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In The Know: Millions poured into OKC schools facing closure, consolidation

by | March 30th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Millions poured into OKC schools facing closure, consolidation: The city spent more than $15 million in MAPS for Kids money to improve the six schools now targeted for possible closure or consolidation by Oklahoma City Public Schools, data shows. Another $5 million in bonds approved by voters in November is earmarked for maintenance, technology and transportation needs at targeted Edgemere, Gatewood, F.D. Moon, Green Pastures and Johnson Elementary schools and Northeast Academy for Health Sciences and Engineering Enterprise [NewsOK]. Residents fear possible Oklahoma City school closures could affect property values [KFOR]. Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017 [OK Policy].

Take TPS survey to see agonizing choices facing administrators: The last day to complete a survey to help prioritize budget cutsfor Tulsa Public Schools is Thursday. Take it. The survey best illustrates the agonizing choices school administrators are facing in making — yet again — millions more in budget cuts [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]. Tulsa school leaders are girding for a state appropriation cut of as much as $12 million [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. The survey is available here.

Accusations fly as House votes unanimously for $34 million DHS appropriation: Democrats and Republicans traded accusations and insults on the House floor Wednesday afternoon but agreed unanimously — and almost incidentally — on a $34 million supplemental appropriation for the Department of Human Services. Everyone agreed DHS needs the money to get through the current budget year. Apparently, the current budget was passed last spring with the understanding, at least on the part of some, that it didn’t include enough money to keep DHS going for a full 12 months, and a promise to do something about it when the time came [Tulsa World]. Without a supplemental appropriation, DHS doesn’t have the funds to pay providers for the care of more than 25,000 Oklahomans after April [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Budget cuts threaten future of over two dozen Oklahoma driver’s license exam sites

by | March 29th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Budget cuts threaten future of over two dozen Oklahoma driver’s license exam sites: Many Oklahomans living outside the state’s largest metropolitan areas may soon find themselves driving up to 100 miles to apply for a driver’s license. Department of Public Safety officials confirmed Monday that potential 15 percent budget cuts threaten to shutter more than two dozen driver’s license exam sites across the state. That would leave fewer than a dozen locations open [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Wind-generation tax credits could end soon: A measure that would end tax credits for all wind-energy generation facility placed in operation after July 1 was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. House Bill 2298 won approval in that chamber March 9 by a by 69-25 vote, was signed and sent to the Senate on March 20. The zero-emission tax credits were scheduled to expire at the end of 2020, but lawmakers singled it out early in the legislative session as a way to help fill an $878 million hole in the state budget [Enid News]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].

DHS walking budgetary tightrope; some fear service cuts: With the Oklahoma Legislature facing a large revenue shortage for the fourth consecutive year, state agencies are steeling for another round of cuts to allocations. Among the agencies is the Department of Human Services, which administers services ranging from child care benefits and services for parents to child protective services and foster care. Federal assistance is often disbursed through DHS programs, and the agency is one of Oklahoma’s bigger budgetary tickets. The Legislature must find nearly $900 million in cuts or revenue before Memorial Day weekend to cover a hole in the state budget [Tahlequah Daily Press]. DHS is about to run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities [OK Policy].

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OK PolicyCast Episode 27: So You Want To Effect Change

by | March 28th, 2017 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (1)

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OK PolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

Today on the OK PolicyCast, we speak with Shay White, a social worker and advocate with Together Oklahoma and ACTION. She spoke to us about what motivated her to get involved with policy change, what keeps her going, and finding “that one thing that gets us up every morning.”

You can subscribe at the links above, download the podcast here, or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Legislature Mulls $34 Million Funding Infusion For DHS

by | March 28th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Legislature Mulls $34 Million Funding Infusion For DHS: The Oklahoma Legislature is considering a bill to immediately provide $34 million in funding to the Department of Human Services to prevent worker furloughs and provider rate cuts. A bill is scheduled for a hearing Monday that would tap about $30 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund and another $4 million from the Rainy Day Fund. The money would be used to fund programs for the elderly and developmentally disabled. Amid budget shortfalls in recent years, Oklahoma lawmakers have increasingly looked at one-time funding sources, like the Unclaimed Property Fund and Rainy Day Fund, to help fill the gaps [Associated Press]. The agency is about to run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities [OK Policy].

