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In The Know: New jail won’t fix Oklahoma County’s criminal justice needs, report shows

by | December 15th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The K now 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

Early-bird registration is now open for our 2017 State Budget Summit. In addition, we’re hiring a policy analyst and spring research interns. 

New jail won’t fix Oklahoma County’s criminal justice needs, report shows: A new jail will not fix Oklahoma County’s problems. That is one of the key points in a report released Wednesday by the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’s criminal justice reform task force. …City leaders hosted a news conference Wednesday at the Oklahoma City police headquarters to outline the findings of the task force, which started its efforts last December [NewsOK]. The report is available here.

Medical marijuana won’t fix Oklahoma’s budget problems: The movement to legalize marijuana is riding high. This year voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada joined Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, while Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota voted to allow medical marijuana. Oklahoma narrowly missed out joining the latter group this year. Proponents gathered enough signatures to put medical marijuana on the ballot as SQ 788, but they submitted the signatures too late to make the 2016 elections [OK Policy].

Governor Fallin praises justice reform task force’s work toward significant proposal: Governor Mary Fallin today announced she will extend the deadline for her justice reform task force to provide more time to strengthen its proposals. The governor will modify an executive order that had previously called for the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force’s work to be complete by Thursday, Dec. 15. “To deliver the type of significant improvement Oklahoma needs, I am asking the task force to take the achievable, responsible ideas it already has a step further,” said Fallin [The Pryor Daily Times]. Here’s what we can expect from their suggestions [OK Policy].

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Medical marijuana won’t fix Oklahoma’s budget problems

by | December 14th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (0)

cannabis leaf and money

The movement to legalize marijuana is riding high. This year voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada joined Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, while Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota voted to allow medical marijuana.

Oklahoma narrowly missed out joining the latter group this year. Proponents gathered enough signatures to put medical marijuana on the ballot as SQ 788, but they submitted the signatures too late to make the 2016 elections. SQ 788 will be scheduled for a vote by 2018 at the latest.

Advocates for Oklahoma’s measure have primarily stressed the medicinal qualities of marijuana and the expanded personal freedom that comes with ending prohibition. Others — including many who comment on OK Policy’s blog and social media pages — point to the potential tax revenue that legalization would bring. Now that several states have embraced medical marijuana, the revenue effects have come into clearer focus. The experience in other states suggest that legalizing marijuana for medical purposes only would have negligible revenue effects, but the legalization of recreational marijuana could bring significant benefits — though it would not by itself solve Oklahoma’s persistent revenue shortfalls.

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In The Know: School accountability plan seeks to improve Oklahoma letter grade system

by | December 14th, 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

School accountability plan seeks to improve Oklahoma letter grade system: State education leaders believe a new accountability plan will improve the controversial A through F grading system of Oklahoma public schools, yet critics see a chance for the letter grades to be dropped altogether following federal rule changes last week. Oklahoma’s proposed school accountability system puts greater emphasis on college and career readiness, chronic absenteeism and highlights student subgroups, giving more attention to performance gaps that exists in public schools [NewsOK].

State superintendent vows to fight for funding: Oklahoma’s school superintendent predicted “fierce fighting” on securing more money for education in 2017. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister issued the warning Monday during an education town hall at Muskogee’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. Hofmeister discussed educational issues and answered questions from a room full of educators, school administrators and parents. State cuts in public education, which plagued area schools in 2016, was a repeated concern [Duncan Banner]. 

Oklahoma lawmakers, schools brace for more possible funding cuts: It’s no secret Oklahoma has the worst teacher pay in the nation and a shortage of teachers. But some superintendents still can’t find enough for their classrooms. “The biggest challenge for us is the shortage. There were two positions we have not filled until the end of the semester until some kids graduated from Northeastern State University because we could not find a teacher,” said Mike Garde, of Muskogee Public Schools. He joined the Oklahoma School Advisory Council Tuesday for a legislative lunch. “We are waiting to see if there is going to be a shortfall. But we are in a little better shape this year than last year to handle a shortfall,” said Garde [KTUL].

