In The Know: Tax hike bill to fund teacher pay raises will stand, state Supreme Court rules

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

Tax Hike Bill to Fund Teacher Pay Raises Will Stand, State Supreme Court Rules: A referendum petition seeking to repeal tax hikes used to fund teacher raises is invalid, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said in a ruling issued Friday. Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite sought to ask voters to repeal House Bill 1010xx, which hiked taxes on cigarettes, little cigars, fuel and gross production. State Question 799 drew two legal challenges before the Oklahoma Supreme Court [Tulsa World]. UPDATED: Here’s what we know – and don’t know – about the revenue bill veto challenge [OKPolicy]. Local education officials discuss state Supreme Court ruling on tax bill to fund teacher raises [Tulsa World]. Leaders release statements about Oklahoma Supreme Court’s tax repeal decision [KFOR]. 

Anti-Tax Group Weighs Options After Supreme Court Tosses Petition: A group working to repeal recent tax hikes will decide in the next few days whether to file a new referendum petition after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Friday that the one being circulated was misleading and fatally flawed. “We are keeping all of our options open,” said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, one of the organizers of Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! “We are discussing it and giving serious consideration to filing another petition” [NewsOK].

Proposed Rules Show How Oklahoma Might Regulate Medical Marijuana If Voters Approve State Question 788: Pregnant women would be barred from obtaining a medical marijuana license if voters on Tuesday approve State Question 788, under proposed rules under consideration at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The draft rules would also restrict people on probation and those recently convicted of a felony from obtaining a commercial license [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Oklahoma conservatives’ views on medical marijuana evolving [AP News]. Oklahoma medical pot question hinges on conservative support [Public Radio Tulsa].

Medical Marijuana: What the Research Shows: One of the central issues in the debate over the medical-marijuana question on Tuesday’s election ballot is whether scientific research confirms that marijuana can offer health benefits. So far, marijuana has not been approved as a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration [Oklahoma Watch]. Oklahoma Watch talked to two doctors with differing viewpoints on legalizing marijuana for medicinal use [Oklahoma Watch]. State Question 788: Medical marijuana legalization initiative [OKPolicy].

Tuesday’s Legislative Primaries Could Be the Most Momentous in Years: Tuesday’s legislative primaries could reveal a great deal about whether the rumbling beneath Oklahoma’s political landscape the past two years portends real upheaval or a mere passing tremor. For sure, something is happening. April’s three-day filing period resulted in 118 legislative primaries — 20 in the Senate, 98 in the House; 48 for Democrats, 70 for Republicans [Tulsa World]. Oklahomans will vote Tuesday on medical marijuana and gubernatorial candidates as they head to the polls for primary elections that will also include congressional and legislative contests in most parts of the state [NewsOK]. Oklahoma 2018 State Questions and Elections [OKPolicy].

Number of new voter registrations double that from four years ago: Some 20,000 Oklahomans signed up to vote in the final weeks prior to the June 1 deadline to register for Tuesday’s state primary elections. How many will end up casting a ballot has yet to be seen, but new voter registration totals are more than double those of four years ago. From mid-January through mid-June, nearly 65,000 new voter registrations were processed by election board personnel [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s Primaries: Five Things to Watch: Voters began casting early ballots Thursday, beginning the process to select a new governor, fill most statewide offices and legislative seats, and decide the controversial ballot question on medical marijuana. Tuesday’s primary will begin to whittle down the record-setting field of 794 candidates who filed for office earlier this year. For those who survive, some will move on to August’s runoff elections, while others will set their eyes on November’s general election. Those without general election challengers can win their elections outright Tuesday [Oklahoma Watch].

Democrats Will Choose Nominee for Governor, While Republicans Are Expected to Narrow Large Field to Two: Two Republicans are expected to advance on Tuesday from the crowded field of candidates for governor, with Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt and former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett the favorites. The three have been crisscrossing the state for a year arguing that their experience is most suited for managing a state struggling to provide quality services [NewsOK].

Double Primaries in the Lieutenant Governor Race: Democrats and Republicans will vote in Oklahoma lieutenant governor primaries this Tuesday. Current Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb is term-limited in his current position as he makes a bid for the governorship. Seven candidates — four Republicans, two Democrats and an independent — filed for the state’s second-highest executive position [NonDoc]. Millions being spent on Oklahoma AG race [NewsOK].

Debate: Challengers Second-Guess Attorney General: Attorney General Mike Hunter defended his tenure from attacks during a Republican primary debate today at the Tower Theatre. During questions about Oklahoma’s civil lawsuit about opioids, top challenger Gentner Drummond claimed that Republican Attorneys General Association independent-expenditure ads meant that Hunter was being supported by pharmaceutical companies that had donated to RAGA [NonDoc].

Voters Will See Multiple Judicial Races on Tuesday’s Ballot: Three district judge races, along with an associate district judge post, will appear on Tuesday’s ballots for all voters in District 14, which consists of Tulsa and Pawnee counties. Judicial races are nonpartisan, and the majority winner of each race — which has more than two candidates — will win outright without needing to appear on the November ballot [Tulsa World]. Judges on the Ballot in Oklahoma: What you need to know [OKPolicy].

CD 1 Cheat Sheet: Tulsa Area Has Two Thick Primaries: With former U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine now leading the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, voters in Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District saw five Republicans and five Democrats file for the open seat. While the Republican side of CD 1 may feature a more competitive primary, its clashing advertisements, independent expenditures and jagged barbs have been more negative. On the other side, a former assistant attorney general and Oklahoma State Board of Education member has accumulated a series of endorsements from notable Democrats [NonDoc].

