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The Weekly Wonk: Five things we already know about the 2018 elections

by | May 10th, 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

Want a recap of the recently concluded legislative session? Check out our end of session wrap up. Executive Director David Blatt also recounted some of the measures that showed a tough but ill-advised stance on poor people, crime, same-sex families, and guns – the hot button issues received more than their share of attention. But raising the revenue desperately needed to fund core services was more difficult than it should have been – Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update told us all about it.

Blatt shared five things we know about the 2018 elections based on candidate filings. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison warned us about the proposed farm bill that will be considered soon by the U.S. House of Representatives – if passed, it will result in more Oklahomans going hungry. Spring Intern Aaron Krusniak explained that internet access still a significant barrier for many Oklahomans, making it difficult (if not impossible) to verify and report hours worked in order to receive public benefits.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with Vox about the funding package for the recently passed pay raises for teachers and state workers. Blatt was the featured guest on KWGS’ Studio Tulsa and OETA’s News Report discussing the recently completed legislative session. An OK Policy piece about the harm that will result from work requirements for Medicaid recipients was used by The Oklahoman. OK Policy data made an appearance in NonDoc and Oklahoma Watch.

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Bill Watch: This year in #okleg

Last week, the Oklahoma legislature adjourned one of the more extraordinary legislative sessions in recent memory – one that followed one special session, ran partially concurrently with another, included nine days of protests at the Capitol, saw the Legislature raise revenues for the first time in nearly 30 years, witnessed a first step in criminal justice reform after years of efforts, and resulted in the largest funding bill in state history (although not if adjusted for inflation). But in all of the confusion and breaking news, it was easy to miss other developments. In the posts below, brief summaries by issue area lay out the major victories and defeats of this spring’s legislative session.

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What we know about Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative elections

by | May 10th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (1)

The filing period for the 2018 elections concluded on April 13th, one day after the Oklahoma Education Association announced the end to the two-week teacher walkout that brought tens of thousands of educators and their supporters to the Capitol on a daily basis. Many teachers vowed to turn their energy to the upcoming election campaigns, committing themselves to work to support pro-education candidates on the primary and general election ballots.

We don’t know yet what impact the mobilization of educators, or other local and national trends, will ultimately have on the election results, but here are five things we do know about the 2018 elections:

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In The Know: Oklahoma seeks to keep no-parole sentences for children

by | May 10th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (2)

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.

[Note: In The Know will be off tomorrow. We’ll return Monday.]

In The News

Oklahoma Seeks to Keep No-Parole Sentences for Children: Oklahoma’s Legislature is living up to its tough-on-crime reputation with the passage of a bill making it easier to send child offenders to prison with no chance for parole. While many states across the country are easing no-parole sentences for children, Oklahoma’s Republican-led Legislature shifted in the other direction this session and approved a bill to allow judges to put teenage offenders behind bars with no chance for release [Associated Press].

Governor Fallin “Carefully Analyzing” Bills Awaiting Her Signature: The end of Oklahoma’s legislative session left Governor Mary Fallin with dozens of bills to consider. The majority of them haven’t made headlines, but there are a few contentious measures sitting on her desk right now. The deadline to make a decision to sign or veto the bills is May 18th. If a bill doesn’t get the governor’s signature by then, it cannot become a law. To voice your support or opposition to the bills awaiting her signature, you can call the governor’s office at (405) 521-2342 [FOX25]. Ask Governor Fallin to veto these anti-family bills [OK Policy].

Hand-Picked Group to Begin Wielding Powers over State Agencies: A small group of unelected citizens, all appointed by Republican state leaders, will soon be exercising significant powers to decide how the state’s top agencies spend their funding and which services they should provide. Legislators and Gov. Mary Fallin added $2 million to the state budget this year to pay for state agency audits to be conducted by a private firm and overseen by a commission of Oklahoma business leaders [Oklahoma Watch].

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Proposed changes to SNAP won’t put people to work – but they will result in more people going hungry

USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

More than 800,000 Oklahomans need help putting food on the table every year, and they get that help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). In Oklahoma, SNAP provides help purchasing groceries for children, seniors, people with disabilities, and the working poor. SNAP also boosts the Oklahoma economy, bringing back $890 million to our grocers in 2017. But now these important benefits to individuals and Oklahoma are under attack.

Last month, the House Committee on Agriculture approved a proposed farm bill that will make significant changes to SNAP, including radical changes to the program’s work requirements. It would require more families to meet stricter requirements, and to do so more often.  Most adults with children would be required to work at least 20 hours each week, and to prove that they’re meeting this standard every month. This will be a tall order for many workers and those trying to find work, and it will likely mean a reduction (or a total elimination) of food assistance for many of them.

