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Billions of dollars for Oklahoma and health care for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans at stake in this election (Capitol Update)

by | October 15th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Healthcare | Comments (1)

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.

The new CEO of the Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA), Patti Davis, has decided to advocate openly for Medicaid expansion to access federal health care funding under the Affordable Care Act. Oklahoma has missed out on this funding since 2012 when Governor Fallin decided to abandon any effort to claim these tax dollars Oklahoma sends to Washington D.C. In the past the OHA has been shy about using the term “Medicaid expansion,” preferring euphemisms in hopes of avoiding association with the hated “Obamacare.” The strategy hasn’t worked because die hards against the Affordable Care Act, constantly on guard against the health care funding, were not fooled.

In an article published in the Oklahoman last week, Ms. Davis pointed out that “if Oklahoma were to accept federal funds to cover the uninsured, possibly through the public/private partnership Insure Oklahoma program as we have proposed, the economic benefit would be in the billions to our state each year.” She cites an analysis by an Oklahoma State University economist in 2016, that over a 5-year period if Oklahoma had accepted federal funds for health care coverage, more than $14.5 billion would have been injected into our state’s economy and more than 24,000 health care-related jobs would have been created.

Ms. Davis goes on to say, “We’re all in this together. Injecting these dollars into health care is a win for education, corrections and mental health. The notion that expanding health care coverage would take money away from other areas, such as education, simply isn’t true. Schools and communities suffer when citizens don’t have access to vital health care services. When our citizens don’t have access to mental health coverage, our jails and prisons, unfortunately, become the default. And an injection of federal dollars into health care frees up state money for other agencies.”

In case you’re wondering where the two major candidates for governor stand on Medicaid expansion, they were both quoted directly in another Oklahoman article by Chris Casteel on June 17, 2018, as follows:

“Kevin Stitt, a Tulsa businessman, said, ‘I do not support expanding Medicaid … Obamacare is a disastrous law that Congress should repeal and replace with a solution that encourages a competitive business climate to drive down cost for all Oklahomans and increase health care options.'”

And from Drew Edmondson: “Rejecting the Medicaid expansion funds is the worst decision the governor made since taking office,” Democratic candidate Drew Edmondson said. “On my first day as governor, I’ll begin the process of reversing that harmful decision.”

Oklahoma’s revenue growth is welcome but not a windfall (Capitol Update)

by | October 8th, 2018 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (0)

[Image Source: Sarge Melki / Flickr]

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.

Those who rely on state funding to provide services to Oklahomans heard more good news this week from State Treasurer Ken Miller. Monthly numbers for September revenue show an increase of $141.4 million over September 2017 revenue. If monthly increases averaged, say $100 million for the year it would mean an additional $1.2 billion in state revenue. Only a portion of this goes to the General Revenue Fund from which the Legislature appropriates most of the budget, but if the trend continues it will mean a good year for next year’s legislative appropriations.

According to Treasurer Miller, revenue generated by increased tax rates approved in HB1010XX last session added $48.7 million of the $141.4 million to the monthly collections. This means approximately 35 percent of the increase in revenue came from the tax rate increases. Of the $48.7 million generated, $31.2 million came from the increase from 3 percent to 5 percent in the incentive tax rate on oil and natural gas gross production, $8.3 million came from raising the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, and $9.3 million was generated from the $1 per pack increase in cigarette taxes.

The remaining 65 percent of the increase in the state’s monthly gross receipts presumably reflects new revenue caused by growth in the economy. As Treasurer Miller, an economist, puts it “Oklahoma’s economy continues to climb the expansion side of the business cycle.” In other words, state government revenue is riding the wave of an uptick in the economy, and this is a natural part of the business cycle. To those with a critical and experienced eye, this means as business continues to cycle there will at some time be a downtick.

The temptation for now will be to look at these numbers and conclude the state has a windfall. Nothing could be further from the truth. $1.2 billion in the budget will provide relief, but it will in no way catch up for a decade of budget cuts and deferred increases to meet new needs for schools, universities, and all the other state agencies that provide for the education, health, and public safety of our citizens. Simply relying on “growth money” from the same inadequate tax base will leave Oklahoma where it has been for many years: at the bottom of the barrel in meeting the needs of its citizens. We should be listening carefully to what the candidates for office are saying. As we’ve seen before, elections do have consequences.

Will this generation make better priorities to protect the next generation? (Capitol Update)

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.

I attended an interim study this week requested by Sen. Greg McCortney (R-Ada) and Sen. Kay Floyd (D-OKC) that presented some excellent, if discouraging information on adverse childhood experiences (ACES.) Early childhood experts talked about what ACES are, the lifetime consequences of ACES, what the record shows about ACES in Oklahoma children, and what works to avoid ACES.

