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 Zebre.
Today you should know that a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that following massive tax cuts in Kansas, job creation hasn’t kept up with the rest of the nation and business creation has slowed, as the state has cut millions from schools and other key services. Owasso community members rallied against Common Core on Thursday, and House Minority Leader Scott Inman criticized Governor Fallin for conceding too quickly to opponents of the educational standards. In a Tulsa World op-ed, Inman gave support for parents and educators converging in Oklahoma City to rally for education funding next Monday. Representatives from nearly every school district in the state are expected rally at the Capitol.
The Oklahoma Senate passed an extension of the state’s $5 million film industry tax break. The Senate also extended a tax incentive designed to reimburse Oklahoma communities for some of their expenses in attracting national and international events. Both bills head to the Governor’s desk next. Language that would have eliminated Oklahoma’s franchise tax has been removed from a bill. The tax generates about $40 million annually. NPR reported that some states are doing very well at signing people up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but Oklahoma is lagging behind.
Fox23 reported that Tulsa police officers are still driving thousands of miles to transport Oklahomans in need of mental health treatment, putting significant strain on department resources. Tulsa’s Juvenile Bureau made the case for why they need a new facility, despite juvenile arrests hitting a ten-year low. Tulsa County voters will decide the issue on Tuesday, April 1. With tornado season approaching, The Oklahoman’s editorial board called for bilingual severe weather warnings.
Representatives from five states experiencing earthquakes tied to hydraulic fracturing met for the first time in Oklahoma City to exchange information and collaborate on standards. The city of Duncan is contemplating a ban on all outdoor watering as water level in local Waurika Lake, the primary water source for several local cities, dropped to an unprecedented low. The lesser prairie chicken, a species native to Oklahoma, has been classified as “threatened” by Fish and Wildlife Service, possibly affecting oil and gas activities in several states.
The Number of the Day is the 2012 unemployment rate in North Tulsa, nearly twice the unemployment rate for the Tulsa Metro as a whole. In today’s Policy Note, Columbia Journalism Review discusses how coverage of debates over whether states should expand Medicaid has been leaving out the stories of the real people who are affected.
In The News
There’s still no free lunch: Impact of massive tax cuts in Kansas offers a warning to Oklahoma
As Oklahoma considers tax cuts similar to those that took effect in Kansas last year, a new report shows that following in Kansas’s footsteps is a bad idea. Kansas’s massive tax cuts have failed to improve the state’s economic performance, as they have deepened the damage done by the recession to schools, colleges and universities, and other key services according to the new report from the nonpartisan, Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Those arguing for more tax cuts in Oklahoma, even before we restore huge cuts to education funding, have claimed the tax cuts would boost the economy so much they would pay for themselves. Faced with the reality that large majorities of Oklahomans oppose cutting funding for services in exchange for tax cuts, the tax cut boosters have tried to promise a free lunch. The news out of Kansas exposes how weak that promise really is.
Community members rally in Owasso against Common Core
Parents and educators rallied against Common Core standards Thursday night at Friendship Baptist Church. Speakers who included Kristal Picolet, the leader of Owasso Against Common Core, addressed a crowd of about 50 people for about two hours, detailing the group’s reasons for disagreement with the national education reform measure.
Gov. Fallin flip-flopped on Common Core, Democratic Rep. Inman says
House Minority Leader Scott Inman on Thursday strongly criticized Gov. Mary Fallin for lack of leadership on a controversial set of academic standards. The Senate is poised to pass a measure, House Bill 3399, to repeal Common Core standards adopted by 45 states, including Oklahoma in 2010. The measure, which could be heard on the Senate floor next week, calls for the state to develop its own standards.
Don’t come. Stay home. You’re not wanted. It’s a bad idea. You’re just a greedy monopoly. You’d be forgiven if you thought those comments were aimed at some of society’s worst citizens. I bet you’d be surprised to learn that in fact they were leveled at thousands of Oklahoma’s finest: your neighbors, church members, family and friends. Far-right-wing think tanks and several Republican members of the Legislature with whom I work said those words and worse to thousands of men and women who have dedicated their lives to what many view as a calling: educating the children of our great state.
School Districts Preparing To Rally At OK Capitol For Education
Supporters call it the largest rally for education in two decades. Representatives from every school district in the state will rally at the capitol Monday. The goal, to express concerns on state education funding. In order to rally right here several Oklahoma school districts have rescheduled teacher work days. Others have even canceled class. Guthrie Schools has done neither. But still knows the importance of Monday. “When it comes down to it we still have a lot less per student to do with our kids than we did in 2009,” said Guthrie Superintendent Dr. Mike Simpson.
A $5 million annual film rebate program that was used to help lure the production of last year’s “August: Osage County” to Oklahoma will continue for 10 more years under a bill that passed the Senate on Thursday and is heading to the governor’s desk. The Senate voted 31-11 for the Compete with Canada Film Act over the objections of some Republicans who complained the big budget dark comedy about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse depicted a poor image of the state.
