In The Know: Lawmakers seek to curb Gov.’s emergency powers | Tax proposals unveiled | Utilities seek to spread out storm costs

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

House Speaker unveils tax cut proposals (Capitol Update): House Speaker Charles McCall announced last week his intention to work on legislation to reduce the personal income tax and to eliminate the corporate income tax over five years. Last Tuesday, McCall removed his House Bill 2041 from the Rules Committee and reassigned it to the Appropriations and Budget Committee. At the time, it was a “shell bill” containing only the title, the “Oklahoma Revenue and Taxation Reform Act of 2021.” [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma lawmakers push to curb Gov. Kevin Stitt’s power amid coronavirus pandemic: Less than a year after state lawmakers temporarily granted Gov. Kevin Stitt unprecedented emergency powers, legislators are looking to curb the governor’s authority in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several Republican legislators have introduced bills aimed at telling Oklahoma’s governor what he can, and more specifically, what he cannot do in emergency situations. [The Oklahoman]

COVID-19 vaccinations accelerate in Oklahoma, which ranks 7th nationally: The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations picked up this week in Oklahoma as state officials announced Friday that more than 1 million doses of vaccines have been administered since December. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • When can we expect herd immunity? Maybe summer, Oklahoma health experts say [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma reaches 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered; nearly half of state has some level of immunity [Tulsa World] | [AP News]
  • Several Oklahoma Tribes Lower Age Limits For COVID Vaccinations [KOSU]
  • Many IHS, Tribal facilities greatly expanding vaccine eligibility, including to some non-natives [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Active COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma continue to decline [AP News] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: 49 more deaths, 706 cases reported Sunday [Tulsa World]
  • Guardsmen like helping with pandemic response close to home [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Local health officials find bill adding state control hard to swallow after rebuffed efforts to collaborate on COVID-19: Proposed legislation would insert the state into Oklahoma’s two independent health agencies through “consultation” and “administrative alignment,” but the Tulsa Health Department’s leader says recent history has shown the state’s reluctance to collaborate. [Tulsa World]

Utility companies to spread winter weather costs to customers out over years, as expenses run in the billions: Several Oklahoma utility companies have submitted plans to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission that would spread over several years anticipated increases in customer utility bills caused by huge spikes in natural gas and power prices from last week’s historic winter weather. [The Frontier]

  • (Audio) This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Utility bill increases, second emergency declaration, Tulsa and Oklahoma County Health Departments & more [KOSU]

Health News

Letter: Managed Medicaid will not save money or improve outcomes: In a letter to you dated Feb. 19, Karma Robinson insinuated that managed care will improve outcomes in the Medicaid populations. That is one of the biggest lies being pushed in the fight. We have several thousand Oklahomans already enrolled in commercial managed care plans, and we rank 46th in health outcomes. [Opinion / NonDoc]

Patient’s death renders Medicaid lawsuit moot: A lawsuit alleging that Oklahoma handles its Medicaid program in violation of federal law was dismissed by a federal appeals court because the patient’s death while awaiting a rehearing rendered the matter moot. The question of whether Oklahoma has been illegally denying its residents Medicaid benefits was left unanswered, as the estate of the deceased was found by the court to lack standing for the relief it had requested. [The Journal Record]

Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative seeks healthy, dignified births for marginalized mothers: The Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative, a program of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, aims to reduce maternal health disparities among Black and Indigenous women, justice-involved women and teen mothers. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

SB 704: Oklahoma sentencing enhancement reform bill faces uncertain future: A bill that would reform Oklahoma’s criminal sentencing law has stalled in the Senate with time running out, despite bipartisan support for the measure. Senate Bill 704, authored by Sen. Dave Rader (R-Tulsa), would reduce the use of sentence enhancements for nonviolent offenses. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Bills to watch after Oklahoma’s first legislative deadline passes: After a month of work, state lawmakers have passed the 2021 session’s first major legislative deadline. Thursday was the deadline for bills to pass out of committee in their originating chamber. Of the record-setting more than 3,000 pieces of legislation filed at the start of the year, hundreds remain alive. [Oklahoma Watch]

The education bills still alive in Oklahoma’s 2021 session: In February, the Oklahoma Legislature’s Senate Education Committee, House Common Education Committee and Higher Education and Career Tech Committee advanced 75 education bills through the first step of the policymaking process. If these measures advance from their full House or Senate floors of origin by March 11, they will move across the rotunda to their opposite chambers for more committee and floor hearings. [NonDoc]

Bill on unlawful assembly, rioting and failure to disperse heads to full Senate: A bill increasing penalties for unlawful assembly, rioting and failure to disperse is headed to the full Senate for a vote. The version of Senate Bill 806 that passed the appropriations committee Wednesday was a bit more moderate than the bill that was first introduced. [KGOU]