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Join us for the 2017 State Budget Summit

by | December 13th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, OK Policy, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

As Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session approaches, the combination of continued budget shortfalls at the state level and a new national Administration and Congress committed to far-reaching changes to critical programs have created an unprecedented level of uncertainty and apprehension. OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit, which will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City, will bring together all those with an interest in state policy issues for a day of thoughtful discussion and exchange of ideas aimed at understanding the challenges we now face and charting a course for a more prosperous future.

The special early-bird registration price of just $75 is available through January 5th. Click here to register. The cost as of January 6th is $90.

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In The Know: Big Challenges, Little Support for Children of Incarcerated Parents

by | December 13th, 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

Big Challenges, Little Support for Children of Incarcerated Parents: It’s a rare occasion when Daniel Thomas is able to speak with, much less see, his 14-year-old son Carson. Arranging a visit at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, where Thomas is serving a 20-year prison sentence, is difficult because of visitation policies, scheduling issues and the three-hour round trip to and from the prison. Even talking over the phone can be prohibitive, with each 15-minute call costing inmates $3 or more [Oklahoma Watch].

OJA sees the fallout from broken families: Steve Buck, executive director of the state’s Office of Juvenile Affairs, offers a remarkable statistic regarding the importance of intact families as they relate to the young people in his charge. Last year, OJA handled roughly 13,000 new referrals. Of that total, Buck says, 10.5 percent were from families that had the biological mother and father in the home. Put another way, nearly nine out of 10 young people referred to the agency last year came from broken homes [The Oklahoman Editorial Board].

Sonya’s story as a child of incarcerated parents: Sonya (her name has been changed due to the sensitive nature of her story) grew up as a child of incarcerated parents and went on to be Valedictorian of her high school class, student council president, and drum major of the band. She is currently taking time off from college and works full-time at a bank. She spoke to OK Policy intern Chelsea Fiedler about her experience growing up [OK Policy].

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Sonya’s story as a child of incarcerated parents

sad girl

Sonya (her name has been changed due to the sensitive nature of her story) grew up as a child of incarcerated parents and went on to be Valedictorian of her high school class, student council president, and drum major of the band. She is currently taking time off from college and works full-time at a bank. She spoke to OK Policy intern Chelsea Fiedler about her experience growing up. Chelsea recently shared her own story as the daughter of Oklahoma corrections officers.

Chelsea: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What was your childhood generally like and what is your life like now?

Sonya: For as long as I could remember, I was moving between my father, my mother, my grandparents, my other grandparents, vice versa. I switched elementary schools a few times before part of the custody agreement between my grandparents and DHS was that I would stay in the same public school, and so that solidified when I was in fourth grade. Growing up was a lot of not really knowing when everything was set in stone, but always kind of hoping that I was finally settled…

Chelsea: Were both of your parents incarcerated? And if so, was it at the same time?

Sonya: Both of my parents were incarcerated multiple times. Several of those overlapped in one way or another. Not that they spent the same term in prison, but there was a lot of overlap especially from the ages of three to eleven… Until the death of my mother, at which point it was just a matter of my father being in and out of prison.

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In The Know: Teacher pay plans begin to emerge in Oklahoma Legislature

by | December 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

Teacher pay plans begin to emerge in Oklahoma Legislature: Sen. Ron Sharp was the first state lawmaker to file a teacher pay raise bill ahead of the 2017 legislative session. But his bill to raise the state’s minimum pay scale by $5,000 highlights the challenge the Legislature will face in finalizing a pay raise plan. “It’s one thing to say teachers should be paid more, which is what my bill does,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “But the hard part is coming up with a way to pay for it and that’s what we still need to come up with.” Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, is proposing a teacher raise paid for by increasing the income tax rate for high earners [NewsOK].

Without new revenue, we can expect more of the same problems: The way legislators are talking now, the top agenda item for next session will be finding a way to give teachers a pay raise. No doubt those running for election this year got an earful from their constituents about the condition of our schools. Lawmakers seem to be interpreting the failure of SQ 779 as a message that people want a pay raise for teachers but they don’t want a tax increase. At the state chamber legislative forum last week, Speaker-elect Charles McCall expressed support for education but said new taxes would not be on the table [OK Policy].

