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In The Know: Political rivals strike deal on wind power tax

by | April 23rd, 2018 | Posted in Blog | 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

Political rivals strike deal on wind power tax: Oklahoma House leaders have reached a deal with Democrats for a new tax on wind power. The agreement came after a morning of closed-door meetings on both sides of the aisle. [The Oklahoman] Lawmakers Close To Deal On Wind Energy Tax [News on 6]

In Edmond, SQ 788 debaters try to cut through the haze on medical marijuana: Several minutes into his opening remarks, August Rivera grabbed a dozen bags containing 72 ounces of gummy bears — the quantity of edible marijuana that would be allowed under State Question 788 — and dumped them on the floor in front of his lectern to show the amount residents may soon possess. [The Oklahoman] State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OK Policy]

Sanctuary cities standoff sidetracks OKC police grant: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ crusade against so-called sanctuary cities is jeopardizing crime-fighting funds that Oklahoma City has relied on for years. Bogged down by a lawsuit with the city of Chicago, the U.S. Justice Department has delayed the release of federal grants that normally would have been awarded last fall. [The Oklahoman]

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The Weekly Wonk: New reserve fund could siphon new revenue from education

by | April 20th, 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.

In last week’s What’s That?, we failed to note that Oklahoma no longer administers End-of-Instruction exams.  We apologize for the outdated information and appreciate those who called the error to our attention.

This Week from OK Policy

The special legislative session has officially concluded – check out our Special Session FAQ’s for a review of what happened. Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column laid out the accomplishments of the recent teacher walkout – though it didn’t yield great gains at the capitol, the walkout did demonstrate the deep public support for teachers and public education. Blatt also cautioned us about a new reserve fund created in 2016 that could siphon some of the new revenue intended for education spending. 

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler discussed the potential promise of misdemeanor drug courts, and reminded us that a larger investment in substance abuse service will also be necessary. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update gave us a preview of next year’s legislature – it will look quite different due to some members voluntarily stepping down and others being forced out by term limits. And don’t forget to check out our Bill Watch post for a rundown of what we’ll be paying attention to next week.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with the News on 6 about the proposed veto referendum on the funding package for teacher pay raises. Director of Strategy & Communications Gene Perry was quoted by Education Week about the need for those teacher pay raises. And OK Policy data was used by CNHI, the Washington Post, and The Nation in their coverage of the recent education funding package.

Upcoming Opportunities

Just a few days left to apply to join the OK Policy team! We are seeking an experienced and effective operations and development associate to provide support for OK Policy’s day to day operations, donor and grant management, and event coordination. Applications are due on April 23rd – click here for more information or to apply.

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Bill Watch: Next week in #okleg | April 20, 2018

by | April 20th, 2018 | Posted in Bill Watch | Comments (0)

Yesterday, the Oklahoma Legislature adjourned sine die from special session. The tax increases approved in special session to pay for a teacher raise and other increases in school funding will go into effect 90 days after that sine die date they were signed by Governor Fallin, unless they are delayed by a veto petition. Legislative leaders also said they will try to pass a budget in the next couple weeks so that the regular Legislative session can end early, adjourning in the first week of May. That means just a few legislative days remain for any bills still alive but not yet passed to make it through.

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In The Know: Oklahoma special session ends; regular session continues next week

by | April 20th, 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

Oklahoma Special Session Ends; Regular 2018 Legislative Session Continues Next Week: A special session of the Oklahoma Legislature that produced a historic tax bill ended Thursday afternoon when the House adjourned sine die from what was technically an extension of the 2017 legislative term. The Senate adjourned the special session sine die on Tuesday. The House and Senate will continue with the regular 2018 session next week, with the first item on the agenda said to be a new tax on renewable energy generation [Tulsa World]. Hamilton: Legislative session from hell might end early [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record]. Everything you should know about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OKPolicy].

Wind Debate Anything but Calm: Despite a guarantee that the state House of Representatives would hear a bill to change tax credits for wind power, the measure never appeared on the floor Thursday, and lawmakers said they are switching gears. Top-ranking House Republicans held a press conference on Wednesday to address concerns and potential misinformation about the fiscal 2019 budget [Journal Record]. Wind tax reform pitched despite litigation threat [The Ada News].

Budget Agreement Near?: A key budget negotiator in the Oklahoma House says lawmakers are nearing a final agreement on a spending plan and are hoping to adjourn this year’s legislative session three weeks early. House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Wallace said Wednesday he expects to finalize a deal this week with the Senate and governor’s office on a $7.6 billion budget that includes slight funding increases for most state agencies. He said larger spending increases are targeted for the departments of corrections, human services, and mental health and substance abuse services [Tulsa Public Radio].

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In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers close to passing Medicaid work requirements

by | April 19th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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 Lawmakers Close to Passing Medicaid Work Requirements: State lawmakers appear poised to direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to come up with Medicaid work requirements matching those for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Oklahoma Senate passed House Bill 2932 on a 31–11 vote Wednesday, sending it back to the House for final approval [Public Radio Tulsa]. Oklahoma ​should avoid the temptation to pass new medicaid​ restrictions​ [OKPolicy]. Advocacy Alert: Stop Attacks on SoonerCare [OK Policy].

