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It’s time to revisit State Question 640 (Guest Post: Rep. Marcus McEntire)

by | September 5th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (10)

Rep. Marcus McEntire

Marcus McEntire is a freshman Republican legislator representing HD 50 (Duncan). A small business owner, he attended and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in communication studies, earned a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Virginia.

When I was elected to the House, I knew the job would be challenging and there would be many obstacles. But at the end of my first legislative session, I realized there is a certain well-intentioned constitutional provision in place that proves to be an extraordinary hurdle to effective legislating.  

This hurdle is State Question 640, which voters approved in 1992. SQ 640 changed Oklahoma’s constitution to require either a majority vote of the people or a three-fourths majority vote in the Legislature to raise any tax.

continue reading It’s time to revisit State Question 640 (Guest Post: Rep. Marcus McEntire)

Attempts to repeal Affordable Care Act put Oklahoma patients in jeopardy (Guest post: Teresa Huggins)

by | July 26th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

Teresa Huggins is CEO of Stigler Health and Wellness Center in eastern Oklahoma.

Teresa Huggins

Being raised in small town, rural Oklahoma comes with its benefits.  Among those benefits are the close friendships, supports and cohesiveness of knowing everyone; however, many communities face extreme poverty and lack access to basic medical care, not to mention specialty care for the diverse needs and populations that reside in the rural landscapes of Oklahoma.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted to help ensure that Americans are able to access affordable health care, regardless of their residence or income status.  Millions have gained coverage through the ACA, and the law is helping shift the health care industry toward more preventive care instead of waiting to address health issues until something has gone seriously wrong.  In part thanks to the ACA, our health center has experienced a drop in uninsured patients, from 26 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2016.  Many of the patients newly enrolled in insurance may not have received care if not for the ACA.  Our health center has helped 2,749 patients obtain insurance, many through the individual marketplace created under the ACA. These patients will certainly be in jeopardy of becoming uninsured again if the ACA is repealed.

continue reading Attempts to repeal Affordable Care Act put Oklahoma patients in jeopardy (Guest post: Teresa Huggins)

Interested in disability advocacy? Apply for Partners in Policymaking (Guest post: Amy Smith)

by | June 15th, 2017 | Posted in Children and Families, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

Amy Smith is a graduate student in Disability Studies, a proud graduate of both Partners in Policymaking and the OK Policy Summer Policy Institute, and is currently a research intern at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.  She lives in Ada with her husband and two of her four children who haven’t flown the coop yet.

2015 Partners in Policymaking class

In one of the few bright spots in an otherwise frustrating Legislative session, advocates for any number of organizations and causes were increasingly visible at the Capitol and statewide. Teams including Together Oklahoma and Let’s Fix This have mobilized advocates through grassroots coalitions and informational resources while groups such as the Oklahoma Education Association and Oklahoma Public Employees Association make noise at the Capitol. Similarly, disability advocates have become more visible through rallies and helping to pass legislation such as the ABLE Act and the Autism Insurance Reform Act.

Many of those disability advocates, myself included, came to the Capitol via Partners in Policymaking, an international program that teaches adults with disabilities, their family members, and the professionals who work with them the skills to become advocates who promote systems change. In Oklahoma, this nine-month program is operated by the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council. Partners students meet one weekend a month to complete a slate of classes on topics including advocacy and grassroots organizing, special education law, sexuality and relationships, guardianship and alternatives, the state and federal legislative process, serving on boards, leadership development, employment, assistive technology, and navigating state and federal service systems.

continue reading Interested in disability advocacy? Apply for Partners in Policymaking (Guest post: Amy Smith)

Kansas experiment yields valuable lessons (Guest post: Heidi Holliday)

by | June 9th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (2)

Heidi Holliday

Heidi Holliday is Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.

