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Weekly Wonk: FY 2019 Budget Highlights, Farm Bill response, and a new OK PolicyCast

by | May 19th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week we released the FY 2019 Budget Highlights, which noted that although next year’s appropriations will be the largest in state history, when adjusted for inflation, it still remains 9.4 percent ($788 million) below the budget of FY 2009. We also re-launched our podcast, OK PolicyCast, where we explored what just happened in one of the most tumultuous legislative years in Oklahoma history. Spring Intern Lydia Lapidus recounted a recent proposal by the Tulsa City Council to fine parents of truant students and explained that Tulsa has better options than punitive responses to truancy and homelessness.

In his weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wrote about Oklahoma’s rapid and unprecedented decline in legislative tenure, which may ultimately leave the Oklahoma legislature with a brand-new House – and Senate! On a related note, Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update described this year’s legislative session as a wild ride for first-term legislators, likening these freshman legislators to “combat-weary veterans” who will be welcoming a new class of forty or fifty members in November.

Policy analyst Courtney Cullison wrote a joint op-ed with Oklahoma anti-hunger advocates about the threat of harsh SNAP cuts in a Farm Bill being considered by the U.S. Congress. OK Policy released a statement following the Farm Bill’s failed vote in the U.S. House that Congress must reverse their attacks on SNAP to get a bill that can pass.

OK Policy in the News

The Tulsa World quoted David Blatt about attempts to understand what happened in the State Department of Health’s financial mess. The Enid News & Eagle quoted Blatt about the Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates taking anti-tax pledges. The Tahlequah Daily Press reported on a meeting of Cherokee County Retired Educators where OK Policy was recommended as a valuable source of information. Sandite Pride News cited OK Policy’s budget data in a story about an Oklahoma House candidate running in Sand Springs.

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ONE WEEK LEFT to apply for Summer Policy Institute

by | May 18th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Summer Policy Institute (SPI) application deadline is ONLY 1 WEEK away! The application deadline is Friday, May 25th, 2018. SPI will be held from July 29 – August 1, 2018 at the University of Tulsa. Please make sure to let all the qualified college students in your life know about this great opportunity! 

 Access the application here. 

SPI brings together highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for an exciting and in-depth learning experience. SPI offers participants a unique opportunity to become better informed about vital Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders in the policy process, and prepare for their future studies and work in public policy-related fields.

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In The Know: Grand jury finds State Health Department layoffs and emergency funding were unnecessary

by | May 18th, 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.

[Don’t Forget: There’s only one week left to apply for the 2018 Summer Policy Institute! This annual event brings together more than 50 highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for an exciting and stimulating four-day learning experience. Learn more here.]

In The News

Q&A: Health Department Grand Jury Report, Audit and What’s Next: A cash crisis at the Oklahoma State Department of Health that led to job cuts and an emergency injection of $30 million in cash was more of a mirage than the real thing, a months-long grand jury investigation and audit found in separate reports released Thursday. The state’s multicounty grand jury didn’t hand up any criminal indictments, but it did fault former top officials at the health department for creating a “slush fund” to pay for pet projects and years of financial mismanagement [Oklahoma Watch]. With health department news, waves of disbelief rolled across state [Oklahoma Watch]. Read the grand jury’s full report here.

Former Tulsa Superintendent, Bixby Parent Join Second Challenge to Taxpayers Unite Petition: A coalition that includes former Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard, Bixby Public Schools parent Joely Flegler, the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association and most of the state’s major education organizations filed a challenge to proposed State Question 799 with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday. The group, called Decline to Sign 799, follows Professional Oklahoma Educators in trying to head off a referendum petition that seeks to repeal a $400 million revenue bill, HB 1010xx, signed into law this spring [Tulsa World].

FY 2019 Budget Highlights: State agencies will be appropriated a total of $7.567 billion in FY 2019. This is an increase of $718.5 million (10.5 percent) compared to the initial FY 2018 budget approved last May, and an increase of $601 million (8.6 percent) compared to the final FY 2018 budget, which included various mid-year cuts and increases. Next year’s appropriations will be the largest in state history, surpassing the $7.235 billion budget in FY 2015; however, when adjusted for inflation, next year’s budget remains 9.4 percent ($788 million) below the budget of FY 2009 [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Sen. Nathan Dahm, others push for third special session

by | May 17th, 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.

