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 Zébre.
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Today you should know that the day after thousands of educators lobbied lawmakers for more education funding, a Senate committee approved an income tax cut (HB 2508) that would further erode state revenues. KFOR reported that Oklahoma schools are using textbooks held together with duct tape and missing covers. The Tulsa World wrote that Oklahoma’s education rally needs to be followed up by a sustained mass effort to have any chance at success.
The Senate voted to repeal Common Core education standards for math and English and replace them with new ones that will be developed by the State Board of Education. Oklahoma City Public Schools’ new safety director is working to develop a plan for extreme weather with tornado season approaching. Only five of the district’s more than 80 schools are equipped with safe rooms. The Supreme Court ruled that supporters of placing storm shelters in Oklahoma public schools will get more time to gather signatures on a ballot initiative, but controversial wording changes by Attorney General Scott Pruitt will remain.
The OK Policy Blog explained how a push by the Legislature to move the state’s Medicaid patients into privatized, managed care plans run could both reduce health care access and increase costs for taxpayers. Oklahoma nonprofits working to get people signed up for coverage through the new health insurance law have seen a surge in enrollment in recent weeks. An Oklahoma House committee passed legislation requiring persons under 17 to have a prescription to purchase the morning-after pill. It is similar to a measure that was struck down as unconstitutional by an Oklahoma County judge in January.
Tulsa County voters approved two sales tax proposals to fund a new juvenile justice center and a jail expansion. Voters approved a bond issue to rebuild the Canadian Valley Technology Center’s El Reno campus, which was leveled in the May 31 tornado; Norman voters narrowly approved a proposal making a half-cent public safety sales tax permanent.
Solar power advocates are worried about a Senate bill that would charge a fee to electricity customers who return power back to the grid with solar panels or small wind turbines. Advocates said the bill is an attempt by electric utilities to curtail the rise of distributed generation that threatens their business model. Ten days after increasing the number of ways in which Oklahoma can carry out executions, the state plans to execute two men this month with a combination of drugs never used before in this state. The Mental Health Association in Tulsa is changing its name to correspond with its expansion into central Oklahoma. The agency will be known as the Mental Health Association Oklahoma.
The Number of the Day is how many Americans have enrolled in health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace by March 31, a total that meets the law’s original first-year target. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shares 5 reasons why other state shouldn’t follow Kansas’ tax-cutting lead.
In The News
After Monday teacher rally, Senate panel proceeds with income tax cut bill
The day after thousands of educators lobbied lawmakers for more education funding, a Senate panel on Tuesday passed an income tax cut that would further erode state revenues. The Senate Finance Committee voted 8-2 to advance House Bill 2508 by Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, and Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa. HB 2508 will next be considered by the full Senate. If certain revenue triggers are met, in 2016 the personal income tax rate would drop to 5 percent from 5.25 percent. The corporate income tax rate would drop to 5 percent from 6 percent.
OK textbooks held together with duct tape
State Representative, James Lockhart (D) District 3, is offering up some graphic examples of why he says our state’s public schools need more funding. He snapped a picture of his 13-year-old daughter, Hope, holding her math textbook that is literally held together with duct tape. Rep. Lockhart said, “I was like man, that thing’s a piece of junk. So sure enough, she gets out another one. And I thought that one’s no better!” He pointed out two of her other textbooks, both in disrepair and copyrighted 10 years ago. The science one does not even have a back cover.
Tulsa World: Mass schools rally will need sustained effort
At least 25,000 Oklahoma education supporters — maybe as many as 30,000 — went to Oklahoma City Monday to demand more state school funding. It was one of the largest mass demonstrations at the Capitol ever, perhaps the largest, certainly the largest anyone can remember. Teachers, parents, administrators, grandparents, students and people who realize they have an investment in an educated community massed on the south side of the Capitol in a truly impressive show of citizenship.
Common Core Repealed By Oklahoma Senate
The Oklahoma Senate has voted to repeal a set of education standards for math and English that more than 40 states have adopted and replace them with new ones that will be developed by the State Board of Education. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 37-10 on Tuesday for the bill repealing the standards over the objections of some Democrats who argued it is a political decision to roll back Common Core, which has faced fierce resistance from grassroots conservative groups.
New safety director says Oklahoma City school hallways ‘not appropriate’ for refuge during extreme weather
With the threat of severe weather back in the forecast, Ian Wolfe is running a race against the clock to find the safest places for students to seek shelter during a tornado. Wolfe, the new director of safety for Oklahoma City Public Schools, is busy working to determine what he calls “the best areas of refuge” in every school without a safe room. Only five of the district’s more than 80 schools are equipped with safe rooms.
Oklahoma school shelter petition gets more time
Supporters of placing storm shelters in Oklahoma public schools will get more time to gather signatures on a ballot initiative but the wording of the measure can make clear the cost, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The high court said proponents of the initiative petition, State Question 767, have 90 days from the day their appeal of the ballot title is final to collect the signatures needed to get the measure on the election ballot. Supporters need the signatures of about 155,000 registered voters to get the measure on the ballot. They are 35,000 signatures short of the number required.
