In The Know: Oklahoma leads nation for disaster losses in 2013

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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS.

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Today you should know that Oklahoma led the nation in insurance claims due to damage from natural disasters in 2013, passing its closest rival by a half-billion dollar margin. The House approved HB 2624, which would require the Legislature to cover the state’s publicly-funded pension plans each year. House Speaker Jeff Hickman said he will visit with his caucus before deciding whether a bill to take out bonds to fix the Capitol will be heard. 

The OK Policy Blog shared the latest numbers on how Governor Fallin’s proposed tax cuts would affect Oklahomans. Middle-income families would get an average tax cut of $29 and 41 percent of Oklahomans would see no tax cut at all, while the wealthiest 1 percent would get more than $2,000. Former Tulsa World editorial page editor Ken Neal wrote that the Governor’s tax cut proposal would starve state government. A bill co-authored by Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, would raise minimum teacher salaries and pay for it by reducing the tax break for horizontal drilling.

Speaker Hickman appointed Rep. Mike Ritze to take his place as chair of the House Public Safety Appropriations Subcommittee. Hickman asked the committee’s Vice Chair Bobby Cleveland to take the lead on finding solutions to the crisis facing state prisons. The Department of Corrections said private prison company Avalon Correctional Services will need to make significant changes before the Department considers repopulating the company’s Tulsa halfway house. Officials had closed the halfway house amid allegations that administrators were setting up inmate fights for sport and gambling.

The Oklahoma Senate Energy Committee passed a bill to give counties more ability to regulate wind farms with zoning laws. Oklahoma ranked in the middle for health insurance prices on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. Twenty-seven years after its inaugural meeting at the University of Oklahoma, a symposium dedicated to reducing racial tensions and improving access to higher education is expected to draw more than 2,500 attendees to Indianapolis in May. 

The Number of the Day is the amount insurance companies paid out in claims resulting from natural disasters in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Demos discusses the racist history behind felon disenfranchisement laws.

In The News

Oklahoma leads nation for disaster losses in 2013

Oklahoma led the nation in insurance claims due to damage from natural disasters in 2013, and by a sizeable margin. Insurance companies paid out $2 billion dollars in claims in the Sooner State, beating second-place Texas by a half billion dollars.

Read more from KRMG.

Oklahoma House backs minimum state contribution to pension funds

A bill setting minimum annual contributions to the state’s existing pension funds passed the state House of Representatives on Thursday despite questions about its feasibility. House Bill 2646 by Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, would require the state to at least meet the actuarially required contribution each year, except in cases of financial emergency.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

HB 2624 on the OK Policy Bill Tracker

New House Speaker Hickman to discuss Capitol repair bond

House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Thursday he will visit with his caucus before deciding whether a bill to fix the Capitol will be heard. On Wednesday, a Senate panel passed Senate Bill 2044 by Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, which calls for as much as $160 million in bonds to fix the crumbling state Capitol. Scott Inman, leader of the 29-member House minority Democratic caucus said he believes the measure would pass the full House if Hickman gave it a hearing. “The votes are there,” he said. “It is whether Speaker Hickman will call it up.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Graph of the Day: Tax cut will provide little benefit to most Oklahomans

The average Oklahoman would get just $29 from Governor Mary Fallin’s proposed income tax cut, while one-quarter of the total benefit would go to the wealthiest 1 percent of households, according to a new analysis prepared by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). The Governor’s plan would cut the top income tax rate from 5.25 to 5.0 percent in 2015. Of all Oklahoma households, 41 percent would get zero benefit because none of their income is taxed at the top rate.

Read more from OK Policy.

Ken Neal: Tax cut proposal would starve state government

Oklahoma income is declining, so we must cut taxes again. Gov. Mary Fallin, inoculated long ago by the failed trickle down theory from the Ronald Reagan years, continues a tax policy that has failed time and again, both nationally and at the state level. She knows that is a failed doctrine. Why else would her budget cut spending? There will be less money for already-starved schools. Higher education will continue to shift costs to students. State employees haven’t had a pay raise in seven years. While the prison population grows, the number of men and women guarding them is declining to dangerous levels.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Ownbey co-authoring teacher pay bill

Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) is co-authoring a bill that would raise the minimum salary schedule for Oklahoma teachers. House Bill 2966 would raise each salary on the minimum salary schedule by $2,000. Ownbey indicated it would cost the State of Oklahoma $100 million to fund the pay increases. The source of funding would be reducing a tax break on horizontal drilling.

Read more from The Ardmoreite.

HB 2966 on the OK Policy Bill Tracker

Senate committee passes bill adding regulations to Oklahoma wind farms

The Senate Energy Committee passed a bill Thursday putting additional regulations on wind farms in Oklahoma, but not without hearing from supporters and opponents of a proposed development in northeastern Oklahoma.The committee approved Senate Bill 1559 by a vote of 12-2. Branan, the committee’s chairman, said the bill gives more local control to counties to be involved in permitting for wind developments, implements setbacks from homes and regulates noise from wind turbines.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma not among top 10 places where health insurance costs the least (or most)

The cheapest place to buy health insurance through a marketplace might be Minneapolis-St. Paul. The Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed how much it would cost a 40-year-old person to buy a silver plan through federal and state-run marketplaces. Through that analysis, Kaiser Health News found the 10 Least Expensive Health Insurance Markets In The U.S. and the 10 Most Expensive Insurance Markets In The U.S. No county or region in Oklahoma made either list.

Read more from NewsOK.

Okla. lawmaker appointed to public safety position

Newly elected Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman has named Rep. Mike Ritze as chairman of House Public Safety Appropriations Subcommittee. Hickman announced the appointment on Thursday, just four days after he was elected to replace former Speaker T.W. Shannon.

Read more from KTUL.

Changes needed at Avalon before inmates can return to Tulsa facility

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections won’t consider returning inmates to Avalon Correctional Services’ Tulsa halfway house until significant changes are made to its operations, officials said Thursday. Interim director Ed Evans told the Board of Corrections that the agency issued several pages of requirements that the private company must address before getting a new contract to repopulate its Avalon Tulsa halfway house.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Symposium on access to higher education, started by the University of Oklahoma, continues growth as national forum

A symposium that began a quarter-century ago to address racial tensions on campus has grown into a comprehensive national forum on access to higher education. “The conference continues to grow and get bigger as it deals with all the emerging issues,” said Belinda Biscoe, associate vice president for outreach at the University of Oklahoma.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

The tax break was given over a period of time so they could experiment with horizontal drilling, and it worked. It has done a great job, but the period of experimentation is over. … The companies are coming to Oklahoma because the oil is in the ground.

-Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, who is co-authoring a bill to raise Oklahoma’s minimum teacher salaries and pay for it by reducing a tax break for horizontal drilling (Source:

Number of the Day

$2 billion

The amount insurance companies paid out in claims resulting from natural disasters in Oklahoma in 2013

Source: Insurance Information Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Racist History Behind Felony Disenfranchisement Laws

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder boldly went on the public record to say that all felony disenfranchisement laws should be permanently put to bed. According to research from The Sentencing Project, one of every 13 African Americans is disenfranchised due to past felony convictions compared with one of 40 adults in general. The near-six million Americans who can’t vote due to a felony conviction is bad enough, but Holder’s reasons for repealing these laws went beyond just the present impact.

Read more from Demos.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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