In The Know: House passes cost of living adjustment for retirees, bill would make state questions harder to achieve, and more

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.

New from OK Policy

Medicaid expansion: An opportunity to improve financial health: With 14 percent of residents uninsured, a significant portion of Oklahomans are at risk of incurring financially devastating medical debt. An important yet often overlooked outcome of Medicaid expansion is the positive impact it has on the financial well-being of beneficiaries. A full Medicaid expansion plan, as proposed by State Question 802, would likely result in improved financial security for at least 200,000 Oklahomans who would gain coverage. [OK Policy]

In The News

House passes cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees: In a rare unanimous vote, the Oklahoma House on Tuesday passed legislation to grant a cost-of-living adjustment this year to most state retirees. The House’s overwhelming support for the cost-of-living adjustment puts pressure on the state Senate, which punted on the issue last year, to approve the pension increases. [The Oklahoman] The bill will give a 4 percent cost-of-living allowance, or COLA, to about 85 percent of public retirees. Under the bill’s tiered approach, those who retired between two and five years ago would see a 2 percent boost, while those retired for less than two years would get no increase. [AP News] House Bill 3350 by state Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, cleared the chamber on a unanimous 99-0 vote and will advance for consideration in the Senate. [The Journal Record ????] OK Policy has highlighted the need for a cost of living adjustment for Oklahoma’s civil service retirees, which was identified as one of OK Policy’s Legislative focus areas during this session.

House seeks vote making it harder to get questions on ballot: The Oklahoma House approved a measure on Tuesday that would make it more difficult for citizens to get state questions on the ballot. The House voted 66-30, mostly along party lines with Democrats opposed, for House Joint Resolution 1027 to require signatures from a certain percentage of registered voters in each congressional district. [AP News] Rep. John Pfeiffer’s, R-Orlando, proposal, which as a constitutional amendment would require a vote of the people, reflects rural concerns about the state’s population shift to the two largest urban areas. [Tulsa World]

Education bill would specify how marijuana tax money can help schools; critics say it violates intent of SQ788: Critics of an education bill say it violates the will of the voters who approved legalizing medical marijuana. The Senate on Tuesday passed Senate Bill 1758, by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, by a vote of 27-16. The measure would send 75 percent of excess tax revenue from the sale of medical marijuana to the State Public Common School Building Equalization Fund. [Tulsa World] Chip Paul, who co-authored State Question 788, said voters clearly wanted the surplus tax revenues from medical marijuana sales to be spent in classrooms and directly on students. [CNHI / Enid News & Eagle]

After slow start, State to probe 81 convictions involving debunked hair analysis: A stray hair found at a crime scene and matched by microscope to hair from a suspect may be a good plot turn in a TV crime show. But in real life that forensic science hasn’t been used in decades – it’s been debunked. The newest plot turn in Oklahoma is that authorities are now trying to redress any wrongful convictions that occurred decades ago because of heavy reliance on microscopic hair analysis. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oil-producing U.S. states to lose revenue as crude prices collapse: Alaska, New Mexico and other states that benefited most from the nation’s energy boom may soon need to patch holes in their budgets due to a 45 percent dive in U.S. crude prices this year and spending plans built on much higher prices. Oklahoma is already pinched by falling prices, said David Blatt, a public policy professor at the University of Oklahoma and former state senate fiscal analyst. [Reuters]

Lisa Kramer: Oklahoma has chosen public schools and the Legislature should reject SB 407: Oklahomans have spoken loud and clear that their top priority is a strong, adequately funded public school system. We saw this repeatedly in 2018, when the Legislature reached the historic supermajority necessary to fund a teacher pay raise, with the incredible community support during the teacher walkout and with the election results when numerous legislators who had opposed the tax increases for education funding lost their seats. [Lisa Kramer / Tulsa World]

John Thompson: Oklahoma Trauma Summit provides hope, but teachers need funding: Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and the Department of Education are doing a very good thing by organizing summits and by helping to fund trauma-informed support and training. We are learning how to break cycles of poverty and trauma, but we still have a long way to go. Policy-makers should learn from Perry’s research, but they must also provide Oklahoma’s educators with the resources needed to put that research into practice. [John Thompson / NonDoc] OK Policy analysis shows that progress has been made recently on restoring funding for essential services like education, but it will be a long rebuilding project to full budget recovery.