You’re welcome, America. Our state, Kansas, just wrapped up a 5-year long experiment in governance from which the other 49 states can now glean some important lessons. The Kansas Legislature has voted to roll back much of the 2012 package of tax cuts that sent the state into a downward spiral of financial instability and weakened the Kansas’ public schools, universities, Medicaid program, and virtually everything else that the state funds.

With the state facing yet another budget shortfall of $900 million, government leaders decided that enough was enough. Governor Brownback, who heralded the 2012 experiment, was proposing yet more temporary band-aid approaches and more cuts deal with the shortfalls. The Legislature chose a different path and instead sent the Governor a bill that would raise more than $1.2 billion in new revenue over two years by, among other things, repealing a costly tax break for pass-through income, rebalancing individual income tax rates by reinstating a third tax bracket, and reversing course on the Governor’s plan to eliminate our state income tax. Brownback vetoed the legislation but, with bipartisan support, the House and Senate quickly overrode the veto.

continue reading Kansas experiment yields valuable lessons (Guest post: Heidi Holliday)

Arts and Culture: A public-private partnership that’s good for education, the economy, and Oklahoma’s future (Guest Post: Brenda Granger)

by | April 12th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Economy, Education | Comments (0)

Brenda Granger is Executive Director of the Oklahoma Museums Association. Today is Oklahoma Arts Day at the State Capitol.

Arts and culture promote civility and transcend all boundaries. Arts and culture bring people together. Arts and culture are rooted in partnerships of all kinds, especially public-private partnerships. Arts and culture organizations offer transformational experiences to everyone across our great state and beyond. In these times of educational crisis and budget shortfalls, the Legislature should look to arts and culture as part of the solution. Funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC), and through them, arts and cultural organizations in our state, is important to our Oklahoma education, economy, communities, workforce, and future.

Not everyone realizes how important arts and culture are for Oklahoma’s education system and economy. In the next months, Oklahomans for the Arts, in partnership with Americans for the Arts, Oklahoma Arts Council, and several arts and cultural organizations, will have the latest economic impact numbers to share. It is expected the numbers will exceed those of the last study in 2010 of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that showed that the industry had a $314.8 million impact on the state’s economy, supported 10,156 full-time equivalent jobs, and generated more than $29 million in state and local government revenues.

continue reading Arts and Culture: A public-private partnership that’s good for education, the economy, and Oklahoma’s future (Guest Post: Brenda Granger)

Using lawsuits to fund our schools: Is it time to try again? (Guest post: Elizabeth Smith)

by | March 13th, 2017 | Posted in Education | Comments (2)

Elizabeth Smith, Ph.D., is the planning director for the Yale National Initiative at the University of Tulsa, a partnership between TU, Tulsa Public Schools, and Yale University to strengthen teaching in Tulsa schools.

“The Legislature shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the State may be educated. … The Legislature shall, by appropriate legislation, raise appropriate funds for the annual support of the common schools of the State…”

The Oklahoma State Constitution, Article 13

An Oklahoma native, I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2001 to attend the University of Arkansas.  I transitioned from being a student to a resident of Arkansas and began a career in higher education which included research on PreK-12 schools.  Studying school funding in Arkansas, I investigated the transformation that took place in statewide education following Lake View School District no. 25 v. Huckabee, one in a series of Arkansas Supreme Court decisions that contributed to an overhaul of the school funding system. Moving back to Oklahoma in 2015, colleagues have frequently asked me, “Why are Arkansas schools funded so much better than Oklahoma schools?”  My short answer is always: “Lake View.”  Yes, this is an oversimplification considering that Arkansas and Oklahoma are very different in terms of population, major industries, and history.  However, Lake View was the turning point for school funding in Arkansas, and similar cases have been turning points in many other states.

continue reading Using lawsuits to fund our schools: Is it time to try again? (Guest post: Elizabeth Smith)

Oklahoma’s budget crisis requires new revenue (Guest post: Joe Dorman)

by | March 8th, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (2)

Joe Dorman

Joe Dorman is CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA). He previously served for 12 years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and has been actively involved in numerous civic, leadership, and youth-development organizations, including Leadership Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Academy.

