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New Census data shows Oklahoma fell further behind the U.S. on poverty and uninsured rate in 2016

by | September 14th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (2)

New Census data shows the percentage of families living in poverty in Oklahoma increased in 2016, even as the national poverty rate declined to its lowest point since 2008. In 2016, almost one out of six Oklahomans (16.3 percent) were making less than the poverty line ($24,230 a year for a family of four) before taxes. About 9,500 more Oklahomans had incomes below the poverty line in 2016 than in 2015.

Oklahoma’s poverty rate increased even as the poverty rate for the United States as a whole fell to 14.0 percent. These national improvements widened the gap between Oklahoma and the U.S. as a whole. Oklahoma’s poverty rate in 2016 was 9th highest out of all 50 states.

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In The Know: DACA forum sparks discussion about uncertain future

by | September 14th, 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

DACA forum sparks discussion about uncertain future: Briseyda Amador was 2 years old when her parents moved from Mexico to Oklahoma City in 2000. The Dove Science Academy senior has set goals that include being the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. Those plans, however, are on hold for Amador, 18, one of nearly 7,500 undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma who could lose deportation protections found under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, unless Congress acts by March 5 [NewsOK]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

As special elections continue, voter participation lower than expected: Special elections always spur low voter turnout, but some Oklahoma political analysts said recent election turnout has been even lower than expected. At best, the special elections are drawing half the voters that general elections did in the same districts. Some onlookers blamed 2016’s grueling presidential campaign, the sheer number of special elections and voter fatigue. Others offered simpler explanations: strange dates and quiet campaigns [Journal Record]. Who are these non-voters, why aren’t they voting, and what can we do about it? [OK Policy]

Democrats, special elections and base closures: Clearing the desk on a Wednesday morning: With Jacob Rosecrants’ surprisingly easy victory in Norman on Tuesday, Oklahoma Democrats have now picked up a total of five legislative seats in special elections since the middle of 2015. That’s not exactly a tidal wave, and so far they’ve only had to defend one of those — which they did successfully — but it does suggest a more energized core. Special elections usually have lower turnout and are easier for a committed base to sway [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

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Upcoming Event: The Atlantic and Reveal hosting OKC discussion of ‘The Experience of Women and Children Behind Bars’

by | September 13th, 2017 | Posted in Criminal Justice, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The Atlantic magazine, in collaboration with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, is hosting a discussion with state and national criminal justice leaders about female incarceration in Oklahoma.

You can register for the event here.

From the organizers:

For decades, Oklahoma has led the nation in the rate at which it incarcerates women. Why?

As the state grapples with an emerging political consensus around criminal justice reform, The Atlantic will seek to understand the experiences of women affected by the state’s justice system. What are the underlying reasons — legal, political, social, emotional — behind their incarceration? What are the impacts on children, families, communities and the women themselves? And what might proposed reforms mean for women in particular?

When: Wednesday September 20, 2017, 1:00pm – 5:00pm

Where: Will Rogers Theatre, 4322 N. Western Avenue, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73118

Speakers: 

  • Ziva Branstetter, Senior Editor, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting
  • Governor Mary Fallin
  • David Fritze, Executive Editor, Oklahoma Watch
  • Sheila Harbert, Chief Community Outreach Officer, Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma
  • Allison Herrera, Multimedia Reporter and Social Media Editor, Public Radio International
  • Steve Kunzweiler, District Attorney, Tulsa County
  • D’Marria Monday, National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls
  • Laura Pitman, Director of Population, Programs and Strategic Planning, Oklahoma Department of Corrections
  • Malika Saada Saar, Senior Counsel, Civil and Human Rights, Google
  • Susan Sharp, Presidential Professor Emerita of Sociology, University of Oklahoma
  • Kris Steele, Executive Director, The Education and Employment Ministry
  • Alison Stewart, Contributing Editor, The Atlantic
  • Mimi Tarrasch, Executive Senior Program Director, Women in Recovery

 

In The Know: Democrats win special election in Norman

by | September 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

Democrats win special election in Norman: Oklahoma Democrats added another seat to their House membership Tuesday as Jacob Rosecrants beat Darin Chambers to fill an unexpired term. The Norman House seat was previously held by Scott Martin, who left the Legislature to run the Norman Chamber of Commerce. It is the third House or Senate seat Democrats have taken from the GOP in special elections this year alone [NewsOK].

State Sen. Bryce Marlatt resigns: State Sen. Bryce Marlatt resigned Tuesday, effective immediately, six days after being charged with sexual battery. Marlatt, R-Woodward, was processed and released at the Oklahoma County jail Tuesday morning and then made his first court appearance in the felony case. He was charged last week, accused of making sexual advances toward a female Uber driver in June. The driver, who is 41, told police that Marlatt forcefully grabbed her while she was driving and kissed her on the neck, police reported [NewsOK]. It’s one of four sex scandals at the Oklahoma Capitol in 2017 [Associated Press].

Former Fallin assistant charged after allegation he took up-skirt pictures of protester at state Capitol: The former executive aide and personal assistant to Gov. Mary Fallin was charged Tuesday with offering false or fraudulent evidence and destroying evidence following an allegation he took a picture up a woman’s dress at the state Capitol. Travis Goss Brauer resigned effective July 11 after the Oklahoma Highway Patrol started an investigation into an allegation he used to his cellphone to take a picture up the skirt of a protestor at a House budget meeting late May 23 and then allegedly destroyed evidence [Tulsa World].

