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Court ruling gives Oklahoma the chance to fully fix online tax problem

by | October 23rd, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

As online commerce has grown into an ever-increasing share of the U.S. economy, Oklahoma and other states have struggled with the problem of lost tax revenue from untaxed sales. A major Supreme Court ruling this past June, combined with actions by the Oklahoma Legislature and major online retailers, will largely address the problem and generate a substantial boost in tax revenue for state and local governments. But there one final step Oklahoma should still take to prevent the loss of revenue and ensure an even playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers and their online competitors.

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In The Know: Deadlocked race for governor; addicts shut out of sober-living homes; school support staffers work extra jobs…

by | October 23rd, 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.

In The News

Edmondson, Stitt plan statewide campaign stops to woo undecided voters in last two weeks: As the race for Oklahoma governor moves into its final stretch, Democrat Drew Edmondson and Republican Kevin Stitt plan to campaign in every corner of the state and blitz the airwaves to persuade the undecided voters who may decide the Nov. 6 election. All signs point to a deadlocked race. The national Democratic Party, which has declined to invest in its Oklahoma candidates for years, has spent heavily on advertising attacking Stitt. The national Republican Party, which hasn’t had to spend money in this red state, has been trying to keep up with the Democrats. [NewsOK] Governor candidates to appear at forum in Tulsa on Tuesday evening. [Tulsa World]

Much to think about for lieutenant governor’s office: Oklahomans will have to make several decisions about the lieutenant governor’s office this year. Of course, the seat is open, and voters will choose between Republican Matt Pinnell and Democrat Anastasia Pittman. And there is a state question that will allow residents to decide whether the gubernatorial elections should look more like the presidential elections, with the lieutenant gubernatorial candidate joining onto the gubernatorial campaign and appearing on a joint ticket. [Journal Record]

Meet the OK commissioner of labor candidates: Three candidates will compete Nov. 6 to become Oklahoma’s next commissioner of labor. The commissioner heads the Oklahoma Department of Labor and must implement labor-related laws from the Legislature. Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Melissa McLawhorn Houston to serve as commissioner of labor in November 2015 following the death of Mark Costello. [NonDoc]

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Three priorities for criminal justice reform (Capitol Update)

by | October 22nd, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Criminal Justice | Comments (2)

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.

There’s a growing consensus that “criminal justice reform” should be an important part of the change we need in Oklahoma. It would free up funds for other priorities like mental health and education. It would blunt the need for new spending for prisons. And it would stop the needless disruption of the lives of thousands of offenders whose families — and society — would be better served by their remaining in the community for treatment or rehabilitation.

Since criminal justice reform, by definition, deals with legal issues, it can get complicated. Some who are currently part of the justice system see it as working for them, so they resist change. Those who want change aren’t always sure what it will take to reach the goals they want. Conflict and confusion are the result. For the past four years, despite strong efforts by citizens, advocates, experts, legislative leaders and the governor, progress has been slow. Here are some suggestions that would yield both immediate and long- term results.

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In The Know: Fallin, Hofmeister battle over consolidation order; SQ 801 draws mixed reactions; new medical marijuana lawsuit…

by | October 22nd, 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.

UPCOMING EVENT – Legislative candidate forum in Muskogee on Tuesday: Candidates in two Muskogee-area state House districts will discuss important state and local issues in a public forum Tuesday at the Roxy Theater in Muskogee. The forum, which is free, is being presented by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit media organization, and Together Oklahoma, a nonprofit education and advocacy group. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register online.

In The News

Fallin, Hofmeister locked in battle over order on audit of classroom spending: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister are locked in an extraordinary clash of wills and authority over Fallin’s attempt to get an audit of classroom spending in the state’s 519 school districts. “I don’t take orders from Governor Fallin on public education,” Hofmeister told The Oklahoman. “I believe in local control of our schools, and I will always do what is in the best interests of students — even if it means standing up to my own party.” [NewsOK]

SQ 801 draws mixed reactions from business, education factions: A state question that would give school districts the freedom to spend local property tax revenue on school operations is drawing plenty of mixed reaction. State Question 801, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot, would amend the Oklahoma State Constitution by removing restrictions on how local school districts may use property tax dollars. [NewsOKSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 801 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

New medical marijuana lawsuit targets state of Oklahoma over tax, licensing issues: Accusing Oklahoma officials of imposing regulations and fees beyond what State Question 788 stipulated, marijuana advocates filed a sweeping class-action lawsuit Friday against the state and three state agencies, including the Oklahoma Tax Commission. [Tulsa World] Federal marijuana law enforcement elicits varying concerns from dispensary operators in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

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The Weekly Wonk: Mental health policy hires; who pays taxes in Oklahoma; what influences voter turnout; SQ 793 pros and cons…

by | October 21st, 2018 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

What’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

This week, we launched the Oklahoma Mental Health Policy Fellowship with three new hires: Lauren Turner as a Mental Health Policy Analyst and Maggie den Harder and Brittany Hayes as Mental Health Policy Fellows. Strategy and Communications Director Gene Perry discussed a new analysis that shows low-income taxpayers in Oklahoma pay more than twice the tax rate paid by the richest Oklahomans. In a new episode of the OKPolicyCast, Perry spoke with the founder of the website BadVoter.org, David Glover, to find out what influences voter turnout.

