In The Know: ‘About $300 million in lost revenue’ could return to Oklahoma with online sales tax laws changing

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

About $300 million in lost revenue’ could return to Oklahoma with online sales tax laws changing: Oklahoma and its local communities are positioned to scoop up more sales tax revenue from online retailers, supported by a U.S. Supreme Court decision Wednesday and state legislation set to take effect July 1. The nation’s high court in a 5-4 decision reversed precedent established in two prior cases, the most recent of which was in 1992 before the internet boom [Tulsa World]. Gov. Fallin issues statement applauding the  supreme court ruling for online sales tax [KTUL]. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum pleased with high court ruling on sales tax [Public Radio Tulsa].

House Passes Farm Bill with Controversial Work Requirements: By a razor-thin margin, the House of Representatives passed its version of the farm bill Thursday as Republican leadership was able to round up just enough support from members of its conservative wing to clear passage. The GOP-backed measure, which covers farm and food policy legislation, passed 213-211. The $867 billion package renews the safety net for farmers across the country, but also includes tougher work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps [KOSU]. Statement: Senate Should Reject Deeply Flawed House Farm Bill [OKPolicy].

Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill Is a Better Way Forward for Families That Struggle with Food Insecurity: Last month, we shared our concerns about the farm bill proposal being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill proposes deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) that could put 97,000 Oklahomans at risk of going hungry.  While that bill did not pass, 198 members of Congress, including all members of the Oklahoma delegation, did vote for it, and it could still be reconsidered very soon. But there’s good news as well: the Senate has proposed their own version of the farm bill, and it’s much better [OKPolicy].

Early In-Person Voting Has Started: Early, in-person absentee voting has begun at county election boards across Oklahoma ahead of Tuesday’s statewide primary election. The three-day early voting period is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. In addition to polls being open at each of the state’s 77 county election board offices, several of the state’s larger counties have opened second satellite voting locations [AP News]. Mass of campaign signs signal start of early voting [Free Press OKC]. Visit our Oklahoma 2018 State Questions and Elections page for links to resources, tools, and upcoming election dates and deadlines [OKPolicy].

Point of View: Oklahoma Should Improve Absentee, Early Voting: Oklahoma’s statewide primary elections are Tuesday. I will be out of the country so I requested an absentee ballot. In the past I have found some of Oklahoma’s voting procedures to be unduly burdensome and unnecessary, and this experience was no different. Take, for example, early voting. In Oklahoma, early voting is limited to one location per county. Oklahoma County’s site is not easily accessible to all residents [Andreana Prichard / NewsOK].

Six Dems Try to Turn the 5th Congressional District Blue: When state leaders redrew Oklahoma’s congressional map following the 1980 U.S. Census, legend has it that longtime Democratic Sen. Gene Stipe offered advice on how to draw the district of U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OKC). “If we have to have a Republican in Congress, let’s circle up every Republican we can find and make them a district,” Stipe is remembered as saying [NonDoc].

A Look at the Congressional Race Ahead of Primary Elections: With early voting already underway for next Tuesday’s primary election, the candidates in the 1st Congressional District are fighting for all the support they can get. Ten candidates will be on the ballot, five from each party.While seven have filed campaign finance records with the federal government, all but one of the top fundraisers are Republicans [KTUL].

Seven Eligible Incumbents Vacate Non-Metro Districts: Seven of the Oklahoma Legislature’s 21 departing eligible incumbents come from districts outside the OKC or Tulsa metro areas, drawing nine Democratic and 12 Republican candidates combined. Those non-term limited legislators include: Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw), Rep. Rick West (R-Heavener), Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater), Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore), Rep. John Montgomery (R-Lawton), Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate), and Sen. AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie) [NonDoc].

Voters Undecided in Labor Commissioner Race: As Oklahoma’s primary race for commissioner of labor nears its end, residents seem to be overwhelmingly indecisive. The contest has garnered about $1 million in donations, and candidates combined have spent about half of that amount on advertising and media. But polls show that voters aren’t sure whose name they’re going to check on Tuesday’s ballot [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Advocates and Police at Odds over Medical Marijuana’s Perceived Benefits and Threats: Polls suggest most Oklahoma voters support medical marijuana, but 788 faces vocal opposition. Organizations representing doctors, pharmacists, sheriffs and district attorneys are campaigning aggressively to convince Oklahomans to vote ‘no’ and block the medical marijuana measure [KOSU]. Hamilton: Campaign promises, rhetorical hot air and SQ 788 [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]. What are supporters and opponents of SQ 788 saying regarding the medical marijuana legalization initiative? [OKPolicy]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OKPolicy].

