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The Weekly Wonk June 21, 2015

by | June 21st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week on the OK Policy Blog, we explain how lawmakers used the same tactics criticized in a court challenge when drafting the FY 2016 budget. A guest post discusses states’ tendency to replicate public policies enacted in other states despite lacking evidence demonstrating whether those policies work. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis explores why Oklahoma’s attempt to ban teacher payroll deductions may be unenforceable. We checked in on key education and criminal justice bills from this session.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that debates over whether the state budget grew or shrank this year ignore the fact that, either way, core services are still badly underfunded. Our FY 2016 Budget Highlights provides a more thorough explanation of the budget, including state agency appropriations since 2009. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam was quoted in an Oklahoma Watch article on King v. Burwell, which could result in skyrocketing premiums and cause thousands of Oklahomans to lose their health insurance.

Weekly What’s That:


The term “dual-eligible” refers to people who are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid at the same time. They usually qualify for Medicare Part A (primarily covers hospital care) and/or Part B (medical insurance; mostly covers doctor’s visits, outpatient procedure, health care supplies, and preventive care), as well as… Read more.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

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Why Oklahoma’s attempt to ban teacher payroll deductions may not be enforceable (Capitol Updates)

by | June 19th, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (1)

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.

There’s an interesting legal battle brewing over whether HB 1749 by Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole) and Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Tulsa) can actually be enforced once it goes into effect on November 1st.  A law firm that represents a majority of the school districts in the state is advising the districts that the law was written in such a way as to make it unenforceable.  The legal department of the Oklahoma Education Association, the state’s largest teacher association, apparently agrees.

HB 1749 is the new law that prohibits school districts from withholding payroll deductions for membership dues of organizations that collectively bargain with the districts under federal law.  The law was passed on the theory that the state shouldn’t assist organizations that represent their members in bargaining with the districts for better salaries, benefits or employment conditions.  Current state law, which was not repealed in the new law, provides that “School districts shall make payroll deductions for either or both professional organization dues and political contributions upon the request of any school employee and shall transmit deducted funds to the organization designated by the school district employee.”

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In The Know: Health Care Authority backs away from provider cuts

by | June 19th, 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 Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers Medicaid in Oklahoma announced on Thursday that more carryover funds than expected meant the agency would not have to institute provider rate cuts to physician assistants and nurse practitioners, although concerns remain that continuing state budget problems mean the cuts are still on the table next year [Oklahoma Watch]. Our FY 2016 Budget Highlights display all state agency appropriations since 2009 [OK Policy]. Naloxone, a fast-acting drug that can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, is now available without a prescription from 34 pharmacies in Oklahoma [NewsOK]. Prescription drug overdoses, including opiate overdoses, kill more Oklahomans than car accidents [OK Policy Blog]. Tulsa’s foreclosure rate dropped from April to May, although it was significantly higher than in May of last year [Tulsa World].

A guest post on the OK Policy Blog argued that states frequently adopt other states’ policies without evidence that those policies work, frequently resulting in the replication of failed public policies throughout the states [OK Policy Blog]. An op-ed in the Tulsa World explained why a juvenile competency bill Gov. Fallin recently signed into law is a positive step forward for juvenile justice in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]. Arnold Hamilton wrote that the death penalty in Oklahoma is on life support [Journal Record].

Recent rains in the state broke the drought, but also flooded fields came too late to help the wheat harvest much [StateImpact]. Flooding has also shut down shipping on the Arkansas River [Journal Record]. African-American churches in Tulsa are planning a prayer vigil for victims of the Charleston shooting [KJRH]. The Number of the Day is 85% – Oklahoma’s public high school cohort graduation rate for the 2012-13 school year. In today’s Policy Note, NPR discusses summer nutrition programs that provide food for kids when schools are on summer break [NPR].

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The myth of state policy innovation (Guest Blog: David Schultz)

by | June 18th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

GOV_david+schultzDavid Schultz is a professor of political science at Hamline University. This article originally appeared in The Governing Institute website and is reposted with permission.

Many state legislatures are not professional or full-time, or they lack extensive research staff to undertake policy work. So they turn to other states to see what they have done. States may find out about other states’ policy initiatives at conferences, such as those of the Council of State Governments or the National Conference of State Legislatures, and then adopt those policies as their own with minor modifications.