Oklahoma House passes bill to set up teacher loan repayment program: Rep. John Waldron said with enrollment in the state’s teacher training programs down 40 percent, lawmakers must do something to attract the next generation of teachers. House Bill 3382 would let teachers apply for $4,000 in loan repayment for every five years of employment at an Oklahoma school. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bill changing audit process for smaller towns passes House: A bill penned by a local representative will now make its way to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration after passing the House last week 95-0. Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, authored House Bill 3269 in an effort to raise revenue amounts triggering a mandatory audit and amend statutes for audits in communities with less than 2,500 people. [The Duncan Banner]

State Senate passes 2 bills aimed at helping nursing mothers: The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday passed two bills aimed at helping nursing mothers. Senate Majority Floor Leader Kim David, R-Porter, is the author of Senate Bill 285 and Senate Bill 1877. She said the bills are needed to accommodate new mothers by allowing them to continue to work and express milk while at work. [Tulsa World]

Legislation allowing renewal of CDLs in tag agencies passes House: A bill shifting renewal of commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) from offices of the Dept. of Motor Vehicles to local tag agencies passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives this afternoon. House Bill 1966 was authored by Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee. Kerbs, who holds a commercial driver’s license, knows first hand how frustrating the renewal process is. [CNHI]

Bill limiting regulation for business innovators advances: Businesses would be encouraged to develop innovative products and services if a bill progressing in the Oklahoma Legislature advances to become law, its author said. Passage of Senate Bill 1792, the Oklahoma Financial Technology Access and Improvement Act, would establish a “regulatory sandbox program” to be administered by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. [The Journal Record ????]

Bill allowing home delivery of marijuana approved by Oklahoma House: If passed into law, House Bill 3227 would authorize licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to contract with licensed transporters to deliver medical marijuana, concentrates or other products to the homes of licensed medical marijuana users. [The Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma Attorney General supports farm groups’ lawsuit against California law: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has joined a brief in support of farm groups’ lawsuit against the state of California. The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation are suing California over Proposition 12, which prohibits the sale of veal, pork or eggs produced from animals not raised in accordance with the state’s animal-confinement regulations. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Department of Health opens coronavirus hotline: The Oklahoma Department of Health has opened a call center to answer questions and concerns about the coronavirus. The toll-free hotline – 877-215-8336 – will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. [KTUL]

12&12 now Oklahoma’s first addiction center for meth-related treatment: 12&12 said they are now the first facility in Oklahoma to offer meth-specific treatment. The treatment covers everything from detox to outpatient services. They get their funding through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. [NewsOn6]

Oklahoma cities rank high on obesity list: Forty percent of adults in the U.S. are obese. Compared to 100 U.S. cities, Oklahoma came out close to top, which in this case is not so good. Tulsa ranked 3 and Oklahoma City ranked 6 in obese and overweight people, according to WalletHub. [Woodward News]

Tulsa Public Schools putting proposed Indian Education Program changes on hold: Tulsa Public Schools is going back to the drawing board on a restructuring of its Indian Education Program. Superintendent Deborah Gist said feelings were clear in recent community meetings about the district’s proposals. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“Year after year after year our retired employees of the state of Oklahoma have lost ground, not by inches but by miles, every year as the cost of living increases. We are way past time on giving retirees of the state a cost-of-living adjustment.”

-Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha [The Journal Record ????]

Number of the Day

0 – 5

The age group that is undercounted in the Census at a higher rate than any other age group. By estimates, young children under 5 make up 7 percent of Oklahoma’s population.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Early childhood educators have an important role to play in the 2020 Census: This spring, early childhood educators can help secure crucial funding and reduce inequities for the next decade when they work to count all young children in the 2020 Census. When all young children are counted, their communities then get their fair share of over 800 billion dollars a year in federal funding that is allocated based on US Census data. [Count All Kids]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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