In The Know: New teacher raise bill stalls in Oklahoma Senate

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

Bill for a 12.7 Percent Teacher Raise Stalls in Oklahoma Senate: An hour and a half after sundown, the Oklahoma State Senate took up a series of measures to pay for a 12.7 percent increase in the minimum pay allowable for a public school teacher, but the body failed to hit the magic number for new revenue. The vote remained open for more than an hour. Senators advanced two of the three bills that, taken together, represented a pared-down version of past efforts in the last nine months. SB 861 (42-4) and SB 133 (35-11) both advanced, but an amended HB 1033XX stalled at 34-12, two votes short of the three-fourths majority needed for revenue-raising measures [NonDoc].

As Oklahoma teachers plan to follow West Virginia in walkout, they confront a funding crisis that’s much worse: For nine days, teachers in West Virginia went on strike to protest their low pay and benefits. The strike began when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed a bill that would give teachers just a 2 percent raise in the coming fiscal year and an additional 1 percent in 2020 and 2021 – which would not be enough to keep up with inflation or the rising cost of health care premiums. The strike ended after the Governor signed a bill providing a 5 percent raise for teachers and state employees [OK Policy]. Oklahoma charter school teachers won’t walk out, but support peers [News9].

Lawmakers’ Attacks on Health Coverage of Low-Income Parents Could Devastate Oklahoma Families: For years, we’ve advocated expanding access to health coverage for low-income adults in Oklahoma. More than 30 states have done so, and in the process have dropped their uninsured rates, increased access to needed care, and pulled rural hospitals onto better footing. However, this year Oklahoma legislators seem determined to move in the opposite direction, pushing for radical new restrictions to the state’s basic health coverage program for low-income adults. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do. Here’s why [OKPolicy]. Bill would make 43,000 Oklahomans ineligible for Medicaid [KOSU].

Oklahoma House Votes to Privatize Medicaid Verification: A controversial bill requiring the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to hire a private contractor to verify eligibility for most of the state’s Medicaid recipients is on its way to Gov. Mary Fallin after making its way through the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday [Tulsa World]. Tulsa World Editorial: Fallin should veto bill that would waste taxpayers’ money checking on Medicaid clients who have already been checked [World’s Editorial Writers/Tulsa World].  HB 1270 would require an expensive and unnecessary reconstruction of Oklahoma’s SoonerCare enrollment system and make it harder for families who need SoonerCare to get and keep their health coverage [OKPolicy]. 

Prosperity Policy: What Will It Take?: In Florida, it took the murder of 17 high school students at the hands of a 19-year-old with a legally purchased assault rifle to spur the Legislature to pass modest gun safety measures. What will it take in Oklahoma? The Florida Legislature has long been a stronghold of the gun rights movement and the National Rifle Association. Since 1998, the Florida Legislature has passed 30 NRA-sponsored bills, including the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law, according to a recent New Yorker article [David Blatt/Journal Record]. Local Students Join National Walkout to Say ‘No More Gun Violence’ in Schools [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma students respond to gun violence and a school shooting in Florida with planned March For Our Lives Rally in Oklahoma City [Oklahoma Gazette].

Oklahoma AG: Using Land Trust for Teacher Raises Is Unlawful: An analysis by the Oklahoma Attorney General says a proposal to use the Commissioners of the Land Office school trust for teacher raises or bonuses runs contrary to state and federal law and the Oklahoma Constitution. The Tulsa World reports that Republican state Rep. Tom Gann’s bill would give pay raises or bonuses to teachers without raising taxes by tapping into $2.4 billion in trust funds managed by the Commissioners of the Land Office [AP News]. 

Secretary of State Lopez Resigns: Oklahoma Secretary of State Dave Lopez is resigning from Gov. Mary Fallin’s cabinet, saying he needs to focus more on his “personal and business endeavors.” Fallin’s office confirmed Tuesday that Lopez plans to stay on the job until March 30. As secretary of state, Lopez served as a top adviser to Fallin on policy and legislative issues. In January he took over the additional responsibilities on Fallin’s cabinet as secretary of education and workforce development [Public Radio Tulsa].

State Revenue for February Below Projections but Above Last Year: Oklahoma’s revenue collections for February were $294.2 million, $2 million below the monthly estimate but $46 million more than was collected in February 2017. State Office of Management and Services Director Denise Northrup said Tuesday that the state’s economy is still recovering from several years of a downturn that led to budget shortfalls and funding cuts to state agencies [Tulsa World]. Revenue growth will fall well short of covering a variety of funding obligations for next year’s budget [OK Policy].

