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All articles by Ryan Gentzler

In The Know: State’s payday loan usage rate highest in nation

by | August 16th, 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

State’s payday loan usage rate highest in nation: Elise Robillard was desperate for a quick cash infusion the first time she walked into a payday lending store. A long-term substitute teacher and mother of two young children, Robillard’s tires were bald, and she couldn’t afford to replace them. So she turned to small, short-term payday advances thinking they would keep her afloat. The loans have few financial qualifications, but annual interest rates as high as 391 percent [Enid News]. If predatory lending is restricted, Oklahomans will find better alternatives [OK Policy].

Confronting a Newly Created $214 Million Budget Deficit at the State Capitol: Last week’s Oklahoma Supreme Court decision invalidating the State Legislature’s cigarette cessation fee means that there’s now a $214 million budget deficit in this year’s budget. This gives Oklahoma lawmakers two options: go back into special session to fix the state budget, or else three state agencies — the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services — will have to rewrite their budgets to account for a roughly $70 million cut to each agency. So, what will state lawmakers do? [Public Radio Tulsa] With the doomsday clock ticking, how might the state’s budget emergency be solved? [OK Policy]

Officials to Reconsider School Names in Oklahoma City, Tulsa: School officials in Oklahoma City and Tulsa will reconsider whether their schools should bear the names of confederate generals after a white nationalist rally decrying the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia. An online petition in Tulsa urges the district to rethink a 99-year-old decision to name a school after Lee. Four elementary schools in Oklahoma City also bear the names of Lee and other Confederate generals. The Tulsa school district released a statement Monday saying officials plan to review the names of all schools in the district to assure they reflect community values [Associated Press].

continue reading In The Know: State’s payday loan usage rate highest in nation

In The Know: House Republicans taking wait-and-see approach to state budget

by | August 15th, 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.

Today In The News

House Republicans taking wait-and-see approach to state budget: State House Republicans met to discuss their options Monday in light of an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision last week that struck down a smoking cessation fee that was being counted on to provide about $215 million for the budgets of three health-related state agencies. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said the House Republican caucus met and lawmakers will be ready to address the budget, but are waiting to see how the Supreme Court rules on a challenge to another bill that removed an exemption for sales tax on the purchase of automobiles. That is projected to generate about $110 million for the fiscal year 2018 budget [NewsOK].

With the doomsday clock ticking, how might the state’s budget emergency be solved? Last week’s Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down a $1.50 per-package smoking cessation fee passed by lawmakers in May has created a genuine state emergency. Without quick and decisive action, Oklahoma faces unimaginable cuts to health care and other protections for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. However, if they can overcome partisan differences and ideological rigidity, our leaders have an opportunity to not only resolve this crisis, but to come out of it with even stronger investments in Oklahoma families and communities [OK Policy].

Labor Department seeks to simplify occupational licensing: Oklahoma Department of Labor officials are developing plans to help lawmakers be more efficient while creating new occupational licenses and to help industry members be more efficient at applying for them. Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston released the plans on Monday. One of the developing programs creates a rubric for lawmakers who want to create new licenses. The form asks several questions to determine whether a license requirement is appropriate. It offers alternatives that are less expensive and restrictive. The other goal is to create an interactive database for current and soon-to-be business owners who want more information on their industry’s requirements [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: House Republicans taking wait-and-see approach to state budget

In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to nix tax, fee hikes

by | August 9th, 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 Supreme Court asked to nix tax, fee hikes: Oklahoma’s high court is now mulling over three lawsuits that could nullify taxes and fees adopted this year at the state Capitol. The cases represent a challenge to hundreds of millions of dollars, the bulk of which is earmarked for health programs and services. Consumers are already paying a higher sales tax rate to buy vehicles and this month, smokers will likely have to pay $1.50 extra on a pack of cigarettes as a new fee goes into effect [NewsOK]. The Supreme Court hearing shows ruling could have long term effects [Oklahoma Watch]. Justice Patrick Wyrick, the newest justice, steered much of the questioning [NonDoc]. The court’s livestream was a first [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s $100 Electric Car Fee Challenged by Sierra Club: Oklahoma’s bid to help close a budget shortfall with a new $100 fee on electric vehicles drew a court challenge from the Sierra Club, which argues the state didn’t follow the correct procedures for enacting a tax or properly measure the benefits of having those cars on the road. Under a bill signed by Republican Governor Mary Fallin in May, hybrid vehicle owners would also face a $30 registration fee, but gasoline and diesel engines didn’t get hit with a new levy. On Tuesday, the state’s Supreme Court heard arguments in a separate lawsuit filed in June to block the measure [Bloomberg].

