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In The Know: Still no budget agreement days before special session

by | September 22nd, 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

Still No Budget Agreement Days Before Special Session: The governor is ordering the legislature to return to session Monday to fill a roughly $215 million budget shortfall. But as of right now, there’s no plan. The state faces the shortfall after the Supreme Court struck down a last minute tobacco tax passed by republicans after negotiations broke down with democrats. Democrats refused to support the tobacco tax without an increase in the gross production tax; that is, the tax on the production of oil and natural gas. [News9] Lawmakers have good revenue options for special session if they have the will to use them [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Democrats eyeing statewide vote to raise oil, gas tax rate: After repeated calls to raise the tax rate on oil and gas production to 7 percent, Democrats in the Oklahoma House said they might next push for a statewide vote. Raising the tax rate is part of House Democrats’ own budget plan, but despite pressure from both inside and outside the Capitol, Republican leadership has rejected those ideas. [The Oklahoman] How much new revenue will ending oil and gas tax breaks bring in? [OK Policy]

State’s New Education Plan Calls for Big Strides: Reducing schools’ use of emergency certified teachers by 95 percent and boosting high school graduation to 90 percent are some of the goals set by the state Education Department in its plan for education under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The state also proposes attacking hunger in schools and is considering forcing failing schools that are on a four-day school week to change their calendar. [Oklahoma Watch]

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In The Know: OU President Boren intends to retire in June after 23 years

by | September 21st, 2017 | 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

OU President Boren intends to retire in June after 23 years: A packed Reynolds Performing Arts Center had an idea of what was coming when University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren walked out to the podium without an introduction. The second-longest serving president in university history confirmed the rumors that were already circulating: he will retire at the end of the academic year, June 30, 2018. That is also contingent on finding a successor, Boren said, as he does not want to leave a vacancy in the position [Norman Transcript]. Oklahoma’s US Senators called Boren an Oklahoma institution [NewsOK]. Boren was hailed as one of state’s most accomplished leaders upon news of his retirement [KTUL].

Oklahoma has a second chance to get its budget right: Last month’s Supreme Court decision striking down a cigarette fee has opened a big hole in the state budget. But it also gives lawmakers a second chance to fix a budget that was not meeting the needs of Oklahomans even before the court’s ruling. The Legislature originally passed the cigarette fee as part of a last-ditch effort to fill Oklahoma’s nearly $1 billion budget shortfall and prevent even deeper cuts to our schools, health care, and other key services [David Blatt / Tulsa World].

Last-Ditch Effort By Republicans To Replace ACA: What You Need To Know: Republican efforts in Congress to “repeal and replace” the federal Affordable Care Act are back from the dead. Again. While the chances for this last-ditch measure appear iffy, many GOP senators are rallying around a proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), along with Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) They are racing the clock to round up the needed 50 votes — and there are 52 Senate Republicans [Kaiser Health News].

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How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws?

by | September 20th, 2017 | Posted in Criminal Justice, Healthcare | Comments (6)

Photo by Chuck Coker

Next year, Oklahomans will vote on State Question 788, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. As of 2017, 29 states have approved measures legalizing the drug for medical purposes. We often think of legalization in binary terms — either medical marijuana is allowed, or it isn’t — but in practice, the systems put in place by those 29 states to regulate the drug vary greatly. Each state has many choices to make about how patients can be prescribed marijuana, how much they can have, and where they get it from. Some states choose permissive systems that lead to higher numbers of patients and dispensaries; other states restrict prescriptions to people with specified conditions and few or no dispensaries.

In contrast with the states that left the design of most of those regulations to state agencies, the language of SQ 788 is specific on many details. It would put in place laws that decide how a person applies for and receives a license to use medical marijuana; the quantities that a license holder can possess; the qualifications and licensing process for retailers, growers, processors, and transporters; and the tax rate and distribution of revenue from sales. When compared to other systems, SQ 788 would put in place a system that is on the permissive side, but well within the current spectrum of laws.

