Legislative session at the starting gate (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | January 30th, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (0)
Starting_Gate

Photo by Nathan Rupert.

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Last Thursday the final deadline before the beginning of session passed.  It was the deadline for introduction of bills, and 2091 bills have been introduced in the House and Senate.  Once session begins on February 2nd, the legislative process devolves into a series of sprints from one deadline to the next that eventually ends with the final constitutional deadline for sine die adjournment, the last Friday in May. The next deadline when session begins will be February 27th, the date by which all bills must be reported out of committee in their house of origin to continue in the process.

continue reading Legislative session at the starting gate (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: State agencies face budget cuts due to shortfall

by | January 30th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

Governor Fallin has announced that state agencies will likely face budget cuts in the upcoming year due to a $300 million revenue shortfall. KGOU reports that said shortfall was a central topic of discussion of OK Policy’s 2015 State Budget Summit yesterday: despite growth and recovery from the recession, there’s still about $700 million less in the state budget this year than there was in 2009. OK Policy has released some tools to help you decipher the Oklahoma legislature, including our updated legislative primer. Tulsa-based drilling rig maker and operator Helmerich & Payne, has announced that it plans to lay off 2,000 employees due to falling oil prices.

The State Board of Education unanimously approved new State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s revised education budget at her first board meeting. The budget calls for gradual raise for teachers while increasing the state’s minimum number of instructional days to the national average. Hofmeister’s request for a seat on the committee overseeing new reading and math standards was also approved. Executive Director David Blatt wrote that election reforms proposed by Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City) bring hope. We’ve made suggestions for repairing our broken democracy before.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services heard the last initial budget proposals on Thursday. All stage agencies have requested increases. Mickey Hepner, Dean of the University of Central Oklahoma’s College of Business, said that anti-gay legislation could damage the state economy because businesses have diverse workforces and pay attention to social policies when they consider moving to new states. Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) has withdrawn legislation that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay customers. Legislators have filed a number of bills that would allow guns to be carried on the state’s college campuses.

A new report shows that while Oklahoma’s economy is improving, most families – even those in the middle class – are living on the edge of financial disaster. Whether Oklahomans with mental illness get treatment when they are arrested depends entirely on which county they live in. While the US Supreme Court issued a stay on the executions of three Oklahoma inmates while they consider the constitutionality of a drug used in lethal injections, Attorney General Scott Pruitt says that the executions could be done using other drugs, and that he’ll push to resume executions. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board argued that Oklahoma must pursue smart-on-crime criminal justice reforms. We’ve written that the stars may be aligning on criminal justice reform before.

The State Department of Health reported 11 new flu deaths in Oklahoma his week, bringing the season’s total to 58. A reports from the American Wind Energy Association ranked Oklahoma fourth nationwide for wind capacity. The Number of the Day is the number of incarcerated Oklahomans who participated in GED programs in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg View breaks down myths about who really pays your taxes.

continue reading In The Know: State agencies face budget cuts due to shortfall

New opportunity scorecard shows Oklahomans slipping financially

by | January 29th, 2015 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

pasted-image-small-17Conventional wisdom may seem to suggest that the economy has bounced back. Low unemployment and a stable housing market paint the picture of a prosperous Oklahoma. But if you look at the pocketbooks of the average American, the outlook is far from rosy. As CFED’s newly released 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard reveals, the economy may be improving, but how individuals and families are faring in the economy is not.

The Scorecard data confirm what most families have known for a while—that even those squarely in the middle class are living on the brink of financial disaster. In fact, 49.1 percent of Oklahoma households are ‘liquid asset poor’, meaning they lack the resources necessary to subsist at the poverty level in the event that a job loss or medical emergency leaves them without their primary source of income. The high liquid asset poverty rate is perhaps unsurprising given the other patterns we see emerge from the Scorecard data. 

continue reading New opportunity scorecard shows Oklahomans slipping financially

Use these tools to decipher the Oklahoma Legislature

Photo by David Goehring.

Photo by David Goehring.

Next week, the Oklahoma Legislature comes back into session. Legislators will debate bills and make decisions that affect all Oklahomans, but the process can be hard to follow for the average citizen. That’s why we’ve created a number of tools to help you decipher what happens at the state Capitol.

continue reading Use these tools to decipher the Oklahoma Legislature

In The Know: Legislative leaders propose new scrutiny of business tax breaks

by and | January 28th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn 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.

In The Know will be off tomorrow as we host the 2015 State Budget Summit. It will return Friday.

