In The Know: Sen. Coburn announces resignation

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 Sen. Tom Coburn has announced that he will resign after the current session of Congress, foregoing the last two years of his term. Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith has appealed a federal judge’s ruling that found Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. In his Journal Record column, OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt writes that while much remains to be done, the war on poverty has measurably improved conditions for low-wage workers and their families.

The Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma’s budget crunch colored the budget summit we hosted yesterday in Oklahoma City. AP notes that Governor Mary Fallin and House Speaker T.W. Shannon differ on state budget ideas. Capital City OK wrote about five takeaways from the summit. You can download copies of the presentations here.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education threatened funding and accreditation should schools fail to participate in a statewide test of public schools’ online testing capabilities in a few weeks. State Representative Curtis McDaniel has filed a bill that would repeal high-stakes testing requirements for third-graders and high school students. On the OK Policy blog, OK Policy Research Fellow Bailey Perkins argued that Oklahoma needs to better fund its educational system.

An editorial in The Oklahoman addresses the different challenges surrounding jails in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. A cellphone video leaked to The Oklahoman shows an inmate fight allegedly organized by corrections officers at an Oklahoma halfway house. Another Oklahoman editorial discusses reforming Oklahoma’s fuel tax. We’ve written about the topic before.

The Number of the Day is the the number of Americans kept out of poverty in 2012 by safety net programs, according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure In today’s Policy Note, the Economix blog debunks the myth of Obamacare’s war on men.

In The News

Sen. Tom Coburn to resign at the end of current Congress

Sen. Tom Coburn, who has spent a combined 15 years here rooting out government waste and warning about mounting U.S. debt, will resign after the current session of Congress, foregoing the final two years of his term. Coburn, R-Muskogee, has been battling a recurrence of prostate cancer but said he wasn’t leaving early because of his health. In a brief interview, Coburn said he wanted to focus on the next stage in his life.

Read more from NewsOK

Appeal filed in Oklahoma same-sex marriage ruling

The Tulsa County Clerk’s Office has appealed a federal judge’s ruling that an Oklahoma constitutional amendment that precludes same-sex couples from receiving state marriage licenses violates the U.S. Constitution. Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith filed the appeal Thursday with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Read more from The Tulsa World

Prosperity Policy: The unfinished war

Maurice is a 37-year-old husband and father of two who earns slightly above minimum wage working 25 to 30 hours a week at a fast-food restaurant in Oklahoma City. His wife, who works part time at a mall, is studying for a college degree. They earned less than $23,000 in 2012, putting them among the 46.2 million Americans identified as poor by the most recent census figures.

Read more from The Journal Record

Oklahoma revenue crunch colors budget talk

Panelists on Thursday outlined a host of budget challenges facing lawmakers when they return in February to the Capitol to craft a budget. The Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based think tank, hosted the discussion at the Oklahoma History Center. Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said Gov. Mary Fallin will have about $172 million less to craft the fiscal year 2015 budget than was available for the current year. The reduction is not necessarily bad because it will force state officials to focus on priorities, he said.

Read more from The Tulsa World

Okla. gov, speaker differ on state budget ideas

Gov. Mary Fallin and House Speaker T.W. Shannon differ on how to tackle several major budget issues, including the use of bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements and a tax incentive for horizontal oil and gas drilling, the governor’s chief budget negotiator said Thursday. Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said during a summit on the state budget that Fallin prefers a bond issue to pay for infrastructure improvements instead of the “pay-as-you-go” approach supported by Shannon and some House conservatives.

Read more from the Associated Press

Five takeaways from OK Policy budget summit

Today’s budget summit hosted by the Oklahoma Policy Institute was an informative event on the funding challenges Oklahoma faces as we approach another legislative session. A dire situation was presented with the state’s current tax-break trend, of which the seemingly left-leaning crowd supported efforts to raise revenue in order to increase funding levels for public safety, education and other crucial departments.

