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All articles by Ryan Gentzler

In The Know: Oklahoma House votes to ban abortion of abnormal fetuses

by | March 22nd, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma House votes to ban abortion of abnormal fetuses: The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted Tuesday to ban abortions of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome or “viable genetic disorder” or the possibility of one. The measure, House Bill 1549, by Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, would bring penalties against persons performing such abortions, but not the woman involved. It passed 67-16. It is expected to be challenged by abortion rights groups [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Senate approves expanding OSBI role in police shooting inquiries: Faced with growing controversy over officer-involved shootings in Oklahoma and elsewhere, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that would give the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation increased authority to investigate such incidents. Under Senate Bill 247, the OSBI would be given the responsibility of investigating all law enforcement- or peace officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, excluding jails or prisons, for all jurisdictions with a population less than 150,000 [NewsOK].

Opponents Of New OK Bill Say It Could Impact Healthcare Coverage: A new bill that just passed the house and senate insurance committees has some Oklahomans worried about their health care coverage. Families flooded the State Capitol this time last year to advocate for Autism insurance reform in Oklahoma. They won their fight, but now they say they’ve been handed another. Senate Bill 478 is a bill that would allow insurance companies from out of state to sell policies to people in Oklahoma, including businesses [NewsOn6].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma House votes to ban abortion of abnormal fetuses

In The Know: Senate reconsiders, passes maternity leave bill

by | March 21st, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Senate reconsiders, passes maternity leave bill: Legislators were almost evenly split when they voted on a maternity leave extension bill last week, which failed then, and the measure has outsiders split as well. On Monday, the senators reconsidered the bill and passed it with a 31-8 vote after striking the title, giving the Senate an opportunity to vote on it again once it has gone through the House. State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, pitched Senate Bill 549, which would increase unpaid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 20 weeks. Federal law requires any organization with more than 50 employees to give women 12 weeks [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Legislature takes up criminal justice reform measures: A bill that would allow some nonviolent state inmates to be eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of their sentences sailed through the state House of Representatives Monday and is now headed for the Senate. House Bill 2286 passed the House 81-3 without debate. If the Senate approves the bill, it still must come back to the House for final consideration because the title was removed. The bill, authored by state Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, is part of a package of approximately a dozen criminal justice reform measures the Oklahoma Legislature is expected to take up this week [NewsOK]. The Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Northeast OKC braces for another round of school closures: Educators and residents in northeast Oklahoma City are bracing for another round of school closures, a process that has plagued the predominantly black neighborhoods for generations and left abandoned schools scattered throughout the community. Superintendent Aurora Lora told The Oklahoman this month the district is considering the closing of several schools in an effort to address state budget cuts. An announcement could come as soon as Monday, multiple sources with the district said [NewsOK]. 

continue reading In The Know: Senate reconsiders, passes maternity leave bill

In The Know: Health Care Bill Could Cost Oklahoma Millions

by | March 15th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Health Care Bill Could Cost Oklahoma Millions: A Republican plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system shows health care could become unaffordable for many poor Oklahomans and the state could be forced to subsidize health care costs for Native Americans, according to an early analysis of the plan prepared for Gov. Mary Fallin. A document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press shows state health officials also project the proposed new law would result in the state immediately losing $9.3 million in public health funding for programs such as immunizations and chronic disease funding [Associated Press]. The three-page analysis is available at Oklahoma Watch.

Bill to allow guns in Oklahoma courthouses passes House: A bill that would allow elected county officials in Oklahoma to carry guns into courthouses has passed the state House. The bill by Republican Rep. Bobby Cleveland goes to the Senate after passing the House on an 85-11 vote Monday. It would allow elected officials with a valid handgun license to carry a firearm into the courthouses of the county in which the person was elected when he or she is performing official duties. It would not allow guns in courtrooms [Associated Press].

After voting to repeal the tax cut trigger, Senate rejects another bill delaying it: House Speaker Charles McCall said Tuesday he is unsure how much support there is in the House for a bill passed by the Senate that would eliminate a state income tax cut trigger. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday rejected an alternative piece of legislation that would have kept a tax cut trigger in place, but modified it so that a tax cut likely would not be triggered for years. The measure defeated Tuesday, Senate Bill 130, would have triggered a tax cut only if estimated state revenue grows to $7.5 billion. It’s at $6 billion now [NewsOK].

continue reading In The Know: Health Care Bill Could Cost Oklahoma Millions

In The Know: Oklahoma House advances payday loan bill

by | March 14th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma House advances payday loan bill: A bill that could allow annualized interest of up to 204 percent on some small loans made it through the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday despite the opposition of some religious groups and advocacy organizations and a less-than-glowing recommendation from its author. “I don’t like this type of loan any more than you do,” Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, told the other members as he summed up House Bill 1913. But, Kannady said, the bill is an improvement on current law and better than sending desperate borrowers to unregulated loan sharks [Tulsa World]. The “small loan” created by the bill would mean big debts for Oklahoma families [OK Policy].

