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The Weekly Wonk: Key bills we’ll be watching this legislative session

by | February 16th, 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

We released our first three posts in a series on key bills to watch this legislative session. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison previewed some promising (and some not so promising) efforts to improve the economic well-being of Oklahoma families. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler wondered if this will finally be the year the legislature gets serious about criminal justice reform. And Policy Director Carly Putnam ran down the list of bills that threaten to cut Oklahomans’ access to health care.

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column directed our attention to a bill, moving quietly through the legislature, that would greatly increase the power of future governors. A guest post by Effie Craven told us about lunch shaming and an effort to end the practice in Oklahoma.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with KTUL about what the Step Up plan would mean for taxes in Oklahoma. OK Policy’s statement on the failure of the Step Up plan made an appearance in a KFOR piece. Gentzler talked with NonDoc about SQ 788, the medical marijuana question that will be on the ballot this summer.

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In The Know: State Auditor and House Democrats unveil compromise budget plan

by | February 16th, 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 State Auditor unveils compromise plan to state’s budget woes: The Oklahoma State Auditor has proposed a compromise to the state’s budget woes. State Auditor Gary Jones announced the compromise Feb. 15 alongside the House Democrats, who endorsed the plan. Jones’ plan includes an increase in the oil and gas gross production tax to five percent for the first 36 months, a 75 cent tax on cigarettes and little cigars, a three cent tax on gasoline and a six cent tax on diesel. “This proposal will generate approximately $448 million in revenue and is sufficient to fund a $5,000 pay raise for teachers and raises for state employees,” Jones said. “To make this happen, both sides are being asked to give a little” [FOX25]. Oklahoma House Democrats rally behind auditor’s budget proposal [Public Radio Tulsa].

State agencies to be cut by nearly 2 percent each month through June: After years of budget-slashing, state agencies will be required to cut monthly spending nearly 2 percent more for the remaining four months of the 2018 fiscal year under a measure passed Thursday by a Senate and House joint committee. The measure is expected to be heard on the House and Senate floors next week. Meeting separately, the House and Senate members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget agreed to House Bill 1020. The move follows Monday’s failure in the House of a $581.5 million revenue bill that would have paid for a $5,000 teacher pay raise and freed reserve funds to close the FY 2018 budget shortage. The cuts approved Thursday will free up about $44 million, said Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kim David, R-Porter [Tulsa World]. State agencies bracing for ‘disheartening’ cuts [Enid News & Eagle].

Group ready to move forward to fund Oklahoma education: A group wanting to raise gross production taxes is gearing up after the failure of Step Up Oklahoma. Restore Oklahoma Now is proposing State Question 795 to raise GPT to 7% which will bring in an extra $288 million with most of that going to common education. Executive Director Mickey Thompson says he delayed pushing forward while Step Up Oklahoma worked its way through the State Capitol [KOSU].

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Bill Watch: Legislation threatens to cut Oklahomans’ access to health care

by | February 15th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

This post is the third in a series highlighting key bills in several issues areas that we’re following. Previous posts looked at legislation affecting economic opportunity for Oklahoma families and legislation to reform our criminal justice system.

A greater share of Oklahomans are uninsured than almost any other state, and our comparatively poor health has serious economic consequences. One might hope that Oklahoma’s legislators would be working this session to make sure more Oklahomans, not fewer, have access to health care. Unfortunately, some lawmakers have instead filed bills that would yank health coverage from low-income parents  and repeat failed experiments of the past. 

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In The Know: With Step Up failure, budget cuts loom again

by | February 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.

Today In The News

With Step Up failure, budget cuts loom again: If Oklahoma state agencies have to make the cuts under consideration, they’ll seem three times as steep, so some officials are taking precautions now. On Monday, the House of Representatives failed to pass House Bill 1033, one of the major funding components within the Step Up Oklahoma plan. The measure contained several tax increases that would have helped lawmakers plug the roughly $90 million budget hole that remains for fiscal 2018. Top Republicans said that plan was the state’s final opportunity to raise revenue before cuts became inevitable. House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols said Tuesday the Legislature could work with the executive branch to find about $50 million in cash resources, and members would likely have to authorize between $40 million and $45 million in cuts [Journal Record]. 

Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven): Imagine you are a child waiting in the school lunch line with your friends. You laugh and joke as you move through the line and get your trays, enjoying the break from class. But when you get to the cashier and scan your meal card, there is not enough money for your lunch. Your tray is taken from you – your hot meal is thrown away and replaced by a cheese sandwich as your classmates look on. Practices like this, known as lunch shaming, are all too common in schools [OK Policy].

Teacher writes honest open letter to Oklahoma Legislature: A local teacher wrote an honest open letter to the Oklahoma Legislature after a $581 tax bill that would have given teachers a raise failed. On Monday, House Bill 1033, part of the Step Up Oklahoma, remained at 63-35 for hours. The measure would impose additional taxes on tobacco, diesel fuel and wind energy. It would also raise the gross production tax (GPT) on all wells from 2 percent to 4 percent. In order to pass the House, it needed 76 votes [KFOR News].

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Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

Effie Craven is the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Imagine you are a child waiting in the school lunch line with your friends.  You laugh and joke as you move through the line and get your trays, enjoying the break from class.  But when you get to the cashier and scan your meal card, there is not enough money for your lunch.  Your tray is taken from you – your hot meal is thrown away and replaced by a cheese sandwich as your classmates look on.

Practices like this, known as lunch shaming, are all too common in schools. And these practices are emotionally damaging to children, who have no control over their family’s financial situation and are often facing food insecurity at home as well. One in four Oklahoma children has inconsistent access to adequate, healthy food. The National School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs provide critical nutrition support to more than 425,000 Oklahoma children every year, but many students are either not eligible or not enrolled in the free and reduced price school meals programs.