Read more from Capital City OK

State education board threatens funding, accreditation if schools don’t participate in computer exercise

Notice of an upcoming statewide test of public schools’ online testing capabilities by Oklahoma State Department of Education test vendors has some local school leaders hacked off. State officials sent out an email Wednesday letting superintendents and school testing coordinators know that from 9-10 a.m. on Jan. 28 they will be required to run two online “readiness” tests of all of their computers used for state assessments.

Read more from The Tulsa World

New bill would stop high stakes testing for Oklahoma third graders

State Representative Curtis McDaniel filed legislation Thursday that would repeal high stakes testing requirements for third grade and high school students. The new state law says any third grader who fails the state-mandated reading test, would be forced to repeat third grade.

Read more from NewsOn6

Feed our starving educational system, Oklahoma (Guest Post: Bailey Perkins)

A state’s budget is a reflection of its values. If we judged Oklahoma by its investment in public education, we would believe that Oklahomans undervalue education. When it comes to educational spending, Oklahoma has had a 23 percent per pupil drop in investment between the 2008 and 2014 school years – the largest educational cut in the nation. If we want to have a stronger, sustainable Oklahoma, we need to rethink our priorities and invest substantially in public education.

Read more from the OK Policy blog

Tulsa, Oklahoma counties take different approaches to jail concerns

Their jail is too crowded and their juvenile justice center is inadequate. So officials in Tulsa County want voters to support a plan to use sales tax revenue to upgrade the facilities. Sound familiar? There has been talk in Oklahoma County of addressing jail and juvenile justice center concerns. But the price tag — in excess of $250 million for two new buildings — is problematic. Disagreements have developed over whether a new jail is needed or deficiencies in the current building can be addressed in other ways.

Read more from The Oklahoman

Video of alleged officer-organized Oklahoma inmate fight surfaces

A grainy video shows two shirtless men surrounded by bunks and several male onlookers in an apparent fight circle. The shirtless men touch hands, raise their fists and start taking swings at each other. Attorney Louis Bullock said the cellphone video depicts an officer-organized fight at a halfway house the state Corrections Department is in the process of shutting down.

Read more from NewsOK

Oklahoma Academy’s fuel tax alternative is worth deliberating

As it often does, The Oklahoma Academy has primed the pump on a thoughtful and needed discussion. This time the issue is the state fuel tax. Only three states have a lower gasoline tax than Oklahoma. Drivers here pay just 17 cents a gallon, compared with more than 50 cents in New York. The problem here and elsewhere is that gas taxes are tied to the quantity purchased rather than the price paid.

Read more from The Oklahoman

Oklahoma’s gas tax needs a tune-up

In 1987, the median family made $21,691. Today they make more than twice as much. In 1987, the average gas price was $1 a gallon; today it is nearly $3. In that year, the Oklahoma Gazette voted Remington Park Race Track as the best “Evidence That OKC Is Coming Alive” and Liberty Tower (now Chase Tower) as the “Downtown Skyscraper.” Today we have the OKC Thunder, and the Devon Energy Center tops Chase Tower by more than 300 feet. In 1987, the state gas tax was set at 17 cents per gallon. Today, it is… 17 cents per gallon.

Read more from the OK Policy blog

Quote of the Day

To use a threat to ensure our participation seems to be the typical tactic of this state Department of Education. This isn’t the first threat we have received, and we will likely comply because of it. But why are we being asked to do the work of the vendors that are being paid in the neighborhood of $50 million?

– Sapulpa Superintendent and president of Tulsa County Superintendents Association Kevin Burr, reacting to the news that Oklahoma schools risk accreditation and funding if they fail to participate in an upcoming computer exercise

Number of the Day

41 million

The number of Americans kept out of poverty in 2012 by safety net programs, according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure.

Source: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Real Health Care ‘War’ on the Young

A common theme among critics of Obamacare has been that it basically is a war on the young and especially on men. “Why aren’t Millennials marching in the street over Obamacare?” asks Chris Conover, a policy analyst at Duke University, in Forbes. “Anyone with a conscience should be offended by the greatest generational theft ever witnessed in the history of the world. Young Americans – especially the Millennial generation born between 1977 and 1995 – are the biggest losers in this battle, but it will adversely affect their children and grandchildren to boot.”

Read more at Economix

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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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