In The Know: Supreme Court Battle Shaping up over Tax Repeal Effort

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.

In The News

Supreme Court Battle Shaping up over Tax Repeal Effort: A major battle is shaping up in the Oklahoma Supreme Court over the petition to repeal recent tax hikes tied to teacher pay raises.Two separate legal challenges have been filed by education groups to the petition effort, and the state’s high court has put the matter on a fast track. The court has asked Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter to provide input, giving the Republican a potentially influential role in the case while he is facing a tough primary election challenge [NewsOK]. Refuse to Sign the SQ 799 Petition; Reject a Devastating Attack on Public Schools [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World].

Public Employees Association considering lawsuit on behalf of fired Health Department workers: Two-hundred plus employees were laid off from the [Oklahoma health] department between October and December 2017. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association is now considering legal action on their behalf. “We’re going to be looking at what legal action, if any, we can take,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley  [FOX25]. New Oklahoma Health Department leader responds to audit [Public Radio Tulsa]. Attorney General: OSDH Board didn’t violate Open Meeting Act [Journal Record]. Legislative action needed to recoup $30 million from state health department [Tulsa World]. 

House Farm Bill, Which May Face Another Vote, Even Worse Due to Recent Amendments: The partisan farm bill that the House rejected today would increase food insecurity and hardship for low-income families and make SNAP harder to administer. The fight over the bill isn’t over, however, because House Republicans can call for another vote on it. And, in its current form, this bill would be even more harmful than the deeply flawed bill that came to the floor, which included more than $17 billion in SNAP benefit cuts that would have shrunk or eliminated benefits for 1 million households with more than 2 million people [Center on Budget Policy & Priorities]. Oklahoma Policy Institute Statement: Congress must end Attacks on SNAP to pass Farm Bill [OKPolicy].

‘Teaching Is a Political Job’: Educators Get Active as Districts Considering Closing School on Election Day: In several states, Election Day is a holiday. Schools are closed. So are government buildings, giving the large unions of government workers and teachers all day to vote and be active in the campaigns of their preferred candidates, or just have the day off. Bit by bit, Oklahoma school districts are working to follow suit. And teachers are embracing what some call the political realities of their profession [Tulsa World].

A County Assessor Error Costs Schools Thousands. Jenks Shorted About $100,000 Due to Mistake: Miscues by the Tulsa County Assessor’s Office have resulted in the failure to collect tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes, a review by the Tulsa World has found. The World found county officials for years missed the sale of one south Tulsa shopping center at a price that was more than twice its previous tax roll valuation. The review also found nearly a dozen properties, including the same south Tulsa shopping center, should have been assessed a city sinking fund levy, but weren’t [Tulsa World].

Governor Fallin Praises Lawmakers for Work This Session: Governor Mary Fallin complimented the state’s lawmakers on Saturday for passing legislation on criminal justice reform, funding for public schools and the upcoming fiscal year budget. The budget is $7.6 billion and Fallin said it will put “significantly more money toward education, mental health services, and public safety”. The legislature sent 342 bills to Governor Fallin who vetoed 18 of them and signed 324 [FOX25].

Here’s What’s in 2018’s Beer Legislation: To prepare for beer modernization later this year October, Oklahoma legislators passed and the governor signed eight alcohol regulatory bills that put in place the framework for businesses to sell cold, strong beer on Oct. 1, 2018.  The bills vary from allocating funds from new employee license fees to support the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, extending business hours of restaurants and bars and updated employee requirements for businesses and retailers under State Question (SQ) 792, according to an Oklahoma Beer Alliance press release [Enid News & Eagle].

Agencies to Meet to Develop Framework Should Medical Marijuana Pass Ballot: Representatives from various state agencies are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss how to implement legalization of medical marijuana should voters approve it on June 26. Interim Health Commissioner Tom Bates sent a letter to agencies inviting them to the meeting. He wrote that the Oklahoma State Department of Health would be responsible for licensing and regulating medical marijuana should it pass [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s Unemployment Rate Stays at 4 Percent: Oklahoma posted a preliminary unemployment rate of 4 percent in April, unchanged from the adjusted rate the previous month. But latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission shows the state’s economy continues to improve, given that numbers for both the state’s labor force and employee participation rates improved [NewsOK].

ONE WEEK LEFT to apply for Summer Policy Institute: Summer Policy Institute (SPI) application deadline is ONLY 1 WEEK away! The application deadline is Friday, May 25th, 2018. SPI will be held from July 29 – August 1, 2018 at the University of Tulsa. Please make sure to let all the qualified college students in your life know about this great opportunity! SPI brings together highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for an exciting and in-depth learning experience [OK Policy].

How are earthquakes affecting Oklahoma’s infrastructure? Expert says it’s a ‘huge’ issue: As earthquake swarms continue to pop off in Oklahoma, experts are turning their attention toward critical infrastructure and what sort of long-term damage may be inflicted by frequent, low-level shaking. But it’s not just the swarms — Oklahoma’s seismic activity in general is enormous compared to the historic tectonic level of only a couple of 3.0 quakes a year. For example, a Stanford University study published in December 2016 found that the seismic energy released the prior eight years was equivalent to ”more than 1,900 years of naturally occurring energy.” [Tulsa World]

Hamilton: The Trick for State Policymakers: It’s no secret oil and gas has dominated Oklahoma politics the last half-century – routinely exerting more sway at the Capitol than agriculture, highway contractors or trial lawyers. Booms opened the state’s spending spigot and spurred tax-cutting frenzies. Busts yielded massive budget holes and tax increases. Either way, in good times or bad, the carbon crowd almost always got what it wanted from the legislative sausage making [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record].

Special Session for Veto Overrides? It’s a Bad Idea: Before adjourning earlier this month, Oklahoma lawmakers had been in session essentially non-stop since February 2017 due to special sessions. Now some members upset with Gov. Mary Fallin’s vetoes are itching to bring colleagues back yet again. The procedural bar that needs to be cleared makes this effort a long shot, but regardless it’s a terrible idea that lawmakers should reject [Oklahoman Editorial Board/NewsOK].

Oklahoma Nursing Homes Relieved as State Looks for More Inspectors: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is looking to hire nurses to inspect health care facilities, and the state’s nursing homes are relieved. Hospitals, surgical centers, nursing homes, home health agencies and other medical providers have to undergo regular inspections if they want to receive payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [NewsOK].

New Report Shows Big Spike in Depression in Oklahoma: A new report shows Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of major depression in the United States and the number of diagnoses is up 29 percent since 2013. The Blue Cross Blue Shield report shows Oklahoma had the 6th highest spike in the country. But experts and people suffering from depression say it can be treated, and Oklahoma can lower the statistic and stigma [News6].

Quote of the Day

“I know that it is really a huge issue that we are facing. We tend to take the infrastructure that we have around us that we depend on for granted.”

-Geophysicist Dwain Butler, who published a study on how Oklahoma’s earthquake swarms caused by oil and gas industry activities could be doing long-term damage to the state’s critical infrastructure [Tulsa World].

Number of the Day

1 in 6

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

It’s Time for a New Discussion of Marijuana’s Risks: We unquestionably need more research, and more evidence of harms may emerge. But it’s important to note that the harms we know about now are practically nil compared with that of many other drugs, and that marijuana’s effects are clearly less harmful than those associated with tobacco or alcohol abuse. People who choose to use marijuana — now that it’s easier to do legally — will need to weigh the pros and cons for themselves [The New York Times].

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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