In The Know: Increasing scholarship tax credit benefits the wealthy; Bills amended to eliminate state agency boards; Stitt signs permitless carry 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.

New from OK Policy

Increasing the scholarship tax credit hurts public schools and benefits affluent Oklahomans: In 2011, the Legislature passed the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act, which grants tax credits to individuals or corporations who make a donation to a scholarship granting organization (SGO) or an educational improvement grant organization (EIGO). [OK Policy]

OK PolicyCast 44: 2019 Bill Watch, Part 2: In our last episode, we heard from David Blatt and Carly Putnam about the big issues and bills we’re following this year related to the state budget and health care. This episode brings you part 2 of that bill watch series, with criminal justice analyst Damion Shade, education analyst Rebecca Fine, and economic opportunity analyst Courtney Cullison. [OK Policy]

Prosperity Policy: Never too late to do what’s right: “For too long, the large number of Oklahomans without health insurance has taken a heavy toll on our families, health care providers, and workforce. Expanding Medicaid provides a rare opportunity to dramatically improve family economic security and overall prosperity for Oklahoma. We should not squander it.” So concluded one of my first columns for this newspaper, way back in July 2012. [Journal Record]

New study shows cash bail system in Oklahoma costs local governments millions of dollars: A new study from the Oklahoma Policy Institute found the state’s bail system is costing both vulnerable communities and county governments millions of dollars each year. [FOX25] Read the full Open Justice Oklahoma report here

In The News

Reform bills amended to eliminate state agency boards: Five government reform bills key to the Senate GOP agenda were amended Tuesday evening to eliminate state agency boards. Each bill advanced from the Senate Rules Committee this morning on 11-2 votes along party lines, and combined they represent a primary component of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s policy agenda. [NonDoc] One of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s top legislative priorities cleared key hurdles Wednesday as House and Senate committees voted to give the chief executive the power to hire the heads of major agencies. [NewsOK] Agency boards and commissions afford consumers of agency services some decision-making influence.

State begins seeking private vendors for SoonerCare eligibility checks required by new law: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is moving forward with implementing a new law that requires it to hire a private company to conduct eligibility verification for the state’s Medicaid program, though how much it will cost the state on the front end and how the application process will change is still up in the air, state officials said. [The Frontier] The new eligibility verification system will add bureaucratic hurdles for Oklahoma families and won’t generate promised savings.

Stitt signs permitless carry bill: Just hours after final legislative approval was granted, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Wednesday that will allow Oklahoma residents to carry a firearm in public with no training or license. House Bill 2597, the so-called Constitutional Carry bill, advanced out of the Senate on Wednesday afternoon by a 40-6 vote. With Stitt’s signature, the law takes effect Nov. 1. [NewsOK] “As I traveled all over the state, to all 77 counties, I heard from Oklahomans all over that they wanted us to protect their right to bear arms,” Stitt said. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bill sets plate reader limits: A bill under consideration by the Oklahoma Legislature would clarify how some license plate information is kept and disseminated. The measure involves regulation of automated license plate readers that have been in use for years by the Corporation Commission that snap photos of vehicles entering Oklahoma. [NewsOK]

Legislative watchdog bill advances: The Oklahoma Senate Appropriations Committee gave unanimous approval on Wednesday to a bill that establishes a legislative watchdog office. Senate Bill 1, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, creates the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, or to provide the Legislature with independent budget and performance data for lawmakers to use to write the budget and make policy decisions. [Journal Record ????]

House committee OK’s cost of living adjustment for retired state employees: It might not be much and it might not be for awhile, but long-suffering retired state employees may finally get a cost of living increase. House Bill 2304, by Rep. Avery Frix, would provide 2 percent COLAs in 2020 from all six of the state’s pension funds. [Tulsa World] “We’re pushing for it because our retirees need it,” said Ginger Sigler, executive director of the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System. [NewsOK ????]

Lawmakers work with foster care alumnus to make policy: The legislative session is moving quickly, and lawmakers are now busy working in their assigned committees to sort through relevant bills and resolutions. I am pleased to say that our legislators have filed many bills that seek to directly impact and improve child well-being. [Joe Dorman / Edmond Sun]

Landlords hesitant to lease space to Oklahoma medical marijuana dispensaries: Some Oklahoma retail landlords are reluctant to lease space to medical marijuana dispensaries since State Question 788 passed in June 2018. On this week’s Business Intelligence Report, Journal Record Editor Russell Ray discusses the difficulties banks are facing in relation to medical marijuana. [KGOU]

Rule would place burden on operators of vertical wells: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission will consider a rule proposed by Devon Energy that would require vertical drilling operators to take action to reduce environmental impact of horizontal drilling prior to and during the drilling process. [Journal Record]

Fewer tax withholdings mean most Oklahomans will receive smaller refunds this year: The Internal Revenue Service has reported that tax refunds are 17 percent lower than the same period last year. And many of my clients are seeing lower refunds. [NewsOK]

State paid nearly $500K to defend Murphy case: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office paid Lisa Blatt, her staff, and colleagues $475,761.66 for their work representing the state in the Murphy v. Carpenter case, according to documents obtained by The Journal Record in an open records request. [Journal Record ????]

Missing markers: As Tulsa Race Massacre centennial nears, plaques memorializing destroyed businesses disappear: More than a decade ago, as projects were finalized for Vision 2025 city improvement project grants, about $20,000 was set aside for historical markers in Tulsa’s downtown Greenwood District. The money paid for dozens of bronze plaques that memorialized businesses destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [The Frontier]

‘I still think there is a lack of awareness’: How Tulsa Public Schools is helping teachers introduce the Tulsa race massacre in classrooms: When the centennial anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre is recognized two years from now, it is expected there will be great interest in examining how Black Wall Street and the Greenwood District — the epicenter of the conflict that left at least 37 dead and hundreds more injured — have changed the city’s landscape. [Tulsa World]

Meet the women of color who are revitalizing Tusla 100 years after the Tulsa massacre: After World War 1, Tulsa was recognized nationally for its affluent African-American community known as the Greenwood District also referenced to as The Black Wall Street. However, the thriving business district and the surrounding neighborhood began to unravel after the events that took place on the mornings of May 30th and June 1st, 1921. [Forbes]

‘We don’t want the history to die’: OKC councilwoman shares Black History Month mission: Oklahoma City Councilwoman Nikki Nice is highlighting people who made a difference in the community for Black History Month.  “We have to tell those stories, because that’s a part of Oklahoma history and I think that’s a part of Oklahoma culture,” she said. [FOX25]

Quote of the Day

“I still think there is a lack of awareness. I’ve grown up here, and there are a lot of people who have grown up here who don’t know about or are aware of it. There is a lack of awareness for educators.”

– Akela Leach, a fifth grade social studies teacher at Lanier Elementary School, on the importance and difficulty of teaching about the Tulsa race massacre [Source: Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

43.2 years

Life expectancy for Oklahomans with an untreated substance use disorder

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

If the economy is so great, why are car loan defaults at a record high? To live and work in much of the U.S., access to a car is virtually a requirement. Jobs, shops, doctors, and daycare are often unreachable by transit, and too far by foot or bike. Owning a car, the research shows, means your life is likely to be more stable and your bank account more flush. Unless you’re among the growing number of Americans who own a car that they can’t afford, and who are now drowning in the debt. [City Lab]

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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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