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In The Know: Senate plan for teacher pay raises hinges on fuel tax hike

by | March 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog | 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 the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Senate plan for teacher pay raises hinges on fuel tax hike: The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would increase teacher pay. But the funding mechanism, an increase in the motor fuel taxes, must start in the House, said Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, the author of the bill. Senate Bill 618 passed by a vote of 40-2 and heads to the House for consideration [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmakers rush to hear bills, including teacher pay: Oklahoma lawmakers are rushing to decide whether or not bills will move forward into the House and Senate this week. Today, the Senate voted on a number of issues, including 22 bills pertaining to education. One bill, which would give teachers a raise, is headed to the House for consideration. Oklahoma is losing teachers, creating a shortage, but lawmakers and teachers both agree that a salary increase could help fix the problem [KTUL].

Oklahoma House passes bill that could restore Ten Commandments monument to Capitol grounds: State representatives voted late Tuesday to allow monuments to “historically significant documents” — primarily the Ten Commandments — to be displayed on public property. House Bill 2177, by Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, is offered as an antidote to a state Supreme Court decision that removed such a memorial from the Capitol grounds and a vote of the people last fall that essentially reinforced that ruling [Tulsa World].

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Oklahoma DHS is about to run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities

by | March 22nd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (8)

There are honest arguments and discussions to be had about the place and role of government. However, we generally agree that the government has an important role in protecting the lives and health of Americans who aren’t able to protect themselves, including those who are elderly or have significant disabilities.

However, in Oklahoma, years of budget cuts have now compromised our Department of Human Services’ ability to fulfill this core function of government. As a result, thousands of Oklahomans who are elderly or have disabilities could lose access to vital services in just a few months. Without a supplemental appropriation, DHS doesn’t have the funds to pay providers for the care of more than 25,000 Oklahomans after April.

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In The Know: Oklahoma House votes to ban abortion of abnormal fetuses

by | March 22nd, 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 the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma House votes to ban abortion of abnormal fetuses: The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted Tuesday to ban abortions of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome or “viable genetic disorder” or the possibility of one. The measure, House Bill 1549, by Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, would bring penalties against persons performing such abortions, but not the woman involved. It passed 67-16. It is expected to be challenged by abortion rights groups [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Senate approves expanding OSBI role in police shooting inquiries: Faced with growing controversy over officer-involved shootings in Oklahoma and elsewhere, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that would give the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation increased authority to investigate such incidents. Under Senate Bill 247, the OSBI would be given the responsibility of investigating all law enforcement- or peace officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, excluding jails or prisons, for all jurisdictions with a population less than 150,000 [NewsOK].

Opponents Of New OK Bill Say It Could Impact Healthcare Coverage: A new bill that just passed the house and senate insurance committees has some Oklahomans worried about their health care coverage. Families flooded the State Capitol this time last year to advocate for Autism insurance reform in Oklahoma. They won their fight, but now they say they’ve been handed another. Senate Bill 478 is a bill that would allow insurance companies from out of state to sell policies to people in Oklahoma, including businesses [NewsOn6].

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Meet the new additions to our staff and board

by | March 21st, 2017 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (1)

Courtney Cullison

Oklahoma Policy Institute is pleased to announce the addition of Courtney Cullison to its staff and Susan Chambers, MD to its Board of Directors.

Courtney Cullison has been hired as a policy analyst focusing on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma.

A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve. Courtney can be contacted at clcullison@okpolicy.org.

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In The Know: Senate reconsiders, passes maternity leave bill

by | March 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 the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Senate reconsiders, passes maternity leave bill: Legislators were almost evenly split when they voted on a maternity leave extension bill last week, which failed then, and the measure has outsiders split as well. On Monday, the senators reconsidered the bill and passed it with a 31-8 vote after striking the title, giving the Senate an opportunity to vote on it again once it has gone through the House. State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, pitched Senate Bill 549, which would increase unpaid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 20 weeks. Federal law requires any organization with more than 50 employees to give women 12 weeks [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Legislature takes up criminal justice reform measures: A bill that would allow some nonviolent state inmates to be eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of their sentences sailed through the state House of Representatives Monday and is now headed for the Senate. House Bill 2286 passed the House 81-3 without debate. If the Senate approves the bill, it still must come back to the House for final consideration because the title was removed. The bill, authored by state Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, is part of a package of approximately a dozen criminal justice reform measures the Oklahoma Legislature is expected to take up this week [NewsOK]. The Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Northeast OKC braces for another round of school closures: Educators and residents in northeast Oklahoma City are bracing for another round of school closures, a process that has plagued the predominantly black neighborhoods for generations and left abandoned schools scattered throughout the community. Superintendent Aurora Lora told The Oklahoman this month the district is considering the closing of several schools in an effort to address state budget cuts. An announcement could come as soon as Monday, multiple sources with the district said [NewsOK]. 

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House Republican health bill would devastate Oklahomans’ access to care

by | March 20th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (2)

This post has been updated to reflect amendments released on March 20.

