Yes, most Oklahomans don’t want a tax cut

by | April 23rd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (3)

OK Policy recently commissioned a scientific poll that showed a majority of Oklahoma voters oppose going forward with a tax cut at a time when the state is looking at a $611 million budget shortfall and lawmakers are planning more cuts to education and almost every other core public service. The poll shows that while just 27 percent of Oklahoma voters think the state has not cut taxes enough, a whopping 74 percent think Oklahoma is not spending enough on education.

Of course, that didn’t sit well with The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and their closest allies, who advocate for deep tax cuts every year. They issued a press release questioning the poll’s validity. The criticisms don’t stand up to reality.

continue reading Yes, most Oklahomans don’t want a tax cut

In The Know: Training expert says Oklahoma police laws need changes

by | April 23rd, 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.

 Oklahoma’s top law-enforcement trainer is pushing for changes to laws that allow volunteer reservists to serve a law enforcement officers with little training. A volunteer Oklahoma deputy charged in the shooting death of an unarmed man pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and won approval for a controversial vacation to the Bahamas. Although execution by gas is being introduced in Oklahoma as a more humane method of capital punishment, Politico showed that this method has been tried before in the United States but was rejected after many botched executions.

The Tulsa County Jail has broken ground on an addition that includes specially designed pods for people suffering from mental illness. The new Oklahoma Director for Right on Crime wrote an op-ed encouraging the Legislature to reform the state’s extremely harsh sentencing laws. A large number of strict mandatory minimum prison sentences have played a role in Oklahoma’s sky high incarceration rate. The Oklahoman examined records of civil rights complaints against Oklahoma schools over the past few years.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how Oklahoma may go back to automatic retention of all third graders who don’t pass a high-stakes reading test. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has purchased 1,000 cribs for families to help prevent sleep-related infant deaths. StateImpact Oklahoma shared an update on bills they are watching this year related to energy, water, and the environment. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how Oklahoma excludes large numbers of poor families from finding a good quality of life. 

The Legislature sent to the governor bills that allow clergy and judges to refuse to officiate marriages on religious grounds. An association of Oklahoma corrections employees has filed a lawsuit against the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services over plans to stop allowing its members to pay dues by payroll deduction. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that county assessors who fail to raise the assessed value of a home during the tax year improvements are made cannot raise it in future years. Gov. Fallin has scheduled special elections for two state House seats in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is 63% – the percentage of Oklahoma residents who said they had a great deal or a fair amount of trust in state government when it comes to handling state problems. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute examines what policies have been shown to work and what policies don’t work when it comes to raising wages.

continue reading In The Know: Training expert says Oklahoma police laws need changes

Uncertain future for third grade reading reforms

by | April 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

One year ago, parents and educators organized a powerful campaign to amend a state law that would have automatically retained thousands of 3rd-grade children who failed a standardized reading test. In response, the Legislature passed a bill temporarily revising the law, and then  mustered the two-thirds super-majority needed to overturn the Governor’s veto of the bill. This year, a strong effort is underway to make last year’s fix permanent – but the supporters of automatic retention are not giving up.

continue reading Uncertain future for third grade reading reforms

In The Know: District audit details racial discrepancy in OKC schools suspensions

by | April 22nd, 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.

An internal audit by Oklahoma City Public Schools shows a huge racial disparity in the rates of students being suspended from school. Twelve OKC elementary schools suspended more than 40 percent of their black students in 2011-2012. The Oklahoma Department of Education asked a testing vendor to deactivate a program that gave students immediate proficiency level scores, over concern about its demoralizing effect on students. The Oklahoma City Council called on the Legislature to head off further budget cuts at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics.

OK Policy is now accepting applications for paid part-time or full-time summer interns. KJRH looked at the debate over whether Oklahoma should cancel or delay a planned tax cut when we’re looking at a $600 million budget shortfall. An online form to contact your legislators about the tax cut is available here. Oklahoma was second in the nation for job losses last month, behind only Texas. The Legislature has sent to Governor Fallin two proposals that would develop a system for evaluating tax breaks to determine their effectiveness.

