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The Weekly Wonk: Special session a second chance for lawmakers to get the budget right

by | September 10th, 2017 | 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

After Governor Fallin’s announcement that she is calling a special session beginning September 25, OK Policy released a statement urging lawmakers not to waste this second chance to get the budget right. State Question 640 is a significant hurdle to good budgeting in Oklahoma, and Rep. Marcus McEntire argued in a guest post that it’s time to revisit SQ 640 so government can work effectively for its citizens. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler implored Congress to pass legislation protecting DACA recipients after President Trump’s decision last week to end the DACA program.

Executive Director David Blatt suggested in his Journal Record column that the recent court decision upholding the partial repeal of the state sales tax exemption on motor vehicles should be seen as a blow to special interests – they can no longer argue that their tax exemptions have special constitutional protection. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argues that the court decision sets a new course for Oklahoma politics – the majority party now has leeway to remove tax exemptions (effectively raising taxes) with only a majority vote.

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Gene Perry spoke with The Oklahoman about the Legislature’s options for fixing the budget in special session – lawmakers have many good options, like removing some tax exemptions that don’t benefit the average Oklahoman. The Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University cited OK Policy data in an editorial expressing disapproval of the President’s decision to end DACA.

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Auto tax ruling has newly defined course of Oklahoma history (Capitol Update)

by | September 8th, 2017 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Taxes | 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.

The Supreme Court ruled last week on the constitutionality of HB 2433 that, last session, removed the sales tax exemption and added a 1.25 percent sales tax on the sale of motor vehicles. Boy, was I wrong!! I would have bet the farm that the court would hold HB 2433 in violation of SQ 640 and unconstitutional. The ruling was a 5-4 decision with the opinion being written by the newest member of the Court, Justice Patrick Wyrick. If Justice Wyrick, who was one-day short of 11 years old when SQ 640 was passed by a vote of the people, does nothing else remarkable in what will probably be a lengthy tenure on the Court, he along with the four justices who joined him have newly defined the course of Oklahoma history. In fact, this decision is no less sweeping than the original passage of SQ 640 in 1992.

I read both the majority opinion and the separate minority opinions, and I still think HB 2433 should have been held unconstitutional. But guess what? If the Court made a mistake, the right to make that mistake belongs to it. This is a good time for me and those who might feel the same way to remember that reasonable minds can differ. The members of the Court, all rational people of good will, have deliberated and ruled. Now it’s time for the people and the political branches of government to work with it.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Latest Front As Military and Wind Developers Fight For Open Sky

by | September 8th, 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

Oklahoma Latest Front As Military and Wind Developers Fight For Open Sky: Developers recently announced plans to build the country’s largest wind farm in Oklahoma’s Panhandle. The industry is growing and turbine projects are expanding across the state. But wind energy developers are facing a new headwind: military air bases. The C-17 is the pack mule of the United States military. It’s designed to lift and transport troops, tanks and even helicopters. It’s an enormous aircraft that casts an ominous, looming shadow as it taxis to takeoff [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy: President Trump recently announced his plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by the start of next March. DACA, created by executive order by President Obama in 2012, protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. Many of these young immigrants, commonly known as “dreamers”, came to this country at such a young age that they don’t remember living anywhere else. In Oklahoma, 6,865 initial DACA applications have been approved as of March 2017, about 75 percent of the eligible population [OK Policy]. U.S. Rep. Steve Russell said Thursday he opposes efforts to end protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program [NewsOK].

Inhofe and Lankford split over Harvey relief and debt ceiling bill: A compromise between President Donald Trump and leading Democrats to provide $15.25 billion in hurricane disaster aid, fund the government for three months and raise the nation’s debt limit divided Oklahoma’s Republican U.S. senators Thursday. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, voted in favor of the legislation and Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, voted against it [NewsOK].

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Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy

by | September 7th, 2017 | Posted in Immigration | Comments (0)

DACA recipient and Teacher for America corps member Marissa Molina (Source)

Visit the Dream Act Toolkit website and urge your legislators to pass the Dream Act.

President Trump recently announced his plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by the start of next March. DACA, created by executive order by President Obama in 2012, protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. Many of these young immigrants, commonly known as “dreamers”, came to this country at such a young age that they don’t remember living anywhere else.

In Oklahoma, 6,865 initial DACA applications have been approved as of March 2017, about 75 percent of the eligible population. The plan to end DACA puts the legal status of these Oklahomans and almost 800,000 young people across the country up in the air, jeopardizing their ability to work and live in the U.S. Even more troubling, the federal government now has a great deal of information about the people who submitted applications. This information that the government attained by promising protection from deportation could potentially be used to make it easier to find and deport them.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Legislature will be recalled for special session

by | September 7th, 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

Oklahoma Legislature will be recalled for special sessionIn the wake of a court ruling that stripped $215 million from four agency budgets, Gov. Mary Fallin said she will call a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature. The governor said she officially will call a special session within a few days, and that it would convene Sept. 25. In August, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected lawmakers’ attempt to raise revenue from cigarettes, saying the Legislature implemented an unconstitutional tax [NewsOK]. Lawmakers have a second chance to get the budget right, and they shouldn’t waste it [OK Policy].

Oklahoma higher education officials await special session on state budget shortfall: A midyear adjustment would cost higher education about $25 million if lawmakers decide to make an across-the-board budget cut to make up for revenue they expected to get from a cigarette “fee” ruled unconstitutional. The 3.17 percent cut in funding would be in addition to the 6.1 percent cut higher education already absorbed in the fiscal year 2018 budget, Amanda Paliotta said Wednesday in a report to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s ACT scores drop as record number takes test: Oklahoma’s ACT scores dropped in every category this year, and the state’s composite score fell below 20 for the first time this decade. The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test that measures the skills taught in schools and deemed important for success in first-year college courses. The number of Oklahoma students taking the ACT increased from 28,988 in 2016 to 42,405 this year as a result of the state Education Department funding the test for all juniors statewide [NewsOK].

