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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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In The Know: DHS doesn’t have the funding, staff for heating assistance

by | December 9th, 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

DHS: We don’t have the funding, staff for heating assistance: After a mild start to fall, temperatures in Oklahoma have begun to drop, leaving people reaching for their thermostats. This season, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services says, it won’t be able to help all of people who need assistance with their heating bills. DHS spokesperson Mark Beutler said DHS is no longer accepting in-person applications for the program at county offices. People who need assistance can apply online [Fox 25].

Low pay is handicapping state agencies: Oklahoma’s state employees are really struggling to survive. Those whose salaries used to be just enough to keep them out of poverty have now gone a decade without a raise. An alarming number of our state’s workers have to accept welfare assistance from the federal government to feed their families. Their children get free and reduced price lunches at school. This year’s Thanksgiving dinner was donated by a local charity [Sean Wallace / Tulsa World].

Highway trooper cutbacks make Oklahoma roads less safe, a toll to be counted in lives lost: Here’s the latest evidence that the state of Oklahoma doesn’t have enough money to supply fundamental state services: The Department of Public Safety announced last week that it has limited state troopers to traveling 100 miles a day. Normally, Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers would travel 150 to 200 miles a day in their ordinary patrols, but because the DPS budget is falling short in a drastic way, the OHP has ordered cutbacks [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

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Trigger Warning: Legislature sets itself up for another ill-timed income tax cut

by | December 8th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (2)

Small Handgun with Red TriggerThis time last year, Oklahoma was in the middle of a massive budget crisis. As revenues came in below projections, the state twice made across-the-board budget cuts that hit our schools, health care, roads, and other key building blocks of our economy. Then the Legislature came into session facing a $1.3 billion shortfall, which led to even deeper cuts. In the midst of this agony, another tax cut took effect at the start of this year — adding at least $150 million to the budget hole and ensuring that critical services were slashed more deeply than would have been necessary without the tax cut.

That tax cut kicked in because of a poorly-designed trigger mechanism passed by legislators in 2014. This year could be déjà vu all over again. As a result of the same legislation passed nearly three years ago, Oklahoma could face another automatic tax cut simultaneously as we grapple with another huge budget hole and the likelihood of even more painful cuts. It’s time to learn from our mistakes. Making sure that this tax cut does not take effect should be a top priority of next year’s Legislature.

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In The Know: Donald Trump picks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead EPA

by | December 8th, 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

Donald Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Ally of Fossil Fuel Industry, to Lead E.P.A.: President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a transition official said, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change. Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda [New York Times].

Oil and gas lobbyist, Secretary of State seek AG’s job: Local attorney Anthony “AJ” Ferate is one of at least two people who applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy. Ferate is the regulatory affairs vice president for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, a position he took in 2014. Secretary of State Mike Hunter also applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy, according to sources familiar with the matter. Gov. Mary Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt would not confirm how many people had applied. The governor’s office has a policy that it does not release names of applicants, McNutt said. Ferate applied for the job with the condition that he would only seek to fill the unexpired term, if appointed, according to documents obtained by The Journal Record [Journal Record].

Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations: Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews. The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations [Reuters]. Rep. Mullin said his ‘privatization’ of Indian land comments were distorted by the media [OK Energy Today].

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In The Know: State Unveils Plan for A-F School Report Cards, Keeping Single Overall Grade

by | December 7th, 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

State Unveils Plan for A-F School Report Cards, Keeping Single Overall Grade: Oklahoma schools would continue to receive a single letter grade from the state Department of Education under a new plan for school accountability released Tuesday, but the components of the grades would be expanded. The new system, if adopted by the state Board of Education and the state Legislature, will add measures of chronic absenteeism, post-secondary opportunities and academic growth of English language learners, in addition to student assessments in math, English and science [Oklahoma Watch].

Economists’ school-funding proposals may draw stiff resistance: Voters’ rejection of a sales tax increase to pay for teacher raises and other education initiatives has officials looking for other ways to boost school funding in Oklahoma. A panel of economists recently offered suggestions for doing so. But their proposals involve hard-to-achieve constitutional change and could draw bitter opposition from many school administrators, school boards and teachers unions. Speaking last week at a Greater Oklahoma City Chamber forum, Robert Dauffenbach, senior associate dean at the University of Oklahoma, endorsed “local option” in school funding by removing “these constitutional restrictions on millage.” [The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Medicaid money to help solve state’s doctor shortage: Researchers with the National Governors Association will spend the next five months developing recommendations on how Oklahoma should spend Medicaid money on the doctor shortage. Unlike Medicaid allocations used for reimbursements, the research target is money earmarked for physician education, known as Medicaid Graduate Medical Education or GME. Last year, Oklahoma spent millions in federal and state funds across several types of physician workforce needs, including payments to medical schools and doctors who agree to work in rural areas. Gov. Mary Fallin announced last week that Oklahoma had received the grant [Journal Record].

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My story as a daughter of Oklahoma corrections officers

by | December 6th, 2016 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (1)
chelsea-fiedler

Chelsea Fiedler

Chelsea Fiedler is a senior at Rogers State University, majoring in Political Science. Before interning at OK Policy, Chelsea was a Mission Impact Intern at YWCA Tulsa and served as Student Government Association President at Rogers State University. Chelsea plans to attend law school after graduation. 

