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Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session

by | October 10th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Matters | Comments (8)

See this advocacy alert for more info on what you can do to influence lawmakers during special session.

Although the Oklahoma Legislature has convened numerous special sessions in recent decades, none has dealt with issues as sweeping and consequential as the current one. This set of Frequently Asked Questions is intended to help Oklahomans understand the rules guiding the process and the issues being addressed. It will be updated regularly as the session continues.

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Statement: Disappointing results and hope for the future in this year’s legislative session

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the final results of Oklahoma’s 2017 regular legislative session:

If we look only at the bills that made it through the full legislative process to be signed by the governor, most Oklahomans would view this year’s legislative session as a disappointment. Lawmakers entered the session knowing they needed to confront big problems — like uncompetitive pay that is draining away our most skilled teachers and state workers; a failing, hugely expensive criminal justice system; long waiting lists for mental health treatment, at-home disability care, and other key health services; and a budget that every year falls further behind what’s needed to keep our state prosperous and safe. As the session limps to a close, lawmakers have failed to address any of these problems.

This failure is especially disappointing when we consider the promises made earlier in the year. Throughout legislative session, lawmakers repeated again and again that they would find funding to provide a teacher raise. Governor Fallin, legislative leaders, and experts in the community and law enforcement came together to develop a strong, well-thought-out agenda for criminal justice reform. Hundreds of advocates and lawmakers came to the table with practical revenue solutions to fund essential services and fix Oklahoma’s long-term budget outlook.

By these efforts, we came close to achieving big advances for Oklahoma families, only to crash against obstruction and gridlock in the final days of session. What emerged was a last-minute budget with more damaging cuts as well as legally questionable revenue measures. Most of the burden of this year’s budget shortfall was once again pushed onto low- and middle-income families while sparing the wealthiest households and corporate interests. The last chance for a teacher raise this year was derailed by the Senate’s refusal to cap itemized deductions for very wealthy households. This problematic budget was forced through with little time for Oklahomans to see what was in it or voice their concerns.

Amid these failures, we see an undercurrent of hope for Oklahoma’s future. This year, more than ever before, numerous informed, engaged Oklahomans regularly came to the Capitol or worked within their communities to advocate for better state policies. Popular outcry was key to stopping Oklahoma from moving backwards by allowing an expansion of predatory lending practices or rolling back the smart on crime reforms of State Question 780. Revenue ideas that had never been seriously considered before, despite years of failing budgets, were on the table in final negotiations. Legislative leadership ultimately failed to reach a bipartisan deal on the budget or prevent one member from derailing the work of the majority on criminal justice. But beneath that leadership failure is a rising group of lawmakers and regular Oklahomans who are eager to do better.

Better policies fell barely short of the finish line this year. We are excited to work with the lawmakers and other Oklahomans who are ready to carry that progress over the line, next year and beyond.

A new way to get our action alerts

by | April 26th, 2017 | Posted in Capitol Matters, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Events can move fast in the Oklahoma Legislature, especially in the last weeks of May just before adjournment. New bills or amendments – or even the entire state budget – can be introduced and rushed through before constituents have much chance to speak out.

At OK Policy, we try to provide the information you need when it matters most for our state. We share key facts and advocacy alerts through e-mail, social media, and website updates throughout the week. Now we’re excited to offer another way for you to get informed when it’s important to take action right away. You can sign up to get text message alerts to your mobile phone.

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Be prepared for the 2017 session with the new Legislative Primer

by | January 26th, 2017 | Posted in Capitol Matters, Featured Home Page | Comments (5)

How many bills were filed this year? What are the steps for a bill to become law? Who’s in Governor Fallin’s cabinet? As the 2017 Oklahoma Legislative session gets underway, our newly updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more.

Whether you are a veteran advocate, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the 2017 Legislative Primer will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format. You are welcome to download, print, and distribute the Legislative Primer to anyone who may need it to figure out what’s happening at the Capitol.

We also invite you to check out “What’s That?”, our online glossary of terms related to Oklahoma politics and government, and the newly updated Online Budget Guide, an in-depth resource for understanding how our state and local governments collect and spend money. 

We hope these tools will help to empower your advocacy for a better Oklahoma. If you’re interested in getting more involved with other grassroots advocates for better budget and tax policies in Oklahoma, we invite you to sign up at Together Oklahoma.