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Statement: Don’t waste second chance to get the budget right

by | September 6th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (0)

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on Governor Fallin’s announcement that she is calling a special session beginning September 25:

Governor Fallin did what’s right for Oklahoma by calling a special session to prevent severe cuts to basic health care services for our people. Now lawmakers have a second chance to get the budget right, and they shouldn’t waste it. They have many good options to raise the revenues needed to protect our schools, health care, and public safety from yet another round of damaging cuts. It’s time to get beyond political gridlock, make the agreements necessary to pass recurring revenues, and stop kicking the can down the road with one-time funds or across-the-board cuts.

In The Know: Deadline placed on DACA, creating uncertainty for thousands of Oklahomans

by | September 6th, 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

Deadline placed on DACA, creating uncertainty for thousands of Oklahomans: For nearly 7,500 undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma, many of whom have only known a life in the United States, deportation relief found under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, will come to an end in six months without an act of Congress. On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced an “orderly wind down” of the program that gave children brought into the country illegally a path to employment, higher education and comfort in knowing they would not be the target of immigration enforcement [NewsOK]. Both of Oklahoma’s federal senators support President Donald Trump’s decision to return immigration policy to Congress, but their responses and backgrounds indicate a possible split in opinions on what Congress should do next [NewsOK]. 

Oklahoma City superintendent says ending DACA “will be a devastating blow” to the district: Oklahomans are reacting after the Trump administration formally announced the end of DACA — a program that had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program and has formally rescinded the Obama administration policy. Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora says that many DACA recipients are students in the district, while others work as staff members at various schools around the city [KFOR]. OU President David Boren also expressed support for DACA recipients [Norman Transcript]. Groups gathered at Oklahoma State University and elsewhere to protest the executive action [Tulsa World].

It’s time to revisit State Question 640: When I was elected to the House, I knew the job would be challenging and there would be many obstacles. But at the end of my first legislative session, I realized there is a certain well-intentioned constitutional provision in place that proves to be an extraordinary hurdle to effective legislating. This hurdle is State Question 640, which voters approved in 1992. SQ 640 changed Oklahoma’s constitution to require either a majority vote of the people or a three-fourths majority vote in the Legislature to raise any tax [Rep. Marcus McEntire / OK Policy].

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It’s time to revisit State Question 640 (Guest Post: Rep. Marcus McEntire)

by | September 5th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (10)

Rep. Marcus McEntire

Marcus McEntire is a freshman Republican legislator representing HD 50 (Duncan). A small business owner, he attended and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in communication studies, earned a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Virginia.

When I was elected to the House, I knew the job would be challenging and there would be many obstacles. But at the end of my first legislative session, I realized there is a certain well-intentioned constitutional provision in place that proves to be an extraordinary hurdle to effective legislating.  

This hurdle is State Question 640, which voters approved in 1992. SQ 640 changed Oklahoma’s constitution to require either a majority vote of the people or a three-fourths majority vote in the Legislature to raise any tax.

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In The Know: Tax ruling expands Oklahoma’s budget options

by | September 5th, 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

Tax ruling expands Oklahoma’s budget options: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that upheld the automobile sales tax could give lawmakers an easier way to raise revenue. The court defined the difference between creating a new tax, which requires a supermajority vote, and modifying a tax exemption, which only needs a simple majority to pass. Vehicle sales have historically been exempt from sales tax, but the Legislature removed part of the exemption in May [NewsOK]. Read our statement on the ruling [OK Policy].

Rep. Jim Bridenstine nominated as next NASA administrator: U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine has been nominated to be the next administrator of NASA, the White House announced Friday night. Bridenstine, a 42-year-old Tulsa Republican, had taken the unusual approach of making clear his interest in the job. Bridenstine’s nomination will now head to the Senate for confirmation [NewsOK]. Florida’s senators voiced opposition to the appointment [Politico]. It’s unclear whether a special election will be held to replace Bridenstine [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s 2018 ballot will include state questions: Each year, Oklahomans get a chance to vote on state questions that make both minor and major changes in law. Already, there are three that could be put on the November 2018 ballot. Voters will decide whether to approve medical marijuana. A petition drive last year narrowly gathered enough signatures to appear on the ballot, but organizers of the campaign finished too late to secure a 2016 vote [NewsOK]. 

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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have multiple options to fill the budget hole, Special session necessary to avoid even bigger budget problems

by | September 3rd, 2017 | 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

OK Policy issued a statement following Thursday’s ruling upholding a law that partially ends the state sales tax exemption for auto sales – the ruling confirms that lawmakers have many options to fill the budget hole in a special session. Policy Director Gene Perry argued that, if lawmakers wait until the next regular session to address the budget hole, it will be too late.  The longer we wait to fix the problem, the worse it will get.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt found reason for optimism in Oklahoma’s recent attempts to make the Affordable Care Act work better for Oklahomans. Steve Lewis’s Capitol update was  less optimistic about Oklahoma’s approach to education policy – inadequate school funding and a lack of support for teachers has led Oklahoma to an education crisis.

OK Policy in the News

The Guardian used OK Policy materials for a story about the fiscal crisis in Oklahoma, and Blatt was interviewed by WHSU public radio about the crisis.  Connecticut is also facing fiscal challenges, though for different reasons.

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler spoke with Public Radio Tulsa about disparities in court debt between affluent and poor neighborhoods in Tulsa. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s presentation to the Occupational Licensing Task Force was mentioned by the Oklahoman Editorial Board for their editorial in support of licensing reform.

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