OK PolicyCast Episode 22: Predatory payday lending in Oklahoma

by | February 27th, 2015 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)
Photo by Thomas Hawk.

Photo by Thomas Hawk.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

This week we speak with Kate Richey of OK Policy and the Oklahoma Assets Network on her research into payday lending in Oklahoma and how it can trap families in a vicious cycle of debt.

On Wednesday, March 4 there will be a Town Hall Forum on predatory lending in Oklahoma at the OU Faculty House in Oklahoma City. A local panel of experts will discuss how payday lenders target military families, older Oklahomans, single parent households, and other vulnerable communities and demographics. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

You can download the podcast here or play it in your browser:

Tax cuts, oil busts, and eating our dessert before dinner (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | February 27th, 2015 | 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. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Photo by Waleed Alzuhair.

Photo by Waleed Alzuhair.

Speaker Jeff Hickman and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman have announced that House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees are going to actually bring state agencies in during the session to review the consequences of a 3% to 9% cut in their budgets.  Sen. Bingman said this was the first time in memory the subcommittees have given such scrutiny to agency budgets.  In the past few years the subcommittees have held hearings during the interim or at the beginning of session to hear the agencies report what they did with last year’s money and what their budget request is for the coming year.  I get the impression from some members that this is the last they hear from the agencies until the leadership announces a “budget deal” at the end of session.   At that point the decisions have been made.  It’s a good thing that the subcommittees will be more actively involved.

continue reading Tax cuts, oil busts, and eating our dessert before dinner (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: Two sentencing reform bills pass out of House committee

by | February 27th, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (2)

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.

Under two bills that passed House committee this week, judges would be allowed to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, and some inmates who successfully pass a drug treatment program would get chance to go before a judge and receive a suspended sentence. A Senate committee will consider a measure that would allow district courts to review arbitrator decisions in termination cases involving officers accused of excessive use of force or aggravated sexual assault. The McAlester City Council has voted unanimously to approve new body cameras for the city’s police force. Rep. Claudia Griffith has withdrawn her bill to protect the privacy of victims who were caught on cameras used by law enforcement, because it had been drastically changed by an amendment from another legislator to give public officials wide latitude to deny open records requests.

In a lawsuit that pitted Attorney General Scott Pruitt against former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a judge ruled the Humane Society of the United States must turn over one contested document and portions of two others to Pruitt’s office but can keep the contents of more than 21 other documents secret. On the OK Policy Blog, we shared seven tips for getting your legislators’ attention. KOSU shared the audio from an “On Tap” event where OK Policy’s David Blatt and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affair’s Jonathan Small discussed the state’s $611M budget shortfall. A Senate panel passed a measure that would allow liquor stores to sell refrigerated, high-point beer.

The Regional Food Bank has doubled the amount of food they donate annually the last six years, but officials say it’s still not enough to help all of the Oklahomans battling hunger. Oklahoma City schools have managed to provide winter coats to all students, after having to cancel classes several times last year due to frigid temperatures and kids walking to school not having coats. A committee at Capitol Hill High School charged with selecting a replacement for the Redskins mascot, which is offensive to many Native Americans, has come up with four alternatives. The Tulsa World reported that while Sen. Jim Inhofe threw a snowball on the Senate floor in his attempts to deny the science of climate change, a small town in Oklahoma is playing a big role in that science.

OG&E is asking Oklahoma regulators to allow it to increase customer charges by $1.1 billion for federal environmental compliance and to replace an aging natural gas plant. A law that would have prohibited municipalities from restricting oil and gas drilling has been changed in committee to say that cities must reimburse mineral rights owners for any regulations that could reduce revenue from oil and gas on their land. Oklahoma City’s economic consultant, Russell Evans, told the city council that the latest indications show consumers remain confident in the future despite falling oil prices. Energy companies will cut between 400 and 500 workers per month on average this year, according to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Economic Forecast. With wind energy production in full swing in Oklahoma, legislative leaders are looking to impose some new restrictions on the booming industry.

