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In The Know: Oklahoma health providers fear they’ll bear costs after cigarette tax falls

by | August 14th, 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 health providers fear they’ll bear costs after cigarette tax falls: A cigarette fee that would have balanced Oklahoma’s budget has gone down in flames, and some health care providers worry cuts could devastate rural services if lawmakers don’t come up with more revenue. The court’s decision raised fears of cuts to Medicaid and other social services programs. The tax would have raised $215 million. [The Oklahoman] Lawmakers must go back to special session and finish job of funding core services [OK Policy]

The tobacco fee was our ‘only opportunity to balance the budget’: On Thursday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that SB 845, that instituted a $1.50 per pack fee on cigarettes, was unconstitutional. The fee was expected to generate $258 million to be allocated to several health agencies in the state. House Speaker Charles McCall stated that the state budget is suffering because Oklahoma families and businesses are struggling. [Fox25]

Oklahoma Legislature in limbo after courts declare cigarette fee unconstitutional: The Supreme Court has deemed the controversial “cigarette fee” passed by the Oklahoma Legislatures during the 2017 session unconstitutional. The fee, which was expected to generate $254 million for the state by adding a $1.50 per pack fee on cigarettes, was deemed by the court a revenue generating bill that was not passed through the legal channels in Oklahoma. “It doesn’t surprise me that the bill was deemed unconstitutional,” Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) said. “The reason I did not support that legislation is because it was unconstitutional. I wasn’t against what it was trying to do, but I thought it was a revenue raising measure.” [The Daily Ardmoreite]

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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers must come back to special session and finish job of funding core services

by | August 13th, 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 issued a statement after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the $1,50 per pack  cigarette fee unconstitutional, encouraging the governor to call a special session and lawmakers to take advantage of that opportunity to fix Oklahoma’s structural budget deficit. Prior to the court’s decision Executive Director David Blatt walked us through the three funding mechanisms being challenged and speculated on what might happen if the court finds any (or all) of them unconstitutional. Blatt’s Journal Record column wondered if our biggest problem is not a large budget hole, but a deficit of compassion and understanding?

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained for us how prosecutorial discretion works, and how it has contributed to the growth of incarceration rates in Oklahoma and the nation. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam reminded us that, with Congress’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid is still an option for Oklahoma – and it’s one we should seriously consider. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update took a  look at how the legislature works between sessions with interim studies and a new tool – policy working groups.

You may have heard – we hosted our fifth annual Summer Policy Institute this month!  If you’d like to see what happened, our Twitter feed from the event is archived (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4). Go check it out!

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with KFOR and Express Newsline about the legal challenges to state budget that were heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday. After the court ruled on the cigarette fee, Blatt explained to The Oklahoman the very difficult situation that state health agencies will be in until the legislature is able to meet in special session and develop a solution for the lost revenue.

Perry was interviewed by The Oklahoman about the possible effects on Oklahoma that may come from President Trump declaring a national emergency regarding the opioid epidemic. Perry also discussed last week’s sales tax holiday with Public Radio Tulsa – these holidays tend to shift when spending occurs, rather than generate more spending.

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Pros and cons of House GOP’s “policy working groups” replacing serious interim studies (Capitol Update)

by | August 11th, 2017 | Posted in Capitol Updates | 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.

On balance, it’s a good thing that House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, with Speaker Charles McCall’s blessing, has appointed interim policy working group co-leaders to work on selected issues. Their purpose is to develop the Republican agenda for the 2018 legislative session. This seems designed to bring together the Republican caucus to try to reach consensus before the session on issues that have divided it since the Republicans took control in the last decade. The divisions have, to a degree, crippled efforts to solve serious state problems in health care, corrections, education, criminal justice policy, and fiscal policy.

Many citizens don’t realize membership in the Legislature is a year-around job. It may not be a “full-time” job, but members are “full-time legislators.” To be effective they must have regular contact with constituents about issues their constituents care about, attend informational meetings of all varieties to give them an understanding of state government deeper than “coffee-shop” talk, and forge relationships that can help them get things done. Those who don’t do these things simply show up in February and spout off their own uneducated personal opinions. That will get you by in the coffee shop, but it won’t accomplish anything in a legislative body.

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In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin: Special session likely needed after cigarette ‘fee’ ruled unconstitutional by Oklahoma Supreme Court

by | August 11th, 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.

We’re accepting applications for our fall internships until Monday, August 14th. Learn more here!

Today In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin: Special session likely needed after cigarette ‘fee’ ruled unconstitutional by Oklahoma Supreme Court: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday said she thinks a special session is in order after the Oklahoma Supreme Court nullified a $1.50 “fee” on cigarettes. In a lawsuit brought by tobacco companies, the state’s high court ruled lawmakers failed to follow constitutional requirements for revenue-raising measures and tax increases when they passed Senate Bill 845 last session. The measure “conclusively demonstrates that the primary operation and effect of the measure is to raise new revenue to support state government,” according to the opinion [Tulsa World]. After the cigarette fee ruling, what will the Legislature do next? [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma health providers fear they’ll bear costs after cigarette tax falls [NewsOK].

