In The Know: Term limits leave 30 seats up for grabs in Legislature

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today In The News

In The Know took a break last week while staff were at a conference, but we kept posting content to the OK Policy Blog. To catch up on last week’s blog posts, check out our Sunday roundup, The Weekly Wonk

Term limits leave 30 seats up for grabs in Legislature: The Oklahoma Legislature will see significant turnover after the next session. Term limits mean 12 Democrats and 18 Republicans will not be able to seek re-election. In addition, a handful of other lawmakers not facing term limits have said they will not seek another term [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma AG grows operation amid tight state budgets: The Oklahoma attorney general’s office has grown in a time of state cutbacks, moving into expanded and higher-priced office space, adding dozens of new employees and boosting expenditures. Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a small-government advocate, staffed a new operation in his office to fight federal overreach. He has filed lawsuits against the federal government over environmental protection, immigration and the Affordable Care Act, among other things [The Oklahoman].

Pruitt collecting, spending thousands through campaign fund: Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been collecting and spending thousands of dollars with a campaign fund set up for a 2014 re-election race in which he never drew an opponent. Pruitt, a possible Republican candidate for governor in 2018, filed a report with the state last month showing $712,489 in contributions and $573,432 in expenditures since his re-election campaign committee was formed [The Oklahoman].

Group files challenge to Oklahoma education sales tax initiative: The Oklahoma Supreme Court will examine the constitutionality of an effort to generate millions of dollars for schools through a one-cent increase in the state sales tax. Until the court resolves a challenge filed by an advocacy group on Thursday, backers of the tax hike will not be allowed to begin collecting the 123,000 voters signatures needed to put the issue before voters in November 2016 [The Oklahoman]. 

Former OK education secretary: Moral, economic reasons to boost teacher pay: Over the last 15 years, I have worked with three Oklahoma governors and numerous legislators to enact education policies to improve student achievement. Our children are just as capable as students elsewhere, but we are putting them at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives if we don’t improve their educational opportunities [The Oklahoman].

One state prison reaches full staffing: More to come? After a recent cadet graduation, the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester is fully staffed, but it is the only state prison that can say that. We don’t know whether to cheer or shake our heads in disbelief. For years, the state’s prison population has grown wildly (27,000 inmates) with no commensurate adjustment in staffing [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

As experts find jails are becoming modern institutions, Tulsa County Jail expands mental health pod: Inside the Tulsa County Jail infirmary, you can hear the sounds of mental health staff talking with inmates and the muffled sounds of the inmates responding from the other side of their cell doors. “Hey Tina, how are you doing this morning?” one staff member asked [KJRH].

Oklahoma officials focus on protecting higher education funding in budget deficit: Oklahoma’s higher education officials are taking a new approach to funding in the face of a state budget shortfall projected to be as much as $1 billion next year. Rather than pitching for new funds, officials will urge lawmakers to protect higher education dollars and avoid major cuts [The Oklahoman].

The wrong strategy: Do tax cuts provide a successful strategy for state economic growth? Increasingly, the evidence from around the country clearly shows they don’t. The Kansas experience has become the poster child for the perils of hitching a state’s hopes for promoting prosperity to the tax-cutting wagon [Journal Record].

Should the governor have more power to appoint agency directors? The long-discussed issue of Oklahoma’s method of managing state government was again on the table last week in a Senate interim study requested by Sen. Kim David.  Due to its populist beginnings Oklahoma has an executive branch in which the power is diffused between the governor and the various agencies.  For most agencies the governor appoints the citizen members of a governing board or commission that sets policy for the agency and hires the director [OK Policy].

Ambitious program launches to find 1,000 safe homes for children: Attracting foster families has been a decades-long, seemingly never-ending campaign for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. It shouldn’t be. It’s the heart of the child welfare program to keep children safe and heal broken families. These families provide calm and stability in a chaotic storm for children uprooted from unstable homes [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].

56 texting-while-driving citations doled out in Oklahoma, but enforcement concerns linger: Texting while driving has been banned in Oklahoma for two weeks, but that isn’t necessarily equating to a flood of citations caused by motorists playing on their cellphones caught unaware or undeterred by the new law. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol issued 56 citations statewide under the new law through Thursday, according to Capt. Paul Timmons [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma isn’t unique to that – it is all over the country, where jails and prisons are become the default mental institutions of our time. I think people all over the country and here in Oklahoma, we are waking up to that.”

– Michael Brose, Executive Director of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, discussing measures jails and prisons are taking to handle increasing numbers of inmates with mental illnesses (Source)

Number of the Day

53,369 – Number of births in Oklahoma in 2013

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Welcome to Jobs Inc., Where States Have Little Say in Economic Development: Putting the chamber of commerce or other private groups in charge of economic development has long been common at the local level and has been tried in some states, but just over the past few years it has gained popularity in states with Republican administrations, including Arizona, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. Illinois and Oklahoma are also considering a similar move. “If the goal is marketing and engaging with business relocation entities, there’s an intuitive belief that the private sector can do that more effectively than a government agency,” says Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform at the libertarian Reason Foundation [Governing].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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