A key part of the state budget deal means Oklahoma could bring in another $18 million a year from selling motor vehicle records to insurance companies and employment verification firms that include the personal information of all licensed drivers.
From April’s story:
The state of Oklahoma makes tens of millions of dollars selling personal information about people that some lawmakers and labor organizations want kept secret for government employees, The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World have learned.
At least $65 million has been made in the past five years from the sale of millions of motor vehicle records that include birth dates and other personal information of all state drivers, Department of Public Safety records show.
A private company has collected about $15 million conducting most of those transactions on behalf of the state, records show.
Here’s the relevant graphic from that story:
The sale of motor vehicle records is allowed under the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. Information sold includes name, birth date, driver’s license number and recent driving violations.
Now, as part of the budget agreement, Senate Bill 1556 would more than double the price of each motor vehicle record to $25, up from $10. The bill is by Sen. Mike Johnson, R-Kingfisher, and Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond.
According to a fiscal analysis prepared by legislative staff, this increase could bring in an extra $12 million to the state’s General Revenue Fund, with an additional $6 million earmarked for the state Department of Public Safety revolving fund.
That means the state revenue from those data sales could go from an average of $13 million a year to more than $30 million a year under the increased fees.
We just got word tonight that Rep. Randy Terrill has filed new legislation that will close off the dates of birth of all public employees in Oklahoma. This is despite the fact that the state makes millions selling the same information for registered voters, licensed drivers and college students.
Sensing that a standalone bill like the changes to HB 3382 made last week was unlikely to survive scrutiny by his fellow House members, it now looks like Terrill, R-Moore, has put the language into a so-called omnibus bill dealing with the state Department of Corrections.
The lengthy conference committee substitute for HB 3379 was filed this evening with the following provision:
D. Public bodies The Department of Corrections shall keep confidential the home address, telephone numbers and, social security numbers, employee identification number and birth date of any person employed or formerly employed by the public body.
The next section then takes the exemption for DOC employees and makes it applicable to all public bodies. It also renders moot a pending Open Records Act request by The Oklahoman for the birth dates of public employees by making the bill retroactive:
E. The provisions of subsection D of this section shall be applicable to all public bodies and to any request made pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Open Records Act prior to the effective date of this act for which a public body has not provided a response as of the effective date of this act.
It’s my understanding that new legislation has to sit on the House calendar for at least 24 hours before being considered by the House. That means this bill could come up for a vote as early as Wednesday evening.
For previous blog coverage of this issue, check out the following posts:
- Oklahoma brings in millions by selling personal data
- Special mailing list deal for Oklahoma Public Employees Association
- “Privacy pirates” and the politics of fear
- DOB bill compromise attacks spirit of Open Records Act
- Public employee date of birth bill resurrected
UPDATE: The Senate on Tuesday afternoon passed HB 3422 by a vote of 44-0. It now goes to the governor.
It’s already been a busy last week of session at the Oklahoma Legislature, but a couple of transparency bills have moved one step closer to being law.
On Monday, the House approved House Bill 3422 by Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond. It adds more features and transparency to the state’s Open Books website for financial information. Capitol reporter Michael McNutt has more in today’s paper. HB 3422 now goes back to the Senate for final approval.
From the bill summary:
HB3422 amends existing law by requiring the Office of State Finance (OSF) to update the state’s Open Books website with “Open Books 2.0” by January 1, 2011.
Open Books 2.0 will be a more expansive, searchable online database that lists individual expenditures – regardless of amount – separate from aggregated amounts. The website must present the data in a standardized exportable format. Within 18 months of Open Books 2.0 being online, OSF must create an online archive for each fiscal year beginning with FY-11. The archive must be accessible and searchable to online users.
HB 3422 also peels back some of the secrecy surrounding the state’s tax credits. It expands the information collected on the claimants and brokers of income tax credits:
HB3422 also adds a new law that requires the Oklahoma Tax Commission to prepare and maintain a list of all taxpayers who have claimed any tax credit authorized by any provisions of state law and related to a tax administered by the Tax Commission. It then requires the Office of State Finance to make this list available on the Internet. The list must include the name of each taxpayer who claimed a credit, the amount of such credit and the specific statutory provision under which the credit was claimed. The list must be updated on at least a monthly basis.
However, it does not require the same disclosure information on claimants of the insurance premium tax credits, which are administered by the state Insurance Department. Almost $58 million in insurance premium tax credits were claimed in tax year 2008, according to the department. That’s up from $54 million in 2007 and $39 million in 2006.
That increase in insurance premium tax credits claimed came despite collections on that tax remaining fairly steady in those three years. Almost $166 million in premium taxes was collected in 2006, while $159 million was collected in 2008, according to the department.
