.

Read more from NewsOK.

A sampling of odd legislation in Oklahoma

With more than 2,300 bills and resolutions filed each legislative session, it is not surprising that a few would strike the casual observer —- and sometimes the serious observer —- as a little off the wall. This year, one bill would establish the official state game, and another would dictate how the state flag should be folded. Some of those bills have been filed for a specific purpose not evident in the language. Some have been filed at the request of a constituent. Here are a few examples of unusual bills filed for 2014.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Do economic development incentives “crowd out” expenditures on public goods?

Policymakers and local government officials are constantly under pressure to stimulate economic growth and create jobs. The provision of economic development incentives (used interchangeably as business incentives or subsidies below) is often touted to achieve the above ends through increasing capital. Higher earnings and tax revenues are also expected from new capital formation… However, those who tout the benefits of incentive programs typically ignore or underestimate their potential cost.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Thoughts on the latest changes to A-F grades

As most educators would, I spent some time this Saturday morning perusing the new 35 page technical manual for Oklahoma’s easy to understand accountability system. Here are my thoughts on the major changes (not counting the revolutionary decision to include a Table of Contents).

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Fallin extends propane emergency, prioritizes low-income users

Governor Mary Fallin ordered the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to give priority status to requests for assistance from families who use propane as their primary or only source of heat. Fallin issued an executive order instructing DHS to expedite applications for both the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Energy Crisis Assistance Program. The federal assistance programs help low-income families with heating costs in the winter, cooling costs in the summer and home insulation.

Read more Fox23.

Oklahoma no. 7 in reliance on federal funds

Oklahoma ranks seventh in the nation in its reliance on federal funding to supplement state revenue, according to calculations by State Treasurer Ken Miller. Of each dollar spent by Oklahoma government during the 2011 fiscal year, more than 43 cents was provided by the federal government, Miller said in his latest Oklahoma Economic Report, released Friday. Only six states relied more on federal funds. In Mississippi, almost 53 cents of every dollar spent came from the feds. At the other end of the spectrum, the federal government provided less than 10 cents of every dollar spent in Connecticut.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Julie Delcour: Liberals and conservatives sending same message on incarceration

Back in December, key members of Congress received a letter pleading with them to wise up about what types of inmates should be locked up in a federal prison system that’s zoomed out of control in cost and population. The letter did not come from liberal-leaning civil rights groups. It came from hard-core conservatives, led by no-new-taxes pledge leader Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and from the likes of Ralph Reed, Faith & Freedom Coalition chairman, and Galen Carey, of the National Association of Evangelicals. What’s interesting is that both conservative and liberal groups are sending nearly the same message to Congress.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

NewsOK: Statesmanship should trump ideology during 2014 legislative session

One state representative recently complained that the Department of Corrections isn’t properly using the private halfway houses at its disposal. If DOC would do so, he said, it could save money and help push the prison population down to about 96 percent of capacity. When trying to move down to 96 percent is seen as a victory, you’ve got problems. The use of private facilities is one of many areas that DOC’s new director, Robert Patton, will study as he settles into the job. But issues such as pay for correctional officers rest with the Legislature. Lawmakers need to do no further harm to this overburdened system, by rejecting bills that stand to make prisons even more crowded.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

While Oklahoma’s public schools are performing as well or better than schools in other states that are comparably funded, that is like being proud of receiving the highest D in the class. In other words, Oklahoma students are “blowing the socks off” students from other states that are also in the bottom funding tier. That is not good enough for my children and grandchildren and it is not good enough for my neighbor’s children or grandchildren.

-Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha (Source:

Number of the Day

43 cents

The portion of each dollar the state of Oklahoma spent in FY 2011 that came from federal funds, the 7th highest percentage in the nation.

Source: Oklahoma State Treasurer

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Did President Obama’s ‘MyRA’ Proposal Just Solve Two Huge Problems With Retirement Saving?

Of all the proposals President Obama put forth in his State of the Union speech last night, the most boring-sounding one may end up being the most consequential. The idea the president proposed was for a “MyRA,” a new type of retirement savings account – stay with me here! – that could make it easy for low-income workers to save money by filling starter IRA accounts with a new type of safe, government-backed bond, and then converting them to real IRAs later on.

Read more from New York Magazine.

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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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