The Number of the Day is the total number of llamas in Oklahoma in 2012. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times shares how low-income Americans are piling on extra jobs and hours in attempts to escape the coverage gap created by states that are refusing federal funds to expand Medicaid.

continue reading In The Know: Two sentencing reform bills pass out of House committee

Seven ways to get your legislators’ attention

by | February 26th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (4)

This post by OK Policy’s Outreach Specialist Kara Joy McKee originally appeared on togetherok.org.

Photo by Maryland GovPics

Photo by Maryland GovPics

Does this sound familiar?

You hear about some out-there proposal at the state Legislature, or you know about some good idea that’s not getting done, and you get inspired to mobilize – to speak up so our elected officials will hear you.

What do you?

The first answer that comes to many of our minds is “Let’s march to the Capitol and have a rally!”

A crowd waving signs is what so many of us associate with politics. We look back to those dramatic, history-making marches from the Civil Right movement, and think that’s what you do to make a difference.

But is that the only or the best option?

continue reading Seven ways to get your legislators’ attention

In The Know: Hydrocodone no longer No. 1 drug prescribed to Oklahoma’s Medicaid patients

by and | February 26th, 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 powerful painkiller linked to hundreds of prescription drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma recently dropped from its spot as the drug most prescribed to state Medicaid patients. A House committee approved legislation allowing terminally ill patients access to medications that have received preliminary approval from the Food and Drug Administration but are not yet on pharmacy shelves. State Sen. Greg Treat said one of the most embarrassing things for Oklahoma is that the state still does not have an accredited Office of Chief Medical Examiner. We previously discussed how problems at the Medical Examiner’s Officer are a clear result of Oklahoma’s chronic underfunding of public services.

In the Journal Record, David Blatt discussed how the proliferation of tax cuts and tax breaks have contributed to the state’s current $611 million budget hole. On the OK Policy Blog, we gave an overview of Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund and how it might be used to help close the budget hole. Oklahoma would add its name to the list of states calling for a national constitutional convention under a resolution adopted Wednesday by the House Rules Committee. We previously discussed how a constitutional convention could destabilize the entire nation and radically rework the Constitution.

Judges would be allowed to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders under a proposed law that passed out of a state House committee Wednesday. The same committee narrowly passed a measure that would make fines and sentences for cattle theft steeper than they are for aggravated assault. A Tulsa man given a life sentence at 13-years-old for a murder in which he was not the shooter has been released on parole after 17 years in prison. 

A Senate panel passed a measure that could lead to replacing end-of-instruction exams with the ACT. A Tulsa Regional Chamber spokeswoman said that a rash of controversial bills being heard at the Capitol has the rest of the nation thinking Oklahoma is backward and is hurting our business climate. Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham discussed how a House committee hearing on a bill to protect conversion therapy included false statistics and made no mention of the overwhelming consensus among professionals in the medical, mental health and social work fields that the therapy can harm a child psychologically. 

Oklahoma banks boosted profits by 10 percent in 2014, earning a record $1.3 billion even as the number of banks in the state continues to decrease. In a quarterly report, Chesapeake Energy revealed that the company won’t be drilling as much in 2015 due to lower energy prices and plans to slash spending by more than $2 billion. A House committee approved a bill that would allow counties to levy a severance tax on rock, sand, gravel, granite and limestone mining operations if approved by a vote of the people. A bill to limit eminent domain seizures in Oklahoma has been withdrawn amid concerns it would threaten plans for a major electricity transmission project connecting state wind farms to consumers in the South and on the East Coast.

The Number of the Day is amount awarded to 17 Oklahoma health centers from a 2015 grant program under the Affordable Care Act. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times shows how Obamacare is working to make health care affordable for tens of millions of Americans.

continue reading In The Know: Hydrocodone no longer No. 1 drug prescribed to Oklahoma’s Medicaid patients

Rainy Day Fund 101

by | February 25th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)
Photo by Hamed Parham.

Photo by Hamed Parham.

