In The Know: Governor signs budget bill

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

Governor signs budget bill: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a $7.6 billion spending bill, signalling to lawmakers they can adjourn session nearly a month before it’s scheduled to end. Legislative leaders have said that once work on the budget was done, they could send lawmakers home for the rest of the year. The legislative session is annually scheduled to run between February and the end of May [NewsOK].

New budget marks a return of line-item appropriations: When Republicans took full control of the legislature, both House and Senate, they began a process of dismantling the use of line items in state appropriations measures. The policy took full root in 2010 when Republican governor Mary Fallin was elected. The new legislative majority felt it was not their place to dictate to the executive department, particularity through line-item budgeting, how to spend the appropriated dollars. They also accused Democrats of using line items to promote favored programs over others. In sum the mantra was to give the executive agencies flexibility in the use of funds in the name of efficiency [OK Policy].

SB 888 to end wind tax credit refundability stalls: With lawmakers intending to adjourn the 2018 regular session Friday, the Oklahoma Senate attempted to send SB 888 to Gov. Mary Fallin today, but a vote on the adoption of House amendments failed to receive a majority of those voting. The controversial bill would have terminated the refundability of wind energy tax credits — meaning refunds given beyond the elimination of tax liability — beginning Jan. 1, 2019 [NonDoc].

Video series tells real-life stories of Oklahomans threatened by push to restrict SoonerCare: Thousands of Oklahoma parents need our state’s Medicaid program, called SoonerCare, just to fill a prescription or go to the doctor. But now, lawmakers are rushing to require these parents to work a certain number of hours per week or lose their health care. As our video series shows, these new requirements are bad for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House votes to increase private prison rate: The Oklahoma House voted Monday to increase the daily rate the state of Oklahoma pays private prisons for housing inmates, sending the bill to the Senate for final passage. The House appropriated $2.8 million to increase the daily rate to a minimum of $43.30 per inmate, though at least one private prison company will continue to make more than that. The vote was 59-37 [NewsOK]. Private prisons are bad policy, but they’re not to blame for Oklahoma’s incarceration problem [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Rural, Urban Educators Disagree on School Needs: Even as they presented unified calls for increased funding, rural and urban educators had starkly different ideas of how to accomplish it, lawmakers said. Teachers were allied in their calls for increased pay, additional classroom spending and reduced class sizes. Still, some lawmakers said they couldn’t help but notice some stark disagreement and mixed messages about how to solve those issues [CNHI].

Bill Would Separate Oklahoma’s Large, Single-High School Districts: A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would create a separate classification for large school districts that have only one high school. Senate Bill 1599 was originally proposed earlier this month to cover appropriations and budget procedures. But a committee inserted an amendment into the bill on Monday, April 30, 2018 that would go much further [News On 6].

Why Legislators And DAs Want New Rules For Sentencing Teens To Life Without Parole: Tucker McGee is in prison for murdering teenager JaRay Wilson. McGee was days away from turning 18. Now, more than five years after the murder, Legislators and district attorneys fear his sentence of life in prison without parole is on the verge of being reduced. McGee’s sentence is one of several dozen that could be changed because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles unconstitutional in 2012 [KOSU].

With nowhere else to go, some of state’s most vulnerable kids end up at Tulsa’s Laura Dester shelter: After ongoing problems ranging from under-trained staff to abuse, the Department of Human Services says it plans to privatize the state’s last emergency shelter for children in the state’s child welfare system, turning it into a treatment center for kids with intellectual disabilities. On Monday DHS announced it will “cease using the Laura Dester Children’s Center in Tulsa as a shelter for abused and neglected children” in September, and transition the facility into a “treatment center for children with co-occurring intellectual disabilities, mental illness and extreme behavior issues.” [The Frontier]

Budget shortfalls stir talk among Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates about tax breaks: As Oklahoma’s budget problems have brought more scrutiny to various tax breaks, gubernatorial candidates have been talking about whether subsidies are worth the loss of revenue. At forums last week, candidates were asked about tax incentives in general and about ones for wind energy in particular [NewsOK].

Alcohol regulators, distillers get ready for liquor law changes: The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission is preparing for a historic change in the state’s liquor laws. Now Executive Director Keith A. Burt can finally hire people to help with the transition and to oversee all the new licensees. With the state’s fiscal year 2019 budget on Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, Burt’s agency is slated to get a 22.5 percent increase in its budget. This equates to an additional $500,000 for the year. The 2019 budget would be about $3 million [Journal Record].

‘Green the Vote’ gets approval to collect signatures for marijuana petitions: Oklahomans will vote on medical marijuana in June and working off this momentum the group “Green the Vote” is working to petition for constitutional amendments. The Tulsa-based group has received approval from the state to begin collecting signatures for a state-wide election on both medicinal and recreational marijuana. They want to change the Oklahoma Constitution and make smoking pot legal for adults [KOKH].

Oklahoma advances adoption bill that could discriminate against gay couples: Oklahoma resident Lupe Tovar entered the foster-care system when she was just 6 years old, but it wasn’t until she was 32 and had long since aged out of the system, that she was formally adopted by her two dads. “I was one of those young people who aged out and didn’t think it would ever happen,” she said of her adoption by her long-time mentors. “I am now loved beyond what I can almost handle.” [NBC News]

Hindu prayer offered for first time in Oklahoma Legislature: In an historic move, the opening prayer in the Oklahoma State Senate was given Monday by a Hindu leader. Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, wished lawmakers and others peace. He spoke in Sanskrit and translated it to English [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“The priorities [in Oklahoma’s FY 2019 budget] reflect the pressures and input from interested parties and the judgment of legislators as produced by a legislative as opposed to an agency process. I’m biased, but I think that’s as it should be. Legislators are elected to make the budget decisions.”

– Former House Speaker Steve Lewis, writing about the return of line-item appropriations in the Oklahoma budget on the OK Policy blog (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma women per 100,000 who were admitted to prisons in FY 2017, 91% higher than the national average

Source: Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why the school spending graph Betsy DeVos is sharing doesn’t mean what she says it does: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s message at an event on Thursday was clear: education leaders have been throwing good money after bad policy. To make the point, she shared a graph that appears to show that school spending has risen dramatically over the last three decades as student outcomes barely budged. This visualization, which DeVos also shared on Twitter, has become a staple in some education policy circles. Even Bill Gates has offered a version of it. But the graph is misleading, and several recent studies have in fact shown that students gain — in higher test scores, graduation rates, and earnings as adults — when they attend schools that spend more money [Chalkbeat].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Governor signs budget bill

  1. SB 888 Jobs and forwards move ? v 70 million , is it really worth it ? are we really hurting for cash that we would implement such ? Im glad it did not go forth . .

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