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In The Know: Tax increases have ground to a halt since SQ 640, Hofmeister says teachers don’t feel supported, and more

by | June 26th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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 Tax Increases Have Ground To A Halt Since Voters Passed This One Petition: Twenty-five years ago, a majority of Oklahoma’s voters thought it was a good idea. Today, not so much. Back in 1992, following the passage of a controversial education funding and reform measure, House Bill 1017, Oklahoma voters pushed back against the tax increase with a state question that pretty much stopped all future tax increases. Led by stockbroker Dan Brown, voters passed State Question 640, an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that added new restrictions on how revenue raising measures could become law. [KOSU] What supporters of SQ 640 didn’t foresee [OK Policy]

Joy Hofmeister on teachers: ‘They don’t feel supported’: While the Oklahoma State Board of Education was approving emergency certification for 224 teachers Thursday morning, the chairwoman of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board was launching an initiative petition to hike teacher pay in OKC. At the same time, students, parents, teachers and community members associated with North Highlands Elementary School in north Oklahoma City spent Thursday adjusting to news that the school had been recommended for emergency closure for being “in crisis,” according to OKCPS Superintendent Aurora Lora. [NonDoc]

As state education money dries up, local funding a safety net for CareerTech schools: Amid all the deep cuts in education in recent years, one Oklahoma public education system has fared better than others. Spurred by steadily growing property values, ad valorem taxes have proved to be a support net for many state CareerTech system school districts amid otherwise difficult economic times. [Tulsa World]

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The Weekly Wonk: Lack of progress on criminal justice reform this legislative session may cost Oklahoma

by | June 25th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Director Gene Perry’s Journal Record column laments the lack of progress on criminal justice reform this legislative session – smart-on-crime policies would be more effective than our current approach of incarceration. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam warns us that care for seniors and people with disabilities could be at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall – the agency needed $733 million this year to maintain these services, but received only $700 million.Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the difficult decisions facing state health care and social service agencies as they try to deal with budget shortfalls – in addition to the cuts at DHS discussed by Putnam, the State Department of Health is considering cuts to Child Abuse Prevention Programs.

OK Policy in the News

Putnam spoke with The Oklahoman about the potential effects of the DHS budget shortfall – adult daycare facilities will be especially at risk – and about the American Health Care Act currently being considered by the U.S. Senate.  Senator Lankford is undecided about the bill, and Putnam recommends they vote no. The bill could have dire consequences for Medicaid recipients in Oklahoma.

Executive Director David Blatt was interviewed by KOSU for a story about State Question 640. The recent years of revenue shortfalls and budget cuts have caused many people to rethink their support of SQ 640. OK Policy data was used by Adam Kupetsky in his editorial encouraging Oklahoma to get serious about adequately funding public education.

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Child abuse prevention and at-home care for seniors are latest services at risk due to shrinking state government (Capitol Update)

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.

Even with the legislature adjourned, there seems to be no dearth of activity emanating from Oklahoma City. The State Supreme Court has set oral arguments on the constitutional challenge to the cigarette “fee” for August 8, to be heard by the entire court. I haven’t seen the pleadings in the case, but oral arguments are usually among the last things to happen before an appellate court makes its decision. This must mean the Court decided to assume original jurisdiction and rule on the case quickly. Given the importance of the funding to the recently-passed budget and the havoc that would be created if the fee were implemented, then held unconstitutional, it’s a good thing to get the ruling before the fee is set to go into effect on August 25th.

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In The Know: State teacher shortage ‘getting worse,’ superintendent says, as 224 more emergency certificates issued

by | June 23rd, 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 teacher shortage ‘getting worse,’ superintendent says, as 224 more emergency certificates issued: Public schools’ reliance on under-qualified teachers shows no signs of letting up at the dawn of a new fiscal year. The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday morning approved 224 more emergency certificates for the month of July. Those are provisional licenses that allow individuals to be employed as classroom teachers before they complete the education or training requirements for regular or alternative certification [Tulsa World]. In 2015, we argued that the evidence of the teacher shortage crisis facing Oklahoma was “overwhelming and undeniable” [OK Policy].

Education advocates plan initiative, seeking voters’ approval for income tax for schools: Faith, education and elected leaders on Thursday announced an initiative petition drive, with the goal of winning voters’ approval for a local income tax for public schools in Oklahoma City. Education advocates hope Oklahoma City voters will favor a pair of temporary 0.25 percent income tax hikes to address a “crisis” in public schools, with the aim of paying teacher bonuses and reducing class sizes [OK Policy]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Lankford ‘a solid undecided’ on Republican health care bill: Oklahoma’s U.S. senators said they were still reviewing the GOP health care bill unveiled Thursday before deciding how they would vote on the measure. “Congress should pass a bill that provides a smooth transition from the Affordable Care Act to a better system that provides more affordable coverage options for everyone, with the goal in mind of doing no harm to current enrollees as the transition occurs,” said U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. Lankford did not say whether the GOP bill would achieve that goal [NewsOK]. Senate Republicans on Thursday revealed the Better Care Reconciliation Act, their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill asks low- and middle-income Americans to spend significantly more for less coverage [Vox]. The Senate health care plan released today makes even deeper cuts to Medicaid than the version that passed the House. Besides deep funding cuts, this would fundamentally change the nature of Medicaid by ending its responsiveness to the economy and slashing the safety need when it’s needed most, as we explained in February [OK Policy].