Special elections set to fill two seats in the Oklahoma Legislature: Governor Mary Fallin has set special election dates for open seats in the Senate and House. The governor ordered special elections for Senate District 44 and House District 46. Both districts will host a primary election July 11 and a general election Sept. 12. The filing period for both elections has been set for May 1 through 3. Shortey resigned last week, effective immediately, after being charged in connection to a child prostitution investigation. SD 44 covers a large portion of southwest Oklahoma City. Two candidates have announced their intention to run for the seat [KOKH].

Bill seeks to reduce low-access food areas: Some legislators are pushing to help grocery stores help their customers. The Healthy Food Financing Act would create a mechanism to help grocers and small retailers such as convenience stores stock more nutritious, perishable items. Senate Bill 506 would establish a revolving fund that the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry would oversee. That money would have a long list of possible projects to fund, which would include helping business owners build new locations, expand existing stores or buy new equipment. It could also pay for communities to bring in mobile farmers markets or establish community gardens [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Lawmakers concerned cuts could lead to federal takeover

by | March 27th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Lawmakers concerned cuts could lead to federal takeover: Concerns are mounting that the Legislature’s ongoing budget woes could lead to a new court showdown and trigger a possible federal takeover of the state’s foster care system. And observers fear the biggest loser in the tussle would be Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children — the nearly 9,500 abused and neglected kids currently in foster care — the caseworkers who protect the, and the thousands of families who have agreed to shelter the youth in their time of greatest need. Critics, meanwhile, claim officials are flirting with disaster as they consider chopping millions in funding to the state’s foster care program in an effort to fill an $878 million shortfall. [Enid News]

New revenue must be part of Oklahoma budget debate: The Legislature just completed the final week for bills to be voted on in their house of origin. The fact the House was able to finish its work Wednesday night, instead of going late into Thursday or even into Friday, indicates the leadership is keeping the trains running on a pretty good schedule. However, it’s also true that important revenue-raising bills sought by Gov. Mary Fallin to help address an $878 million budget shortfall face an uncertain future, in part because they’ve been met tepidly by House leadership. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman] See OK Policy’s proposed revenue options for a better budget here.

Budget hearings mark Oklahoma Legislature’s halfway point:  Members of the Oklahoma House got a budget update from agencies Thursday as lawmakers wrapped up the first half of session. Meanwhile, House Speaker Charles McCall said he has come up with a plan to fund teacher pay raises, but the plan will remain a secret for now. The budget meetings were a chance to tell lawmakers how the agencies have handled budget cuts so far, but also gave officials another chance to present dire results of a hypothetical 14.5 percent spending cut. [The Oklahoman] See our Legislative Primer for a full list of important dates this session.

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The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy welcomes two new additions, Republican health bill would devastate Oklahomans’ access to care, DHS may soon run out of money to care for vulnerable seniors, and more

by | March 26th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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, OK Policy welcomed two new additions – Courtney Cullison has been hired as a policy analyst and Dr. Susan Louise Chambers has joined the Board of Directors. In Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column, we met Beth, a self-employed woodworker who receives subsidies from Healthcare.gov to purchase health insurance and would no longer be able to afford that insurance under the proposed American Health Care Act. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam described the devastating impact the House Republican health bill would have on Oklahomans’ access to care and reported that the Oklahoma Department of Humans services may soon run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.  

Policy Director Gene Perry shared a letter from Director of Oklahoma Department of Human Services Ed Lake discussing Oklahoma budget cut scenarios that range from “the terrible to the unthinkable”. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update explains that state legislators still have a lot of work to do to solve the state’s big budget problems this session.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt’s report that the state supplanted lottery funds was picked up by KFOR and the Tulsa World for stories about the state’s requirement to pay back the $10 million that was supplanted. The Tulsa World quoted Putnam’s work on the effects of the proposed Republican health care bill for a story about Oklahomans’ perspective on the legislation, and Putnam was interviewed by OETA for a story on the effects of that bill on health care for Oklahomans.

