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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.
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Today you should know many state workers will receive pay raises for the first time in nearly a decade, but most state agencies will face budget cuts of more than 5 percent under a budget bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Fallin. The OK Policy Blog previously shared a few secrets that aren’t being shared in press releases about the budget. Oklahoma’s state treasurer says collections from the state’s major revenue sources indicate the state’s economy remains strong. Oklahoma utility companies expressed tentative support for new carbon emissions regulations announced by the Obama administration.
Governor Fallin met with representatives from about a dozen Oklahoma school districts to gather input about a controversial bill that would repeal Common Core standards. The Governor is still considering whether to sign the bill. The OK Policy Blog discussed how the bill could actually lead to more federal control of Oklahoma schools, because the state would lose exemptions from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Oklahoma City Public Schools teachers missed an average of 11 days of class last school year, matching the national average, according to a national report on teacher absenteeism released Tuesday.
The Tulsa County Sheriff notified municipalities that the Tulsa Jail is going to stop accepting inmates who have not been formally charged with crimes unless the Sheriff’s Office is compensated for holding them. Bartlesville city councilors have instituted a hiring freeze for the city due to stagnant sales tax revenues. A new cafe in Tulsa will allow diners to pay whatever they can afford in cash or volunteer hours. The “Comanche Children” day care center in Lawton is teaching the Comanche language to children to try to save it from extinction.
The Number of the Day is the total number of veterans living in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the five largest private health insurers in the US a planning to release a huge trove of health care cost data to the public. The Brookings Institute discussed side effects to watch out for from this new health cost transparency.
In The News
Oklahoma governor signs $7.1B bill to fund state government, dozens of other measures
Pay raises are on the way for more than 12,000 state workers such as prison guards and nurses, but most state agencies will face budget cuts of more than 5 percent under a budget bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Mary Fallin. The $7.1 billion general appropriations bill that funds state agencies and government for the fiscal year beginning July 1 was one of several dozen measures Fallin signed into law. In it, the governor and Republican legislative leaders were able to carve out increases for high-priority government services, like K-12 schools, public safety and child welfare.
See also: Games Legislators Play from the OK Policy blog.
Oklahoma Treasurer Says State Revenue Up In May
Oklahoma’s state treasurer says collections from the state’s major revenue sources indicate the state’s economy remains strong. Treasurer Ken Miller released his office’s revenue report for the month of May on Tuesday. It shows gross collections for the month are almost 2 percent ahead of the same month last year. Receipts for the past 12 months are more than 3 percent higher than the previous 12 months. “While we aren’t seeing the robust growth of the early recovery, we do see a picture of measured expansion ongoing for more than four years now,” Miller said in a statement.
Gov. Fallin gets input from Tulsa Public Schools on Common Core repeal bill
Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard and two Tulsa Public Schools teachers were among a group of educators who met with Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday about a controversial bill that would repeal Common Core standards. Officials in the Governor’s Office have said Fallin is in the process of gathering input about the bill’s real-world implications for Oklahoma’s public schools. Her office released a list Tuesday of more than 50 bills she had signed into law, but House Bill 3399 was not among them. Ballard told the school board Monday evening that Tulsa Public Schools is one of a dozen or so districts that were invited to send representatives to meet with Fallin on Tuesday afternoon.
Common Core repeal could put Oklahoma schools under more federal control
With the legislative session now adjourned, attention shifts to Governor Mary Fallin, who has 15 days from the day bills reach her desk to sign or veto legislation (she can also exercise a ‘pocket veto‘ by taking no action on a bill). Her toughest decision, and the one generating the most attention, is over HB 3399, the bill aiming to repeal Common Core standards. While there is much at stake for Oklahoma’s education system in the bill, one of the most serious consequences is that Oklahoma could lost its waiver exempting the state from parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Oklahoma City Teachers Averaged 11 Missed Days of Work
Oklahoma City Public Schools teachers missed an average of 11 days of class in 2012-2013, matching the national average, according to a national report on teacher absenteeism released Tuesday. The National Council on Teacher Quality look at teacher absenteeism rates in the largest district in each of the 40 biggest metropolitan areas. The organization advocates for reforms that would improve teacher quality. Results found that teachers in those 40 areas missed an average of 11 days of class in 2012-2013, although the rates varied widely by district.
