In The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.
Today In The News
State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger blasts Tulsa Chamber chairman for criticizing tax cuts: The state’s top budget officer called the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s new chairman “disingenuous,” “out of touch” and arrogant in two Facebook posts Thursday night. Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, a Tulsa resident, was responding to Chairman Jeff Dunn’s blunt criticism of “a senior Cabinet official” for defending the 0.25 percent reduction in the state income-tax rate that went into effect last week, even as state agencies were told to trim spending by 3 percent because of a general revenue failure [Tulsa World].
Let’s Give it Back: During a recent chat on Facebook, myself, Rick Cobb (okeducationtruths) and several other passionate advocates for Oklahoma public education decided to launch an important campaign. Using the tax cut calculator provided on the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s website, my monthly checks may increase by as much as $12 during 2016. I refuse to be a hypocrite and accept this money when I know essential services are being cut across our state. Therefore, on April 15, 2016, I will be redirecting the full amount of my income tax cut ($144) to support students in my school district [View From the Edge].
Earthquakes in Oklahoma Raise Fears of a Big One: Oklahoma was rocked Wednesday night by two of the state’s largest earthquakes in recent years, further fueling scientists’ concern that the continued burial of oil and gas wastes in seismically active areas was courting a much more powerful earthquake. The two quakes, measured at magnitudes 4.7 and 4.8, struck at 11:27 p.m. in rural northern Oklahoma, directly beneath a major oil and gas production area. The second quake, which came about 30 seconds later, was the fourth-largest recorded in the state [New York Times].
SandRidge Energy Suspends Dividend Payments: Two days after the New York Stock Exchange removed SandRidge Energy Inc. from trading because of what it called”abnormally low” stock prices, the Oklahoma City-based company announced Friday it was suspending payment of a semi-annual dividend on shares. Shares of the oil and natural gas company dropped 2 cents or nearly 12 percent to an all-time low of 15 cents a share on Wednesday [OK Energy Today].
Oklahoma City’s economy doing better than state’s, tax receipts show: Despite another year-over-year drop in monthly sales tax collections, figures reported this week indicated Oklahoma City continues to outperform the broader state economy. The city’s January sales tax check was down 1.6 percent from the same month a year ago, significantly better than the 4.5 percent drop in collections recorded by the state [NewsOK].
Lawmakers’ bills include fines for students who misbehave, electromagnetic pulse attacks: Lawmakers have filed dozens of measures before the beginning of the Feb. 1 legislative session. Lawmakers will revisit agency and school consolidation, attempt to make the state compliant with Real ID and consider measures that deal with guns and same-sex marriage. Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, has a bill, Senate Bill 911, that would let school districts fine parents of children who misbehave [Tulsa World].
Record incarceration rate not producing safer Oklahoma: Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele spoke to the Rotary Club of Norman Thursday afternoon regarding the state’s record incarceration rate and his work with The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM). Steele said that while he was serving in the state legislature he looked at the Oklahoma budget, and was surprised by the amount of money the state was spending on corrections [Norman Transcript].
What criminal justice reform can do… and what it can’t: One of the issues that seems to be on everyone’s action list this coming session is “criminal justice reform.” It’s often said that Oklahoma spends “too much” on prisons and “too little” on services like education and mental health that are thought to keep people out of prison. With $485 million in the current year’s budget for the Department of Corrections, corrections seems to be natural place to look for savings [OK Policy].
Oklahoma, Nebraska AGs liken Colorado to ‘drug cartel’ over pot: Oklahoma and Nebraska compared Colorado to a drug cartel on Wednesday and again urged the Supreme Court to let them sue their neighbor over its marijuana production and distribution system. In sharply written arguments, the two states said Colorado “has created a massive criminal enterprise whose sole purpose is to authorize and facilitate the manufacture, distribution, sale and use of marijuana” [NewsOK].
Oklahoma foster parents sue DHS over firearms policy: Two foster parents are suing the state Department of Human Services in Oklahoma City federal court over an agency rule they claim is unconstitutional because it prohibits foster and adoptive parents from legally possessing firearms for self-defense. The married couple, Stephen and Krista Pursley, of Moore, state in the lawsuit that they “are prohibited by the OKDHS policy … from possessing or carrying firearms in their vehicles or while their foster/adopted children are present” [NewsOK].
New Oklahoma abortion law challenged in court: A new law that could criminalize abortion doctors and clinics is now being challenged in an Oklahoma County courtroom. The measure was scheduled to go into effect Nov. 1 but was blocked by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in late October. Under the measure, doctors would be penalized for filing late paperwork, even using the wrong font on a required sign at their clinic [KFOR].
State budget cuts threaten senior nutrition sites: Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments (ASCOG) Aging Services is moving ahead with plans for the 2017 fiscal year budget while potentially facing more cuts. ASCOG’s Aging Services – which serves communities in Stephens, Grady, Jefferson, Cotton, Caddo, Comanche, Tillman, McClain counties – may have to pull funding from some services, like senior nutrition sites and senior centers. Cache, Lawton’s Pleasant Valley site, Geronimo, Wayne and Walters qualify for the immediate loss of funding should ASCOG receive additional cuts from the state [Duncan Banner].
School bond issue, state Senate race highlight Tuesday’s election: Little Axe school officials are asking district voters to approve a proposed $5.87 million bond issue that would fund the construction of two school safe rooms. The proposal is one of several matters that voters in the Oklahoma City area will see on the ballot Tuesday. In northeastern Oklahoma, voters in state Senate District 34 will elect a replacement for former Sen. Rick Brinkley, who pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge in August [NewsOK]. The election matches Democrat J.J. Dossett, an Afghan war veteran and Owasso teacher and coach, and Republican David McLain, a businessman and part-time pastor who has campaigned on school choice, abolishing state marriage licenses, and elimination of the state income tax [Tulsa World].
Federal grants to Oklahoma tribes will aid homeless veterans: Five Oklahoma tribes Friday were awarded federal grants totaling nearly $1.2 million to aid veterans who are homeless or at risk. Each of the Oklahoma tribes is expected to serve 20 veterans with the money, which is part of a coordinated effort by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development [NewsOK].
Tribe wants to reject settlement over Tar Creek site: The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma asked a federal judge to reject a $15 million offer from the U.S. Department of Justice to settle claims against St. Louis mining company Doe Run Resources and Dallas-based NL Industries for releasing hazardous material around the now abandoned northeast Oklahoma town of Picher. “We don’t understand why the Department of Justice is going to let the people that are responsible for it off on such a minimal amount versus what it’s going to cost the United States to clean it up,” said Quapaw Chairman John Berrey. He said it could cost $1 billion to completely remediate the area [Journal Record].
Quote of the Day
“If we only have to close those five we would consider that lucky.”
-Ken Jones, director of Aging Services for the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments (ASCOG), who said state budget cuts are expected to force the closure of senior nutrition sites in Cache, Lawton, Geronimo, Wayne and Walters (Source).
Number of the Day
Number of veterans in Oklahoma, about 10.6 percent of the state’s adult population.
Source: U.S. Census
Ferguson’s Fortune 500 Company: Outwardly, at least, the City of Ferguson would appear to occupy an enviable position. It is home to a Fortune 500 firm. It has successfully revitalized a commercial corridor through its downtown. It hosts an office park filled with corporate tenants. Its coffers should be overflowing with tax dollars. Instead, the cash-starved municipality relies on its cops and its courts to extract millions in fines and fees from its poorest residents, issuing thousands of citations each year. Those tickets plug a financial hole created by the ways in which the city, the county, and the state have chosen to apportion the costs of public services [The Atlantic].
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