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
Speaker, with new powers, sets table for session: House Speaker Charles McCall was officially elected by his Republican caucus Tuesday to retain control of the state House of Representatives, along with being given more power to call committee meetings and create legislation after deadlines under new rules approved along partisan lines. [NewsOK] Organizational day at the Capitol sets tone for upcoming session; speaker cites need for ‘decorum and civility’ [Tulsa World]
As Oklahoma lawmakers meet for the first time, a record number of women prepare for session: Oklahoma legislators met for the first time on Tuesday. This year, a record number of women lawmakers entered the state capitol: 32 compared to last year’s 21. Many tell 2 Works for You the overwhelming feeling there is optimism. They believe with a growing number of women they can accomplish more to help Oklahomans. [KJRH]
Governor’s business-connected staff won’t have to file disclosures: Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt’s staff, which will include several individuals with close business ties, will not be subject to personal financial disclosures, following new state ethics rules that recently went into effect. In 2015, state ethics rules were changed to require personal financial disclosures only from elected officials. [NewsOK 🔒]
Geographic divide shapes caucus priorities at Capitol: Lawmakers will gather Tuesday at the state Capitol for an organizational day ahead of a new session, which will feature a Legislature increasingly divided along geographic lines that are reshaping the focus for Republicans and Democrats. “After the recent elections we are a larger caucus and we are a more rural caucus,” said House Speaker Charles McCall. [NewsOK 🔒]
Lawmakers could terminate aircraft sales tax incentive: A pair of bills filed ahead of next month’s legislative session could end tax breaks on some aircraft sales in Oklahoma, including crop dusters. The bills target exemptions on the 3.25 percent excise tax levied against an aircraft’s purchase price. A state-funded analysis two years ago found that Oklahoma’s 18 aviation sales tax incentives are more numerous and complex than in other states and should be reconfigured to match specific policy goals because there is no evident economic impact. [NewsOK]
State lawmakers banned from taking video on House floor: The Legislature convened Tuesday for an organizational day and established several rules for lawmakers to follow this year, including a controversial ban on videos by legislators from the House floor. The ban would include media that have become popular in the Capitol, such as Facebook Live, which streams live video to the platform. [Journal Record]
Bill filed to fix confusion over Oklahoma medical marijuana recommendations: Hundreds of patients who submitted their medical marijuana paperwork will have to find other physicians to fill out their recommendation forms because their doctors hadn’t completed extra training. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority announced last week that about 450 patients would need to resubmit their physician recommendation forms. All recommendations must come from a board-certified physician, and about 2 percent of the more 28,000 patients whose licenses were approved didn’t meet that requirement, according to the authority. [NewsOK 🔒]
Sen. Sharp files bills to improve financial transparency: On Monday, Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, filed three bills in response to the multi-county grand jury’s findings in May concerning the State Department of Health’s financial deception in recent years. The grand jury’s six month investigation found that the agency had been withholding financial information, including a $30 million “slush” fund, from the legislature for several years. [Shawnee News Star]
Audit finds Grady County overpaid elected officials by $727,343: Current and former Grady County elected officials were overpaid by more than $727,000 over a 10-year period, according to a special state investigative audit released Monday. “I’m just sick over it,” said Grady County Treasurer Robin Burton, one of three current and former county officials who each reportedly have received $90,959 in overpayments since 2008. [NewsOK]
Informal work group aims to reform Oklahoma’s reliance on fines, fees to fund court system: An informal working group in Tulsa is molding reform options for an Oklahoma court system that members say operates predominantly on fines and fees, disproportionately punishing the poor and unproductively spawning social ills. [Tulsa World] An OK Policy report examined how excessive criminal fines and fees trap Oklahomans in justice system without increasing state revenues.
Oklahoma families can get February food assistance despite shutdown: Thousands of Oklahoma families that use federal assistance to stretch their food budgets will get their February benefits despite the partial government shutdown, but there is still uncertainty about March. About 380,000 families in Oklahoma receive food assistance, which averages about $4 per person per day. [NewsOK 🔒]
Shutdown affecting nonprofits with financial ties to federal government: NewView Oklahoma is waiting for the Federal Register to reopen so that the nonprofit job-training agency can post details of its new contracts, Chief Executive Lauren Branch said. Until that happens, NewView employees won’t be put to work and won’t be paid. The U.S. unemployment rate for visually impaired is more than 70 percent; NewView Oklahoma is the largest employer of blind people in the state, creating about 150 jobs in manufacturing, management, administrative and rehabilitation. [Journal Record 🔒]
Apartment complex lets furloughed FAA Academy students live rent-free: In September, David Coria of El Paso, Texas, came to Oklahoma City, joining men and women from across the country who, like himself, aspired to be air traffic controllers. After two months of studies and training at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in south Oklahoma City, he and about 300 classmates were told in December that the FAA Academy was closing due to a partial government shutdown that has entered its 19th day. [NewsOK 🔒]
Tapped out: Government shutdown affects Oklahoma breweries seeking new beer label licenses: Even the beer companies are feeling the effects of the government shutdown. An inability to submit or receive approvals for beer labels from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau during a shutdown of the federal government is interrupting cash flows for some Oklahoma breweries and limiting product availability for Oklahoma consumers. [NewsOK]
The Invisibles: Out of prison and reconstructing a life: Every month, hundreds of Oklahoma inmates who’ve served their time are released from prisons across the state – often given bus fare and sent back to the communities from which they came. But rebuilding a life is challenging. In this video, Robin Wertz, who spent years in prison, talks about her experiences and how, as site director at Exodus House in Oklahoma City, she helps former inmates re-integrate into society. [Oklahoma Watch]
Skyrocketing student enrollment nets Epic Charter Schools nearly $39 million more in midyear adjustments to state funding for public schools: Epic Charter Schools is seeing its share of state aid soar by $38.7 million in annual, midyear adjustments just made by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. [Tulsa World] An OK Policy guest post examined why charter schools get an outsize share of mid-year state aid funding.
OETA cutting ties with OETA Foundation after bitter dispute: After a bitter dispute, OETA is cutting ties with its longtime charitable partner and will use a new nonprofit to raise funds for public television. The network’s board of directors voted 9-0 Tuesday at a special meeting to terminate its relationship with the OETA Foundation. [NewsOK]
Oklahoma among states targeted in FDA smokeless tobacco prevention campaign: Oklahoma is one of 20 states the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is targeting with a digital ad campaign meant to curb smokeless tobacco use. The focus is stopping teenage boys — especially those in rural areas — from using products like dip, chew and snus. [Pubilc Radio Tulsa]
Quote of the Day
“People are having to make judgments between whether they go to jail or pay fines or acquire the very basic necessities of life.”
-James Hinds, a Tulsa lawyer who is part of a group working to reform Oklahoma’s reliance on fines and fees to fund the court system [Source: Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Rate of Oklahoma children (per thousand) 17 and younger who were in foster care on the last day of FY 2017. The national average was 5.8.
[Source: Child Trends]
Just as schools were becoming safer, Trump ‘safety’ commission likely to halt progress: Between 2011 and 2016, suspensions declined by 34 percent and expulsions dropped by 40 percent. Meanwhile, California schools became safer: According to federal school safety data, school-based firearms incidents — which were well above the national average from 2009 to 2010 — declined by more than 50 percent, and were far below the national average, in 2015-16. This is also true for rates of school-based fights, bullying incidents, or classroom disruptions. Graduation rates also improved substantially, from 74 percent for the class of 2010 to 83 percent for the class of 2017. [Linda Darling-Hammond and Christopher Edley / The Hill]
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