Tulsa County sheriff notifies cities he won’t take inmates without agreement
Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz has notified area municipalities that beginning July 1 the Tulsa Jail will not accept inmates who have not been formally charged with crimes unless the Sheriff’s Office is compensated for holding them. The letter, dated May 8, states that the Sheriff’s Office “will no longer accept inmates on open state charges unless agreed to by a memorandum of understanding or contract.” The letter goes on to say that the Sheriff’s Office “will receive inmates after a warrant is filed and charges are approved by the district attorney.” The letter was sent to at least 11 municipalities, including Tulsa, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Glenpool, Jenks, Owasso and Sand Springs.
Oklahoma leaders, utilities respond to new EPA rules on carbon emissions
Oklahoma political and power-utility leaders are divided on how to take the Obama administration’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from generation plants. The news Monday that the Obama administration wants to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent in 15 years has fired up opposition from Oklahoma political circles and cautious optimism from the utilities. Tulsa-based AEP-PSO and Oklahoma City-based OG&E have been down this road before but took different paths toward dealing with federal opposition in the earlier regional haze pollution fight. OG&E spokeswoman Kathleen O’Shea said her company still needs to review details in the voluminous CO2 plan but is happy that it allows for states to craft their own implementation efforts.
Bartlesville City Council approves budget with hiring freeze
A $73 million budget with zero growth and a hiring freeze was approved this week by Bartlesville city councilors who hope stagnant sales tax revenues improve in the community. City Manager Ed Gordon said in the budget that 16.5 positions are being eliminated from the city staff through the hiring freeze and sharing employees among departments. The cuts do not include layoffs. Current positions that are not filled are being eliminated. The budget does not include pay increases for the city’s 332 employees.
“Pay What You Can” Café Coming to Tulsa
Tulsa’s newest dining concept will focus on helping people facing food insecurity. Stone Soup Community Venture founder Christy Moore says one in five Tulsans don’t know where their next meal will come from, but Tulsa’s Table community café will be a step further than charity. “I believe there’s another level to this that Stone Soup can bring by teaching and educating and empowering people,” Moore said. “Grow your own food. Prepare your own food. We’ll have some advocacy work that we’ll be engaging in soon.” Tulsa’s Table will begin June 17 with once-a-month popup cafes where diners can pay with cash or volunteer hours.
Saving the Comanche language
An industrial park full of beige corrugated steel buildings seems an unlikely place for the resuscitation of a dying language. Yet in a small day care center there, a dedicated Comanche speaker is breathing life into her ancestral tongue. Each work day, Billie Cable-Kreger, 61, arrives at the center. The words on the center’s sign mean “Comanche Children.” Inside, Cable-Kreger makes herself a cup of coffee before she and other workers pass out cereal and milk to the children. The day care caters to children from low-income families; most of their parents are casino and industrial workers, and a number of the children live nearby in a tribal housing complex.
Quote of the Day
“It’s troubling that we are cutting most state agencies at a time when the economy is growing and most other states are talking about what to do with surpluses. We can’t expect good economic times to restore public services, because that’s happening now and the money isn’t there.”
– Gene Perry, Policy Director of OK Policy (source: http://bit.ly/1nN109e).
Number of the Day
Total number of veterans living in Oklahoma as of September 30, 2013.
Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs.
The side effects of releasing health insurance data to the public
Three of the five largest private health insurers in the US – UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, and Humana – have decided to follow the lead of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and release their payment information to the public. According to Bloomberg News, this data will include 5 billion individual medical claims and $1 trillion in spending. Although I share the enthusiasm of many other researchers for analyzing this valuable data, I am also concerned with unanticipated consequences that may arise with unrestricted release of sensitive and complicated healthcare insurance data to the public.
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