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.
New from OK Policy
Bill Watch: One more week for bills until next Survivor elimination: Last week, we reported that just over 1,000 bills and resolutions had survived the initial committee deadline and were still alive. The ranks of surviving bills will be thinned once again by next Thursday, March 14th, the deadline by which bills must pass out of their chamber of origin to avoid being booted off the island (for various exceptions to this rule, see our 2019 Legislative Primer). [OK Policy]
We’re hiring! Join our team as a budget and tax policy analyst: Budget and tax policy has long been at the core of OK Policy’s efforts to advance equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahoman. Now we are looking to add an experienced and effective budget and tax policy analyst to lead our work in this area. [OK Policy]
In The News
First inmates to come before pardon and parole board under new law: A new type of streamlined parole will get its first test next week when the initial group of inmates eligible for the early release are considered by the Pardon and Parole Board. The parole process, approved by the Legislature last year as part of criminal justice reform efforts, could also be a first measure of how much a board composed mostly of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointees will embrace changes intended to relieve Oklahoma’s overcrowded prisons. [Oklahoma Watch] We previously noted that parole in Oklahoma is broken and discussed how to fix it.
Census at Oklahoma County jail inmate finds all inmates had court appearances: A court-sanctioned check of more than 1,600 Oklahoma County jail inmates was completed Friday with no one else found who had not yet seen a judge, officials said. Presiding Judge Tom Prince on Tuesday authorized the check after an inmate went nearly eight months without an initial court appearance. [NewsOK 🔒] Funding public defenders to reduce caseloads is one of our 2019 policy priorities.
Ahead of April 1 deadline, all eyes on education funding: Entering week six of Oklahoma’s 2019 legislative session, some lawmakers believe it is time to hear more public discussion about education funding options. “I’m actually disappointed that education hasn’t been more of a topic,” Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd (D-OKC) said Thursday. [NonDoc] Restoring state aid funding for public schools is one of our policy priorities this year
Educators called to return to the Capitol Monday: A plan to increase tax credits, now used mainly to support private schools, is raising alarms among some educators, even organizers of last year’s teacher walkout. OK Policy Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine spoke with News On 6 about the negative impact of scholarship credits on public schools. [News On 6] Our analysis shows increasing the scholarship tax credit hurts public schools and benefits affluent Oklahomans.
Oklahoma treasurer reports overall collections still strong: Oklahoma’s new state treasurer says overall collections to the state treasury are continuing to increase, aided in part by a $50 million boost last month from a new package of tax increases. [AP News] In spite of lower oil and gas prices, gross receipts have shown growth in the Oklahoma economy for 23 straight months, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Friday. [Tulsa World]
Medicaid expansion could end up on 2020 ballot: With the threat of a citizen-led ballot initiative looming on the horizon, lawmakers admit they’re working behind the scenes this session to try to develop an Oklahoma-centric plan that would expand health insurance access for the state’s working poor. [CHNI] Expand health coverage is one of our 2019 policy priorities.
School counselor works to better lives: Anxiety and depression are on the rise among American teens, and while experts suggest causes and search for solutions, school counselors are working in the midst of it, spotting the signs and stepping in however they can. [Enid News & Eagle] We recently discussed the dire need for more school counselors in Oklahoma schools.
Wind industry tax protests disrupt school financing: In the halls of the state Capitol, lobbyists for the wind industry have been handing out brochures touting the millions of dollars in property tax revenues that Oklahoma schools and counties have received as a result of wind farms being built in their jurisdictions. [NewsOK]
State bill aims to block cities from regulating plastic bags: Mayor-elect Breea Clark’s push to curb single-use plastic bags in Norman is under threat at the Capitol. On Wednesday, the Senate voted 35-9 in favor of Senate Bill 1001, a renewed effort by Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, to preempt cities from regulating auxiliary containers. [Norman Transcript] Bill would prohibit cities from banning plastic containers, bags. [Tulsa World]
Unity Bill for medical marijuana regulations expected to clear Senate this week: A bill to regulate much of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry is set for a final legislative step before potentially being sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt for his signature. House Bill 2612, more commonly known as the marijuana Unity Bill, likely will be heard this week by the Oklahoma Senate. [NewsOK] Tulsa school board to vote on policy banning medical marijuana on district property. [Tulsa World]
Bill aims to stop, “unacceptable” school bus accidents: A bill moving its way through the state legislature right now might help stop school bus related crashes. This comes just days after a fifteen-year-old student at Stillwater was hit by a car after stepping off a school bus. [KTUL]
State lawmakers moving to crack down on domestic violence in Oklahoma: Oklahoma lawmakers are considering much harsher treatment of domestic violence. A bill would add domestic assault and battery to the list of 85 percent crimes. Rep. Marcus McEntire was asked why House Bill 1056 doesn’t address services for victims. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Firefighting legislation gets warm reception: Oklahoma firefighters are eager to get more of their retired peers back into the field under House Bill 2051. The bill by House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, would make an exception to a system that was originally intended to disallow retirement double-dipping, said Steve Lumry, executive director of the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association. [Journal Record]
Oklahoma scholarship program eases burden for single parents: In a small room in the Chesapeake Community Plaza Thursday night, something powerful happened. Within the unassuming strip of nonprofit offices, young children sat with their families in rows of foldout chairs, playing with dolls and fidgeting, waiting for their parent to be called up, one at a time, to receive scholarships to help ease the burden of finishing their education. [Journal Record]
Editorial Board: Oklahoma DOC could use pay raises: Oklahoma lawmakers in recent years have warmed to the idea of approving policies to help reduce the state’s prison population. As those needed policies take effect, however, prisons remain full and the men and women charged with guarding inmates remain far outnumbered. [Editorial Board / NewsOK] We’ve seen increased turnover among state workers as their salaries fall futher behind.
Tulsa City Council scheduled to vote on holding public meetings on Equality Indicators report: City councilors are scheduled to vote Wednesday on a proposal to hold public meetings on the 2018 Equality Indicators report. The proposal was created by Councilors Kara Joy McKee, Lori Decter Wright and Vanessa Hall-Harper after the City Council rebuffed Hall-Harper’s initial request to hold public meetings, citing concerns about the intent and format of the proceedings. [Tulsa World]
Law professors: Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation still stands: Law professors Bethany Berger and Colette Routel presented together on Friday at the University of Kansas School of Law’s 23rd Annual Tribal Law and Government Conference. They often scoffed at Oklahoma’s claims in its briefs, while showing in their presentation why the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation was still intact. [Journal Record] Defense attorney discusses strategy in Patrick Murphy case. [Journal Record]
Quote of the Day
“We just can’t get people to come around and realize the economic benefits and health benefits. It’s very frustrating. That’s probably … the greatest detriment that this political rhetoric at the Capitol is having on the state of Oklahoma. It makes no sense whatsoever to leave federal funds on the table.”
– Rep. David Perryman (D-Chickasha) on the difficulty of moving legislation to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma [Source: CNHI]
Number of the Day
The number of Oklahomans that are 18+ years of age that do not have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent.
[Source: Oklahoma Works]
Too Far from Jobs: Spatial mismatch and hourly workers: In many cities, low-income residents live far from available jobs, and employers can’t find people to fill open positions. Economists call this “spatial mismatch”—a mismatch between where jobs are located and where job seekers live, which can cause high unemployment rates and lead to longer spells of joblessness. [Urban Institute]
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