Skip to Content

What happens ‘when push comes to shove’ on the budget (Capitol Update)

by | October 13th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, 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.

There’s a phrase that most people have heard or used: “when push comes to shove.” Generally, this means there’s a standoff, and the question is, “what’s going to happen when push comes to shove?” Well, in the special session, push has come to shove. Both the Republican majority and the Democratic minority say they want to raise revenue for state operations — at least enough to avoid further budget cuts during the current fiscal year ending next June. But the time is quickly coming when the agencies most affected, the Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will be running out of money unless they make the cuts.

The argument is pretty much where it left off last May. Here’s the “push”: Republicans want an increase in the cigarette tax of $1.50 per pack and perhaps a gasoline tax increase as the bedrock of their revenue-raising plan. But even with a 2/3rd-plus margin in the House, they cannot pass these tax increases without Democratic votes. Too many Republican legislators will vote “no” on their own party’s position.

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Capitol building to temporarily close

by | October 13th, 2017 | 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

Capitol building to temporarily close: The state Capitol building, which will be without power, will be closed to everyone but workers from Manhattan Construction for one week starting at 7 p.m. on Friday. The temporary closure is necessary to ensure the safety of construction workers, tenants and visitors while the Capitol’s outdated electrical infrastructure is being replaced. The building will be reopened to tenants and the public on Oct. 23 [Journal Record]. The Legislature will not meet while the Capitol is shut down [OK Policy].

Proposed tax hike could fund teacher raises, new textbooks: Cash-strapped lawmakers are eyeing a plan that would ask voters next year to approve an income tax hike to pay for teacher raises and new textbooks for schools. State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, said asking voters to approve a 0.5 percent hike to the state’s income tax rate is the only surefire way to generate enough revenue to pay for $5,000 raises for more than 40,000 public school teachers [CNHI]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Former Oklahoma Teacher of the Year who left for Texas shares his own cost-of-living comparison: When Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year penned a viral breakup letter to the state and announced his reluctant departure for a higher-paying job in Texas, he promised to keep advocating for Oklahoma teachers. This week, Shawn Sheehan followed through by publishing a full, side-by-side comparison of his and his wife’s teaching incomes and household expenses from when they worked at Norman Public Schools and now, in public schools in Lewisville, Texas [Tulsa World]. Cost-of-living doesn’t make up for Oklahoma’s low teacher pay [OK Policy].

Continue Reading »

Oklahoma’s sprawling criminal code could make a felon of almost anyone

by | October 12th, 2017 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (6)

In the wake of the failure of the criminal justice reform proposals put forth by the Justice Reform Task Force this year, Rep. Scott Biggs, the chairman of the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee, blamed Governor Mary Fallin and others of refusing to discuss the definition of “violent” and “nonviolent” crimes used by some of the bills. After the session, in the lead-up to an interim study on that definition, Rep. Biggs distributed a survey asking respondents to classify every felony under Oklahoma law as violent, nonviolent, or a new, vaguely-defined category created by Rep. Biggs, “danger to the public.”

Governor Fallin, for her part, declined to return the survey, instead sending a strongly-worded letter criticizing Rep. Biggs’ actions during and since the regular legislative session. (OK Policy was also invited to complete the survey, but declined to do so.) But the content and length of the survey are striking in themselves, revealing an increasingly sprawling criminal code that could make a felon out of just about any Oklahoman.

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Mental health in jails: ‘Is this the best we can do?’

by | October 12th, 2017 | 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

Mental health in jails: ‘Is this the best we can do?‘ Tests found Kathleen Collier-Melchior, 53, with blood-alcohol levels nearly three times the legal limit. She told Midwest City jail staff she was going to hurt herself. A crisis intervention officer was called in to evaluate her. Officers removed her clothes and slipped her into a suit meant to protect mentally fragile people from using their clothes against themselves [NewsOK]. Despite warnings, little has been done to ease prison and jail overcrowding [OK Policy].

Statewide student proficiency rates plummet in first year of higher academic standards: As predicted, student proficiency rates in Oklahoma public schools plummeted on the first state tests aligned to new academic standards. For example, just 22.97 percent of eighth-graders are now considered proficient or better in math and 34.53 percent proficient in English/language arts. At the fourth-grade level, 37.01 percent of students are proficient in English/language arts and 40.5 percent in math [Tulsa World]. Accurate test results a step in the right direction for Oklahoma [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Oklahoma Senate panel studies payments between advanced nurses, doctors: The Oklahoma Senate’s only member who is a doctor said Tuesday he will consider writing a law that ends payments that some nurses make to doctors for prescription supervision. State Sen. Ervin Yen might introduce legislation next year to address complaints from advanced practice nurses, who are fighting to reverse Oklahoma’s requirement that doctors supervise those nurses’ prescription authority [NewsOK].

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Several Oklahoma agencies lose millions in funding as budget negotiations continue

by | October 11th, 2017 | 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

Several Oklahoma agencies lose millions in funding as budget negotiations continue: Several Oklahoma agencies are seeing their funding decrease as lawmakers have yet to come up with a budget plan. Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a $1.50-per-pack ‘cigarette fee’ was unconstitutional after lawmakers passed the revenue raising measure in the final five days of a legislative session without a 75 percent majority vote [KFOR]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Class-action suit filed against court-referred work program following national investigation: A class-action lawsuit has been filed against a controversial court-referred recovery program and an Arkansas-based company in the wake of a national news investigation that drew attention to the program’s practices and treatment of people assigned there. The lawsuit, filed in the Northern district of Oklahoma on Tuesday morning, accuses Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery and Simmons Food Inc. of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, Oklahoma Protection of Labor Act, Oklahoma Minimum Wage Act and Oklahoma’s Human Trafficking statutes [The Frontier]. Read about the investigation [Reveal].

