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In The Know: Poll shows growing dissatisfaction with state lawmakers

by | August 16th, 2016 | 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

Poll shows growing dissatisfaction with state lawmakers: In SoonerPoll.com’s statewide survey, Obama’s 36 percent favorable rating was 2 points better than the Legislature’s and only 3 points behind Fallin. SoonerPoll.com President Bill Shapard said Fallin’s favorability rating has dropped from 55 percent early in the year, with the biggest shift among Republicans who have become disenchanted with her. Obama is still very unpopular — nearly half those surveyed said they had “very unfavorable” opinions of him. But 35 percent held very unfavorable opinions of Fallin and 25 percent said the same of the Legislature [Tulsa World].

Business tied to state rep who donated to sheriff’s campaign submits low bid for medical services at Tulsa Jail: A company with ties to a state representative has submitted the lowest-cost proposal for medical services at the Tulsa Jail, it was learned Monday. Officials stressed that cost is only one element considered in evaluating the three proposals opened Monday morning, and the contract — worth roughly $450,000 to $550,000 per month — won’t be awarded until at least September. State Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is a partner in Turn Key Health, one of three companies that submited proposals [Tulsa World].

Join our team as a fall intern: OK Policy is now accepting student applicants for paid part-time internships during the fall of 2016. Interns will be expected to work between 10 and 20 hours per week, depending on their schedules and availability. The position will be based in our Tulsa office. Interns have the opportunity to work as full members of the OK Policy team and participate in most activities of the organization [OK Policy].

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Join our team as a fall intern

by | August 15th, 2016 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)
OK Policy staff and summer interns

OK Policy staff and summer interns

OK Policy is now accepting student applicants for paid part-time internships during the fall of 2016. Interns will be expected to work between 10 and 20 hours per week, depending on their schedules and availability. The position will be based in our Tulsa office.

Interns have the opportunity to work as full members of the OK Policy team and participate in most activities of the organization. The work will involve assisting staff members as well as conducting independent research under guidance of staff. Most interns will author multiple blog posts on state policy issues such as poverty, economic development, health care, immigration, and other subjects.

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In The Know: Oklahoma finance chief developing options for special legislative session

by | August 15th, 2016 | 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

Oklahoma finance chief is developing options for possible special legislative session: The state’s top budget negotiator is developing alternative proposals for a special legislative session that contemplate using all, some or none of the extra $140.8 million the state has available for teacher pay raises. “The governor has asked my office for proposals to fund a permanent teacher pay raise at or above $5,000,” said Preston Doerflinger, secretary of finance, administration and information technology [NewsOK]. Since a good portion of the $140 million was cut from education to begin with, using it to fund a teacher pay raise would be like robbing Peter to pay Peter [OK Policy].

Teacher reluctantly leaving Tulsa for Texas: ‘It’s not just salary … it’s about respect’: If Texas is like a whole other country, as the state’s tourism slogan goes, then Oklahoma is its chief teacher exporter. The latest Tulsa teacher to pack up her classroom and head 270 miles south is LeAnna Snyder, former fifth-grade teacher at Carnegie Elementary School. “Leaving Carnegie is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. My stomach was in knots for months,” Snyder said, as her eyes welled with tears. “I feel like I’m letting the children down — and my district — but I’ve stayed here as long as I can.” [Tulsa World]

Health insurance costs increasing for state employees, retirees: State employees and retirees on the state’s insurance plans are likely to see a rate increase next year. The Oklahoma Employees Insurance and Benefits Board approved increases in all of the plans it oversees, from 6 percent for one of three HMOs and nearly 16 percent for the Medicare-based high option plan offered through the state’s self-insured group. The rate increases are the highest in recent years. In one of the plans offered by the self-funded HealthChoice program, rates never grew beyond 5.5 percent since 2010. Next year, pending approval from Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, monthly rates will go up 8.4 percent [Journal Record].