Blatt’s participation in a panel discussion on the minimum wage was reported by NewsOK. Blatt was also quoted by the OCCC Pioneer in a story about dangerous small loans that could be offered in Oklahoma if HB 1913 becomes law this session.

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As we near halfway point of legislative session, still waiting for solutions on big issues (Capitol Update)

by | March 24th, 2017 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (0)

“Hourglass” by Jamie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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.

This past week was spring break week for most of the state’s schools, so the Legislature worked a short week. The goal was to give legislators more time with family and a chance to get away for a few days with the kids if it worked out for them.

It’s hard to get away during session, and most members don’t want to miss roll call votes. Missed votes are always good fodder for opponents in the next election. Many of these early votes aren’t the final vote on a bill because they’ll likely be amended in the other chamber and come back for another vote for final passage, but even so an absence counts as a missed vote.

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In The Know: Senate kills bill to prevent cities from protecting LGBT community

by | March 24th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Senate kills bill to prevent cities from protecting LGBT community: The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday killed a bill that would have nullified city of Tulsa ordinances offering protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing and employment. Senate Bill 694, by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, failed by a vote of 18 for and 25 against. It requires 25 votes in the Senate to pass a measure. Brecheen held the bill on a motion to reconsider the vote by which it failed. That motion failed as well, by 15 for and 28 against [Tulsa World]. After the bill failed, the author of a second measure to allow businesses to discriminate against gay people withdrew his proposal [NewsOK].

DHS Director: Oklahoma budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable”: Unless lawmakers find new revenues to close their budget shortfall, Oklahoma is looking at unprecedented cuts to the most basic services of state government, including those for the most vulnerable seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Even before next year’s budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will run out of money in May to pay for in-home care of 25,000 seniors and individuals with severe disabilities unless the Legislature acts quickly to provide supplemental funds [OK Policy]. Cuts to programs and services would include eliminating some or all of the staff positions and contracts associated with those programs [Tulsa World].

Agencies: Potential cuts are alarming: Legislators required all state agencies to report how a 14.5-percent budget cut would affect them. On the whole, it would mean more than 1,000 layoffs and a severe drop in services. Agencies have already seen millions drop out of their budgets. They’ve already let thousands of employees go, initiated hiring freezes and capped services. But as 2018’s fiscal year looms with the threat of an almost $900 million shortfall, everyone is looking at what else they can cut. They aren’t mincing words [Journal Record].

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DHS Director: Oklahoma budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable”

OKDHS Director Ed Lake

Unless lawmakers find new revenues to close their budget shortfall, Oklahoma is looking at unprecedented cuts to the most basic services of state government, including those for the most vulnerable seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Even before next year’s budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will run out of money in May to pay for in-home care of 25,000 seniors and individuals with severe disabilities unless the Legislature acts quickly to provide supplemental funds.

Yesterday, OKDHS Director Ed Lake sent a message to all employees of the agency stating that further cuts would threaten the elimination of entire programs serving very vulnerable adults and children. The cuts could even undo the progress made under court order to improve our child welfare system. Here is Director Lake’s message in full:

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In The Know: Senate plan for teacher pay raises hinges on fuel tax hike

by | March 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Senate plan for teacher pay raises hinges on fuel tax hike: The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would increase teacher pay. But the funding mechanism, an increase in the motor fuel taxes, must start in the House, said Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, the author of the bill. Senate Bill 618 passed by a vote of 40-2 and heads to the House for consideration [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmakers rush to hear bills, including teacher pay: Oklahoma lawmakers are rushing to decide whether or not bills will move forward into the House and Senate this week. Today, the Senate voted on a number of issues, including 22 bills pertaining to education. One bill, which would give teachers a raise, is headed to the House for consideration. Oklahoma is losing teachers, creating a shortage, but lawmakers and teachers both agree that a salary increase could help fix the problem [KTUL].

Oklahoma House passes bill that could restore Ten Commandments monument to Capitol grounds: State representatives voted late Tuesday to allow monuments to “historically significant documents” — primarily the Ten Commandments — to be displayed on public property. House Bill 2177, by Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, is offered as an antidote to a state Supreme Court decision that removed such a memorial from the Capitol grounds and a vote of the people last fall that essentially reinforced that ruling [Tulsa World].

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