In The Know: Supreme Court will review workers’ compensation law

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 the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed to decide the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s new workers’ compensation law. A new study reports that emissions in oil and gas producing areas of Texas and Oklahoma of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, were 2.7 times greater than previous estimates. Oklahoma Policy Institute released a new report on the state of Oklahoma’s food security safety net.

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation signed an agreement with the federal government to take more authority over economic development decisions its land. The city of Bixby’s sales tax revenue saw a dramatic increase of 26.1 percent over last year. A University of Tulsa grad and former local employee was tapped as the next president and CEO of Wal-Mart.

Kurt Hochenauer summarized a report showing that dramatic changes to Oklahoma’s state pension system are unneeded and risky. State Senate Democratic leader Sean Burrage announced he will not seek re-election following the 2014 session.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma children in poverty living in families where at least one parent works full-time, year-round. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times explains why a conservative tech millionaire is leading efforts to raise the minimum wage in California.

In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court agrees to decide constitutionality of new workers’ compensation law

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide the constitutionality of a new state law creating an administrative workers’ compensation system. Attorneys will be given the opportunity to argue their positions before the full court starting at 9 a.m. Dec. 10. They were told to be prepared to answer questions from the justices. Two state lawmakers and the Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma are challenging the law, which would convert Oklahoma from a judicial workers’ compensation system to an administrative one.

Read more from NewsOK.

Emissions of methane in U.S. exceed estimates, especially in oil and gas producing areas

Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane due to human activity were roughly 1.5 times greater in the United States in the middle of the last decade than prevailing estimates, according to a new analysis by 15 climate scientists published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The analysis also said that methane discharges in Texas and Oklahoma, where oil and gas production was concentrated at the time, were 2.7 times greater than conventional estimates. Emissions from oil and gas activity alone could be five times greater than the prevailing estimate, the report said.

Read more from the New York Times.

Policy Basics: Oklahoma’s food security safety net

This year brought impressive economic growth for many Oklahomans. Despite these encouraging indicators, Oklahomans also face serious challenges: rising food costs, a widening income gap, low health rankings, and years of rising poverty and food insecurity. Several programs operated by the state and federal government in Oklahoma are helping to address these problems. For each of these programs, a new OK Policy issue brief examines who is eligible and how many participate in Oklahoma, how they are funded and administered, what is their economic impact within the state, and what successes or failures they have shown in fulfilling their mission to reduce food insecurity.

Read more from Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Tribal agreement expected to spur investment in Oklahoma

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation signed an agreement with the federal government on Monday to take more authority over its land, reducing the role of Washington bureaucracy in the tribe’s economic development decisions. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn went to Shawnee to sign the agreement, the first of its kind among Oklahoma tribes. The leasing regulations that were part of the agreement are expected to encourage commercial development and investment on the land.

Read more from NewsOK.

Bixby sales tax revenue up 26.1 percent over last year

The city is experiencing a dramatic increase in sales-tax collection so far this year thanks to what City Manager Doug Enevoldsen referred to as an “aggressive economic development effort” during the last several years that focused on growing Bixby’s retail base. Enevoldsen said much of the growth is due to the number of businesses that opened in Bixby in the last year, including a Reasor’s and Sprouts Farmers Market. Bixby is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state, with good schools and a high quality of life attracting new residents regularly, he said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

TU grad to be next CEO of Wal-mart

A University of Tulsa grad and former local employee was tapped Monday as the next president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer. Douglas McMillon will take over the company Feb. 1, when CEO Mike Duke retires. McMillon graduated with a Master of Business Administration degree from TU in 1991 and worked at a store here while he was in school. “He was a trainee buyer at store 894 in Tulsa,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan. Buyers order merchandise from local stores based on buying patterns and demand. McMillon, 47, worked in Tulsa for about a year before moving to another position at Wal-Mart.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Pension plan changes could be risky

A report issued last week warns political leaders against changing the state’s pensions plans, noting that “Oklahoma’s pensions have turned a corner, substantially outperforming typical state pension plans.” Some state leaders, including Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller and Gov. May Fallin, both Republicans, want to change the state’s seven pensions from defined-benefit to 401(k)-styled plans, which don’t guarantee set retirement payments. But the Economic Policy Institute, along with the Keystone Research Group, has prepared a report that argues the state has financially bolstered and improved the pension plan system in recent years and that such a change is unneeded and even risky.

Read more from Okie Funk.

Oklahoma Senate minority leader won’t seek reelection

State Senate Democratic leader Sean Burrage announced Monday he will not seek re-election following completion of the 2014 session. “At this point in my life, I feel I need to turn my time and attention more fully to family and my law practice,” Burrage, D-Claremore, said in a news release. Burrage has served in the state Senate since 2006 and was elected Senate minority leader in November 2011. There are currently 36 Republican state senators and 12 Democrats.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

These are pretty substantial numbers we’re dealing with, and an important part of greenhouse gas emissions. Our study shows that there could be large greenhouse gas emissions in places in the country where we may not necessarily have accounted for them.

-Scot M. Miller, a researcher at Harvard University, who co-authored a study finding that methane emissions in oil and gas producing areas of Texas and Oklahoma were 2.7 times greater than previous estimates (Source:

Number of the Day

33 percent

Percentage of Oklahoma children in poverty living in families where at least one parent works full-time, year-round – versus 27 percent nationally

Source: National Center for Children in Poverty

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Conservative leads effort to raise minimum wage in California

Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley millionaire, rose to fame by promoting a ballot initiative that essentially eliminated bilingual education in California. He went on to become publisher of The American Conservative, a libertarian-leaning magazine. But after decades in the conservative movement, Mr. Unz is pursuing a goal that has stymied liberals: raising the minimum wage. Using what he sees as conservative principles to advocate a policy long championed by the left, Mr. Unz argues that significantly raising the minimum wage would help curb government spending on social services, strengthen the economy and make more jobs attractive to American-born workers.

Read more from the New York Times.

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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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