Angry Republican Teachers Create Split Inside Oklahoma GOP: Sherrie Conley is like most people in small-town Oklahoma: solidly conservative. When she goes to the polls, she faithfully votes Republican. But in Tuesday’s primary election here, the elementary school principal won’t be voting for the two-term GOP state House member from her district. That’s because she’s trying to get him out of office [AP News].

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb criticizes car allowances for school administrators but is provided state car, security as he campaigns for governor: Republican gubernatorial hopeful Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb is drawing criticism for his use of a taxpayer-funded car and security detail on the campaign trail while having a political ad that calls into question vehicle allowances for some school administrators. Use of state-provided security, communications and transportation by the governor and lieutenant governor is not limited to official business, said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Rusty Rhoades [Tulsa World].

Physician: Observations on the Fight Against Opioid Crisis: In October, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. More recently, state governments have pursued additional legislation that will directly affect physicians and patients. Having practiced medicine for 32 years, I have seen how doctors became accustomed to prescribing these medications and understand why medicine is one of the most regulated industries in the United States. As physicians, we must take responsibility for our actions. However, laws are still necessary to curb these habits for good [Michael Perry, M.D. / NewsOK].

Melissa Baldwin: If You Want Oklahoma to Stand for Something Other Than Putting People in Prison, Know Your Candidates: When I saw the news, I didn’t know whether to cry or clench my fist — Oklahoma is No. 1 in incarceration, according to a new report from the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative. Oklahoma’s race to the bottom is sadly complete. We can now look to Louisiana, which previously held the No. 1 spot, for tips on how to improve our dysfunctional criminal justice system, and we need all the help we can get [Melissa Baldwin / Tulsa World]. Accepting our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate means believing that Oklahomans are the worst people [OKPolicy].

Incoming OU president: Layoffs possible, but raising tuition not answer to fixing $15 million budget hole: Amid a $15 million operating loss for the coming fiscal year, incoming University of Oklahoma president Jim Gallogly said layoffs are a possibility at the university. He said non-faculty staff could be an area the university could look to become more efficient when he works to remedy the fiscal hole he inherits when he assumes the job on July 1 [Tulsa World].

Top Exec Leaves Freedom Oklahoma: Longtime Freedom Oklahoma executive director Troy Stevenson was fired from his position today. Stevenson said he’s tired, and it’s time to explore other options, but he hopes that future path will bring him to Norman. Stevenson was known as a person of reconciliation and education who reached across the aisle to advocate for gay rights with members of the Republican party, but that made him controversial with some in the LGBTQ community [Norman Transcript].

Quote of the Day

“With three-quarters of people headed to our state prisons being admitted for nonviolent offenses and truly not receiving rehabilitation while incarcerated, the Department of Corrections appears to be more the Department of Warehousing. This is no place for people with nonviolent offenses who are impacted by mental illness, homelessness, addiction, lifetimes of trauma and are living in poverty.”

-Melissa Baldwin, director of criminal justice reform for Mental Health Association Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans currently barred from voting because of felonies.

[Oklahoma Department of Corrections via Oklahoma Watch]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Colleges Are No Match for American Poverty: Among the poorest 40 percent of Americans, only 12 percent of young people born in the 1980s earned a bachelor’s degree by age 25. But a college degree is not optional for most good jobs in today’s economy, so more and more students from low-income backgrounds are pursuing higher education, and they are most likely to end up at community colleges. Despite President Trump’s recent comments that “We do not know what a ‘community college’ means,” these institutions comprise more than 40 percent of the country’s undergraduate population. While most community colleges were built after World War II to support the needs of the modern workforce—which would of course improve students’ livelihoods as a result—they weren’t explicitly designed to relieve poverty. Yet by default, given the limited reach of programs such as welfare and food stamps, community college has become one of America’s largest and most important anti-poverty programs [The Atlantic].

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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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