Candidates Set For Senate District 45, House District 76 General Elections: Two state seats are one step closer to being filled. Oklahoma residents in Senate District 45 and House District 76 have voted for their political groups’ candidates. For former Sen. Kyle Loveless’ vacant seat, Steven Vincent decidedly won the Democratic primary while Paul Rosino managed to get the majority of the vote in a 7-way Republican primary, according to unofficial results [News 9].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to nix tax, fee hikes

In The Know: Tuesday special election to narrow OKC, Broken Arrow races

by | August 8th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (2)

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

Tuesday special election to narrow OKC, Broken Arrow races: On Tuesday, a few thousand residents in the Oklahoma City area and in Broken Arrow will decide which four candidates will compete in a legislative general election this fall. In Broken Arrow, voters are replacing state Rep. David Brumbaugh. The Republican lawmaker died at 56 in April. In the metro, voters will choose among candidates from Oklahoma City, Mustang and Yukon to replace former Republican state Sen. Kyle Loveless, who resigned amid an ethics investigation [Journal Record].

Treasurer Miller: Tax collections are up; recession is over: Oklahoma’s highest-ranking economist continued his rosy forecasts on Monday, when he released July’s tax collections. Compared to this time last year, collections are up almost 9 percent, a $73 million increase over last July. Oil and gas production taxes are up more than 37 percent from July of last year. State Treasurer Ken Miller wrote in a news release that July marked the 10th consecutive month with an increase over the same period last year. All other revenue, including personal income taxes and sales taxes, was up as well [Journal Record].

Gov. Fallin’s rising profile on criminal justice reform: A recent conference in Washington, D.C., underscored just how nonpartisan the issue of criminal justice reform is becoming — not to mention Gov. Mary Fallin’s rising profile on this issue. Fallin was among those who spoke at an event sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and the Coalition for Public Safety, which works to reduce the nation’s prison population [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

continue reading In The Know: Tuesday special election to narrow OKC, Broken Arrow races

‘Prosecutorial discretion’ makes Oklahoma’s justice system a roll of the dice

by | August 7th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (4)

All Oklahomans must abide by the same laws. If you break the law, you’re sentenced according to the same statutes. In theory, this should mean that people convicted of a crime in urban Oklahoma County will receive a similar punishment to those in rural Cimarron County, and those on the Arkansas border in Sequoyah County will be treated the same as those on the Western border in Harmon County. 

In practice, however, a person’s chances of being charged with a felony or going to prison vary widely from courthouse to courthouse. That’s because prosecutors — which include District Attorneys and their assistants — have nearly unchecked power to decide whether to bring criminal charges against people who are arrested, what to charge them with, and, consequently, how severely they’re punished. That means the same crime can result in a lengthy prison sentence or a lenient probation period, depending on the county and the prosecutor in charge of the case. While this power — called “prosecutorial discretion” — is meant to allow flexibility in differing circumstances from case to case, new research suggests that it has played a major role in the growth of incarceration rates across the country.

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Join our team as a fall intern

by | August 2nd, 2017 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

OK Policy staff

OK Policy is now accepting student applicants for paid part-time internships during the fall of 2017! Interns will be expected to work between 10 and 20 hours per week, depending on their schedules and availability. The position will be based in our Tulsa office.

Interns have the opportunity to work as full members of the OK Policy team and participate in most activities of the organization. Depending on organization needs and interests, interns will generally focus on either research or advocacy. Interns develop policy expertise and may write blog posts on state policy issues such as poverty, health care, criminal justice, and other subjects.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Department of Corrections considers ways to release nonviolent inmates

by | July 26th, 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 Department of Corrections considers ways to release nonviolent inmates: Facing the challenges of a prison population that has been bloated for years, Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials say with no help from the state Legislature they are now considering options to “open the backdoor”. The department is developing a program to allow a select group of nonviolent inmates to leave state prisons and finish their sentences in community supervision programs, administrators told the Oklahoma Board of Corrections on Tuesday at its monthly meeting [NewsOK]. The effects of budget cuts on prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

Millions of gallons of oil, wastewater spilled over last three years, state data shows: From 2014 to 2016, Oklahoma oil and gas operators spilled more than 1.2 million gallons of oil and 9.2 million gallons of wastewater throughout the state, according to an analysis by The Frontier of spill data from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. A little more than half — 52 percent — of the oil estimated by the Corporation Commission to have been released during that time was recovered by the operator or a remediation company, and about two-thirds of the wastewater released was recovered, according to the data [The Frontier].

