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All articles by Ryan Gentzler

In The Know: More women reach for the legislature; Feds claw back more Medicaid money; audits will cost state $1.4 million

by | September 7th, 2018 | 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 is the last day to get tickets for the 10th Anniversary Gala on September 13th.  Get yours today!]

In The News

More Women Reach for the Legislature. What Are Their Chances in November? Before the first vote was even cast in Oklahoma’s elections this year, women had already made history. What is likely a record number of female candidates, 140, filed paperwork in April to run for one of the state’s 125 legislative seats to be decided in November. In a state where men outnumber women in the Legislature six to one, ranking Oklahoma 49th in percentage of legislators who are female (14%), many women’s advocates saw this as an opportunity to narrow the gender gap [Oklahoma Watch]. An opportunity for more electoral diversity [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Feds Claw Back More Medicaid Money for Medical Schools, But Offer One Break: The federal government has clawed back another $32 million in Medicaid matching funds as part of an ongoing dispute over Oklahoma’s use of the money to help fund medical schools that treat Medicaid patients. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services notified state officials Aug. 31 that it disallowed a total of $64.2 million in federal matching funds for the 2017 calendar year. The total includes almost $33 million that was previously disallowed [Oklahoma Watch].

Agency audits will cost state $1.4 million: A group of private-sector officials has commissioned about $1.4 million in audits that will investigate six state agencies. Lawmakers created the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission in 2017. The group-appointed executives will oversee contracted audits meant to assess the top 20 agencies with the highest appropriations. The governor and the top legislators in each chamber appointed members, who worked on the requests for proposals, chose the bidders and assigned the contracts [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: More women reach for the legislature; Feds claw back more Medicaid money; audits will cost state $1.4 million

The official SQ 780 savings calculation rests on flawed assumptions

by | September 6th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Criminal Justice | Comments (1)

[duggar11 / Flickr]

Two years ago, Oklahoma voters passed State Questions 780 and 781, together known as the Smart Justice Reform Act. SQ 780 reclassified simple drug possession and many low-level property crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies. SQ 781 directs the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to calculate the savings to the state as a result of the changes made by SQ 780 and to distribute that amount to counties to provide mental health, substance abuse, and other rehabilitative services.

As required, OMES released the savings calculation for Fiscal Year 2018 on July 31. To the surprise of many, they estimated that the changes made by SQ 780 would save the state $63.5 million in FY 2018 and a total of $137.8 million from FY 2018 to FY 2026. Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh strongly criticized the report, saying that the Department of Corrections had not saved any money over the last year. Why is there such a divergence between the two agencies? Our analysis shows that the assumptions that OMES made are not supported by data, and they lead to an unrealistic picture of what SQ 780 accomplished in its first year.

continue reading The official SQ 780 savings calculation rests on flawed assumptions

In The Know: State Superintendent ignores executive order on school consolidation; Oklahoma’s Medicaid work requirements plan is a dangerous experiment

by | September 6th, 2018 | 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.

[Time is running out to get tickets for the 10th Anniversary Gala on September 13th.  The deadline to purchase tickets is this Friday, September 7th – get yours today!]

In The News

State Superintendent: Executive Order On School Consolidation ‘Deeply Flawed’: The State Department of Education says they will not give Governor Mary Fallin a list of schools for possible consolidation. Last November, the governor issued an executive order saying all school districts that spent less than 60 percent of their budget in the classroom were to be complied onto a list. Then, the State Board of Education would use that list to make recommendations on what districts should have their administrations consolidated [News 9].

Oklahoma’s plan for Medicaid work requirements is a dangerous experiment that will put the health of thousands of Oklahomans at risk: The healthcare of thousands of Oklahomans is on the line this fall. That’s because Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature have developed a plan to require low income parents or caregivers to work at least 20 hours a week in order to maintain their SoonerCare coverage. If the federal government approves the plan, it will place young parents, caregivers, and their children at risk of losing SoonerCare. Work requirements will have negative effects on the health of thousands of low-income Oklahoma families [OK Policy / Philip Rocco].

