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
Monday vote expected in state House on bills backed by Step Up Oklahoma: Showdown votes are expected Monday afternoon on the state House floor on a series of tax increase and government restructuring measures backed by Step Up Oklahoma. House members also may be asked to vote on proposed $5,000 pay increases for teachers. [The Oklahoman] What are the Step Up plan bills the House will vote on Monday? [Tulsa World] Changes to Step Up income tax plan will bolster working families [OK Policy]
Oklahoma Medicaid providers could face rates cuts in March: Medicaid providers could face a cut again as soon as March, particularly if the nasty flu season continues. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority faces a budget shortfall in the coming months because of problems with federal and state funds. [The Oklahoman] Flu season could cause Health Care Authority to run out of money by March, official says [KOCO] Don’t go there: Block grants for Medicaid and SNAP could wreck America’s safety net [OK Policy]
Criminal justice reform measures face uncertain future: Several bills designed to significantly reduce Oklahoma’s prison population have been sent to a Legislative conference committee, where they could be amended before reaching a final vote. Criminal justice reform advocates hope the bills won’t be watered down from their latest versions. [The Oklahoman] Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy]
Only a Handful of Prison Inmates Get Treatment for Deadly Disease: Inmates in Oklahoma prisons must have advanced liver disease before becoming eligible for treatment of hepatitis C, a potentially deadly disease that has set off national alarms. The situation in prisons pits the enormous cost of treatment against the public health gains of curing one of the populations most at risk for the viral infection. [Oklahoma Watch]
Chancellor hopes to restore education funding in targeted areas: A requested 16 percent funding boost will not help Oklahoma colleges recover funding lost over the past three years, higher education officials said. However, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson said regents will stick to their goals. [Muskogee Phoenix] Higher education funding cuts continue to drive up tuition and threaten college access [OK Policy]
A federal appeals court has struck part of an Oklahoma law governing gaming compacts with tribes: A panel of judges for the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week an arbitration clause that’s part of a model gaming compact between American Indian tribes and Oklahoma is unenforceable. That arbitration clause, part of a statute voters approved in 2004 as a state question, was the only remedy tribes and Oklahoma had to settle disputes that arise under the compact, one tribe’s attorney asserts. [The Oklahoman]
Amid teacher shortage, four-day school districts can’t afford to go back, superintendents say: Once a district goes to a four-day school week in Oklahoma, it’s tough to go back. People seem to like it too much. About one-fifth of all 513 Oklahoma public school districts — 91 — have a four-day school week, something that has become synonymous with education in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World] Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy]
Tempers flare with talk of wind energy tax: Tempers flared Tuesday as members of a wind advocacy group accused some lawmakers of pressing for “punitive” taxation that would harm the industry. “I think there have been some that have grabbed onto the anti-wind rhetoric and believe that’s the scapegoat for the state’s problems and the state’s ills,” said Mark Yates, executive director of OK WindPower, which promotes wind development. [CNHI]
As legislative session begins, the first business is cleaning up last year’s budget mess: The legislative session started Monday, and it may be one of the most difficult ever. Legislators must clean up the budget mess left last year – which means supplemental appropriations for the health and human services agencies – before beginning this year’s budget. There should be some help there from the strong revenue finish the last few months of last fiscal year, but there is still a substantial shortfall to deal with. [OK Policy]
New lobbying rule gets mixed review from lawmakers and those who try to influence them: A rule that would make elected officials wait two years before lobbying is getting mixed reviews. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission recently unanimously approved the rule, which would also apply to agency heads. The rule will take effect if the Legislature does not act by the end of the session. But the Legislature could also disapprove of the rule. [Tulsa World]
Electric car fee would make up for lost fuel taxes: A lawmaker is giving hybrid and electric car fees a second try after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the first pass last year. State Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, introduced another bill that would place an annual fee on those cars. He sponsored the 2017 version, House Bill 1449, which placed an additional $100 on every electric vehicle’s annual registration fee and an additional $30 on every hybrid vehicle. [Journal Record]
Oklahoma Academy recommends ending party primaries: Members of the nonpartisan Oklahoma Academy recommend dropping the state’s party primary system in favor of reforms that would pit all candidates against each other in a single contest. Doing so would avoid dueling primary and runoff elections, forcing every candidate for a seat to appear on the same ballot. The two candidates receiving the most votes, regardless of party, would then face each other in a final election. [The Oklahoman]
Voters go to the polls Tuesday: Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new state senator for District 27, which encompasses Woodward County, several other counties in Northwest Oklahoma and the entire Oklahoma Panhandle. Casey Murdock of Felt, who currently represents House District 61 in the Oklahoma Legislature is being opposed by Democrat Amber Jensen of Woodward. The seat is open due to the resignation of Bryce Marlatt last year. [Woodward News]
Gov. Mary Fallin discusses her legacy: Gov. Mary Fallin addressed newspaper reporters, editors and publishers from across the state Thursday during Oklahoma Press Association Day at the state capitol. Here is what she had to say when the question turned to what she hopes her legacy will be when she leaves office next year. [CNHI]
Quote of the Day
“That’s less than half of what our budget cut has been for the last three years. Over the past three years, higher education has been cut over $250 million. Our request is not to restore that completely, but to restore funding in targeted areas.”
Glen D. Johnson, Chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, on the requested $128 million budget increase for higher education in FY 2019 (Source)
Number of the Day
Total budget requested by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for fiscal year 2019, more than three times their FY 2018 funding.
The ‘Tough on Crime’ Wave Is Finally Cresting: For decades, politicians competed to see who could push the most draconian criminal justice policies. Jeff Sessions’s announcement this month that he would authorize federal prosecutors to go after pot even in states where it is legal seems ripped straight from that playbook. But the “tough on crime” Attorney General may be in for a surprise. In 2018, it turns out, demagoguery about crime no longer packs a political punch. In fact, support for reform may prove to be a sleeper issue in 2018 and 2020. [Brennan Center]
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