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The Weekly Wonk: Missing out by not expanding Medicaid; new rules to curtail predatory lending; & more

by | August 14th, 2016 | Posted in 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

This week on the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst Carly Putnam explored a review of dozens of studies on Medicaid expansions and concluded that Oklahoma is missing out by refusing to expand the program. Policy Analyst and Oklahoma Assets Network coordinator DeVon Douglass explained how new federal rules around payday lending can help keep Oklahomans out of debt traps

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt pointed out that for all the suggestions around what to do with the state’s $140 million surplus, no one has suggested turning it into a tax cut or tax refund. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discussed whether that $140 million is one-time funding. On the Together Oklahoma Blog, Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator Kara Joy McKee celebrated our recently-concluded Summer Policy Institute and announced our upcoming Fall Policy Boot Camps (FallPol). Finally, we announced two October events featuring author Tamara Draut and her recent book, Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America. 

OK Policy in the News

The Tulsa World referenced OK Policy an OK Policy blog in an article on rural poverty. The Editorial Boards of both The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman further cited the post in following editorials. The referenced blog post is available here. In addition, The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board quoted our FY2017 State Budget Highlights while discussing state budgeting issues. An OETA segment on SQ 777 (“Right to Farm”) included footage from a debate on the subject held as part of our Summer Policy Institute.

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‘Robbing Peter to pay Peter’ (Capitol Updates)

by | August 12th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

robberSteve 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 find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

An interesting debate has developed on whether the $140.8 million that was withheld from state services in FY-16 should now be viewed as “one-time” money if it is spent on a teacher pay raise as suggested by the governor. Those opposed to Governor Fallin’s proposal for a special session have called it one-time money. The governor says it is not one-time money because the revenue was actually received last year, and there’s no reason to assume the $140.8 million will not come in again this year. It was impounded last year because the Director of OMES determined the action would be prudent to protect against overspending. The governor says if the money is re-allocated to a teacher pay raise a new $140.8 million will be available to continue the pay raise when it is received in the following year.

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In The Know: Increased regulation may be easing Oklahoma earthquakes

by | August 12th, 2016 | 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

Increased regulation may be easing Oklahoma earthquakes: While the earth continues to shudder more frequently than seven years ago beneath Oklahomans feet, the rate of earthquakes in the state in 2016 is down from last year. The state has been shaken by 448 magnitude-3.0 and greater quakes so far this year, down from the 558 it experienced in the same time frame in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Increased regulation on wastewater disposal related to oil and gas extraction could be one reason behind the decline, said Robert Williams, a geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey [USA Today].

Dispute over numbers complicates Oklahoma education funding debate: Within the larger dispute over education funding policy taking place in Oklahoma, sometimes the very numbers used as a baseline are up for debate. A conservative think tank has accused schools of sitting on piles of cash that could shore up recent budget cuts. But educators disagree with that accusation and blame it on a misinterpretation of school budgets [NewsOK]. The report is available here. Oklahoma leads the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Education Leaders Want Teacher Pay Raises, But Still Support $140M Surplus Lawsuit: Leaders of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration are supporting a legal challenge filed in the state Supreme Court this week by Oklahoma City attorney David Slane. The lawsuit accuses Gov. Mary Fallin of violating state law as she considers calling a special legislative session to figure out what to do with the $140 million surplus created by mid-year state budget cuts that were higher than necessary. Fallin has suggested using the money for teacher pay raises. But the lawsuit asserts she does not have the right to hold the money while she figures it out [KGOU]. After two revenue failures, Oklahoma ended the year with surplus. What? [OK Policy]

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Upcoming Event: Sleeping Giant author on how the ‘new working class’ is transforming America

by | August 11th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Economy, OK Policy, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

sleeping giant2There was a time when America’s working class was seen as the backbone of the economy with considerable political, economic, and moral authority. In recent decades, the working class has transformed as far more female and racially diverse workers have been employed by the restaurant, retail, health care, and other service industries. At the same time, this new working class has been marginalized, if not ignored, by politicians and pundits.

