In The Know: Oklahoma Workers’ Comp law challenged

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.

Today you should know that two legislators and a group of Oklahoma firefighters filed a lawsuit seeking to throw out a new law that overhauls Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system. The Oklahoma Insurance Department said they will block navigators from helping Oklahomans decide between plans on the new health care marketplace. More than 600,000 Oklahomans who receive state food aid will see their monthly benefits reduced beginning Nov. 1.

KGOU shared audio from a panel at OK Policy’s 2013 Summer Policy Institute where analysts discussed the GOP takeover in Oklahoma and future trends in Oklahoma politics. David Blatt’s Journal Record column explained why Oklahoma policymakers are heading the wrong way if they want to improve our state’s prosperity. The OK Policy Blog discusses Oklahoma’s improbable victory over big tobacco.

American Airlines could lay off as many as 400 more workers at its Tulsa maintenance and engineering center in early 2014. A signature-gathering campaign has been launched to put on the ballot a $500 million bond issue to build storm shelters in Oklahoma public schools. Businessweek reported on Senator Tom Coburn’s attempts to remove tax-exempt status from the NFL and other pro sports leagues.

The Number of the Day is the average per month per person SNAP or ‘food stamp’ nutrition benefit. In today’s Policy Note, The American Prospect explained the troubling racial history of a rule that excludes home care workers from minimum wage and overtime protections. The Obama administration recently announced that this policy will end in January.

In The News

Oklahoma Workers’ Comp law challenged

The Oklahoma Supreme Court is being asked to throw out a new law that overhauls Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system. State Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and the Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma filed the challenge Tuesday. They gave the Supreme Court almost a dozen reasons why they think the law is unconstitutional. “It’s wrong that a firefighter or any other injured worker should have to pay back benefits after returning to work. This is just one of many problems with this new law,” Coates said.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner continues threats against health law navigators

On the same day that officials at Little Dixie Community Action Agency in Hugo, Okla., won a $580,000 federal grant to help consumers sign up for coverage under the federal health law, Doak issued a warning. If the consumer guides perform any of the duties of state-licensed insurance agents, he said, “we will put a stop to it.” James Mills, assistant general counsel for the Oklahoma Insurance Department, says his agency is simply trying to clarify the distinct roles of agents and navigators, but adds, “Obamacare is not something our state wants.” He said navigators can show people information about health plans and their benefits, and help consumers fill out online applications. They can also tell older people that their premiums will be higher than those of younger people. But showing them why they may be better off choosing a silver plan instead of a gold plan to save money “would be going too far,” he said.

Read more from Kaiser Health News.

Cuts to food aid looming for thousands of needy Oklahomans

More than 600,000 Oklahomans who receive state food aid will see their monthly benefits reduced beginning Nov. 1, Department of Human Services officials announced Wednesday. The benefits, formerly known as food stamps, are expected to be cut by $36 for a family of four with no earnings, DHS officials estimated. The same family, officials said, stands to lose the equivalent of 21 meals a month.

Read more from NewsOK.

GOP takeover in Oklahoma explained

It wasn’t long ago that to be involved in a meaningful way in Oklahoma politics, office seekers had to have a “D” after their names. But in just a few years, that has turned around so that an “R” is now necessary to have a significant influence in state politics. That change was not as sudden as it seems, according to political consultant Pat McFerron,“To me the question isn’t, ‘Why we’re so Republican now? It’s why were we so Democrat before?’” McFerron was one of the panel members during the Summer Policy Institute sponsored by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. He was joined by University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie and former Democratic state lawmaker and Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Ryan Kiesel.

Read more from KGOU.

Prosperity Policy: Heading the wrong way

Two recent national studies of state policies suggest that Oklahoma policymakers are heading the wrong way if they want to improve our state’s prosperity. The first study, from the Economic Analysis and Research Network, finds that the educational attainment of a state’s workforce is strongly linked with both productivity and median wages. Overwhelmingly, high-wage states are those that have a well-educated workforce, while states with less-educated workforces see lower wages.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Oklahoma’s improbable victory over big tobacco

In 2003, tough new regulations to ensure smoke-free environments in workplaces and public locations were enacted by the Oklahoma legislature. This was a striking victory for public health and reformers advocating tobacco controls– a victory that no one would have predicted just a few years earlier. As we analyze in our new book Heartland Tobacco War, this is a story that shows how a principled public official can escape the constraints of business as usual and mobilize public pressure to support reforms.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

American Airlines may cut 400 more jobs in Tulsa

American Airlines could lay off as many as 400 more workers at its Tulsa maintenance and engineering center in early 2014, even after cutting about the same number of employees within the past year. During a meeting this week between maintenance workers and company management, union leaders were told that American could have 400 more workers than needed by early next year, Transport Workers Union Local 514 President Dale Danker said Wednesday. Union leadership confirmed the potential cuts in a phone call with the Tulsa World.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma school shelter ballot drive launched

A group that supports building storm shelters in Oklahoma public schools launched a signature-gathering campaign on Wednesday for a $500 million bond issue to fund the initiative. Take Shelter Oklahoma filed a petition with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office to place the issue on a statewide ballot. Once the ballot language is given final approval by the attorney general, supporters have 90 days to gather about 155,000 signatures of registered voters. The plan calls for the debt service on the bond issue to be paid by the annual franchise tax levied on businesses.

Read more from NewsOK.

Senator Coburn’s lonely mission to make the NFL pay taxes

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn introduced a bill yesterday that would strip the National Football League of its tax-exempt status. The PRO Sports Act proposed by the Republican lawmaker would prohibit professional sports organizations with annual revenue of more than $10 million from filing as nonprofit organizations. In addition to the NFL, the bill would also change the status of the National Hockey League, golf’s PGA Tour, and the ATP World Tour in tennis, among other professional sports groups. Wondering how an organization charging $2,600 for Super Bowl tickets qualifies for tax exemptions in the first place? It’s a good question.

Read more from Businessweek.

Quote of the Day

If the Legislature thought it was worth its time to study, debate and vote for the initiative, then why is it not worth funding? It appears some think that passing the bill made lawmakers look tough on crime but funding the bill makes them look soft on crime. Figure out that reasoning.

-Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, on lawmakers’ failure to fund implementation of criminal justice reforms passed in 2012 (Source:

Number of the Day


Average per month per person SNAP or ‘food stamp’ nutrition benefit

Source: OKDHS

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Obama just changed the most racist law in the country

You may have missed it, but yesterday President Obama dramatically altered one of the most racially damaging laws in America when the Department of Labor announced that it would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers. To say there’s a backstory here would be a wild understatement. Seventy-five years ago, Franklin Roosevelt achieved a historic victory—but a morally compromised one—when he signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The law created the modern labor regulations that we’re all familiar with today, including the minimum wage, overtime pay, and much more. Yet getting the FLSA passed entailed a major concession to southern Democrats, who successfully fought to exclude agricultural and domestic workers.

Read more from the American Prospect.

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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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