In 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.
New from OK Policy
Restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit is a must this session: In Oklahoma’s tax code, there are multiple tax breaks for high-income individuals and businesses. But just three tax credits are targeted at low-income Oklahomans, and one of those – the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – was slashed in 2016 to help balance the books during a severe budget crisis. [OK Policy]
Despite gains from teacher walkout, Okla. school funding still way down: For the past five years Oklahoma has led the nation for the largest per-pupil cuts to education funding since the Great Recession, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The report finds that Oklahoma has finally moved out of the bottom spot in per pupil formula funding cuts thanks to last year’s teacher pay. However, Oklahoma still remains well below pre-recession levels in per-pupil funding. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]
In The News
Reform bills that pass Oklahoma House would give Gov. Stitt authority to hire and fire heads of state agencies: Two bills giving Gov. Kevin Stitt authority to hire and fire the heads of Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency and the Department of Transportation shot through the state House of Representatives on Tuesday. [Tulsa World] Executive Director David Blatt recently proposed a middle ground on agency appointments.
House passes $1,000 tax credit for teachers who purchase classroom supplies out of pocket: The House of Representatives today unanimously passed a measure that would provide Oklahoma school teachers some financial relief when they spend money out of pocket for their classrooms. [Skiatook Journal]
Study seeks to counter argument against resentencing Oklahoma drug crimes: A study finds not one of nearly 1,300 people in Oklahoma prisons last July for simple drug possession pled down from a serious violent crime. An analysis by Open Justice Oklahoma found out of 1,287 people in prison for possession last July, 94 percent faced no other charges, while four percent had additional, higher-level drug charges. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Strong income, gross production tax receipts boost state’s general revenue: Deposits to the state’s general revenue topped expectations in February, driven by much higher income tax and gross production tax receipts, according to figures released Tuesday by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. [Tulsa World] We previously discussed challenges and opportunities with this year’s budget.
Bill prohibiting use of state funds for teacher bonuses narrowly fails: A measure to prohibit the use of state funds for recruitment bonuses for teachers failed narrowly in the state Senate 22-20 on Tuesday. State Sen. Ron Sharp, a retired educator, said he authored Senate Bill 57 to stop the practice of virtual charter schools rewarding teachers financially with state-appropriated dollars for successfully recruiting other teachers and students to their schools in the middle of the school year. [Journal Record]
House approves measure to protect mineral rights owners from governmental takings, sends to Senate: Oklahoma’s House of Representatives sent along a proposed law to the Senate this week that could allow mineral rights owners to sue municipalities or other jurisdictions enacting permitting requirements for oil and gas operations when those prevent them from developing their assets. [NewsOK]
Workers’ comp bill advances, with amendments possible: The State Chamber of Oklahoma and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber are urging caution regarding legislation pending at the Capitol that may revisit workers’ compensation reforms adopted in 2013. [Journal Record 🔒]
Senate approves trio of bills to better help sexual assault victims: Three bills passed out of the Senate late Monday to better assist victims of sexual assault and address the backlog of untested rape kits in Oklahoma. The bills, which were recommendations from the 2017 Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE), are authored by Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd who is a task force member. [Duncan Banner]
Oklahoma Senate Bill could limit purchase of public wildlife lands: An Oklahoma Senate bill could keep the state wildlife department from buying more public land, used for fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities. Find out why a senator from the Oklahoma panhandle proposed the bill and what impact it could have on the state if it passes. [KXII]
Appointments made by Senate leader to energy-related commissions: Among some of the appointments announced this week by Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat were those to energy related commissions. He made appointments to a Joint Legislative Task Force on the Grand River Dam Authority, the Radiation Management Advisory Council, the Solid Waste Management Advisory Council and the Storage Tank Advisory Council. [OK Energy Today]
Regulators to decide on chairman: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission meets Wednesday to consider reported efforts of one commissioner to become the new chairman. Commissioner Todd Hiett is said to be intent on taking over the leadership position held by Commissioner Dana Murphy. [OK Energy Today]
A woman’s touch: Agricultural women are excited about the future as Blayne Arthur takes leadership of industry’s regulatory helm in Oklahoma: Two women who work in Oklahoma’s agriculture industry have no complaints about the agency involved in regulating their activities. Both, however, said Monday they can’t wait to see how the Oklahoma’s Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry carries out its mission as it’s led by Blayne Arthur, who recently was confirmed by Oklahoma’s Senate as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Agriculture. [NewsOK]
People with disabilities advocate for support at Capitol: On Tuesday, Michael Bryant came to the People with Disabilities Awareness Day at the state Capitol to gain more support. “We have been kind of laid off, kind of cut and kind of transportation-wise,” Bryant said. “We’d just like to get our funding back.” [FOX25]
How Oklahoma City Public Schools is keeping teen moms in the classroom: Only 38% of teen parents under 18 will earn a high school diploma, but Oklahoma City Public Schools is hoping to change those numbers. Two teen parent program coordinators help students navigate their new world. The district also provides six weeks of maternity leave for young moms. On top of that — a daycare inside two schools. [KFOR]
Tulsa City Council expected to approve public meetings on Equality Indicators report: A majority of city councilors said Tuesday that they were inclined to vote in favor of holding public meetings on the city’s 2018 Equality Indicators report. What remains unclear is what format those meetings would take and whether they can be scheduled in such a way as to ensure full participation by all nine councilors. [Tulsa World]
J&J labeled ‘kingpin’ of U.S. opioid drug epidemic by Oklahoma: Johnson & Johnson was at the center of the burgeoning opioid-addiction crisis in America, operating like a drug kingpin by selling its version of the powerful painkiller as well as the active ingredient, according to newly unsealed court filings. [Bloomberg] Complaining that they are at risk of “trial by ambush,” a group of 13 opioid manufacturers filed documents with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday seeking to delay the May 28 start date for their Cleveland County District Court trial. [NewsOK 🔒]
Quote of the Day
“Our teachers are spending a lot of their own money out of pocket to ensure their students have supplies, and we certainly intend to address classroom funding during the budgeting process. But this is one way we can get money directly into the classroom and also help those teachers recoup those costs so they don’t have to choose between their families and their students.”
– Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall, speaking in favor of HB 2502, a proposal to provide a $1,000 tax credit that teachers can claim for classroom expenditures and fees associated with the teacher certification process [Source: Skiatook Journal]
Number of the Day
Percentage increase in the number of Oklahomans over the age of 65 between 2007 and 2017
[Source: Oklahoma Works]
Income inequality is rising so fast our data can’t keep up: Wages at the top of the income distribution continue to rise much more rapidly than wages for everyone else, according to an analysis of the latest federal data by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank. But the data are just as notable for what they don’t say, according to the report by EPI economist Elise Gould. Increases in wages at the top are outpacing economists’ ability to measure them. [Washington Post]
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