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.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has added new restrictions on media access to state prisons, requiring “specific authorization” for video or audio recording and members of the media to be escorted at all times. Tulsa World editor Julie Delcour wrote that Oklahoma will end up paying more for severely overcrowded prisons, whether we vote to do it ourselves or are forced to by a lawsuit. Advocates are making a case that investing more in mental health treatment could save Oklahoma millions in jail costs.
The Number of the Day is the percentage of black male students in Oklahoma who received an out-of-school suspension in 2011-2012. In today’s Policy Note, Demos discussed research on states and cities that have increased the minimum wage, and none of the dire predictions of job losses have come to pass.
In The News
Oklahoma schools suspend black students at higher rates
Oklahoma is one of 12 states in the nation that suspended both female and male black students at a higher rate than their white peers, according to a U.S. Department of Education report. According to the data released Friday, about 20 percent of black male students received an out-of-school suspension in 2011-2012, compared with 7 percent of white male students. For females, 13 percent of black students had an out of school suspension in 2011-2012 compared with 3 percent of white students.
Quakes Continue to Shake Oklahoma; 14 Since Friday
The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded 14 earthquakes in Oklahoma since about 9:30 p.m. Friday, the largest being a magnitude 4.0. The 4.0 magnitude quake was recorded at 10:05 p.m. Friday about seven miles south of Langston. Three other quakes of magnitude 2.9, 3.0 and 3.3 were recorded Saturday afternoon in the Medford area.
T.W. Shannon supporters set up for-profit corporation to pay for ads
Supporters of U.S. Senate candidate T.W. Shannon are using an unusual, potentially controversial and possibly revolutionary maneuver to pay for campaign advertising in support of Shannon. Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, which has spent more than $300,000 for television and print advertising on Shannon’s behalf, is a for-profit corporation set up Feb. 5 by Manhattan Construction Co. executive Xavier Neira and lobbyist and longtime Republican operative Chad Alexander.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin may face House ethics probe over business activities
The Office of Congressional Ethics is expected Monday to recommend the House Ethics Committee review Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin’s continued involvement in his family’s plumbing business. Mullin denies he has done anything wrong and says he will fight any attempt to make him divest himself of the seven companies that make up Mullin Plumbing. “They’re saying you can’t be a citizen legislator,” Mullin said. “They’re saying I can’t participate in a plumbing company … yet I can invest in stocks and bonds and earn an unlimited income.” House members are limited to about $27,000 a year in earned outside income. Investments, which are classified as unearned income, do not count against the total.
Department of Corrections further restricts media access to Oklahoma prisons
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has added new restrictions to its policies on media access to state prisons, requiring “specific authorization” for video or audio recording. Department officials posted an addendum to their media access policies on the agency’s website this week. The new policy allows DOC to determine prior to granting interviews whether they have sufficient personnel on hand to physically search members of the media before they can enter a prison. The addendum adds that for safety and security reasons, the media will be accompanied “at all times” while in the facility.
‘The Pod People: Something must give in jail overcrowding
Seemingly endless, J Hall undulates a quarter of a mile through the belly of the Tulsa Jail. The lengthy corridor, with its soaring arched ceiling, is but one symbol of the vastness of a detention facility that takes six to 12 hours to tour completely and three days for accreditors to inspect. Sprawling out in the northwest corner of downtown, the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, as it is officially known, appears huge. Yet, here’s the reality: It is not nearly big enough.
Investing in more mental health services could save Oklahoma millions, advocates say
For most of his life, Billy Mays was known as a person who couldn’t sit still, concentrate or keep a job for long. He grew up among nine children in Calhoun, Miss., dropped out of school in 10th grade, held odd jobs and took care of his aging parents. After they died 16 years ago, Mays moved to Tulsa to be near his sisters. He was 49 when he started smoking marijuana, then he escalated into cocaine use. His addiction hit quickly and led to two years of homelessness and time in the Tulsa Jail on complaints related to assault and drugs. It was in jail when a doctor provided a mental-health evaluation — a first for Mays — and presented a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Senate Education Committee set to debate Common Core repeal today
A Senate panel is poised to continue the process of rescinding what have become controversial education standards known as Common Core. The Senate Education Committee on Monday will take up a version of House Bill 3399 that repeals Common Core, said Jenni White, president of Restoring Oklahoma Public Education and a vocal critic of the standards. The bill will move on to the full Senate, if it advances from the committee. The standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers through Achieve Inc., which received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gov. Mary Fallin chairs the National Governors Association and in the past has expressed support for Common Core.