Yes, non-profits can (and should) lobby

Family in PalmIf you want to know about the stock market, you ask a broker. If you want to know what that weird noise is when you turn on your car, you ask a mechanic. If you want to know how public policy is affecting regular people in Oklahoma, you ask someone who works for a non-profit organization.

Unfortunately, many non-profits remain hesitant about sharing their expertise with lawmakers and the public. They may believe that their non-profit status prohibits them from engaging with the legislative process, or they may simply not know what the rules are so they are hesitant about entering a poorly understood legal grey area.

In fact, non-profits can (and should) lobby. According to the National Council of non-profits, “Federal tax laws already allow every charitable non-profit to engage in some legislative lobbying activities. There are spending limits and technicalities that curb non-profits from spending all of their time and money engaged in legislative lobbying, but knowing your rights ensures your organization’s participation in the public policy process.”

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No less than 20 measures filed to change Oklahoma’s judicial system this year (Capitol Updates)

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. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

One might assume that with a near $1 billion budget deficit for next year added to revenue failures in the current fiscal year demanding their attention, legislators would have little inclination to consider non-budget structural changes to state government. One would be wrong. There have been no less than 20 measures filed in the House and Senate to make changes in the way Oklahoma’s Judicial Branch works. A short summary of the bills demonstrates the direction some legislators want to take the state.

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Demystify Oklahoma’s policy process with the 2016 Legislative Primer

by | February 1st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (3)

LegislativePrimer2016How many bills made it into law last year? What do legislators get paid? Who’s in Governor Fallin’s cabinet? As the 2016 Oklahoma Legislative session gets underway, our newly updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more.

Whether you are a veteran advocate, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the 2016 Legislative Primer will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format. You are welcome to download, print, and distribute the Legislative Primer to anyone who may need it to figure out what’s happening at the Capitol. We also invite you to check out “What’s That?”, our online glossary of more than 50 terms related to Oklahoma politics and government, from “Ad-Valorem Tax” to “Woolly-Booger.”

We hope these tools will help to empower your advocacy for a better Oklahoma. If you have any questions or suggestions for ways we can better inform Oklahomans, let us know.

Two insider takes on the 2015 legislative session

by | July 1st, 2015 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Matters | Comments (1)

Editor’s note: We came across these two thoughtful takes on the 2015 session, with a particular emphasis on the budget, from Senate Republican Mike Mazzei and House Democrat Ben Loring. Their assessments offer some stark contrasts but also some surprising agreement.  The articles are posted here with the authors’ permission.

Sen. Mike Mazzei: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Mike Mazzeimazzei_bio has represented Senate District 25 since 2004. This summary was originally posted for his followers on his Facebook page.

Halleluiah! The 2015 Legislative Session ended one week early and after some time of reflection, I can now provide some highlights for my annual “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” report.

The Good – In spite of a $611 million deficit, we managed to avoid reducing K-12 education funding from the previous year. We also initiated some tax reform by eliminating the five-year property tax exemption for new wind power facilities for an annual savings of $45 million. For hopefully more tax reform in the future, we established a new evaluation system to analyze every tax incentive in the tax code over a four- year cycle. Tulsa won a big victory with approval of a financing package for the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, which according to my analysis, would provide significant net economic benefits to both Tulsa and the state. And finally, we joined almost every other state in the nation to ban texting while driving.

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Seven ways to get your legislators’ attention

by | February 26th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (4)

This post by OK Policy’s Outreach Specialist Kara Joy McKee originally appeared on togetherok.org.

Photo by Maryland GovPics

Photo by Maryland GovPics

Does this sound familiar?

You hear about some out-there proposal at the state Legislature, or you know about some good idea that’s not getting done, and you get inspired to mobilize – to speak up so our elected officials will hear you.

What do you?

The first answer that comes to many of our minds is “Let’s march to the Capitol and have a rally!”

A crowd waving signs is what so many of us associate with politics. We look back to those dramatic, history-making marches from the Civil Right movement, and think that’s what you do to make a difference.

But is that the only or the best option?

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Use these tools to decipher the Oklahoma Legislature

by | January 28th, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Matters, OK Policy | Comments (0)
Photo by David Goehring.

Photo by David Goehring.

Next week, the Oklahoma Legislature comes back into session. Legislators will debate bills and make decisions that affect all Oklahomans, but the process can be hard to follow for the average citizen. That’s why we’ve created a number of tools to help you decipher what happens at the state Capitol.

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