Quality events incentive bill heads to Oklahoma governor
A bill extending a tax incentive designed to reimburse Oklahoma communities for some of their expenses in attracting national and international events passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to the governor. The Senate voted 43-0 to extend the Oklahoma Quality Events Incentive Act until June 30, 2018, and to modify some of its provisions to make it easier for communities to obtain reimbursements. The measure is designed to help communities attract events like collegiate tournaments, conventions and horse shows. Such events spark temporary increases in state sales tax revenue. The bill allows communities to seek reimbursement from those extra sales tax revenues to offset money spent by the communities promoting and hosting the events.
Plan to Cut Oklahoma Franchise Tax Gutted from Bill
A bill that would have eliminated the franchise tax on Oklahoma businesses has been gutted and replaced with new language dealing with reporting dates for corporate tax returns. The new version of the bill was approved on Wednesday by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. House author Representative Earl Sears told members he had no plans to resurrect the plan to abolish the state’s franchise tax, a $1.25 levy on every $1,000 a corporation invests in Oklahoma.
Obamacare’s National Enrollment Looks OK, But States Matter More
With this year’s deadline to register for individual health insurance just a weekend away, much attention is being lavished on two numbers — the 6 million Americans who have signed up so far, and the percentage of those folks who are (or aren’t) young. But experts say the national numbers actually don’t mean very much. “These are really state-based markets,” says Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, a consulting firm based in Washington D.C. Because each insurance market is run within each individual state, big numbers in some states can’t make up for shortfalls in others.
Lack of mental health services forces Tulsa police to spend more on transportation
When someone with a mental illness is in crisis, police officers put them in the back of their car and often have to drive them all over the state to a facility to get help – sometimes as far as the panhandle. FOX23 learned that this costs taxpayers thousands in overtime pay and gas money. Since January 2011, Tulsa police has transported patients with mental health problems more than 180,000 miles outside Tulsa. FOX23 learned that this is because the beds are often full at the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health which is run by the state. “It’s a huge burden on us,” said TPD Maj. Tracie Lewis.
Push for new Tulsa juvenile justice center comes amid drop in arrests
A Tulsa County vote Tuesday to consider whether to fund a new and bigger juvenile justice center comes as youth arrests have hit a 10-year low. The seemingly incongruous need for a new facility as juvenile arrests decline is not lost on proponents of the funding measure. In fact, it gives proponents a chance to better explain what the agency does. “The Juvenile Bureau handles more than just juvenile crime,” said Jim Walker, Youth Services of Tulsa’s executive director. “They handle child-welfare cases, all the adoption cases, and so there is a lot more that goes on out there than just what goes on with juvenile arrests.”
With weather emergencies, language shouldn’t be a barrier
Every language has a word for what the English-speaking world calls “water.” Not everyone who speaks a language other than English is capable of understanding a flash flood warning. Even those who speak only English sometimes forget that floods can be as deadly as tornadoes in Oklahoma. This could be remedied in part if severe weather warnings were broadcast in more than just English. Spanish, in particular, is a language in which tornado and flood warnings should be aired in Oklahoma. Our conclusion comes from the fact that the deadliest flood in Oklahoma City’s history, which killed 23 people last May 31, took the lives of nine members of a growing Guatemalan community.
Fracking’s Earthquake Risks Push States to Collaborate
Several U.S. states are banding together to combat the mounting risks of earthquakes tied to the disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Regulators from Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio met for the first time this month in Oklahoma City to exchange information on the man-made earthquakes and help states toughen their standards.
An Oklahoma town is considering drastic measures when it comes to water use. Duncan city officials say water levels at Waurika Lake are at a crisis point. There could be a total ban on the outdoor use of water, if Waurika Lake water levels dip below a certain level. City officials don’t believe residents understand the severity of the water problem. “It’s never been this low before,” said Jack Jackson. “This is the lowest it’s been in the history of it.” Jack Jackson is on the water resources board. He says with no significant rain in the future, Waurkia Lake will be completely dry, by next year.
OK Governor Responds To Prairie Chicken Listed As Threatened
The Obama administration is placing the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species. The decision could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states. The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below “endangered” status and allows for more flexibility in how the protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act. The announcement is expected Thursday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the listing decision in advance. The wildlife agency’s director says he knows the decision will be unpopular with governors in the five affected states but that the bird is “in dire straits” and needs help. The states are Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.
What’s missing from Medicaid coverage: actual people
If a prize were given for the best story about Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act to date in 2014, it would go to The Atlantic for Olga Khazan’s “Living Poor and Uninsured in a Red State.” Khazan’s piece, published in early January, explored the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling that individual states could “opt out” of the Medicaid expansion envisioned by the ACA—an expansion that was originally designed to bring insurance to 15 million Americans. Khazan’s article offers a look at the policy arguments for and against expansion. It quotes white papers and journal articles, cites statistics, embeds relevant maps and graphs. And most importantly, it shares the experiences of a few of the roughly 1 million Texans who fall in the “Medicaid gap”—people who earn too much to qualify for the state’s existing program, but too little to get federal subsidies to shop in the new exchanges, because the ACA’s drafters expected them to enroll in the expanded Medicaid program.