[DON’T FORGET: Today is the last day to apply for our two open positions! Oklahoma Policy Institute (OK Policy) is seeking two experienced and effective policy analysts to conduct research primarily related to issues of education policy or criminal justice policy, with a particular emphasis on how these policies affect low- and moderate-income Oklahomans. Learn more here.]

In The News

Sen. Nathan Dahm, Others Push for Third Special Session: Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) and a handful of other conservative Oklahoma legislators are circulating a petition among their peers to call a third special session of the 56th Legislature. Frustrated by a series of vetoes from Gov. Mary Fallin, Dahm and others are seeking the support of 68 House members and 36 senators to trigger a special session call authorized under Article 5, Section 27A of the Oklahoma Constitution. He said multiple political events could trigger the need for a third special session called by Fallin, but the Legislature calling itself back in would allow lawmakers to set the parameters of the “extraordinary” session [NonDoc].

State Government Revenues Continue to Rebound: The financial outlook for Oklahoma state government continues to improve, with April’s General Revenue Fund collections up nearly 25 percent over the same month a year ago. “After some tough years I’m encouraged to see our economy showing some real resilience,” said Denise Northrup, director of the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services. “If we continue to see positive returns, I’m hopeful we can replenish the Rainy Day Fund and restore some of the cuts agencies have experienced the past few years” [NewsOK].

Parole Board Changes Saved at Last Minute: After a slew of political battles only tangentially related to the measure, Oklahoma adopted a policy that requires mental health and substance abuse professionals on its parole board. The idea was introduced in legislation last year, but that stalled. The provision was in another bill this year that sailed through the committee process. But a floor amendment added a separate policy to the bill that would have adjusted sentencing procedures for minors convicted of homicide. That proved to be immensely controversial. On the last day of the legislative session, the mental health policy survived in the form of Senate Bill 185 [Journal Record].

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Tulsa has better options than punitive responses to truancy and homelessness

This post is by OK Policy intern Lydia Lapidus. Lydia is a recent graduate from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs with a concentration in International Politics.

In recent weeks, the Tulsa City Council has considered ordinances that seek to address the city’s problems with truancy and homelessness. Unfortunately, rather than basing those responses on what works – investing in social services and programs – they instead double down on punitive responses through the criminal justice system. Local governments across the state should do what they can to address problems like these, but we must ensure that they do so in ways that work.

The circumstances that lead to homelessness and truancy are complex. However, we do know that simply making it easier to fine and incarcerate people in these situations will only perpetuate the very issues the city seeks to address. It’s time for Tulsa to implement cost-effective solutions, not punish citizens who can least afford it.

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In The Know: Group opposed to medical marijuana state question organizes

by | May 16th, 2018 | 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.

[One day left to apply! Oklahoma Policy Institute (OK Policy) is seeking two experienced and effective policy analysts to conduct research primarily related to issues of education policy or criminal justice policy, with a particular emphasis on how these policies affect low- and moderate-income Oklahomans. Learn more here.]

In The News

Group Opposed to Medical Marijuana State Question Organizes: A coalition that includes state medical and hospital associations, district attorneys and the State Chamber has organized to defeat State Question 788, the medical marijuana issue on the June 26 primary ballot, the group announced Tuesday. As its name implies, the group “SQ 788 is NOT Medical” argues that the state question would effectively legalize marijuana production and use for just about any purpose, not just medicinal [Tulsa World]. One Ardmore veteran is sharing his story, saying medical marijuana saved his life, and could save many others [KTEN]. State Question 788 Fact Sheet [OKPolicy].

Oklahoma’s Child Welfare Director Will Resign, Calling It ‘One of the Most Difficult Jobs in State Government’: Oklahoma’s director of child welfare services announced her resignation Tuesday, citing the stress of her job and the pressure of implementing a 2012 legal agreement. Jami Ledoux has led the child welfare wing of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for four years; three years as a director after one year as an interim director [NewsOK].