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In The Know: DUI Attorneys Sue Over Oklahoma’s New Drunken Driving Law

by | June 22nd, 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

DUI Attorneys Sue Over Oklahoma’s New Drunken Driving Law: A lawsuit filed Monday by four attorneys challenges the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s new drunken driving law. The lawsuit filed Monday against Gov. Mary Fallin, the Senate president pro tem, the House speaker, the state’s public safety commissioner and two prosecutors asks the state Supreme Court to assume jurisdiction of the case, bypassing lower courts. The bill signed into law by Fallin on June 8 abolishes the appeals process for people trying to keep their licenses after being arrested for DUI and takes effect Nov. 1 [Associated Press].

Lack of federal funds may delay Medicaid payments to OK hospitals: Hospitals in Oklahoma are preparing for the possibility that they will not receive Medicaid payment next June due to a lack of federal funds. The Oklahoma Healthcare Authority estimates it is $35-million short for the upcoming fiscal year, and, despite a slight increase in state budget appropriations, the decrease in federal funds means the agency man have to delay June 2018 payments until the next month [KSWO].

Students to bear brunt of higher education cuts: As Oklahoma continues cutting higher education funding, education leaders and policy analysts note that each iteration chips away at the state’s economy and its ability to compete with other states. The Legislature gave the higher education system about 4.5 percent less money in fiscal 2018, a $36 million drop. That triggered tuition hikes across the state. The state’s two large research universities raised tuition by 5 percent for in-state students. Regional universities made cuts in program spending and raised prices on room and board, and many of them are recommending tuition hikes [Journal Record].

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In The Know: OU Regents OK 5% tuition increase for next academic year

by | June 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.

Today In The News

OU Regents OK 5% tuition increase for next academic year: The University of Oklahoma will raise tuition and mandatory fees 5 percent for resident students next academic year. The increase for nonresidents will be 6.5 percent for undergraduates and 4.3 percent for graduate students. The tuition hikes are included in the university’s $2.06 billion budget for fiscal year 2018 approved by the OU Board of Regents during a meeting Tuesday in Oklahoma City. OU President David Boren said he regretted having to propose the board raise tuition, “but we simply have not found any alternative, even with reducing faculty and staff and making other cost cuts.” [NewsOK] Budget cuts to higher education are devastating to the state’s long-term prospects [OK Policy].

Oklahoma’s budget: The bipartisan deal that wasn’t: At the close of Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session, lawmakers fully expected at least one key piece of their budget to be challenged before the state Supreme Court. Sure enough, such a lawsuit was filed against the Smoking Cessation and Prevention Act of 2017, with tobacco companies challenging it as a “revenue” measure that constitutionally should have originated in the House of Representatives and passed with 75 percent support [NonDoc]. The budget that passed left services massively underfunded [OK Policy].

Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall: Most Americans (nearly 90 percent of people over at 65) want to stay in their homes as long as possible as they get older. For people with disabilities, staying in one’s home represents decades of hard-fought court battles against forced institutionalization. For both seniors and people with disabilities, in-home care is vastly less expensive than a residential nursing facility, and in-home care usually means better health outcomes. In-home care is a win for all, from individuals needing the care to their families, friends, and communities [OK Policy].

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Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall

by | June 20th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Most Americans (nearly 90 percent of people over at 65) want to stay in their homes as long as possible as they get older. For people with disabilities, staying in one’s home represents decades of hard-fought court battles against forced institutionalization. For both seniors and people with disabilities, in-home care is vastly less expensive than a residential nursing facility, and in-home care usually means better health outcomes. In-home care is a win for all, from individuals needing the care to their families, friends, and communities.

Still, many people cannot afford to be cared for inside their homes without help from public services. For Oklahoma’s low-income seniors and people with disabilities, access to those in-home supports may be financed by Medicaid through the state’s Department of Human Services. But with the state now facing another year of flat budgets amid rising costs, those services are at risk. Despite warnings from DHS director Ed Lake that DHS needed $733 million to maintain services, and that their budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable,” the Legislature gave DHS just shy of $700 million for SFY 2018. This appropriation of about 5 percent less than the agency needs to stay whole is going to mean more cuts — and in-home care services appear to be on the chopping block.

