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 City School Board has voted to hire a new superintendent, but officials would not reveal who it is until a contract is in place. A bill that would have school children reciting the pledge to the Oklahoma flag as well as the pledge to the U.S. flag at least once a week was advanced by a House committee. Another House committee approved a plan to take $40 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund to pay for the completion of the Native American Cultural Center and Museum.
A new registry linking the sales of pseudoephedrine with registries in neighboring states has blocked up to 90,000 sales of the drug in its first year of operation. Tulsa County voters will decide today whether to increase the sales tax to fund a new juvenile justice facility and expansion of the Tulsa jail. A Texas drilling company is pulling drinking water out of a Norman fire hydrant to use for fracking.
The Number of the Day is the change in Oklahoma’s unemployment rate from February 2013 to February 2014, the 45th smallest decrease in the nation. In today’s Policy Note, MetroTrends discusses how community health workers should play a bigger role in making our health care system more efficient.
In The News
Rally for school funding draws 25,000 teachers, parents, students to Oklahoma Capitol
State legislators who criticized Oklahoma educators for taking a day to rally at the state Capitol for adequate education funding apparently don’t understand what democracy is all about, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard told participants at the statewide education funding rally Monday. “They don’t seem to believe in what we teach in our schools, and that is the basic American right to free speech as the center of government,” he said from the south Capitol steps. “If we don’t speak up for our kids, who will?”
With the right choices, we can restore education funding
It’s amazing to see such a huge crowd standing up for public education and Oklahoma’s children. Thank you all for being here. My name is David Blatt. I’m the Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, a non-partisan think-tank that works on education and other state policy issues. We lead a coalition called Together Oklahoma, and if you want to find our information and join with us in the work that we do, please visit TogetherOk.org and okpolicy.org When you leave the rally this morning to go talk to legislators, many of them will express sympathy for boosting funding for education, but they may tell you that the money just isn’t there. Don’t believe them. We have options, and I’m going to tell you what they are.
Senate committee goes for more flexibility in school tests, reading proficiency
A Senate panel on Monday passed legislation aimed at alleviating concerns about recent education laws dealing with testing and reading. The Senate Education Committee passed House Bill 3170, which would change the end-of-instruction exam process. Students now must pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to obtain a high school diploma. The law has some exceptions. HB 3170, by Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Lavern, and Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, would allow students who pass four end-of-instruction exams to forgo the additional three exams. However, the student could opt to take the remaining exams after passing four, Stanislawski said.
Plan to cut Oklahoma’s corporate and individual income tax rates set for legislative hearing
A plan (HB 2508) to cut both Oklahoma’s corporate and individual income tax rates once certain revenue triggers are reached is scheduled for a hearing in a Senate committee. The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday. The House and Senate each have separate proposals to reduce the state’s individual income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, once certain revenue triggers are reached.
Oklahoma City School Board votes to hire new superintendent
The Oklahoma City School Board voted to hire a new superintendent, according to a member of the board. The vote was unanimous. “The OKCPS Board of Education has selected candidate #1 contingent on contract negotiations. A formal announcement of the lone candidate will planned soon,” said Tierney Tinnin with OKCPS. Officials would not release the name of the new superintendent until a contract is in place. The new superintendent is expected to start July 1, a member of the board said.
Pledge to Oklahoma flag would be added to school day under Senate bill
A bill that would have school children reciting the pledge to the Oklahoma flag as well as the pledge to the U.S. flag at least once a week was advanced Monday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Common Education Committee. The committee accepted an amendment to Senate Bill 1143 that would add the state pledge to the U.S. pledge. The bill goes now to the full House.
House Panel Approves Plan For Native American Museum
A plan to take $40 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund to pay for the completion of a Native American museum in Oklahoma City has cleared another legislative hurdle. Members of a House budget subcommittee voted 8-2 on Monday, sending the bill to the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee. Museum officials say the plan is to use the $40 million in state funds to match another $40 million in pledges the tribes and other donors to fund the completion of the unfinished museum.
Oklahoma Drug Agency: Decongestant Link Restricting Meth Production
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics says a new registry linking the sales of pseudoephedrine with neighboring states has blocked up to 90,000 sales of the drug in its first year of operation. The Oklahoma Legislature passed a law in 2012 that links Oklahoma’s pseudoephedrine database with those in neighboring states. Proponents of the measure say it restricts the amount of the popular cold and allergy medicine trafficked across state lines.
Voters go to polls tomorrow for jail, juvenile center tax votes
A light turnout is expected for Tuesday’s countywide and municipal elections. Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant said she expects 18 percent to 22 percent of the county’s 326,555 registered voters to cast ballots.
To Frack Wells in Norman, Driller Buys City Drinking Water Right From the Hydrant
For a fee, most municipalities will give contractors and other industrial users a special water meter and temporary access to a city fire hydrant. The meters and hydrant access are often used for construction sites, and the buyer usually pays a higher per-gallon water rate for the high-flow access. But there’s an unusual industrial customer buying water from the City of Norman. Finley Resources, a Texas drilling company, is using the water for fracking.
A bill to further restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs in Oklahoma has easily cleared a Republican-controlled Senate committee. The bill would prohibit off-label uses of abortion-inducing drugs by requiring doctors to administer the drugs only in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol. The Legislature previously attempted to limit the use of the drugs with a bill in 2011 that the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared unconstitutional, saying it effectively banned all drug-induced abortions in the state.
Doctors at Bartlesville hospital no longer allowed to prescribe birth control
Some Bartlesville women are taking issue with a recent directive prohibiting doctors affiliated with Jane Phillips Medical Center from prescribing contraceptives, saying the decision is not only an affront to women but could have an economic impact by driving patients away from local doctors. Confidential sources told the Examiner-Enterprise this week that a meeting was held Wednesday to inform local doctors of gynecology and obstetrics that they can no longer prescribe contraceptives of any kind — if they are to be used as birth control..
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is asking Oklahomans to participate in the annual “Wear Teal Day” to raise awareness and show support of survivors during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Tuesday event is meant to raise awareness of sexual violence and to help educate the public about prevention. The color teal and the teal ribbon represent awareness about sexual violence.
Lawmakers are considering automatic tax cuts that would be triggered whenever revenue grows modestly. But we need a better trigger. How about no more income tax cuts until per-pupil funding climbs back to where it was in 2008? How about no tax cut until our teacher salaries are no longer among the lowest? How about no tax cut until our students are no longer being taught from outdated textbooks? How about no tax cut until our college graduation rate reaches the national average? The message from Oklahomans is clear: “Don’t cut our taxes until you fund the services we need.”
- Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt, speaking to a crowd of 25,000 at the Oklahoma Capitol at a rally in support of funding for public education (source: http://bit.ly/1olkpOz).
Number of the Day
The change in Oklahoma’s unemployment rate from February 2013 to February 2014, the 45th smallest decrease in the nation.
Community health workers can help make health care more cost-effective
With initial Obamacare enrollment ending today, keeping healthcare cost-effective and people healthy are major challenges to its success. As highlighted in the Affordable Care Act, community health workers offer one of the more promising ways to keep costs down by improving health and the value of care. Community health workers help people improve their health, manage their illnesses, and obtain services in timely and appropriate ways. Community health workers are lay people with close ties to the communities they serve who readily win clients’ trust. Trained to have health knowledge and selected for “people skills,” they promote wellness and connect clients with medical and other services, especially disadvantaged clients.