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All articles by Carly Putnam

In The Know: ‘We don’t have a sentencing problem’ AG Jeff Sessions tells Oklahoma sheriffs in a rebuke of state reforms

by | October 20th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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

‘We don’t have a sentencing problem’ AG Jeff Sessions tells Oklahoma sheriffs in a rebuke of state reforms: Critics of criminal justice reforms approved by Oklahoma voters in November spent an hour Thursday railing against them before yielding the lectern to an apparent ally in their fight: America’s top law enforcement officer. “Despite the national surge in violent crime and the record number of drug deaths over the last two years, there is a move to even lighter sentences,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a gathering of the state’s sheriffs [NewsOK]. In message to Oklahoma sheriffs, Rep. Scott Biggs praised for stopping several criminal justice reform measures [The Frontier]. Misguided budget concerns sank criminal justice reform this year, but lawmakers have another shot in 2018 [OK Policy].

Budget shortfall could send thousands of drug court participants to prison: After hearing that their jobs might disappear and that their patients could end up in prison, several Oklahoma drug court officials and mental health providers said they have no intention to stay quiet. On Thursday, they told their staff members and patients that state-funded outpatient services could disappear before year’s end. …For the patients, that could mean no more support for drug addiction recovery, and worse, a prison sentence [Journal Record]. Latest state cuts ‘catastrophic,’ Tulsa mental health professionals say [Tulsa World]. Agencies grasping for new revenue might be able to delay a $215 million budget cut until 2018, Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall declared Thursday [NewsOK]. Although the Oklahoma Legislature has convened numerous special sessions in recent decades, none has dealt with issues as sweeping and consequential as the current one [OK Policy].

Fallin’s chief of staff to oil and gas leaders: ‘Participate in a way that can help’: After Oklahoma’s two largest oil and gas industry associations sent a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin opposing gross production tax increases, the governor’s chief of staff pleaded for the industry to “be for something” and noted that Fallin has been “the biggest supporter of your industry over the last several years.” Pasted below, the late-September email from Fallin’s chief of staff, Chris Benge, was widely discussed among industry leaders [NonDoc].

continue reading In The Know: ‘We don’t have a sentencing problem’ AG Jeff Sessions tells Oklahoma sheriffs in a rebuke of state reforms

In The Know: ‘Unprecedented’: Mental health advocates, state leaders prepare for the worst as mental health cuts loom

by | October 19th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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

‘Unprecedented’: Mental health advocates, state leaders prepare for the worst as mental health cuts loom: Surrounded by dozens of representatives from across the state, including from hospitals, law enforcement and other state agencies, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services outlined budget cuts that were described as “unprecedented” and “devastating.” “This is a really difficult day for our department and for the behavioral health network across the state of Oklahoma. It is an especially difficult day for the families and individuals who rely on our life-saving services,” said Terri White, commissioner of ODMHSAS [The Frontier]. Although the Oklahoma Legislature has convened numerous special sessions in recent decades, none has dealt with issues as sweeping and consequential as the current one [OK Policy].

Rehab work camps were about to be regulated. Then a friend stepped in: For years, Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery proudly operated outside of state oversight in Oklahoma. The founders ran their Christian recovery program their way – with church, hard manual labor and little government interference. In 2013, it looked like that was about to change. After a handful of patients died in another unregulated rehab, state lawmakers introduced a bill to crack down on a wide swath of uncertified programs. Then Republican lawmaker Doug Cox stepped in [Reveal].

Oklahoma taxes are the lowest in our region, and falling: This week the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services began alerting care providers that they will have to shut down the state’s entire outpatient behavioral health system, with just a few exceptions, if lawmakers don’t find ways in special session to fill the agency’s $75 million budget hole. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is planning to cut rates paid to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes by 9 percent — a scenario that would likely put more rural hospitals out of business at a time when pregnant women in rural Oklahoma already are being forced to travel long distances for basic care [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Capitol building to temporarily close

by | October 13th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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

Capitol building to temporarily close: The state Capitol building, which will be without power, will be closed to everyone but workers from Manhattan Construction for one week starting at 7 p.m. on Friday. The temporary closure is necessary to ensure the safety of construction workers, tenants and visitors while the Capitol’s outdated electrical infrastructure is being replaced. The building will be reopened to tenants and the public on Oct. 23 [Journal Record]. The Legislature will not meet while the Capitol is shut down [OK Policy].

