In The Know: Oklahoma high court OKs state question on oil-and-gas tax

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.

Today In The News

Oklahoma high court OKs state question on oil-and-gas tax: The Oklahoma Supreme Court says an initiative petition seeking a public vote on whether to increase the oil and gas production tax to help fund education can move forward. The court ruled on Monday that the petition is “legally sufficient” to be submitted to a vote of the people. Supporters will now have a 90-day window to gather about 124,000 signatures [AP]. 2018 Policy Priority: End oil and gas tax breaks [OK Policy].

Despite voter frustration, House very likely to look the same next year: Despite talk of widespread dissatisfaction with the Oklahoma Legislature, three quarters of the House members running for re-election have yet to draw a challenge. Among those who don’t have opponents are the people who run the House: Speaker Charles McCall and the top three members of his Republican leadership team [NewsOK].

Oil bust helped some of Oklahoma’s largest companies avoid income taxes: Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc.’s profits topped $789 million in 2017, but the oil and gas driller will likely pay no corporate income taxes in Oklahoma for years to come — and some of the state’s other biggest companies won’t either. When crude oil prices crashed between 2014 and 2016, many Oklahoma energy companies booked sizable losses that can be used to reduce or completely eliminate state income tax liability for up to 20 years [The Frontier].

Executions to be set for 16 Oklahoma murderers, if nitrogen gas method passes court scrutiny: Almost 200 criminals have been executed by the state, more than half by lethal injection. The last was on Jan. 15, 2015. Another 16 murderers will be scheduled for execution, if a new method passes court scrutiny, state officials said [NewsOK].

A teacher pay raise could change Oklahoma’s middle class — and the state’s place nationwide: A statewide teacher pay raise might allow a Mayo Demonstration School teacher to move out of her parents’ house. It would let a Webster Middle School science teacher fix her husband’s car and save some money. That all depends on how big the raise is, or if it comes at all. The Oklahoma Education Association has put its weight behind a three-year, $10,000 raise for teachers that could potentially bring Oklahoma teacher pay out of the bottom rungs nationwide [Tulsa World]. 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy].

Tulsa, Union schools release preliminary plans for teacher work stoppage: Some of the largest local school districts are two weeks away from shutting down for a potential teacher walkout, but that hasn’t stopped them from developing early plans for how to provide services if one occurs. Tulsa Public Schools, in a letter to parents Monday, released some initial plans for a walkout effective April 2 [Tulsa World]. Little Movement In State Legislature As Teacher Walkout Approaches [News 9].

Their Pay Has Stood Still. Now Oklahoma Teachers Could Be the Next to Walk: When West Virginia teachers mounted a statewide walkout last month, earning a modest raise, it seemed like an anomaly: a successful grass-roots labor uprising in a conservative state with weak public sector unions. But just a few weeks later, the West Virginia action looks like the potential beginning of a red-state rebellion. in Oklahoma, where teachers have not had a raise from the state in a decade, they have vowed to go on strike on April 2 if the Legislature does not act to increase pay and education budgets [New York Times]. A serious conversation about Oklahoma education [NonDoc].

Glenpool sends message to teachers, support staff with $1,000 bonuses: It might not change the bigger-picture problem of low pay, but the surprise $1,000 bonuses handed out recently to teachers provided at least some temporary relief, not to mention a boost to morale, Glenpool school officials say. “It’s a way for us to show our teachers, to say to them that ‘we value you and appreciate the sacrifices that you make,’” said Superintendent Jerry Olansen, who was greeted by cheers and even some tears when he announced the bonuses at a recent staff assembly [Tulsa World].

Student-Teacher Talks About Impact From Possible Walkout: The impending teacher walkout could put a kink in college graduation. Faculty at a local university have been in a panic trying to figure out how to help their students fulfill needed requirements. Education majors across the country need X-amount of instruction time in the classroom in order to graduate. The looming walkout threatens to hold them back [News 9].

DHS seeking $64M budget increase to meet rising costs, raise provider rates: After years of budget cuts and stagnate provider rates, the state’s human services agency is seeking a $64 million budget increase for the next budget year. Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake addressed state senators during an appropriations hearing Monday afternoon at the state capitol, detailing the agency’s current financial standing, what it’s done to weather budget shortfalls and what it’s asking from legislators for the coming budget process [KFOR].

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s Rule-Cutting E.P.A. Chief, Plots His Political Future: Now, people close to Mr. Pruitt say he is using his perch as Mr. Trump’s deregulatory czar to position himself for further political prominence — starting with a run for office in his home state of Oklahoma. He is widely viewed as a future candidate for senator or governor there, and Mr. Pruitt has made it known that if the president replaces his beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, he would be ready to step into the job [New York Times]. 

Oklahoma City district shifts from ‘solid Republican’ to ‘likely Republican’ as Democrats make gains: When Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District — a three-county swath that includes Oklahoma City — last elected a Democrat, the year was 1974, the Republican president had just resigned and Democrats were gaining large majorities in both chambers of Congress. Forty-four years later, the 5th District is trending Democratic again and Republicans nationwide are bracing for a potential wave election [NewsOK].

Only declared OKC sanctuary church holds vigil at ICE offices: The only congregation in Oklahoma City to declare itself a sanctuary church held a vigil and accompaniment at the OKC headquarters of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service Thursday. And the pastor of that congregation says their presence could have been one reason for a woman with an ill child being given 60 more days before the judge makes a decision about her deportation [Oklahoma City Free Press].

New trade organization forms to represent medical marijuana industry: A new trade organization has formed in hopes that voters this summer will sign off on legalizing medical marijuana. Oklahoma City attorney Bud Scott is serving as executive director of New Health Solutions Oklahoma, which formed about nine months ago. The organization has about 30 members and hopes to grow if voters on June 26 approve State Question 788 to legalize medical marijuana [Tulsa World]. State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OK Policy].

MAPS for Kids wraps up: The story of the Oklahoma City School District’s brick-and-mortar resuscitation is coming to a close. With the city council’s vote to terminate the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area Public Schools Trust, the MAPS for Kids initiative that won voters’ approval in 2001 is officially going out of existence [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“I think any Republican or Democrat who thinks not getting a deal done is a win is wrong. I believe we get a deal done and we all succeed or we don’t and we all fail. The number one thing I hear in my district is: ‘Fix it.'”

– House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, urging incumbent legislators to support a budget deal that raises revenues in order to improve their chances of being reelected (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of voting-age citizens in Oklahoma who were registered for the November 2016 election

Source: Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid Is Rural America’s Financial Midwife: Brianna Foster, 23, lives minutes away from Genesis Hospital, the main source of health care and the only hospital with maternity services in southeastern Ohio’s rural Muskingum County. Proximity proved potentially lifesaving last fall when Foster, pregnant with her second child, Holden, felt contractions at 31 weeks — about seven weeks too soon. Genesis was equipped to handle the situation — giving Foster medication and an injection to stave off delivery. After his birth four weeks later – still about a month early, at 5 pounds 12 ounces — Holden was sent to the hospital’s special care nursery for monitoring [Kaiser Health News].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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