In 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. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.
Today you should know that Governor Mary Fallin has signed a bill that bans cities in Oklahoma from increasing the minimum wage or vacation and sick-day requirements. A petition in Oklahoma City has been seeking to allow citizens to vote on increasing the citywide minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The Journal Record editorial board wrote that Governor Fallin’s push to cut taxes while Oklahoma faces budget shortfalls is unwisely focused on ideology over practicality.
The standardized testing system in Oklahoma schools appears to be avoiding as many glitches as last year, but in at least one Broken Arrow middle school, students are unable to log on. KGOU reported on how junior high kids who attended the elementary schools that were destroyed in Moore tornadoes last year are struggling to find resources to help them deal with the trauma. Yesterday the National Weather Services issued its first tornado warning in Oklahoma since May 31, beating a record for the longest amount of time between tornado warnings.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is beginning a series of public forums on health for minority communities in Oklahoma. The first will be Monday at Morton Comprehensive Health Services in Tulsa. The Health Department is also hosting a community meeting tomorrow at the Community Service Council to learn what Tulsa residents believe are their most critical health needs. NewsOK reporter Carla Hinton spoke with same-sex couples in Oklahoma about the importance of a right to marry.
The Number of the Day is the median hourly wage for food preparation and serving workers in Oklahoma City. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post reports on new projections showing the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of insurance coverage will cost $104 billion less than projected over the next decade, and premiums will be cheaper than previously thought.
In The News
Gov. Mary Fallin signs minimum wage hike ban in Oklahoma
Cities in Oklahoma are prohibited from establishing mandatory minimum wage or vacation and sick-day requirements under a bill that has been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. Fallin signed the bill Monday that supporters say would prevent a hodgepodge of minimum wages in different parts of the state that could potentially harm the business community. Opponents say those decisions should be left up to individual communities. They complain the bill specifically targets Oklahoma City, where an initiative is underway to a establish a citywide minimum wage higher than the current federal minimum wage.
Oklahoma’s outlook is bright. Our state’s unemployment numbers remain much lower than the national average. Events, tourists and creative young people flow into the revitalized downtown areas of Tulsa and Oklahoma City. And a grass-roots effort stopped a plan that would have damaged the arts community across our state. But we still face challenges and problems, especially when it comes to the state budget. And one persistent political idea could darken our days.
Sex, forecasting and fiscal planning (okay, no sex)
Twice a year, the seven members of the State Board of Equalization – six statewide elected officers and the Secretary of Agriculture – get together to certify how much revenue the legislature will have to appropriate for the upcoming fiscal year. The Board is presented with revenue estimates that come from the Oklahoma Tax Commission based largely on a forecasting model operated by Oklahoma State University economic professor Dan Rickman. The Board certifies an initial estimate in December, which is used to develop the Governor’s Executive Budget. They make a revised estimate in February that becomes binding on the legislature. This year, it had been widely expected that the February estimates would see an increase from December.
With the candidate fields set, campaigns for state House and Senate seats across Oklahoma are ramping up, but half of the state House and nearly one-third of the state Senate members can mothball their campaigns for another cycle. A total of 57 legislators, and a Claremore man who filed for a legislative seat, were officially elected to their posts without an election challenge after the three-day filing period ended last Friday.
Mike Jones: Low primary turnouts leads to government by radicals
There is a big election coming in November. Before that, there will be primaries held in most states. Oklahoma has one in June. This being a non-presidential year, the turnout in November likely will fall below the 60 percent that usually shows up to vote for president. The primary turnout is almost certain to be low. When moderate, reasonable voters stay home, it leaves choosing a candidate, and in some cases the final winner, to those voters who are most motivated. And that too often means the radicals of either party.
Broken Arrow teachers, administrators worried about school testing software
Students across Green Country sat in front of a computer screen for the first day of online state testing Monday. Last week FOX23 reported administrators worried there would be more interruptions like last year when students were kicked out of the test by the server. Overall the start of testing went smoothly. FOX23 talked to administrators in Tulsa, Jenks, Owasso and Broken Arrow, where all of the students were able to complete Monday’s portion of testing. But FOX23 learned at Oliver Middle School Tuesday may be the real test in the online server’s capabilities.
