In The Know: Tobacco companies sue state to stop $1.50-per-pack cigarette ‘fee’

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.

Today In The News

Tobacco companies sue state to stop $1.50-per-pack cigarette ‘fee’: Tobacco companies have sued the state in an effort to invalidate a $1.50 “fee” on cigarettes that lawmakers passed to raise revenue. The suit was filed Wednesday in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. It claims that the money assessed by Senate Bill 845 is not a fee but a tax that would require a supermajority to pass in the state House and Senate, which it did not receive. The measure was approved after four failed attempts to impose a $1.50-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes, according to the suit [Tulsa World]. The state budget is sitting on shaky constitutional foundations [OK Policy].

Details of Oklahoma Budget Agreement Conceal Cuts for Oklahoma Environmental Agencies: The $6.9 billion budget signed last week by Gov. Mary Fallin delivers 5 percent cuts to most state agencies. On paper, it looks like two environmental agencies received funding boosts, but a closer look at the numbers shows the increases aren’t what they appear. Trey Lam is often found off the beaten path, beyond low-water river crossings and through pastures accessible only by rocky, tire-jarring rural roads [StateImpact Oklahoma]. The budget left Oklahoma services massively underfunded [OK Policy].

FY 2018 Budget Highlights: OK Policy’s annual Budget Highlights issue brief is one of the most informative and accessible ways to track Oklahoma’s public spending. Today we’ve released the FY 2018 Budget Highlights, which includes a bullet point summary of the state budget, charts illustrating different aspects of the budget, and a table showing appropriations for every state agency going back to 2009 [OK Policy]. Next year’s budget starts over $400 million in the hole [OK Policy].

With tax receipts rising, state expects to replenish Rainy Day Fund: The fiscal year ends in three weeks, and the Rainy Day Fund is still empty. Finance officials borrowed from the state’s savings account throughout the year, as tax collections dropped and agencies needed their monthly allotments. To reduce midyear cuts, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services quietly borrowed the money to cover costs. Government officials are taking money out of the account about as quickly as they’re putting money into it [Journal Record].

Political State Podcast: The Budget that won’t go away: Dale and Ben discuss a lawsuit that challenges part of the recently adopted state budget and what Mick Cornett’s campaign for governor means for the rest of the field [NewsOK].

Oklahoma governor signs new DUI law: Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill revamping Oklahoma’s DUI statute Thursday, disregarding warnings from DUI attorneys who claim the law tramples on citizens’ due process rights. The new law, which is scheduled to take effect Nov. 1, calls for drunken driving suspects to be given an option: They can either have ignition interlock devices put on their vehicles and participate in a diversionary program or they can await the outcomes of their criminal cases to determine whether their license revocations are upheld [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Department of Human Services looking to churches to help foster children: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is looking for creative ways to find more foster families. DHS has partnered with local churches to help children in the foster care system, according to KFOR. And the need is great. There are nearly 10,000 children in the state’s system, but only 4,500 foster homes [KJRH].

State lawmaker requests interim study on OSBI leadership amid scandals: A state representative will request an interim study on complaints against leadership at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. State Rep. Bobby Cleveland announced Thursday he will request the study following scandals at the state’s top law enforcement agency. The scandals began in late January when dozens of OSBI employees signed a multiple page complaint to the commission that oversees the agency [FOX25].

Just showing up part of battle with interim studies: As the deadline approaches to request interim studies, current and former legislators say they could do a world of good if people would just show up. These studies allow committee members to delve into an issue. It’s typical to bring in several experts to testify and for researchers to bring some factual basis to debates that might otherwise be based in politics. They take place in the summer and fall, outside of the normal session [Journal Record].

Educators discuss legislative session: Work doesn’t stop at public schools during summer break. Oklahoma administrators gathered Wednesday and Thursday in Norman for a two-day conference to discuss the state budget, changes in education laws and what may be around the corner for public education at this year’s Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration summer conference. Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister kicked off the conference discussing the last legislative session and her goals for public education in the Sooner State [Norman Transcript].

Drug distributing companies take Cherokee Nation to federal court: Fighting back against accusations of creating “an epidemic of prescription opioid drug abuse,” Wal-Mart and five other major corporations went to federal court Thursday in an effort to keep the Cherokee Nation from suing them in tribal court. The companies, including Walgreens, CVS and other major drug distributors, asked a U.S. District Court in Tulsa to declare that Cherokee courts have no jurisdiction over them, tossing out a case that Cherokee officials filed in tribal court in April [Tulsa World].

Challenges to two appointments to workers’ comp commission withdrawn: Legal challenges to two of Gov. Mary Fallin’s appointments to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission have been withdrawn. Workers’ compensation lawyers had filed legal challenges claiming the two attorneys, Megan Tilly and Jordan Russell, did not have the required three years of experience in the field to hold positions on the three-member commission. Bob Burke, a workers’ compensation attorney, said he reconsidered his decision to file the challenge to Tilly after meeting with her and others who know her well [Tulsa World].

Robert Henry to retire as OCU president: Robert Henry, a former lawmaker, attorney general and federal appeals court judge, will retire as president of Oklahoma City University next year, officials announced Thursday. Henry, 64, will step down June 30, 2018, after eight years as president of OCU, a private liberal arts college with about 2,700 students [NewsOK].

Drilling plans unfazed by stalling prices: Stalling oil prices have forced oil executives to adjust some plans, but — at least so far — local oil companies have not scaled back their drilling operations. The price of oil nearly doubled from the low set more than a year ago, but has dipped since the first of the year despite ongoing efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other big oil producers to push up prices by scaling back production [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“The stakes of this case for the public cannot be overstated.”

– From a lawsuit filed by Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, and other plaintiffs claiming the $1.50 per pack tobacco ‘fee’ passed by lawmakers earlier this spring is unconstitutional. If the fee is struck down, it would leave a multimillion dollar hole in the state budget (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s workforce on SNAP (food stamps)

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Houston Hospital Checking To See If Patients’ Cupboards Are Bare: Sherry King had lost her job as a dental assistant and was stretching her food, sometimes going without any fresh fruit or vegetables. But the suburban Houston resident didn’t reach out for any help — even from her own relatives, whom she didn’t want to worry. Then she switched to a new doctor late last year. “They asked me, ‘Do I have enough food? Do I have access to nutritious food?’ ” the 51-year-old recalled. “When they asked me that, it made me cry.” That prompted the medical practice to take note of her situation, and a clinician soon introduced King to several local food banks that carry fresh produce and some meat, such as chicken [Kaiser Health News].

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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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