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.
A Senate committee advanced a bill that would add four prescription drugs to the state’s drug trafficking laws and allow those convicted of possessing larger amounts of these drugs to serve up to life in prison without parole. An Oklahoma judge ruled that the state could not keep secret the identities of the suppliers of drugs used in executions. The Tulsa World wrote that the new Department of Correction’s directors attempts to clamp down on media access will prevent taxpayers from knowing how their dollars are being spent.
The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s tribal gaming revenue in 2012, the second highest in the US. In today’s Policy Note, the National Women’s Law Center discusses a change in federal rules that will make it easier for survivors of domestic violence to get affordable health care.
In The News
Why one Oklahoma oil executive doesn’t think oil and gas tax breaks are needed
The Kaiser-Francis Oil Company has a lot in common with other storied Oklahoma energy empires. The company has by-the-bootstrap entrepreneurial origins, it’s been battered by boom and bust, and it’s helmed by a billionaire CEO who has weathered controversy and been showered with praise. But the Tulsa-based exploration and production company is unique in one surprising way: It isn’t pushing for oil and gas tax cuts. Kaiser-Francis CFO Don Millican also doesn’t think the state tax credit for horizontal drilling actually increases in-state drilling.
Last fall, a survey by the National Association of State Budget Officers found that across most of the nation, state finances were strong. In 37 states, revenues are meeting or exceeding forecasts. “Unexpectedly robust revenues from taxes and other sources are filling most state coffers, creating surpluses not seen in years and prompting statehouse battles over what to do with the money,” the New York Times reported. The situation in Oklahoma is very different.
Thirteen area school districts to close for rally at Capitol
Personnel from nearly every Tulsa area school district is taking Monday off school to rally at the state Capitol for adequate funding of Oklahoma public schools. Only Bartlesville, Coweta, Owasso and Skiatook schools will be in class, but each district endorses the rally and will allow teachers to take personal days to participate. Around 30,000 teachers, parents and administrators from across the state are expected to participate in the rally, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol estimates. The rally was planned to get the attention of state legislators about unfunded mandates, cuts to tax revenue for public schools and stagnant teacher pay, said Michelle Jones, Union PTA chairwoman for legislative advocacy.
Common Core is toxic, lawmakers tell Tulsa chamber officials
The phrase Common Core has become toxic, members of the Tulsa Regional Chamber were told Wednesday. About 200 people from the Tulsa Regional Chamber attended its annual day at the Capitol, lobbying lawmakers to keep the controversial standards on the books, despite passage of a recent measure to repeal them. Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, encouraged participants to tell lawmakers to oppose House Bill 3399, which could be heard in the full Senate as early as next week. The measure repeals Common Core, a set of standards adopted by 45 states, including Oklahoma in 2010.
This week a Senate committee advanced an anti-Common Core bill. Here’s an indication of how bad the hysteria has become: To repeal those academic standards, state lawmakers came close to banning the Future Farmers of America from Oklahoma schools. Proposed anti-Common Core legislation initially required the State Board of Education to “maintain the independence of all subject matter standards and student assessments in the state by rejecting any efforts to have Oklahoma’s standards subject to federal, national or standardized controls …” As drafted, such language appeared to broadly ban the use of all national standards and assessments in public schools.
Consultants working on the Tulsa Chamber’s workforce analysis project crunch the numbers to forecast growth through 2018 in different industries. According to an analysis from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, aerospace is expected to grow 8 percent and manufacturing nearly 5 percent. Denise Reid with the chamber said the next step is finding workers for these jobs. “The opportunities that are actually in manufacturing, aerospace, engineering, accounting, finance — all of these careers create great opportunities, and there are pathways to them that don’t necessarily start with a four-year degree,” Reid said.
President Obama thanks Belgian company for Oklahoma investment
President Barack Obama met Wednesday in Brussels with executives from the Belgian aerospace company ASCO Industries to thank them for investing in a plant in Stillwater that will eventually employ 600 people at a former Mercury Marine engine plant. According to a report from the White House press pool traveling with the president, Obama signed an executive order in 2011 to create SelectUSA, a coordinated federal effort to attract job-creating international investments in the United States.
A study commissioned by The Wind Coalition says developers have invested more than $6 billion in Oklahoma’s wind energy industry. The study released Wednesday says there are 26 active wind farms in the state. Oklahoma ranks sixth in the nation in the amount of wind energy generated for consumers. That’s enough to power almost 770,000 homes each year.
