‘Starve the beast’ comes to Oklahoma (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | February 6th, 2015 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (0)
Photo by Alina Sofia.

Photo by Alina Sofia.

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.

The legislative session started Monday with Governor Fallin’s state of the state address.  It’s hard to escape the thought that this is going to be a very tough year because of the budget situation.  The appropriations subcommittees have started and will continue budget hearings in which the state agencies come in and outline their budget needs for next year.  Right now it’s like the state agencies and the legislature are living in alternative universes.  The agencies are asking for millions in budget increases and the legislature is working with a budget that begins with a $300 million deficit.

continue reading ‘Starve the beast’ comes to Oklahoma (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: Falling oil prices increasingly impact state revenue

by | February 6th, 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.

Falling oil prices are having an increasing impact on the Oklahoma economy, according to a report from the state treasurer’s office. Gross production taxes dropped one-fifth, or nearly $8 million, from the previous January. However, state Treasurer Ken Miller reports that January saw record sales tax collections and total gross receipts. Oklahoma Watch reports that a loophole in state law is allowing people to get a handgun license without completing a live training requirement. Increasing interest at the Capitol in restricting wind industry tax credits may be placing plans for a $2 billion transmission line in jeopardy. Advocates for the transmission line say that it could transform the panhandle into a US energy hub.

A bill that would have increased the speed limit on Oklahoma turnpikes to 80 mph has been withdrawn by its sponsor, who says it needs to be rewritten. The bill may not be heard this year. OK Policy research fellow Brandon Crawford wrote that too many Oklahoma foster youth exit the system without a safety net, resulting in high levels of homelessness among former foster youth. Although Oklahoma’s teen pregnancy rate has declined, the state can and should do more, said the Tulsa World’s Editorial Board. Since the flu season began in September, over 1,600 Oklahomans have been hospitalized and 68 have died of the flu.

Although federal officials have backed off of a plan to end chronic homelessness by the end of next year, organizers in Oklahoma City believe it’s attainable. A count in January 2014 found that the city is hosted nearly 250 chronically homeless Oklahomans. Incoming Tulsa Public Schools superintendent Deborah Gist met parents and teachers in her first public forum in the state on Thursday. PostRock Energy Corp. has announced that it is trimming its Oklahoma City staff by one-quarter due to falling energy prices.

The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is holding its first-ever “Muslim Day” at the Capitol on Friday, February 27. At least four earthquakes have shaken Alfalfa County since late Wednesday, damaging part of the courthouse in Cherokee. The Number of the Day is the percent of Oklahomans with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg View examines the effects of mandating paid sick leave in Connecticut, San Francisco and Seattle, and found that the economic consequences were minimal.

continue reading In The Know: Falling oil prices increasingly impact state revenue

Too many foster youth enter the adult world without a safety net (Guest post: Brandon Crawford)

by | February 5th, 2015 | Posted in Children and Families | Comments (3)

BrandonCrawfordBrandon L. Crawford s one of four 2014-2015 OK Policy Research Fellows. Brandon is a Sociology Ph.D. student at the University of Oklahoma’s Norman Campus. He is also a research assistant at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Office of Planning Research and Statistics, where he is working on a federal Youth at-Risk of Homelessness grant.

For most Oklahoma teenagers, turning 18 is an uncomplicatedly exciting time in their lives. However, for foster children, turning 18 means exiting the state’s foster system – and that can mean transitioning to a world fraught with intense uncertainty and anxiety, including a significant risk of experiencing homelessness. Through federal funding, a new program in Oklahoma is identifying the factors that place former foster youth at risk of homelessness.

continue reading Too many foster youth enter the adult world without a safety net (Guest post: Brandon Crawford)

In The Know: Satanist’s letter over no-marriage-licenses bill prompts evacuation of Oklahoma Capitol

by and | February 5th, 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.

The Satanist who held a “black mass” at the Civic Center Music Hall touched off an hourlong lockdown at the state Capitol on Wednesday when fear arose he was delivering letters containing dangerous powder. Hazardous materials experts failed to find anything of danger in the letters, which were protesting a bill that would put an end to marriage licenses in Oklahoma. David Blatt’s Journal Record column examines how although Governor Fallin laid out important goals in her State of the State speech, her budget shows why they will be very difficult to achieve any of them. On the OK Policy we shared four takeaways from the Governor’s budget.