With the state now facing a massive budget shortfall, attention has turned to tapping the Rainy Day Fund to close a portion of the gap. This post gives an overview of the Rainy Day Fund and how it might be used to help close Oklahoma’s current budget hole. The bottom line is that of the $535 million currently in the Fund, up to just under 5/8ths, or $325.5 million, could be appropriated for next year.

continue reading Rainy Day Fund 101

In The Know: School voucher bill OK’d by Senate committee

by and | February 25th, 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 bill allowing public education dollars to go to private schools narrowly passed the Senate Finance Committee and is headed to the full Senate. The bill was amended in committee to remove a provision that would have allowed public education dollars to go to home schools. A new report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies finds that African American students in the Oklahoma City school system are more likely to face suspension during their high school years than students in any other district in the nation. On the OK Policy Blog, we examine Governor Fallin’s new “OKStateStats” website that the governor says will become the basis of “performance-based budgeting” for state agencies. At a “Politics On Tap” event this evening in Oklahoma City, OK Policy’s David Blatt and OCPA’s Jonathan Small will discuss the state’s $600 million budget shortfall.

NPR examined fears that a prolonged drop in oil prices could endanger Oklahoma’s banks. The Tulsa World examined conflicts between the Osage Nation and small oil drillers in Osage County whose permits have been delayed for an environmental assessment. Rep. Doug Cox wrote an op-ed arguing for Oklahoma to increase the tobacco tax to boost education funding. A bill that seeks to protect the controversial practice of gay conversion therapy passed out of an Oklahoma House committee. A bill allowing school districts to develop rape and sexual assault programs for both students and staff passed unanimously through a House committee.

A proposal to force certain sex offenders in Oklahoma to undergo chemical castration as a condition of release from prison has failed in a state Senate committee. The state’s mental health commissioner has apologized to a judge who had threatened to jail her because a mentally ill criminal defendant did not get treatment for six months. Oklahoma Watch profiled Exodus House groups in Tulsa and Oklahoma City that are providing treatment for drug and alcohol abuse to a few ex-offenders for the first time in their lives.

Oklahoma seniors and disabled people have saved nearly $191 million on medicine in the last four years because the Affordable Care Act is closing the “doughnut hole” coverage gap in Medicare. The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday passed an anti-texting while driving bill after years of resistance, though the bill received criticism for not going far enough. News9 reported that a bill passed last year to reduce uninsured driving in Oklahoma is not having much impact. The Oklahoma editorial board warned that Oklahoma’s Open Records Act is under attack. A KRJH investigation that fewer than half of the dash cameras purchased by the Tulsa Policy Department under court order are actually in use.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of black male secondary students in Oklahoma City Public Schools who were suspended at least once in 2011-12, the highest suspension rate in the nation. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains how harsh school discipline policies have created a school to prison pipeline.

continue reading In The Know: School voucher bill OK’d by Senate committee

What Fallin’s goals for state government tell us about Oklahoma

by | February 24th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Education, Healthcare | Comments (2)
Photo by House GOP

Photo by House GOP

During her 2015 State of the State Address, Governor Fallin announced a new state website that would identify measurable objectives for state government and track how Oklahoma is doing at reaching these objectives over time. The website looks at 160 metrics in five areas: Healthy Citizens & Strong Families; Safe Citizens & Secure Communities; Educated Citizens & Exemplary Schools; Prosperous Citizens & Thriving Economy; and Effective Services & Accountable Government. For each metric, the site shares a current statistic and a target to reach in the next few years. The site also describes some of what the state is doing to reach that target.

Fallin implied that the metrics would influence state budget decisions, saying, “Our goal is to change the paradigm when it comes to state agency management. Using OkStateStat, Oklahoma will become the first state in the nation to develop a comprehensive budgeting system that ties spending to measurable goals and outcomes.” That change in paradigm is yet to be seen in the Governor’s most recent budget proposal, which she released on the same day. The latest budget continues the pattern set by most previous budgets in her administration — flat funding or small increases to a few state agencies, across the board cuts to everything else.

continue reading What Fallin’s goals for state government tell us about Oklahoma

In The Know: Treasurer says he will sue state to protect unclaimed property beneficiaries if Legislature passes bill

by and | February 24th, 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.

