In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down personhood proposal

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the state Supreme Court ruled a proposed ballot issue that would have defined a fertilized human egg as a person is unconstitutional. The Court also threw out the results of the HD 71 special election, leaving the seat unfilled until November. Senate Republicans elected Sen. Brian Bingman to another 2-year term as Senate leader.

Governor Fallin admitted that any tax cuts this year will not be as large as she proposed, but she is pushing legislators to include an automatic trigger to force cuts in future years. OK Policy previously explained why triggers are very bad policy. OU President David Boren said an income tax cut would harm higher education. The Enid News and Eagle wrote that the tax cut push has been reckless and economically unrealistic.

Tulsa Kids profiled some of the parents who have been organizing grassroots efforts to improve school funding. The OK Policy Blog discusses how much like last year, ambitious talk of reining in tax expenditures has amounted to very little. NewsOK writes that lawmakers’ reluctance to use bond issues are leaving future Legislatures to deal with higher costs for needed investments.

The Number of the Day is the amount per hour less Oklahomans earn in median wages compared to the national median wage. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute shows that Apple has the ability to improve conditions and pay for its factory workers without raising the price of its products.

In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down personhood proposal

A proposed ballot issue that would have defined a fertilized human egg as a person is unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday. The nine justices were unanimous in ruling the personhood proposal was void and should be stricken, saying the U.S. Supreme Court already has ruled that women have a constitutional right to an abortion. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled in the past that unconstitutional initiatives should not make it to voters on a ballot. The personhood proposal, Initiative Petition No. 395, would have effectively banned all abortions and many types of birth control, as well as severely threatened fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization, said officials with The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit questioning its constitutionality. Backers were trying to get it on November’s general election ballot.

Read more from NewsOK.

HD 71 special election results thrown out by state Supreme Court

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has invalidated the April 3 House District 71 special election. The 8-0 court ruling means no one won the contested election between Democrat Dan Arthrell and Republican Katie Henke, and the district will go unrepresented in the state House of Representativeness until next year. “It is impossible to determine with mathematical certainty which candidate is entitled to a certificate of election,” the ruling by Chief Justice Steve Taylor said. “Therefore, the certificate of election issued by the Tulsa County Election Board is invalidated and the election is void.”

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Senate Republicans re-elect Bingman as Pro Tem

Republicans in the Oklahoma Senate have voted unanimously to re-elect President Pro Tem Brian Bingman of Sapulpa to another 2-year term as Senate leader. Senate Republicans announced on Monday after a caucus meeting that Bingman won re-election without opposition. The oil and gas company executive is expected to be re-elected to the post in another vote after the November elections, but that vote is considered a formality. Bingman will continue to serve as pro tem for the remainder of this legislative session and then will serve another 2-year term starting next year. Bingman was elected president pro tem before the start of the 2011 legislative session and succeeded former Sen. Glenn Coffee, the first Republican ever to serve in that position.

Read more at NewsOn6.

Fallin admits her tax cut plan will not be approved as proposed

Gov. Mary Fallin’s office Monday said her plan to cut the top income tax rate to 3.5 percent from 5.25 percent will not be passed. “There doesn’t seem to be the appetite in the state Legislature to make a huge, significant cut in the income tax,” Fallin said. “I am still pushing to get an income tax reduction that will be meaningful… I have encouraged legislative leaders to still have a growth trigger in there so we can continue to lower the income tax as our economy continues to grow and frankly, as we find ways to eliminate government waste and right-size state government.” A conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate is expected to work out a compromise tax bill over the next three weeks.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Previously: The terrible thing about triggers from the OK Policy Blog

OU President Boren says tax cut would hurt higher education

University of Oklahoma President David Boren addressed a group of students, faculty and staff Monday afternoon in the Oklahoma Memorial Union, detailing grim prospects for state funding and requesting that the OU community rally against further cuts. Boren’s concern is centered on legislation proposed by Gov. Mary Fallin and several Republican legislators that would reduce and eventually eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax in an effort to make the state more appealing to outside companies and businesses. Boren said this reduction will eliminate approximately 28 percent of the state’s annual revenue, translating into less funding for Oklahoma’s K-12 and higher education. “I’m extremely frustrated at this point,” Boren said. “We’ve employed every creative cost-cutting method we can think of, and we’re now cutting into the flesh and bone of the university’s mission of academic excellence.”

Read more from The Norman Transcript.