Proposed tax hike could fund teacher raises, new textbooks: Cash-strapped lawmakers are eyeing a plan that would ask voters next year to approve an income tax hike to pay for teacher raises and new textbooks for schools. State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, said asking voters to approve a 0.5 percent hike to the state’s income tax rate is the only surefire way to generate enough revenue to pay for $5,000 raises for more than 40,000 public school teachers [CNHI]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Former Oklahoma Teacher of the Year who left for Texas shares his own cost-of-living comparison: When Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year penned a viral breakup letter to the state and announced his reluctant departure for a higher-paying job in Texas, he promised to keep advocating for Oklahoma teachers. This week, Shawn Sheehan followed through by publishing a full, side-by-side comparison of his and his wife’s teaching incomes and household expenses from when they worked at Norman Public Schools and now, in public schools in Lewisville, Texas [Tulsa World]. Cost-of-living doesn’t make up for Oklahoma’s low teacher pay [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Mental health in jails: ‘Is this the best we can do?’

by | October 12th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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

Mental health in jails: ‘Is this the best we can do?‘ Tests found Kathleen Collier-Melchior, 53, with blood-alcohol levels nearly three times the legal limit. She told Midwest City jail staff she was going to hurt herself. A crisis intervention officer was called in to evaluate her. Officers removed her clothes and slipped her into a suit meant to protect mentally fragile people from using their clothes against themselves [NewsOK]. Despite warnings, little has been done to ease prison and jail overcrowding [OK Policy].

Statewide student proficiency rates plummet in first year of higher academic standards: As predicted, student proficiency rates in Oklahoma public schools plummeted on the first state tests aligned to new academic standards. For example, just 22.97 percent of eighth-graders are now considered proficient or better in math and 34.53 percent proficient in English/language arts. At the fourth-grade level, 37.01 percent of students are proficient in English/language arts and 40.5 percent in math [Tulsa World]. Accurate test results a step in the right direction for Oklahoma [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Oklahoma Senate panel studies payments between advanced nurses, doctors: The Oklahoma Senate’s only member who is a doctor said Tuesday he will consider writing a law that ends payments that some nurses make to doctors for prescription supervision. State Sen. Ervin Yen might introduce legislation next year to address complaints from advanced practice nurses, who are fighting to reverse Oklahoma’s requirement that doctors supervise those nurses’ prescription authority [NewsOK].

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In The Know: ‘No budget deal’: Fallin, GOP leaders rebuff House Democratic leader’s promise of bipartisan agreement

by | October 6th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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

‘No budget deal’: Fallin, GOP leaders rebuff House Democratic leader’s promise of bipartisan agreement: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday rebuffed reports that a bipartisan budget agreement had been reached. “There is no budget deal,” she said, adding that she is disappointed that more progress had not been made. Her comments came Thursday afternoon after House Minority Leader Scott Inman tried to apply pressure on Republicans to support what he said was a bipartisan budget agreement [Tulsa World]. After it was deemed unconstitutional, the cigarette tax again walks among the living at the Oklahoma Capitol — at least, for now [CNHI]. Lawmakers have good revenue options for special session if they have the will to use them [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Health Officials Warn of Dire Budget Consequences: For 66-year-old Richard Boston, an Army veteran who has been disabled for more than 20 years, Oklahoma’s Advantage program is a lifeline that allows him to continue living in his modest home in southwest Oklahoma City. The state-funded program provides volunteers who do light housework and run errands. It also gives out medical equipment like a lift chair that allows him to get in and out of the bathtub despite his bad knees and back, the result of a disabling fall he suffered during his career as a truck driver [AP]. Unimaginable potentials become imaginable, if Legislature doesn’t get busy soon [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Lawmakers consider zeroing out zero-emission incentives: Legislators are again considering eliminating tax incentives for electricity generated from renewable resources as one potential way to fill an estimated $215 million budget hole. State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, said he supports the bills, but his stance on incentives is more philosophical than directed at a particular subset of the energy industry. Oil industry trade group representative Arnella Karges said she disagrees generally with early sunsets for tax credits for any industry [Journal Record]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: ‘No budget deal’: Fallin, GOP leaders rebuff House Democratic leader’s promise of bipartisan agreement

In The Know: It matters who we ask to pay more

by | October 5th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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

It matters who we ask to pay more: As lawmakers continue to work to develop a plan to address the state’s budget crisis, the top priority has rightly been generating enough new revenue to avoid even more cuts to critical services and to fund longstanding needs like a teacher pay raise. At the same time, with tax increases on the table, we can’t lose sight of who is being asked to pay more. A good revenue plan must also ensure that everyone is contributing their fair share [OK Policy].

Special session’s high stakes sparks ‘big words’ among lawmakers on social media: The mounting pressure on Republican legislators, especially those in the House, is an indicator of just how much is at stake during the Legislature’s current special session. Former Gov. Frank Keating, former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, the State Chamber of Commerce, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, the state’s largest oil and gas associations — who say they’re being “punished by the state” — and local affiliates of national conservative organizations have all been brought to bear [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World]. A coalition of state and local residents was in Lawton Tuesday to stir community interest in the state budget crisis [Lawton Constitution]. Bills filed in special session put many options in play [OK Policy].

