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Advocacy Alerts

Wednesday, May 24

The legislative session began with promises to fix Oklahoma’s structural deficit, fund a teacher pay raise, and stop the reckless use of one-time funds that make our budget problems worse in future years. Unfortunately, lawmakers are now considering a budget deal that breaks all of those promises. Instead of adopting strong, sensible revenue options, they cobbled together a budget using legally questionable gimmicks and even more cuts that will be passed down to regular Oklahomans.

The results of this budget will be a continuing exodus of teachers from Oklahoma schools, larger class sizes and fewer educational opportunities, failing protections for public health and safety, and collapsing support for children, seniors, and Oklahomans with disabilities — in other words, more of the same, but worse.

Oklahomans want and deserve better, even at the cost of coming back into special session to do this right. Lawmakers should vote down this budget and come up with a responsible plan. Join the call to lawmakers to come back with a plan that puts regular people over special interests. [See the full budget statement from OK Policy and the Save Our State coalition here.]

What You Can Do

  • Look up contact information for your state senator and representative by typing your address into the tool below. Call their office to tell them to vote down SB 860 and come back with a budget deal that funds our communities. If phone lines are busy or voicemails are full, you can send them that message with an email.
  • You can also join us at the State Capitol tomorrow. Oklahomans are dressing in black and bringing flashlights to show legislators that we are willing to shine a light onto the budget process and find the path to a better budget!

Locate your state Senator and Representative

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ex: 2300 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Wednesday, May 17

Download this advocacy alert as a 1-page fact sheet.

Oklahoma is set to enact a budget that will harm our communities and economy and put the lives of vulnerable children, veterans, and seniors at stake – unless we are willing to take sensible steps to end unaffordable and unnecessary tax breaks. Oklahoma’s historical tax rate on oil and gas drilling is 7 percent, but a special tax break gives the industry a 2 percent rate for the first 3 years of any new well. Restoring the gross production tax to 7 percent on all wells can bring in over $300 million in additional revenue for next year’s budget and even more in future years, helping us avert catastrophic cuts and putting the budget on a more sustainable path.

What You Can Do

From talking with legislators, we know that a strong majority are in favor of raising the gross production tax – but legislative leaders have refused to allow a vote on restoring the GPT. Please call Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz today and insist that they allow a vote on restoring the gross production tax.

Here’s some sample language for you to #CallMcCall

(405) 557-7412 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that Speaker McCall allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling. “

Here’s some sample  for you to #Shout2Schulz!

(405) 521-5612 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that President Pro Tem Schulz allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling. “

Once you’ve called the Speaker and Pro Tem, call your own Senator at 405-524-0126 and your House member at 405-521-2711. You can also look up contact info for your legislators here.

You can also sign up to be part of the Save Our State coalition supporting a sensible, comprehensive plan – the Blueprint for a Better Budget –  that puts our budget on a sustainable path, averts further budget cuts, and invests in key priorities in education, health care, and public safety.

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Monday, May 8

HB 1270 would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to subject SoonerCare members to enhanced verification procedures to determine eligibility for benefits.

Although HB 1270 has had many harmful provisions removed, it would still require intensive quarterly eligibility verification for most Medicaid members and applications, and require new applicants to complete a a quiz of personal and financial questions to prove their identity.  It imposes pointless obligations on both Oklahoma families and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers the state’s Medicaid program. The legislation doesn’t serve any worthwhile purpose and perpetuates the mistaken notion that public benefit programs like Medicaid are riddled with fraud and abuse.

Where Things Stand (as of 05/14/17)

HB 1270 has passed the House and the Senate, and must return to the House to approve or disapprove minor changes made in Senate. If the House adopts Senate amendments, the bill will go to the Governor; if it moves to reject Senate amendments, it will be sent to a conference committee. HB 1270 is on the House agenda for Monday, May 15th.