State Treasurer Ken Miller said a bill being pushed by insurance companies in the Oklahoma Legislature is so bad for consumers that he would sue the state if it were ever passed. On the OK Policy Blog, a guest post from Treasurer Miller’s Oklahoma Economic Report warns against Oklahoma’s passage of repeated tax cuts without saying how they will be paid for. Appropriations and budget subcommittees in the House and Senate are meeting with agency leaders this week to find out how they would handle budget cuts ranging as high as 10 percent. Oklahoma Arts Council Director Amber Sharples said they would have to cut community arts programs in rural Oklahoma.

Fallin’s finance secretary, Preston Doerflinger, said he may have found a source of savings in agency travel costs, memberships to other organizations, and promotional and events expenses, or what his office calls “swag,” but Oklahoma Watch reported that there may not be much savings to be found from cutting those expenses. Longtime Tulsa oil leaders discussed how the oil price collapse of 2015 compares to the oil bust of 1985. Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn came to the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass a bill calling for a Constitutional Convention to change the U.S. Constitution. On the OK Policy Blog, we explained why a constitutional convention would put everything at risk with a process that cannot be controlled.

The House approved a bill allowing Oklahoma district attorneys to collect DNA samples for the state’s offender database from defendants who aren’t sentenced to prison. On the OK Policy Blog, we previously explained how indiscriminate DNA testing could lead to false convictions of innocent Oklahomans. A bill establishing a six-month mandatory minimum sentence for eluding police has been pulled back for revision after pushback against mandatory minimums. The OK Policy Blog previously examined how excessive mandatory minimums have contributed to the state’s incarceration crisis. An Oklahoma Watch investigation showed how ex-offenders face a steep price to reinstate their driver’s license, which creates a major barrier to getting a job and reintegrating with society. A professional bull riding circuit has expressed interest in bringing back Oklahoma’s prison rodeo, which has been cancelled due to budget cuts. Tulsa County and the city of Tulsa are inching closer to a deal on a new jail agreement.

The House Common Education Committee approved a bill to make permanent the changes made to the state’s third-grade reading sufficiency requirements last year. A bill in the state Senate could set up a water fight between eastern Oklahoma and the drought-stricken west. The Tulsa World spoke with teachers about how black history is being taught in Oklahoma schools today. Oklahoma Muslims and their interfaith supporters will visit the state Capitol Friday, despite a threatened protest by an anti-Muslim group.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Tulsa County residents who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2012. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post examines the underrated economic benefit of parents who work less.

continue reading In The Know: Treasurer says he will sue state to protect unclaimed property beneficiaries if Legislature passes bill

Avoid ‘naked tax cuts with none of the pay fors’ (Guest post: Oklahoma Economic Report)

by | February 23rd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)
State Treasurer Ken Miller

State Treasurer Ken Miller

This article originally appeared in State Treasurer Ken Miller’s monthly newsletter, the Oklahoma Economic Report.

At the dawn of a new legislative session, current government expenses once again exceed expected revenues and agencies are lining up with $2 billion in additional requests. Policymakers and the public are questioning whether Oklahoma taxes too little or too much, if the state has the right mix of taxes, and what the state should or should not be incentivizing through tax policy.

For years, the discussion about Oklahoma’s tax structure has focused on eliminating the income tax. Mostly ignored is how to replace the more than one-third of state revenue it generates. Nine states don’t tax personal income. Only one state, Alaska, eliminated the personal income tax, but it did so by depending almost entirely on oil and gas industry taxes. Two no-income tax states – Florida and Washington – have higher tax burdens than some income-tax-assessing states, including Oklahoma, according to the Tax Foundation. Tax burden is defined as the collective weight of all taxes levied on an individual.

continue reading Avoid ‘naked tax cuts with none of the pay fors’ (Guest post: Oklahoma Economic Report)

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