Most People Don’t Know The Health Insurance Deadline Looms
Next week is the last chance for most people without insurance to sign up for individual health coverage for the remainder of 2014. Yet according to the latest monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 60 percent of those without coverage still don’t know that. The survey, conducted between March 11 and 17th, found that 39 percent of the uninsured between ages 18 and 64 did know that March 31 is the deadline to sign up for individual health insurance this year. Forty-three percent didn’t know that date, and 18 percent thought the deadline was later or had already passed.
It’s Saturday morning at a free clinic in an Oklahoma City church staffed by student volunteers. Another group of volunteers is serving breakfast. There are over 100 people waiting for medical care. Many of those waiting have chronic diseases – diabetes, hypertension, asthma and/or heart disease. The patients are mostly between 18 and 65 – too old for Medicaid, too young for Medicare – but a few children wait to be seen, too. Most of the adults are employed. None of them have health insurance.
Bill adds prescriptions to Oklahoma trafficking law
Four highly abused prescription drugs would be added to the state’s drug trafficking laws and allow those convicted of violating those laws to serve up to life in prison without parole under a bill that has advanced in the state Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 21-0 Wednesday for the bill by Ardmore Republican Sen. Frank Simpson. The bill would add the drugs morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and benzodiazepine to the list of drugs for which the trafficking sentences would apply, based on the amount the person was carrying. It was requested by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Conviction would result in a minimum sentence of ten years for a first offense and up to life without parole for a third offense.
Judge rules Oklahoma can’t conceal suppliers of execution drugs
An Oklahoma judge ruled on Wednesday that the state could not keep secret the identities of the suppliers of lethal-injection drugs, raising doubts about the executions of two prisoners next month and fueling a growing legal battle in several states over secrecy in methods of execution. The state argued that a supplier-secrecy law, passed in 2011, was necessary because of a shortage of execution drugs and threats against companies that supply them. But lawyers for the two prisoners, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, countered that without knowing the source of the drugs, courts could not determine whether the execution protocol satisfied the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and prisoners were denied the right to know, and potentially question, how they would be put to death.
Bill on child sex abuse turns into argument about spanking in Senate panel
A measure intended to close a loophole in child sexual abuse laws delved into a discussion Wednesday about the appropriateness of spanking. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed House Bill 2334 by Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, and Sen. Corey Brooks, R-Washington, by a vote of 19-1. It now heads to the Senate floor. The measure was needed following a court decision that found that a defendant could not be charged with child sexual abuse because the perpetrator was not a person responsible for the health, safety, or welfare of the child victim, Brooks said.
Legislature Adopts Resolution Asking U.S. Geological Survey for New Red River Study
Water levels at Lake Texoma are way down, and for many reasons: Long-term drought near the Red River’s headwaters, increasing demand from rural and municipal water systems, hydroelectric power generation, even the buildup of silt on the lake bed. At a public meeting in the small lake community of Kingston, Okla., March 15, StateImpact heard frustrated residents asking about exactly how much water was flowing into the lake, whether the water downstream from the lake could be used as a municipal water source instead, and exactly how much water is being lost to drought and each type of use.
Pulling down the curtain: Prison policy on media cheating taxpayers
We don’t know what access media had to Arizona’s prison system when Robert Patton worked there. Patton is Oklahoma’s new Department of Corrections director. What we’ll say about new limitations he recently imposed on media here is that it’s no way to treat taxpayers who pony up a half-billion dollars annually to keep their prisons operating. DOC, under several directors, has had a sensible access policy. As Patton ought to know, most taxpayers never will set foot in a prison and must rely on the media to keep them informed about issues concerning crowding, staff retention, budget cuts, executions and programs.
The energy industry doesn’t pay a lot of income tax because of the intangible drilling cost deduction. And we don’t have an ad valorem tax on oil and gas wells, like Texas does. So what is going to be their contribution to the running of the state? Severance taxes, historically, has been how the oil and gas industry has helped contribute their part to the state. And as corporate citizens, they ought to be contributing their part.
-Don Millican, the Chief Financial Officer of Kaiser-Francis oil company. Millican also serves on the board of Oklahoma Policy Institute. He said Oklahoma’s generous tax break for horizontal drilling is not creating any extra economic activity, because companies drill where the hydrocarbons are. (Source: http://bit.ly/1o3OUZf)
Number of the Day
Oklahoma’s tribal gaming revenue in 2012, the second highest in the US.
Survivors of Domestic Violence Gain Access to Health Insurance Tax Credits
Today, the Administration took important steps to ensure that survivors of domestic violence can access affordable health care. Many survivors of domestic violence have been unable to access the health insurance subsidies because they file separate tax returns from their abusive spouse. As of today, these individuals have access to a special enrollment period until May 31 to enroll in coverage and access the health insurance subsidies.