Arbitrary tax cuts would be reckless effort at reform

It’s one thing to be fiscally conservative, but it’s another to be economically unrealistic. Collapsing natural gas prices are causing serious concerns about discussions of cutting or eliminating the state’s income tax. Enid lawmakers are worried, and with good reason. Legislators were projected to have $6.6 billion to spend on the fiscal year 2013 budget, but that estimate was calculated with a price of natural gas of $3.64 per 1,000 cubic feet. The natural gas price closed at $2.19 per 1,000 cubic feet Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. “When gas gets below $2, the severance tax drops lower and less tax is collected,” said state Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid. State Treasurer Ken Miller, an Edmond Republican, said if the price remains an average of $1 below the estimate for the entire fiscal year, it would result in a $70 million hit to the general revenue fund.

Read more from the Enid News and Eagle.

Parents grow grassroots group to save schools

Once Carnegie Elementary School mom Emily Dunaway realized that her kindergartener would have almost 40 classmates, Emily got busy. She knew that a large class size would have a negative impact on her daughter’s education, not just from the perspective of a parent, but also as a professional with knowledge of the needs of young children. Emily holds graduate degrees in Human Development and Family Science; she has experience as a preschool and a special needs teacher; she serves as adjunct faculty at Oklahoma State University in the College of Human Sciences, and as a Certified Child and Parenting Specialist for Sooner Start. While the Carnegie PTA parents banded together to pay the salary of one teacher, this was just one crisis, temporarily averted at one elementary school for one year. What would happen to the teachers at other public schools in Tulsa? What would happen to the children in public schools in Oklahoma? These were the questions that literally kept Emily up at night.

Read more from Tulsa Kids.

The tax expenditure reform dog: Still not barking

Four months ago, a legislative task force chaired by Rep. David Dank and Sen. Mike Mazzei laid out an ambitious agenda for reforming Oklahoma’s tax expenditures. The group’s recommendations included ending tax credit transferability, enacting caps, sunsets, and regular audits for all tax incentives, and placing a one year moratorium on credits while the legislature decides which ones should be eliminated. The reception was rocky. The State, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa Chambers of Commerce immediately came out against several task force recommendations. The Tulsa City Council strongly defended the historic rehabilitation tax credit, and filmmakers lobbied to protect the film incentives program. Rep. Dank introduced four bills meant to implement the task force recommendations, but today three of the bills are dead and the fourth has been watered down.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Lawmakers’ reluctance to use bond issues means needs go unmet

Work done by the Legislature in one session can impact that body in later years, for good or for ill. The use of one-time funds, for example, to pay for a continuing expense will eventually hamstring members who must pay those bills after the one-time funds dry up. Similarly, when lawmakers choose not to act on an issue, they run the risk of saddling future legislatures with a much bigger and more expensive problem. We fear that will happen over conservative reluctance to consider a bond issue for anything other than repair of the Capitol building. This means the state medical examiner’s office can forget about getting its national accreditation restored any time in the near future. The inaction also means no easing of the $279 million backlog of endowed chairs at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. The Veterans Affairs Department, which has been waiting a long time for a new building, can expect to wait a little longer. Those projects will likely go wanting again, left to future Legislatures to deal with at a higher cost.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

First of all, I would just like to welcome the governor to a position that is at least near reality when it comes to tax policy in the state of Oklahoma. We have been talking about a reduction and elimination in the state income tax for three months now, and I have never heard anything from the governor’s office to say how we are going to pay for these tax cuts.
Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, responding to Governor Fallin’s acknowledgement that her tax plan will not pass in its current form

Number of the Day


Amount per hour less Oklahomans earn in median wages compared to the national median wage.

Source: Economic Policy Institute via Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Apple’s executive pay, profits, and cash balance show ability to assist its factory workers

Apple’s latest “blowout” quarterly report, as well as an examination of its executive pay levels, underscores how easy it would be for the company to improve the working conditions of the Foxconn workers in China assembling Apple products. As Ross Eisenbrey and I summarized recently: “Apple workers in China endure extraordinarily long hours (in violation of Chinese law and Apple’s code of conduct), meager pay, and coercive discipline.” Apple could insist that Foxconn pay these workers more and treat them fairly, and could easily pay for any additional costs. (The workers in question are employed in factory lines dedicated only to producing Apple products.) To offset these costs, Apple could modestly raise the price of its products to be sure, but it could also readily offset these costs through some combination of tiny reductions in profits, small trims in its cash balance, or adjustments in its pay to executives.

Read more from the Economic Policy Institute.

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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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