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Today you should know that Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett won a fourth term in office. Cornett received 65.7 percent of the vote, compared to 32.8 percent for challenger City Councilman Ed Shadid. Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett vetoed a city council resolution that urged the state not to sell a rail line connecting the Tulsa area to Oklahoma City. A pro-marijuana group is seeking to have voters in Oklahoma City decide whether to reduce the penalties for possessing cannabis.
The Oklahoma House approved a bill (HB 2625) that would leave decisions about promotion of children failing the third-grade reading sufficiency exam to “teams” composed of the child’s parents, a teacher, an administrator and a reading specialist. Oklahoma Watch reported on how teachers are scrambling to prepare students for high-stakes testing that could keep thousands from leaving the 3rd grade.
The House also approved a bill (HB 2500) that extends a moratorium on state standards for maximum class sizes, updated textbooks, and library materials. The bill calls for 5 percent annual increases in education funding until the per-pupil funding level of 2009 is achieved, but those funding increases will not become law unless they are included in annual budget bills. Meanwhile, proposals approved by the Senate and being considered in the House would mandate automatic tax cuts beginning in 2016 or as soon as revenue recovers after that year. The OK Policy Blog explained why it’s irresponsible to be putting the tax system on auto-pilot.
The House voted to extend a tax break for the film industry for ten years, one day after voting it down. The Senate passed a bill to fund completion of the American Indian Cultural Center with $40 million from Oklahoma’s Unclaimed Property Fund. A lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s law that shields details of drugs used in executions has been moved to federal court. Tulsa World editor Ginnie Graham debunked myths about the safety net originating in a Cato Institute report. The OK Policy Blog previously explained why the report and a related Oklahoman editorial made big distortions of the truth.
The Number of the Day is how much a tax cut approved in the Oklahoma Senate could reduce state revenues by 2018. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog shares an interactive chart of the federal government’s spending and revenues over the last 60 years.
In The News
Mick Cornett wins fourth term as Oklahoma City mayor
Mick Cornett swept to victory Tuesday night, overwhelming a spirited challenge by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid to become Oklahoma City’s first four-term mayor. “This is, I think, a very important juncture in Oklahoma City’s history,” Cornett told the crowd at his election night party at the Grill on the Hill in Capitol Hill. “This city has a long, long way to go and we ain’t done yet.” With all 235 precincts reporting, Cornett had 31,495 votes, or 65.7 percent, to 15,739, or 32.8 percent for Shadid. Two other candidates, Phil Hughes and Joe B. Sarge Nelson, drew a combined 1.5 percent.
Mayor vetoes Tulsa city council resolution on keeping state control of rail lines
The mayor on Monday vetoed a resolution passed by the City Council urging the state not to sell the state-owned rail line connecting the Tulsa area to Oklahoma City, favoring instead the private sector’s ability to bring passenger rail to Tulsa. In a memo to councilors, Mayor Dewey Bartlett explained his decision, saying the resolution reached too far in expressing an opinion for the whole city an opinion Bartlett said he does not share. Bartlett said Tuesday that he had spoken with state transportation officials prior to the veto, but they were discreet in regard to details of their potential sale.
Group seeks to decriminalize pot in Oklahoma City
A pro-marijuana group is seeking to have voters in Oklahoma City decide whether to reduce the penalties for possessing cannabis. The group Reform OKC filed an initiative petition on Monday to decriminalize marijuana, allowing it to be treated more like a traffic ticket with a fine of up to $500. Organizer Mark Faulk, a Democratic candidate for the state House, says the group has 90 days to gather signatures from 6,200 registered voters who live in Oklahoma City. That would be enough to put the measure on the ballot for the next citywide municipal election.
House votes to reform third grade retention law, calls for increased education spending
The Oklahoma House of Representatives to give parents a say in whether their reading-deficient third-graders are retained or promoted. HB 2625, by Rep. Katie Henke, would leave decisions about promotion of children failing the third-grade reading sufficiency exam to “teams” composed of the child’s parents, a teacher, an administrator and a reading specialist. HB 2500, by Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison, calls for 5 percent annual increases in common education appropriations until the per-pupil expenditure level of 2009 is achieved. Casey said it would take five years of such increases to reach the goal. The funding increases will not become law unless they are approved in annual budgets. The bill also extends a moratorium on enforcement of certain state mandates, including class size, textbook purchases and library materials.