What You Can Do

 You can look up your Representative here and call the House switchboard at 405-521-2711.
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Friday, April 14

HB 1913 (Rep. Kannady/Sen. Leewright), the Oklahoma Small Loan Act, would create a new predatory loan product in Oklahoma, known as a Small Loan. These loans would allow interest to be charged at an annual rate of over 200 percent, which is far costlier than what can be charged under current law. These loans would be available in addition to payday loans and other short-term loan products.

Protecting consumers from dangerous financial products is a long-standing role of state government. HB 1913 would overturn existing rate caps on loans of this size and put the financial health of economically vulnerable Oklahomans at greater risk. There is simply no need in Oklahoma for another high-cost predatory loan product designed to trap people in unaffordable debt.

Where Things Stand (as of 5/5/17)

UPDATE: Gov. Fallin vetoed HB 1913 on May 5th. Thank you to everyone who contacted the Governor on this issue! Click here for OK Policy’s statement.

HB 1913 passed the House of Representatives on a 59-31 vote on March 13th and passed the Senate on a 28-16 vote on April 27th. You can see how your Representative voted here and how your Senator voted here. Click here to see OK Policy’s statement expressing disappointment at the bill’s passage.

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Thursday, April 13

A strong and prosperous Oklahoma depends on communities and families that thrive with the help of quality schools with good teachers, well-maintained infrastructure, safe streets and  neighborhoods, and public works like state parks, libraries, and arts initiatives.

We can’t wait another year to fix this. Our schools have already seen funding cuts larger than any other state, and they are struggling to keep class sizes down, to keep well-qualified teachers, or even to keep their doors open five days a week. Nursing homes, rural hospitals, and county health departments are looking at shutting down or cutting back on crucial health services. We could see shuttered state parks, furloughed state troopers, and other deep cuts to basic services for Oklahomans. Without budget reforms this year, revenues may plunge to an all-time low compared to what our communities need to thrive and what Oklahomans expect.

That is why the Save our State Coalition has united behind the Blueprint for a Better Budget, a sensible plan that will:

  • Place Oklahoma on a sustainable path by getting away from one-time revenues and budget gimmicks;
  • Prevent drastic cuts to state services;
  • Invest in core government services like education, public safety, healthcare, and transportation.

There are solutions. But these solution will require lawmakers to take sensible action to raise new revenues. And for that to happen, legislators must hear from you.

Now’s the time to contact your Senator and Representative — by phone, email, or in person, if possible — and urge them to support the Blueprint for a Better Budget as  way to avert further budget cuts, invest in key priorities, and bring the budget into balance. Click here for the easy 30-second guide for saving our state! (more…)

Monday, April 10

Legislators have the opportunity this year to finally turn the tide on Oklahoma’s sky-high incarceration rates. Governor Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force put forward 27 policy recommendations that would reverse the growth in the state’s prison population. Putting those recommendations into law would allow the state to avoid building three new prisons, saving nearly $2 billion over the next decade.

Where things stand (as of 4/18/2017)

Most of the bills that arose from the work of the Task Force have reached the floor of the opposite chamber, needing only one more vote before heading to the Governor. However, several of the most significant bills have been severely weakened by amendments in the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee:

  • SB 689: Amendments removed methods for reducing financial burdens on defendants, including income-based payment plans, pilot programs, and education incentives
  • SB 786: Amendment removed tiered sentencing structure for burglary crimes
  • SB 649: Amendment removed provision disallowing nonviolent convictions from being used to lengthen sentences under habitual offender laws
  • SB 650: Amendment requires expungement application to be approved by three separate agencies before submission

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Sunday, April 2

SB 478 would allow insurers to sell health care plans in Oklahoma that don’t include the state’s required health benefits, such as mammograms, diabetes treatment, post-partum maternity care, cancer treatments or autism coverage for children. Although this coverage would likely be less expensive to purchase, it would also be useless for individuals who become sick or develop chronic medical conditions. The skimpy coverage wouldn’t be considered health insurance under federal law, so enrollees would still have to pay a penalty for failing to carry health coverage. 

SB 478 also violates the central premise of health insurance risk pools, where risk is spread across a broad, diverse population. Allowing younger, healthier enrollees to purchase skimpier coverage would drive costs up for families in need of more comprehensive coverage – which could in turn force them out of the market. 

