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In The Know

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In The Know: Oklahoma teacher pay plan absent at Capitol deadline

by | April 28th, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide. Sign up to get text alerts here.

Today In The News

Oklahoma teacher pay plan absent at Capitol deadline: The Oklahoma Legislature could head home for the weekend without advancing a bill to increase teacher salaries. Despite an important Thursday deadline, the Oklahoma Senate did not schedule a hearing on House Bill 1114, which would incrementally raise the minimum teacher salary schedule by $6,000 over three years. The Senate’s teacher pay plan that would increase salaries by 4 percent languished in a House committee without a hearing. There’s still time, though. House and Senate leadership can introduce legislation at any time, meaning that lawmakers can adopt a teacher pay plan if an agreement is reached [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Struggles to Pay for Schools After Slashing Taxes: Four years ago, Oklahoma’s oil patch was booming, unemployment was falling and state lawmakers were debating what to do with $200 million in surplus revenue. Republicans who control state government successfully pushed to reduce the state’s top income tax rate, slash the oil and gas production tax rate from 7 percent to 2 percent and give more tax incentives to industry. But the boom ended and the money dried up. Now the once-unwavering confidence in the wisdom of lower taxes has given way to a growing panic over how to pay for basic services such as schools, health care and public safety [Associated Press]. Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017. These continue to be the deepest cuts in the nation, and Oklahoma’s lead is growing [OK Policy].

Expanding shortfall in state tax revenues creating uncertainty for schools, state superintendent says: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said a shortfall in one of the main state revenue sources for public schools will easily top $100 million before the end of June — and the impact of that loss is widely misunderstood. Hofmeister addressed the topic among others at Public Radio Tulsa’s “Give and Take” on education event, held Thursday evening at the Central Library. “Schools are feeling like they’re in free fall right now,” Hofmeister said. “Just for education, we have lost $82 million since February, and that will exceed $100 million by June.” [Tulsa World]

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In The Know: Officials: Oklahoma state prisons at 109% inmate capacity

by | April 27th, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

At OK Policy, we try to provide the information you need when it matters most for our state. We share key facts and advocacy alerts through e-mail, social media, and website updates throughout the week. Now we’re excited to offer another way for you to get informed when it’s important to take action right away. You can sign up to get text message alerts to your mobile phone. Learn more here.

Today In The News

Officials: Oklahoma state prisons at 109% inmate capacity: As lawmakers continue to battle at the Oklahoma Capitol about a budget, corrections officials say they are in dire straits. Earlier this week, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh told board members that the agency has a record number of people in the system. …In December, Allbaugh announced that the department had extended over its capacity, which could put the public in danger [KTUL]. Even with positive and important criminal justice reforms passing in the Legislature and in the ballot box this year, the Oklahoma prison population is on track to grow by 25 percent – about 7,200 inmates – in the next ten years [OK Policy].

Oklahoma AG Says State Moving Forward With Execution Plans: Oklahoma is moving forward with new protocols for executing death row inmates, despite a unanimous recommendation from a bipartisan study group that a moratorium on the death penalty remain in place, the state’s new attorney general said Wednesday. Republican Mike Hunter said while he respects the independent work of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission , he “respectfully disagrees” with the panel’s findings [Associated Press].

Caseload booming at Oklahoma Innocence Project: Cameron Farnsworth spends a lot of time opening envelopes and reading letters, a task not often associated with first-year law students. He’s the president of the Fighting for Innocence Through Exoneration group, known as FITE for short. The student organization was formed to help the Oklahoma Innocence Project with its routine office work, such as sorting through mail. Farnsworth’s task is important to the project’s work because that’s where the group gets some leads for its next cases [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Reasons for concern about OK County jail death count

by | April 24th, 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Reasons for concern about OK County jail death count: Why is it so important for Oklahoma County to come up with broad procedural changes that will result in fewer people winding up in the county jail? Look no further than a story this week about the number of inmate deaths since the beginning of 2016. In that time, 20 inmates — 15 men and five women, ranging in age from 73 to 21 — have died inside the jail. [The Oklahoman] The Justice Reform Task Force recommended changes this year that could help [OK Policy]

Oklahoma has lowest business tax burden, according to report: The tax burden felt by business is lower in Oklahoma than anywhere else in the nation, according to a broad study of tax collections. Analysts at the Anderson Economic Group have determined that, in 2015, just 6.3 percent of business profits went toward Oklahoma’s state and local taxes. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma is losing millions to corporate tax shelters [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Health Care Authority expects budget challenges: The authority, with a budget of about $5.7 billion, has not yet received word of its next appropriation from the state of Oklahoma, which faces a shortfall. The agency is planning for different scenarios and expects final word on funding in late May or early June, when Gov. Mary Fallin signs the budget bill. [NewsOK] OHCA budget cuts would hit small towns especially hard [OK Policy]

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In The Know: Cherokee Nation sues drug firms, retailers for flooding communities with opioids

by | April 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Cherokee Nation sues drug firms, retailers for flooding communities with opioids: Lawyers for the Cherokee Nation opened a new line of attack against the pharmaceutical industry Thursday, filing a lawsuit in tribal court that accuses the nation’s six top drug distributors and pharmacies of flooding communities in Oklahoma with hundreds of millions of highly addictive pain pills. The suit alleges that the companies violated sovereign Cherokee laws by failing to prevent the diversion of pain pills to the black market, profiting from the growing opioid epidemic and decimating communities across the nation’s 14 counties in the state [Washington Post].