Education leaders in the state House and Senate said they don’t expect funding for Oklahoma’s college-completion efforts to be available this year. An angry Oklahoma County judge Wednesday threatened to jail the state’s mental health commissioner because a mentally ill criminal defendant did not get treatment for six months. Between 700,000 and 950,000 Oklahomans are in need of mental health or substance abuse treatment. Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said Tulsa County officials cannot be trusted to provide accurate information for an ongoing financial audit of the Tulsa Jail.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt vowed to sue the Obama administration over pending Clean Water Act rules. Two Oklahoma City-based energy companies have announced hundreds of layoffs this week. Since late January, more than 105,000 Oklahomans have selected or re-enrolled in insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. A bill to further restrict abortion in Oklahoma and another to make embryonic stem cell research illegal both cleared a House committee on Wednesday, despite concerns from a doctor on the panel.

A Moore Social Studies teacher responded to claims being made by Oklahoma lawmakers who are seeking to ban the teaching of AP US History. KFOR looked at a bill to legalize medical cannabis oil in Oklahoma. The Washington Post shared a map of all the bridges in America that have been deemed “structurally deficient,” including thousands in Oklahoma. The governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes said three fires set at tribal buildings were an attack on the tribe. The Oklahoma Insurance Department on Wednesday started offering a new tool to help Oklahomans find life insurance payments they may be owed.

The Number of the Day is the share of Oklahoma’s income growth since 1979 that went to the wealthiest 1 percent of households. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discusses why conservatives should get behind Obama’s push for universal Pre-K.

continue reading In The Know: Satanist’s letter over no-marriage-licenses bill prompts evacuation of Oklahoma Capitol

Four takeaways from the Governor’s budget

by | February 4th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)
Governor Mary Fallin delivering the 2012 State of the State.

Governor Mary Fallin delivering the 2012 State of the State address.

On Monday, Governor Mary Fallin delivered her State of the State address and  FY 2016 Executive Budget. Her speech emphasized the need to address hurdles in the areas of education, health, and criminal justice that are impeding the state’s progress. However, since the December meeting of the Board of Equalization, which certified some $300 million less revenue for next year’s budget, it’s been clear that efforts to tackle these priority areas would be limited by continued lack of funding.

Here are four key takeaways from the Governor’s budget:

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In The Know: ‘Hoodie’ bill will not get legislative hearing

by and | February 4th, 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.

A controversial measure dubbed the “hoodie” bill, which is aimed prohibiting people from concealing their identity, will not get a hearing in the Legislature. Staff at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission directed that an injection well operated by SandRidge Energy be shut down Tuesday due to continuing earthquakes in Alfalfa County. A bill that would allow Oklahoma ministers to be immune from civil liability for refusing to officiate a same-sex marriage has cleared a House committee. The Oklahoma State Medical Association has thrown its support behind legislation that would create a prescription monitoring program in the state. While Oklahoma’s attorney general is fighting in court to defend two anti-abortion bills passed by the Legislature last year, state lawmakers have introduced several new abortion bills for the 2015 session. 

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how the state has been on a steady march downward in national health rankings since 1990. Groups advocating for the state’s poor had both praise and criticism for Governor Fallin’s new online dashboard that seeks to hold government accountable by tracking metrics related to the quality of life in Oklahoma. KTUL examined the potential for measles outbreaks to come to Oklahoma. NewsOK discussed what you need to know about the 2015 flu outbreak, which has already claimed 58 lives in Oklahoma. A Tulsa church is hosting “Claim Your Coverage,” a free, one-on-one counseling service in enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace this weekend.

Journal Record Editor Ted Streuli criticized misleading comments from Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman about what accepting the Medicaid expansion would mean for Oklahoma. Hundreds of school districts across Oklahoma will share more than $16.3 million in state funding after the State Department of Education admitted miscalculating the state’s school funding formula for more than 20 years. The city of Tulsa and Tulsa County are so far apart on the terms of a new jail agreement that it may be time for the parties to go their separate ways, Undersheriff Tim Albin said Tuesday. All U.S. and Oklahoma flags on state property will be flown at half-staff this weekend to honor an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who died Saturday while on duty.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking among all 50 states for the total number of embezzlement cases tied to gambling. In today’s Policy Note, the Pew Charitable Trusts examines how states are going beyond federal law to protect pregnant workers who want to stay on the job.

