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
People to Watch: Ahniwake Rose looks past red and blue to improve Oklahoma for all: The Tulsa World profiled OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose as part of its annual “People to Watch” series. [Tulsa World]
In The News
Capitol Insider: Revenue estimate predicts flat state budget: State revenues are expected to remain steady, with slow growth, for the remainder of this fiscal year. eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley tells KGOU’s Dick Pryor the state Board of Equalization learned there will be $8.339 billion available to appropriate in Fiscal Year 2021, only $9.4 million more than the current fiscal year. [KGOU] OK Policy analysis showed when those figures are run through the state’s budget formula, however, it shows a substantially higher availability of new budget dollars than might initially appear. We urge state lawmakers to continue the progress made during the past two years when the legislature chose to reinvest new revenue into state programs and services.
Oklahoma legislators file bills to fight statewide teacher shortage: Oklahoma lawmakers want to turn the tide on a statewide teacher shortage. Legislators have filed a flurry of bills to take up when they re-convene in February. Currently the state has 3,000 emergency certified teachers. In 2010, there were only 32. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
Higher minimum wage sought for Oklahoma: Lawmakers will be asked again this year to consider raising the minimum wage that employers must pay hourly workers in Oklahoma. State Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, who has championed an increase in the minimum wage for the last several years, said he’ll propose a new minimum of $10.50 an hour to be implemented in November. [Journal Record]
Oklahoma’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage is keeping us in poverty: Wayne Greene: On Wednesday, the minimum wage in Fort Smith, Arkansas, went from $9.25 an hour to $10. The same’s true in Little Rock, Bentonville and the rest of the state. Across the Arkansas River in Moffett and throughout Oklahoma, it’s still $7.25 an hour, and, unless things change, it’ll still be there in 2021, when Arkansas goes to $11 an hour. [Tulsa World / Wayne Greene]
Expungement expos in ‘prison capital of the world’: The state’s recent criminal justice reform efforts have made an estimated 65,000 Oklahomans eligible for expungement, according to an analysis by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. But many of those people can’t afford it, said Damion Shade, a criminal justice policy analyst with the think tank. [CNHI] An OK Policy analysis examines high expungement costs and other issues related to making HB 780 retroactive.
Tribal nations sue Gov. Kevin Stitt on gaming compact: Hours before 2019 turns into 2020, the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, asking a judge to declare that the Model Tribal Gaming Compact renewed automatically on Jan. 1. [NonDoc] Weeks before he said tribal casinos in Oklahoma would be operating illegally, Gov. Stitt hired a law firm with a reputation for aggressively representing states against tribal nations. [The Frontier] Lisa Billy, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of Native American affairs, resigned on December 23, 2019. [NonDoc]
Unfinished Business: Stitt, lawmakers face persistent issues in 2020: With a year’s experience under his belt, Gov. Stitt will join the Legislature in confronting a number of old issues that have resurfaced along with continuing issues that were largely pushed to the sidelines over the past year. [Oklahoma Watch]
State senate bill could block use of state funds for school advertising: An Oklahoma lawmaker seeks to ban school districts and charter schools from using state funds for advertising and marketing. State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, filed Senate Bill 1153 on Monday for consideration in the next legislative session, which begins Feb. 3. [The Oklahoman]
Digging deeper into public school enrollment: Enrollment in Oklahoma public schools is growing, but it’s not happening in every district. The latest data from the state Education Department show public schools’ greatest growth in 2019 occurred in charter schools, while enrollment in the state’s largest districts, Oklahoma City and Tulsa public schools, declined. [Oklahoma Watch]
November dip gives way to record December for marijuana industry: There’s a first time for everything, and in November Oklahoma saw its first month without record medical marijuana sales. But it was a slight dip in sales as the state rebounded in December on its way to collecting more than $54.7 million in taxes from the marijuana industry in 2019. [The Oklahoman]
Recreational marijuana proposal re-filed as SQ 807: Days after withdrawing their initial recreational marijuana initiative petition, proponents of legalizing marijuana in Oklahoma filed a new ballot initiative what could become State Question 807. [NonDoc]
Police communication gaps allow abuse suspects to avoid quick arrest: State law allows police to arrest accused domestic abusers without a warrant if there is sufficient evidence, such as a witness statement or a victim’s visible injuries. But a lack of communication among law enforcement agencies is allowing suspects to avoid prompt arrest. [Oklahoma Watch]