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In The Know: Oklahoma cities may dispose of wastewater in injection wells

by | June 18th, 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.

Oklahoma cities have been cleared to dispose of municipal wastewater in oil and gas injection wells [KWGS]. A new report from the US Geological Survey debunks myths around fracking and makes the case that wastewater injection triggered a rise in earthquakes in Oklahoma [The Frontier]. StateImpact has compiled a list of studies on the state’s earthquake boom [StateImpact]. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt explains why the debate about whether the state budget grew or shrank slightly ignores that we’re still not close to fully supporting core public services [Journal Record]. OK Policy’s FY 2016 Budget Highlights reviews the budget in depth, including appropriations for every state agency going back to 2009 [OK Policy].

Oklahoma ranks third in the US for the rate of preventable injury deaths, such as drug overdoses, homicides, suicides, and car accidents [NewsOK]. The full report is available here. Recent analysis of US Census data shows that Oklahoma has one of the lowest rates of children living in two-parent households [NewsOK]. The full New York Times is available here. We the People Oklahoma has filed a motion to keep signatures on a petition to impanel a grand jury investigation into the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office private, citing threats to organizers and signers [Tulsa World]. Should the jury be impaneled, jurors will be able to expand the probe beyond the 20 areas of inquiry listed in the petition [Tulsa World].

Recent heavy rains are a mixed blessing for the state’s ranchers [KGOU]. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved disaster assistance for an additional 18 counties [NewsOn6]. Oklahoma City residents used the hashtag #WhatIfOKC to discuss changes they’d like to see in the city [NewsOK]. The Number of the Day is $34,884 – average salary for classified employees of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, 21 percent below the average salary for similar jobs in other states and the private sector. In today’s Policy Note, the Pew Charitable Trusts explain the growing problem of elder abuse is so inconsistently tracked and recorded [Pew Charitable Trusts].

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In The Know: DHS making deep cuts to meet reduced budget while bolstering increased child-welfare demands

by | June 17th, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is eliminating the equivalent of 200 positions, cutting reimbursement for developmental disabilities and aging Medicaid waiver program providers, and eliminating state funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, among other cuts to make up for a $45.2 million funding shortfall. At the same time as other parts of DHS are being slashed, they will add 300 positions in the child welfare system to meet a federal court-ordered mandate to meet the needs of abused and neglected children [Tulsa World].

State Auditor Gary Jones said he might circulate a petition for the 2016 general election to eliminate the Oklahoma House or Senate and have a unicameral Legislature [Journal Record]. The Libertarian and Green parties announced plans to launch a joint signature drive to get their parties and candidates on the ballot in Oklahoma [Tahlequah Daily Press]. On the OK Policy Blog, we looked at what happened with the key education and criminal justice bills we followed this session [OK Policy Blog].

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has approved allowing municipal water treatment waste to be injected into oil and gas disposal wells [Journal Record]. A report from the Kansas City Federal Reserve examines how the decline in the energy industry is spilling into other parts of the state’s economy [OK Energy Today]. You can read the full report here.

Under a state law passed in 2014, utilities can request a higher tariff for customers with personal solar panels or wind turbines, if they prove the renewable power producers are a financial drag on the system. However, utilities said that they are still unsure of how these customers create infrastructure costs or provide benefits [Journal Record]. When signing the bill, Governor Fallin stressed that it does not mandate the Corporation Commission to allow a tariff or other increases for personal solar and wind power producers [OK Policy Blog].

Governor Fallin has requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant public assistance for 14 additional counties hit hard by tornadoes and flooding that began May 5 [Public Radio Tulsa]. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said he isn’t immediately sold on a plan passed by the Legislature to complete the American Indian Cultural Center. The plan calls for $9 million in funding from OKC and requires agreement by the Oklahoma City Council [KOCO].

The Number of the Day is -22.76% – how much the average salary for Oklahoma state employees is below comparable jobs in other states and the private sector. In today’s Policy Note, a report by the International Centre for Prison Studies finds that the U.S. spends billions to keep about 480,000 unconvicted people behind bars while they await a trial [Washington Post].

