Skip to Content

Register by this Friday, September 23rd to get the early bird discount on the Fall Policy Boot Camp. Click here to learn more and register.

In The Know: Lawmaker calls for study of ‘unconstitutional legislation’

by | August 11th, 2016 | 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.

Today In The News

Lawmaker calls for study of ‘unconstitutional legislation’: For years, State Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma County) has kept a list handy when bills become law. It’s a list of bills she expects to be challenged and eventually struck down in court. “I have had constituents come to me and say, ‘There were three pieces of legislation that were found unconstitutional the last couple years. Do y’all not know what you’re doing?'” she said. “I think when lawmakers are perceived as not knowing how to make law, that that hurts the perception people have of how our government is supposed to work.” [KFOR]

Lagging sales tax collections blamed for 11 percent drop in state revenue for July: Funding for state government continued spiraling downward in July as weak sales tax collections in the first month of the state’s 2017 fiscal year dragged general revenue collections 4.4 percent below expectations and 11.1 percent below the same month a year ago. The general revenue fund is the state’s basic operating account. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported that state sales tax receipts were 7.5 percent below expectations and 8.4 percent below the same month a year ago [Tulsa World].

Indian tribes, Oklahoma reach deal on water rights dispute: Negotiators for two Indian tribes and the state of Oklahoma said Wednesday they have reached a settlement that would end a modern-day water rights and tribal sovereignty dispute that has its roots in the 19th century. The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have claimed Oklahoma isn’t abiding by the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which gave them authority over water in their jurisdiction. The state claimed the tribes are ignoring an 1866 pact in which they gave up certain rights after backing the Confederates in the Civil War [Chicago Tribune].

Survey finds more homeless OKC residents: Despite increased efforts to provide housing, the homeless population in Oklahoma City is on the rise, according to the latest census by the Homeless Alliance. The agency’s most recent Point in Time head count found about 1,500 people this year living on the streets, local shelters and makeshift camps. Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan said that sample statistically suggests a total homeless population of 6,000-7,500 and a 16-percent increase from the 2015 census [Journal Record]. The 2016 Point-in-Time report is available here.

Continue Reading »

New report shows what Oklahoma’s missing by refusing Medicaid expansion

by | August 10th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (3)

doctor taking health insurance card to patient

Three years ago, a central provision of the Affordable Care Act kicked in – the option for states to expand their Medicaid programs for the low-income uninsured via a substantial infusion of federal funds. While 31 states and Washington D.C. have expanded coverage to date, Oklahoma is one of 19 states still taking a “wait and see approach.”

The time for wait and see is over. A new report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has surveyed dozens of studies and found that expanding coverage yields significant coverage gains, grows access to care and utilization of health services, and improves state economies. Here are the report’s main findings:

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to order governor to return $140.8 million to state agencies

by | August 10th, 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

Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to order governor to return $140.8 million to state agencies: The Oklahoma Supreme Court was asked Tuesday to order Gov. Mary Fallin to give back to state agencies $140.8 million cut from their budgets in March. Oklahoma City attorney David Slane filed the legal request on behalf of seven caregivers who have experienced cuts in or loss of assistance from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. …He accused the governor and her finance secretary, Preston Doerflinger, of violating state law and the Oklahoma Constitution by not returning the money [NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin still plugging special session: Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday she still wants a special legislative session ahead of the November elections. …Fallin wants the Legislature to return to the Capitol to appropriate $140.8 million available because last fiscal year’s revenue failure was not quite as bad as projected. The governor wants the money spent on teacher raises and perhaps one or two other areas. Without legislative action, the money will be distributed proportionately to state agencies, partially offsetting spending cuts made during the 2016 fiscal year [Tulsa World].

Rulings ensure a raft of state questions await Oklahoma voters: Decisions rendered this week by the Oklahoma Supreme Court ensure that voters will have a raft of state questions to decide in November, although getting some of these measures on the ballot has been especially challenging. Backers of State Question 779, which seeks to increase the state sales tax by 1 cent to fund teacher pay raises and other education causes, had no trouble gathering the necessary initiative petition signatures but had to withstand two legal challenges [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Supreme Court rules Pruitt’s rewrite on criminal justice reform ballot titles misleading, partial

by | August 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

Pruitt’s rewrite on criminal justice reform ballot titles misleading, partial, court rules: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s rewritten ballot titles for two state questions are “misleading and partial.” In its ruling, the state’s high court rewrote the ballot titles, which give a description of the criminal justice reform measures appearing on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot. Supporters of State Questions 780 and 781 challenged Pruitt’s revisions before the Supreme Court [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Supreme Court lets stand “Right to Farm” initiative: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Monday that voters can consider the so-called “Right to Farm” ballot initiative during the general election this fall, but some members of the state’s highest court said state lawmakers should require that challenges to ballot measures be filed earlier. A coalition known as Save the Illinois River, Inc., filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the proposal in March, more than eight months after Gov. Mary Fallin issued an order placing the matter on the Nov. 8 ballot. In a unanimous ruling, the nine-member court let stand a decision by Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish in May to dismiss the lawsuit [Associated Press].

