In The Know: Amendments would eliminate grocery tax while raising sales, GPT tax rates

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

Amendments would eliminate grocery tax while raising sales, GPT tax rates: A proposal to modify the tax rate on sales and the production of oil and gas can be heard in Oklahoma’s ongoing special session. Lawmakers haven’t taken any meaningful action in their second special session for weeks while they pushed through hundreds of bills in regular session. House Bill 1033 was able to be heard as early as Tuesday but Senate leadership said they didn’t know when it might be brought up for a hearing [NewsOK]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OK Policy].

House speaker thinks $5,000 teacher raises can be achieved within 12 months: House Speaker Charles McCall is confident that teachers will see a $5,000 pay raise in the next 12 months, if not sooner, he said Tuesday. Teachers and state employees have said they will walk out on April 2 if lawmakers have not acted on pay raises. “We know with certainty within the next 12 months it is going to happen,” McCall, R-Atoka, told the Tulsa World. “It is fully going to be realized. Let me put it that way.” Teachers have asked for a $10,000 raise [Tulsa World]. 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Lawmaker: Teacher, State Employee Walkouts “Akin to Extortion”: Cache High School students got their representative’s thoughts on planned teacher walkouts during a visit to the capitol. Rep. Jeff Coody said the $10,000 raise for teachers and raises for state employees that educators are demanding will cost roughly one-third of what the legislature appropriates each year, so he has an unfavorable view of their planned April 2 walkouts [Public Radio Tulsa]. Rep. Coody said the comments were taken out of context [KFOR]. A visiting high school student posted a response on Facebook that went viral [KFSM].

Measure could put governor, lieutenant on same ticket: Oklahoma voters could soon decide whether gubernatorial elections should look more like presidential races. The Oklahoma Senate approved a resolution Tuesday that would put the issue on a statewide ballot. State Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 66, and the measure passed 29-12 [Journal Record].

As Oklahoma teachers plan to follow West Virginia in walkout, they confront a funding crisis that’s much worse: For nine days, teachers in West Virginia went on strike to protest their low pay and benefits. The strike began when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed a bill that would give teachers just a 2 percent raise in the coming fiscal year and an additional 1 percent in 2020 and 2021 – which would not be enough to keep up with inflation or the rising cost of health care premiums. The strike ended after the Governor signed a bill providing a 5 percent raise for teachers and state employees [OK Policy].

Union demands go beyond school, teacher funding: While Oklahoma teachers are preparing to strike in a few weeks over pay raises and education funding, over half the demands from the state’s largest union are not directly related to public schools. The Oklahoma Education Association has set an April 2 deadline for the state Legislature to act on nearly $812 million in funding requests [NewsOK].

Enid school board passes resolution calling for teacher pay raises: Enid Public Schools Board of Education met in its regularly scheduled session Monday evening and, among other business, passed a resolution calling on the Oklahoma Legislature to fund teacher pay increases. The resolution brought before the board Monday evening outlined several concerns regarding teacher pay levels and their impact on education [Enid News]. Other schools joining the walkout include Edmond Public Schools [KOCO], Union Public Schools [KJRH], Broken Arrow Public Schools, Owasso Public Schools, Sapulpa Public Schools [KJRH], Skiatook Public Schools [Skiatook Journal], Bartlesville Public Schools [Bartlesville Examiner], and McAlester Public Schools [McAlester News-Capital].

Oklahoma should prioritize students, teachers — not oil, gas companies: On March 5, the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools district, Deborah Gist, presided over what became a less than typical school board meeting. Gist rallied school board members to vote for a resolution supporting the thousands of Oklahoma teachers threatening a strike over low pay. In a written statement, the district mentioned “joining school districts … to advocate for a proposal to restore funding to education and increase teacher salaries.” [Caleb Gayle / The Hill]

How Tax Cuts Paved The Way For America’s Growing Teacher Revolt: Jessica Jernegan joined her fellow teachers to rally at the Oklahoma state Capitol in 2014 and demand more funding for schools. Despite the pleas of an estimated 25,000 protesters, the Republican-dominated legislature had other priorities in mind. Lawmakers went on to approve, and Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed, a measure reducing the top personal income tax rate ― one of several tax cuts that left the state struggling to pay for basic services like public education [Huffington Post]. 

Senate advances bill on opioid pill limits: Patients would only be able to receive a week’s worth of opioid pain medication under a bill advanced by the Oklahoma Senate. The bill, which was one of the recommendations of a statewide panel on the opioid crisis, passed unanimously on Tuesday and now heads to the House [NewsOK].

DACA recipients continue to wait: I have always loved helping people and educating students, and as a sixth-grade social studies teacher I get to help the children of this community shape and eventually achieve their American Dream. My own path toward the American Dream was difficult. I’m a “Dreamer,” an undocumented immigrant who came to Oklahoma from Mexico when I was just shy of 2 [OKC Teacher Brisa Ledezma / NewsOK]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

State Question 788: Is Medical marijuana good for Oklahoma? Oklahomans will cast their votes June 26 on State Question 788 for the legalization of the licensed use, sale, and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma for medicinal purposes. A yes vote approves the amendment proposal and a no vote goes against approval. If approved, SQ788 would legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma and would not restrict use to any certain conditions. The initiative was placed on the ballot after Oklahomans for Health led a signature petition drive advocating for the amendment to state law [Miami News-Record]. State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OK Policy]

Senate bill would return some drilling control to towns: A former mayor is attempting to return local municipalities some authority to limit the operations of oil and gas well sites near private property. SB 1257, authored by freshman Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle), grants cities, towns and counties the right to restrict oil and gas activities by establishing ordinances that control road use, noise and pollution if the site is within 1,000 feet of a business or home [NonDoc].

Oklahoma Senate OKs adoption bill LGBT group is fighting: A bill that opponents say would allow religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, single people and non-Christians has cleared the Oklahoma Senate. Senate Bill 1140 passed 35-9 Tuesday and now heads to the House [AP].

Quote of the Day

“To all of my teachers past and present: As a senior with my graduation, state contest, and other activities on the line because of this walkout, you have my full support. I would rather suffer now, so that the future generations will not have to. You are not walking out on us. You are walking out for us.”

– Cache High School Senior Madison Marshall, in a Facebook post expressing her support for a planned teacher walkout after a visit to the State Capitol on Monday (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s imprisonment rate per 100,000 residents for drug crimes, 2nd highest in the nation (2014)

Source: Pew Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

An Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century: Economic mobility has drastically declined since the 1940s. Unemployment and underemployment are persistent problems, especially for stigmatized groups who are subject to discriminatory exclusion from employment opportunities. In today’s economy, the American dream is just a dream, or worse, a rhetorical device that draws attention away from the economic reality playing out across the country. Despite long-term growth in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, in real terms middle-income Americans have less than they did 40 years ago [American Prospect].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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