Senate passes measure to halt potential second income tax cut: The Oklahoma Senate on Monday passed a measure to eliminate a trigger that could have further reduced the state’s top income tax rate. Senate Bill 170 by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, passed by a vote of 39-6 with no questions and no debate. The measure moves to the House for consideration. “Right now, we certainly have more outstanding obligations than we have money,” Thompson said [Tulsa World]. The bill would allow the Legislature to avoid another ill-timed tax cut [OK Policy].

Push to Raise Criminal, Civil Court Fees Persists: The push to raise court fees and fines to help pay for the state’s cash-strapped judicial system is not letting up – and that includes not only criminal cases but civil ones. The Oklahoma House passed a bill Tuesday that would charge a $25 fee for lawyers and parties who represent themselves in civil court. Other bills would increase criminal fees. House Bill 2306, which passed 51-42, creates the fees when someone issues a subpoena or files a motion in civil cases to “enter” – a routine move in which the plaintiff formally notifies the court they are ready to move to the trial stage [Oklahoma Watch]. Excessive fees lock Oklahomans into the criminal justice system without boosting state revenue [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Struggles at Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs start with staffing issues, payroll analysis indicates

by | March 7th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Struggles at Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs start with staffing issues, payroll analysis indicates: Imagine going to work at a company where nearly two-thirds of the workforce will have moved on in less than two years. That’s the reality at the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, where the turnover rate was 62 percent between 2014 and 2016, according to a Tulsa World analysis of payroll data. The high turnover, coupled with overtime cuts and a recent increase in part-time staff hours worked, has put a squeeze on current agency staff, the data suggests [Tulsa World].

Legislature again takes up the shrinking county tax giveaway: One of the worst legislative ideas we’ve ever seen — the shrinking county tax giveaway — has reared its ugly head again this year. House Bill 1156 would give a 100 percent income-tax exemption for five years to anyone who moves from outside the state to an Oklahoma county with a shrinking population. So, if someone moved from Coffeyville, Kansas, to South Coffeyville, for example, we’d forgive their taxes for five years [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Four Weeks into the Session, a Closer Look at Where Things Stand: State lawmakers are officially at the one-quarter point of this year’s legislative session after wrapping up four weeks’ worth of work. So far only one bill – the Real ID compliance act – has made it through the Legislature and been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. And there remains plenty to do to find a solution to the state’s $878 million budget gap and tackle the hundreds of bills that remain at alive this point. Here are five takeaways from what the Legislature has accomplished so far and what is on the horizon for coming weeks and months [Oklahoma Watch].

continue reading In The Know: Struggles at Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs start with staffing issues, payroll analysis indicates

In The Know: Pawnee Nation Sues Oklahoma Oil Companies in Tribal Court Over Earthquake Damage

by | March 6th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Pawnee Nation Sues Oklahoma Oil Companies in Tribal Court Over Earthquake Damage: A Native American tribe here has filed a lawsuit in its own tribal court system accusing several oil companies of causing an earthquake that damaged near-century-old tribal buildings. The Pawnee Nation alleges in its lawsuit filed Friday that wastewater injected into wells operated by the defendants caused the 5.8-magnitude quake in September. The tribe is seeking compensation for damage to public and personal property and market value losses, as well as punitive damages. The case will be heard in the tribe’s district court, with a jury composed of Pawnee Nation members [Associated Press].

District 28 voters return to polls to fill vacancy: Voters in Oklahoma’s House District 28 will head back to the polls on Tuesday just four months after re-electing Rep. Tom Newell, who resigned weeks after the election. Following Newell’s departure, a special election was called for March 7 when Democrat and Republican primaries will be held. A general election race between the highest Democrat and Republican vote recipients will take place May 9 [NewsOK]. Tuesday’s election in central Oklahoma also includes city and school bond questions [NewsOK].

Legislator requires Muslims who want to see him at Capitol to answer questions, including ‘Do you beat your wife?’ State Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, confirmed Friday that three Muslim students visiting his office on Thursday as part of Muslim Day activities were handed tracts that, among other things, asked “Do you beat your wife?” Bennett is critical of Islam and Islamic leaders, having called Islam “a cancer,” and has often clashed with the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Oklahoma, which sponsored the Muslim Day activities. The organization’s executive director, Adam Soltani, said the students went to Bennett’s office “to speak with him as Oklahoma citizens.” [Tulsa World]

continue reading In The Know: Pawnee Nation Sues Oklahoma Oil Companies in Tribal Court Over Earthquake Damage

In The Know: Oklahoma now has Real ID law, but don’t get in line yet for new driver’s license

by | March 3rd, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma now has Real ID law, but don’t get in line yet for new driver’s license: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday signed legislation to make the state compliant with the federal Real ID Act. Applying for a Real ID-compliant driver’s license will involve documentation similar to current license rules. However, no timeline has been set as to when the state will implement the law. The Department of Public Safety said the measure will be implemented within 24 months to 30 months of the state signing a contract with a vendor [Tulsa World].

New Oklahoma School Assessment and Accountability Plan Sent to Governor: The Oklahoma Senate signs off on the state’s new school assessment and accountability system. While the House spent 99 minutes on the matter a week ago, the Senate approved the standards without questions or debate in under six minutes. Sen. Gary Stanislawski presented House Joint Resolution 1028 on the floor. The Senate approved HJR1028 34–8 [Public Radio Tulsa].