Gov. Fallin emphasizes need for academic standards even as lawmakers offer bill to repeal Common Core
Gov. Mary Fallin continued Friday to talk about setting academic standards, even as the Legislature appeared poised to dismantle Common Core, the national initiative Oklahoma and most other states joined in an attempt to do just that. “I believe it’s important that we have academic rigor that we raise our standards and have accountability in our school system,” Fallin told the Tulsa Republican Club during a noon speech at the Summit Club. The governor spoke just hours before the Oklahoma Senate’s Education Committee filed its version of House Bill 3399, which would repeal the Common Core statutes passed four years ago and replace them with a homegrown alternative.
Some of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s agenda still alive
It’s been seven weeks since Gov. Mary Fallin rolled out her legislative agenda on the opening day of the 2014 Oklahoma Legislature in a state-of-the-state speech and an executive budget proposal that touched on an income tax cut, public pensions, the consolidation of some state agencies and a bond issue to repair Oklahoma’s crumbling state Capitol. Some of Fallin’s election-year agenda remains alive as the legislative session nears the halfway point. Other proposals were spiked by lawmakers unwilling to go along.
A new poll shows falling voter support for Oklahoma personal income tax cuts. Approval of income tax cuts fell from 52 to 46 percent. When surveyed voters were asked if they approve of cuts an analysis says would largely benefit the top 1 percent of Oklahoma households, less than one-third did. “There really is nobody at this point, no constituency out there clamoring for tax cuts,” said Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt. “At the same time, you have a legislature that still seems hell-bent on passing a tax cut whether anybody’s asking for one or not.”
Watch This: Study ranks Oklahoma near the bottom for family financial security
Despite an improving national economy and a low statewide average unemployment rate, nearly half (49.1 percent) of Oklahoma households are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a recent report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). We blogged about the report here, noting that the percentage of households with little or no savings to cover emergencies or to invest in building a better life has jumped markedly from last year’s 43.8 percent level. In this segment of the Oklahoma News Report, OETA examines the causes and consequences of state residents’ growing financial insecurity.
Proposed bill could limit city’s power to raise minimum wage
Senate Bill 1023 would make it illegal for any municipality or other political subdivision of the state to raise minimum wage. Recently minimum wage has been a hot topic of discussion across the nation. In Oklahoma it’s entering the conversation, again. Tulsa Senator Dan Newberry wrote the bill which is co-sponsored by recently-elected House Speaker Jeff Hickman. The bill, if passed, could have a big impact on workers living paycheck to paycheck across the state. Some lawmakers say things need to change, but that House Bill 1023 wouldn’t help at all. State Representative Joe Dorman explained, “Currently, one in six Oklahomans live below the poverty line. Things like this are not helping us in moving the right direction to provide a living wage to many Oklahomans.”
“I’m a conservative but that doesn’t mean that I want to make cuts to medical programs for sick children. I don’t want to get a few dollars in a tax refund that means cuts will be made for needed repairs to our highways, roads and bridges. I don’t want to hear that our educational system is being cut back. Being a conservative means that I don’t mind spending money wisely.”
-Edmond resident Georgia Sparks, writing in a letter to the editor published by The Oklahoman about why she opposes income tax cut plans (Source: http://bit.ly/1fa9BcB)
Number of the Day
Percentage of black male students in Oklahoma who received an out-of-school suspension in 2011-2012, compared with 7 percent of white male students. For females, 13 percent of black students had an out of school suspension in 2011-2012 compared with 3 percent of white students.
How have minimum wage hikes affected job growth in states and cities?
A frustrating thing about the minimum wage debate is that it often plays out in a theoretical void. Some economists tout models that say pay hikes are a jobs killer, others present models that show the opposite. There’s an easier way to resolve this debate: Just look at what’s happened in the many places where the minimum wage has been raised in recent years. There is no shortage of laboratories: 21 states have now raised their minimum wage above the federal level, often through a series of hikes over time, and a number of cities have also raised their minimum wage, including San Francisco, where all workers must be paid at least $10.74.