Oklahoma House and Senate leaders have introduced legislation that would require thorough reviews every four years of several dozen business incentives that are costing the state as much as $300 million annually. Governor Fallin said she would call for Oklahoma to tap millions of dollars in “revolving funds” to close this year’s budget hole. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has twice found that lawmakers acted illegally last year when tapping revolving funds in ways that took money from Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships and health care for the uninsured. On the OK Policy Blog, we examined the damage being done by Oklahoma’s chronic funding shortfalls.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission says the state’s unemployment rate declined in December, from 4.4 percent in November to 4.2 percent. More than 100,000 Oklahomans are already insured for 2015 through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, 30,000 more than last year. A bill to grant Oklahoma patients with terminal illnesses increased access to experimental drugs has been introduced by state Rep. Richard Morrissette. A bill proposed by a Tulsa Senator Brian Crain would bring brewers of high-point beer in Oklahoma on par with wineries by giving them the ability to sell their products directly to consumers on site, but there is some question if the bill is constitutional.

Gov. Mary Fallin has asked the War Veterans Commission to replace the executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. The Oklahoma PTA is encouraging parents to opt their children out of the fifth- and eighth-grade writing tests this year because one of the test’s two prompts is a field test. The Journal Record editorial board criticized bills by Rep. Sally Kern targeting the gay community. Rep. Kern defended the measures as an effort to support traditional values. Watermelon farmers are concerned about Senator Nathan Dahm’s bill to repeal the watermelon’s status as the state’s official vegetable.

The Number of the Day is how much Oklahoma paid to private companies through the Quality Jobs Program from 1993 to 2014. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times explains how a couple of little-noticed legislative tweaks appear to have created the conditions for far-reaching changes that are helping to lift the burden of student debt.

continue reading In The Know: Legislative leaders propose new scrutiny of business tax breaks

Budget road certain to be rocky

by | January 27th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Taxes | Comments (2)
Photo by _chrisUK.

Photo by _chrisUK.

As we look ahead to next year’s state budget, one thing is for certain: it’s going to be a very rocky ride.

Last month, the Board of Equalization certified $298 million less revenue for next year’s budget than was appropriated this year. As we discussed in this blog post, the initial certification assumes that tax collections will grow next year, despite low energy prices; the shortfall is due to the use of over $400 million in one-time funds from cash reserves and agency revolving funds to balance this year’s budget, as well as a quarter-point cut in the income tax that last year’s Legislature scheduled to take effect at the start of 2016.

continue reading Budget road certain to be rocky

In The Know: Supreme court declines to review Oklahoma case against Affordable Care Act

by and | January 27th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider Oklahoma’s case against Affordable Care Act subsidies as part of the justices’ review of the issue. Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office filed for stays of all of the state’s scheduled executions, pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal drug cocktail. New State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister unveiled a new five-year plan to give Oklahoma teachers a $5,000 pay raise over the next five years, along with an additional five days of instruction to the school year.

In the Tulsa World, op-eds by a mental health professional and the head of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority make the case for why mental health and Medicaid should be higher state budget priorities. NewsOK examined nine bills that seek to boost voter turnout and encourage more competitive elections in Oklahoma. OK Policy discussed several of these ideas in our report on repairing Oklahoma’s broken democracy. On the OK Policy Blog, David Blatt warns about a proposal that could lead to far-reaching and radical changes to America’s time-tested constitution that is being pushed in states across the country this year.

The power of local communities to regulate oil and natural gas activities inside their city limits could be curtailed under several bills introduced at the Oklahoma Legislature. A gay-rights group vowed to fight back against a number of Oklahoma bills they feel target their members. While some law enforcement agencies in the state are rolling out or testing body cameras worn by their officers, numerous problems have the Tulsa Police Department years behind on an order to put a camera in every patrol vehicle.

Gov. Mary Fallin expressed confidence Monday in Preston Doerflinger and plans to keep him as her Cabinet secretary of finance despite his arrest Thursday night. State hospitals are reporting an increasing number of newborns who tested positive for drugs or alcohol at birth, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. As many as 2,000 Oklahomans are expected to receive free dental care at the Oklahoma Mission of Mercy event in downtown Tulsa next month.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says more than 1.8 million Oklahomans are being affected by an ongoing, deepening drought. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded more than $7.8 million in grants to 72 homeless housing and service programs in Oklahoma. The Number of the Day is the average number of autopsies per staff member per year performed by the Oklahoma Medical Examiners office in 2014, nearly double the recommended average of 250. In today’s Policy Note, Northwest Public Radio examines how local jails have ended human contact between inmates and visitors and allowed a private company to charge family members to do video calls with their loved ones.

continue reading In The Know: Supreme court declines to review Oklahoma case against Affordable Care Act

The con-con con

by | January 26th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

editing-constitutionA proposal that could lead to far-reaching and radical changes to America’s time-tested constitution is being pushed in states across the country this year. Oklahoma would be well-advised to resist jumping aboard this particular train.