At Epic Schools, Teacher Bonuses Soar While Student Achievement Lags: Teachers at Epic Charter Schools are some of the highest paid in the state. They are also some of the lowest paid in the state. The wild swings in teacher compensation at the state’s largest online charter school are due to an unconventional program that allows teachers to earn a bonus of up to their base salary, which would double their pay. So a teacher earning $35,000, for instance, can earn an annual bonus of up to $35,000, pushing total pay to $70,000. Bonus pay allowed more than half of Epic’s 218 certified teachers to earn well above the average pay for public school teachers, according to Oklahoma Department of Education data for 2015-2016 [Oklahoma Watch].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma now has Real ID law, but don’t get in line yet for new driver’s license

In The Know: In Search of a Grand Bargain: Ways to Bridge Budget Gap

by | February 28th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

In Search of a Grand Bargain: Ways to Bridge Budget Gap: As Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session enters its fourth week, one thing is abundantly clear: Republicans, Democrats and Gov. Mary Fallin are nowhere close to a budget deal. The Legislature and governor’s office have until the end of May to sign off on a plan that closes an $878 million budget shortfall for the upcoming year. Their challenge is even more daunting given lawmakers’ goals to give teachers at least a $1,000 raise (costing an extra $52 million) and to shore up education, public safety and human services budgets for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30 (costing $48 million to $118 million) [Oklahoma Watch].

Time to Panic? Policymakers, Public Divided on ‘Dire’ Budget Warnings: Moments after explaining how another state revenue failure will require millions of dollars of mid-year budget cuts, Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger issued a warning to lawmakers and top state officials. “I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that the time for action is now,” he said at last week’s Board of Equalization meeting, at which the group also certified revenue figures that show an $878 million shortfall for next year. “It’s not a game. We need new revenue.” [Oklahoma Watch]

Vote threshold creates high bar for Oklahoma tax increases: When Oklahoma voters approved a state question in 1992 that required all tax increase proposals receive a three-quarters approval of the Legislature, anti-tax advocates saw the measure as a return of power to the people after a series of tax-raising bills over the years. Today, as state lawmakers grapple with a budget hole and consider raising taxes and fees, the restriction approved by voters 25 years ago may actually be giving power to a minority of legislators opposed to any tax increase or Democrats seeking leverage [NewsOK].

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Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs

by | February 22nd, 2017 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (1)

Photo used under a Creative Commons license.

Just before the start of the legislative session, the Justice Reform Task Force released a report that details the crisis in our state’s corrections system and recommends policy changes to deal with the crisis in a safe and effective manner. If passed and implemented, their proposals could be the solution that Oklahoma’s criminal justice system desperately needs to support the rehabilitation of people convicted of crimes and relieve a prison system that’s bursting at the seams. Positive reforms made it through the Legislature and through the ballot box last year, and the Task Force recommendations show us how to build on that success.

In previewing the Task Force, we pointed at the budgetary constraints facing the committee and speculated that they might look at reforms that were passed in 2012 but implemented poorly; modify or eliminate sentencing enhancements; expand geriatric and medical parole; and establish incentives for agencies to divert offenders away from prison. Their 27 recommendations, many of which are legislative proposals for 2017, incorporate some of these ideas but go much further, addressing the front door, the back door, and the trap door of incarceration.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Faces Another Revenue Failure, Agencies To See Mid-Year Budget Cuts

by | February 22nd, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Faces Another Revenue Failure, Agencies To See Mid-Year Budget Cuts: The Oklahoma Board of Equalization declared a revenue failure for the current fiscal year, which will result in mid-year appropriations cuts to state agencies. State agencies will receive across board cuts of 0.7 percent between March and June of this year. In total, agencies will be cut by $34.6 million. Preston Doerflinger, the Director and Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology, said the situation is dire and more revenue is needed. “I need you, members, I beg you to have an appreciation for the seriousness of the situation we have before us,” Doerflinger told the board members [KOSU]. Public schools are bracing for additional cuts [NewsOn6].

Will Oklahoma pass the cigarette tax bill? Maybe, leaders say: The level of support for a bill that would raise Oklahoma’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack changes every day, leading to concerns about the future of funding for state health services, leaders say. House Bill 1841, authored by Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, would provide more than $200 million in cigarette tax money for several health-related state agencies. The bill passed 17-10 out of the House appropriations and budget committee Feb. 13 and awaits a vote in the full House [NewsOK]. Legislators are divided on the issue [Woodward News].

Economic calamity awaits if we fail to act: In this young legislative session, we have witnessed a polarization in the executive branch. Gov. Mary Fallin’s call to recast our archaic 20th-century tax code for the 21st century was bold. The $1 billion in proposed new taxes went too far, and frightened our citizens and business community. In a theatrical move to signal his political opposition, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb quit the cabinet offering no alternative plan for tackling the real budget mess we face. Do we cut or invest? I’m a pragmatist. I believe the answer is in the middle [Rep. Leslie Osborn / NewsOK].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma Faces Another Revenue Failure, Agencies To See Mid-Year Budget Cuts

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