In The Know: A look at bills filed for 2019; making SQ 780 retroactive; business interests brief new lawmakers…

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.

New from OK Policy

Today is the last day to submit your public comments on the SoonerCare waiver: Oklahoma’s proposal to cut health coverage for families who don’t meet a work requirement is awaiting consideration by federal regulators – but first, it’s time for people like you to weigh in. We have less than 24 hours to submit comments on the proposal. To take action, visit

Less than one week left to purchase your 2019 State Budget Summit tickets: We are thrilled to welcome one of the nation’s most highly respected and honored social scientists, William Julius Wilson, as our keynote speaker. The program will also include an overview budget presentation by our Executive Director David Blatt, a panel discussion on the budget with state leaders, and a panel on how current budget priorities align with the needs of Oklahoma’s children. Visit our event page for more information and to purchase your ticket today.

In The News

Laws proposed for 2019 in Oklahoma: Higher minimum wage, constitutional carry and straight-party voting: Lawmakers have until Jan. 17 to file bills for the 2019 session, which starts Feb. 4-5. Among the notable early bills that were filed address issues including firearms, abortion and education. [Tulsa World]

Lawmakers seek to make State Question 780 retroactive: Two Oklahoma City lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday to make State Question 780 retroactive. If passed, the bill would affect thousands of criminal sentences. The state question, which Oklahoma voters approved in 2016, reclassified certain drug and property crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies. It took effect July 1, 2017, but didn’t apply retroactively. [NewsOK] We previously made a case that making SQ 780 retroactive is smart policy and a moral necessity.

Groups representing the oil and gas industry and agriculture briefed freshman lawmakers this week: Organizations representing agriculture and energy, two of Oklahoma’s critical rural industries, put sometimes-competitive agendas aside this week. Instead of emphasizing legislative priorities, they instead came together to organize a daylong briefing attended by nearly 40 freshman lawmakers about their industries and how they benefit the state. [NewsOK]

‘Clean handoff’: Officials say Gov. Kevin Stitt’s transition into office goes smoothly: The transition between Gov. Kevin Stitt and his predecessor has gone smoothly, according to his office. On Monday, Stitt took the oath of office to become the state’s 28th governor, succeeding former Gov. Mary Fallin, who was term limited. The ceremony on the south steps of the Capitol was followed by an inaugural ball in the evening and a prayer service on Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Stitt taps Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell as secretary for Tourism and Branding: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday tapped Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell to serve as his Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Branding. Stitt made commerce and tourism separate posts. They had been combined under the administration of former Gov. Mary Fallin. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion In Dire Need Of Repairs: Governor Stitt is planning to move his family from Tulsa to Oklahoma City this summer, once his kids are through with school, but it’s not clear at this point just where he will move them. That’s because the traditional residence for the state’s chief executive, the Governor’s Mansion, has fallen into disrepair. [News9]

Decline in school arts programs follows funding drop, but cuts aren’t equally felt: State Department of Education data suggest Oklahoma schools ended 1,110 fine arts classes between 2014 and 2018, a period of severe state budget cuts. The cuts affected classes for visual arts, theater, music and band — as well as speech and debate. In 2018, nearly 30 percent of public school students in Oklahoma went to a school with no fine arts classes, state records show. [StateImpact Oklahoma] An OK Policy analysis found that budget cuts have hit fine arts education especially hard.

Tulsa Public Schools officials decry midyear hemorrhage of nearly 500 students to virtual charter school at breakfast with lawmakers: Officials at Tulsa Public Schools decried the loss of nearly 500 students to the state’s largest virtual charter school just since school began in August at a Thursday morning meeting with area lawmakers. Superintendent Deborah Gist and School Board President Suzanne Schreiber told the 15 or so legislators present that they are strong proponents of school choice, but they think new regulation is needed to reduce the constant churn of students coming and going from EPIC Charter Schools. [Tulsa World]

Bill offers junior colleges protection from consolidation: Lawmakers are getting on board with a college consolidation plan that got started in 2017. In December of that year, Gov. Mary Fallin signed an executive order that would combine administrative services among institutions of higher education, particularly at smaller schools. Freshman Sen. Brent Howard, R-Altus, filed a bill for the upcoming session that would protect two-year schools from consolidation in several situations. [Journal Record]