Repeal the capital gains tax break: A tax break that benefits a small number of wealthy taxpayers and costs the state of Oklahoma around $100 million per year cannot “be credibly shown to have significant economic impact or a positive return on investment for the State,” according to a study presented to Oklahoma’s Incentive Evaluation Commission by a national consulting firm. Lawmakers should heed the advice of the experts and act quickly to repeal this expensive and inefficient tax break [OK Policy].

Continue Reading »

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.

Continue Reading »

Repeal the capital gains tax break

by | October 10th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

A tax break that benefits a small number of wealthy taxpayers and costs the state of Oklahoma around $100 million per year cannot “be credibly shown to have significant economic impact or a positive return on investment for the State,” according to a study presented to Oklahoma’s Incentive Evaluation Commission by a national consulting firm. Lawmakers should heed the advice of the experts and act quickly to repeal this expensive and inefficient tax break.

The study found that over the past five years, Oklahoma’s capital gains deduction has reduced state tax revenues by $474 million while creating just $9 million in additional tax revenue. “This results in a net cost to the State of $465 million,” writes PFM Group Consulting, a firm with extensive experience in evaluating tax incentives that is working under contract with the state’s Incentive Evaluation Commission. The study also found that “over the life of the program, an average of 85.5 percent of the total deduction amount was made by individuals with income equal to or more than $200,000.” By comparison, just 3 percent of all Oklahoma taxpayers make over $200,000, according to 2015 IRS data.

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Anti-tax pledge haunts Oklahoma budget talks

by | October 10th, 2017 | 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.

Special elections take place today in 27 counties across the state. Check the list of elections here, and use the Online Voter Tool to view a sample ballot for the elections in your county.

Today In The News

Anti-tax pledge haunts Oklahoma budget talks: If lawmakers agree to raise taxes as part of a deal to save the state budget, some prominent Republican members of the House and Senate may run afoul of a promise they made to their constituents. Six members of the Oklahoma Senate and 17 state representatives have taken a pledge to vote against tax hikes. If lawmakers hammer out a deal over the weekend and return to special session with a revenue package, they could see votes on raising the tax rate on cigarettes, motor fuel and so-called “luxury” services [NewsOK].

Little progress as special session clock ticks: Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative special session has lumbered along in fits and starts, with most of the work going on behind the scenes. Legislative leaders and the governor’s office rattle off ideas behind closed doors. Republicans and Democrats gather at the Capitol every few days for closed-door meetings to decide what, if any, plan has enough votes to pass. One thing is clear: On paper, the Oklahoma Legislature is no closer to a resolution now than when Gov. Mary Fallin ordered them back to the Capitol on Sept. 25 [NewsOK].  Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Tulsa drug court to review use of work-based diversion program targeted in Reveal investigation: Tulsa County’s drug court has had “very positive results” from a controversial work-based diversion program, officials said Monday, but the program’s continued use will be reviewed after a national news report raised questions about the legality and treatment of people assigned to it. “In light of these revelations, we will reconsider our use of CAAIR,” said Heather Hope-Hernandez, communications director of the Community Service Council of Tulsa, which administers the county’s drug court program [Tulsa World]. Read the investigation [Reveal].

Continue Reading »

Occupational licensing is a growing barrier to Oklahomans who seek a decent job

by | October 9th, 2017 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Let’s say you want to change careers. Or maybe you’re a recent graduate thinking about what you’d like to do as you enter the workforce. Like an increasing number of American workers, you might find that stiff requirements to get an occupational license stand in the way.

In theory, occupational license requirements come from a desire to protect the public from harm by someone practicing a profession in an incompetent or unsafe manner. Often, that makes sense.  Doctors must have a license to practice medicine, for example.  To get that license they must prove that they have the necessary education — because if they don’t, patients could be seriously harmed.

However, an increasing number of professions now require a license to practice somewhere in America, and not all of this growth is born of strong public health and safety concerns. In 1950, just 5 percent of the American workforce needed a license to do their job – now it’s nearly 30 percent. In Louisiana, for example, you need a license to be a florist. In 21 states, you’ll need a license to be a travel guide.

The growth in occupational licensing is a concern for many individuals and groups on both sides of the partisan aisle. Free market and libertarian groups like the Institute for Justice and Americans for Prosperity, centrist think tanks like the Brookings Institute, and former president Barack Obama have all advocated for reforms in occupational licensing.

Continue Reading »

In The Know: House will not convene Monday as special session drags on to address $215 million budget hole

by | October 9th, 2017 | 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

House will not convene Monday as special session drags on to address $215 million budget hole: The Oklahoma House will not return Monday to resume a special session at the Capitol, House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols said Friday. Earlier this week, Echols told members to plan on being in session on Monday. “We are still working on some details,” the Oklahoma City Republican said. Gov. Mary Fallin called lawmakers into special session starting Sept. 25 after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled legislators violated the law in passing what amounted to a $1.50 tax increase on cigarettes. The ruling blew a $215 million hole in the state’s budget. Coupled with a loss of federal dollars, the shortage is closer to $500 million. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma House won’t convene Monday [The Oklahoman] Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy]

New poll finds Oklahoma voters want comprehensive revenue deal in special session: A new poll shows a large majority of Oklahoma voters (67 percent) want lawmakers to pass a comprehensive revenue plan in special session that avoids further cuts and funds a teacher pay raise and other critical needs. That compares to just 15 percent of voters who want only a tobacco tax increase without other revenue options and just 11 percent who say the legislature should not pass revenues and allow budget cuts to take effect. [OK Policy]

Continue Reading »

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 381