I was born and raised in the small town of Vinita, Oklahoma. My father was honorably discharged after eight years in the Army and began working at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center (NOCC) shortly before my birth. My mother stayed home to take care of my older sister and me until I was ten years old. We didn’t have a lot of money, but it never felt that way. My sister and I were always fed and clothed adequately, and my mother made sure we were getting a good education at both school and home. In 2005, when I was nine years old, my mother started work at NOCC as a correctional officer. She worked her way up the ranks and is now a lieutenant. Before my mom started working at NOCC, there was little talk about the facility at home. Now that both of my parents play crucial roles on the compound, they frequently discuss aspects of their work at home.

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In The Know: Oklahoma political waters get murky in 2018 after Trump win

by | December 6th, 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

Political waters get murky in 2018 after Trump win: The political waters for the 2018 cycle have become murkier with several of Oklahoma’s rising Republican stars jockeying for spots in Donald Trump’s administration. The biggest prize will be Oklahoma’s governorship, since current Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is term-limited. But with speculation swirling that Fallin might take a post in the Trump administration, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb would assume the post and the power of incumbency in 2018. The former state senator and ex-U.S. Secret Service agent has long been discussed as a likely candidate for governor in 2018 and already has more than $1 million in his campaign war chest [Associated Press].

How Would Todd Lamb Govern? If Gov. Mary Fallin joins President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb will step in to finish the two years left in her term. The question is, would that mean status quo in policies since both are Republicans, or would Lamb’s half-term, combined with a big crop of new legislators, bring significant changes? Lamb, an Enid native and former Secret Service agent, would become governor at a challenging time for the state, with another sizable budget shortfall expected for fiscal 2018 and state agency heads describing their funding needs in crisis terms [Oklahoma Watch].

When Police Confront the Mentally Ill: Patricia Tompkins wanted help for her son, Eric Tompkins. Eric, 41, of Ardmore, was suffering from severe depression, according to statements made online by Patricia and other members of Eric’s family. On the morning of Aug. 8, 2015, she suspected he had attempted to kill himself by drinking roach poison. When she called the local mental health crisis center, Patricia was told that for Eric to be admitted, the police would have to be involved first, she wrote in a posting. She was instructed to call 911 [Oklahoma Watch].

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In The Know: Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post

by | December 5th, 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

Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post: Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, is among the American Indian voices in Oklahoma who have endorsed Gov. Mary Fallin as secretary of the interior for the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Fallin also has the sanction of the oil and gas sector. The relationships of her political campaigns with companies such as Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy are well-documented in donation disclosures. “Given all the choices and potential nominees for secretary of the interior, the most advantageous for Oklahoma is Gov. Mary Fallin,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Federal appointments could leave limited replacement options: If any of Oklahoma’s statewide elected officials are tapped to join the president-elect’s administration, the vacancies could have the governor pulling candidates from the private sector. Gov. Mary Fallin could be a finalist to lead the Department of Interior and Attorney General Scott Pruitt is rumored to be angling for the Environmental Protection Agency administrator’s job. If Fallin leaves Oklahoma, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb would assume her office. Lamb would then be able to appoint his choice for lieutenant governor without legislative confirmation. However, despite the long line of eager politicians who could benefit from holding that office, the governor would not be able to elevate a state senator or representative to the position [Journal Record].

Indian cultural center to resume construction in spring: The Chickasaw Nation and Oklahoma City Hall are resolving the last legal obstacles in developing the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum near downtown with expectations of movement on the project by spring, officials said. Craig Freeman, the city’s finance director, said the Chickasaws are in the process of confirming the state government has cleared the site of other obligations. Since 2006, the state has spent more than $90 million to create a site near the Oklahoma River to showcase Oklahoma’s wide mosaic of American Indian heritage, but politics over budgeting stopped construction by 2012. In its current incomplete form, the center is still costing the state about $7 million per year for property maintenance and payments on earlier construction bonds [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Decades of neglect underpins $1.65 billion prisons request

by | November 28th, 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

In The Know is taking a break for the rest of the week as most staff head to conferences. We’ll return on Monday, December 5th. 

Decades of neglect underpins $1.65 billion prisons request: Overseeing chronically overcrowded, rapidly deteriorating facilities, Oklahoma’s prison director is seeking to triple his department’s budget in hopes of reversing decades of deferred maintenance and neglect that has jeopardized a linchpin of public safety. “We’re not a listing ship. We are a sinking ship,” Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said after the state Board of Corrections approved his nearly $1.65 billion budget request for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and sent it to state lawmakers for their review [NewsOK]. The effects of budget cuts on Oklahoma prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

Epidemic Ignored: Lack of accountability in Oklahoma jails leaves prisoners vulnerable, taxpayers on the hook: When the inmate asked for a wheelchair, the Beckham County jail staff gave him an alternative option: crawling. The man’s feet were swollen, bleeding and cracked, caused by gout, a painful form of arthritis. He couldn’t walk. For days, the man crawled on the cold, concrete floor. When his family came to the jail to visit him, he crawled across the floor to meet them. When staff brought his medicine to the cell, he crawled to the cell door [NewsOK]. 

Mothers in Prison: The women’s wing of the jail here exhales sadness. The inmates, wearing identical orange uniforms, ache as they undergo withdrawal from dugs, as they eye one another suspiciously, and as they while away the days stripped of freedom, dignity, privacy, and, most painful of all, their children. “She’s disappointed in me,” Janay Manning, 29, a drug offender shackled to the wall for an interview, said of her eldest daughter, a 13 year-old. And then she started crying, and we paused our interview [Nicholas Kristof / The New York Times]. 

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