Where things stand (as of 04/10/17)

SB 478 will be heard by the House Insurace committee when it meets on Tuesday, April 11, at 3pm. 

What you can do

Please contact members of the House Insurance Committee and ask them to vote no on SB 478.

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Friday, March 31

As a result of continued declines in state revenues, another cut to Oklahoma’s top income tax rate will not be triggered in 2018. However, unless legislators take action this year, the top income tax cut rate could kick in automatically as early as 2019, well before Oklahoma’s budget will have had a chance to stabilize.  After the steep funding cuts of recent years, legislators should halt this tax cut and make sure we have the revenues to do what Oklahomans expect from state services before going ahead with any further tax cuts. Two bills that would fully repeal the next income tax cut  (SB 170) or delay it for several years (SB 130) have been making their way through the legislative process.

Where Things Stand (as of 5/8)

SB 170 passed the full Senate 39-6 on March 13th (click here to find out how your Senator voted). SB 130 was initially defeated on a vote by the full Senate but then passed 34-8 on a motion to reconsider   Click here to find out how your Senator voted.

Both bills passed the Finance Subcommittee of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee on March 29th. SB 170 then passed the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee on April 3rd and passed the full House on April 19th on a vote of 75-12. Click here to found out how your Representative voted. SB 130 will not emerge from committee.

The House amended SB 170 by restoring title, which had been stricken in the Senate. The Senate then passed the amended bill, 32-9, on May 8th, sending the bill to the Governor. See how your Senator voted by clicking here.

OK Policy’s statement praising passage of SB 170:

The repeal of this tax cut is a milestone. After years of promises that income tax cuts would pay for themselves, a majority of lawmakers have finally begun to recognize the cost. We cannot afford more tax cuts that have drained resources from our communities without paying off in economic growth.

While repealing the next tax cut won’t help to resolve Oklahoma’s current budget shortfall, we hope that it begins the restoration of responsible budget and tax policies in the years ahead. This is also a hopeful sign that lawmakers now realize tax policy decisions should be based on current conditions, not automatic triggers created by prior Legislatures.

What You Can Do

Gov. Fallin is expected to sign SB 170. You can call the Governor at 405-521-2342 to encourage her to sign the bill.

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Wednesday, March 22

HB 2209 (Rep. Marcus McEntire – R. Duncan/Sen. AJ Griffin – R. Guthrie) is good legislation that would help promote better tax policy decisions in Oklahoma by ensuring that legislators and the public know more about who pays taxes and who would stand to gain or lose from proposed tax policy changes.

HB 2209 directs the Oklahoma Tax Commission to prepare a tax incidence report that shows who will pay more or less taxes on any bill that increases, decreases, or redistributes income by more than $20 million, upon the request of the Chair of the committee to which the bill is assigned.

Where Things Stand (as of 5/3)

HB 2209 unanimously passed the full House on March 14th and unanimously passed the Senate on April 26th. It was signed into law by Governor Fallin on May 3rd. Thanks Thanks to all of you who contacted your legislators in support of this bill!

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Wednesday, March 1

HB 2342 would supply an urgently-needed supplemental appropriation to the state Department of Human Services (DHS) to fund in-home care for elderly Oklahomans and Oklahomans with significant disabilities. Without this appropriation, DHS will be unable to pay these providers after April of this year, jeopardizing care for more than 25,000 vulnerable Oklahomans.

HB 2342 provides a $34.0 million supplemental to be paid for with money from the Rainy Day Fund ($4.2 million) and Unclaimed Property Fund ($29.8 million). Of the money from the Unclaimed Property Fund, $18.0 million is directed for Developmental Disabilities Services waivers and $11.8 million is directed for the purpose of funding Aging Services waivers.

Where things stand (as of 04/7/17)

HB 2342 was introduced on March 21st.  It passed the House of Representatives unanimously March 29th and the Senate 33-13 April 3rd. The bill was signed by Governor Fallin on April 6th.

What you can do

Thank you to everyone who spoke out to their legislators on this issue! (more…)

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