In The Know: $85 million less expected for state appropriations, non-lawyers used in some Tulsa County criminal cases, and more

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

Lawmakers will have $85.5 million less to appropriate in fiscal year 2021: The Board of Equalization met Tuesday to certify figures that the Legislature will have to appropriate in crafting the fiscal year 2021 budget. Total funds available for appropriation will be $8.2 billion. [Tulsa World] Stitt warns legislators to be cautious about state’s base spending. [Oklahoman] OK Policy has said a well-crafted state budget should start from a publicly discussed, needs-based focus for every state agency and program, rather than being based solely on revenue availability.

Non-lawyers represented Tulsa County in dozens of criminal cases, report states: The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office used employees who were not authorized to practice law to prosecute dozens of misdemeanor cases between November 2017 and November 2018, including some jury trials, the district attorney’s office admitted in a response to a bar complaint about the issue. [The Frontier] OK Policy: As part of targeted criminal justice reform, Oklahoma lawmakers should rebuild the financial structure for the state’s criminal justice system to remove its reliance on fines and fees to fund operations. 

Medicaid expansion would benefit state, speaker says: Medi­caid expansion was the topic of discussion Tuesday during Northwest Oklahoma Alliance’s luncheon at Woodward Conference Center. Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of uninsured people in the country. “That is shameful,” said Lynne White, vice president of government relations and political action with Oklahoma Hospital Association. [Enid News & Eagle]

Bill to merge ODOT, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority passes Senate committee: Senate Bill 1775, which would combine the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, passed unanimously out of the Transportation Committee and will now head to the Appropriations Committee. [Tulsa World]

Stitt to have final say on private school voucher transparency: A bill asking for more information on private school voucher recipients is heading to the governor’s desk. On Tuesday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the final version of House Bill 1230, which supporters said would expand transparency for the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program. Only 17 representatives, all Republican, voted against the bill. [Oklahoman]

Lawmakers in favor of more transparency: In an effort to promote transparency in the Oklahoma Legislature, a state representative has introduced a bill that would required the House of Representatives and the Senate to follow the Open Meetings Act. [Enid News & Eagle]

New Tulsa Community College legislative liaison married to appropriations vice chairman: With state entities newly prohibited from hiring contract lobbyists, Tulsa Community College created an $85,000 legislative liaison position for 2020 and ultimately hired Alexis Hilbert, the spouse of Rep. Kyle Hilbert, vice chairman of the powerful House Appropriations and Budget Committee. [NonDoc]

Bills creating Trump highway, ‘America First’ license plates pass committee: A bill naming a section of highway in Cimarron County after President Donald Trump passed out of a Senate committee Tuesday. Sen. Nathan Dahm also authored another bill creating ‘America First’ license plates that also passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee. [Oklahoman]

State Senate panel approves bill allowing wrongful death suits against doctors who perform abortions: The Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow wrongful death lawsuits against doctors who perform abortions. In an unusual step, Committee Chair Julie Daniels allowed two witnesses brought by Sen. David Bullard to speak in favor of Senate Bill 1728. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Home delivery included in medical marijuana bills advanced by House committee: Seven medical marijuana bills, including one that would separate the Medical Marijuana Authority from the state Health Department and another that would legalize home delivery, wafted through the Oklahoma House of Representatives Rules Committee on Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Bills designed to bolster EV industry moving forward: State Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, said his goals for House Bills 3112 and 3115 would be to stimulate growth overall in the emerging EV industry just as similar legislation passed a decade ago stimulated growth in Oklahoma’s aerospace industry. [Journal Record ????]

Drink it up: Oklahoma Water Resources Board adopts rules allowing for ‘marginal’ water production to benefit oil and gas industry now and potentially ease water woes later: On Tuesday, members of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board adopted proposed rules allocating ownership of marginal, brackish groundwater to surface owners, allowing for its production and use for beneficial purposes. Its intent primarily is to provide the oil and gas industry with an additional source of water it could use to drill and produce horizontal wells. [Oklahoman]

Economist: Drilling activity to accelerate later this year: The downturn that the Oklahoma oil and gas industry has undergone in the last 14 months will be resolved by the second half of 2020, a local economist said Tuesday. [Journal Record ????]

Two Oklahoma DUI law firms successfully challenge Department of Public Safety’s enforcement of invalidated interlock device law: Two Oklahoma DUI law firms successfully challenged the Department of Public Safety’s application of a rescinded law that had mandated use of ignition interlock devices as a condition for reinstatement of driving privileges. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma State Department of Education drafts new Programs of Excellence plan to aid underperforming schools: The Oklahoma State Department of Education said it has an answer for schools that are underperforming on the report card but have top programs in areas outside of the card’s scope. The department calls its new plan Programs of Excellence, part of the Champion Excellence initiative. [OU Daily]

Catoosa school board approves job cuts: Catoosa Public Schools will lay off seven staff members to deal with a budget shortfall. Three administrator positions, including an elementary assistant principal, and four clerical jobs will be cut July 1 under a restructuring plan approved by the Catoosa Public Schools Board last night. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tulsa school board approves budget-reduction plan to eliminate district office positions: The Tulsa school board approved Superintendent Deborah Gist’s budget-reduction proposal to eliminate 232 district office positions and replace them with 142 new ones Tuesday evening. [Tulsa World]

Promise to reopen grocery store ‘broken’: It’s been more than 100 days since owners of a northeast Oklahoma City grocery store promised the store would reopen within 90 days and the store still isn’t open, Councilwoman Nikki Nice, Ward 7, said at Tuesday’s Oklahoma City Council meeting. [Journal Record ????]

Many tornado alley residents with disabilities lack safe options in a storm: Local towns started closing public shelters in Oklahoma a few years ago, to avoid the costs of making them tornado-safe. There was no mandate that they keep them open. John High now thinks the federal or state government needs to step in and help people with disabilities acquire their own storm shelters. [NPR]

Quote of the Day

“The 22 healthiest states in the 2018 rankings were all states that expanded Medicaid.”

-Lynne White, vice president of government relations and political action with Oklahoma Hospital Association [Enid News & Eagle]

Number of the Day


The percentage of total spending that Oklahoma state and local governments spend on employee retirement benefits. The national average is 4.71 percent.

[Source: National Association of State Retirement Administrators]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Costs of switching from pensions to individual accounts: States that have switched from pensions to individual accounts are seeing the negative impacts, including higher administrative costs, more liability, and smaller retirement benefits. Oklahoma switched new state employees to individual accounts in 2015. [National Institute on Retirement Security] Oklahoma’s state retirees have now gone more than 10 years without a cost of living adjustment. A COLA is not just the right thing to do for our public servants; it’s also a good investment in Oklahoma.

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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