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In The Know: Thunder owner Clayton Bennett is at the forefront of criminal justice reform

by | September 20th, 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

Thunder owner Clayton Bennett is at the forefront of criminal justice reform: From his 31st-floor office, Clay Bennett has a bird’s eye view of the county jail. It seems to sit especially heavy on land, unlike the tower where Bennett spends his days, which rises upwards with an air of aspiration. After years of ignoring something in plain sight, hardly a day goes by in which Bennett doesn’t think about the men and women in that jail, what led them there, and how to change a system he believes wastes Oklahoma City’s most precious resource: its people [Vera Institute].

Mayors of Tulsa, Oklahoma City discuss their cities’ potential, and Amazon, over luncheon: The mayors of Tulsa and Oklahoma City met for lunch Tuesday to discuss the challenges their cities face, briefly focusing on internet giant Amazon’s continent-wide search for the site of its second headquarters. After Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Mick Cornett, his counterpart from Oklahoma City, gave stump speeches on the challenges their cities face, the first question from an audience member went directly to the topic of Amazon [Tulsa World].

Rural recovery still dependent on oil and gas industry: The downturn in Oklahoma’s economy hit small communities harder than the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metros, but those towns are turning around now, according to Federal Reserve Bank economist Chad Wilkerson. As oil prices stabilized in late 2016 and the first half of this year, rural towns across the state showed a strong rebound, said Wilkerson, vice president of the Oklahoma City branch of the Fed [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Fallin provides wide range of special session topics

by | September 19th, 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

Fallin provides wide range of special session topics: When Gov. Mary Fallin announced a special legislative session last week, she authorized a broad scope of topics, which came as a surprise to several analysts and academics. On Friday, Fallin filed the executive order required to call the special session. When calling a special session, governors have to attach a list of potential topics. The list limits topics for legislators. Fallin authorized the Legislature to raise revenue or implement cuts to fill the $215 budget shortfall that appeared last month when the state Supreme Court struck down a cigarette fee. She also specified that they could work on teacher pay raise bills, make adjustments to a tax policy involving automobiles and work on long-term planning strategies for future budgets [Journal Record]. The lack of deadline opens possibilities for special session [Journal Record].

State’s New Education Plan Calls for Big Strides: Reducing schools’ use of emergency certified teachers by 95 percent and boosting high school graduation to 90 percent are some of the goals set by the state Education Department in its plan for education under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The state also proposes attacking hunger in schools and is considering forcing failing schools that are on a four-day school week to change their calendar [Oklahoma Watch].

Fallin offers legislators a chance to solve critical problems in the special session: Gov. Mary Fallin has called a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature to deal with a state budget hole of more than $200 million and other critical issues. The governor’s move for the Sept. 25 special session should have surprised no one. A Supreme Court decision striking a state cigarette tax had made it inevitable, and Fallin had telegraphed her intentions in advance. But the language Fallin used in calling the special session is notable. She outlined five recommendations for the Legislature to consider, an agenda that goes well beyond plugging the funding hole created by the unconstitutional cigarette tax [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

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Lawmakers have good revenue options for special session if they have the will to use them

by | September 18th, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (1)

Governor Fallin has officially called the Oklahoma Legislature into a special session beginning September 25 in order to fix the state budget, which has a more than $200 million hole due to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s rejection of a cigarette fee. However, the specific way that lawmakers address the budget hole is still up for grabs, and various state leaders have laid out very different visions of what they hope to come out of it.

Even before the court threw out the cigarette fee, Oklahoma’s state budget massively underfunded core services. The budget was worsening the teacher shortage, forcing the closure of senior nutrition sites, cutting support for foster families, taking money out of child support, and not even beginning to undo the damage to our communities caused by years of cuts. On top of that, its use of more than $400 million in one-time funds has already dug a large budget hole going into next year. With the upcoming special session, lawmakers have a second chance to fix the budget by passing widely-supported revenue options.