In the last several weeks, a lot of eyes have been focused on Oklahoma’s $900 million budget shortfall and the effect it may have on our state. We have heard a lot of talk about revolving funds, off-the-top spending, structural imbalances and dozens of other terms capitol insiders use to describe the current budget crunch.

All of that sounds complicated, but if you break down its major components, the state budget is not unlike the personal budgets that families manage. Simply put, you need your income to be greater than your expenses. If it isn’t, you are in trouble.

continue reading Oklahoma’s budget crisis requires new revenue (Guest post: Joe Dorman)

Even doctors depend on the Affordable Care Act (Guest post: Sabine Brown)

by | February 21st, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Sabine Brown is a political activist, physician assistant, and mother of two.

One in three Oklahomans have a pre-existing condition that could have been used to deny them health insurance coverage prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). My husband, Eric, is one of those Oklahomans.

When my husband was a small child, he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma. He was treated at St. Jude’s hospital in Memphis. Although his treatments and back and forth trips from Oklahoma City were rough, he has good memories of the staff that took care of him. One memory that stuck with him is a doctor who wrote an order for him to have pizza every day when that was the only food he would tolerate during chemotherapy treatments. The experience ultimately inspired him to become a doctor himself.

Eric started medical school in 2003, which coincided with the time he could no longer be on his parent’s insurance plan. He started filling our applications for private insurance. The rejections letters rolled in. No one would accept him because of his previous cancer diagnosis.

continue reading Even doctors depend on the Affordable Care Act (Guest post: Sabine Brown)

Across core services, Oklahoma underspends (Guest post: State Treasurer Ken Miller)

by | February 16th, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (1)

Ken Miller, Ph.D., is the State Treasurer of Oklahoma. A Republican, Miller was first elected to a four-year term in 2010 and was unopposed for re-election in 2014. Miller earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oklahoma, an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Lipscomb University. His fields of specialization are applied public economics and public finance effects on economic growth. This article originally appeared in Treasurer Miller’s Oklahoma Economic Report.

State Treasurer Ken Miller

State government has four core responsibilities – education, health care, public safety and transportation. It is those fundamental services on which the people depend to have productive lives. For businesses, those services done right provide an environment in which they can thrive.

Analysis of data released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau, along with the most-recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Federal Highway Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, shows that, even when adjusted for Oklahoma’s relatively low cost of living, funding for core services still lags the region and the nation.

No one will argue that funding alone ensures success, but comparing Oklahoma’s spending to the rest of the states provides a relative measure of where we stand.

continue reading Across core services, Oklahoma underspends (Guest post: State Treasurer Ken Miller)

Answering the Call: Food Security among Military Service Members and Veterans (Guest post: Effie Craven)

by | November 11th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Effie Craven serves as the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Oklahoma Food Banks — the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma — where she advocates for programs and policies that promote access to nutritious foods and economic security for all Oklahomans.

One in six Oklahomans struggles with hunger, 25 percent of Oklahoma children are at risk of going to bed hungry at night, and 16 percent of our population live at or below the federal poverty line. These staggering figures highlight the critical problem of hunger in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, our military service members and veterans are not immune.

With more than 300,000 veterans in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Food Banks are deeply concerned that tens of thousands of our state’s former service members may be struggling with hunger. According to a study published in 2015, more than one in four Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nationwide reported being food insecure in the past year. A separate 2015 study found that 24 percent of veterans who have accessed care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA) reported being food insecure. Feeding America’s Hunger in America report included data on veteran and military status among food pantry clients across the nation for the first time in 2014. The study found that than 1 in 5 households served by the Feeding America food bank network reported having at least one member who has served in the U.S. military.

continue reading Answering the Call: Food Security among Military Service Members and Veterans (Guest post: Effie Craven)

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