In The Know: More than 200 new laws to go into effect in Oklahoma

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.

Today In The News

More than 200 new laws to go into effect in Oklahoma: More than 200 new laws are set to go into effect in Oklahoma this year, including criminal justice reforms and measures to bring in more tax revenue. A total of 228 measures approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin will take effect Tuesday. Another 159 bills passed by lawmakers have already gone into effect, according to the Oklahoman. Due to a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, the Legislature took many steps this year to bring in more money [Associated Press]. Here are the highs and lows of the 2016 legislative session [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Education Department Hopes To Follow Iowa’s Lead On Teacher Retention: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has asked for $15 million to implement a system lawmakers passed last year that would help retain highly effective teachers. The Legislature didn’t have the funds to pay for the so-called “Iowa model” as part of House Bill 3114. The Education Department asked for the money Thursday as part of its budget request for Fiscal Year 2018. eCapitol’s Christie Southern reports the money would allow 10 to 15 schools to participate in the program, and the money would pay for stipends for professional development conferences and allow for a replacement teacher to fill the classroom during that time [KGOU]. Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is not just about salaries [John Lepine / OK Policy].

When K-12 schools are underfunded: The latest school funding numbers have been released, and, sadly, Oklahoma is once again the winner! After inflation, our state’s general funding for K-12 education is 27 percent less per pupil than before the beginning of the 2008 recession, a higher percentage than any other state in the country. This amounts to $211 less per student per year in each school. As a parent, I care about school funding because I want my kids to have art and music programs and teachers who are treated like professionals and have access to the best resources to use in their classrooms [Elizabeth Smith / OK Policy].

Deaf citizen sues OK legislature for impeding his civic responsibility: A deaf Oklahoman has filed a lawsuit against the State of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives for the failure to caption hearings and other proceedings streamed online. “Participation in government is an essential American right,” stated Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. “And participation is not possible if government proceedings are not open and accessible to everyone including deaf and hard of hearing people.” [KSWO]

Ballot question tackles divide between church, state: At first couched as a way to return a Ten Commandments monument to the state Capitol grounds, a question on next month’s ballot goes much deeper than the fate of the controversial display, advocates say. Voters will decide whether to remove a portion of the Oklahoma Constitution dating to statehood that defines the line between church and state. As a result, they will decide whether state land and money can be used for religious purposes and whether taxpayer dollars should go to church groups and parochial schools [Claremore Daily Progress]. See our fact sheet on SQ 790 here.

As Obamacare Prices Soar in State, What Are Your Options? Oklahomans planning to sign up for 2017 health coverage under the Affordable Care Act might prepare for a possible case of sticker shock. Only one company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, is offering ACA individual health plans in this state next year. Its rates for one type of benchmark policy are rising 67 percent in the Oklahoma City area and 71 percent in Tulsa, before federal subsidies are taken into account. The full impact of the rate hikes will be felt mainly by higher-income people who do not qualify for federal premium subsidies [Oklahoma Watch].

Area cities ride the economic roller coaster: Sales tax revenue increased from July to August in four of eight municipalities in Osage, Nowata and Washington counties, according to Oklahoma Tax Commission reports. Sales tax revenues in many of the towns and cities are down from July and August 2015. Sales tax revenues are one measure of an area’s economic health. Sales tax revenues also are the primary revenue sources for towns and cities in Oklahoma. The state remains in an economic downturn, largely driven by the oil bust [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

EPA awards nearly $217k grant to Oklahoma agency: The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded an Oklahoma agency nearly $217,000 to implement pesticide programs. The grant to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is part of an agreement between the state and federal agencies to support Oklahoma in continuing to administer an effective pesticide regulatory and enforcement program. The funds will pay for enforcement, applicator certification, worker protection standards and endangered species programs, among other things [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“I need to know what is happening in my state in order to be fully informed at the polls and to fulfill my civic responsibilities. When our state government refuses to caption their proceedings, they are choosing to exclude deaf people like me from civic life.”

-Johnny Reininger, Jr., a deaf Oklahoman who filed a lawsuit against the State of Oklahoma for failing to provide captions for legislative hearings (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma adults who identify as transgender, the 8th highest rate in the nation

Source: Williams Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A Mistake That Lasts a Lifetime: Nearly one in three U.S. adults has an arrest or conviction record. The unshakeable stigma and lifelong consequences that accompany a record often prove devastating. In 2010, Sonja Blake, a grandmother, lost her livelihood because of a 30-year-old mistake. As a child-care provider, Ms. Blake is among the one in four U.S. workers whose occupations require a state license. But, after caring for children for almost a decade, a change in Wisconsin law required that her day-care owner certification, along with her license to work in caregiving facilities, be permanently revoked [Democracy Journal].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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