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In The Know: Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants

by | May 9th, 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 Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants: Nancy Novosad has spent the last 27 years surrounded by students in Yukon classrooms, but she’s not a teacher. She alternates between helping the teacher and helping the students. Novosad wipes noses, applies bandages, plans arts and crafts activities, opens milk cartons, leads story time, and packs and unpacks backpacks. She also passes out papers, explains assignments, takes students to the restroom and reinforces lessons taught by Elizabeth Wilson, a pre-K teacher at Ranchwood Elementary School [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma State Department of Health pursues ‘reset’ after financial scandal: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is pursuing a “relationship reset” with other state agencies as it moves forward from a financial mismanagement scandal, according to its interim leader. Interim commissioner Tom Bates told the Board of Health at its Tuesday morning meeting that department leadership was reconsidering how it works with other agencies, including the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) [NewsOK].

New Medicaid work requirement bill criticized as “cruel”: Opponents of a bill implementing work requirements for Medicaid claim the measure will do more harm than good. House Bill 2932, authored by Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa and Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin on Monday. The measure aligns Medicaid work and job training requirements with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which involves working, participation in a work program or a combination of both 20 hours a week [KFOR].

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With new work requirements, health care coverage for Oklahomans without internet access is at risk

by | May 8th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Aaron Krusniak is an OK Policy intern and a third-year Computer Science major at the University of Tulsa with a focus in cybersecurity and smart urban planning.

Between recently passed legislation and an Executive Order, Oklahoma is moving quickly to enact a policy allowing the state to kick low-income parents off their SoonerCare coverage if they fail to work for enough hours in a given week. Oklahoma officials must now develop a specific proposal to implement this idea and ask for approval from the federal government.

If the proposed work requirement takes effect, thousands of parents would be required to either work, volunteer, or participate in some form of job search or training activities for 20 hours each week in order to keep their health care. Recipients would also have to report these hours to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, most likely by uploading a timecard, pay stub, job application, or other paperwork to the OHCA’s website.

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs work requirement bill for some Medicaid recipients

by | May 8th, 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

Gov. Fallin signs work requirement bill for some Medicaid recipients: Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Monday controversial legislation that could lead to work or training requirements for some Medicaid recipients. House Bill 2932, by Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, instructs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority — administrator of the state’s Medicaid program — to seek a federal waiver allowing the same requirements for food stamp eligibility to be applied to Medicaid recipients [Tulsa World]. Most Medicaid-eligible adults who can work already do, and ​most of the rest have barriers to employment ​that ​a work requirement won’t fix [OK Policy].

Oklahoma legislators reject ethical rules restricting when they can become lobbyists: Oklahoma legislators have declared that what they do once they leave state service is none of a watchdog agency’s business. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission in February voted unanimously to bar legislators and other elected state officials from becoming lobbyists during their first two years out of office [NewsOK].

It shouldn’t be this hard to get something done to fund basic services: For the first time in 28 years legislators were able to pass a tax increase. It has taken that long to overcome the 75 percent threshold of SQ 640 that was the backlash from the ruinous economic downturn in the 1980s. But think for a minute about what it took to get that done. It should not take the threat of thirty to forty thousand teachers leaving their classrooms and literally occupying the Capitol for weeks to get something done. Now, the backlash, led by Tom Coburn, has already begun [OK Policy].

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It shouldn’t be this hard to get something done to fund basic services (Capitol Update)

by | May 7th, 2018 | Posted in 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.

As a non-voting participant in the process, from a distance and only on the issues in which I am involved, it’s not my place to pass judgment on the recent legislative session. But most of the commentaries on the productivity of this year’s session have been more positive than negative. It can be fairly described as historic. For the first time in 28 years legislators were able to pass a tax increase. It has taken that long to overcome the 75 percent threshold of SQ 640 that was the backlash from the ruinous economic downturn in the 1980s.

But think for a minute about what it took to get that done. It should not take the threat of thirty to forty thousand teachers leaving their classrooms and literally occupying the Capitol for weeks to get something done. Now, the backlash, led by Tom Coburn, has already begun. It will take maximum effort plus a lot of money to save the gains achieved. And just filing the petition may cause irreparable harm by stopping the funding until the election.

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In The Know: New budget won’t offset decades of cuts for some state agencies

by | May 7th, 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.

In The News

New budget won’t offset decades of cuts for some state agencies: Armed with a record $7.6 billion state budget and $474 million in new taxes and revenue hikes, Oklahoma lawmakers voted this year to boost spending for some agencies that have spent years cutting staff and services. [The Oklahoman] The FY 2019 Budget: Been down so long this looks like up [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Legislature wraps up 2018 session, heads home: The Oklahoma Legislature has wrapped up the 2018 legislative session, heading home early after a year that included two special sessions, massive teacher protests and a last-minute flurry of emotionally charged proposals. The House and Senate both adjourned late Thursday, three weeks earlier than required under the state Constitution. [AP]

5 Things That Happened During The 2018 Legislative Session: After two special sessions left over from last year’s budget woes, a teacher protest that lasted almost two weeks and more than a year of struggling to find funds for state services, lawmakers passed a $7.6 billion dollar state budget in April, the largest in state history. Here’s a few more of state lawmakers’ accomplishments this year. [KGOU]

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