Feds Again Deny State’s Attempt to Use Medicaid Funds to Train Doctors: The state will have to find another way to help fund graduate medical education by July 2019 if it wants to use Medicaid matching funds after the federal government denied the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s latest bid to fix the program’s funding issues. If a solution can’t be found, the state will have to continue to pick up an estimated $110 million in annual funding for residency programs at medical schools run by the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma House Leaders Expect to Finish Legislative Session Early, with Budget Agreement Close: Leaders in the Oklahoma House expect to end the legislative session by May 4, well ahead of the deadline, they said Wednesday. Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said plans are for the House session to end by the first week in May. Legislators legally must be done with their work by 5 p.m. May 25 [Tulsa World]. 

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Unheralded law puts increased funding in doubt

by | April 18th, 2018 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (3)

Image by photosteve101/Creative Commons via flickr

Lawmakers this year have approved over half a billion in new taxes to pay for a package of spending measures, including increased pay for teachers, support staff, and state workers, and increased operating support for schools. While the new obligations are almost fully funded for the first year, in future years legislators are counting on growth revenue from an expanding economy to meet the spending commitments they’ve already made and to do more for education and other critical priorities.

But leaving economic uncertainties aside, there’s a hitch. Under a law passed quietly in 2016, several hundred million dollars could be directed automatically to a new budget reserve fund in FY 2020, rather than being available to meet funding commitments. Unless lawmakers revisit the law this session, they may find themselves facing major unexpected budget problems a year from now.

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In The Know: Lawmakers advance criminal justice reform

by | April 18th, 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

Lawmakers advance criminal justice reform: After almost a year of doubt and weeks of waiting for movement at the Oklahoma Capitol, lawmakers advanced seven bills that would mark the state’s next step in criminal justice reform. Senate Floor Leader Greg Treat said the proposals that could reach Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk this week are significant to reducing Oklahoma’s prison population, but he acknowledged there’s still more work to do [NewsOK]. With little fanfare, Oklahoma House approves two long-suffering criminal justice bills [Tulsa World]. Passing revised justice reform measures is necessary but not nearly enough [OK Policy].

Lawmakers in House, Senate leaving Capitol politics: Almost two dozen Oklahoma lawmakers will leave office before triggering term limits, and many of those are leaving electoral politics altogether. It’s easy to blame their departure on the frustrating politics they’ve experienced at the Oklahoma Legislature over the past two years, but most downplay the negatives and focus on the benefits of leaving office [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Legislature’s Special Session Continues With Bill Allocating Fuel Tax Hikes: The Oklahoma House sent the Senate a special-session measure on Tuesday to dedicate recent fuel tax increases to road and bridge repairs. House Bill 1014X specifies revenue from 3 cent gas and 6 cent diesel tax hikes will go into the account for state highway and bridge repair, known as the ROADS Fund. Some Democrats cried foul [Public Radio Tulsa]. Everything you should know about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OK Policy].

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Updating drug courts is important, but Oklahoma must invest in all forms of substance abuse treatment

by | April 17th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (2)

In the wake of the passage of SQ 780, which reclassified simple drug possession as a misdemeanor, legislators and advocates began to discuss how the state should adjust its approach to substance abuse. Among the most pressing questions was what would happen to drug courts: District Attorneys warned that people with addictions wouldn’t opt into the drug courts’ intense 18 to 36 month treatment regimen if they faced a maximum penalty of only a year in jail. Without the “hammer” of a longer prison sentence, the DAs have contended that they cannot force a defendant into seeking treatment, leaving them to return to their addictions and the escalating crime that addiction fuels.

Legislators have considered several proposals to address these issues in the 2018 session, and one of them looks likely to pass. HB 2881 would allow defendants to access drug court programs without the approval of the District Attorney’s office, potentially opening the program for more defendants seeking help. As Oklahoma continues to adjust to SQ 780, evidence from other states provides lessons that our lawmakers should consider: drug courts can work for misdemeanor defendants, and increasing funding for treatment before a person enters the justice system is the most effective way to combat substance abuse.

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In The Know: Back in class but not backing off: Teachers remain committed to push for education funding

by | April 17th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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

Back in class but not backing off: Teachers remain committed to push for education funding: After 10 school days, including one holiday, Miami teachers returned to their classrooms. One by one many school districts across the state still participating in the walkout are making the decision to go back to school following the two week Oklahoma Teacher Walkout. Not all districts or teachers were ready to return feeling more could be accomplished by remaining on the walkout [Miami News-Record]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Ballot Questions Could Boost Teacher Pay or Put Raises at Risk: The end of the widespread teacher walkout doesn’t mean questions surrounding Oklahoma’s education funding are settled. Voters will head to the polls this November to chose Oklahoma’s next governor and elect a large swath of the Legislature. But it’s a pair of proposed state questions, which may or may not ultimately appear on the ballot, that could decide if teachers lose recently approved raises or possibly receive further pay increases [KGOU].

Advocates, Prosecutors See Promise in Revised Criminal Justice Reform Bills: Oklahoma’s prison population will continue to grow in the years ahead — the only question is how much. A marquee slate of criminal justice reform bills fall short of what Gov. Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force recommended a little over a year ago to curb incarceration rates and provide alternatives to prison. By 2025, the prison population will be 30,947 if the six bills pass as currently written, according to an analysis from FWD.us, a national group that specializes in immigration and criminal justice data [Oklahoma Watch]. Passing revised justice reform measures is necessary but not nearly enough [OK Policy].

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Next year’s Legislature will look different (Capitol Update)

by | April 16th, 2018 | Posted in 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.

No matter what happens in the elections — which promises to be plenty — the legislature next year is going to look, sound, and be very different. Thirty-two, nearly one-third, of the House seats are open. Many who are voluntarily leaving early have had an important impact. It will be strange indeed to see the legislature convene next year without the presence of these members.

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