State Legislators Debate Raising Taxes On Oil, Gas: As the state legislature continues to wrangle with a nearly $900-million budget shortfall, Democrats want to increase taxes on oil and natural gas production. But Republicans aren’t so sure. Democrats say increasing the gross production tax, the tax on the production of oil and natural gas, could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for the state. But they fear the industry, with its powerful lobby, has become a sacred cow in the capitol [News9].

House Minority Leader Scott Inman announces for governor’s race: Saying it’s time for a new generation of leadership, House Minority Leader Scott Inman officially announced on Thursday that he is running for governor. Gov. Mary Fallin is finishing her second term and can’t run again. “I am running for governor because I believe Mary Fallin and (Lt. Gov.) Todd Lamb have failed this state in their leadership over the last seven years,” Inman, D-Del City, said [Tulsa World].

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In The Know: ‘Perfect storm’ shutting down Oklahoma’s next tax cut

by | April 20th, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

‘Perfect storm’ shutting down Oklahoma’s next tax cut: Oklahomans expecting an income tax cut will probably have to keep waiting. Lawmakers have approved a bill repealing the next automatic cut, which could trigger as state revenues improve. The Oklahoma House overwhelmingly supported the measure on Wednesday. It has to return to the Senate for a procedural vote before heading to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, but the bill’s authors expect no problems [NewsOK]. The cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually [OK Policy].

Legislative Leader Calls For Cooperation: A major player in the state’s budget negotiations said a spending plan will be passed on time, but it will only happen if lawmakers put aside their partisan differences. “We are committed to put a bill on the floor that will solve the Oklahoma budget issue, that will both fully fund state agencies and will fund a teacher pay raise,” said Republican Rep. Jon Echols, the House Majority Floor Leader [NewsOn6].

For many at the Capitol, this year’s budget constitutes a crisis of faith: Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives are pestering the Republican majority this week by asking the same two questions on just about every bill brought to the floor. The two questions are: “Does this bill contain any recurring revenue to alleviate the state’s budget crisis?” and “Does this bill have any impact on the state budget?” The answers, in most cases, are “no” and “none.” [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World]

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In The Know: Save Our State Coalition announces Oklahoma budget wish list

by | April 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Save Our State Coalition announces Oklahoma budget wish list: A coalition of 20 organizations on Tuesday presented its Oklahoma budget wish list, which includes familiar ideas to raise revenue. The Save Our State Coalition proposed raising the tax rate on oil and gas production to 7 percent, up from the current 2 percent rate that lasts for the first three years. The group’s “Blueprint for a Better Budget” also would create a new income tax rate of 6 percent for income above $200,000 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma sheriff’s deputy dies after shooting: The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says a sheriff’s deputy shot while serving an eviction notice has died and that a suspect has been arrested. Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. John Vincent said Tuesday that Logan County Sheriff’s David Wade died after being taken to a hospital for his wounds. Authorities say 45-year-old Nathan Aaron LeForce shot Wade in Mulhall and then drove his patrol car about 25 miles to a convenience store near the town of Coyle. There he stole another vehicle, which has since been found near Guthrie [Associated Press].

Gov. Mary Fallin uses Tulsa event to renew call for new revenue sources: Oklahoma’s governor reiterated Tuesday evening the view her administration has taken since the beginning of the legislative session — the state needs new revenue sources to make up its budget shortfall. She told reporters following a Tulsa Regional Chamber event at Southern Hills Country Club that if she knew how willing the Oklahoma Legislature would be to expand the sales tax to include a vast array of services, “… I’d go bet at a racetrack.” [Tulsa World]

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In The Know: Lawmakers could tax OKC Thunder tickets

by | April 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Lawmakers could tax OKC Thunder tickets: Lawmakers could tap into Oklahoma City Thunder’s loyal fan base as a way to raise revenue. House Bill 2350 would reinstate sales tax for professional sports tickets, which could raise $1.8 million for Oklahoma’s budget. The legislation and four other bills that would raise revenue were quickly introduced Monday just hours before lawmakers were called to vote on them. After passing the committee stage, the bills are now just one vote away from reaching the governor’s desk [NewsOK].

Oklahoma to end tax credit that propelled wind production: A state tax credit that helped propel Oklahoma to third in the nation in its capacity to generate electricity from wind is coming to an end, but it will be years before state coffers see results of the change. Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed legislation that rolls back a 10-year tax credit for electricity generated by zero-emission facilities that was launched in 2003. Under the measure, zero-emission facilities must be operating by July 1 this year to qualify for the credit, instead of Jan. 1, 2021 [Associated Press]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].

