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Thousands of new bills were filed this week in Oklahoma (Capitol Update)

by | January 20th, 2017 | 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.

Yesterday, January 19th, was the second formal deadline of the upcoming session. All bills creating new substantive law had to be filed by the close of business. House and Senate members have developed a custom of waiting until right before the deadline before filing their bills. As of Monday, only 119 bills and 1 Joint Resolution had been filed in the House, and 171 bills and 8 Joint Resolutions had been filed in the Senate. By Thursday night, a total of 2,148 bills and resolutions had been filed for consideration this session.

Going through all of these proposals makes for a frenetic several weeks. It takes a while for all the proposed legislation to be discovered and understood. When most all the bills are filed at the same time, some tend to get buried. You can always count on a collection of gun bills, abortion bills, and other “values” legislation to grab a lot of attention. This is the time people get very worried and spend a lot of energy on measures that may be going nowhere. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that these proposals are important to someone or they wouldn’t get filed. And you can’t stop a legislator from filing legislation. While it pays to pay attention, just because a bill gets filed doesn’t mean it’s going to become law.

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In The Know: School Choice Measures Are Back, and in a Big Way

by | January 20th, 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.

Today In The News

Four days left to register: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

School Choice Measures Are Back, and in a Big Way: One of the most hotly debated education issues — school choice — is again on the agenda of the state Legislature. Three, nearly identical bills filed Thursday by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, seek to create an education savings account system; Loveless is calling each bill the “Oklahoma Parental Empowerment Act of 2017.” Unlike traditional vouchers, which can only be applied to tuition, an education savings account allows families to choose from a list of qualifying expenses beyond tuition to include textbooks, tutoring, online courses and extracurricular activities [Oklahoma Watch]. 

Student enrollment at public schools in Oklahoma increases in 2016: The number of students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools rose in 2016, increasing by more than 1,000 from the previous school year. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, 693,710 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of the school year, an increase of 1,040 over the 2015 total of 692,670 and 27,560 more than in 2011 [KJRH]. White students are now a minority in Oklahoma public schools [NewsOK]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Senator David Holt files bills to fund $10,000 teacher pay raise: Senator David Holt (R) District 30 said he’s heard all the excuses. “People saying, well, how are we going to do it? I just don’t see how we can get it done. You know, it’s a tough budget year,” Holt said. But, he said the 12 bills he just filed prove getting teachers a pay raise can be done. “What I came forward with today was a billion dollars worth of revenue options,” Holt said [KFOR].

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Introducing the newly updated Online Budget Guide

by | January 19th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Featured Budget & Tax, Taxes | Comments (0)

To understand how state and local governments operate in Oklahoma, we especially need to understand the budget. The budget is how we allocate resources across all of our publicly-supported institutions – not just state and local government agencies, but also many private businesses and non-profits that receive public funds to do such things as build roads, operate nursing homes, or provide child care.

The budget is a financial document, but it is also a moral document. How we allocate dollars reflects our common priorities and affects our common achievements. The same is true of how we divide the responsibility to pay for our public services and infrastructure. The taxes and other revenues collected by government represent each person’s investment in shared prosperity.

OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide, fully updated for 2017, is a tool for users to understand Oklahoma state and local governments, particularly how they collect and spend money. In the Online Budget Guide, we look at all sources of funding, not just the major taxes, and all spending, not just state appropriations. To the extent possible, we provide data showing how Oklahoma compares to other states and how spending and taxes have changed over time. We examine how the state budget is developed, and explore the serious fiscal challenges Oklahoma confronts, now and in the future.

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In The Know: Women’s march planned in Oklahoma, Washington

by | January 19th, 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.

Today In The News

Five days left to register: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Women’s march planned in Oklahoma, Washington: Oklahomans are expected to rally Saturday as part of a larger network of marches taking place across the country following Donald Trump’s inauguration. “We can no longer complain on Facebook, and here is a chance to actually do something,” said Lindsey Kanaly, an Oklahoma City attorney who is helping to organize the Women’s March on Oklahoma at the state Capitol [NewsOK].

