In The Know: Senate Education Chair says school consolidation bills won’t be heard

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-relate d 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

Senate Education Committee chair will not hear school consolidation bills: The chairman of the Senate Education Committee late Thursday said he will not hear any school consolidation bills, including his own. Earlier in the day, Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, moved his school administrative consolidation bill from the Senate Education Committee to the Senate Rules Committee. Bingman’s Senate Bill 1382 would consolidate the administration of dependent districts with independent districts [Tulsa World].

Sales Tax Exemptions: A Puzzle of Haves and Have-Nots: The National Rifle Association is exempt from the sales tax in Oklahoma. The American Civil Liberties Union is not. Organizations promoting the preservation of wild ducks and turkeys get a sales tax break. Groups promoting different wildlife, or the welfare of dogs and cats, do not. Oklahoma chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution have a specific sales tax exemption. The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma does not. Those are just a few of the idiosyncrasies in the state’s sales tax statutes. Altogether, the tax code contains 150 specific sales and use tax exemptions. About a third of them apply to charities and other nonprofits engaged in activities rewarded with a tax break [Oklahoma Watch].

More than 400 DHS workers offered voluntary buyouts: A little more than 400 employees with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services were given official buyout offers Thursday as part of an effort to make up for budget cuts. DHS implemented an agencywide voluntary employee buyout offer in January to help it deal with a projected shortfall of about $40 million by 2017. In December, state agencies were told to make reductions of 3 percent based on low projected state income. For DHS, this is about $18.7 million less in state funding, triggering a loss in federal matching money for a total of $28.1 million [Tulsa World].

Senate panel passes measure to implement Real ID: A Senate panel on Thursday passed a measure to bring the state into compliance with the federal Real ID Act. Senate Bill 1362, by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, passed the Senate Public Safety Committee by a vote of 6-1 and heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. The federal Real ID Act of 2005 creates minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which the perpetrators used fake documents [Tulsa World].

Special interests, tax dollars and education savings accounts: What the Legislature giveth, the Legislature can taketh away. And often does. With the aid and counsel of well-heeled special interests, Oklahoma’s elected leaders are remarkably adept at publicly feigning concern about vital state services, all the while undermining funding for said programs. There is no better example than public education [Arnold Hamilton / The Journal Record].

As Lawmakers Weigh School Cuts, a Sudden Outcry from Parents and Advocates: Night after night, state Sen. Josh Breechen of Coalgate has stayed up until midnight, answering impassioned emails and calls from parents worried about schools being consolidated. Sen. John Ford of Bartlesville says more people have been stopping him at church, in Walmart and at local Rotary Club gatherings to express their views on the issue. In Sand Springs, hundreds of parents attended a town-hall meeting in which Superintendent Lloyd Snow asked for help deciding which programs and services should be on the chopping block if education funding cuts continue [Oklahoma Watch].

Teacher pay raise proposals probably going nowhere this session: Giving Oklahoma’s teachers a pay raise has been proclaimed as one of the highest priorities of legislators and Governor Mary Fallin this session. Despite a $1.3 billion budget shortfall and the near certainty of cuts to all state agencies, including common education, multiple pay raise plans have been proposed. Whether any plan becomes reality — and how that impacts this year’s initiative petition campaign for a teacher pay raise funded by a 1 percent sales tax — remains to be seen [OK Policy].

Voters may need to bring a sandwich into the voting booth, state Senate leader Brian Bingman says: The leader of the Oklahoma Senate on Thursday expressed concern that too many state questions on the November ballot could run up the cost. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, was asked about a number of measures moving through the Legislature that would place additional state questions on the ballot. “Well, if we are not careful, you are going to have to bring a sandwich when you go into that booth to mark that ballot this year,” Bingman said during his weekly briefing with reporters [Tulsa World].

Joe Dorman: Fallin taking right path with corrections reforms: I, like many of you, have grown tired of the constant attacks on candidates and public officials. I want to take a different approach and say something nice about my former opponent, Mary Fallin. I empathize with Gov. Fallin on how bad things are at the Capitol. Early press has covered horrible legislative ideas, even though most will not make it past the committee process. A depressed economy also creates enormous strains. I served as a legislator during two previous economic downturns and can attest how tough it will be to prioritize worthy programs with limited dollars [Joe Dorman / Tulsa World].

Sierra Club Files Federal Lawsuit Against Three Energy Companies Over Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas: The Sierra Club filed a federal lawsuit today against three Oklahoma energy companies over earthquakes linked to oil and gas production. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Oklahoma City, accuses Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and New Dominion of operating wastewater injection wells that have contributed to a massive spike in earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas [StateImpact Oklahoma].

State gun-carry license applications nearly triple since November: Although the correlation between licensed gun owners per capita and gun deaths in a state remains debatable, one thing is clear: When guns are in the news, firearms purchases and applications for permits to carry them go up. On Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation released data showing a large increase in the number of gun-carry license applications from November to February [Tulsa World].

Surprise contraband crackdowns continue in Oklahoma prisons: Surprise crackdowns on Oklahoma prison contraband continue as officials announce a recent raid pulled in drugs and banned cellphones from inmates at Jefferson County Detention Center. A strike force with the Department of Corrections on Tuesday seized 31 cellphones, nearly a half-pound of marijuana or synthetic marijuana, two grams of methamphetamine and other contraband, according to a Thursday statement [NewsOK].

Upcoming Watch-Out Forum: Where Mass Transit Is Headed in Tulsa Area: Oklahoma Watch will hold a public forum on the future of mass transit in the greater Tulsa area on Tuesday, March 8, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Central Center, located at 1028 E. 6th St. in Tulsa. The question-and-answer forum will feature Debbie Ruggles, assistant general manager of Tulsa Transit, and James Wagner, principal transportation planner for Indian Nations Council of Government (INCOG), the metropolitan planning organization for greater Tulsa [Oklahoma Watch].

Up in the air: Several bills seek to regulate unmanned aircraft: Federal officials and a local pilot warned state lawmakers to stay away from drone regulations. A handful of bills filed this year are likely to cause confusion among drone pilots if adopted, said Tom Kilpatrick, owner of aerial photography company CloudDeck Media. House Bill 2368 would ban flights over agricultural property by someone with malicious intent. House Bill 2599 would fine operators who fly over refineries, electric substations or dams [Journal Record].

The Promise and Peril of $1 Gasoline in Oil-Rich Oklahoma: Crashing crude oil prices are fueling big bargains for American motorists, who are driving away with tanks full of inexpensive gasoline. Today, the national average is $1.71 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Oklahoma could be one of the first places in the country to see gas prices dip below $1 a gallon [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“Last year, when I met people at the community center, they would ask what’s going on at the Capitol. Now I get a dozen phone calls or face-to-face conversations where people are asking about specific legislation, like what’s an education savings account.”

– Alex Public Schools Superintendent Jason James on growing outcry from parents and communities concerned with how the state’s budget crisis will impact their schools and school districts (Source

Number of the Day


Inflation-adjusted personal income growth for Oklahomans over the past year, the 5th lowest in the nation.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The striking power of poverty to turn young boys into jobless men: Men are more likely to work than women. This has been true in the United States for generations and for entrenched reasons that have to do with “family values” and workplace policies. It’s true because the culture says women should care for their children and because paying for child care is expensive. And it’s true because of discrimination. The durability of that pattern makes a recent finding by economists at Harvard and Stanford universities all the more puzzling: Among the poor, the opposite is now true. Girls who grow up in poor families are more likely than the boys who grow up with them to work as adults [Washington Post].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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