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Supreme Court strikes a balance on State Question 640

by | September 12th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

“The purpose and intent of State Question 640 is now eviscerated…” So declared Oklahoma Chief Justice Douglas Combs in a dissent to last month’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding a new state law that partially removed a tax exemption on motor vehicle sales. For former House Speaker Steve Lewis, the Court’s ruling is “no less sweeping than the original passage of SQ 640 in 1992.”

Yet this ruling came just weeks after the Court unanimously struck down a law establishing a $1.50-per-package smoking cessation fee as a violation of State Question 640. In both cases, the Legislature had passed tax-related bills without heed to the constitutional requirement, set by passage of State Question 640, that revenue bills be approved by three-quarters votes in the Legislature or by a vote of the people.

Is there a contradiction between the Court’s rulings in the two cases? And has State Question 640 now been eviscerated?  I contend that the answer to both questions is no.  The two rulings — both authored by Justice Patrick Wyrick, the Court’s newest member and the sole appointee of Governor Fallin — together strike the balance that increases in tax rates are subject to the supermajority requirements of SQ 640 while measures that remove a tax exemption are not.

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In The Know: In Search of New Ways to Tame Opioid Crisis

by | September 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

In Search of New Ways to Tame Opioid Crisis: Oklahoma is among the nation’s leaders in combating the opioid epidemic in some ways, but it lags in others. The question of what more Oklahoma can do to reduce the hundreds of fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers each year will hover over the 2018 legislative session. A commission chaired by Attorney General Mike Hunter plans to recommend by Dec. 1 new strategies for attacking the scourge. Some or all of its proposals will be folded into legislation [Oklahoma Watch].

Legislative seats, city projects on Oklahoma ballots Tuesday: Legislative seats in Norman and Tulsa, sales tax initiatives for improvements in Oklahoma City and a sheriff’s race in the state’s largest county are among the items on special elections ballots on Tuesday. Voters in Norman’s House District 46 will select a new legislator to replace former Republican state Rep. Scott Martin, who resigned in May to take a position as director of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce [Associated Press].

New state revenue begins to flow: Gross receipts have come in for most of the state’s new sources of revenue, and for the most part, they’re meeting expectations. Despite the political gridlock that killed most revenue proposals during the legislative session, lawmakers managed to pass five tax and fee bills, including one that survived a state Supreme Court challenge. The measures placed new fees on sports tickets and nixed a sales tax exemption on automobiles [Journal Record]. Despite the passage of some new revenues, this year’s budget leaves Oklahoma services massively underfunded [OK Policy].

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Loss of federal prevention funds will lead to more unintended teen pregnancies

by | September 11th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

If we want to make sure every Oklahoman has the chance to become a productive, healthy adult, then preventing teen pregnancies is one of the most important things we can do. While some teen mothers and their children manage to beat the odds, giving birth before completing one’s education and being prepared to parent greatly increases the likelihood of being trapped in a cycle of misfortune.

Research finds that only about 50 percent of women who become teenage mothers earn a high school diploma by age 22 and only around 10 percent will graduate from college. Two in five mothers who give birth before age 20 are living in poverty within the first year of their child’s birth. The children of teen parents have a higher risk for low birth weight and infant mortality, have lower school achievement and more behavioral problems, and are more likely  to be incarcerated at some time during adolescence.

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In The Know: Within Teacher Shortage, Pool of Special Education Teachers Dwindles

by | September 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

Within Teacher Shortage, Pool of Special Education Teachers Dwindles: Special education teachers have become so scarce that districts face fierce competition to find and keep good candidates and sometimes leave open positions unfilled. That’s why late one night last month, Ponca City Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Arrott sprang into action when she heard the distinctive ding of her cell phone. The alert meant a job application had been submitted online to the district. She scrambled to arrange an interview the next morning for the applicant [Oklahoma Watch]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Lawmakers gear for a fight as special session approaches: Lawmakers are gearing up for a fight that looks remarkably similar to one that played out in May when House Democrats and Republicans couldn’t come to an agreement to plug the budget hole. Gov. Mary Fallin last week said she planned to call lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session after the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with those who challenged a $1.50 cigarette “fee,” saying it was passed unconstitutionally [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers have a second chance to get the budget right, and they shouldn’t waste it [OK Policy]. Oklahoma has cancelled its annual dignitary trip to Taiwan after Gov. Mary Fallin announced she will call a Sept. 25 special session to address the state’s health care budget hole [NonDoc]. In preparation for a special session, legislative staffers asked agency officials what a 3.17-percent budget cut would look like [NewsOK].

Cuts to senior food programs loom in Oklahoma: Norman resident Caroline Tiner, 70, eats half her noodle casserole and pea salad lunch before she produces a plastic container from under the table to save the rest. “Dinner,” she whispers, as she scoops up the food. Tiner and other Norman seniors eat lunch five times a week in the dining room at the Rose Rock Villa senior housing complex in Norman [NewsOK]. In the dispute between Republican leaders over DHS funding, here are the facts [OK Policy].

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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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