Junior High Kids From Briarwood, Plaza Towers Feel Left Out Of School Support
In the year since tornadoes ripped through Moore, there’s been no shortage of media coverage of teachers and students at Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary Schools, as they’ve recovered from the storm and adapted to a “new normal.” But what about the kids that graduated and left? Some of them feel like they’ve fallen through the cracks.
Oklahoma has first tornado warning issued since May 31
One tornado touched down Sunday in rural Stephens County, while hail pounded parts of Oklahoma along a stong cold front, a National Weather Service meteorologist said. The brief tornado touched down at 5:58 p.m. north of Velma in open country. No damage or injuries were immediately reported. This was the first tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service Norman office since May 31, beating a record for the longest amount of time between tornado warnings, said meteorologist Cheryl Sharpe. The record dates to 1986.
Health Chats to Benefit Minority Communities in Oklahoma
Tonight the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Office of Minority Health (OMH) will begin what will be a series of chats regarding health for minority communities in Oklahoma. Members of minority groups are asked to come out to the chats to voice their opinion on their own health issues concerns, which in turn could affect health strategies statewide health agencies adopt. There will be a total of four chats, the first being Monday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Morton Comprehensive Health Services, Inc., located at 1334 North Lansing Ave. The other three meetings will be held in Oklahoma City or Guymon.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health will host a community meeting this week to learn what Tulsa residents believe are their most critical health needs. Wednesday’s event at the Community Service Council is part of a series of meetings planned throughout the state through June. Public feedback will be used to update the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan, which first launched in 2009. The plan was mandated by state lawmakers in 2008 and directs health officials to prepare a report outlining how to improve the well-being of all Oklahomans. The current version of the plan focuses on three initiatives: improving children’s health, preventing tobacco use and reducing obesity.
Waiting to wed: Same-sex couples in Oklahoma discuss importance of right to marry
Kenny Wright and Bo Bass remember every detail of the blessing ceremony held in 1996 at their church. The Oklahoma City gay couple said they wore black tuxedos with purple accessories for the August ceremony at Church of the Open Arms, 3131 N Pennsylvania Ave. They said they stood under an archway decorated for the occasion. Bass said the ceremony was beautiful, but they still long for the day when they can legally wed in Oklahoma. “We called it a ‘holy union,’ but for me, I don’t think we ever saw the day when we would be able to put together a regular wedding,” Wright said.
Heroin use in Oklahoma is up, but is still a fraction of narcotics cases
The number of people in Tulsa County seeking treatment for heroin and opiate use has doubled over seven years, state data shows, but local law enforcement say the drug accounts for a small percentage of their narcotics cases. Last year, treatment centers in the county admitted 386 patients who reported heroin and other opiates as their drug of choice compared to 194 users in 2007, according to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The category accounted for 13.63 percent of the total users in Tulsa County in 2013.
City of Tulsa announces April 26 drug-take-back event; citizens can drop off unused, unwanted meds
The City of Tulsa is offering the public a chance to get rid of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted medications at an upcoming drug-take-back event. On Saturday, April 26 Tulsans can bring their medications to the locations listed below for proper disposal. The drop-off service is free and anonymous.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has voted to prohibit habitual or aggravated sex offenders from entering a neighborhood, town, county or state park. The House voted 93-1 Monday for the bill that bans individuals who have committed a crime against a child or individuals who have committed more than one sex crime from entering the parks. Republican Rep. Josh Cockroft of Wanette said the bill stems from uncertainty over whether or not state parks are included in a current ban.
Our roads are in terrible shape. A bridge that connects two communities is closed for months, and the experts say other pieces of critical infrastructure are in bad shape. Our state mental health agency only has enough money to help the most desperate people, while thousands go without care. Our teachers aren’t paid at the regional average, despite lip service about how important they are to our children. Even our state Capitol, with its gorgeous new dome, is crumbling and festering. With all these needs, Gov. Mary Fallin’s plan to cut taxes seems ill-timed at best, and unwisely focused on ideology over practicality.
The health-care law’s expansion of insurance coverage will cost $104 billion less than projected over the next decade, according to revised estimates from nonpartisan budget analysts Monday. Obamacare’s lower-than-expected costs will come largely because premiums will be cheaper than previously thought. Obamacare’s coverage provisions in 2014 are expected to cost $5 billion less than the $41 billion the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation projected earlier in the year. The CBO now expects the federal government to spend about $164 billion less in the next decade on subsidies in Obamacare health insurance marketplaces.