In The Know: Senate panel votes to reverse income tax cut

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

Senate panel votes to reverse income tax cut: In a surprise move Tuesday, a Senate committee cleared a bill that would reverse a 0.25 cut in the state income tax rate. Gov. Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and House Speaker Jeff Hickman have all expressed opposition to the move. But Sen. Mike Mazzei, who authored the bill, said it’s the single biggest thing the Legislature can do to begin to make up a $1.3 billion revenue shortfall [NewsOK]. Stopping the tax cut is at the top of OK Policy’s list of balanced solutions to the budget crisis. 

After News Stories, Lawmaker Kills High-Interest Loan Bill: In the wake of news coverage, an Oklahoma lawmaker is pulling a bill that created a new type of loan charging thousands of dollars in interest to Oklahoma’s poorest residents. The bill was an attempt to avoid pending federal regulation. The bill, written by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, would have allow companies to lend up to $3,000 to residents with interest capped at 20 percent per month. Interest alone could balloon to at least $6,000 during the life of the loan. Holt announced on Twitter Tuesday he was pulling the bill because it does not have enough support to pass the Senate [Oklahoma Watch].

Bill passes education committee to eliminate high school end of instruction test: State testing changes could be in the works for Oklahoma high school students. One lawmaker is wanting to toss out those end-of-instruction exams required for graduation. “The high stakes we put on them has really drained the joy out of the job, and they are frustrated by that,” said Katherine Bishop, vice president of the Oklahoma Education Association. A frustration that could set students up for failure, Bishop said, due to an overload of exams [KFOR].

Oklahoma thinks the unthinkable with health care cuts: Should Oklahoma strip Medicaid health care coverage from people least able to afford insurance on their own? In a state that trails most of the nation in uninsured rates and health outcomes, who could defend this? Should the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services no longer cover mental health services provided to children with mental illness by therapists in individual practice? When less than 40 percent of children with a major depressive episode received treatment in the past year, how could such a move even be on the table? [OK Policy].

Hospital association: ‘We are in some very serious times’: With Sayre Memorial Hospital closing Feb. 1 and Craig General Hospital in Vinita filing for bankruptcy in February 2015, Oklahoma Hospital Association president Craig Jones has many concerns. But the long and short of the OHA’s positions is that Jones and his board believe Oklahoma should accept federal funding to expand Insure Oklahoma (in a manner similar to Arkansas’s Medicaid-expansion alternative) and that rural hospitals need to be proactive in considering what scopes and models they may have to focus on moving forward. [NonDoc]. Medicaid expansion’s track record shows it’s a good deal for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Vouchers direct drain on public school funding: Vouchers won’t save public schools money. On the contrary, they’ll make it even more difficult for public schools to provide a solid education foundation for Oklahoma’s children. Proponents argue vouchers — also known as education savings accounts — will increase per-student funding available to public schools. Not true [Shawn Hime / Tulsa World]. Low-income children of color hurt most by choice-driven reforms [John Thompson / NewsOK].

Oklahoma City schools superintendent addresses closures, program reductions: Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Rob Neu says he would rather see district schools converted into charters than closed because of budget cuts. Neu addressed consolidation at Monday night’s school board meeting, following presentations by three charter school administrators seeking to expand. Neu said the district has to cut $6 million from this year’s budget and $24 million “to get ready for next year” [NewsOK].

Oklahoma House panel approves school anti-abortion bill: Legislation that authorizes publicly funded programs to instruct Oklahoma high school students that life begins at conception has been approved by a state House committee. The powerful House Appropriations and Budget committee voted 17-2 for the measure on Tuesday and sent it to the full House for debate and a vote. The bill would require Oklahoma public high schools to teach students in grades nine through twelve “about the humanity of a child in utero,” including details about how a fetus develops at certain stages of a pregnancy [Associated Press].

OCU Conference prepares teachers for poverty-stricken classrooms: The Oklahoma City University Education Department is hosting a conference March 25 to help future school teachers prepare for working with students who face poverty. It is the fifth year for the Connecting Across Cultures event. Education professor Laura Wilhelm, who previously taught in Oklahoma City Public Schools, stressed the importance of preparing new teachers for some of the challenges they are likely to face in urban classrooms, where poverty is common [CapitolBeatOK].

Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds state law on limiting abortion drugs: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a law aimed at limiting the use of abortion-inducing drugs, overturning a lower court decision that said the measure was unconstitutional because it did not apply to other medication. Tuesday’s decision said the measure did not violate state constitutional provisions aimed at keeping laws uniform across the state, but also said it could compromise public health [Reuters].

Execution drug mix-up prompts Oklahoma bill on storage: A mix-up in which the wrong lethal injection drugs were delivered to death row for Oklahoma’s last two scheduled executions has prompted passage of a bill to allow the drugs to be stored at the state prison. The Senate voted 46-0 on Tuesday for the bill by Republican Sen. Corey Brooks. It now goes to the House. Department of Corrections officials have said that because the agency could not obtain proper drug licenses, lethal injection drugs were delivered on the day of scheduled executions at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“There is not a public consensus to expand options in this industry, [and] passage of SB 1314 would be unlikely. I have appreciated the feedback.”

-Sen. David Holt, in a post on Twitter explaining why he withdrew his bill that would have created a new type of dangerous high-cost loan (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults in 2015 who reported visiting a dental health professional within the last 12 months, 48th in the United States

Source: United Health Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Rural America’s Silent Housing Crisis: Conversations about affordable housing are often dominated with the question of how to get lower-income residents in expensive cities—like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco (and their surrounding areas)—safe, affordable places to live. That makes sense: Often urban hubs are a good bet for jobs and economic vitality, but they’re also prohibitively expensive for many—creating well-known housing problems. But cities aren’t the only places that are lacking when it comes to adequate housing at affordable prices. In rural America, it’s both prices and the terrible condition of existing homes that are problematic [The Atlantic].

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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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