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.
One year after tornadoes destroyed two schools in Moore, Oklahoma, NBC News examined why Oklahoma lawmakers have not agreed on a way to put storm shelters in schools. A proposal to issue up to $40 million in bonds to build a new joint headquarters for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is headed for floor votes later this week. The OK Policy Blog explained why Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s latest press release attacking the Affordable Care Act is inaccurate and disingenuous. Oklahoma must pay $303,333 for attorneys’ fees of the plaintiffs who successfully challenged the state’s Sharia law ban.
The Number of the Day is the decrease in the number of school districts in Oklahoma since the 2007-2008 academic year. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discusses how migration data shows significant numbers of Americans do not relocate in search of lower taxes.
In The News
Oklahoma lawmakers to unveil new drilling incentive
An incentive for a 1 percent tax rate for horizontally drilled oil and gas wells would be increased to 2 percent and extended to all wells drilled in Oklahoma under a bill drafted in the Oklahoma Legislature on Monday. The bill, which is expected to be considered by House and Senate budget panels on Tuesday, calls for the new 2 percent rate to be in effect for the first three years of a well’s production. After that, the rate would increase to the standard production tax rate of 7 percent.
Oklahoma educators say proposed budget is essentially flat
The give and take of the state budget process continues for Oklahoma public education. Governor Mary Fallin says lawmakers are giving schools $80 million in new money – but school districts says the increase is really half that. While the budget hasn’t passed, those are the numbers the governor and top leaders say to expect. The people who spend that money say the increase isn’t as much as it seems. The state budget deal will mean more money for education than last year, but it’s not nearly as much as just a few years ago.
Fallin urged to sign measure making changes to third-grade reading law
Supporters of a measure that relaxes standards on a law that requires third-graders to read at a certain level or be held back on Monday urged Gov. Mary Fallin to sign the bill into law. They delivered the results of an online petition to her office in which more than 2,000 are asking her to sign House Bill 2625 by state Rep. Katie Henke. The measure would create a student reading proficiency team composed of a parent, teachers, principal and reading specialist to determine whether a student should be promoted to the fourth grade.
Oklahoma special education third graders, parents grapple with reading test results
A disproportionate number of the third-graders who scored in the lowest achievement level on Oklahoma’s third-grade reading test are special education students, and many of their parents and teachers are now questioning the appropriateness of the exam. Of the 7,970 students statewide who scored unsatisfactory on the test, 3,736 students — 46.8 percent — have a disability that meets federal requirements for them to receive an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. Of all 8,081 third-graders on an IEP, 46.2 percent scored in the unsatisfactory range.
Why aren’t there tornado shelters in every Oklahoma school?
e of the only comforts that Danni Legg can take in the death of her son Christopher is that he died protecting someone else. When an EF5 tornado hit Moore, Okla., exactly one year ago today, and leveled Plaza Towers Elementary, Christopher’s body was found in a third-grade classroom huddled over a smaller friend. The girl survived, and said that Christopher had shielded her from the storm. Now Legg says she wants to protect other children, by running for the state legislature on a platform of ensuring that every school in Oklahoma has a storm shelter. “It’s my son’s legacy,” she said. “No parent should have to drop their child off at school and not know whether or not they can pick that child up at the end of the school day.”
Oklahoma Legislature to vote on new joint headquarters for veterans, mental health agencies
A proposal to issue up to $40 million in bonds to build a new joint headquarters for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services cleared state House and Senate committees Monday and is headed for floor votes later this week. “Both employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services have been working under abhorrent conditions,” Terri White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Our building is a 100-year-old school building that has multiple problems, including mold. The Department of Veterans Affairs is going to be condemned, potentially this year.”
Commisioner Doak’s press release on marketplace enrollment cost is inaccurate, disingenous
Last week, Oklahoma State Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s office released a statement blasting the cost to enroll Oklahomans in health insurance on the federal marketplaces. Commissioner Doak’s statement is both disingenuous and inaccurate. His conclusions about the cost per enrollee are based on flawed assumptions, and the relatively high cost per enrollee is partially due to his own actions. The state and federal health insurances exchanges, where Americans can compare and enroll in plans, were designed to be used for years to come – not for a single enrollment period. Calculating cost per enrollee data based on only the first year of the marketplace’s use is like building a football stadium and complaining that the first season of ticket sales didn’t pay for its construction.
Oklahoma owes $303k in plaintiff’s legal fees over Sharia law case
The bill has come due for the state’s effort to keep international law and Sharia law out of Oklahoma courts. It wasn’t cheap. Oklahoma must pay $303,333 for attorneys’ fees of the plaintiffs who challenged a measure approved overwhelmingly by voters on Nov. 2, 2010, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange ruled May 14. The Oklahoma Legislature put the measure on the ballot. Miles-LaGrange found it an unconstitutional infringement on individual rights.
Oklahoma City could try to recover American Indian center land
Oklahoma City could seek return of the riverfront land reserved for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum if the state fails to finish the project, a city leader told The Oklahoman on Monday. Money to complete the center was left out of last Friday’s $7.1 billion budget deal between the state Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin. With the project unfinished amid growing doubts that it ever will be, Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch said Monday that officials have a responsibility to city taxpayers to “go back and recover what we can.”
A group of Native American parents and supporters held a rally at the state Capitol and delivered a petition to the governor’s office over the state’s relationship with tribes. Oklahoma Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry delivered 8,000 petition signatures to Gov. Mary Fallin’s office on Monday. The petition calls for repairing the relationship between the state government and its indigenous people, which the group says has been strained. According to a spokeswoman, the group requested a meeting with the governor, but was told it would be a few months before she was available.
Former Oklahoma State Senate President charged with drunken driving and attempted bribery
A former state Senate president offered to pay a Noble police officer $40,000 and then $50,000 to release him after being arrested, prosecutors allege in a felony case filed Monday. Hobson blew a 0.27 on a breathalyzer test of his blood alcohol concentration — more than three times the legal limit, the records show.
As time goes by, the attention span just dwindles. And the issue just goes away. There will be another tornado, and pray God nothing happens to anyone. But the chances are, we are going to have another EF5 tornado. And are we going to be prepared? The answer is no.
-Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, speaking about the Legislature’s inaction on building storm shelter in Oklahoma schools (Source: http://nbcnews.to/1qRLKsY)
Number of the Day
Decrease in the number of school districts in Oklahoma since the 2007-2008 academic year, from 539 to 517 districts.
Migration data refute theory the taxes drive people to move
Differences in tax levels among states have little to no effect on whether and where people move, contrary to claims by some conservative economists and elected officials, as we explain in a new paper. For decades, Americans have been moving away from the Northeast, the industrial Midwest, and the Great Plains to most of the southern and southwestern states, regardless of overall tax levels or the presence of an income tax in any state. They’ve moved in large part for employment opportunities in the Sunbelt and, secondarily, for less expensive housing — and, for many retirees, a warmer, snow-free climate. In fact, relatively few Americans move from state to state, and few report that they moved because they think their taxes are too high or considered state and local tax levels in deciding where to live.