Cheat Sheet: Markwayne Mullin Faces Challengers in CD 2: The competition appears heated in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District. Seven of eight candidates have active social media accounts and dedicated websites, indicating each remains committed to their respective causes as election day draws near. A couple of dark-horse, third-party candidates – Libertarian Richard Castaldo and independent John Foreman – will also seek to shake things up in this historically Democratic-leaning district. That will have to wait, however, until the dust-up from the following four Republicans and four Democrats subsides [NonDoc].

Late Days of Oklahoma House of Representatives Primary Campaigns Reveal Attacks: In the final week of primary election season, several races are heating up with negative ads aimed at incumbents. A new dark money group registered with the Federal Election Commission has targeted at least three Tulsa-area Republicans who voted against the GOP majority on tax hikes. Conservative Alliance PAC has created Facebook pages opposing the re-election campaigns of state Reps. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, and Chuck Strohm, R-Jenks. A third state representative, Mike Ritze of Broken Arrow, is also a target, according to conservative Republicans who have responded to the attack campaign that also involves radio and mailed advertisements [NewsOK].

Candidates Square on eve of elections: Candidates for the Oklahoma House of Representatives District 3 and Senate District 4 in the Poteau area spoke Thursday about their views on local and statewide issues [Charleston Express]. State Representative Republican Primary Candidate Q & A, state House District 33 and 35. The Republican candidate for District 33 will face Democrat Brandon Phillips and the candidate for District 35 will face Democrat Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk on Nov. 26 [Stillwater News-Press]. Gloves off in Eastside OKC HD 99 Dem Primary – Davis vs. Pittman [Free Press OKC].

Oklahoma Policy Institute Selected as Oklahoma’s New KIDS COUNT Grantee: Oklahoma Policy Institute, as of July 1, 2018, will be the new host agency in Oklahoma for KIDS COUNT, a 29-year-old project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a premier national source of data on children and families. KIDS COUNT seeks to provide state legislators, public officials, and child advocates with the reliable data, policy recommendations, and tools needed to advance sound policies that benefit children and families — and to raise the visibility of children’s issues through a nonpartisan, evidence-based lens [OKPolicy].

Estimates Show Potential for E-Retail Taxes in Oklahoma: Robert Dauffenbach, director of the Center for Economic and Management Research at the University of Oklahoma, showed what could be in store for Oklahoma after the Supreme Court ruled states could make laws for the collection of online sales taxes from internet retailers. Dauffenbach estimates Oklahoma could eventually expect to see $5.6 billion in online sales in the coming years. At that level of sales, with a state sales tax rate of 4.5 percent, it would yield $253 million in revenues [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Schools Leader Seeks Re-Election: Despite being a consensus favorite in Tuesday’s Republican primary, incumbent state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is taking nothing for granted in her bid to win re-election. Hofmeister, of Tulsa, faces challengers Linda Murphy of Edmond, and Will Farrell of Tulsa. Hofmeister, 53, who heads the state Education Department, has led efforts to write new standards for math and reading, repeal unnecessary testing, and provide free ACT and SAT tests for eleventh graders [NewsOK].

Agency Taps $7.1 Million for Schools from Stabilization Fund: The Commissioners of the Land Office will send an additional $7 million to Oklahoma schools after volatile oil and gas revenues caused a dip in its contribution to school funding. Last year, the agency gave $103 million to the public school funding formula but the contribution was less this year, which triggered the use of the Multiyear Education Distribution Stabilization Revolving Fund [NewsOK].

Higher Ed Chancellor: Concurrent Enrollment a Worthy Investment: The Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce reports that by 2020, 67 percent of Oklahoma job vacancies will require an associate degree or additional postsecondary education and training, and 37 percent will require an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or higher. Concurrent enrollment is critical to Oklahoma’s degree completion efforts and an important component of our nationally recognized Complete College America strategic plan [NewsOK].

Oil, Gas Extraction Doubles Productivity in 5 Years: Oil and gas extraction firms in Oklahoma and across the nation continue to push the envelope of productivity, recently published research shows. A report in the Oklahoma Economist written by Chad Wilkerson, vice president and economist at the Oklahoma City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, shows oil and gas producer employees’ output per hour more than doubled from 2012 to 2017, increasing by 108 percent. The figures are based on numbers of employees, the amount of investment and monthly production of barrels of oil equivalent [NewsOK].

Immigration Hands Area Democrats a Political Gift and Prompts Steve Russell to Slam ‘Xenophobic and Knee-Jerk Policies’: As they seek re-election, incumbent Republicans across the country planned to spend the summer and autumn discussing the nation’s low unemployment rate and healthy stock market. Democrats in Oklahoma had planned to focus on improving access to education and health care. That was before the federal government began separating families [NewsOK]. Separation of migrant parents and children happening in Green Country [KJRH].

Quote of the Day

“Registration has gone up in the last five months by more than double the number it increased during the same period in 2014, with a net increase of more than 32,000 additional voters on the rolls since January of this year. We also had nearly 800 candidates file for office this year, which shattered the previous recent record for the most candidates to file in a year, 594, in 2006. All of these numbers are very encouraging, and we are hopeful we will see better turnout at the polls compared to four years ago.”

-Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who died due to diabetes in 2016 (3rd highest rate in the nation).

[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Teens Face a Gender Pay Gap, Too. Here’s How to Help Them Navigate It: When my daughter started babysitting as a young teen, I offered what I thought were helpful tips for setting herself apart. Wash the dishes; tidy up after playtime; be extra creative and fun — habits from my own babysitting days, gleaned from a family expectation of strong work ethic. It didn’t occur to me that I might be setting her up for an adulthood of compromised pay expectations until I stumbled across a new book, “The Cost of Being a Girl: Working Teens and the Origins of the Gender Wage Gap,” by Yasemin Besen-Cassino, professor of sociology at Montclair State University [Washington Post].

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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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