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
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 [NewsOK]. Ten states, including Oklahoma, have enacted tax cuts in recent years that are deferred to a future date based on state revenues reaching a certain level or rate of growth [OK Policy].
For the first time, lawmakers were found guilty of supplanting lottery funds for schools: Along with all of their other budget challenges, lawmakers this session will need to allocate an additional $10.1 million for the Education Lottery Trust Fund as the result of a determination made last month that lottery funds had been used to supplant rather than enhance education funding this year. Back in 2004, Oklahoma voters established the state lottery via two state questions [OK Policy].
Arrogant lawmakers think Oklahoma voters are stupid: Oklahoma voters are stupid and can’t be trusted to know what they’re doing, the state House of Representatives concluded Thursday. With only one vote to spare, the chamber passed House Bill 1482, which seeks to undo part of the progress made in November’s State Question 780. As amended, HB 1482 would make mere possession of illegal drugs within 1,000 feet of a school a felony [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].
Prosperity Policy: A stark choice: Oklahoma legislators face a stark choice this session. With $700 million to $1 billion less to appropriate for next year’s budget, they can enact deep cuts across nearly every service provided by state government. Or they can raise new revenue to bring the budget into balance [David Blatt / Journal Record].
Agencies find little left to cut in latest revenue failure: As state agencies work to implement the most recent round of midyear cuts, all they have to say is that they saw this coming and that their only hope is there isn’t another revenue failure before the fiscal year ends. Near the end of February, state finance officials announced that revenue fell below expectations and that agencies would have to slash almost $35 million in budgeted spending by July. Some agencies have already kicked off cost-saving measures, such as hiring and purchasing freezes [Journal Record]. This year’s budget is $1.25 billion, or 15.6 percent, below FY 2009, adjusted for inflation [OK Policy].
Norman Public Schools juggles finding new teachers with mid-year budget cuts: When assistant superintendent Jason Brown talked with Norman Public School principals last week, one of their first questions was about what kind of blood pressure medication he must be on. As the second semester started, Brown was already trying to fill teacher positions for the next academic year. At the same time, the State Department of Education passed down mid-year budget cuts for the second year in a row [Norman Transcript]. Oklahoma continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].
Hofmeister: New Trump guidelines won’t alter future of school accountability in Oklahoma: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Monday’s release of new federal education guidelines from the Trump administration changes nothing in Oklahoma’s proposed new school grade card system. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a letter to Hofmeister and her counterparts in every other state announcing that they will have fewer school accountability requirements to comply with than the Obama administration had imposed [Tulsa World].
Why the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is shriveling away because of inadequate funding, the Legislature poses as ‘backing the blue’: The intent of Rep. Casey Murdock’s House Bill 1306 is puzzling. The bill attempts to statutorily impose the greatest penalty possible — death or, in the bill’s amended form, life without parole — on those found guilty of killing a law officer. Here’s why that’s puzzling: Existing state law already says that one of the eight aggravating circumstances that can be used to seek a death sentence is if the victim is a peace officer or prison guard performing official duties [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].
On first day in office, new Medicaid chief urges states to charge premiums, prod recipients to get jobs: Hours after she was sworn in, the Trump administration’s top official for Medicaid and her boss dispatched a letter to the nation’s governors, urging states to alter the insurance program for the nation’s poor by imposing insurance premiums, charging them for part of emergency room bills and prodding them to get jobs. The letter, sent Tuesday night by Seema Verma, the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, also derides the Medicaid expansion that 31 states and the District of Columbia adopted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) [Washington Post].
Progressive group plans their own town hall: Two possible candidates for governor will have a captive audience of progressive voters this weekend at an event billed as the Oklahoma Town Hall. Democrats Scott Inman and Drew Edmondson are scheduled to be panelists. Both have said they are considering a run. The town hall meeting was organized by Indivisible Oklahoma, a local group that’s part of a national movement against President Donald Trump’s policies [NewsOK].
Shadid proposes sales tax cut, shift in focus for MAPS: Oklahoma City Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid on Tuesday proposed a sales tax cut, along with bulking up police and fire services, while refocusing MAPS on restoring city services. Shadid said a quarter-cent should be carved out of the 1-cent MAPS sales tax to “give a tax deduction to the people. They deserve it.” [NewsOK]
Tulsa early childhood advocates to testify before Congress this week: Tulsa will be making the case for early childhood programs with two of four people set to testify in a congressional hearing on Thursday representing local organizations. Featured on the panel will be Steven Dow, executive director of the Community Action Project of Tulsa, which administers the federal Head Start grant, and Don Millican, chief financial official of Kaiser-Francis Oil Co., who will speak on behalf of the George Kaiser Family Foundation [Tulsa World].
Oklahoma’s unemployment rate continues to drop: Oklahoma continues to chip away at its unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted numbers show. In January, the state’s unemployment fell by a tenth of a percent to 4.7 percent — a tenth of a point lower than the national rate of 4.8 percent. Also, its unemployment level returned to where it was a year ago [NewsOK].
Emails and records raise questions about state’s response to Woody Guthrie art protest: He is held up as an Oklahoma icon, but Woody Guthrie’s message of protesting the powerful in favor of the people is apparently not welcome at the state capitol. The story made headlines around the country when the state shut down a projected image of Guthrie on the capitol, but records show the rules being used to shut down this protest are not being applied to every protest at the capitol [FOX25].
State Senate removes Ralph Shortey’s privileges amid investigation into motel stay with boy: The state Senate kicked Sen. Ralph Shortey out of his office, removed him from committees and stripped his name from legislation on Wednesday, one day after allegations were made public that police had found him in a motel room with an underage boy. Republican senators held a lengthy caucus Wednesday to discuss the matter, and then Senate Resolution 7 passed by a vote of 43-0 with no questions and no debate [Tulsa World].
Northwest Oklahoma wildfires reported 80 percent contained: Wildfires that claimed thousands of head of livestock and destroyed at least eight homes in northwest Oklahoma are 80 percent contained, the Oklahoma Forestry Services reported Wednesday. Firefighters continued to monitor hot spots and were burning debris left over from the fires [NewsOK].
Quote of the Day
“It’s stressful. It’s like juggling multiple plates that contrast with one another. Go hire, go find the best, but know that we might have to make some tougher decisions later on in a couple months; that’s hard to ask a principal to do. And at the same time, please be an instructional leader for our kids, get them ready to successfully complete the rest of the year.”
– Norman Public School Assistant Superintendent Jason Brown, on trying to balance hiring more teachers with low teacher pay and years of budget cuts (Source)
Number of the Day
Percent of nonelderly adults in Oklahoma reporting past-due medical debt in 2015, down from 38% in 2012
Source: Urban Institute
Reimagining the School Day: The minutes and hours of the school day are critical to build knowledge, foster student motivation, and drive student outcomes. To make the most of precious instructional time, teachers must first develop engaging lessons that meet the various needs of students. This requires teachers to collaborate, plan, and reflect outside of instructional time. Effective school schedules maximize the time teachers spend with their students but also recognize teachers’ additional responsibilities beyond instructional time. Unfortunately, not enough schools successfully balance these priorities [Center for America Progress].
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