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Advocacy Alerts

Thursday, April 13

A strong and prosperous Oklahoma depends on communities and families that thrive with the help of quality schools with good teachers, well-maintained infrastructure, safe streets and  neighborhoods, and public works like state parks, libraries, and arts initiatives.

We can’t wait another year to fix this. Our schools have already seen funding cuts larger than any other state, and they are struggling to keep class sizes down, to keep well-qualified teachers, or even to keep their doors open five days a week. Nursing homes, rural hospitals, and county health departments are looking at shutting down or cutting back on crucial health services. We could see shuttered state parks, furloughed state troopers, and other deep cuts to basic services for Oklahomans. Without budget reforms this year, revenues may plunge to an all-time low compared to what our communities need to thrive and what Oklahomans expect.

That is why the Save our State Coalition has united behind the Blueprint for a Better Budget, a sensible plan that will:

  • Place Oklahoma on a sustainable path by getting away from one-time revenues and budget gimmicks;
  • Prevent drastic cuts to state services;
  • Invest in core government services like education, public safety, healthcare, and transportation.

There are solutions. But these solution will require lawmakers to take sensible action to raise new revenues. And for that to happen, legislators must hear from you.

Now’s the time to contact your Senator and Representative — by phone, email, or in person, if possible — and urge them to support the Blueprint for a Better Budget as  way to avert further budget cuts, invest in key priorities, and bring the budget into balance. Click here for the easy 30-second guide for saving our state! (more…)

Monday, April 10

Legislators have the opportunity this year to finally turn the tide on Oklahoma’s sky-high incarceration rates. Governor Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force put forward 27 policy recommendations that would reverse the growth in the state’s prison population. Putting those recommendations into law would allow the state to avoid building three new prisons, saving nearly $2 billion over the next decade.

Where things stand (as of 4/18/2017)

Most of the bills that arose from the work of the Task Force have reached the floor of the opposite chamber, needing only one more vote before heading to the Governor. However, several of the most significant bills have been severely weakened by amendments in the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee:

  • SB 689: Amendments removed methods for reducing financial burdens on defendants, including income-based payment plans, pilot programs, and education incentives
  • SB 786: Amendment removed tiered sentencing structure for burglary crimes
  • SB 649: Amendment removed provision disallowing nonviolent convictions from being used to lengthen sentences under habitual offender laws
  • SB 650: Amendment requires expungement application to be approved by three separate agencies before submission

(more…)

Sunday, April 2

SB 478 would allow insurers to sell health care plans in Oklahoma that don’t include the state’s required health benefits, such as mammograms, diabetes treatment, post-partum maternity care, cancer treatments or autism coverage for children. Although this coverage would likely be less expensive to purchase, it would also be useless for individuals who become sick or develop chronic medical conditions. The skimpy coverage wouldn’t be considered health insurance under federal law, so enrollees would still have to pay a penalty for failing to carry health coverage. 

SB 478 also violates the central premise of health insurance risk pools, where risk is spread across a broad, diverse population. Allowing younger, healthier enrollees to purchase skimpier coverage would drive costs up for families in need of more comprehensive coverage – which could in turn force them out of the market. 

Where things stand (as of 04/10/17)

SB 478 will be heard by the House Insurace committee when it meets on Tuesday, April 11, at 3pm. 

What you can do

Please contact members of the House Insurance Committee and ask them to vote no on SB 478.

(more…)

Friday, March 31

As a result of continued declines in state revenues, another cut to Oklahoma’s top income tax rate will not be triggered in 2018. However, unless legislators take action this year, the top income tax cut rate could kick in automatically as early as 2019, well before Oklahoma’s budget will have had a chance to stabilize.  After the steep funding cuts of recent years, legislators should halt this tax cut and make sure we have the revenues to do what Oklahomans expect from state services before going ahead with any further tax cuts. Two bills that would fully repeal the next income tax cut  (SB 170) or delay it for several years (SB 130) have been making their way through the legislative process.

Where Things Stand (as of 5/8)

SB 170 passed the full Senate 39-6 on March 13th (click here to find out how your Senator voted). SB 130 was initially defeated on a vote by the full Senate but then passed 34-8 on a motion to reconsider   Click here to find out how your Senator voted.