Harsh Rhetoric, Funding Gap Shape Right-to-Farm Campaign: StateImpact’s Logan Layden visited with OETA’s Lis Exon for the August 5 edition of Oklahoma News Report, after moderating a panel discussion on State Question 777 for the Oklahoma Policy Institute earlier in the week. The discussion centered on the scare tactics being used by both sides of the right-to-farm issue: whether national animal rights groups are trying to force all Oklahomans to become vegans, or if Big Ag wants a license to pollute at will [KOSU]. You can watch the video of OK Policy’s SQ 777 forum here.

Continue Reading »

How new federal rules can keep Oklahomans out of debt traps

by | August 8th, 2016 | Posted in Financial Security | Comments (0)

GET CASH NOW! A neon green sign boasts a quick fix for your financial woes as you count out the few dollars you have to pay bills and buy groceries for your children. Although you are employed, this has been a particularly hard month. The payday loan, so named because you usually have to pay the loan back by your next payday, could be the solution to your problems — or it could be a debt trap.

For most borrowers it ends up being a debt trap. Borrowers start with one loan, but they often cannot afford to pay it back by their next payday. The lender then gives the option to take out another loan to cover the cost of the original loan. These “churned loans” are the hallmark of the predatory payday lending industry. Borrowers who fall into the trap end up going deeper and deeper into debt with numerous small, consecutive, short-term loans at an average APR of nearly 400 percent. 

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Oklahoma downturn now longer than Great Recession

by | August 8th, 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

Oklahoma downturn now longer than Great Recession: Oklahoma’s tax collections were down for the 17th month in a row during July — largely due to depressed energy prices and ill-timed tax cuts — extending a losing streak that’s lasted longer than the nation’s Great Recession. State Treasurer Ken Miller said Friday that Oklahoma took in $854 million last month, $88 million less than it collected in July 2015. The decline was evident in every category, including individual and corporate income taxes, sales taxes and revenue from the production of oil and natural gas. While several energy-rich states have seen tax receipts fall, Oklahoma exacerbated its situation by moving forward with income tax cuts approved when times were good [Associated Press].

Oklahoma economy slides again in first quarter: Lower oil prices and manufacturing declines dragged on the Oklahoma economy as the state posted its fourth consecutive quarterly contraction, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis said Wednesday. Led by losses in the energy and manufacturing sectors, Oklahoma’s gross domestic product contracted by 0.5 percent in the first quarter. The state joined 13 others with contractions in the first three months of the year [NewsOK].

Rural poverty ‘a way of life’ for numerous Oklahomans: With no air conditioning on a brutally hot summer afternoon, 19-year-old Breeze Bunch is sitting on the front porch with a half-empty Pepsi and a bottle of sunscreen. “Why don’t you go splash in the water?” Bunch tells her 2-year-old daughter, who waddles off toward an inflatable kiddie pool under a shade tree beside the house. Sharing a clapboard house with her boyfriend’s family, Bunch lives on a dead-end street north of downtown in one of the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Oklahoma. This isn’t Tulsa or Oklahoma City, or even Muskogee or Lawton. A five-minute walk could put Bunch in the middle of a cow pasture [Tulsa World]. OK Policy has examined some of the surprising causes of rural poverty [OK Policy].

Continue Reading »

The Weekly Wonk: Sales tax holiday is poor policy, rethinking suspensions, & more

by | August 7th, 2016 | 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, Executive Director David Blatt wrote in his Journal Record column that sales tax holidays are poor public policy. He went into greater detail on the subject on the OK Policy Blog. Intern Tara Grigson argued that Oklahoma needs to rethink school suspensions. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis explained why a special legislative challenge likely wouldn’t accomplish much

In The Know took a break during our fourth annual Summer Policy Institute for much of this week. Check it out on Twitter here.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt  spoke to KOCO about oil industry objections to our Oklahoma Agenda for Broad-Based Prosperity. Blatt also spoke to the Norman Transcript about objections to sales tax holidays. Policy analyst Ryan Gentzler was quoted in the Enid News on criminal justice reforms

Continue Reading »

Stars not aligned to accomplish much in special session (Capitol Updates)

by | August 5th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education, Taxes | Comments (0)

chaotic road signs

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 find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

One has to wonder where Governor Fallin is headed with the announcement that she is considering a special session of the legislature. The purpose of the session would be to give a pay raise to teachers using the funds that were withheld from all state agencies, including schools, due to an anticipated revenue failure. In addition, the governor said “other funds” could be made available. Since about every bookkeeping maneuver available was used to deal with this year’s shortfall, presumably the “other funds” would come from some sort of tax increase.