Of the five state questions on the ballot in November, only SQ 793, which would allow optometrists and opticians to operate in retail establishments, is the subject of well-funded campaigns by both supporters and opponents. We asked both campaigns on SQ 793 to submit guest posts explaining their position. A post in support of the measure was written by the former President of the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature and Chair of the State Council on Aging, John Kusel. A post in opposition of SQ 793 was written by the Executive Director for the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, Joel Robison.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update noted that one of the biggest issues at stake in this election is health care for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. In his weekly column in the Journal Record, Executive Director David Blatt pointed out that there is bipartisan support for Medicaid expansion, especially in rural and small-town Oklahoma where access to health care is 0ne of the top challenges.

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In The Know: From police custody to psychiatric care; mental health first aid; the crisis of rural and small-town Oklahoma…

by | October 19th, 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.

In The News

Task force wants better process for getting mentally ill from police custody to psychiatric care: A task force involving psychiatrists, first responders and hospitals wants to streamline the process for getting people having a mental health emergency into proper care. Project Blue Streets Chairman Jason Beaman said the idea behind the task force is simple. “Our police officers are spending hours and hours and hours in emergency rooms, often waiting on unnecessary and nonscientific-based tests and labs instead of out patrolling our streets,” Beaman said. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Learning the skills of mental health first aid ‘could be a game changer: If you take a CPR class, that doesn’t mean you are qualified to be a cardiologist. But CPR is an important step in the first aid to a patient who may be having a heart issue. Tulsa Community College believes a first-aid course for mental health could be a similar lifesaver for those showing some warning signs of a mental health issue. [John Klein / Tulsa World]

Prosperity Policy: The crisis of rural and small-town Oklahoma: At a recent candidates’ forum in Lawton hosted by Oklahoma Watch and Together Oklahoma, Republicans and Democrats alike said access to health care is one of the top challenges facing rural and small-town Oklahomans. “Two years ago, the hospital in my district, in Frederick, closed,” said Trey Caldwell, the Republican candidate in House District 63. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

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In The Know: Low-income taxpayers pay higher rate; challenges with opioid crisis in rural areas; OCJR’s #ProjectCommutation…

by | October 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.

In The News

New analysis: Low-income taxpayers in Oklahoma pay more than twice the tax rate paid by the richest Oklahomans: While Oklahoma has a reputation as a low tax state, poor and middle-income Oklahomans are actually paying a greater share of their income in taxes than the national average, while the richest 5 percent of households — with annual incomes of $194,500 or more — pay less. That’s why Oklahoma ranks among the ten worst states for tax inequality in the newly updated Who Pays report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). [OK Policy]

The drug Suboxone could help combat the opioid crisis, but in rural areas it can be hard to get: As Sydney Humphrey set out to launch a treatment program for people addicted to opioids in a rural Oklahoma town not far from her own, she saw an undeniable need. Many people, desperate for addiction treatment, made the journey to larger cities in search of providers. Some resorted to buying addiction-treating drugs off the street. [The Frontier]

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform fighting for commutations for current inmates: Supporters of criminal justice reform are asking the courts to commute the sentences for several inmates. For years, criminal justice reform has been discussed at the Oklahoma State Capitol as a way to curb the state’s incarceration rate. According to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Oklahoma was second in the nation in overall incarceration rates for 2016. [KFOR]

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SQ 793 is about corporate control of a medical profession (Guest Post: Joel Robison)

by | October 18th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (5)

Of the five state questions on the ballot in November, only SQ 793, which would allow optometrists and opticians to operate in retail establishments, is the subject of intense, well-funded campaigns from both supporters and opponents. We asked both campaigns on SQ 793 to submit guest posts explaining their position. This post by Joel Robison explains why his group opposes the measure.  A post in support can be found here


Joel Robison serves as executive director for the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians.

State Question 793 is a November 2018 ballot initiative that would allow big retailers like Walmart to open corporate-run optometry clinics inside their stores. It was put on the ballot after a successful signature gathering drive led by Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, a group created by and paid for by Walmart. The “yes” campaign is being funded by Walmart, with some help from other big retailers like Costco.

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SQ 793 will expand vision care access for low-income Oklahomans (Guest Post: John Kusel)

by | October 18th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Of the five state questions on the ballot in November, only SQ 793, which would allow optometrists and opticians to operate in retail establishments, is the subject of intense, well-funded campaigns from both supporters and opponents. We asked both campaigns on SQ 793 to submit guest posts explaining their position. This post by John Kusel explains why his group supports the measure.  A post in opposition can be found here


John Kusel, a Ft. Cobb rancher, is an advocate for senior citizens who has served as President of the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature and as Chair of the State Council on Aging.

While the rising costs of healthcare can often force low-income families to make difficult decisions between their health and their financial well-being, we can break down one of these financial barriers in Oklahoma by creating new options for affordable vision care. Voters in Oklahoma will have an opportunity to do this on Election Day in November by voting “Yes” on State Question 793.

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New analysis: Low-income taxpayers in Oklahoma pay more than twice the tax rate paid by the richest Oklahomans

by | October 17th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

While Oklahoma has a reputation as a low tax state, poor and middle-income Oklahomans are actually paying a greater share of their income in taxes than the national average, while the richest 5 percent of households — with annual incomes of $194,500 or more — pay less.

That’s why Oklahoma ranks among the ten worst states for tax inequality in the newly updated Who Pays report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). The analysis evaluates major state and local taxes, including personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales and other excise taxes. It finds that the poorest Oklahoma households pay 2.1 times as much of their incomes in taxes as the wealthiest 1 percent, and the middle 60 percent of households pay 1.7 times as much as the wealthiest. The poorest 20 percent of households pay the 5th highest taxes as a share of their incomes — 13.4 percent — in the country. You can read the full Who Pays report at www.whopays.org and see the fact sheet for Oklahoma here.

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