Both bills passed the Finance Subcommittee of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee on March 29th. SB 170 then passed the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee on April 3rd and passed the full House on April 19th on a vote of 75-12. Click here to found out how your Representative voted. SB 130 will not emerge from committee.

The House amended SB 170 by restoring title, which had been stricken in the Senate. The Senate then passed the amended bill, 32-9, on May 8th, sending the bill to the Governor. See how your Senator voted by clicking here.

OK Policy’s statement praising passage of SB 170:

The repeal of this tax cut is a milestone. After years of promises that income tax cuts would pay for themselves, a majority of lawmakers have finally begun to recognize the cost. We cannot afford more tax cuts that have drained resources from our communities without paying off in economic growth.

While repealing the next tax cut won’t help to resolve Oklahoma’s current budget shortfall, we hope that it begins the restoration of responsible budget and tax policies in the years ahead. This is also a hopeful sign that lawmakers now realize tax policy decisions should be based on current conditions, not automatic triggers created by prior Legislatures.

What You Can Do

Gov. Fallin is expected to sign SB 170. You can call the Governor at 405-521-2342 to encourage her to sign the bill.

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Wednesday, March 22

HB 2209 (Rep. Marcus McEntire – R. Duncan/Sen. AJ Griffin – R. Guthrie) is good legislation that would help promote better tax policy decisions in Oklahoma by ensuring that legislators and the public know more about who pays taxes and who would stand to gain or lose from proposed tax policy changes.

HB 2209 directs the Oklahoma Tax Commission to prepare a tax incidence report that shows who will pay more or less taxes on any bill that increases, decreases, or redistributes income by more than $20 million, upon the request of the Chair of the committee to which the bill is assigned.

Where Things Stand (as of 5/3)

HB 2209 unanimously passed the full House on March 14th and unanimously passed the Senate on April 26th. It was signed into law by Governor Fallin on May 3rd. Thanks Thanks to all of you who contacted your legislators in support of this bill!

(more…)

Wednesday, March 1

HB 2342 would supply an urgently-needed supplemental appropriation to the state Department of Human Services (DHS) to fund in-home care for elderly Oklahomans and Oklahomans with significant disabilities. Without this appropriation, DHS will be unable to pay these providers after April of this year, jeopardizing care for more than 25,000 vulnerable Oklahomans.

HB 2342 provides a $34.0 million supplemental to be paid for with money from the Rainy Day Fund ($4.2 million) and Unclaimed Property Fund ($29.8 million). Of the money from the Unclaimed Property Fund, $18.0 million is directed for Developmental Disabilities Services waivers and $11.8 million is directed for the purpose of funding Aging Services waivers.

Where things stand (as of 04/7/17)

HB 2342 was introduced on March 21st.  It passed the House of Representatives unanimously March 29th and the Senate 33-13 April 3rd. The bill was signed by Governor Fallin on April 6th.

What you can do

Thank you to everyone who spoke out to their legislators on this issue! (more…)

Thursday, February 23

Legislators have the opportunity this session to help ensure that Oklahomans convicted of crimes have a fair shot at rebuilding their lives. They need to hear that you support these efforts.

People convicted of crimes face enormous fines and fees that they often can’t pay, trapping them in a cycle of debt and incarceration. SB 689 would require that judges set monthly payments on that debt according to a defendant’s income, so that their families don’t have to choose between paying their court debt or buying groceries. It also waives court fines and fees for those who seek to better themselves through higher education or workforce training.

What You Can Do

All of SB 689’s provisions dealing with fines and fees – including income-based payment plans, pilot programs, and education incentives – were removed in the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee, but they can be put back in either on the House floor or in conference committee. Please call House Speaker Charles McCall (charles.mccall@okhouse.gov; (405) 557-7412), as well as your representative (Find your legislator), and urge them to restore the bills to their original form and ensure that Oklahoma takes bold steps on criminal justice reform this year.

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Tuesday, February 21

Click here for our fact sheet on HB 1482.