Government-branded swag bill questioned: A representative’s so-called anti-swag bill has resurfaced following its committee death during the regular session, but critics aren’t moved by its latest updates. State Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, introduced a measure at the end of the regular session to prohibit agencies from buying pens, notepads, squeezable stress balls and other products with printed logos for promotional materials [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Proposal calls for tax hikes, new taxes, agency cuts and teacher pay raises

by | October 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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

Proposal calls for tax hikes, new taxes, agency cuts and teacher pay raises: Gov. Mary Fallin last week gave lawmakers a budget proposal that includes tax hikes, new taxes, cuts to agencies and a teacher pay raise. The plan was presented Wednesday behind closed doors as a compilation of ideas from Republicans and Democrats. Fallin said the proposal was created after a stalemate on a special session budget plan [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Oklahoma GOP official positive on budget negotiations: Budget negotiators at the Oklahoma Capitol are “circling an agreement,” House Floor Leader Jon Echols said Monday, showing a glimmer of optimism amid months of stalled budget negotiations and political gamesmanship. In a Facebook post, Echols said negotiations would continue in several meetings Monday even as the House and Senate have no public special session hearings scheduled this week. The governor’s office circulated a list of proposals last week that includes virtually every idea touted by legislative leaders in the past year [NewsOK]. Bills filed in special session put many options in play [OK Policy].

Tax break has cost Oklahoma $465 million, report finds: Oklahoma should end a capital gains tax exemption that benefits high-income residents and cost state coffers $465 million over five years, a state board was told last week. For more than a decade, the state has allowed profits from the sale of Oklahoma-based property and stocks to be fully deductible in hopes of spurring investment. Pennsylvania-based PFM Group Consulting says that hasn’t worked [NewsOK]. The evaluation is available here. Oklahoma’s capital gains tax break is a windfall for the wealthiest with no proven benefit for the economy [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: Proposal calls for tax hikes, new taxes, agency cuts and teacher pay raises

In The Know: Capitol inaction: What’s the worst that can happen?

by | October 2nd, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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

Capitol inaction: What’s the worst that can happen? Oklahoma lawmakers are still negotiating to break the special session impasse between House Democrats and the GOP, but a very real question remains, with very dire circumstances. What if there is no agreement? What happens if the Legislature does nothing? As it stands, the three agencies most affected by the $215 million shortfall are the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority [NewsOK]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Plan to Stabilize Oklahoma’s Health Care Marketplace Collapses: Oklahoma is blaming the Trump administration for failing to approve an expedited plan that was projected to lower health insurance premiums and entice thousands of uninsured Oklahomans to sign up for coverage. In a letter sent today to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (who resigned late Friday for unrelated reasons involving the use of charter aircraft), Oklahoma Secretary of Health and Human Services Terry Cline said the state is formally withdrawing its request for a waiver to begin a reinsurance program through the Affordable Care Act because federal officials didn’t fulfill a promise to approve it on time [Oklahoma Watch]. The federal government’s failure to approve Oklahoma’s waiver undermines trust between HHS and states [Health Affairs]. Oklahoma’s ambitious reinsurance proposal was the state’s first real effort at engaging meaningfully with the Affordable Care Act [OK Policy].

Reasons for optimism about special session (Capitol Update): With special session underway, it’s rational to be cautiously optimistic that schools and state agencies will make it through this fiscal year, which ends next June, without further budget cuts. Remember, the current state budget has cuts in it already when compared with last year. And this has been true each year for the past several years, to the point that nearly everyone in a leadership position has recognized the need for additional revenue. The process broke down during the regular session over how much was needed and who ought to be called on to pay increased taxes [OK Policy].

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Oklahoma’s Insurance Commissioner is preparing ​t​o undermine the people working to insure Oklahomans

by | September 28th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak

Earlier this month, Oklahoma Insurance ​Commissioner John Doak testified before a U.S. Congressional Committee that he wants Congress to eliminate Navigators,​​ the community workers who help enroll people in health care under the Affordable Care Act​. Doak told Congress that he opposes these Navigators because they compete with private insurance agents and brokers.​

Now, Commissioner Doak is ordering Oklahoma Navigators ​to turn over their enrollment data to his agency. ​Doak’s rhetoric when making the request implies that he plans to use the data to argue that these workers are a waste of federal dollars. But ​in both the letter to Navigators and his testimony to Congress, Commissioner Doak is not telling the whole story.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford is co-sponsoring legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries

by | September 15th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford is co-sponsoring legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries: U.S. Sen. James Lankford will co-sponsor legislation to protect from deportation young people brought to America by undocumented immigrants. Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, told CNN on Thursday that he has worked for weeks with U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., on a legislative alternative to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order by former President Barack Obama that was rescinded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Sept. 5. “These individuals are literally in limbo, people without a country. We have to be able to resolve this,” Lankford said [NewsOK]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

Mike Jackson: ‘Fix our structural problems in Oklahoma’: In August, the State Chamber of Oklahoma promoted Mike Jackson to executive vice president of vice president of government and political affairs. Jackson represented his hometown of Enid in the House of Representatives from 2005 to 2014. In the Q&A below, Jackson discusses the chamber’s OK2030 campaign, the desires of state business interests and a reason why the chamber supports accepting federal funding for some sort of expansion of health coverage for lower-income Oklahomans [NonDoc].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford is co-sponsoring legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries

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