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In The Know: Fallin calls for a wide-ranging special session on the budget, teachers, vehicle tax

by | September 18th, 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

Fallin calls for a wide-ranging special session on the budget, teachers, vehicle tax: Gov. Mary Fallin issued a much-anticipated order Friday calling the Legislature into a special session on Sept. 25 to rectify a $215 million budget shortfall. In addition to an immediate budget solution, Fallin called on the Legislature to find a long-term fix to repeated budget shortfalls, find waste within state government, consider pay increases for K-12 teachers and amend a new 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles. [The Oklahoman] Education advocates cheer inclusion of teacher pay in special session [The Oklahoman] Don’t waste second chance to get the budget right [OK Policy]

Agencies brace for cuts as lawmakers return in special session: State agencies are bracing for possible additional cuts during an upcoming special session, but are hopeful lawmakers can find revenue to avoid it. Lawmakers could attempt to pass revenue raising measures, cut state agencies to offset the blow to the three affected agencies or do nothing. They can also use $23 million from the state’s Rainy Day fund and $83 million in cash. [Tulsa World]

DHS Announces New Child Support Services Fee: In an attempt to balance its budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced Friday it would charge a new fee on child support collections. “We’ve done everything internally and administratively that the agency can possibly do,” said Jeff Wagner, Child Support Services (CSS) spokesperson. “That leaves this fee as one of the very few remaining alternatives to being able to maintain a viable program.” [News9]

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The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma falls further behind the nation on poverty and uninsured rate

by | September 15th, 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

Policy Director Gene Perry informed us that Oklahoma has fallen further behind the nation as a whole on poverty and the uninsured rate, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Executive Director David Blatt adds that the loss of federal funds to prevent teenage pregnancy means we’re likely to undo much of the progress we’ve made on that front as well.

Blatt explained that the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent rulings striking down the cigarette fee and upholding the removal of a sales tax exemption for motor vehicles strike a balance on the taxation rules put in place by State Question 640. Blatt also pointed out the importance of government and its programs, especially during disasters – because there are no libertarians in a flood zone. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update laments the lack of progress that has been made on criminal justice reform.

OK Policy in the News

Perry was interviewed by the Stillwater News Press and Public Radio Tulsa about Oklahoma’s lack of progress on poverty and the uninsured rate – at a time when the national average was going down, our numbers were flat and still higher than the national average.

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Despite warnings, little has been done to ease prison and jail overcrowding (Capitol Update)

by | September 15th, 2017 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Criminal Justice | 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 has now become ritual, the Department of Corrections (DOC) is sounding the alarm about the overcrowding of Oklahoma’s Corrections system. It was announced last week that DOC reached another population record with 63,009 people in its system, marking the third significant population increase in less than a year. It was also announced that the Board of Corrections, when it meets this month, will likely be asked to consider what DOC Director Joe Allbaugh has described as a community release-based program. The yet undefined program is expected to release lower-risk prisoners to some sort of community supervision for part or all of the last 18 months of their sentences.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford is co-sponsoring legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries

by | September 15th, 2017 | 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 Sen. James Lankford is co-sponsoring legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries: U.S. Sen. James Lankford will co-sponsor legislation to protect from deportation young people brought to America by undocumented immigrants. Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, told CNN on Thursday that he has worked for weeks with U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., on a legislative alternative to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order by former President Barack Obama that was rescinded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Sept. 5. “These individuals are literally in limbo, people without a country. We have to be able to resolve this,” Lankford said [NewsOK]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

Mike Jackson: ‘Fix our structural problems in Oklahoma’: In August, the State Chamber of Oklahoma promoted Mike Jackson to executive vice president of vice president of government and political affairs. Jackson represented his hometown of Enid in the House of Representatives from 2005 to 2014. In the Q&A below, Jackson discusses the chamber’s OK2030 campaign, the desires of state business interests and a reason why the chamber supports accepting federal funding for some sort of expansion of health coverage for lower-income Oklahomans [NonDoc].

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