The Oklahoma Geological Survey reported that it believes the majority of the earthquakes in central and north central Oklahoma have been triggered by wastewater disposal wells used in oil and gas exploration. Governor Fallin announced the launch of earthquakes.ok.gov, a website for sharing research, regulations, updates and news items related to Oklahoma’s recent earthquakes. Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, called for a moratorium on wastewater disposal wells in 16 counties experiencing the earthquake swarm.

More than two dozen people spoke before an overflow crowd in Stillwater on Monday as the city council considered whether to restrict oil and natural gas drilling in and near the city limits. The Legislature is considering bills that would take away cities’ rights to regulate drilling. The Wall Street Journal reported that a string of oil-field worker deaths, including one in Oklahoma, may be caused by asphyxiation or heart failure from inhaling hydrocarbon chemicals. A bill being considered in the Legislature has split Oklahoma’s small oil and gas producers from the larger operators in the state, with some alleging it would give large operators the right to steal oil.

The Oklahoma House defeated a resolution that would have added Oklahoma to the list of states petitioning Congress for a convention to alter the U.S. Constitution. Critics of the constitutional convention effort have warned that it could make radical changes to the Constitution and the outcome can neither be known nor controlled. The Oklahoma Senate approved legislation that would limit access by the public and media to audio and video recordings from law enforcement body cams or dash cams. Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill giving terminally ill patients access to certain medications that have not received full FDA approval.

Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham debunked eight myths about the food stamp program. Bobby Lorton, the former publisher of Tulsa World, announced plans for the May launch of a new media company in Tulsa. Attorney Chad Moody with “TheDrugLawyer.com” projected a giant marijuana leaf onto the state Capitol building Monday night to protest the state’s stand on the legalization of marijuana.

The Number of the Day is 49.6% – the percentage of the population of Cherokee County who identified as white and non-Hispanic in 2013, down from 55.2 percent in 2000. Cherokee County was one of two Oklahoma counties that became majority non-white since 2000. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline shares a Q&A on how the Great Recession has affected children.

continue reading In The Know: District audit details racial discrepancy in OKC schools suspensions

Are you our next summer intern?

by | April 21st, 2015 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

446px-Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger)We are pleased to offer two exciting opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in Oklahoma public policy.

We are now accepting student applicants for a paid, part-time or full-time internship during the summer of 2015. Interns will be expected to work between 15 and 40 hours per week, depending on their schedules and availability. The position will be based in our Tulsa office, with occasional opportunities to work from home or school.

continue reading Are you our next summer intern?

In The Know: Tulsa County Sheriff speaks about fatal shooting, training records

by | April 21st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, 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.

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz spoke at a press conference about missing training and firearm certification records for the reserve deputy who fatally shot Eric Harris. Blue Bell Creameries issued a recall after foodborne illness was tracked to a production line in Broken Arrow.

The Oklahoma City School District released a report that detailed widespread failings in how discipline is administered in middle and high schools, including much higher suspension rates for students of color. The Sierra Club explained why the legislature shouldn’t take away Oklahomans’ right to regulate drilling. The State Senate passed a bill that would make it illegal to use a GPS device to stalk another person.

The Number of the Day is the average stock dividend income claimed on Oklahoma tax returns in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Center for American Progress examined a proposed rule to make prepaid cards safer, more affordable, and more transparent. 

continue reading In The Know: Tulsa County Sheriff speaks about fatal shooting, training records

Don’t take away Oklahomans’ right to regulate drilling (Guest post: Johnson Bridgwater)

by | April 20th, 2015 | Posted in Economy | Comments (2)

Johnson Bridgwater is the Executive Director of Oklahoma Sierra Club.

It’s undeniable that the fracking boom has had a huge impact on many Oklahoma communities. It’s helped bring jobs and income to some, but the rapid increase in this new method of drilling has a flip side—communities have serious concerns about earthquakes and threats to vital water supplies for cities and towns, not to mention the noise, air pollution, and damage to infrastructure from highly industrial drilling operations.

continue reading Don’t take away Oklahomans’ right to regulate drilling (Guest post: Johnson Bridgwater)

In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs bill adding nitrogen gas as state execution method

by and | April 20th, 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.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed a measure adding nitrogen gas to the list of execution methods. The Legislature passed a measure to allow nonviolent felons on probation to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Restrictions on driver’s licenses is just one of many barriers that Oklahoma puts up for Oklahomans with a felony record. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed how the action is shifting to conference committees in the final third of the Legislative session.