In Oklahoma and other states, bills have been introduced calling for a constitutional convention, or “con-con,” to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to approve a federal Balanced Budget Amendment, among other possible constitutional changes. Under Article V of the Constitution, a convention to amend the Constitution must be convened if two-thirds of the states call for one. In U.S. history, no convention has ever been convened since the one that produced the Constitution in 1787. Instead, all 27 constitutional amendments have been approved first by a two-thirds vote in Congress and then ratified by three-quarters of the states. 

continue reading The con-con con

In The Know: State Supreme Court to decide if oil companies can be held liable for earthquake injury

by and | January 26th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

In a case expected to set a precedent for future earthqfuake claims in Oklahoma, the state Supreme Court will consider whether two oil companies can be held liable in state court for injuries a Prague woman suffered during the 2011 earthquake.  While state authorities are quietly scrutinizing wells in quake-prone parts of the state, most of the companies that operate the wells are staying silent. The Oklahoman editorial board criticized OK Policy for pointing out that tax breaks to the oil and gas industry are costing Oklahoma more than $500 million this year alone.

 Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said it is alarming that Texas pays teachers so much more than Oklahoma. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed House Speaker Jeff Hickman’s comments that Oklahoma is “one lawsuit away” from a federal takeover of our prison system. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White said she is hopeful the agency will be one of the few not receiving budget cuts this legislative session. Officials with the highway patrol say they can already see the rise in interest from trooper recruits because of a pay raise that went into effect at the start of 2015. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman has given $217,655 in pay raises to Senate employees. 

More than 100,000 Oklahomans have selected or were automatically re-enrolled in private health insurance plans they bought through healthcare.gov. The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will review the drug protocol used in Oklahoma executions to determine whether the procedure violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. A recent federal policy reversal, long-sought by states and health care advocates, could enable schools to take a lead role in managing chronic childhood diseases and result in the hiring of many more school nurses. The Oklahoma Department of Health says influenza has taken the lives of 16 people during the past week, bringing the total numbers Oklahomans who have died due to flu-related illness since the flu season began to 47. The Tulsa school board has called off its Monday vote on a new superintendent, citing a need for more time to deliberate between finalists Millard House II and Deborah Gist.

The Tulsa World discussed the comprehensive set of election reform ideas being put forward by Senator David Holt. OK Policy discussed many of the ideas in our report on repairing Oklahoma’s broken democracy. Tulsa World editor Julie Delcour looked at how the state budget breaks down. More information and charts about the state budget can be found in OK Policy’s 2015 budget highlights report. The Washington Post profiled how families in Oklahoma are reacting to the sudden arrival of same-sex marriage.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans vaccinated for for the seasonal flu between fall 2013 and spring 2014. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog discusses recent research showing that when public schools get more money, students do better.

continue reading In The Know: State Supreme Court to decide if oil companies can be held liable for earthquake injury

The Weekly Wonk January 25, 2015

by | January 25th, 2015 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week, we revealed that the one-year price tag for Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks will top $500 million this year. We shared three barriers that prevent Oklahomans with felony convictions from putting their lives back together. A former OK Policy intern and current Ph.D. student at Stanford explained why Governor Fallin should embrace President Obama’s community college plan.

A post by OK Policy Research Fellow Michael Thomas made the case for strengthening higher education in Oklahoma. In his weekly Capitol Update, Steve Lewis discussed state House Speaker Jeff Hickman’s warning that Oklahoma’s prisons are “one lawsuit away” from federal takeover.

Oklahoma Assets Network, coordinated by OK Policy staffer Kate Richey, is pleased to announce “Who Pays More?: A Town Hall on Predatory Lending in Oklahoma” on Wednesday, March 4, in Oklahoma City. The event will be open to the public, but space is limited; click here to reserve your ticket.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt discusses a new report showing that low-income households pay a greater share of their income in taxes than wealthy households. We shared Oklahoma-specific data here. The Norman Transcript covered the report here. Blatt appeared on KOSU’s This Week in Oklahoma Politics, where he talked about expanding health coverage to low-income Oklahomans, raising teacher pay, and more.

OK Policy Research Fellow Ryan Gentzler and OK Policy Intern Shaheen Sheikh were featured in a Tulsa People piece on OU-Tulsa’s Masters of Public Administration program. OK Policy intern Nikki Hager talked to staffer Kate Richey about deferred action in TU’s The Collegian.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk January 25, 2015

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 243