In The Know: Dozens of new Oklahoma laws go into effect

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. 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

Dozens of new Oklahoma laws go into effect: Dozens of new laws went into effect Wednesday in Oklahoma, including one that sets up regulations for ridesharing programs such as Uber and Lyft and another that requires courts to report certain information for background checks on gun buyers [NewsOK].

Large oil industry tax cut becomes permanent: State tax breaks for oil and gas companies are now permanent. A law eliminating sunset clauses and setting a 2 percent tax rate for three years for most new wells went into effect for the start of the new fiscal year. David Blatt with Oklahoma Policy Institute said there’s a problem with that [Public Radio Tulsa].

Unemployment up across the state: Unemployment rose in 75 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties in May. The figures released Wednesday show Latimer County in southeastern Oklahoma with the highest jobless rate at 8.4 percent — up from 7.8 percent in April. Haskell and McIntosh counties are next at 8.2 percent unemployment each [KRMG].

Legislators plan state question to repeal Oklahoma Constitution’s ban on using public property to support religion: The Oklahoma Supreme Court cited that section in a 7-2 ruling released Tuesday that said a Ten Commandments monument should be removed from the grounds of the state Capitol [NewsOK].

Lawmakers want to take over school athletics association over refusal to allow public prayers: Nearly two dozen Republican lawmakers called Wednesday for the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association to be put under the control of the state. The association considers itself a private, non-profit organization. Legislators are upset that the association does not allow public prayer to be offered over the public address system at association playoff or championship games [NewsOK].

Gaps in Oklahoma mental health treatment don’t have easy answers beyond more money: At state-funded treatment facilities, many people who seek care get little or, oftentimes, no help at all. Oklahoma’s state-subsidized system can’t afford to provide treatment for everyone, instead limiting help to just the most seriously ill. The number of mentally ill people needing help is increasing, but funding is down [NewsOK].

Battle of the Affordable Care Act is over. The law’s enemies just don’t know it yet: The reaction of some Affordable Care Act opponents to last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court again upholding the law is reminiscent of the classic scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where King Arthur does battle with the Black Knight. King Arthur severs the knight’s arm and pleads with him to stand aside. “Tis but a scratch,” the knight insists and fights on [David Blatt / The Journal Record].

Newly reelected Cherokee Chief says pledges to strengthen health care: Bill John Baker said he hopes to strengthen the changes he made during his first four years in office, including increasing access to health care and creating more jobs. The Cherokees operate the largest tribally owned health care system in the nation, and Baker poured $100 million from casino profits into health clinic expansion and renovations during his first term [Associated Press].

Two insider takes on the 2015 legislative session: We came across these two thoughtful takes on the 2015 session, with a particular emphasis on the budget, from Senate Republican Mike Mazzei and House Democrat Ben Loring. Their assessments offer some stark contrasts but also some surprising agreement [OK Policy Blog].

Release lists bills from Democratic legislators that died without hearing: Democratic House staff are complaining that legislator ratings from a group sponsored by the Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and State Chambers of Commerce were based only on Republican-sponsored bills. They list 19 business-related bills filed by House Democrats this year that died without being heard in the Legislature [CapitolBeatOK].

Senate Democrats elect Norman’s John Sparks to head caucus: Sparks announced in a statement Wednesday that he was replacing Sen. Randy Bass of Lawton as the leader of the eight-member caucus. Bass served only one year as Democratic leader before the caucus voted to replace him [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma sees substantial drop in reported crimes: The numbers of violent and nonviolent crimes reported in Oklahoma in 2014 were the lowest yearly totals in at least a decade, according to an annual crime report compiled by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The total number of crimes reported decreased statewide by 8.8 percent from 2013 to 2014 [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Innocence Project seeks to clear man in 2001 shooting: Willard E. O’Neal Jr. is serving a life sentence for the Dec. 23, 2001 shooting death of Bruce Chamberlain. The Oklahoma Innocence Project is arguing that O’Neal had an alibi at the exact time the crime was taking place, DNA evidence at the scene was not attributable to Mr. O’Neal, and the state withheld DNA and other evidence from his attorney in violation of his 14th Amendment right to due process [Tulsa World].

Harold Hamm’s defamation case over Facebook post could test free speech law: The Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act lets a defendant stop the clock and avoid thousands of dollars in legal fees. If the lawsuit is shown to be frivolous, a judge can dismiss it before expensive discovery and motions are needed [The Journal Record] See the lawsuit filing and Facebook post here.

Quote of the Day

“The biggest problem is that many people being turned away at the early stages develop worse problems, resulting in more costly care — or in some cases prison sentences — later. It’s a tough spot to be in, but one that doesn’t have an easy answer beyond more money. Until state leaders put more emphasis on treating mental illnesses, we see this as a continuing issue in our state.”

-The Oklahoman editorial board, writing about how a growing number of Oklahomans are in need of mental health treatment while state funding for treatment has been slashed (Source).

Number of the Day


Number of animal-caused deaths in Oklahoma from 1999 to 2013.

Source: CDC via The Washington Post

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Driver’s license suspensions create cycle of debt: The last time Kenneth Seay lost his job, at an industrial bakery that offered health insurance and Christmas bonuses, it was because he had been thrown in jail for legal issues stemming from a revoked driver’s license. Same with the three jobs before that. In fact, Mr. Seay said, when it comes to gainful employment, it is not his criminal record that is holding him back — he did time for dealing drugs — but the $4,509.22 in fines, court costs and reinstatement fees he must pay to recover his license [New York Times].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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