New state Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, presses for restoration of Earned Income Tax CreditLegislation that would restore the earned income tax credit to previous spending levels will be filed soon by newly elected state Rep. Collin Walke, an Oklahoma City Democrat. Senate Bill 1604 approved last year by the Legislature and signed by Governor Fallin. The new law reduced tax credit’s benefit for low-income working families by nearly 75 percent. The bill, one of several measures intended to help close a $1.3 billion state budget gap, will increase state income tax collections by an estimated $29 million. S.B. 1604 “penalizes some of Oklahoma’s neediest citizens by withholding funds they desperately need to buy milk and food for their families,” said Walke, D-Oklahoma City. “Balancing the state budget on the backs of our state’s poorest citizens is unconscionable” [CapitolBeatOK].

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The Weekly Wonk: Trigger warning, scissors to the safety net, and the biggest threat in a generation

by | December 11th, 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

OK Policy is now accepting applications for a policy analyst and research interns through December 29. On the OK Policy Blog, Executive Director David Blatt warned that the state Legislature has set itself up for another ill-timed income tax cut. In his Journal Record columns, Blatt argued that federal action could take a pair of scissors to the social safety net, and that the possibility of turning federal entitlement programs into block grants is the biggest threat to low-income families in a generation.

In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis wrote that without new revenue, we can expect more of the same problems. Intern Chelsea Fielder described her experience as the daughter of Oklahoma corrections officers

OK Policy in the News

KTUL covered former OK Policy staffer and Oklahoma Assets Network coordinator DeVon Douglass’s transition to Chief Resilience Officer with the City of Tulsa. In his blog GlassHospital, OU-Tulsa President John Schuman featured OK Policy’s recent video on food insecurity. The Tahlequah Daily Press cited OK Policy data in a discussion of a bill filed by state Representative Colin Walke (D-OKC) to restore the refundability of the state EITC

The Woodward News used OK Policy data in an article on the effects of budget cuts on local social services organizations. The Tahlequah Daily Press highlighted Blatt’s participation on a panel for Leadership Oklahoma. NewsOK announced that OK Policy Board member Joe Siano is retiring as Superintendent of Norman Public Schools at the end of the current school year. 

Weekly What’s That

Federal poverty level

The federal poverty level (FPL) is a measure of income issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services that is used to determine eligibility for various public programs and benefits, including Medicaid, health insurance premium tax credits, the free- and reduced- school lunch program, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and many others. Read more.

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

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We’re hiring! Now taking applications for policy analyst and research interns

by | December 9th, 2016 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

OK Policy analyst Devon Douglass is leaving to become Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Tulsa under new mayor G.T. Bynum. It’s a loss for OK Policy but a great opportunity for Devon and Tulsa, and we look forward to working with her in her new position.

That also means we are looking to hire a new policy analyst to produce research and organize campaigns around economic security for low- and moderate-income Oklahomans. Skills designing reports and infographics are also highly desired for this position. You can read more about the job duties and qualifications here.

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Without new revenue, we can expect more of the same problems (Capitol Updates)

by | December 9th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (1)

the same old thinking and disappointing resultsSteve 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.

The way legislators are talking now, the top agenda item for next session will be finding a way to give teachers a pay raise. No doubt those running for election this year got an earful from their constituents about the condition of our schools. Lawmakers seem to be interpreting the failure of SQ 779 as a message that people want a pay raise for teachers but they don’t want a tax increase.

At the state chamber legislative forum last week, Speaker-elect Charles McCall expressed support for education but said new taxes would not be on the table. Senate President Pro-Tempore-elect Mike Schulz said he wants a teacher pay raise, and it will likely be incremental. These two statements together point to a continuation of the budget policies of the past few years. That is, when a budget issue reaches a perceived crisis level, the Legislature earmarks revenue from incremental growth in the economy to “solve” the problem without any new revenue sources. This has happened twice recently, once to fix roads and once to fund state retirement systems.

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