University of Oklahoma economist Robert Dauffenbach said Oklahoma’s two largest metropolitan areas are well positioned to wade through the oil and gas industry slowdown, and Oklahoma is much less dependent on the industry than in the 1980s. Three bills remain alive in the Legislature that could take away local control over oil and gas drilling from cities and counties. Undocumented immigrants living in Oklahoma pay about $76 million in state and local taxes, according to a report issued this week by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. You can read the full report here.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office gave no advance warning to the busy neighborhood store where it set up a sting operation that resulted in the shooting death of Eric Harris, nor the elementary school to the south where kids were playing outside. Protesters took to Tulsa streets again Friday evening, this time asking the Tulsa County Sheriff to fire two deputies. The Tulsa Voice shared an interview with an attorney who is suing the Tulsa County Sheriff on behalf of Eric Harris’s family. Training records do not show that Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates qualified on a revolver he carried during the fatal shooting, and his gun was not on the list of firearms deputies can carry on duty. Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said he can’t envision his department without volunteer deputies operating as law enforcement officers.

Tulsa County’s immunization rate for 2014 is below the state and national averages and falls well short of the state’s goal for 2020. Gov. Mary Fallin has nominated Robert J. “Bob” Ross, president and CEO of the Inasmuch Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, to a seat on the Oklahoma State Board of Education. After months of fighting for racial equality on campus, OU students with the group OU Unheard will receive receive the Angie Debo Civil Liberties Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is 23 percent – the percentage of the state population potentially exposed to water exceeding a contaminant limit in 2013-2014. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post shows that states refusing to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion are leaving hundreds of thousands of mentally ill adults untreated.

continue reading In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs bill adding nitrogen gas as state execution method

The Weekly Wonk April 19, 2015

by | April 19th, 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 shared a new poll showing that a majority of Oklahomans want the income tax cut to be cancelled due to the budget shortfall. Let your legislators know that you agree by clicking here.  We are collecting signatures from business owners and directors of organizations for a letter to leadership urging them to halt the tax cut here.

We explained how suggestions that Congress won’t uphold its obligation to fund health coverage rely on a misunderstanding of how that funding is determined. OK Policy intern Drew Capps detailed new research showing that Oklahoma’s payday lenders target vulnerable populations and military installations. Oklahoma Watch hosted a forum on challenges in low-income neighborhoods on Thursday. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis explained why the state’s legislative activity is currently concentrated in conference committees.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt encouraged lawmakers to uphold Rep. David Dank’s legacy by reforming costly tax breaks. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke to the Tulsa World about the budget shortfall’s impact on the state’s ability to fund core services.  The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board used OK Policy data while calling on legislators to halt the income tax cut.

We are currently accepting applications for our 2015 Summer Policy Institute (SPI)! Oklahoma college students of all levels with an interest in public policy are encouraged to apply. SPI attendees become better informed about vital Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders, and prepare for their future studies and work in policy-related fields.

Weekly What’s That:

Striking Title

Striking title is a common procedural maneuver in the Oklahoma Legislature. It is used especially on bills that impact the state budget or bills that are considered to be a work-in-progress. Read more.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk April 19, 2015

With session two-thirds finished, focus shifts at Legislature (Capitol Updates)

by | April 17th, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (2)

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.

Now that the standing committee work is completed for the 2015 session, the House will be taking floor action on Senate Bills and the Senate will be acting on House bills for the next couple of weeks.  Bills that survive the next two weeks will go on to the governor if they were passed in both houses in the same form.  If a bill is amended it will return to its house of origin where the author will have the option of moving to accept the amendments and send the bill to the governor or rejecting the amendments and asking for a conference committee. 

continue reading With session two-thirds finished, focus shifts at Legislature (Capitol Updates)

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