In The Know: Attorneys bankroll judges’ campaigns; meth overdoses rise as opium deaths fall; vanishing corporate income tax…
In 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
Attorneys help bankroll campaigns of judges who hear their cases: An Oklahoma Watch review of campaign finance records shows that attorneys’ donations represented more than half of the $1.6 million in contributions from individuals to district judge candidates so far in this election cycle (through Aug. 13). Court filings show many of those attorneys frequently have appeared in court before the candidates to whom they gave money; some donated to judges while the judge was still presiding over their case. [Oklahoma Watch] OK Policy previously wrote about the judges on the ballot this year in Oklahoma here.
Meth overdoses continue to rise while opioid deaths fall: Deaths from prescription opioids fell in Oklahoma in 2016, but fatal overdoses from methamphetamine kept increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statewide, 769 people died of overdoses in 2017, according to preliminary data from the CDC. If that total stands, 34 fewer Oklahomans will have died of overdoses than in 2016, but the number of deaths from drugs will still be higher than in 2015. [NewsOK 🔒] Oklahoma’s new opioid law goes into effect in just a few weeks, and it is receiving opposition. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Corporate income tax contributes little to state revenue: Although gross production and cigarette taxes might be in the spotlight, Oklahoma’s next governor will decide whether to take another look at corporate income taxes. For years, Gov. Mary Fallin has pushed for an end to one of the state’s most volatile revenue streams. The tax on companies’ profits is open to several rebates and other breaks, so much so that the state often nets zero revenue from that tax. [Journal Record 🔒] OK Policy previously wrote about one way Oklahoma could avoid losing millions to corporate tax shelters here.
Oklahoma’s revenue growth is welcome but not a windfall: Those who rely on state funding to provide services to Oklahomans heard more good news this week from State Treasurer Ken Miller. Monthly numbers for September revenue show an increase of $141.4 million over September 2017 revenue. If monthly increases averaged, say $100 million for the year it would mean an additional $1.2 billion in state revenue. Only a portion of this goes to the General Revenue Fund from which the Legislature appropriates most of the budget, but if the trend continues it will mean a good year for next year’s legislative appropriations. [OK Policy]
Group says increased voter participation goal of targeted mailings: A nonprofit social welfare organization recently mailed out absentee ballot applications to 59,000 Oklahomans with the goal of increasing voter participation among groups that traditionally have had low voter turnouts. African-Americans, Latinos, millennials and unmarried women were among groups targeted for the mass mailing by The Center for Voter Information. [NewsOK] If it seems like you’re being hit from all sides with political messaging, it’s probably because you are. [Tulsa World]
Gubernatorial candidates pledge more money for schools: Kevin Stitt admits campaigning for governor for more than a year has opened his eyes to challenges facing Oklahoma schools that he had never considered. “What surprised me most was finding out that sometimes teachers are washing clothes for kids coming into school, and how much the kids that are hungry are being fed by teachers,” said Stitt, the Republican candidate for governor. [NewsOK 🔒]
As schools cut arts, Harmony Project brings music education to at-risk Tulsa children: About 100 Tulsa-area children are participating in Harmony Project Tulsa, the local arm of a national nonprofit that seeks to bring music education to all students. Harmony Project Tulsa is one of nine affiliates, based on the award-winning Harmony Project Los Angeles. Harmony Project has been recognized as one of the most effective arts-based youth interventions in the nation. It is a simple idea. Harmony Project pairs students with volunteer music teachers for after-school instruction. It includes a study period for academics. [Tulsa World]
State GOP lawmakers still fighting for jobs in tense political season: Turmoil at the Oklahoma Capitol over the past two years triggered a shift in political winds across the state that even seasoned observers say is hard to measure, and at times simply baffling. Even lawmakers who proved their support of public education are walking carefully through the political gauntlet, which claimed 11 of their colleagues in primary elections this year. [NewsOK 🔒]
More House members could seek Senate seats: Two more members of the House of Representatives are vying for seats in the state’s higher chamber, a run that some say might get more common.Most of Oklahoma’s state Senators start out fresh, but a fraction of them run for office in the House of Representatives first. Rep. John Michael Montgomery, R-Sallisaw, and Rep. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, are attempting this November to make that cameral switch.Observers said there are a few inherent differences between the chambers, some of which can be seen in Congress as well as the statehouse. [Journal Record 🔒]
Editorial: SQ 800 unnecessary and redundant: After months of legislative wrangling and a statewide teacher strike that convinced lawmakers to approve pay raises for teachers and additional funding for education, Oklahoma voters will be asked Nov. 6 to approve a measure that could cut funding for public schools by millions.Under State Question 800, the revenue pie from the state’s gross production tax on oil and natural gas would be sliced into another piece, creating a reserve fund known as the Oklahoma Vision Fund. [Journal Record] See more background information and arguments for and against SQ 800 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.