Last year Oklahomans voted by a large margin to approve SQ 780, which changed drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors punishable by no more than 1 year in jail. Voters also approved SQ 781 to direct the savings from reduced incarceration into county mental health and addiction treatment. Oklahoma voters’ choice aligns with plentiful research and experience showing felony charges and incarceration are costly and ineffective at dealing with the problems created by drug abuse and addiction, and reducing felony charges would save lives and free up resources to address the real problem.

HB 1482 would ignore the evidence and the will of the voters by reinstating felony charges for drug possession across virtually all of Oklahoma City and Tulsa and large parts of the rest of the state. The bill claims to be aimed at protecting children, but the expansive definition it uses for drug possession “near children” would effectively nullify SQ 780. It also ignores that a parent or caregiver facing felony charges and incarceration can often be far more damaging to a child’s well-being than taking a smarter approach to substance abuse.

What You Can Do

HB 1482 has been assigned to the Senate Public Safety committee. Contact Chairman Jack Fry and ask him not to hear HB 1482, and let the other committee members know why you oppose the bill.

  1. Sen. Jack Fry (Chair), (405)521-5584, fry@oksenate.gov
  2. Sen. Wayne Shaw (Vice Chair), (405)521-5574, shaw@oksenate.gov
  3. Sen. Josh Brecheen, (405)521-5586, brecheen@oksenate.gov
  4. Sen. J.J. Dossett, (405)521-5566, dossett@oksenate.gov
  5. Sen. Tom Dugger, (405)521-5572, dugger@oksenate.gov
  6. Sen. Darcy Jech, (405)521-5545, jech@oksenate.gov
  7. Sen. Kevin Matthews, (405)521-5598, matthews@oksenate.gov
  8. Sen. Greg McCortney, (405)521-5541, mccortney@oksenate.gov
  9. Sen. Lonnie Paxton, (405)521-5537, paxton@oksenate.gov
  10. Sen. Roger Thompson, (405)521-5588, thompson@oksenate.gov
  11. Sen. Ervin Yen, (405)521-5543, yen@oksenate.gov

You can also find your Senator here and tell him or her to vote NO on HB 1482.

(more…)

Monday, February 20

Even while policymakers scramble to find ways to address the state’s continued budget crisis, expanding tax credits that primarily benefit low- and moderate income working families and seniors should be part of the tax policy discussion. Lawmakers should undo last year’s cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit as well as increase the Sales Tax Relief Credit.

Several bills were introduced this session that would expand tax credits for working families:

The bill to increase the Sales Tax Relief Credit, HB 1383, passed the House Finance subcommittee but was not heard by the full Appropriations and Budget Committee. None of the EITC bills were heard. These bills are dead for this session. However, there may still be a chance to include an increase in the Sales Tax Relief Credit or Earned Income Tax credit as part of the overall budget plan between legislative leaders and the Governor.

Please let your legislators know that you support strengthening working family tax credits as part of this year’s budget.

You can look up your Senator and Representative here, call the House switchboard at 405-521-2711, and call the Senate switchboard at 405-524-0126.

(more…)

Wednesday, February 15

Young Oklahomans (ages 18-29) vote less often than any other age group, and at among the lowest rates in the nation. SB 349 (Sen. David Holt – R. Oklahoma City) aims to boost voter turnout by young Oklahomans by allowing for 16 and 17-year olds who will turn 18 by the time of the next election to pre-register to vote.

Where Things Stand (as of 3/1/17)

SB 349 failed to pass the Senate Rules committee on Wednesday, March 1st and is dead for the remainder of the session. 

Talking Points

  • SB 349 would  allow for voter registration at already established points of contact for young people, such as during civics classes or when going to get a driver’s license.
  • An engaged and active electorate is critical to the health of our democracy. 
  • SB 349 would allow for young voters to become familiar with the process before turning 18, allowing them to make informed, calculated decisions. 
  • This is a non-partisan measure that will increase voter turnout across the board. 

You can look up your Senator and Representative here, call the House switchboard at 405-521-2711, and call the Senate switchboard at 405-524-0126.

See our Advocacy Toolkit page for more information and resources.

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