Marc Young, Insurance Department spokesman, said information about the insurance premium tax credits is available from the department, but it is not required to post the information on Open Books. Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, who worked on the tax credit language in HB 3422, said adding insurance premium tax credits to Open Books might come in a future legislative session.
School district spending transparency
This morning, the House approved Senate Bill 1633, the School District Transparency Act. The bill, by Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, and Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Goodwell, directs the state Department of Education to create a website for searching school district financial data such as credit card payments, instructional costs and administrative overhead.
Some of that data is already available on the department’s website, but it’s contained in hundreds of separate PDF files. That makes it hard to get a complete picture of school district spending over time and makes it difficult to compare school districts against each other. Here’s an example of one of the reports in the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System at the department:
Thanks to some enterprising lawmakers, we got early word this afternoon on details of the FY 2011 budget agreement announced today. These data visualizations are from this spreadsheet posted at Google Spreadsheets.
The first one is what’s called a tree map, which compares the whole amounts appropriated by agency from what it received in FY 2010 and what is proposed under the agreement for FY 2011. The intensity of orange shading shows an increase, while the intensity of blue shading shows a decrease.
This next one is called a bubble chart. It’s just a snapshot of the FY 2011 amounts by agency, with the size of the circles relative to their share of the overall budget agreement amount. The color of the circle is the category of government the agency fits under.
To view full size visualizations (with enhanced interactivity) at the Many Eyes website, just click on the following links:
UPDATE, 5/20/10: The Tulsa World has a good wrap up of Wednesday’s action in the Senate on this bill.
It looks like an effort to exempt the birth dates of public employees from the Oklahoma Open Records Act has been brought back to life, this time as part of the conference committee report to House Bill 3382. That bill originally dealt with removing the existing Open Records Act exemption to copies of Oklahoma Highway Patrol dashboard camera footage.
Things like this happen all the time in the closing days of the legislative session. The original birth date bill, Senate Bill 1753, died last month. But as they say at the Capitol, nothing’s ever dead until they bang the gavel for sine die.
As well as Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, several other lawmakers signed off on the conference committee report changes to HB 3382:
- Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs
- Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa
- Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City
- Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs
I just had a chance to review the debate from Monday on a bill to limit what information would be available in autopsy reports. (It starts at the 1:14:00 mark on the video replay.)
In the end, after a barrage of questions, the author of House Bill 3155, Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, pulled the bill and said she’d try again next year. Capitol reporter Michael McNutt has the story here.
Osborn said the bill was a request from the Grady County District Attorney Bret Burns and was worked on by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the District Attorneys Council and the state Medical Examiner’s office. They believe the media, and by extension, the public, had gotten too many “gory details” from autopsy reports in several recent unsolved murder cases.
HB 3155 would allow a district attorney or law enforcement agency to hold on to details of a homicide until the report has been entered into evidence in court or a suspect has been convicted. From the bill summary:
Clarifies that the Oklahoma Open Record Act does not apply to information in an autopsy report in which the manner of death is homicide or pending until one of the following:
· The autopsy report is admitted into evidence in a court of law;
· The person charged with the homicide is convicted;
· It is determined that the person believed to be the perpetrator of the homicide is deceased;
· The district attorney determines that either no criminal charges will be filed in the matter; or
· The district attorney determines that confidentiality of the information is no longer necessary to preserve the integrity of the investigation.
Opponents said that would give too much power to law enforcement agencies, who are notoriously close-lipped about investigations anyway. The Freedom of Information Oklahoma blog has a good recap of how autopsy reports are used in everyday journalism here. We used them extensively for our award-winning series in 2009 called Dying Too Young.
Osborn faced questions on her bill from both sides of the aisle. A few allies, like Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, tried to offer her support, including this exchange:
Armes: Rep. Osborn, what sells newspapers in your mind?
Osborn: Grisly details.
Armes: Do you remember the OJ simpson trial?
Osborn: I do.
Armes: Did that create people like Greta van Susteren and things like that? My question is: Grisly details obviously, wouldn’t you agree, sell newspapers? Does it also help catch the bad guy?
Osborn: No, and a lot of times it does lead to false confessors.
Armes: In a murder trial, especially a grisly murder trial, would you rather sell newspapers or catch the bad guy?
Osborn: Well, I think in the interest of public safety, you’d rather make sure this perpetrator didn’t act on his crime again, and No. 2, if I was the family members, I’d much rather have justice for my deceased loved one.
Still, most of the questions were about transparency, accountability and keeping the information available to families of murder victims. The next speaker of the House, Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, had some reservations about the structure of the bill and what it would close off:
Steele: Do you feel that by chipping away at the information that is made available to the public that we’re eliminating a layer of accountability that we should probably keep in place?
