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.
In The News
$612 million more for Oklahoma? Probably not, officials say as growth figures for state budget expected to drop: State officials expect fewer additional dollars than what was certified in December. The Board of Equalization in December indicated the state would have $612 million more to spend in fiscal year 2020. The Board of Equalization will meet again later this month to take another look and certify what lawmakers will have to spend. [Tulsa World] We previously wrote about opportunities and challenges with Oklahoma’s budget outlook.
Oklahoma’s legislative leaders look for less fighting, more problem-solving in session that starts Monday: The 57th Oklahoma Legislature, convening Monday, will look quite a bit different from its predecessor. Quite a few people say that’s a good thing. Fifty-five members — 45 in the House of Representatives — have never served in state government. Another, Rep. Ken Luttrell, R-Ponca City, is returning after an eight-year hiatus and a party switch. [Tulsa World] Republican leaders pledge ‘unparalleled cooperation’ for session. [CHNI]
New challenges, including a budget surplus, face the 2019 Legislature: State lawmakers expect a calmer legislative session than those of the last few years, especially with the absence of budget shortfalls, re-election bids and a teacher walkout that pitted a frustrated public against its elected officials. Then again, having a budget surplus presents its own set of challenges. [NewsOK] With a new businessman outsider in place as governor and more than 50 new faces in the Republican-controlled Legislature, optimism abounds at the Oklahoma Capitol about the session that begins Monday. [AP News]
Criminal justice reform coalition announces legislative agenda: A bipartisan coalition of community leaders Friday outlined a criminal justice reform agenda aimed at reducing the state’s prison population, strengthening families, and ensuring fairness in courts. Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform released 14 policy proposals, which include making State Question 780 and other recent nonviolent sentencing changes retroactive. [NewsOK] Oklahoma advocates see a big opportunity for criminal justice reform in 2019. [Tulsa World] Our 2019 Policy Priorities include reforming cash bail and court fines and fees, funding public defenders and courts, making SQ 780 retroactive, and add racial impact statements on criminal justice legislation.
Committee leaders outline priorities for 2019 session: In the last few weeks, state lawmakers have introduced roughly 3,000 bills and joint resolutions. Most won’t become law or even get a committee hearing. Committee leaders will focus on a few priorities in the four-month session that begins on Monday, and they outlined those in recent interviews. [NewsOK] Facts and figures on Oklahoma’s 57th legislature. [Tulsa World] Read our 2019 Policy Priorities to learn about solutions to Oklahoma’s toughest problems.
State leaders face dilemma in addressing class sizes: A temporary measure allowing schools to exceed class-size limits without financial penalties will automatically end unless the Legislature acts this session. But none of the solutions are ideal, placing policymakers in a bind. If they let the nine-year-old moratorium expire, schools could face losing funding as a penalty for exceeding caps on class size. Yet what is needed to reduce class sizes is an influx of teachers, which costs money, and there’s an ongoing teacher shortage. [Oklahoma Watch] We previsouly discussed how inadequate funding dismanteled data-driven education reform.
Environment friendlier for bills to give nurses more autonomy: After several years of hitting a wall, legislation allowing nurses with advanced degrees to practice without a doctor’s supervision could have a chance under a new committee leader. Sen. Jason Smalley, chair of the Senate health and human services committee, introduced a bill that would end physician supervision of nurse anesthetists and said he plans to hear bills related to scope of practice issues if leadership assigns them to his committee. [NewsOK 🔒]
State convenes review board to track opioid deaths: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter launched a new review board Tuesday to track the number of opioid-related deaths in the state. The Opioid Overdose Fatality Review Board was created through House Bill 2798, which was signed into law last May and became effective in November. [CHNI]
Legislative Black Caucus meets with Gallogly, adds to call for action: Members of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus met with University of Oklahoma President Jim Gallogly and will now play an active role in encouraging the university’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusivity on the Norman campus. [Norman Transcript]
Out-of-state tax collections yield $40 million: The Oklahoma Tax Commission has assessed $40 million on out-of-state delinquent tax debtors since November 2017, according to state Rep. Kyle Hilbert. Hilbert, R-Depew, and state Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, were authors of House Bill 1427 in 2017, which created the OTC’s Out-of-State Compliance Division to collect unpaid taxes owed to Oklahoma by remote sellers or out-of-state individuals, firms and corporations. [Journal Record]
Dissension caused by pension maneuver involving state public safety leaders: High-ranking officials within the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety have manipulated a law enforcement pension system, sparking dissension among some employees, an investigation by The Oklahoman has found. At issue is the 2017 “retirement” of Gerald Davidson — which one incensed insider described as a “backdoor pay raise.” [NewsOK 🔒]
Remember the 2018 teachers strikes in Republican-led states? Now legislators in 3 states are trying to retaliate: Oklahoma teachers walked out April 2 demanding higher pay and more resources for schools in a state where tax cuts have slashed public spending on education. … Now, bills in the legislature seek to ensure that teachers never strike again. [Washington Post]
Oklahoma governor raised and spent $10 million on successful campaign: In the most expensive race in state history, Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt raised and spent more than $10 million to go from a political unknown to governor of Oklahoma. The total spent on the 2018 governor’s race topped $30 million, according to the latest filings at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. [NewsOK 🔒]
Medicaid work proposal could prove a high hurdle for ex-felons: Like many other Oklahomans who have a criminal conviction, Lena Chatmon has struggled to rebuild her life since pleading guilty to motor vehicle-related and larceny charges in 2017. Chatmon, 21, who lives in Tulsa, is unemployed and said many employers are reluctant to hire her because of her criminal record. [Oklahoma Watch] We previsouly co-authored a report that found the proposed rule would primarily harm mothers and children.