Oklahoma House, Senate committees set virtual redistricting town hall meeting for Monday: Oklahoma House and Senate redistricting committees will hold a virtual town hall meeting Monday, after holding an organizational meeting last week. [Lawton Constitution]

(Audio) Capitol Insider: Lawmakers push legislation to limit federal government: With the first deadline looming for passing or rejecting legislation, the Oklahoma legislature moved quickly to make up for time lost during the recent snowstorm and extreme cold. The highest profile cases gave an indication of the direction the session is heading – toward stronger states rights and less federal control while further restricting abortion, protests and limitations on statements made on social media. [KGOU]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers vote against relief package: Oklahoma’s five U.S. House members joined all other Republicans early Saturday in voting against the $1.9 trillion spending package that includes $1,400 direct payments for most Americans; expanded and extended unemployment benefits; money for state and local governments and schools; and numerous other measures to strengthen federal aid programs and beef up COVID-19 vaccination efforts. [The Oklahoman] The new president’s vision for flushing cash to individuals, businesses, states and cities battered by COVID-19 passed on a near party-line 219-212 vote. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Graphic videos: Body cam footage of Bennie Edwards shooting released: Hours after the Oklahoma City Police Department denied NonDoc’s request for body camera footage showing the shooting death of Bennie Edwards, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater provided four videos of the incident Friday. [NonDoc] Newly released videos of a deadly police shooting show an Oklahoma City police sergeant firing the fatal shot from a distance as the Black man ran from officers in a parking lot. [The Oklahoman]

10 death row inmates in Oklahoma could get new trials: As many as 10 death row inmates in Oklahoma, more than one-fifth of the state’s prisoners condemned to die, could escape execution because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerning criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. [AP News]

OKC police surprised by local unrest after George Floyd death: Police were caught off guard when a racial-justice demonstration escalated into an hours-long confrontation in front of police headquarters last year, according to a Police Department review of the response. [The Oklahoman]

  • OKCPD releases edited 911 audio, body-cam video of May 30-31 protests [Free Press OKC]

Mass shootings fall in Oklahoma, but nation faces record high: Mass shootings in Oklahoma fell to two in 2020 from four the year before, while nationally mass shootings jumped nearly 50% during a pandemic bringing also crippling unemployment, violent protests and idle youth. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

‘It’s been awful’: Family of four loses everything, fends for themselves on OKC streets: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships for many people over the last year, including those experiencing homelessness. From job loss to evictions, the challenges have resulted, for some, to end up on the streets. [FOX25]

Economy & Business News

Tulsa Regional Chamber analysis shows one-third of workers impacted by pandemic-related economic crisis: The results of a Tulsa Regional Chamber workforce analysis revealed that a third of companies had either laid off or furloughed workers in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic that affected businesses in the region. [Tulsa World]

Avoiding the next energy crisis: Oklahoma residents learned getting electricity into their homes isn’t as simple as flipping a light switch when the demand skyrocketed in mid-February amid serious supply issues. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Gauging a plan to alter education funding in Oklahoma: A proposal to adjust the school funding formula could strip millions from urban and rural districts and shift it to others. Had it been in place this year, Oklahoma City Public Schools’ state aid would have been reduced by more than $7 million. Tulsa Public Schools would have received nearly $3 million less — the equivalent of 50 teachers’ salaries. [Oklahoma Watch]

‘Being able to go back in person is a win’: Tulsa Public School seniors talk about returning to class for their final days: This was not the senior year Tucker Falling originally expected. No back-to-school retreat weekend with his classmates. No late-night construction sessions for the class homecoming float. Not knowing whether he would see those classmates in person again to say goodbye when they graduate this spring. [Tulsa World]

  • A first step ‘back to normal;’ County teachers, school staff crowd vaccine hub during closed day [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa’s trash service avoided major problems, unforeseen expenses during February storms, official say [Tulsa World]
  • Boil recommendation lifted; unreported water line breaks likely, mayor says, with Tulsa still pumping more than average for February [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“This (bill) is a real knee-capping to public education.”

-J.J. Burnam, head of the Tulsa Parent Legislative Action Committee, speaking about HB 2078 that reworks the public school funding formula [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day

1 in 9

U.S. Corporations headquartered in California, despite its nearly 10 percent corporate income tax rate

[Source: Microeconomic Insights]

Policy Note

The Mixed Impact of U.S. Corporate Tax Cuts: Slashing business taxes brings some local investment but fewer overall U.S. jobs, new research finds. Lower taxes can, indeed, encourage investment in the U.S., but a sizable share of corporate investment actually lands beyond U.S. borders. Furthermore, the U.S. investment appears to be tied to automation, as it is not accompanied by job growth. [Stanford Business]

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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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