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Oklahoma’s health ranking: same song, another verse

by | February 3rd, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

graph 1The latest nationwide health ranking is out, and Oklahoma in its customary trailing position on national comparisons. United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings report placed Oklahoma 46th in the US for the health of our people. This continues the state’s steady march downward since the group began compiling and releasing rankings. Since the rankings were first released in 1990, we’ve fallen to 46th from a solid 32.

So what’s going on? United Health Foundation bases the ranking on a wide range of variables, from prevalence of smoking to high school graduation rates. While Oklahoma’s indicators generally ranked badly, the report identified three primary areas of concern:

continue reading Oklahoma’s health ranking: same song, another verse

In The Know: Fallin proposal cuts most state agencies’ budgets by 6.25 percent

by and | February 3rd, 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 offered a 2016 budget proposal on Monday that cuts most state agencies’ budgets by 6.25 percent. You can read the governor’s budget proposal here. OK Policy released a statement that while Governor Fallin has identified important goals for Oklahoma, she is leaving Oklahoma’s best tools to accomplish these goals on the shelf. NewsOK shared other reactions from state leaders to the governor’s State of the State address. You can read the full text of the governor’s speech here. On the OK Policy Blog, we shared six recommended priorities for Oklahoma lawmakers in the coming year.

Gov. Mary Fallin and key lawmakers are pushing new legislation this year that would require Oklahoma doctors to check an online database before writing prescriptions for addictive painkillers and other frequently abused drugs. Oklahoma district attorneys are upset by a bill that would prohibit them from prosecuting elected state officials for a public offense, allowing only the state’s attorney general to file criminal charges. KGOU continued an investigation series on how Oklahoma has increasingly turned to fines and fees from court cases to pay for the court system itself, and in the process burying those who get in trouble with the law in mountains of debt.

Tulsa County leaders okayed a new, higher rate for municipal inmates in the jail. Some Oklahomans expressed concern that the state’s decision to close a Tulsa emergency shelter for abused and neglected children is being made too quickly and could lead to unintended side effects. All two dozen teachers in attendance at a Tulsa School Board meeting walked out in protest after the board announced they had chosen Deborah Gist as the district’s new superintendent. A new analysis from the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity shows the top single donor to a state-level election in Oklahoma was former Republican State Superintendent Janet Barresi, who gave $1.3 million to her own unsuccessful re-election campaign.

The Number of the Day is the average length of stay for an incarcerated woman in Oklahoma released in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Texas Observer gives an up-close-and-personal view of family detention in a for-profit lock-up in South Texas.

continue reading In The Know: Fallin proposal cuts most state agencies’ budgets by 6.25 percent

STATEMENT: Governor Fallin’s proposed budget leaves Oklahoma’s best tools on the shelf

by | February 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Budget, Press Releases | Comments (3)

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to Governor Fallin’s proposed state budget for 2016:

Governor Fallin rightly recognizes that Oklahoma needs to boost education funding, reduce incarceration, rein in tax breaks, and improve our citizens’ health, and her push to evaluate government programs using clear metrics may be very beneficial. Unfortunately her budget leaves on the shelf the best tools we have to accomplish these goals. By continuing to refuse billions in federal funds for health coverage and allowing another unnecessary cut to the top income tax rate to kick in, her proposed budget passes up Oklahoma’s most significant opportunities to fund critical needs. At the same time, it would add further cuts to many important services that have been already slashed over 20 percent in recent years, while providing a few small funding increases that are nowhere near what is needed to meet the rising costs of education, health care, and public safety.

Another concern is that by raiding unspecified revolving funds for hundreds of millions, the proposed budget would continue an unsustainable, one-time fix that shifts money away from its statutory purposes. This practice does nothing to address Oklahoma’s long-term budget gap, and it was twice found unconstitutional when lawmakers attempted it last year.

Priorities for Oklahoma lawmakers in 2015

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Oklahoma’s 2015 Legislative session kicks off today with a State of the State address from Governor Mary Fallin. OK Policy and the Together Oklahoma coalition have identified six priorities for the coming session that are practical, politically achievable steps to move Oklahoma toward lasting, broad-based prosperity. Read on for brief summaries of our priorities and links to a fact sheet for each one, or click here for a 2-page summary of the six priorities. If you want to join the campaign to make any of these goals happen for Oklahoma, check here to see how you can get involved.

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