Congressional Republicans finally have the opportunity to make good on their longstanding promise to repeal and replace the health law. In campaign rhetoric, they promised they could bring better, more affordable health care to Americans. Unfortunately, the replacement they’ve developed, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), doesn’t live up to that rhetoric. In reality, it would decimate historic health coverage gains in Oklahoma, leave the state on the hook for millions in Medicaid funding, and effectively double the uninsured rate by 2026. Here’s how.

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In The Know: Federal health law aside, state looks to roll back coverage

by | March 20th, 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 the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Federal Health Law Aside, State Looks to Roll Back Coverage: Almost all eyes are on Washington as President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans try to reverse, and then replace, the Affordable Care Act. Amid the national uncertainty, state policymakers also are exploring moves that could affect health care for hundreds of thousands of people across Oklahoma, by loosening what types of coverage insurers are required to provide. [Oklahoma Watch]

Budget scenario means closed offices, fewer services says OPEA: Implementation of another budget cut in Fiscal Year 2018 would force state agencies like the Department of Human Services, Department of Mental Health and the State Department of Health to close local offices across Oklahoma and would cripple core services, according to the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA). “The only way for some agencies to make significant reductions is to close offices and turn out the lights,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. [Edmond Sun]

Oklahoma should increase its cigarette tax, for kids and health: Oklahoma lawmakers have an exceptional opportunity to improve the state’s health and economy by supporting House Bill 1841, which would increase the state cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack. This critical action will prevent kids from smoking, prompt smokers to quit and reduce medical expenses associated with smoking, saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars. [Matthew Myers/ NewsOK]  Though the cigarette tax is regressive, increasing it could be a net benefit to low- and moderate-income Oklahomans [OK Policy].

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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers found guilty of supplanting lottery funds for schools, how proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act could affect Oklahoma, and more

by | March 19th, 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

On the OK Policy blog, Executive Director David Blatt reported that lawmakers were found guilty of supplanting lottery funds for schools for the first time and explained the lawmakers will now need to allocate an additional $10.1 million to the Education Lottery Trust Fund to replace the supplanted money. Blatt pointed out the dire consequences facing Oklahoma if the legislature chooses to close the state budget gap with draconian cuts instead of new revenues in his Journal Record column. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam argued that HB 1270 is unnecessary legislation that would punish poor families and add greatly to the cost of state administration in a blog post, and discussed how the new plan from the House GOP to replace the Affordable Care Act could affect Oklahomans’ health care in a new episode of the OK PolicyCast.

In a guest post, planning director for the Yale National Initiative at the University of Tulsa Elizabeth Smith suggested that it may be time to look at lawsuits as a way to address Oklahoma’s school funding crisis. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argued at that the legislature’s timid approach to enacting teacher pay raises doesn’t bode well for schools.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt was interviewed by Public Radio Tulsa for a story about the strong hit President Trump’s proposed federal budget would have on Oklahoma. The Woodward News cited OK Policy data in an article discussing the revenue options that could close the state’s $878 million budget gap. OK Policy data on the cost of state tax credits for the wind industry compared to the oil and gas industry was cited in a Letter to the Editor of The Oklahoman.

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Legislature’s timid approach to a teacher raise doesn’t bode well for schools (Capitol Update)

by | March 17th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

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.

I watched the House floor debate on HB 1114 by Rep. Michael Rogers (R-Broken Arrow) raising the minimum salary schedule for Oklahoma teachers by $6,000 over the next 3 years. The raises would be $1000 next year followed by $2000 and $3000 respectively in the next two years. The bill contained no funding, but Rep. Rogers said funding would be considered by separate measures later in the session.

It was gratifying to listen to all the debaters-for and against-recognize both that teachers should be paid more money and that operational expenses for courses, textbooks, technology, and many other aspects of funding for schools also needs more money. Those who debated against the bill did not debate against the need for teacher raises but against passing a bill only for teacher raises and with no funding.

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In The Know: As State Budgets Falter, Oklahoma Turns to Other States to Fight Its Most Dangerous Wildfires

by | March 17th, 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 the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

As State Budgets Falter, Oklahoma Turns to Other States to Fight Its Most Dangerous Wildfires: Crews have worked for more than a week to contain a massive wildfire that has torched more than a thousand square miles and killed one person and thousands of head of livestock in northwestern parts of Oklahoma. State budget cuts mean Oklahoma increasingly depends on other states to fight its largest and most dangerous wildfires [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Oklahoma Senate rejects unpaid family leave extension: The Oklahoma Senate has rejected a measure that would give some parents more time to spend with their newborn or adopted children. Senate Bill 549 would have pushed state employees’ pregnancy and adoption leave allowance past the federal 12-week minimum. State Sen. David Holt, the bill’s author, said he wants to give a mother and father at least 20 weeks of time to spend with their child [NewsOK].

Local Agencies Face Cuts Under Proposed Federal Budget: President Donald Trump is outlining a wide range of federal budget cuts in order to make way for more defense spending. In the 60 pages of his “America First” plan, Trump shows where he would cut in order to make $54 billion dollars available to the defense department. Some of the hardest hit would be farmers, workers in the energy sector, low-income families and seniors [NewsOn6].

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