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
How much does Oklahoma rely on court collections to fund government? ‘We reach a point where we begin to criminalize poverty.’: Onerous court debts can create a vicious cycle, especially for impoverished people trying to orchestrate positive and productive lives. Inability to pay either puts them behind bars or they return to crime to pay the bills. [Tulsa World]
Criminal justice reform advocates wary of ex-legislator: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s announcement last week of a criminal justice reform package left some justice reform advocates with a couple of questions. Is this real reform, and why is someone perceived as an opponent of criminal justice reform one of the Stitt administration’s advisers on the issue? [Tulsa World] Last week Gov. Kevin Stitt endorsed several criminal justice reform measures moving through the legislative process but conspicuously left out others. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
Point of View: Impacted by the system, now an agent of change: My life has been and continues to be negatively impacted by Oklahoma’s broken bail system. I see daily reminders of the lasting impressions left by each grueling detention or expensive bail set that my family and children were made to suffer through. [Sonya Pyles / NewsOK]
Legislators detail budget battles at Legislative Focus: Local legislators convened at Northeastern State University for the final Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Focus meeting Friday. The legislators delivered updates about what’s going on at the state capitol, as well as discussed how to handle state-wide health problems. [Tahlequah Daily Press]
Oklahoma House Asks for Review on 4% Cost-of-Living Adjustment for State Retirees: State representatives have their own ideas about giving a cost-of-living increase to Oklahomans receiving state pensions. Three weeks ago, a Senate committee sent a 2% cost-of-living adjustment off for actuarial analysis as required by law. Thursday, House Republicans revived House Bill 2485, a shell bill, and amended it to study a 4% cost of living adjustment. [Public Radio Tulsa]
The Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill to require overtime pay for some state workers. Now Gov. Stitt has vetoed it. Find out why: For many parole officers, case managers, maintenance workers, and janitors working for the state of Oklahoma, working more than 40 hours a week comes without overtime pay. Instead, many employees are required to use compensatory time, meaning they must offset each hour of overtime with an hour off within the next six months. [NewsOK 🔒]
Oklahoma Legislature passes bill to support computer science programs in public schools: The Oklahoma legislature passed a bill to support computer science education in public schools. Both chambers passed the bill requiring the State Board of Education create a rubric for implementing quality computer science programs. [KTUL]
Officials consider standardizing method for taxing wind farms: Wind power advocates are working to standardize the method of assessing property tax valuation for wind farms following a series of lawsuits involving wind farm owners protesting tax values assigned by county assessors. [Journal Record]
Bill would eliminate cap on gambling loss deductions: Tribal leaders are asking state elected officials to pass House Bill 2667 because they’re worried about losing gaming revenue, which could affect the state’s education budget. The bill would eliminate a $17,000 cap on several deductions, including gambling losses for federal income tax purposes. [Journal Record]
Oklahoma woman drafting legislation to help others who also survive traumatic brain injuries: Alicia Murie is focused on a bill to create a Traumatic Brain Injury task force, bringing together victims, their families and caregivers to find more resources for their recovery. They’ll also be aiming at finding the best ways for them to succeed in the classroom and workforce, like Murie, who works as a substitute teacher. [KFOR]
Four wildlife bills remain active in state legislature: Oklahoma’s 57th Legislature still has four active wildlife-related bills to process before adjournment the end of May. Of the initial 36 bills filed this session, the governor so far has signed two and vetoed one. [Tulsa World]
Tulsa World editorial: Oklahoma’s future begins with a robust higher education system … and a robust higher education system begins with more state funding: Gov. Kevin Stitt and a top legislative leader are indicating that the state is ready to reinvest in its higher education system. Good. Rep. Kevin Wallace, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budgets Committee, told state regents last week that when the state’s budget for fiscal year 2020 is rolled out, he expects a $28 million increase in funding for the state’s colleges and universities. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] State spending on higher education has decreased by 26 percent since 2008 with Oklahoma leading the nation for the most drastic cuts between 2012 and 2017.
Wayne Greene: Oklahoma’s tax laws put money — $3.3 billion worth a year — in the pockets of a lot of people. Wayne Greene does the math: The state appropriates about $7 billion a year on things like prison cells and teacher pay, but it quietly sends an additional pile of money — a document within Gov. Kevin Stitt’s budget puts the number at about $3.3 billion a year — to help military retirees, Oklahoma City Thunder ticketholders and many, many others. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]
Alcohol sales climbing after historic changes; tax collections increasing in first six months after October: Alcohol sales tax collections have increased in Oklahoma following historic changes to the state’s alcohol industry in October. Six months after grocery stores and convenience stores gained the right to sell strong beer and wine, liquor stores gained the right to refrigerate strong beer and the distribution model supporting the entire industry was consolidated, average monthly tax collections increased nearly 10%. [NewsOK 🔒]
Moore Schools Moves to Eliminate Gifted Classes. Does It Signal a Trend? Moore Public Schools’ plan to discontinue a weekly class for its gifted students has raised concerns with state advocates for gifted education and also rankled parents and teachers within the district. The president of an Oklahoma association for gifted students said the move by such a large district is a “red flag” and sends a message that gifted students don’t need this type of special service. However, there’s no indication so far that many districts are eliminating gifted programs. [Oklahoma Watch]
Fight continues to make public places, workplaces smoke-free: Oklahoma is one of only three states that allow smoking in bars. That won’t change any time soon. Legislation addressing the issue did not advance this year because of strong opposition from tobacco lobbyists and the state chamber. Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, authored the Oklahoma Workplace Clean Air Act, prohibiting smoking in indoor public places — including bars — and in all enclosed areas where people work. [NewsOK 🔒]
Big county, big job: It didn’t matter that the county commissioners were in a very public struggle with each other and Sheriff P.D. Taylor over control of the Oklahoma County Jail and how to fix dire circumstances there. After a wet, cold winter, potholes continue to plague the unincorporated parts of the county and Jesse Rodriguez’s public service crew was on the job. [OKC Free Press]
Investigations of former University of Oklahoma president David Boren, inaccurate financial data costly: The University of Oklahoma has paid $561,493 to the law firm that investigated both former OU President David Boren and the misreporting of information to U.S. News & World Report. The latest payment to Jones Day — for $166,814 — was made April 24, two weeks after regents were briefed at a six-hour closed meeting on the findings of the Boren investigation, records show. [NewsOK]
Quote of the Day
“There is really only one path that leads to growth and prosperity for Oklahoma’s future. A highly trained, taxpaying workforce driven by bright entrepreneurs starts with a robust higher education system. For too long, the state’s top leaders have acted as if tuition, donations and good luck would be enough to produce that. They are not.”
-Tulsa World Editorial Board [Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Share of family income paid in sales and excise taxes by the poorest 20% of Oklahoma households.
The most cost-effective way to help the homeless is to give them homes: The more recent uptick in homelessness, however, is a reminder that housing scarcity remains a major problem in America. And yet when it comes to the chronically homeless, you don’t need to fix everything to improve their lives. You don’t even really need new public money. What you need to do is target those resources at the core of the problem — a lack of housing — and deliver the housing, rather than spending twice as much on sporadic legal and medical interventions. [Vox]
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