In The Know: Oklahoma Senate passes budget bill

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 Senate Passes Budget Bill: The Senate on Wednesday approved a state budget and sent it to the House for consideration, paving the way for an early adjournment. Senators approved the budget despite concerns that lawmakers had not had enough time to study it and that it did not adequately fund common education, which saw a 19 percent increase. The measure, Senate Bill 1600, passed by a vote of 36-8. The budget is a $745 million increase over last year and for the first time in years does not cut agencies [Tulsa World]. 

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn Slams State Leaders, Says He’ll ‘Work as Hard as I Can’ to Overturn Funding Measure for Teachers, State Employee Raises: Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday that he will “work as hard as I can” to overturn a $400 million revenue bill lawmakers say is necessary to pay for raises for teachers, school support personnel and state employees. Speaking to the Rotary Club of Tulsa, Coburn said he supports more money for teachers and instruction but said it should be found in existing revenue and by eliminating tax credits for wind energy. As it turned out, Coburn said this just hours before the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to terminate the last major tax preference available to wind [Tulsa World].

Prosperity Policy: Political Perils: Last month, a group calling themselves Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, led by former-U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, held a press conference at the state Capitol to announce they would launch a citizen veto referendum to overturn any tax increase approved by the Legislature. Lawmakers disregarded the warning by approving House Bill 1010xx – the first major tax increase since State Question 640 created the three-fourths legislative supermajority requirement in 1992. The new revenue allows for a pay raise for teachers and state workers. But the threat of a veto referendum remains a real possibility [David Blatt / Journal Record].

House Votes to Cut off Refunds of Oklahoma Wind Tax Credits: The Oklahoma House narrowly passed a bill Wednesday to make wind tax credits non-refundable. Supporters claim Senate Bill 888 will save the state $500 million to $750 million over the next decade. The bill’s passage means lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a wind energy gross production tax [Public Radio Tulsa]. Opponents from both parties said the sudden change would harm the state’s investment environment and open the state up to lawsuits with companies whose financing contracts depended on the Legislature keeping its word [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Moves Closer to Dropping Training and Licensing for Handguns: Oklahoma moved closer to abolishing licensing, training and background check requirements for handguns Wednesday night. Senate Bill 1212, converted to “constitutional carry” legislation by the floor amendment of Rep. Jeff Coody, R-Grandfield, made it through the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 59-28 vote after a lengthy discussion [Tulsa World]. Guns and butter: House hears controversial bills [NonDoc].

A Rundown of the Four Criminal Justice Reform Bills Awaiting Governor Fallin’s Signature: The Oklahoma Legislature gave final approval on four criminal justice reform bills and sent them to the governor Tuesday. Here’s a breakdown of the measures and what they’re designed to do [State Impact Oklahoma]. While even the weakened task force measures represent a significant accomplishment, it’s far from sufficient to confront the deep problems in our justice system [OKPolicy].

Advocate: Justice Reform Works for All Oklahomans: Every year nearly 700,000 people are released from prison nationally — approximately 10,000 in Oklahoma. Statistics show that within five years, more than 75 percent will be arrested again for a new crime. Recidivism is a significant problem in our country, causing our prison and jail populations to remain too high. This is why April, designated National Re-entry Month, offers a great opportunity to take actions that can help decrease recidivism and prison expenses that cost Oklahoma millions each year [Pat Viklund/NewsOK]. 

Trump Challenges Native Americans’ Historical Standing: The Trump administration says Native Americans might need to get a job if they want to keep their health care — a policy that tribal leaders say will threaten access to care and reverse centuries-old protections. Tribal leaders want an exemption from new Medicaid work rules being introduced in several states, and they say there are precedents for health care exceptions. Native Americans don’t have to pay penalties for not having health coverage under Obamacare’s individual mandate, for instance [Politico].

Murphy: Supreme Court Shouldn’t Hear This Case: The defendant in an Oklahoma criminal case that has broad implications for Indian Country said in his latest filing that the case should not be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. In February, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on Murphy v. Royal. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its ruling that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation was never disestablished. The change can be done only through an act of Congress. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich concurred that the case should be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court [Journal Record].

OK Labor Commissioner: Workplace Safety Is More Than Statistics: Electrocution at work claimed the life of a single father of five children last year. More than 90 Oklahomans a year leave their home to go to a job to support their families and will die in a work-related death. Each year, more than 4,000 women and men in the United States die as a result of workplace incidents. And 4 million workers suffer workplace injury or illness annually [Melissa McLawhorn Houston/NewsOK].

Project Oklahoma: Some Schools Using Textbooks Older Than Their Students: Money for schools has been tight for years. The continued rounds of budget cuts have forced schools to make tough decisions, like not purchasing new textbooks for classrooms. A textbook is a staple of education, but as Project Oklahoma found out it’s turned into a visual example of what education cuts are doing to the schools [KTUL]. Cuts are hitting all aspects of public education [OKPolicy].

Proponents of Clean Water Skeptical of Models: Clean-water advocates expressed cautious optimism about the release of models designed to limit pollutants that flow into the Illinois River and Tenkiller Lake. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released what it described as “science-based water quality models” to its “partnering agencies” in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The models, which simulate conditions within the watershed and the lake, establish total maximum daily loads for pollutants that impair the scenic river and downstream reservoir [Muskogee Phoenix].

Here’s a Scorecard of the Scott Pruitt Investigations: Scott Pruitt drew criticism from the moment President Donald Trump installed him at the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, since the former Oklahoma attorney general had built his career challenging EPA rules. But that was nothing compared with the deluge of damaging revelations that have emerged in recent months. At last count, there were at least nine open investigations of Pruitt, not counting informal inquiries. Here’s a guide to who is investigating Pruitt and what’s under the microscope [Bloomberg].

Quote of the Day

“This budget in no way makes everyone as complete and whole as we were in 2009.”

– Sen. Kim David (R-Porter), on the budget plan passed by the Senate, acknowledging that almost all agencies continue to be underfunded even with the increases in the budget [Source].

Number of the Day


People in prison in Oklahoma for nonviolent offenses who are past their first parole date, December 2017. The Parole Board released only 325 in 2017.

Source: Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Automatic Voter Registration Goes Beyond the DMV: Automatic voter registration is expected to expand voter rolls. In Maryland, 400,000 people are estimated to register because of the new law, according to Maryland Working Families, a nonprofit that advocated for it. According to a study of Oregon’s experience published by the liberal Center for American Progress, voters who registered through AVR tended to be younger, more suburban than urban, likelier to live in low- and middle-income areas, more likely to live in lower-education areas and more likely to live in racially diverse areas [Governing].

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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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