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In The Know: A School That Provides The One Constant In Homeless Children’s Lives

by | June 20th, 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

A School That Provides The One Constant In Homeless Children’s Lives: On the last day of school, the fifth grade students at Positive Tomorrows perform last-minute rehearsals for the inaugural “Classy Awards.” Teachers, parents and mentors file into the classroom through a doorway pasted with dangling gold stars, along a red paper carpet. While similar scenes play out in classrooms across the country, this particular group of fifth-graders has a more uncertain future than most. Positive Tomorrows is a small, privately funded school in the heart of Oklahoma City, designed to meet the needs of homeless children [NPR].

Some key Oklahoma lawmakers missed the most votes this session: Some key lawmakers missed the most votes during the legislative session that ended May 26. Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, led the House in missed votes. Osborn, who chairs the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, missed 25 percent of the floor and committee votes. …Lawmakers had $878 million less to spend in crafting a fiscal year 2018 budget. Her counterpart in the Senate also ranked high in the upper chamber for missed votes [Tulsa World].

After end of session, Capitol restoration accelerates: In five years, schmoozing and demonstrating in the Oklahoma Capitol’s rotunda will be more comfortable. “For the first time in the building’s history, we’re going to heat and cool the rotunda,” said Capitol Project Manager Trait Thompson. The final product might be a few years out, but crews will soon be starting the work on the fifth floor that will prevent heavy air-conditioning units from falling through the ceiling. They’ll insert steel support beams above five House of Representatives offices [Journal Record]. As Oklahoma nears the centennial of the state Capitol’s construction on June 30, there are several events marking the historic date [NewsOK]. 

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In The Know: Adult daycare centers face cuts, Oklahoma get another REAL ID extension, and more

by | June 19th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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

Adult daycare centers face cuts, closings in Oklahoma: A brightly colored parachute billows up and down as attendees at a Daily Living Center adult day facility in Oklahoma City bat a balloon back and forth over the parachute. Peppy ’60s-era music plays over speakers while others at the center read newspapers or chat. It’s noisy and cheerful. But this center and others like it are bracing for devastating cuts to their operating budgets in the wake of the Department of Human Service’s $27 million shortfall. Program cuts, which have not yet been announced, are expected to go into effect for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma gets another REAL ID extension: Oklahoma has received another extension to comply with the REAL ID Act, a move that guarantees residents’ ability to access government buildings until October. During the 2017 session, lawmakers quickly adopted a measure to comply with the federal identification card guidelines after avoiding the issue for a decade. If the state doesn’t provide residents with a card that meets a host of security features, Oklahomans could be blocked from entering federal buildings and even boarding commercial flights. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma county jail’s problems to hit home for taxpayers: The problems of the Oklahoma County jail routinely make headlines, but for the most part those problems haven’t impacted the average voter in the county. That changed this week when the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously ordered the county to pay a $3.3 million bill to its jailhouse medical provider. That money will likely be generated through higher property taxes paid by citizens over the next three years. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman]

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The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy reviews legislative session marked by missed opportunities, finds reasons for optimism

by | June 18th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy released our annual recap of the legislative session this week in a two-part blog post.  This session was marked by several missed opportunities – the structural budget deficit was not addressed, most of the Criminal Justice Reform Task Force bills were not passed, and a teacher pay raise was not enacted.  But there are reasons for hope as well.  The income tax cut trigger was repealed, the health care safety net was left largely intact, and Governor Fallin vetoed the expansion of predatory lending.

Policy Director Gene Perry’s Journal Record column reminded us that there really are reasons for hope in Oklahoma politics – we’ve solved big problems in the past and we can do it again with the right approach. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained that, though the criminal justice reforms enacted under State Question 780 will certainly save Oklahoma money next year, it’s difficult to predict exactly how much. In a guest post, Amy Smith (a graduate student in Disability Studies) encourages those who are living with disabilities, or caring for someone with a disability, to become advocates for their community by becoming involved with Partners in Policymaking. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update encourages teachers to become more vocal advocates by looking back at the 1989 special legislative session called to address what Governor Bellmon called an “emergency in education funding.”

OK Policy in the News

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam spoke with media outlets this week about how the proposed federal budget could impact Oklahoma. In an interview with Public Radio Tulsa, Putnam argued that the proposed 25% cut to the food stamp program (SNAP) would very likely result in fewer needy families receiving benefits and a reduction in benefits for those families still on the program. The Trump budget achieves the 25% cut in federal spending on SNAP by shifting part of the cost of the program to states – as Putnam explained to CNHI, that would mean Oklahoma would have to find an additional $221 million in the state budget to fully fund SNAP.

Perry spoke with the Tulsa World about the potential effects of Oklahoma following in Kansas’s footsteps and rolling back our income tax cuts on the top bracket – if Oklahoma were to increase the income tax on the top bracket to 5.7% we could see $400 million in new revenues. OK Policy data was used by the Red Dirt Report for a story about summer food programs for children who receive free/reduced-price lunches during the school year – Oklahoma is trying to raise awareness about summer food programs to increase participation in the program.

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