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In The Know: House leaders will present budget cuts this week

by | February 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.

Today In The News

House leaders will present budget cuts this week: The Oklahoma House will vote this week on $40 million in spending cuts after lawmakers rejected on Monday a tax increase. House Floor Leader Jon Echols said the cuts will be combined with whatever money is available this year to handle the remaining $63 million revenue shortfall [NewsOK].

Legislature’s steps unclear in budget follow-up: Three state agencies’ fates remain uncertain after the Step Up Oklahoma plan failed on the House floor late Monday. Democrats insisted productive negotiations are still possible Tuesday, but top Republicans said it’s too late and that about $45 million in cuts is inevitable. Those would all take place by the end of fiscal year 2018 in June. Step Up Oklahoma is a coalition of business executives that pitched a policy- and budget-overhaul plan in January [Journal Record]. House Democrats called for renewed budget negotiations [Public Radio Tulsa].

Following accusations of domestic violence, interim OSDH director resigns: Less than 24 hours after a report by The Frontier outlined an incident where Preston Doerflinger was accused of choking his wife, he resigned from Gov. Mary Fallin’s cabinet and as interim commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. In a statement, Gov. Mary Fallin said Doerflinger never told her about a 2012 run-in with police in which Doerflinger was accused of choking his now ex-wife [The Frontier].

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Bill Watch: Will 2018 be the year Oklahoma finally gets serious about criminal justice reform?

by | February 13th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (11)

This post is the second in a series highlighting key bills in several issues areas that we’re following. A previous post looked at legislation affecting economic opportunity for Oklahoma families.

After a disappointing end to the 2017 session, there are encouraging signs that 2018 could be a more fruitful year for Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform advocates. Many of the far-reaching proposals of the Justice Reform Task Force have a shortened path to the Governor’s desk this year since they already passed several votes last year, and House Speaker Charles McCall has said he intends to bring them up quickly. In addition to those proposals, which focus on reining in prison population growth, there are promising ideas to make progress on pretrial justice and to reduce the impact of criminal fines and fees.

These three areas are our top priorities in criminal justice policy this year. If the Legislature acts decisively on the bills outlined below, it would mark a long overdue turning point in our state’s justice system.

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In The Know: Teacher pay draws thousands to Capitol, but they leave empty-handed

by | February 13th, 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 pay draws thousands to Capitol, but they leave empty-handed: Several thousand educators and their supporters descended on the Oklahoma state Capitol on Monday to advocate for $5,000 teacher raises. Most left empty-handed about 4:45 p.m. as it became apparent the House would fall short of the votes needed to fund the raises. Brenna Magette, an eighth-grade science teacher in Oologah-Talala, said she was disappointed that the very lawmakers who told her in earlier, one-on-one conversations that they had a better deal for teachers in the works never said so during debate on the House floor [Tulsa World]. Public education advocates descended on the Capitol to lobby for teacher pay raises [Tulsa World].

Lawmakers must continue their work until a substantial revenue plan gets the votes: Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt released the following statement on the apparent failure of the HB 1033XX revenue bill: Today, lawmakers on both sides of the debate agreed about one thing: Oklahoma desperately needs to increase revenues to pay for a teacher raise and save Oklahoma’s core services. With so much that we agree on, it will be a historic tragedy if Oklahoma lawmakers cannot reach a solution [OK Policy].

Step Down: Revenue bill short again in Oklahoma House: The primary revenue bill included in the Step Up Oklahoma plan appears to have failed to receive 76 votes in the House of Representatives today, the second time in fewer than 100 days that a major revenue bill has fallen short. The vote is sitting at 63-35 with two members — Rep. Chuck Hoskin (D-Vinita) and Rep. Carl Newton (R-Cherokee) — not having voted. Earlier in the day, Newton’s legislative assistant said he was in the hospital awaiting surgery [NonDoc].

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Bill Watch: Ways to help Oklahoma families build wealth this legislative session

This post is the first in a series highlighting key bills in several issues areas that we’re following. 

Last session, working families saw little in the way of help from the Legislature.  As the budget crisis continued, core services suffered further cuts and teachers and state employees did not see the raises that many legislators promised would be a priority. Too many Oklahomans are still struggling with financial instability, but there are opportunities for the legislature to make some strides this session.

We identified several goals related to economic opportunity and security in OK Policy’s 2018 legislative policy priorities. Here are some key bills related to those goals:

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In The Know: Monday vote expected in state House on bills backed by Step Up Oklahoma

by | February 12th, 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.

Today In The News

Monday vote expected in state House on bills backed by Step Up Oklahoma: Showdown votes are expected Monday afternoon on the state House floor on a series of tax increase and government restructuring measures backed by Step Up Oklahoma. House members also may be asked to vote on proposed $5,000 pay increases for teachers. [The Oklahoman] What are the Step Up plan bills the House will vote on Monday? [Tulsa World] Changes to Step Up income tax plan will bolster working families [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Medicaid providers could face rates cuts in March: Medicaid providers could face a cut again as soon as March, particularly if the nasty flu season continues. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority faces a budget shortfall in the coming months because of problems with federal and state funds. [The Oklahoman] Flu season could cause Health Care Authority to run out of money by March, official says [KOCO] Don’t go there: Block grants for Medicaid and SNAP could wreck America’s safety net [OK Policy]

Criminal justice reform measures face uncertain future: Several bills designed to significantly reduce Oklahoma’s prison population have been sent to a Legislative conference committee, where they could be amended before reaching a final vote. Criminal justice reform advocates hope the bills won’t be watered down from their latest versions. [The Oklahoman] Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy]

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