Oklahoma VA officials work on reducing patient wait times: Average wait times for new veterans getting primary care appointments at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center are about 20 days. Mark Morgan, director of the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, said that is unacceptable. While VA officials are working on the issue, he said they face numerous challenges. Among the challenges is a steep jump in the number of veterans making appointments in an average month. For example, from May 2016 to May 2017 there was an increase of 1,997 appointments, representing a 12 percent increase, said Nita McClellan, VA public information officer [CNHI].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma Department of Corrections considers ways to release nonviolent inmates

In The Know: GOP health bills would cost Oklahoma rural hospitals millions, study says

by | July 25th, 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

GOP health bills would cost Oklahoma rural hospitals millions, study says: he U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a health care plan Tuesday that could cost Oklahoma hospitals millions in lost revenue. The Senate is expected to take up the American Health Care Act, the House’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Oklahoma hospitals would lose more than $25 million after one year under the AHCA, according to projections from the Chartis Center for Rural Health. The center is part of a nonpartisan health care consulting group [NewsOK].

Oklahoma teacher panhandles to raise money for school supplies: An Oklahoma teacher frustrated by having to dig into her own pocket to pay for classroom supplies took to panhandling to get her point across. Teresa Danks, 50, of Claremore, Oklahoma, has spent the summer shopping at garage sales and thrift stores to stock her third-grade classroom with supplies for next year. A conversation with her husband last week about the money she was spending on her classroom sparked a bigger idea [ABC News]. Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to both K-12 and higher education since 2009.

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Flew Home to Oklahoma Most Weekends on Taxpayer’s Dime, Records Show: Records show the head of the Environmental Protection Agency spent weekends in his home state during his first three months in office, frequently flying to and from Oklahoma at taxpayer’s expense. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s expense reports from March, April and May were released following a Freedom of Information request filed by Environmental Integrity Project, a non-profit watchdog group [TIME].

continue reading In The Know: GOP health bills would cost Oklahoma rural hospitals millions, study says

In The Know: Oklahoma Speaker ousts budget chair day after public disagreement

by | July 19th, 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 Speaker ousts budget chair day after public disagreement: Oklahoma Speaker Charles McCall has replaced Appropriations and Budget Committee Chair Leslie Osborn a day after she and others publicly disagreed with him. McCall emailed some members of the House notifying them that Osborn, R-Mustang, would be replaced by Wellston Republican Kevin Wallace, who served as vice chair last session. On Monday, Osborn and two House appropriations subcommittee chairs disputed claims that the Department of Human Services was to blame for program and service cuts that were announced last week [NewsOK]. 

US Senator joins Oklahoma ethics complaint against Scott Pruitt: A United States Senator has joined an ethics complaint against former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, has joined a complaint filed March 21 to the Oklahoma Bar Association against Pruitt. The complaint states that Pruitt violated Oklahoma’s rules of professional conduct while stating he did not use a personal email address to conduct business while Attorney General of Oklahoma. A FOX 25 investigation revealed that Pruitt in fact did use a personal email address to conduct state business [Fox 25].

Lankford still believes Senate will act on health care: U.S. Sen. James Lankford said Tuesday morning that Republicans can and must pass health care reform legislation this session. Speaking on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” Lankford said: “I’m still optimistic that we can because we must. This is kind of a ‘no fail’ moment (when) we have to resolve all of these issues.” Lankford said Republican leadership should “get all the people that disagree in one room and let’s hammer this out in one moment.” [Tulsa World]

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In The Know: Oklahoma representatives throw support behind DHS, fire back at House leadership

by | July 18th, 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 representatives throw support behind DHS, fire back at House leadership: It seems like the fireworks involving Oklahoma lawmakers are not over, even though the legislative session has come to an end. Last week, the Department of Human Services announced that service reductions are necessary following a $30 million budget shortfall. Among the expected reductions are community-based and nutrition programs for seniors, assistance payments for foster homes and adoptions and in-home support for people with developmental disabilities [KFOR].

Groups weigh in on cigarette ‘fee’ legal challenge: Various groups are weighing in on a lawsuit that challenges a $1.50 “fee” on cigarettes passed last session. Cigarette companies and others have filed a legal challenge to the measure, Senate Bill 845, in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The court is expected to hear oral arguments on Aug. 8. The suit alleges the measure, which raises $257 million, violates three key provisions of law. Revenue raising measures must originate in the House, receive a super majority in both chambers and can’t be passed in the final days of the session [Tulsa World].

Women step up to run for local, state, federal offices: About this time two years ago, Carol Bush and Kendra Horn were sitting in a Starbucks in Tulsa’s Utica Square. Bush was considering running for office in Tulsa’s House District 70. She wasn’t sure if she should take the plunge, and a friend recommended she talk with Horn. Bush, a Republican, didn’t have the same kind of political experience or fervor that Horn was known for. The latter is the executive director of Women Lead OK, an organization that guides women toward and prepares them for public office [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma representatives throw support behind DHS, fire back at House leadership

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