Proposal to transform Medicaid could reduce health care access, increase costs
The Oklahoma legislature is contemplating proposals that would move the state’s Medicaid population into managed care plans run by private insurance companies. SB 1495 would create a pilot program for privatized managed care at a to-be-determined location in Oklahoma by January 2016. HB 1552 would have moved all Medicaid patients into privatized managed care. It passed the House in 2013 and was assigned to a Senate committee, but it was not heard in the Senate before the deadline.
Final push in Oklahoma for health insurance
Nonprofits and advocacy organizations across Oklahoma were making a final push Monday to get people signed up for coverage through the new health insurance law, though website glitches were making the process more time consuming. The deadline for the open enrollment period is 11 p.m. CDT Monday and a surge in numbers was expected throughout the day. But there were at least two instances when the federal HealthCare.gov website stopped working on Monday. “It kind of delayed the process a little bit,” said Claudia Barajas, director of Health Services at Latino Community Development Agency in Oklahoma City, when asked about the website’s impact on enrollment. The website problems mean enrollees were assigned marketplace accounts but will finish the process at a later date.
Oklahoma House panel passes morning-after pill limits
An Oklahoma House committee has passed legislation requiring persons under 17 to have a prescription to purchase the so-called morning-after pill. The House Public Health Committee voted 7-3 for the Senate-passed measure Tuesday and sent it to the full House for a vote. The bill requires persons younger than 17 to have a doctor’s prescription before they can purchase the emergency contraceptive. It is similar to a measure that was struck down as unconstitutional by an Oklahoma County judge in January.
County officials declare victory in criminal justice proposals vote
County officials on Tuesday declared victory with the apparent passage of separate 15-year sales tax proposals to fund the construction of a new juvenile justice center and four new pods at the Tulsa Jail. Proposition 1, a 0.041 percent sales tax to fund the juvenile justice center, was passing by about a 70 percent margin, according to preliminary results provided by the Tulsa County Election Board. Proposition 2, a 0.026 percent sales tax to fund and operate the new jail pods, was passing by about 66 percent margin.
Canadian Valley Technology Center bond issue passes; Norman public safety tax extended
Canadian Valley Technology Center Superintendent Greg Winters felt like 1,000 pounds of bricks were lifted off his shoulders after Tuesday night’s election. Voters approved the technology center’s proposed $12 million bond issue with nearly 63 percent of the vote. Funding from the bond issue will go to rebuild Canadian Valley Technology Center’s El Reno campus, which was leveled in the May 31 tornado. Following the tornado, officials moved 20 technology programs and 130 employees to other sites, including an abandoned car dealership in Yukon.
Solar advocates worry about Oklahoma legislation for surcharge
Oklahoma electricity customers with solar panels or small wind turbines could face a new monthly surcharge from their utility under a bill to be considered Monday by a House committee. The measure, Senate Bill 1456, directs utilities to recover the costs from customers for providing the electrical infrastructure to homes or businesses with solar panels or small wind turbines. The costs would be determined through a rate tariff filed with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Solar energy advocates said the bill is an attempt by electric utilities to curtail the rise of distributed generation that threatens their business model.
Oklahoma Will Carry Out Executions
Ten days after increasing the number of ways in which Oklahoma can carry out executions, lawyers for the state say they’ll execute two men this month with a combination of drugs never used in the state. Lawyers for the state and for inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner said Tuesday the executioner will inject the men with the sedative midazolam, plus pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which paralyzes victims and stops the heart. Lockett and Warner had sued to learn more about the drugs and a judge ruled last week they had a right to know.
Name change: Mental Health Association in Tulsa to become Mental Health Association Oklahoma
The Mental Health Association in Tulsa is changing its name to correspond with its expansion into central Oklahoma. Starting April 8, the agency will be known as the Mental Health Association Oklahoma. “We’ve always been active, not just in Tulsa, but in Oklahoma in a lot of different ways,” said Mike Brose, executive director. “We’ve been encouraged over the years to get involved in possibly having a permanent presence in Oklahoma City and it’s never been the right time for us to do that.”
Quote of the Day
We know of one Oklahoma district that is using history textbooks that name Frank Keating as the Governor of Oklahoma. That’s more than a decade outdated.
-KFOR reporter Sarah Stewart, who also found Oklahoma schools are using textbooks held together with duct tape and missing covers (Source: http://bit.ly/1opzUVR)
Number of the Day
The number of Americans enrolled in health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace by March 31. The total includes the number enrolled in the federal marketplace operating in 36 states, as well as the total known to have enrolled in state-run health insurance marketplaces in 14 states as of last weekend.
Source: The White House via The Los Angeles Times
5 Reasons Other States Shouldn’t Follow Kansas’ Tax-Cutting Lead
One of the largest tax cuts any state has ever enacted took effect in Kansas at the beginning of last year. The state sharply reduced its income tax rates and fully exempted certain business profits from taxation. It also adopted a plan to cut income tax rates even further over the next few years. Now, in a number of other states, proponents of tax cuts are saying that Kansas’ approach is a model for how to grow a state’s economy. As we explain in our new paper, Kansas is anything but. In fact, it’s a cautionary tale for five major reasons.
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