‘Heartbreakingly pointless’: Many Tulsa 2019 homicide victims died in ‘insignificant’ altercations: Homicide investigations are nothing new to the average police officer, but for the supervisor of the Tulsa Police Department’s Homicide Unit, one aspect of the city’s 62 killings in 2019 has left him in shock. [Tulsa World] City and state continue to struggle with domestic violence killings, policy [Tulsa World Editorial]
Oklahoma is shaking a lot less from even only a year ago, but still not near historic seismic average: Earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater have dropped for the fourth straight year in Oklahoma. There were 62 such quakes in 2019, down from 203 a year ago and the peak of 903 in 2015, according to Oklahoma Geological Survey data. [Tulsa World]
Tulsa school board will hear plan to close four schools at Monday meeting: Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist will present most of her recommendations for slashing approximately $20 million from the 2020-21 budget at Monday night’s school board meeting. [Tulsa World]
TPS finds success in reinventing high school experience through Tulsa Beyond project: Design teams at the Tulsa Beyond schools — Webster, Hale, Tulsa Learning Academy and McLain — spent several months creating personalized school models tailored to the unique needs of their communities. Three schools began piloting their Tulsa Beyond models this year. [Tulsa World]
Tulsa mayor seeking public input on new police chief: Mayor G.T. Bynum has said he wants to hear from all interested parties before he selects the city’s next police chief. That dialogue continues this week when he plays host to three public meetings intended to give Tulsa citizens a say in the process. [Tulsa World]
Rally at Oklahoma County jail protests conditions, policies: Demonstrators gathered outside of the Oklahoma County jail Wednesday evening to rally against conditions for inmates, treatment of juveniles and collaboration with ICE. [The Oklahoman] In addition to the noise of the pots and pans — a feature of the protest — was hearing from some who had been in the jail or who had family members in the jail at some point. [Free Press OKC]
Higher phone bills may be looming for Oklahoma customers: Oklahoma phone bills may increase for the second time in less than a year due to a proposed increase to monthly Oklahoma Universal Service Fund fees added to most phone and voice over internet protocol services. [The Journal Record]
Gov. Stitt approves one-year extension of Seminole Nation’s tobacco compact: Under terms of the extended compact, cigarettes and other tobacco products sold by the tribe will be taxed at the same rate as the state collects on such products when they are sold by non-tribal businesses, the governor’s office said. [The Oklahoman]
Businesses, young smokers scrambling with age increase: Across the state, businesses are slapping makeshift signs on their doors to notify thousands of customers that they must now be 21 to buy all tobacco products. [CNHI]
Oklahoma population inches toward 4 million: Oklahoma’s population continues to creep toward 4 million, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates that show the state gained about 17,000 people between July 2018 and July 2019. [The Oklahoman]
Trade dispute cash helps farmers, but their incomes continue to decline: Payments to Oklahoma farmers from the Trump administration to soften the effects of a trade dispute with China are helping a little, but many farmers are still struggling with a years-long decline in incomes. [Oklahoma Watch]
Oklahoma’s ‘small town with big-city water problems’: Over the past decade, many residents of this small LeFlore County community have stopped drinking the city’s tap water, a sign of trouble for a town whose leaders are grappling with contractual agreements, state fines and a powerful multinational corporation. [NonDoc]
Quote of the Day
“Oklahomans deserve to be paid fairly so they can offset the rising costs of health care, housing and food. Closing the wage gap between the poverty line and middle class would have a tremendous impact on our economy by increasing consumer spending and generating more tax revenue for our municipalities and state.”
-State Sen. George Young speaking about his proposed legislation to increase Oklahoma’s minimum wage [Journal Record]
Number of the Day
The largest number of confirmed tornadoes in a single year in Oklahoma’s history which happened in 2019.
Medicaid’s heavy lift: Regardless of who is funding Medicaid expansion, the program has long been associated with welfare and the stigma attached to it in ways that other forms of insurance are not. There is a myth that most uninsured, nondisabled working-age adults are not employed, despite consistent evidence to the contrary. Americans may also be unaware of the role that the federal government plays in making [employer-sponsored insurance] affordable. The federal subsidy of ESI through deferred income and payroll taxes is considerable, estimated to be $280 billion in 2018. While all health insurance in America is essentially government-supported, the means testing of Medicaid makes it a target for individuals who do not believe in government “hand-outs.” [Milbank Memorial Fund]
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