Lawmakers must go back to special session and finish job of funding core services: This ruling confirms that the Legislature did not complete its job this year of crafting a balanced budget that pays for the core services Oklahomans expect and need. Governor Fallin shouldn’t wait a single minute to call a special session and instruct the Legislature to find additional revenue, fix the broken budget, undo cuts to core services, and invest in education. The Save our State Coalition has issued a blueprint for a better budget that does just that, and we urge lawmakers to take it seriously [Save Our State Coalition]. How does the Supreme Court define a revenue bill? [OK Policy

ABLE sees $1 million go up in smoke: The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission was slated to get the first $1 million collected by the new cigarette fee. But with the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling the $1.50-per-pack fee unconstitutional, ABLE Commission Director A. Keith Burt said his agency is now in a tough spot. The $1 million would have been used to help with the prevention of youth access to tobacco. The commission was given that charge without extra money to hire additional staff members [Journal Record].

Trump’s emergency declaration leaves questions for Oklahomans: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will issue an order declaring a national emergency related to opioids, but it isn’t clear what that will do for Oklahoma’s efforts to fight a wave of overdoses. Trump didn’t release specific information about the wording of the declaration, which still was being drafted as of Thursday afternoon. He alluded to spending additional money to combat addiction [NewsOK].

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Statement: Lawmakers must go back to special session and finish job of funding core services

by | August 10th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (7)

The SOS Coalition, which includes Oklahoma Policy Institute and 20 other organizations, released the following statement on today’s Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that threw out a cigarette fee and created a $214 million hole in the budgets of SoonerCare ($70 million loss), the Oklahoma Department of Human Services ($69 million loss), and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services ($75 million loss):

“This ruling confirms that the Legislature did not complete its job this year of crafting a balanced budget that pays for the core services Oklahomans expect and need.

Governor Fallin shouldn’t wait a single minute to call a special session and instruct the Legislature to find additional revenue, fix the broken budget, undo cuts to core services, and invest in education. The Save our State Coalition has issued a blueprint for a better budget that does just that, and we urge lawmakers to take it seriously.

Countless Oklahomans whose lives depend on state services are waiting for our Legislature to do the right thing. If the Legislature does not find new revenues to replace those rejected by the Court, the consequence will be unimaginable cuts to health care and other protections for our state’s most vulnerable citizens — with the greatest harm on children, seniors, and people with severe disabilities.”

You can read the court decision here, find our pre-decision analysis of the Supreme Court case here, see Governor Fallin’s statement about the decision here, read the Save Our State Coalition’s Blueprint for a Better Budget here, and see other revenue options for a better budget here.

Please contact your two legislatorsHouse Speaker Charles McCall, and Senate President Mike Schulz and tell them it is their duty to go into special session and find the revenues to prevent even more cuts to the core state services that Oklahomans expect and need.

Back to work for lawmakers? It depends on the Supreme Court’s definition of a revenue bill

by | August 10th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (0)

NOTE: This post was written prior to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the smoking cessation fee included in SB 845. Click here for the Court’s decision. Here is the statement from the Save Our State coalition, of which OK Policy is a member.

The fate of this year’s state budget is in the hands of Oklahoma’s nine Supreme Court justices. This week, the Court heard oral arguments in challenges to four bills enacted by the Legislature earlier this year. The bills, which were intended to generate a combined $329 million needed to balance the FY 2018 budget, were passed by simple majorities in the final days of the legislative session after efforts to garner bipartisan, supermajority support for tax increases broke down. If the Court strikes down one or both of the two largest revenue measures, it would create a huge hole in a state budget that is already massively underfunded and almost certainly force Governor Fallin to call legislators back into special session.

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In The Know: Teenage pregnancy in the US is at an all-time low. Trump could soon change that

by | August 10th, 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.

We’re accepting applications for our fall internships until Monday, August 14th. Learn more here!

Today In The News

Teenage pregnancy in the US is at an all-time low. Trump could soon change that: It was a muggy afternoon, and Nakesha Martin raised her voice to be heard over the rattle of the air conditioner. “Is that a high-risk behavior, or a low-risk behavior?” she shouted to the class. “High-risk,” came a murmured response. …Martin was on the outskirts of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where two dozen teens and several 12-year-olds had gathered as part of the city’s first serious push to offer every local teenager comprehensive lessons in sex education [The Guardian]. Oklahoma’s teen birth rate is near the highest in the country. We can do better [OK Policy].