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Where are they now? Bills we followed this session (Part 1)

by | June 16th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Education | Comments (0)

This year’s Legislative session began with promising ideas for reforms in the areas of criminal justice, elections, and tax credits, as well as a continuation of the debate over modifying past years’ education reforms. Before long, it became clear that lawmakers’ most difficult task would be dealing with a large budget shortfall due to a fall in gas prices, the multiplication of tax cuts and tax breaks, and increasing off-the-top transfers of revenue.

Here we provide a run-down of many of the key bills we followed and how they fared. As the first of a two-part series, this post examines this year’s most important education and criminal justice bills.

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In The Know: Nurse practitioners, physician assistants face 5 percent rate cut from state Medicaid agency

by | June 16th, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

The state’s Medicaid agency released its list of proposed budget cuts for the fiscal year beginning next month, including lowering reimbursement rates for physician assistants and nurse practitioners by 5 percent. You can see the full list of proposed cuts here. Facing the loss of some tax incentives at the end of 2016, Oklahoma’s wind industry might accelerate wind developments to beat the deadline. Oklahoma House members submitted 122 requests for interim studies before last Friday’s deadline. You can see the full list of interim study requests here.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how lawmakers continued some practices in this year’s budget that are being challenged as unconstitutional in a case before the state Supreme Court. Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, expressed concern that an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision last month could severely hamper counties’ efforts to recover delinquent property taxes.

During a campaign stop, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the federal government to fund pre-kindergarten for low- and moderate-income families and cited Oklahoma as a successful example. Elected leaders in Midwest City and Del City are blocking the City of Norman’s plan to augment the Lake Thunderbird reservoir levels with treated wastewater. StateImpact Oklahoma shared stories of how numerous earthquakes caused by the oil and gas industry are affecting individual Oklahomans.

The Number of the Day is 89.1% – the cost of living in Oklahoma as a percentage of the national average. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post examines how a Tennessee program that provides mentors to kids aging out of foster care is helping them become successful adults.

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Budget challenge asks, “What part of ‘nothing but appropriations’ do you not understand?”

by | June 15th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

Jerry Fent

Jerry Fent

Early in May, former State Representative Mike Reynolds, represented by Oklahoma City attorneys Jerry Fent and Ted Pool, filed a lawsuit against Governor Mary Fallin and other officeholders on behalf of the taxpayers of Oklahoma. The suit challenges how the state carries out one of its primary budget responsibilities – the writing of the annual General Appropriations (GA) bill that provides over $7 billion in annual funding to some 70 state agencies.The lawsuit called on the District Court to strike down the GA bills from the last three years. Its timing was also clearly intended to warn  lawmakers then developing the FY 2016 budget to change their ways or risk having this budget overturned – a warning that went largely unheeded.

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In The Know: Does state have plans if thousands lose insurance subsidies?

by | June 15th, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Gov. Mary Fallin’s office won’t say if the state has a plan to help thousands of Oklahomans who might be priced out of health insurance if their subsidies are struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court this month. NewsOK reported that several top Oklahoma Republicans who are embracing Insure Oklahoma as their alternative to the Affordable Care Act had voted against the program when it was first created. Gov. Fallin and several of her cabinet officials have left for an 11-day economic development tour in France, Germany, and Italy.

Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed SB 410, an expansion of who can be charged under the Youthful Offender Act, which she said would have caused Oklahoma to imprison more youth than ever before. NewsOK examined how Oklahomans suffering a mental health crisis often end up handcuffed in the back of a police car without having ever committed a crime. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed why legislators have made it harder on themselves to provide teacher pay raises.

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said he will try again next year to get the Legislature to have a budget-only session every other year. Extensive interior repairs and refurbishment of the state Capitol, which had been planned to begin next year, will start next month. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted to investigate state Sen. Rick Brinkley for possible ethics violations involving his campaign funds. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. has energized the first part of a 2.5-megawatt solar power pilot project that will power about 500 homes.

The Number of the Day is 2.00% – the percentage increase in housing units in Oklahoma from 2010 (1,666,093) to 2014 (1,699,438). In today’s Policy Note, CityLab examines the merits and failures of place-based initiatives, which focus on revitalizing particular low-income areas without challenging the forces that created the economic inequality and widespread poverty in the first place.

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