Agriculture Department announces moratorium on new poultry feeding operations: As registration requests for new poultry feeding operations in eastern Oklahoma ebbed the past month, the state Board of Agriculture on Monday announced an immediate moratorium on processing new registrations. The announcement comes about a week after the first meeting of the newly formed Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth, announced last month by Gov. Mary Fallin and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker as a means to address concerns raised by eastern Oklahoma residents. [Tulsa World]
Rob Barris, longtime prosecutor, district attorney in Okmulgee and McIntosh Counties, dies: Rob Barris, a longtime district attorney in McIntosh and Okmulgee Counties, has died. Barris was a prosecutor for more than two decades. He was first elected District Attorney in 2010, and was re-elected in 2014. In 2015 he, along with Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan, oversaw the grand jury that looked into alleged corruption at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. That grand jury ultimately indicted longtime sheriff Stanley Glanz, who resigned from office and later pleaded guilty and no contest to the charges brought against him. [The Frontier]
‘We are their last chance’: Boys’ Home turns 100: A century ago, the first two residents had been sleeping in a downtown alley before the Tulsa Boys’ Home opened. More recently, 13-year-old Zach wasn’t technically homeless, but he might as well have been. Taken from his mother’s custody when he was 2, Zach went through more than 20 different placements, bouncing from foster homes to shelters and back to foster homes, never spending more than a few months at any one place. [Tulsa World]
Tribal leaders emphasize culture and education as they celebrate ‘bright future’ on Native American Day: On Guthrie Green’s stage, 12 young tribal princesses spoke in their native languages while donning tribal regalia during festivities of Tulsa’s second annual Native American Day. Dignitaries had marked the day as a celebration not of the past but of a burgeoning future, with students in attendance also learning what they wouldn’t otherwise in school about Christopher Columbus. [Tulsa World] Emerging from the shadow cast by the Oklahoma City Council’s past refusal to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, about 250 people gathered on Monday to celebrate the city’s first official observance of Native American culture. [NewsOK]
State regulators move ahead with wind rule changes: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is moving ahead this week with steps to make emergency additions to the Oklahoma Wind Energy Development Act so wind farms in light of a new law protecting military air bases from wind farm encroachment. The Commission’s Public Utility Division plans a technical conference on Thursday. [OK Energy Today]
Quote of the Day
“When you look around and see that our art is alive, our stories are alive, our people are alive and vibrant, and that our communities are strong, you know that Indigenous People’s Day is not a celebration of the past. Ladies and gentlemen, Indigenous People’s Day is a celebration of a bright future, and we’re doing it right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
-Chuck Hoskin Jr., Cherokee Nation secretary of state, speaking at yesterday’s celebration of Native American Day in Tulsa [Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Share of children of young parents in Oklahoma living in low-income families. The US average is 69%.
The States That Could Be Derailed By an Economic Downturn: There’s a divide among states when it comes to how well they’re prepared for the next recession, according to research released Monday.Moody’s Analytics found in a “stress test” exercise that 23 states have the funds on hand that they need to weather a moderate recession without having to raise taxes or cut spending. But another 17 states are significantly unprepared for even a small downturn, based on the new analysis. In a moderate recession, Oklahoma would faced a projected 15.3% budget shortfall after all Rainy Day funds are used, the second worst shortfall in the U.S. [Route Fifty]
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.