ACES have been scientifically proven to disrupt childhood brain development, which in turn causes social, emotional and cognitive impairment that affects a person the rest of her life. Children suffering ACES are known to adopt health-risk behaviors that result in disease, disabilities, and social problems and eventually end in early death. A CDC study shows that people with six or more ACES died 20 years earlier on average than those without ACES. Those with zero ACES lived an average of 80 years while those with 6-plus ACES lived 60 years. The economic toll is also striking. The CDC estimates the lifetime costs associated with child maltreatment is $124 billion.

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Oklahoma poverty numbers are part of a larger picture (Capitol Update)

by | September 18th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates, Poverty & Opportunity | 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.

There’s an interesting, unsettling piece in a recent update by Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Courtney Cullison. It reviews new data from the Census Bureau that reminds us we are behind in Oklahoma when it comes to Oklahomans living in poverty and without health insurance. In 2017, nearly 1 in 6 Oklahomans (15.8 percent) were living with income below the poverty line ($24,600 for a family of four) before taxes. Worse, more than one in five (21.5 percent) of Oklahoma children live in a household below the poverty line. At the same time, Oklahoma’s uninsured rate increased to 14.2 percent (up from 13.8 percent in 2016.) This is the first increase in our uninsured rate since 2010 and puts us second highest in the nation of people uninsured.

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The cost of maintaining the world’s highest incarceration (Capitol Update)

by | September 10th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Criminal Justice | Comments (2)

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.

When it comes to mass incarceration, Oklahoma is No. 1 (in the world!) But what are the numbers behind this, by now, well known fact? And what effect does it have on Oklahoma’s state budget? Take a look:

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Senate leader names budget committee chairs (Capitol Update)

by | August 27th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates | Comments (1)

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.

It’s one of those things that goes largely unnoticed but is as important as anything the legislative leadership does. Last week Senate President Pro Tempore-designate Greg Treat named his Appropriations subcommittee chairs who will serve under Appropriations Committee Chair Roger Thompson. All Senators are members of the Appropriations Committee, but the nuts-and-bolts budget work is done in six subcommittees. The chairs of the subcommittees speak for their members in the larger appropriations meetings and generally become the voice of the Senate to the agencies under their jurisdiction.

Sen. Treat reduced the number of subcommittees from eight to six. He changed the Finance Subcommittee back to a full standing committee rather than a subcommittee of appropriations. Finance had always been standing committee until the past few years. Sen. Stephanie Bice, who in her first term tackled reforming Oklahoma’s archaic liquor laws, will chair Senate Finance. Tax reform will likely be a hot topic for this important and powerful standing committee.

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In final days before election, many pressures to go negative (Capitol Update)

by | August 20th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (1)

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.

With about a week to go, the statewide runoff campaigns have turned negative. Surprise, Surprise. People wonder why this happens. It happens for two reasons: Neither candidate wants to lose — and it works. Most of us have something in our lives we’d just as soon everyone not know about. It could be something personal like an embarrassing family situation. Or, perhaps it’s something in our business dealings like a lawsuit. For people with a record in politics, it’s often having taken an unpopular stand on an issue or having made a stupid remark publicly.

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Encouraging signs from this year’s legislative candidates (Capitol Update)

by | August 13th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates | Comments (1)

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.

To put it bluntly there is nearly nothing visible going on inside the Capitol unless you want to count the efforts of the construction workers that are repairing and remodeling the building. The place is pretty much torn up. In most areas it’s very much a construction zone. As fall approaches and activity picks up toward next session working around the mess won’t be easy.

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SQ 801 would give more flexibility, but no new funds for education (Capitol Update)

by | August 6th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (1)

Image Source: Flickr / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

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.

It was announced by Governor Fallin last week that SQ 801 will be placed on the general election ballot this November. SQ 801 is a referendum from the legislature intended to change the Oklahoma Constitution regarding how certain property tax money can be spent. Under the current constitution there is a 5-mill levy on all real property in a school district, dedicated to building and maintaining school property. In addition, there is a 35-mill general school tax and a 4-mill county levy that goes to school operations. So, legislators want to change the 5-mill levy to allow school districts to use property tax revenue that has previously been restricted to building and maintaining schools for operation funding. One mill is $1 per $1000 in assessed value. Assessed value is between 11 percent and 13.5 percent of the fair market value of the property, depending on the assessment ratio set in the county.

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Several issues divide medical marijuana advocates and regulators (Capitol Update)

by | July 30th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Healthcare | 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.

I attended the first meeting of the marijuana working group last Wednesday and found it interesting. First, there was standing room only consisting mainly of proponents of medical marijuana. These folks worked hard for their victory and have no intention of allowing the political process to rob them of their success. They made it clear that their litmus test for regulating the industry is whether any proposed regulation limits access to the plant for medicinal purposes.

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