Oklahoma AG and EPA Pick Pruitt Stalled Pollution Lawsuit After Contributions From Poultry Industry: President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, walked back a legal fight to clean up rivers polluted by chicken manure after accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions linked to the poultry industry, campaign and court records show [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Senate Democrats had a lot of questions for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Wednesday [Tulsa World].

Senator Wants Virtual Schools Accountable for Student Attendance: Virtual charter schools would be required to track and report student attendance —something the schools aren’t currently tasked with doing — under a law proposed by an Oklahoma senator. Oklahoma has five virtual charter schools, enrolling a combined 13,225 students. Two schools reported 100 percent attendance last year, drawing questions and criticism from education advocates [Oklahoma Watch].

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Upcoming Event: Education in Oklahoma panel discussion at USAO

by | January 18th, 2017 | Posted in Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma’s Nita R. Giles Public Policy Program and the Oklahoma Policy Institute present Education in Oklahoma, a panel discussion examining feasible solutions to problems facing the Oklahoma education system.

When: Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.

Where: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Student Center Ballroom, Chickasha, OK

Panelists:

  • Phyllis Hudecki, former Oklahoma Secretary of Education, executive director, Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition
  • David Perryman, Oklahoma State Representative
  • Mickey Hepner, dean, College of Business, University of Central Oklahoma
  • Joe Siano, superintendent, Norman Public Schools
  • Megan Benn, consultant

Moderator: Gene Perry, policy director, Oklahoma Policy Institute

The Nita R. Giles Public Policy Program is the only undergraduate program of its kind in Oklahoma and one of only a few nationally. The program is specifically focused on Oklahoma, producing graduates who have the skills and passion to help our state solve problems and ensure a sustainable future. The program arms students with the range of skills, knowledge and experiences, in and out of the classroom, which will enable them to contribute to policymaking at all levels of society.

In The Know: Disabled Oklahomans could lose daycare if DHS can’t get supplemental funding

by | January 18th, 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.

Today In The News

Six days left to register: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Disabled Oklahomans could lose daycare if DHS can’t get supplemental funding: Staff at the Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled are on pins and needles waiting for the new Oklahoma legislative session to begin. Lawmakers will have to consider whether they can give supplemental funding to the Department of Human Services, otherwise the disabled adults who depend on state money to attend the Foundation’s daycare program, could lose that opportunity [KOKH].

State budget needs far exceed state revenues: After two weeks of public budget hearings by the state House of Representatives, it’s pretty clear that something is going to have to give. Agencies are lining up for more money, but the state has less of it to appropriate. State agencies haven’t been shy in their budget requests. The Corrections Department asked for a $1.16 billion budget increase to cover the cost of pay raises for workers, critical repair costs for decrepit prison infrastructure and construction of two new medium-security prisons [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Deadline this week for proposals at Oklahoma Capitol: Oklahoma lawmakers have until Thursday to submit legislation that can be heard this year, and some are working down to the wire. By Monday, just 291 House and Senate bills were filed and available online. In a typical year, there are well more than a thousand bills proposed to amend, add to or repeal state laws. That total doesn’t include joint resolutions, which can carry the force of law like bills, and other simple resolutions that only proclaim the House or Senate’s opinion on an issue [NewsOK].

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In The Know: After massive fines, Alfa Laval in Broken Arrow got taxpayer cash

by | January 17th, 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.

Today In The News

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

After massive fines, Alfa Laval in Broken Arrow got taxpayer cash: Oklahoma paid more than half a million dollars to a company after federal regulators levied a massive fine for workplace hazards, records show. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Alfa Laval nearly $500,000 for dozens of serious workplace safety violations at its Broken Arrow site, including five repeat offenses. The fines were issued in May 2015 and the amount was eventually lowered to $348,500 in a settlement agreement. Then last year, the company claimed more than $500,000 through Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program, a state-run incentive that supports companies that expand or move here [NewsOK].