Osborn: I understand where you’re going and I appreciate the question, but I truly believe that public safety and justice trumps in this one small, gray area of the four or five heinous cold cases in Oklahoma a year.
Steele: Rep. Osborn, in relation to the questions of jeopardizing an investigation or causing the law enforcement agencies to investigate leads that aren’t accurate, wouldn’t you also agree that the public is much more helpful, or at least helpful more times than not, in providing information and data to these law enforcement agencies based on the information they receive from the media?
Osborn: I appreciate that comment, but I will say that I don’t believe that the public necessarily needs to hear that somebody was nearly decapitated and that their hair was burned. I don’t think that that necessarily, one of those items would have helped as much as just hearing that someone was brutally murdered, who it was, when it happened. And I still don’t know that would have helped at all to have the public know those grisly details.
Later on, Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, asked Osborn about the unsolved murders of two Weelekta girls in 2008. Some of the details of those killings were in autopsy reports, but McAffrey said that contributed little to the case’s unsolved status.
“The big problem was that the crime scene was not protected,” said McAffrey, a funeral director. “Everybody and their dogs were there, so they had nothing to go on. I understand what you’re talking about, but the question is: Is the report from the autopsy really that valuable to keep secrets from the public? That’s really what it comes down to. Because I see autopsy reports quite often, and there’s not much on an autopsy report that really makes a difference in a crime.”
Note: This is a slightly longer version of today’s story:
BY PAUL MONIES
The natural rivalry between the Oklahoma’s two largest cities has been overtaken by the way both have grown in the last decade.
Oklahoma City now has more in common with Tampa, Fla., and Boise, Idaho, than it does with Tulsa. Meanwhile, Tulsa is more like Wichita, Kan., and Cleveland, Ohio, than Oklahoma City.
That’s according to a new study of Census data in the nation’s top 100 metropolitan areas — which include two-thirds of the U.S. population — by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based public policy organization. The metros range in size from 500,000 people in Modesto, Calif., to 19 million in New York City. The study clusters metro areas into seven groups that share characteristics.
As a “mid-sized magnet” metro, Oklahoma City has had higher growth, lower diversity and lower educational levels than most other metropolitan areas. Tulsa, grouped into the “industrial core” type, has lower growth, lower diversity and lower educational attainment than the national average among metros.
“The new metro map of the United States forces us to think outside the conventional regional boxes that have informed America’s narrative for generations,” said Bruce Katz, vice president and director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.
The Brookings analysis highlights the changing nature of America’s metro areas, central cities and their suburbs from 2000 to 2008. In Oklahoma, Tulsa and Oklahoma City are at the front lines of emerging immigration, income and aging trends. Among the highlights:
- Migration: Oklahoma City ranked seventh and Tulsa ranked 15th in the percentage of residents who moved in the last year.
- Income: Tulsa suburbs ranked second in median household income growth from 2000 to 2008. Oklahoma City suburbs ranked 14th in the same category. However, median household income in the two metro areas overall slipped because of declines in the central cities.
- Immigration: Oklahoma City suburbs ranked 10th in the proportion of foreign-born immigrants who have arrived since 2000. Tulsa suburbs ranked 94th in that category. Because it uses census data, the Brookings analysis does not make the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.
- Education: Roughly one-fourth of residents in Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas have bachelor’s degrees, putting the Oklahoma City metro at No. 69 and the Tulsa metro at No. 79.
- Transportation: The Oklahoma City metro area ranks eighth nationally in the percentage of commuters who drive to work alone. The Tulsa metro area came in at No. 30.
Neither Oklahoma City nor Tulsa was affected by the rapid rise and fall of home values affecting many other metro areas that was a factor in the current recession. Although both metros have been hit by manufacturing and service job losses and rising unemployment, their relatively stable housing markets and energy companies have buffeted those declines.
“As the economy began to deteriorate in other parts of the country, Oklahoma City was prospering,” said Eric Long, manager of economic research for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “Low unemployment, coupled with stability in our housing market, were big factors.”
Long said inquiries about relocating to Oklahoma City from both companies and individuals have picked up after dropping off in the last year or so. Many come from people looking for a fresh start.
“They are unhappy with employment and cost of living issues in their home states and have heard about Oklahoma City,” Long said. “They may not have relatives or know anyone here, but are still willing to take a chance on our city.”
Retaining college grads
Officials from Tulsa and Oklahoma City chambers mentioned the importance of attracting and retaining college graduates and entrepreneurs, who in the past might have sought jobs or started companies in larger regional metros such as Dallas or Denver.
Susan Harris, senior vice president of education and workforce for the Tulsa Metro Chamber, said if the Tulsa area can grow its percentage of residents with college degrees just one percentage point, it would mean an extra $646 million per year in economic activity. The Tulsa metro area had a gross domestic product of $45 billion in 2008, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.