House Bill 1913 is a legislative outrage: The Tulsa World has had some harsh words for Rep. Kevin Calvey in the past. But when it comes to House Bill 1913, Rep. Calvey couldn’t be more correct. Calvey wrote a prayerfully considered and well argued op/ed column for the Tulsa World last week that presents the conservative case against HB 1913, which seeks to create the legal framework for a new predatory loan product [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. The “small loan” product created under the bill would trap Oklahomans in debt [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Questions remain on how to balance budget 10 weeks into legislative session

by | April 17th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Questions remain on how to balance budget 10 weeks into legislative session: The 10th week of the legislative session came to an end at the Capitol, and lawmakers are still working to figure out how to balance the budget. “We’re well aware of the time frame,” Sen. Mike Schulz said. As lawmakers get over committee deadline week, it’s still not clear how they will fill an $878 million budget hole. [KOCO News 5] See OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide for more information about legislative deadlines and the budget process in Oklahoma.

Condolences on the death of state Rep. David Brumbaugh: State Rep. David Brumbaugh died suddenly Saturday. He was 56. The Broken Arrow Republican had served the people of District 76 since 2011. We knew him to be a man of faith and conviction, but also of gentleness and humility. He was a man whose fundamental fairness allowed him to rise above faction. [Editorial Board/Tulsa World]

State giving up hundreds of millions in petroleum tax giveaways: Oklahoma’s state budget is in crisis. We are unable to pay our teachers and state employees competitive salaries, or ensure adequate staffing at our veterans care centers. Thousands of Oklahomans with mental illness or disabilities are stuck on years-long waiting lists for care. These problems are not just about the state of our economy. Policy choices have made our financial situation much worse than it needs to be. [David Blatt/Tulsa World] Oklahoma is expected to lose $513 million in FY 2018 due to gross production tax breaks and rebates. [OK Policy]

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In The Know: Tapped-out state revenue sources cost public schools another $17.4 million in April

by | April 13th, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Tapped-out state revenue sources cost public schools another $17.4 million in April: Public schools learned Wednesday that their monthly payment from the state of Oklahoma would be shorted by an additional $17.4 million, bringing the total reductions since January to nearly $87 million. The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent out a memo Wednesday ahead of Thursday payments to local schools notifying them that state revenue collections continue to fall far short of expectations in both the 1017 Fund and the Common Education Technology Revolving Fund [Tulsa World]. We’ve become accustomed to mid-year cuts. It’s a sad but true fact. They still hurt. Every month is a new stomach punch [okeducationtruths].

Criminal justice reform measures survive House committee gauntlet: Three key pieces of Gov. Mary Fallin’s initiative to reduce the state’s high incarceration rates through criminal justice reform survived two committee hearings and some major alterations in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday. Senate Bills 649 and 689, by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Edmond, and SB 786, by Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, all made it through the House Criminal Judiciary and Public Safety committees, but laden with questions and reservations that must be resolved before any comes close to final passage [Tulsa World]. Recommendations from the Justice Reform Task Force could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Bill that would allow Ten Commandments back at Oklahoma Capitol passes Senate committee: A controversial bill that would pave the way for historical statues on public grounds has passed another hurdle. In 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the Ten Commandments Monument that was housed at the Oklahoma State Capitol violated the Constitution. That decision led to the monument being removed from the Capitol grounds [KFOR].

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In The Know: Revolving funds tapped again as state’s general revenue misses mark by 9 percent

by | April 12th, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Revolving funds tapped again as state’s general revenue misses mark by 9 percent: The state’s general revenue allocation fell 9 percent below expectations in March, causing the state to take $31 million from agency revolving funds, officials said Tuesday. In fact, officials admitted earlier this month that the state’s constitutional reserve — known as the Rainy Day Fund — has been emptied in order to pay bills and meet payroll. Doerflinger repeated earlier assurances that enough revenue will come in during the final three months of the fiscal year to replace the borrowed money, but said the situation still calls for new revenue sources [Tulsa World].

Drastic cuts could be coming for Medicaid patients in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is warning, if their state appropriation is cut for fiscal year 2018, many programs and benefits for Medicaid patients could be eliminated. Some of the programs and benefits being considered are pharmacy, behavioral health, durable medical equipment, the breast and cervical cancer treatment program, the waiver-funded Medically Fragile program and Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, private duty nursing services, adult organ transplants, dialysis, hospice services, physical and occupational therapy, and speech, hearing and language disorder services [KFOR].

Why should Oklahoma subsidize lenders who prey on the poor? The payday lending industry is advancing House Bill 1913 on the premises that high-interest loans are required in the free market. But I’d like to offer a conservative, market-oriented argument against HB 1913. HB 1913 seeks to compel government courts to help the private payday lending industry collect its debts. HB 1913 doesn’t merely require Oklahoma to allow excessive consumer debt. HB 1913 actually requires the state of Oklahoma to subsidize excessive consumer debt through its court system [Rep. Kevin Calvey / Tulsa World]. “Small loan” bill would mean big debts for Oklahoma families [OK Policy].

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