[In The Know] Kansas abortion vote & Oklahoma | Uninsured rate hits record low | Record state savings | One-size-fits-all tax cuts hurt most

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

One-size-fits-all tax cuts hurt most: Chatter has been increasing about potential “reforms” to Oklahoma’s tax system in the name of “inflation relief,” but everyday Oklahomans shouldn’t be fooled. The latest proposals to be bandied around – namely moving toward a flat income tax – represent tax breaks for the wealthy while putting the squeeze on state services. It’s the same song we’ve heard before, just a new verse. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

After Kansas abortion rights victory, could an Oklahoma state question be next?: After abortion rights supporters secured a major electoral victory in Kansas on Tuesday, some Oklahomans are wondering if that success could be duplicated closer to home. Abortion rights advocates said the Kansas vote to preserve a constitutional right to abortion will likely spur serious conversations about whether Oklahomans should pursue a state question on the issue. [The Oklahoman

  • Kansas abortion vote gives hope to Oklahoma reproductive rights supporters [Tulsa World]
  • Kansas abortion vote could affect Oklahoma advocates [Journal Record]

Number of uninsured Americans drops to record low: The number of people living in America without health insurance coverage hit an all-time low of 8 percent this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced. [AP News]

  • Since going into effect on July 1, 2021, Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma has decreased Oklahoma’s uninsured rate from 14.4 percent to less than 10 percent. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

State Government News

Historic revenue collections swell Oklahoma’s savings: State revenue collections that have reached historic levels over the past three years have resulted in $2.8 billion in state savings. Total collections for the 2022 fiscal year were $8.5 billion, which outperformed the 2022 fiscal year estimate by $1.9 billion, or by 28.3%. The amount totaled $1.5 billion, or 21.6%, more than collections taken in during the previous fiscal year. [Journal Record] | June 2022 Financial Data Tables [State of Oklahoma]

  • Oil, gas production taxes fuel big growth in Oklahoma collections [Journal Record]

Group asks Oklahoma Corporation Commission to stop utility rate hikes: One group has called on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to halt utility rate hikes. The commission responded to the major request, by AARP. State director for AARP Oklahoma, Sean Voskuhl, said he sent letters last week to every commissioner asking for a moratorium on rate increases. [KFOR]

Long Story Short: SQ 781’s Fund is Empty (Audio): Jennifer Palmer reports on a contentious state school board meeting that resulted in stiff penalties for Tulsa and Mustang public schools; Palmer also reports on a federal audit that recommends the U.S. Department of Education take back more $650,000 in GEER grant money that was misspent in Oklahoma; Ashlynd Huffman reports that the special fund established by voters through State Question 781 seven years ago hasn’t received a dime. [Oklahoma Watch]

Sales tax holiday weekend arrives as Oklahoma gets ready to go back to school: Back to school season means it’s time for an annual tradition: Oklahoma’s sales tax holiday. But critics argue the holidays often only benefit wealthier people because those with more flexible incomes are more likely to adjust their spending habits and buy clothing on the holiday weekend. lsa [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Senate debate: Mullin, Shannon pitch national abortion ban, differ on Ukraine: In a televised debate Tuesday night, the two remaining candidates vying for the GOP nomination for outgoing U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s seat said the 2020 election was stolen, supported an abortion ban with no exceptions and clashed over aid to Ukraine. [NonDoc]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Republican leader calls out Mullin, Shannon for saying 2020 election was stolen: The head of the Oklahoma Republican Party contradicted the party’s hopefuls for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s seat on Tuesday, tweeting that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen and that the party needs to focus on the future. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Column: Three-digit lifeline: Oklahomans should take advantage of mental health services: The arrival of 988 is a game-changer for mental health services in Oklahoma. With this three-digit lifeline, more Oklahomans will receive the services they need, when they need them. [Carrie Slatton-Hodges Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Scrutiny grows as Oklahoma County Jail sees 12th inmate death in 2022: Last week, officials from the U.S. Department of Justice visited the Oklahoma County jail for three days. Not long after, on Sunday, July 31, an inmate died at the jail — the 12th fatality this year. The facility has effectively been under federal oversight since 2009, when jail authorities and the DOJ entered into a memorandum of understanding to address ongoing civil rights concerns at the jail. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Pardon And Parole Board recommends clemency for James Coddington: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 on Wednesday to recommend clemency to death row inmate James Coddington. The board’s clemency recommendation is for life without the possibility of parole. [KGOU] With concerns around ‘extraordinary’ childhood abuse, parole board votes to spare James Coddington [Public Radio Tulsa] Gov. Kevin Stitt will now have the final say on whether his death sentence is commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. [The Oklahoman]

As OKC police overhaul chase policy, one family still mourns loss of mother, unborn child: A months-long investigation by The Oklahoman in the wake of a 28-year-old single mother’s death revealed the areas of Oklahoma City where police pursuits are initiated, the reasons why an officer attempted to make the stop, and how prevalent pursuits are in the community. [The Oklahoman]

Announcing retirement, director says he’s ‘leaving the OSBI in a better place’: The director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is stepping down after more than 42 years of public service. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Schools Wait to Learn How to Police Their Bathrooms: The fallout from a state law created to police bathroom use is still unclear in the eyes of students, teachers, administrators and mental health experts weeks before school starts, leaving them with little time to prepare. [Oklahoma Watch]

In StateImpact conversation, Tulsa high schoolers ask peers ‘Will you accept me as I am?’ (Audio): StateImpact’s Robby Korth and KOSU’s Kateleigh Mills talked to a couple of Tulsa high school students about race, gender and how they interact with their peers at school. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Teachers want job security in the face of anti-Critical Race Theory law: There is growing concern about the consequences a teacher might face if they are the reason their district received a lower accreditation status because of violations to House Bill 1775. Teachers don’t want to lose their jobs because they are teaching lessons designed by the state of Oklahoma. [KFOR]

Stillwater Public Schools facing lawsuit over alleged religious freedom infringement: Stillwater resident Brice Chaffin and his lawyer Maria Seidler have filed a lawsuit against Stillwater Public Schools, alleging the school district violated his religious liberties at an April board of education meeting. [Fox 25]

General News

Programs help young people who may face homelessness in OKC: Young people who don’t have places to live or who may be in danger of slipping through cracks in the system may get needed support from Sisu Youth Services or Hope Community Services, local organizations selected to receive grant funding channeled to Oklahoma City by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • EPA warns of cancer risk in Ardmore, other communities [AP News via Journal Record]
  • Tulsa city councilors approve ordinance amendment setting out regulations for solicitations along roadsides, medians [Tulsa World]
  • Dwain E. Midget, Director of the City of Tulsa’s Working In Neighborhoods, Passes Away [Oklahoma Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“I think Kansas is a wake-up call for everyone, including the people of Oklahoma, that voters are not as extreme as the policies that are being pushed by state lawmakers in Oklahoma City.” 

-Amber England, owner of Strategy 77, a political consulting and public affairs company, speaking about Kansas voters on Tuesday defeating an amendment that said there was no constitutional right to an abortion in that state [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

$7 million

Oklahoma’s estimated annual revenue loss from its sales tax holiday each August [OK Policy / A Better Path Forward report

Policy Note

Sales Tax Holidays: An Ineffective Alternative to Real Sales Tax Reform: Sales taxes are an important revenue source, making up close to half of all state tax revenues. But sales taxes also are inherently regressive because low-income families spend a greater share of their income on goods and services subject to the tax. A two- to three-day sales tax holiday shopping spree for selected items does nothing to reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income taxpayers during the other 362 days of the year. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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