“We know a city that doesn’t grow dies, so growth is important,” Harris said. “Everything we’re doing is about making sure we are open and receptive to new people coming in and living here, locating their businesses and bringing their families and we are receptive to higher density development in the inner core of the city.
Harris said the chamber is working with colleges, universities and businesses to identify residents who were close to finishing a degree but never did. Another effort includes tightening the integration of career pathways. For example, in the nursing field, it includes ways for certified nursing assistants to get their licensed practical nurse certification and for registered nurses to get bachelor of science degrees in nursing.
More poor in suburbs
Nationally, the Brookings report found 53 percent of the metro poor now live in suburbs, up from 48 percent in 2000. This increasing suburbanization of poverty has implications for policymakers, who have traditionally directed social programs to large cities, said Alan Berube, Ö who headed up the analysis for the Metropolitan Policy Program.
The latest food stamp numbers from the state Department of Human Services shows that the number of people getting food stamps in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metros rose more than 30 percent between February 2009 and February 2010. But most outlying counties in those metro areas posted higher percentage increases than Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
Katz, meanwhile, said America’s population growth and diversity, particularly in its metro areas, may be its “ace in the hole.”
“In the global context, the United States is a demographically blessed nation,” he said. “Established competitors like Japan, Britain and Germany are either growing slowly or actually declining; rising nations like China remain relatively homogenous.”
The Oklahoman’s Watchdog Team: Looking out for you.
Read the entire Brookings report on the new metro landscape.
Oklahoma fact sheets:
You can check out a Google spreadsheet of the tweets here.
Here’s a quick tag cloud I created using IBM’s ManyEyes tool:
The Gov 2.0a conference had a busy first day on Thursday at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. There’s a lot of good work being done both in Oklahoma and nationally in terms of government transparency, technology and citizen engagement.
I gave an abbreviated version of this presentation on an afternoon panel with Matt Mueller, city manager of Guthrie; Stephen Nolen, chief information officer for Shawnee; and Craige Baird, technology services director for Ponca City.
Developing a Data Ecosystem: Media’s Role in Gov 2.0
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to recap all the presentations from Day One, but among the highlights were presentations by Laurel Ruma, the Gov 2.0 evangelist for O’Reilly Media Inc., and a keynote speech Thursday evening by Oklahoma’s new chief information officer Alex Pettit.
Pettit, who has held technology positions with the Denton, Texas, and Brown University in Rhode Island, had a refreshing take on the technology landscape in state government. In his experience, Pettit said vendors have gained most of the power in technology procurement and processes and often work with information specialists inside agencies to block changes. (Read more on those types of “iron triangles” and “regulatory capture.”)
Pettit has been on the job for a little over one month. In a humorous aside, he described his efforts to reach out to some of the technology heads at various state agencies to ask them about their plans for fiscal year 2011. Aside a few who ignored the e-mails, some e-mailed back to ask just one question: “Do we have to comply?” with Pettit’s request.
“My mother would call that chutzpah,” Pettit said.
Pettit said he had no silver bullets to reform state technology and that he was committed to active consultations with the users, buyers and managers of technology at state agencies. (Keep in mind that Pettit’s position does not cover any technology controlled by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, which lobbied to be kept off the law that created the CIO position at the end of the 2009 legislative session.)
He said state technology should move to a “one state” focus on the ultimate end user: the citizen. Part of the solution will be recognizing that political leadership and citizens are “outcome oriented,” while those in charge of technology at state agencies are often “process oriented.”
With the budget deficit, state lawmakers are taking another look at the wisdom of granting tax credits to various industries. Our Capitol reporters have several stories on the subject in today’s paper:
- Oklahoma House panel wants tax credits more transparent
- Oklahoma lawmakers discuss ending tax credits for small business venture capital companies
The state provides some information on who has claimed income tax credits on a section of its Open Books site. It’s a fairly good presentation, but it doesn’t allow you to download the raw data or do any kind of aggregation. I contacted the Office of State Finance to get some of the raw data provided to them by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. You can download it yourself here.
For 2007 and 2008, at least $256 million in Oklahoma income tax credits were claimed, according to the data. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at what types of income tax credits are being claimed.
Some words of caution: Some of the numbers in the data provided by the Office of State Finance and Oklahoma Tax Commission do not reflect what’s in today’s stories. That’s partly because claimants can carry forward unused credits for some credits to use against their tax liabilities in future years. Also, as the stories make clear, tracking the tax credits is murky at best. This data shows just income tax credits claimed, not credits claimed against gross production taxes or insurance premium taxes. More on that here.
(Full disclosure: My employer, The Oklahoma Publishing Co & Subs, shows up several times in the data for various income tax credits for a total of $366,000 in 2007 and 2008.)