In 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
Health Care Bill Could Cost Oklahoma Millions: A Republican plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system shows health care could become unaffordable for many poor Oklahomans and the state could be forced to subsidize health care costs for Native Americans, according to an early analysis of the plan prepared for Gov. Mary Fallin. A document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press shows state health officials also project the proposed new law would result in the state immediately losing $9.3 million in public health funding for programs such as immunizations and chronic disease funding [Associated Press]. The three-page analysis is available at Oklahoma Watch.
Bill to allow guns in Oklahoma courthouses passes House: A bill that would allow elected county officials in Oklahoma to carry guns into courthouses has passed the state House. The bill by Republican Rep. Bobby Cleveland goes to the Senate after passing the House on an 85-11 vote Monday. It would allow elected officials with a valid handgun license to carry a firearm into the courthouses of the county in which the person was elected when he or she is performing official duties. It would not allow guns in courtrooms [Associated Press].
After voting to repeal the tax cut trigger, Senate rejects another bill delaying it: House Speaker Charles McCall said Tuesday he is unsure how much support there is in the House for a bill passed by the Senate that would eliminate a state income tax cut trigger. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday rejected an alternative piece of legislation that would have kept a tax cut trigger in place, but modified it so that a tax cut likely would not be triggered for years. The measure defeated Tuesday, Senate Bill 130, would have triggered a tax cut only if estimated state revenue grows to $7.5 billion. It’s at $6 billion now [NewsOK].
Oklahoma tax rates are low overall despite high sales levies, report says: Oklahoma’s state and local taxes are generally low with one big exception, according to the conservative Tax Foundation’s annual Facts and Figures report. Oklahoma ranked 40th nationally in per capita state and local taxes, measured as both percentage of income and total dollars, despite having the sixth-highest combined average sales tax rate. The 8.86 percent average sales tax rate produced the 16th-highest per capita state and local sales tax collections, at $1,186 [Tulsa World]. The full report is available here.
Latest revenue bump artificial, budget secretary says: The state’s top budget officer is downplaying a monthly report that shows positive revenue figures. Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said Tuesday that more income than expected came into the state’s general spending account last month. The General Revenue Fund received 8.3 percent more than estimated, but Doerflinger said the high number is artificial, the result of an accounting decision [NewsOK].
State Chamber of Oklahoma calls for action to keep aerospace incentives: Economic incentives drafted by Oklahoma’s Legislature to grow the aerospace field here could expire Dec. 31 unless it reauthorizes their continuance. The issue has the attention of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, which issued an action alert on March 14 urging its members to lobby legislators to keep the incentives in place. The legislature created three specific aerospace tax initiatives in 2008 to help out the industry after being told it was having an increasingly hard time of finding qualified applicants for engineering positions here [NewsOK].
OK PolicyCast Episode 26: The GOP Health Plan: We speak with OK Policy health care analyst Carly Putnam about the new plan from the House GOP to replace the Affordable Care Act. We talk about how the bill does and doesn’t change the Affordable Care Act, what chance it has to pass, and how it could affect Oklahomans’ health care [OK Policy].
Making Oklahoma safer through criminal justice reform: Conservatives like us believe the states are America’s laboratories of democracy. When it comes to criminal justice reform, this is indisputably true. For more than a decade, states like Georgia, Texas, South Dakota and Mississippi have embraced time-tested, common-sense reforms that keep communities safe while making better use of taxpayer dollars. Now Oklahoma is poised to join this group [Estella Hernandez and Pat Nolan / NewsOK].
Don’t make it more difficult to get a divorce: If we make it difficult, more difficult, to get a divorce, then there will be fewer divorces, and everyone will live happily ever after. That seems to be the belief of Rep. Travis Dunlap, R-Bartlesville. Dunlap, with the latest attempt to pass such legislation, is trying to force happiness upon couples, no matter how miserable they might be. Dunlap’s House Bill 1277 would restrict courts from granting a divorce based upon grounds of incompatibility, but only if one spouse objects to the divorce [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].
Oklahoma state senator under investigation by Moore police: Police here are investigating why state Sen. Ralph Shortey was in a hotel room last Thursday with a teenage boy. Police are reviewing text messages purportedly exchanged between Shortey and the teenager as part of the investigation, The Oklahoman has learned. Police became involved because of concerns raised by a relative of the boy. Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn confirmed Tuesday he has received an initial briefing about the incident from a Moore police investigator [NewsOK].
Governor Fallin appoints former Gov. Keating to OU Board of Regents: Governor Mary Fallin is promoting a former Oklahoma head of state to a prominent position. Fallin appointed former Governor Frank Keating to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents on Tuesday. “Frank Keating has a long and distinguished service with the state and federal governments,” said Fallin. “I’m so pleased he has agreed to again serve the state of Oklahoma in this important capacity. Governor Keating is known as an effective governor, and a strong and compassionate leader.” Keating will replace Max Weitzenhoffer on the board and will serve a seven–year term, pending confirmation from the Oklahoma Senate [KOKH].
Quote of the Day
“If I didn’t have subsidies I couldn’t have insurance. I am conscious of just how desperate this is, I try not to let myself feel this way, but to live this way with real terror, real fear that the universe is going to fall apart around me.”
-Anna Holloway, a 60-year-old Norman resident who receives tax subsidies to purchase health insurance and is afraid of losing them under a Republican health care overhaul (Source)
Number of the Day
How many state troopers Oklahoma is currently below the minimum manning requirements.
School district chiefs: Proposed Medicaid changes would hurt poor children and students with disabilities: A new survey of school district leaders across the country finds that they are deeply worried that Republican proposals to refinance Medicaid, if they become law, would hurt students who live in poverty and those with disabilities and in special education. A big cut in Medicaid spending would mean, the survey report said, that many districts would have to furlough or lay off school personnel, that the percentage of uninsured children could go from 12 percent to an estimated 21 percent or higher, and critical benefits could be eliminated [Washington Post].
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