Teachers prep third graders for read or fail
Two years ago, when Oklahoma third-grade students took the state’s annual reading test, nearly 5,500 them, or 11 percent, failed. Last year, the results were worse, despite a stepped-up focus on reading instruction: 12 percent of third graders scored at the lowest of four levels, unsatisfactory, meaning they were still reading at about a first-grade level. This year brings a tough consequence: Third graders who score unsatisfactory in reading on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test will have to repeat the grade unless they are granted an exemption.
Latest tax cut proposals would leave budget decisions on auto-pilot
The Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives are both considering bills to cut Oklahoma’s top income tax rate in future years based on revenue targets, or triggers. Pushing tax cuts into the future and making them conditional on triggers is presented as a “responsible” way to cut taxes. However, they are the opposite of responsible; these bills are an attempt to avoid responsibility for critical decisions by putting the tax system on auto-pilot.
House passes film tax-rebate after reconsideration
“August: Osage County’s” Weston family may be “crazier’n a bunch of cut rats,” as one legislator put it, but the Oklahoma House of Representatives reversed itself Tuesday and decided that was not sufficient reason to scrap the $5 million rebate program that brought production of the Academy Award-nominated film to the state after all. After a day of reflection and, apparently, some fairly intense lobbying the House reversed itself and passed House Bill 2580 on reconsideration. The bill extends the program, scheduled to expire July 1, another 10 years.
Senate passes Indian museum bill
A bill authorizing the use of $40 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund to help complete Oklahoma City’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum cleared the state Senate on Tuesday despite stiff opposition. The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum will serve as an anchor tourism destination for other cultural attractions throughout Oklahoma, as well as the Bricktown and Deep Deuce districts. The Oklahoman archive The vote was 30-17. The bill will now head to the state House, where House Speaker Jeff Hickman has indicated it is likely to receive a chilly reception.
Hearing on Oklahoma executions moved to federal court
A lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s law that shields details of drugs used in executions has been moved to federal court. The suit filed by death row inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner was set for a hearing Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court, but the hearing was canceled after the case was transferred to federal court at the request of the state. Lockett faces a March 20 execution while Warner is set to be executed March 27.
Ginnie Graham: On the internet, all that glitters is not gold
Like urban myths of the vanishing hitchhiker and the escaped hook-armed convict, email touting that welfare packages pay more than salaries just won’t go away. This pops up every so often, and it’s annoying. Bad information is always annoying, from the left and the right wings. In this round, the targets are pesky welfare mothers, the working poor and others among our society’s downtrodden. The latest shocking email chock full of half-truths is based on a flawed Cato Institute report released last year.
Previously: The Oklahoman’s distorted case for cutting the safety net from the OK Policy Blog
Quote of the Day
Dysfunctional families are everywhere in America and this movie is one that can be related to by many. Heck, come to my farm on a Sunday afternoon and watch us shoot clay pigeons and make S’mores and see how dysfunctional we can be. We call that good times and having fun with your family in Oklahoma.
-Rep. Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, defending the film “August: Osage County,” which lawmakers criticized when debating whether to extend Oklahoma’s film industry tax rebate. After initially voting it down, the House approved extending the tax rebate for ten years.
Number of the Day
How much a tax cut approved in the Oklahoma Senate could reduce state revenues by 2018.
Source: Oklahoma Tax Commission
Explore 60 years of budget deficits in one chart
When President Obama took office in 2009 at the height of the recession, the annual budget deficit came in at 10.1 percent of gross domestic product — a level not seen since the end of World War II. In the five years since, the budget deficit has been sliced more than half. New figures in Obama’s just-released budget put it at only 3.7 percent of GDP in 2014. Explore 60 years of deficits – and the occasional surplus – in the interactive chart.
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