In The Know: Legislative session adjourns after raucous House session

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.

In The News

Legislative session adjourns after raucous House session featuring shouted insults; controversial adoption bill heads to governor’s desk: Oklahoma senators ended their 2018 session with a sort of collective sigh in time for dinner Thursday evening, while their counterparts in the House continued to battle away, wrapping up finally after dark with even the motion to adjourn contested. Still, it was the earliest adjournment in memory — although it might not have seemed that way to lawmakers. Counting special sessions, they had met almost continuously since February of last year [Tulsa World].

Who Will Feel Effects of the 2018 Legislative Session: The curtain fell Thursday night on the 2018 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, leaving indelible echoes of sound and fury. This spring’s session – as well as the concurrent special session that spilled over from last year – was dominated by the teacher walkout and the heated debate over tax increases to pay for teacher raises and to boost public education funding. But lawmakers’ actions went well beyond the centerpiece dramas. Here’s a look of who will be feel the impact of what the Legislature did, and didn’t do, in this turbulent year [Oklahoma Watch].

Bill is revenge for teacher walkout, unions say: A new bill introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature this week is being criticized as “revenge” for the teacher walkout and political pressure put on lawmakers. The latest version of Senate Bill 1150 would prevent school districts from automatically deducting union dues from teacher paychecks. Instead of their being withheld, teachers would have to make arrangements with their union to make payments. It would also require that a majority of educators in the district vote every five years to keep their collective bargaining unit [NewsOK].

Five charter schools get boost from federal funds: Five current and future Oklahoma charter schools will receive a portion of $3 million in federal funding this year, part of a larger grant program expected to significantly boost charter school enrollment across the state. Last year, Oklahoma was named one of nine states to receive funding through the Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. A total of $16.5 million will be funneled to charter schools over the next five years, which could help open or expand 25 charter schools [NewsOK].

Tribal officials will object to new HHS rule: The Indian Health Care system serves around 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, but now, some of them could be in jeopardy of losing health care, after the Trump administration announced it would allow states to pursue work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries. Officials with the Cherokee Nation, along with those of other tribes, say they intend to push back against the regulation, which could constitute treaty violations [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Key Questions And Answers On SQ 788, Oklahoma’s Vote On Medical Marijuana: In June, Oklahomans will vote on State Question 788, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, and many people are asking – how has this worked in other states? While thirty states and Washington, D.C. have broadly legalized marijuana in some form, regulations vary. For example: New Hampshire allows just four dispensaries in the entire state, while in Louisiana only cannabis in a non-smokeable form is legal. Oklahoma borders three states that have legalized medical marijuana: Arkansas, Colorado and New Mexico [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Fact Sheet: SQ 788 – Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OK Policy].

Oklahoma governor faces decision on gun carry without permit: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is not saying whether she will sign legislation that would allow adults to carry handguns without a permit in spite of concern expressed by the deputy director of the state’s top law enforcement agencies Thursday that it could erode public safety. “The law really removes many of the protections that we’ve had,” Rick Adams, deputy director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, told The Associated Press. “Public safety is obviously the biggest concern. It’s a dangerous situation for the public. It’s a dangerous situation for police officers.” [Associated Press]

New Oklahoma law closes loophole, makes secretly tracking someone with a GPS device a stalking crime: A legislator’s personal ordeal has resulted in a new law against secretly tracking someone with a GPS device. Covert use of a tracker is now a stalking crime in Oklahoma. “Hot dog! Hot dog!” Rep. Mark McBride said Wednesday after learning Gov. Mary Fallin had signed House Bill 3260 into law. McBride, R-Moore, found a tracking device on his pickup the evening of Dec. 4, after a friend suggested he look. [NewsOK]

Why shouldn’t women be allowed to talk about wages with their co-workers? (Guest Post: Liz Waggoner): You might have missed it, but April 10th was Equal Pay Day in the United States. Equal Pay Day indicates how far into the current year women must work to earn what men made in the previous year; in other words, women must work for 15 and half months to earn what a man earns in 12 months. This day exists because the gender wage gap is still a reality – in Oklahoma, women working full-time, year round earn just 77 percent of what men earn. [OK Policy]

OK Ethics Commission budget doesn’t pass smell test: This year, lawmakers approved large tax increases and bragged that they increased government spending across the board. Thus, it’s notable that one exception appears to be the agency tasked with monitoring lawmakers’ fundraising and ethics practices. According to the fiscal summary documents distributed by the Legislature for Senate Bill 1600, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission saw its budget increase this year by $11,296, or 1.62 percent. But Ethics Commission officials note the total — $710,351 — comes from a fund made up of fees the agency levies on lobbyists, candidates, political parties and political action committees, not an appropriation from the state’s general revenue fund [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Pruitt’s Coziness With Lobbyists Includes Secretly Buying a House With One: Since moving to Washington, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has attracted the attention of federal investigators because of his unusual association with lobbyists, including his rental of a condominium last year owned by the wife of a lobbyist with business before the E.P.A. As a state senator in Oklahoma 15 years ago, Mr. Pruitt went even further: He bought a home in the state capital with a registered lobbyist who was pushing for changes to the state’s workers’ compensation rules — changes that Mr. Pruitt championed in the legislature [New York Times].

Scott Pruitt emails directed staff to set up new EPA office in hometown of Tulsa, House Dems say: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt directed staff to explore establishing an office in his hometown of Tulsa — with a soundproof booth — a month before being sworn in as the agency’s head, according to House Democrats in a letter released Wednesday. The Democrats’ letter notes that the EPA already has a regional office in Dallas that has authority over Oklahoma. “Establishing a new EPA office in Tulsa may be personally convenient for you, but it seems ethically questionable, professionally unnecessary and financially unjustified,” the letter states [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“This decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is troubling and undermines longstanding policy and law that recognize tribes as sovereign governments, not racial classifications. This understanding is the very basis of the laws that apply uniquely to tribes and that have been upheld by the courts time and time again. HHS is demonstrating a breathtaking lack of understanding of this fundamental and bedrock concept in Indian law.”

-Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., speaking about the Trump Administration’s attempts to remove exemptions for tribal citizens in states that are adding work requirements to Medicaid [Source].

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s national ranking for death rate from heart disease in 2016.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why the GOP food stamp overhaul might not work: House Republicans have proposed a massive expansion of an obscure job training program as a way to get millions of people off of food stamps — notching a welfare reform win as part of the farm bill. There’s just one problem: There’s little evidence the training program actually works, let alone that it can be scaled up quickly to enroll hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new participants [Politico].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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