Senate Passes Online Sales Tax Legislation: Oklahoma already requires residents to pay use taxes on online purchases, but most don’t. There is no record to keep them accountable. Senate Bill 337 would require companies that make more than $100,000 in sales annually to report residents’ spending totals to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, allowing the agency to calculate residents’ use tax burdens [Journal Record].

Bill to Allow Traditional Craps, Roulette Games Rolls Through Senate: The tribes are one step closer to being able to offer dice and roulette games. At the state Capitol on Wednesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1195. It was authored by state Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada. In late February, state Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, signed on as the House’s author. The Senate voted 30-16 on the measure. The bill has been amended and no longer includes allowing sports betting, should it be deemed legal by federal law [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Moving Toward Gas Executions After Three-Year Death Penalty Hiatus Amid Lethal Injection Controversy: Oklahoma intends to use nitrogen gas to execute condemned inmates and could become the first in the nation to do so. Officials on Wednesday announced plans to use inert gas inhalation after three consecutive years without an Oklahoma execution due to controversy over lethal injection. “We have selected this method because of the well-documented fact that states across the country are struggling to find the proper drugs to perform executions by lethal injection,” Attorney General Mike Hunter said. “Oklahoma is no exception” [Tulsa World]. With nitrogen executions, Oklahoma enters uncharted waters [Oklahoma Watch].

Senate Votes to Raise Speed Limit to 80 Mph on Turner, Other Turnpikes: The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday passed a measure to increase the speed limit on certain turnpikes. Senate Bill 1385 would increase the speed to 80 mph from 75 mph on the following turnpikes: Turner (Interstate 44 between Tulsa and Oklahoma City); Indian Nation (U.S. 75/69 between Henryetta and Hugo); H.E. Bailey (Interstate 44 between Oklahoma City and Lawton); and Cimarron (U.S. 412 between Tulsa and I-35) [Tulsa World]. 

New Group Will Push for Medical Marijuana Regulation Before the Vote: A new trade association is starting an effort to get ready for medical marijuana in Oklahoma. FOX 25 talked with the executive director of New Health Solutions Oklahoma, Bud Scott, on Wednesday. “There are some inadequacies and some unresolved issues in [State Question] 788 that we feel need to be addressed through a legislative effort,” he said [FOX25]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 788 [OK Policy].

Tribe in Oklahoma Sues Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors: A tribe in Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit accusing 26 drug manufacturers and distributors of contributing to the tribe’s opioid epidemic by fraudulently misrepresenting the risks and benefits of addictive painkillers. The lawsuit filed by the Ponca Tribe Tuesday is similar to a number of other lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors nationwide, The Oklahoman reported [AP News].

‘Incredibly Innovative’ Wind Catcher Project Faces Opposition: More than an hour into discussion of Public Service Company of Oklahoma’s Wind Catcher project application today, Corporation Commissioner Todd Hiett tried to summarize the question before him. “Does this benefit PSO’s customers or does it harm PSO’s customers long term?” Hiett asked rhetorically in a Corporation Commission courtroom packed with Wind Catcher supporters and lawyers representing opponents. “Really the question is not so much, ‘What does it do for X community or what does it do for one part of the state, the question is, ‘What does it do for PSO’s customers?’” [NonDoc]. 

Quote of the Day

“All that HB 1270 would do is make a contractor wealthy checking what has already been checked and possibly disqualifying qualified Medicaid applicants on the basis of false positive results.”

-The Tulsa World editorial board, calling for Governor Fallin to veto a bill that would require Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency to hire a private contractor to make eligibility checks that are already being handled efficiently [Source].

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma children without a vehicle at home, 2016.


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Spooked by Trump Proposals, Immigrants Abandon Public Nutrition Services: The Department of Homeland Security has drafted a regulation that would allow officials to factor in the use of benefits — like WIC, SNAP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and even housing and transit subsidies — when deciding whether to approve some visa or green card applications. A leaked draft of the proposal first reported by Reuters and then published by Vox showed that immigrants seeking an adjustment of status, such as those applying for permanent residency, “must establish that they are not likely at any time to become a public charge” or rely heavily on long-term government assistance, lest they be deemed “inadmissible.” [New York Times].

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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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