Proposed measure would let voters decide whether lawmakers can return to teaching after office: A state senator has filed a joint resolution that would allow voters to decide whether lawmakers can return to teaching after leaving office. Dubbed the “Right to Return” legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 8 was authored by Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City. [KFOR]

Proposed bill would require legislative oversight for salaries of state agency directors: An Oklahoma state senator is hoping to pass a bill that would require more oversight when it comes to the salaries of state agency leaders. Senate Bill 247, which was proposed by Sen. Ron Sharp, would require approval of proposed state agency director pay raises by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees before it could go into effect. [KFOR]

Pot Industry Officials Critical of New Emergency Rules: Some in Oklahoma’s emerging medical marijuana industry say they were caught off guard by Gov. Mary Fallin’s signing of new emergency rules for medical pot in the final days of her term. The rules were developed by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and signed by Fallin on Jan. 4. [AP News]

Changes may be looming for OMES: Under a new gubernatorial administration, officials could reconsider how one of Oklahoma’s largest agencies operates. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services is a multifaceted agency that, among other things, manages the state’s finances and offers technology and capital services to the rest of the state government. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma Nursing Homes Rank Among Worst In Nation: The daughter of a woman who died after breaking her femur in a nursing home is sharing her story, hoping other families don’t have to experience the same preventable pain. A new report once again shows some Oklahoma nursing facilities rank among the worst in the nation. [News on 6]

Oklahoma ranked as third most dangerous state to drive in: A recently published study ranks Oklahoma as the third most dangerous state in the country to drive in. ranked states based on driver skills, car theft rate, most aggressive drivers, average driver speed, and more. [KJRH]

Midyear adjustment means reduction in state aid to Ada schools: Ada City Schools will see a $178,447 reduction in state aid this fiscal year due to a midyear adjustment to its funding. The district’s initial allocation of state aid totaled about $10.37 million, Superintendent Mike Anderson said Tuesday, the day after he discussed the adjustment with the Ada Board of Education. But as a result of the annual midyear adjustment, the new amount will be approximately $10.19 million — a reduction of about 1.72 percent. [Ada News]

Mayor Holt shares ideas for OKC’s future: Oklahoma City’s new mayor introduced the possibility of a new structure for the city’s MAPS sales tax Thursday: setting aside some of the money in an endowment that would outlast tax collections. “MAPS is often perceived to be exclusively of use to capital projects,” Mayor David Holt said at his first State of the City address. “But there is actually a historic exception to that.” [Journal Record]

FBI detonated large ammonium nitrate explosive as part of case against man accused in OKC bomb plot: In August 2017, FBI explosives experts built and detonated a 1,000-pound ammonium nitrate bomb in a field dotted with wildflowers at Kansas military base. The bomb, made from two garbage cans, and the ensuing explosion were part of the FBI’s case against a man accused of plotting to blow up a bank building in downtown Oklahoma City. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma representatives Tom Cole, James Lankford appointed to leadership positions in 116th Congress: Two Oklahoma representatives have been appointed to leadership positions in the 116th Congress. Tom Cole and James Lankford, representing Oklahoma as a house representative and a junior senator respectively, were appointed to party leadership roles in their branches of congress, according to press releases from the representatives. [OU Daily]

Quote of the Day

“We also know that in three years, 9,000 teachers are eligible for retirement so it’s not just a one-time fix. But ultimately over the course of the next several years if we don’t make some of these needed changes, we’re going to be facing an even worse situation that we’re currently in right now.”

-Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City,  who is seeking to put a state question on the ballot that would allow legislators to return to teaching immediately after leaving office. Currently they are prohibited from accepting any job paid with state dollars for the first two years after leaving. [Source: KFOR]

Number of the Day


Number of extremely poor parents in Oklahoma who could lose their health coverage if the state moves forward with a plan to add new work reporting rules to Medicaid.

[Soure: Georgetown Center for Children and Families]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

States warn food stamp recipients to budget early benefit payments due to shutdown: State agencies are warning food stamp recipients to carefully budget their grocery purchases once they receive their February benefits weeks earlier than normal due to the partial government shutdown. The Department of Agriculture’s backup plan for paying out Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits amid the lapse in funding means it could be 40 days — or longer, in some cases — before additional money is added to recipients’ benefit cards. There is also no guarantee about when nearly 39 million low-income Americans will next receive another payment to help them buy groceries. [Politico]

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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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