Oklahoma gave Boeing $90 million in incentive money, along with a few other breaks: Since the mid-1990s, Oklahoma taxpayers have paid The Boeing Co. more than $90 million in tax rebates to create thousands of new aerospace jobs. But some of company’s incentive deals with the state have retroactive start dates or were later amended to lower the threshold used to calculate the number of jobs the company could claim payments on, The Frontier has found [The Frontier].

continue reading In The Know: State Superintendent ignores executive order on school consolidation; Oklahoma’s Medicaid work requirements plan is a dangerous experiment

Accepting our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate means believing that Oklahomans are the worst people

by | June 19th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (6)

We knew the day would come when Oklahoma surpassed Louisiana as the highest-incarcerating state in the highest-incarcerating country in the world. After Louisiana’s legislature passed a sweeping criminal justice reform package in 2017, Oklahoma Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said that he “expect[s] Oklahoma’s incarceration rate to eventually be the country’s highest.”

As it turns out, Oklahoma has had the highest incarceration rate in the world since the end of 2016; we just didn’t know it because federal statistics are released on a year-long lag. This bitter milestone should be an occasion to reflect on what this says about our state and our current justice reform debates. We must begin to ask opponents of reform why Oklahoma deserves to maintain the highest incarceration rate in the world, and what that says about their view of our fellow citizens.

continue reading Accepting our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate means believing that Oklahomans are the worst people

On immigration rhetoric, consider the facts

by | June 13th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Immigration | Comments (2)

Undocumented Oklahomans are woven into the fabric of our communities in countless ways. Many have lived here for decades as they raise U.S.-born children, and they often work difficult, labor-intensive jobs that few legal residents will take. As the race to replace Governor Fallin heats up, it’s disappointing – if unsurprising – that dubious claims about the effects of undocumented immigration have appeared in candidates’ platforms. 

While the value of undocumented immigrants to our state can’t be measured merely by their economic costs and benefits, it’s important to set the record straight: by any fair estimate, undocumented Oklahomans contribute a great deal to our economy and state tax base, and they would contribute even more if granted legal status. Voters should recognize that Oklahoma is much better off when our communities unite to reject appeals that minimize the contributions of our neighbors.

continue reading On immigration rhetoric, consider the facts

Investments in justice reform are a good start, but savings are a long ways away

by | May 24th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (4)

Criminal justice reform advocates should be encouraged – though not overjoyed – at the progress made on justice reform in Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session. Even in their amended forms, new laws that open up our broken parole process, reduce sentences for many nonviolent crimes, and recalibrate our supervision practices will significantly slow growth in our prison population.

At her press conference to sign those measures, Gov. Fallin also announced that the FY 2019 budget includes funding critical to making justice reform work, including an additional $11 million to the Department of Corrections, $5 million to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and $1.1 million for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, among several other appropriations.

continue reading Investments in justice reform are a good start, but savings are a long ways away

In The Know: Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants

by | May 9th, 2018 | 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

Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants: Nancy Novosad has spent the last 27 years surrounded by students in Yukon classrooms, but she’s not a teacher. She alternates between helping the teacher and helping the students. Novosad wipes noses, applies bandages, plans arts and crafts activities, opens milk cartons, leads story time, and packs and unpacks backpacks. She also passes out papers, explains assignments, takes students to the restroom and reinforces lessons taught by Elizabeth Wilson, a pre-K teacher at Ranchwood Elementary School [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma State Department of Health pursues ‘reset’ after financial scandal: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is pursuing a “relationship reset” with other state agencies as it moves forward from a financial mismanagement scandal, according to its interim leader. Interim commissioner Tom Bates told the Board of Health at its Tuesday morning meeting that department leadership was reconsidering how it works with other agencies, including the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) [NewsOK].

New Medicaid work requirement bill criticized as “cruel”: Opponents of a bill implementing work requirements for Medicaid claim the measure will do more harm than good. House Bill 2932, authored by Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa and Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin on Monday. The measure aligns Medicaid work and job training requirements with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which involves working, participation in a work program or a combination of both 20 hours a week [KFOR].

continue reading In The Know: Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants

In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs work requirement bill for some Medicaid recipients

by | May 8th, 2018 | 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

Gov. Fallin signs work requirement bill for some Medicaid recipients: Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Monday controversial legislation that could lead to work or training requirements for some Medicaid recipients. House Bill 2932, by Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, instructs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority — administrator of the state’s Medicaid program — to seek a federal waiver allowing the same requirements for food stamp eligibility to be applied to Medicaid recipients [Tulsa World]. Most Medicaid-eligible adults who can work already do, and ​most of the rest have barriers to employment ​that ​a work requirement won’t fix [OK Policy].