It’s pretty difficult to imagine a tax increase that couldn’t pass during the regular session now passing with an election looming in about 100 days. The only way I can see it happening would be to re-litigate some of the compromises legislators were unwilling to make only two months ago. The Democrats wanted Medicaid expansion or repealing the recent tax cut in exchange for supporting the cigarette tax. Are the Republicans more likely now to give on those issues or to offer some other compromise that would attract Democratic support on a tax proposal?

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Oklahoma City schools still seeking teachers

by | August 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

Oklahoma City schools still seeking teachers: The state’s largest school district is trying to fill 52 teaching vacancies for an academic year that’s already underway. Oklahoma City Public Schools is using substitutes and working on some emergency certifications to plug the holes created by what the district calls “attrition.” “Just over the summer we lost about 270 teachers who resigned, left the district to go to other school districts, left teaching to do something completely different,” said district spokesman Mark Myers [KJRH]. 

Wagoner Schools Begins Its Tuesday Through Friday School Week: Wagoner students are headed back to class, and to save money – this is the first year the district is trying a four-day school week. Superintendent Randy Harris says he really hasn’t got a lot of push back from parents, either in person or online. When Wagoner starts class Thursday morning, a school year of big changes begins. The district’s four-day school week will be Tuesday through Friday, 8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m [NewsOn6]. Four-day school weeks could leave thousands of Oklahoma kids hungry [OK Policy].

Longevity bonus offered to Oklahoma City superintendent: Oklahoma City’s school board wants stability at the superintendent position, and it’s willing to pay for it. In its contract with Aurora Lora, who was named permanent superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools last month, a $10,000 bonus is offered if she reaches her two-year anniversary. Lora is eligible for another $15,000 if she makes it three years. Lora, who is the 11th superintendent since 2000, signed a three-year contract with a base salary of $220,000. Rob Neu, the superintendent before Lora, made $240,000 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma bipartisan coalition calls for immigration reform: While Oklahoma’s immigrant population is growing slower than the national rate, more than 10,000 immigrants came to the state from 2010 to 2014 and nearly 220,000 residents were born abroad, according to a report released Wednesday by a bipartisan group urging reforms. The report from The Partnership for a New American Economy showed that about 10,000 immigrants in Oklahoma are self-employed and that immigrant-owned businesses generate $201 million in yearly business income, while employing 29,120 people [NewsOK]. The report is available here

Continue Reading »

In The Know: DHS announces $45 million in cuts for fiscal year 2017, but shortfall still looms

by | August 4th, 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

DHS announces $45 million in cuts for fiscal year 2017, but shortfall still looms: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced $45 million in budget cuts for fiscal year 2017 on Wednesday. The agency is facing a shortfall of more than $100 million, and officials warn that supplemental funding will be needed early in the next calendar year to avoid “serious consequences.”Of the $45 million in cuts — $72.8 million with the loss of matching federal funding — 66 percent will come from additional personnel and administration reductions, 30 percent from reductions in client services and benefits and 4 percent from contract reductions [Tulsa World].

Polls show Oklahomans support penny sales tax for education, sentencing reform: State questions aimed at increasing education funding and decreasing incarceration rates have strong support headed into the final few months before the November election, according to recent polls. In cooperation with The Oklahoman, SoonerPoll found 62 percent of likely voters support State Question 779, which asks voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase for common and higher education, including pay raises for public school teachers [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Teachers Oppose Special Session for Potential Pay Raise: These past few years have been fiscally tough ones for Oklahoma. An oil crisis and a series of miscalculated tax cuts has left the state with little revenue to distribute, and the state’s school system has suffered greatly. Over the last two years, with schools already undergoing a severe teacher shortage crisis, the state’s legislature has cut close to $60 million from its public school system over the last two years [Education Week]. Governor Mary Fallin has met with legislative leaders to discuss the possible special session, but hasn’t made a decision yet [Associated Press]. Don’t forget other Oklahoma government workers [Debbye Bryner / NewsOK].

Continue Reading »