States can offer a lesson as GOP proposes deep cut taxes: President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans who have pledged to cut federal taxes to boost the economy might consider looking first at lessons learned in GOP-controlled states that adopted similar strategies, only to see growth falter and budget gaps widen. The situation is worrisome enough in Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana that lawmakers are now debating whether to reverse course and raise taxes. And political leaders in states that have seen expanded Republican control, such as Arkansas and Iowa, are signaling caution about any new tax-cut proposals [Associated Press]. Two-thirds of states are facing budget challenges this year [Associated Press].

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s E.P.A. Pick, Backed Industry Donors Over Regulators: A legal fight to clean up tons of chicken manure fouling the waters of Oklahoma’s bucolic northeastern corner — much of it from neighboring Arkansas — was in full swing six years ago when the conservative lawyer Scott Pruitt took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general. His response: Put on the brakes. Rather than push for a federal judge to punish the companies by extracting perhaps tens of millions of dollars in damages, Oklahoma’s new chief law enforcement officer quietly negotiated a deal to simply study the problem further [New York Times].

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The Weekly Wonk: Health care law repeal threatens chaos, budget hearings highlight need, and more

by | January 15th, 2017 | Posted in Blog | 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 on the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst Carly Putnam described how the process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act could affect Oklahomans’ health care. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis noted that recent budget hearings illuminated agency needs. Executive Director David Blatt argued in his Journal Record column that the time has come for a higher gas tax

As part of the Together OK #betterok Budget Bootcamp, we shared eight key facts about Oklahoma’s budget and eight key facts on education in Oklahoma.

OK Policy in the News

Sequoyah County Times cited OK Policy data in an article on how recent criminal justice reform measures on the ballot affect the county’s sheriff. The education news site The 74 cited OK Policy data in a piece on Tulsa Honor Academy. OK Policy Board member Andrew Tevington was featured in an Oklahoma Gazette article on a partnership between the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma

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Budget hearings illuminate needs of Oklahoma’s major agencies (Capitol Update)

by | January 13th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, 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.

To better inform more House members about the state budget, Speaker Charles McCall has made budget briefings by some of the major state agencies available to all House members. They’ve been held in the House Chamber with all members invited. This is a good idea, especially with the budget crisis the Legislature is facing and with 32 new House members. Usually these briefings, although they are open to everyone, are for the benefit of and mostly attended by the members of the Appropriations and Budget Committee.

There are going to be some difficult votes for legislators, regardless of what direction they take. The more the members know about the budget problems, the more open they’ll be to finding and supporting solutions. Also, the better they’ll be able to explain their votes to constituents. After all, the votes are, or should be, cast in the best interest of constituents. Representing is more than waving a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. It’s also about digging beneath the surface and doing the right thing for the public. To do the right thing members must be able to feel they can explain what they did and why they did it.

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In The Know: Oklahoma House speaker endorses $6,000 teacher pay increase

by | January 13th, 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.

Today In The News

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Oklahoma House speaker endorses $6,000 teacher pay increase: New House Speaker Charles McCall is endorsing a pay increase for Oklahoma teachers that would phase in a $6,000 pay raise during a three-year period. McCall said in a statement released Thursday that he believes House Republicans will support the bill by Broken Arrow Republican Michael Rogers, chairman of the House Public Education Committee. …McCall has said increasing teacher pay will be one of the caucus’ top priorities, but it’s not clear how lawmakers plan to pay for it [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmakers discuss teacher shortage at TPS legislative breakfast: A group of Oklahoma lawmakers at an annual Tulsa Public Schools legislative breakfast Thursday seemed stumped on solutions to the state’s teacher shortage, one asserting that legislators must find a way to provide funds for teacher pay raises and another saying they would lose that “funding battle.” The Tulsa-area legislators discussed the issue after hearing a presentation from TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist that included examples of the how the district has struggled to recruit and retain teachers on Oklahoma salaries [Tulsa World].

New license plate proposed to fund teacher recruitment efforts: No one is arguing whether an improved education system would better entice businesses to move into Oklahoma; they’re arguing how to pay for it. As education officials continue asking legislators for money for teacher salary increases, a handful think they might have more luck asking someone else. State Sen. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma City Republican, worked with the Oklahoma Department of Education to introduce a bill that would create a specialty license plate to pay for statewide teacher recruitment efforts [Journal Record].

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