Oklahoma legislators reject ethical rules restricting when they can become lobbyists: Oklahoma legislators have declared that what they do once they leave state service is none of a watchdog agency’s business. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission in February voted unanimously to bar legislators and other elected state officials from becoming lobbyists during their first two years out of office [NewsOK].

It shouldn’t be this hard to get something done to fund basic services: For the first time in 28 years legislators were able to pass a tax increase. It has taken that long to overcome the 75 percent threshold of SQ 640 that was the backlash from the ruinous economic downturn in the 1980s. But think for a minute about what it took to get that done. It should not take the threat of thirty to forty thousand teachers leaving their classrooms and literally occupying the Capitol for weeks to get something done. Now, the backlash, led by Tom Coburn, has already begun [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs work requirement bill for some Medicaid recipients

In The Know: Group Seeks to Overturn Oklahoma Tax Hikes for Teacher Raise

by | May 2nd, 2018 | 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

Group Seeks to Overturn Oklahoma Tax Hikes for Teacher Raise: An anti-tax group filed paperwork on Tuesday seeking a public vote on whether to overturn a package of tax increases approved by the Legislature this year to pay for teacher pay raises and fund public schools. The group Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, which includes former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, now has until July 18 to gather about 41,000 signatures needed to place the question on the ballot. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith of Tulsa, who co-founded the group with GOP political consultant Brooke McGowan, said the Legislature should have looked for waste and fraud within state government instead of seeking more money from taxpayers [AP]. Revenues bill is a good start and lawmakers can do more [OK Policy].

Chairman of Oklahoma Ethics Commission accuses legislators of retaliation: The chairman of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission is accusing legislators of retaliating against the watchdog agency by illegally cutting its budget. “I am appalled,” the chairman, John C. Hawkins, wrote in an email sent Sunday to state senators and House members. “The retaliation on a state agency by cutting their budget for doing their job is unconscionable.” The Ethics Commission may sue [NewsOK].

Oklahoma House passes stipend for pensioners, turns down cost of living adjustment: Most pensioners in the state’s retirement systems would get a one-time stipend of at least $350 under a measure sent to Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Bill 1340, by Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond, authorizes stipends of, in most cases, 2 percent but with an absolute minimum of $350 except for volunteer firefighters, who would get $100 [Tulsa World].

continue reading In The Know: Group Seeks to Overturn Oklahoma Tax Hikes for Teacher Raise

In The Know: Governor signs budget bill

by | May 1st, 2018 | 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

Governor signs budget bill: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a $7.6 billion spending bill, signalling to lawmakers they can adjourn session nearly a month before it’s scheduled to end. Legislative leaders have said that once work on the budget was done, they could send lawmakers home for the rest of the year. The legislative session is annually scheduled to run between February and the end of May [NewsOK].

New budget marks a return of line-item appropriations: When Republicans took full control of the legislature, both House and Senate, they began a process of dismantling the use of line items in state appropriations measures. The policy took full root in 2010 when Republican governor Mary Fallin was elected. The new legislative majority felt it was not their place to dictate to the executive department, particularity through line-item budgeting, how to spend the appropriated dollars. They also accused Democrats of using line items to promote favored programs over others. In sum the mantra was to give the executive agencies flexibility in the use of funds in the name of efficiency [OK Policy].

SB 888 to end wind tax credit refundability stalls: With lawmakers intending to adjourn the 2018 regular session Friday, the Oklahoma Senate attempted to send SB 888 to Gov. Mary Fallin today, but a vote on the adoption of House amendments failed to receive a majority of those voting. The controversial bill would have terminated the refundability of wind energy tax credits — meaning refunds given beyond the elimination of tax liability — beginning Jan. 1, 2019 [NonDoc].

continue reading In The Know: Governor signs budget bill

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