As Tamara Draut makes clear in an important and timely new book, Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America, this is changing, swiftly and dramatically. As the November election draws near, Tamara Draut will be visiting Oklahoma to discuss her book at a pair of public events in Tulsa and Oklahoma City:

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In The Know: Lawmaker calls for study of ‘unconstitutional legislation’

by | August 11th, 2016 | 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

Lawmaker calls for study of ‘unconstitutional legislation’: For years, State Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma County) has kept a list handy when bills become law. It’s a list of bills she expects to be challenged and eventually struck down in court. “I have had constituents come to me and say, ‘There were three pieces of legislation that were found unconstitutional the last couple years. Do y’all not know what you’re doing?'” she said. “I think when lawmakers are perceived as not knowing how to make law, that that hurts the perception people have of how our government is supposed to work.” [KFOR]

Lagging sales tax collections blamed for 11 percent drop in state revenue for July: Funding for state government continued spiraling downward in July as weak sales tax collections in the first month of the state’s 2017 fiscal year dragged general revenue collections 4.4 percent below expectations and 11.1 percent below the same month a year ago. The general revenue fund is the state’s basic operating account. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported that state sales tax receipts were 7.5 percent below expectations and 8.4 percent below the same month a year ago [Tulsa World].

Indian tribes, Oklahoma reach deal on water rights dispute: Negotiators for two Indian tribes and the state of Oklahoma said Wednesday they have reached a settlement that would end a modern-day water rights and tribal sovereignty dispute that has its roots in the 19th century. The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have claimed Oklahoma isn’t abiding by the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which gave them authority over water in their jurisdiction. The state claimed the tribes are ignoring an 1866 pact in which they gave up certain rights after backing the Confederates in the Civil War [Chicago Tribune].

Survey finds more homeless OKC residents: Despite increased efforts to provide housing, the homeless population in Oklahoma City is on the rise, according to the latest census by the Homeless Alliance. The agency’s most recent Point in Time head count found about 1,500 people this year living on the streets, local shelters and makeshift camps. Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan said that sample statistically suggests a total homeless population of 6,000-7,500 and a 16-percent increase from the 2015 census [Journal Record]. The 2016 Point-in-Time report is available here.

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New report shows what Oklahoma’s missing by refusing Medicaid expansion

by | August 10th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (3)

doctor taking health insurance card to patient

Three years ago, a central provision of the Affordable Care Act kicked in – the option for states to expand their Medicaid programs for the low-income uninsured via a substantial infusion of federal funds. While 31 states and Washington D.C. have expanded coverage to date, Oklahoma is one of 19 states still taking a “wait and see approach.”

The time for wait and see is over. A new report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has surveyed dozens of studies and found that expanding coverage yields significant coverage gains, grows access to care and utilization of health services, and improves state economies. Here are the report’s main findings:

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In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to order governor to return $140.8 million to state agencies

by | August 10th, 2016 | 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 order governor to return $140.8 million to state agencies: The Oklahoma Supreme Court was asked Tuesday to order Gov. Mary Fallin to give back to state agencies $140.8 million cut from their budgets in March. Oklahoma City attorney David Slane filed the legal request on behalf of seven caregivers who have experienced cuts in or loss of assistance from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. …He accused the governor and her finance secretary, Preston Doerflinger, of violating state law and the Oklahoma Constitution by not returning the money [NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin still plugging special session: Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday she still wants a special legislative session ahead of the November elections. …Fallin wants the Legislature to return to the Capitol to appropriate $140.8 million available because last fiscal year’s revenue failure was not quite as bad as projected. The governor wants the money spent on teacher raises and perhaps one or two other areas. Without legislative action, the money will be distributed proportionately to state agencies, partially offsetting spending cuts made during the 2016 fiscal year [Tulsa World].

Rulings ensure a raft of state questions await Oklahoma voters: Decisions rendered this week by the Oklahoma Supreme Court ensure that voters will have a raft of state questions to decide in November, although getting some of these measures on the ballot has been especially challenging. Backers of State Question 779, which seeks to increase the state sales tax by 1 cent to fund teacher pay raises and other education causes, had no trouble gathering the necessary initiative petition signatures but had to withstand two legal challenges [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

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