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Today In The News

ACLU warns of lawsuit over planned elimination of programs for disabled, elderly: If a state agency does not rescind notices that programs serving more than 20,000 disabled and elderly Oklahomans will be eliminated, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma will respond with a lawsuit, a spokesman told The Frontier. The ACLU of Oklahoma plans to file a preliminary injunction next week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to try to prevent the elimination of Oklahoma Department of Human Services programs, said Brady Henderson, legal director of the organization [The Frontier]. Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall [OK Policy].

Stars not quite in alignment for latest state budget bill: State Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, had a lot of angry messages waiting for him Thursday morning. O’Donnell voted against revenue-raising House Bill 1054 on Wednesday, and people wanted to know why. “It was just a constellation of factors,” he said. A black hole at the center of that constellation sucked in what may have been the last chance for a meaningful revenue bill during this special legislative session [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers should respect wishes of the majority and pass revenue deal [OK Policy]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Day after failed vote, Oklahoma Medicaid agency cuts rates: Less than 24 hours after the Oklahoma House of Representatives failed to approve the year’s best chance at a grand revenue bill, the Oklahoma Medicaid agency has approved $34.5 million in reimbursement cuts. Payment reductions include 4 percent cuts to nursing homes and care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, as well as a 9 percent across-the-board cut for SoonerCare beneficiaries, with some exclusions [NonDoc]. Tina Seiler wept as she begged the Oklahoma Health Care Authority not cut funding for the Moore facility where she lives [NewsOK].

With cuts imminent, panic mounts in state budget crisis: Panic is mounting as the state budget crisis drags on into its eighth week and cuts to health care, mental health and social services programs are now just days away. Some lawmakers warned even deeper cuts to state agencies are on the horizon a day after House lawmakers killed a proposed tax increase on cigarettes, gasoline, beer and oil and gas producers. Proponents argued the measure would have gone a long way toward bridging the state’s lingering $215 million shortfall that has health care, mental health and social service programs on life support [CNHI]. ​I’m an adoptive parent. S​tate budget cuts put my family at risk. [OK Policy]

Wynnewood Care Center Closes Amid State Budget Crisis: Amid the state budget crisis, two dozen elderly residents were uprooted from their homes. A skilled nursing center in Wynnewood closed its doors after the operator said costs continue to rise and funding for the state’s Medicaid program continues to fall. “There’s nothing worse than having to look in the eye of a resident whose lived somewhere for years and tell them their home is closing,” said Marilyn Yeakley, administrator of the Wynnewood Care Center [News9].

Oklahoma Families Prepare As Legislators Work On Budget: State lawmakers went back to the drawing board Thursday after their latest budget plan failed just 24 hours ago. Some lawmakers are defending votes against the plan, despite severe cuts looming for state services. While the legislature works to prop up the budget, families who rely on some critical services from DHS have until December first to make other arrangements [NewsOn6].

Scorn and derision for legislators who refuse to lead: When the chips were down, 71 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and 37 senators stood by the people of Oklahoma. The rest stood by Big Oil companies, Big Tobacco and their partisan ideologies — and won. A measure to raise state taxes on fuel, cigarettes, petroleum production and alcoholic beverages would have filled the state’s $215 million budget hole, funded a $3,000 teacher pay raise and a $1,000 state employee pay raise, re-created an earned income tax credit for working poor Oklahomans and prevented horrific state service cuts [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World].

Semis, oilfield trucks could get tax break: Heavy trucks, including semis and trailers, cargo vehicles and oil-field frac tanks should be exempt from Oklahoma’s new automobile sales tax, House lawmakers agreed Thursday. The measure now heads to the Senate, who met briefly Thursday without considering any legislation. House and Senate budget leaders met late in the day to continue negotiating a budget agreement, but neither chamber is scheduled to meet in public session Friday [NewsOK].

Teacher pay raise advocates turn in signatures for Oklahoma City vote: Advocates of a proposal for a temporary citywide income tax to raise money for teacher pay increases said Thursday they had collected more than enough signatures to call a vote. Petitions were turned in to the Oklahoma City Clerk’s office Thursday afternoon. A team of 10 including Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell, in his role as vice mayor, began the initial review. Signatures were to be counted and checked against voter rolls beginning next week [NewsOK].