Chickens have come home to roost in Legislature: At the end of last year’s unusual legislative session, some Republican leaders left it to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to decide if lawmakers interpreted the state’s revenue-raising laws correctly. That’s because the tobacco and automotive industries — along with other interests — lobbed lawsuits after legislators approved hundreds of millions in new revenue-raising measures to help bridge the state’s $878 million revenue budget shortfall. Now state justices are scratching their heads as they prepare to hand down an eventual ruling [Editorial Board / Enid News].

OKC clinic pulls teeth for free, but hundreds still need care: Clinton Short sounded upbeat for a man about to get four teeth pulled. Then again, he’d already been through 11 extractions the week before, and an infection had caused his face to swell to the point that getting the teeth out was a “blessing,” he said while waiting his turn at Good Shepherd Ministries’ weekly extraction clinic [NewsOK].

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It’s time to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma

by | August 9th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

At long last, it appears that the Affordable Care Act will remain the law of the land. Efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have fallen apart over deep and fundamental schisms around health care within the Republican party, particularly where Medicaid is concerned. With the ACA and the coverage it provides shifted out of the political spotlight, it’s time for Oklahoma leaders to deal with the law as it is and work within it to improve health care coverage and outcomes for Oklahomans. One way they can do this is by expanding Medicaid coverage. 

This opportunity couldn’t come at a better time. After years of shrinking revenues and subsequent budget cuts, we are very close to being unable to fund core functions of government. At the same time, our uninsured rate remains stubbornly high, threatening families’ financial security and putting pressure on overburdened safety net providers. However, lawmakers have an opportunity to address both problems at once by bringing accessible, affordable health coverage to more than 160,000 Oklahomans.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to nix tax, fee hikes

by | August 9th, 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

Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to nix tax, fee hikes: Oklahoma’s high court is now mulling over three lawsuits that could nullify taxes and fees adopted this year at the state Capitol. The cases represent a challenge to hundreds of millions of dollars, the bulk of which is earmarked for health programs and services. Consumers are already paying a higher sales tax rate to buy vehicles and this month, smokers will likely have to pay $1.50 extra on a pack of cigarettes as a new fee goes into effect [NewsOK]. The Supreme Court hearing shows ruling could have long term effects [Oklahoma Watch]. Justice Patrick Wyrick, the newest justice, steered much of the questioning [NonDoc]. The court’s livestream was a first [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s $100 Electric Car Fee Challenged by Sierra Club: Oklahoma’s bid to help close a budget shortfall with a new $100 fee on electric vehicles drew a court challenge from the Sierra Club, which argues the state didn’t follow the correct procedures for enacting a tax or properly measure the benefits of having those cars on the road. Under a bill signed by Republican Governor Mary Fallin in May, hybrid vehicle owners would also face a $30 registration fee, but gasoline and diesel engines didn’t get hit with a new levy. On Tuesday, the state’s Supreme Court heard arguments in a separate lawsuit filed in June to block the measure [Bloomberg].

Candidates Set For Senate District 45, House District 76 General Elections: Two state seats are one step closer to being filled. Oklahoma residents in Senate District 45 and House District 76 have voted for their political groups’ candidates. For former Sen. Kyle Loveless’ vacant seat, Steven Vincent decidedly won the Democratic primary while Paul Rosino managed to get the majority of the vote in a 7-way Republican primary, according to unofficial results [News 9].

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In The Know: Tuesday special election to narrow OKC, Broken Arrow races

by | August 8th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (2)

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

Tuesday special election to narrow OKC, Broken Arrow races: On Tuesday, a few thousand residents in the Oklahoma City area and in Broken Arrow will decide which four candidates will compete in a legislative general election this fall. In Broken Arrow, voters are replacing state Rep. David Brumbaugh. The Republican lawmaker died at 56 in April. In the metro, voters will choose among candidates from Oklahoma City, Mustang and Yukon to replace former Republican state Sen. Kyle Loveless, who resigned amid an ethics investigation [Journal Record].

Treasurer Miller: Tax collections are up; recession is over: Oklahoma’s highest-ranking economist continued his rosy forecasts on Monday, when he released July’s tax collections. Compared to this time last year, collections are up almost 9 percent, a $73 million increase over last July. Oil and gas production taxes are up more than 37 percent from July of last year. State Treasurer Ken Miller wrote in a news release that July marked the 10th consecutive month with an increase over the same period last year. All other revenue, including personal income taxes and sales taxes, was up as well [Journal Record].

Gov. Fallin’s rising profile on criminal justice reform: A recent conference in Washington, D.C., underscored just how nonpartisan the issue of criminal justice reform is becoming — not to mention Gov. Mary Fallin’s rising profile on this issue. Fallin was among those who spoke at an event sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and the Coalition for Public Safety, which works to reduce the nation’s prison population [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

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