Anti-smoking report shows progress, problems in Oklahoma: Oklahoma has made some progress toward reducing smoking, but still has a long way to go, according to a new report from the American Lung Association. … Oklahoma got a B for access to help quitting and an F because it allows youth to purchase tobacco at age 18. The rest of its grades were Ds. [NewsOK]
Telemedicine network tries to speed kids’ psychiatric care: About a year after Mercy Health System launched its child psychiatry telemedicine network, about 30 Oklahoma doctors have learned how to diagnose and treat the most common mental health conditions in young patients. [NewsOK 🔒]
Tulsa World editorial: District attorney right about prosecutor fees being wrong: Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler calls the practice of prosecutors collecting fees from defendants as “immoral.” We agree. The unjust funding system for Oklahoma prosecutors was highlighted at a gathering of local district attorneys and state lawmakers last week around the topic of criminal justice reform. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] Our criminal justice policy priorities include reforming cash bail and court fines and fees.
Wayne Greene: Oklahoma’s prisons are dangerously old and undermanned: Desperate to get his employees a pay raise, state Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh has dropped plans to get state bond funding for two new medium-security prisons. Instead, he’s looking to get private investors to pay for the state’s prison needs — a plan that he concedes saves the state nothing but might succeed anyway. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]
George Kaiser: A practical solution for the Oklahoma health care debate: Oklahomans are a pragmatic people. We have a long populist tradition dating from before statehood. We believe in common sense and problem-solving, more than theories and ideologies. Our favorite son, Will Rogers, punctured pomposity and found truth in the wisdom of the common man. [George Kaiser / Tulsa World] Our 2019 Policy Priorities include expanding Medicaid.
Ray: Setting Oklahoma’s agenda: The new governor, Republican lawmakers, Democratic lawmakers, special interest groups and the kitchen sink have laid out their agendas and goals for this year’s legislative session, which begins Monday. To no one’s surprise, those agendas and goals are fairly cryptic by design. [Russell Ray / Journal Record]
Oklahoma delegation sits on prestigious committees but loses clout as minority members: When the U.S. House of Representatives flipped to a Democratic majority after eight years of conservative control, Republicans undoubtedly lost power. That includes representatives from Oklahoma, who are now relying on bipartisan relationships and prominent committee assignments to maintain clout in a new legislative environment that naturally favors their peers across the aisle. [Gaylord News]
Switching sides in the teacher wars: In Rhode Island, Deborah Gist was an education reformer pushing school accountability. Then she came to Oklahoma, where the biggest challenge is getting schools the basics. “I knew coming into Tulsa that Oklahoma spent less than half per student of what Rhode Island did,” says Gist. “What I didn’t anticipate was the continued cuts we’d be receiving. I didn’t fully realize what that would mean in terms of the lack of adults in our schools … and the pressure that creates.” [The Hechinger Report]
Quote of the Day
By not accepting the return of the taxes we paid to the federal government to cover health care — as 36 states now do, including most Republican states — we are just raising the amount that Oklahomans pay by about $1 billion per year.
-Tulsa businessman George Kaiser, calling on Oklahoma lawmakers to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion [Source: Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Number of Oklahomans with developmental disabilities on a waiting list for Medicaid services as of January 2019, down from 7,672 in July 2018.
[Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services]
Can this Indiana city re-invent job training? Like other elements of the social contract between employer and employee — job security, wages, health coverage and retirement benefits — corporate education has been scaled back over the past four decades. “Businesses are training far fewer workers than they did in years past,” the Center for American Progress noted in a recent paper on the topic. “And when businesses do train their workers, they tend to invest in the ones who are more highly educated or highly paid.”[Politico]
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