Appeals court expands ruling on vehicle fee distribution to cover all Oklahoma school districts: The Oklahoma Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Oklahoma Tax Commission needs to recalculate how all Oklahoma school districts receive motor vehicle tax distributions, not just the eight districts that sued the commission over how funds were being distributed. But due to recent legislative changes, it wasn’t immediately clear how the ruling applies to the way the tax commission distributes those tax dollars going forward [Tulsa World].

It’s hard to argue with the logic behind Mayor G.T. Bynum’s education initiative: Mayor G.T. Bynum’s education initiative — announced in his Nov. 2 State of the City speech — seems to be based on a some very basic, and accurate assumptions: 1. Tulsa’s public schools need to be better. 2. They aren’t going to get any better without adequate funding. 3. They aren’t going to get adequate funding from the state. 4. The people of Tulsa, if given the chance, are willing to solve the problem. In fact, they desperately want to solve it. 5. They can’t under the current rules [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World].

How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan: A new analysis of the Congressional GOP tax plan reveals that in Oklahoma, the wealthiest 1 percent will receive the greatest share of the total tax cut in year one, and their share would grow through 2027. The value of the tax cut would decline over time for every income group in Oklahoma except the very richest. Republican Congress members are trying to sell this tax proposal, which will increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, as a plan to boost the middle class [OK Policy].

Federal appeals court rejects state’s request to reconsider decision in American Indian death penalty case: A federal appeals court panel on Thursday denied Oklahoma’s request to reconsider a ruling in a state death penalty case in which the court found that the state did not have jurisdiction to try the case because the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was never disestablished by Congress. In August, a three-judge panel for the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Patrick Dwayne Murphy, who was convicted of first degree murder in 2000 in McIntosh County and subsequently sentenced to death, should have been tried in federal court rather than state court since Murphy is an American Indian and the crime occurred within the tribal boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation [The Frontier].

ACLU: OKC panhandling ordinance “criminalizes poverty”: The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting a recently-tweaked ordinance in Oklahoma City on panhandling. The original ordinance, passed in 2015, limited panhandling based on the size of the median where it was done, but after a vote this week, it will only affect people on medians where the speed limit is less than 40 miles per hour. It is set to go into effect on December 7th [KSWO].

Students walk out of school, call for immigration reform: Shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday, Dunia Dominguez, a junior at Santa Fe South High School, walked out of her school’s front doors followed by hundreds of her classmates chanting support for immigration reform. “I walk out of school for a clean DREAM Act for my friends, family and some of the teachers at Santa Fe South,” said Dominguez, speaking into a bullhorn on a hill next to the south Oklahoma City school [NewsOK]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

Quote of the Day

“For 20,000 Oklahomans right now, every day is closer to the Dec. 1 deadline. … We have thousands of families in Oklahoma just scrambling, laying awake a night wondering, ‘Is my family member going to be OK next month?’”

– ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director Brady Henderson. The ACLU, Oklahoma Disability Law Center and Progressive Independence are threatening to sue unless the Department of Human Services rescinds notices that in-home programs serving Oklahomans with disabilities or who are elderly will be eliminated on December 1 if a budget agreement isn’t reached (Source)

Number of the Day

24,000

Estimated number of Oklahoma veterans receiving SNAP benefits, 2014-2016 average

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The quiet crisis among African Americans: Pregnancy and childbirth are killing women at inexplicable rates: Three weeks after Cassaundra Lynn Perkins gave birth to premature twins, she returned to the hospital, feeling unwell. She phoned her mother from her hospital bed at 3:30 in the morning. “I’m just not feeling good,” she said. Surely it was just another bout of the mysterious illness her daughter had been suffering from for most of her pregnancy, Cheryl Givens-Perkins thought as she rushed over to San Antonio’s North Central Baptist Hospital. When Givens-Perkins walked into the room, her 21-year-old daughter looked exhausted [Los Angeles Times].

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