OSBI Head to Resign Effective June 30; Board Names Ricky Adams Successor: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Commission announced the agency’s deputy director Ricky Adams will become the new head of the OSBI following the resignation of director Bob Ricks. The commission voted unanimously to name Adams to the position effective July 1 after announcing Ricks’ resignation, the agency said in a news release Tuesday. Ricks’ resignation is effective June 30 [Tulsa World].

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OK PolicyCast Episode 29: What Just Happened

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, SoundCloud, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OK PolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

The OK PolicyCast is back! In this episode, we look at what just happened in one of the most tumultuous legislative years in Oklahoma history. Bailey Perkins speaks about what it was like being at the state Capitol before, during, and after the teacher walkout. Carly Putnam shares some major developments in health care policy. And Ryan Gentzler talks about this year’s most important criminal justice legislation, both the good and the bad.

You can subscribe at the links above, download the podcast here, or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Teachers’ group seeks to stop Oklahoma anti-tax question

by | May 15th, 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.

In The News

Teachers’ Group Seeks to Stop Oklahoma Anti-Tax Question: A group representing Oklahoma teachers is asking the state’s highest court to stop an effort to overturn a tax-hike package to fund teacher pay raises the Legislature approved amid a national uprising of educators seeking more classroom money. The Professional Oklahoma Educators filed a protest petition with the state Supreme Court last week against the anti-tax group’s signature-gathering effort [Washington Post].

Home Schoolers Get Tax-Credit Funds to Attend Private School Part-Time: For the first time ever, students can attend an Oklahoma private school part-time yet have most or all of the tuition paid by scholarships funded through a state tax-credit program. The scholarship program, promoted by school-choice advocates, is typically used to subsidize tuition costs for full-time students at private schools. But The Academy for Classical Christian Studies, with three schools in the Oklahoma City area, has added a twist to the program [Oklahoma Watch].

With Veto, Fallin Cites Potential Problems with Vision Fund: When Gov. Mary Fallin acted on scores of bills Friday evening, she vetoed a measure intended to hedge against oil and gas revenue volatility. The Oklahoma Legislature passed two bills that would have created a Vision Fund for the state. They would order officials to set about 5 percent of annual revenue from the oil and gas production tax aside and place it into a trust fund. Lawmakers would be able to appropriate less than 5 percent of the principal each year after that. Supporters said the fund would grow over the years and offset not only volatility in the commodities’ market but also long-term depletion of the unrenewable resource [Journal Record].

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A wild ride for first-term legislators (Capitol Update)

by | May 14th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (0)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

As a postscript to this year’s legislative session, I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to have been serving your first term in the Legislature this past two years. If my count is correct, 54 of the 148 members of the Legislature are serving in their first two years, having been elected at the general election in 2016 or at a special election to fill one of the several vacancies that have occurred. For most of them with little direct involvement in state government, it’s hard to imagine they had even a clue as to what they were letting themselves in for.

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s governor angers the NRA and gay rights groups — on the same day

by | May 14th, 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.

In The News

Oklahoma’s Governor Angers the NRA and Gay Rights Groups — on the Same Day: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) united gun and LGBTQ advocates on Friday, in a sense. LGBTQ rights groups say a bill she signed Friday legalizes discrimination against families hoping to adopt by allowing faith-based agencies to deny placing children with people they believe violate their religious views, such as same-sex couples [Washington Post].

Juvenile Sentencing Bill, Pushed by Lawmaker’s Daughter, Is Nixed: The daughter of a state House leader who pushed a bill to protect the right to sentence juveniles to life without parole is a district attorney who seeks such a sentence in a Custer County case. But District Attorney Angela Marsee, daughter of House Speaker Pro Tempore Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, said she sees no conflict of interest in her working with her father to help draft the amended bill, which passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin Friday [Oklahoma Watch]. Juvenile life sentence bill would have been a return to outdated thinking [OK Policy].

Gov. Mary Fallin Signs Bill Allowing Display of Ten Commandments on Public Property: Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed a bill that would allow for the display of the Ten Commandments along with historical documents on public property. House Bill 2177 came after a 2015 Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that said a privately funded Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds was religious and had to be removed [NewsOK]. Tulsa World Editorial: Legislature trying again for public displays of the ten commandments [Tulsa World].

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