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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

As State Budgets Falter, Oklahoma Turns to Other States to Fight Its Most Dangerous Wildfires: Crews have worked for more than a week to contain a massive wildfire that has torched more than a thousand square miles and killed one person and thousands of head of livestock in northwestern parts of Oklahoma. State budget cuts mean Oklahoma increasingly depends on other states to fight its largest and most dangerous wildfires [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Oklahoma Senate rejects unpaid family leave extension: The Oklahoma Senate has rejected a measure that would give some parents more time to spend with their newborn or adopted children. Senate Bill 549 would have pushed state employees’ pregnancy and adoption leave allowance past the federal 12-week minimum. State Sen. David Holt, the bill’s author, said he wants to give a mother and father at least 20 weeks of time to spend with their child [NewsOK].

Local Agencies Face Cuts Under Proposed Federal Budget: President Donald Trump is outlining a wide range of federal budget cuts in order to make way for more defense spending. In the 60 pages of his “America First” plan, Trump shows where he would cut in order to make $54 billion dollars available to the defense department. Some of the hardest hit would be farmers, workers in the energy sector, low-income families and seniors [NewsOn6].

In a tight budget year, HB 1270 would grow administrative waste and punish families who try to save for the future: ​Oklahoma legislators have big challenges this session to deal with another revenue failure and​ budget shortfall. Regular Oklahomans are struggling to support their families in a state where too many jobs still don’t pay a living wage.​​ In this context, you’d think our lawmakers would want to avoid squandering taxpayer money or demonizing families struggling to get by [OK Policy].

Legislation makes poor Oklahomans targets for expensive borrowing: I recently read a Facebook post that I understood all too well. The author spoke of crying for those who have less. She spoke of watching people count their pennies while at the same time trying to hold onto “dignity that is draining from them.” She concluded by saying she understood why “Jesus wept.” There are more payday loan stores than McDonald’s restaurants. Ten large out-of-state firms account for half of all payday loan locations [William Mark Bonney / Tulsa World]. Learn more about HB 1913 and how to contact your legislators about it here.

Bill that requires Oklahoma students to recite Pledge of Allegiance every day passes House: A bill that would require Oklahoma students in public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day has passed another hurdle. House Bill 2277 would require students in all public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America once every day. Currently, students are required to recite the pledge once a week [KFOR].

The good, the bad and the ugly: Six weeks down, 10 to go in a legislative session replete with sex and drugs but precious little rock ‘n’ roll – at least not the kind that reflects lawmakers quickly resolving the state’s most pressing problems. Rather, this year’s Capitol meet-up may best be summed up as a solon-style sequel of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The Good: Legislators kept their pre-session promise to end the Real ID nightmare, creating a two-license system that meets federal security standards imposed after 9/11 [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Teach for America brings college students to Tulsa for hunger-related service projects: Twenty out-of-state college students are learning about the issue of food insecurity in Tulsa and exploring innovative community initiatives this week during Teach for America’s first “Alternative Spring Break.” The weeklong trip is meant to introduce college freshmen, sophomores and juniors — most of whom had never been to Oklahoma — to Tulsa’s opportunities for young professionals to make an impact on social challenges [Tulsa World].

Talk of poverty’s oppression, hope dominates as Tulsans address Congressional hearing: Invoking chapter 58 of the Book of Isaiah, Don Millican spoke Thursday to a congressional committee on behalf of the George Kaiser Family Foundation on the importance of funding early childhood programs, particularly those targeted to low-income families. …Tulsa represented two of the four positions on the panel before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, which is led by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma [Tulsa World].

This flu season is second-deadliest in Tulsa County in recent years: The number of flu cases in the Tulsa area remains elevated but appears to be waning, according to local health officials. Tulsa County has been the hardest hit area of the state this flu season, with 17 deaths and 460 hospitalizations since Sept. 1, according to the latest data from the Oklahoma Department of Health. A total of 64 flu deaths and 2,021 hospitalizations have been recorded across the state in that same time period, according to the data [Tulsa World].

Same-sex marriage on Osage Nation election ballot: Osage Nation voters will head to the polls Monday to consider allowing the tribe’s judicial branch to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Voters will be asked to amend the definition of marriage as listed in the Osage Nation’s legal code. As the section stands, the code defines marriage as a “personal relation between a man and a woman.” If the measure passes, the definition would instead read “a personal relation between two persons.” [Tulsa World]

Resignation of Fallin’s general counsel tied to efforts to free Robert Bates: When relatives of former Reserve Deputy Robert Bates called Gov. Mary Fallin’s office last year to ask whether Fallin would commute his sentence, the governor’s deputy general counsel, Jennifer Chance, suggested they hire her husband as a criminal defense attorney, an investigation by The Frontier has found. Bates’ family took Chance’s advice, paying attorney Garin Derek Chance $25,000 to seek a commutation, which was denied in November [The Frontier]. Gov. Mary Fallin has named a former state senator from Tulsa as her new general counsel [Tulsa World].

Governor calls for Shortey’s resignation: Gov. Mary Fallin called for state Sen. Ralph Shortey’s resignation Thursday afternoon, joining a chorus of state officials who said he should leave government immediately. …The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday stripped Shortey of most of his privileges, including his right to an office at the Capitol. Leadership in the chamber, however, stopped short of expelling him [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“I think it would just be totally devastating. These families would be completely on their own. Our senior citizens that depend on these programs to help with just some of the basic repairs would be gone.”

– Neighborhood Housing Services Oklahoma Executive Director Roland Chupik on President Trump’s proposed federal budget, which would eliminate funding for a number of programs including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income families pay their energy bills, or repair or replace broken furnaces or air conditioners (Source). In SFY 2016, 87,770 Oklahoma households received winter heating assistance and 78,335 households received summer cooling assistance through LIHEAP (Source). 

Number of the Day

$84.8 million

Estimated annual state and local taxes paid by undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma

Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In order that they might rest their arguments on facts: The vital role of government-collected data: The modern economy has never been more reliant on data. Businesses, governments, and families must navigate the complexities of a world made possible by new technologies and innovative business practices. Without reliable information about the economic and social environment, it is impossible in many instances to make sensible choices. For example, when deciding where to locate distribution centers, stores, and warehouses, the American Community Survey’s (ACS’s) accurate local data have proven invaluable to retailers (Kleinhenz 2015). Researchers know significantly more about the impact of pro-work policy reforms in the 1990s due to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—and are better prepared to advise policy makers on future reforms [The Hamilton Project & American Enterprise Institute].

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