In The Know: Agreement reached on tapping Rainy Day Fund for Oklahoma schools, prisons

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

Agreement reached on tapping fund for Oklahoma schools, prisons: Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders announced agreement Wednesday on a plan to withdraw nearly $79 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to offset budget cuts to schools and prisons. Common Education will get $51 million, and $27.58 million will go to the Department of Corrections [NewsOK]. Oklahoma’s emergency fund is relatively small now compared with those of other top oil-producing states, which have suffered from a drop in energy prices [Oklahoma Watch]. Tapping the Rainy Day Fund to ease mid-year cuts is a good idea [OK Policy].

School voucher proposals would cost Oklahoma school districts millions: Studies by the Oklahoma State Department of Education show that proposed voucher programs could cost anywhere from $15.6 million to $68.9 million. On Tuesday, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister went on the record on the hot-button issue for the first time, questioning the timing of lawmakers’ proposals to create private school voucher programs given the state of Oklahoma’s budget woes [Tulsa World].

Measure seeking repeal of church-state constitutional clause passes in Oklahoma House: A proposed ballot initiative that would repeal a section of the state Constitution which prohibits use of state assets for religious purposes was approved Wednesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Joint Resolution 1062 by Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, passed 86-10 after nearly 2½ hours of discussion that took up most of the House’s morning session. The proposal to repeal Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution is billed as a response to a 2015 state Supreme Court decision that resulted in the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds [Tulsa World].

Legislative raid on tobacco fund gets OK in Oklahoma Senate: Oklahoma lawmakers would be able to spend interest earnings from a tobacco settlement fund and use it to shore up the Medicaid system under a proposal passed by the state Senate, but voters must first agree. Amid a $1.3 billion hole in next year’s state budget, the Senate voted 33-11 on Wednesday to send the proposed constitutional change to a vote of the people. The resolution by Coalgate Republican Sen. Josh Brecheen is one of several proposals to tap the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, which was created by a constitutional amendment approved by Oklahoma voters in 2000 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma House passes autism insurance measure: Autism treatment would be included in all new health benefit plans in the state under legislation approved Wednesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. A sometimes emotional discussion and debate ended with a 76-20 vote reflecting a marked change on the issue by the House’s Republican majority. House Bill 2962, by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, would require insurers to cover autism for children up to 9 years old, or for six years after diagnosis if the diagnosis is made after age 3 [Tulsa World].

Wagoner Schools To Move To 4-Day Weeks This Fall: Believe it or not, first-grader Emily Fox doesn’t like the idea of a three-day weekend. “It’s because I really like school!” she said, smiling. Come fall, Emily and about 2,400 other Wagoner students will be going to school Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s a move that saves the district between $150,000 and $200,000 a year – enough to keep three or four teachers from losing their jobs [NewsOn6].

Daniel Holtzclaw: lawsuit claims police ‘covered up’ sexual assault complaint: When former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was on trial last year for the rapes and assaults of 13 different black women, a clear-cut picture emerged of not only a predator who exploited the uniform, but of detectives who worked decisively to stop him. But in a challenge to the official narrative, seven of Holtzclaw’s accusers have filed a lawsuit saying they could prove the opposite: a sweeping failure of Oklahoma City and its police department to act on signs that there was a predator in their ranks [The Guardian].

Make Less Than $9500 Per Year? Oklahoma Will Help You By Axing Your Medicaid: Republicans in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives are apparently sick and tired of Florida and Maine being the [worst] to their poor people. So by an overwhelming majority, the Oklahoma House voted last week to kick 111,000 single parents off “Soonercare,” the state’s homegrown version of Medicaid. Oklahoma has a budget crisis, you see, resulting from, among other problems, the downturn in oil revenues, leaving the state budget short by about $900 million this year [Wonkette].

Governor Fallin’s new, inclusive approach to criminal justice reform is bearing fruit: Early last year, Governor Fallin issued an executive order to establish the Oklahoma Justice Reform Steering Committee to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce the prison population and improve public safety. The committee met throughout the year and formed four subcommittees to address issues in policing, treatment, sentencing, and programs and reentry [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Making our vote matter: The weeks before the recent presidential primaries were heady times in Oklahoma. The leading candidates for both parties’ nominations held large, enthusiastic rallies in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Small armies of volunteers registered new voters, organized meetings, and got out the vote. On Super Tuesday, the nation watched as Oklahoma “chose Cruz” and “felt the Bern.” For choosing our parties’ nominees, our votes mattered. Oklahoma mattered [David Blatt / The Journal Record].

Oklahoma agency cuts will delay some road, bridge projects: Oklahoma’s transportation department says the state’s budget shortfall will delay its eight-year plan to fix roads and bridges. Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials estimated this week they’ll have $31 million less to spend from the Rebuilding Oklahoma and Driver Safety fund, an account dedicated to fixing roads and bridges across the state. The revenue losses represent more than 6.5 percent of the fund’s previous $471 million balance [NewsOn6].

Tulsa agencies receive $2.4 million in federal funds to help combat homelessness: Tulsa agencies working to end homelessness received $2.4 million in federal funds Tuesday. The money was part of $1.6 billion in grants announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Agencies across Oklahoma got a total of $6.5 million. Locally, the grants are going to agencies that are part of A Way Home for Tulsa, a collaboration of 23 area agencies working to house and provide support services to homeless people [Tulsa World].

OU student group reports on diversity progress: The University of Oklahoma earned a D grade from the black student alliance Unheard for progress made so far to address grievances the group posted in January 2015. Unheard released the progress report to “hold accountable those that have the power, resources and influences” to address the grievances, and to acknowledge the efforts of those who are “working toward creating a more inclusive environment” [NewsOK].

District Attorney Requests Investigative Audit Of Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office: Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has requested an investigative audit into the Oklahoma County sheriff and his administrative staff over alleged mismanagement of funds. News 9 confirmed Prater hand-delivered the request to Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones. Jones confirmed he will be assembling a team to look into the allegations [News9].

The Shale Reckoning Comes to Oklahoma: In January 2012, I traveled to Oklahoma City for the first time to report on what was considered a surprising development: a U.S. oil boom. Until then, hydraulic fracturing—aka fracking—was best known for boosting U.S. natural gas production. It was just starting to be used to unlock oil trapped in deep underground layers of rock like the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the Eagle Ford in Texas, and the Mississippi Lime in Oklahoma [Bloomberg].

Quote of the Day

“We understand that it is raining and that is what the Rainy Day Fund was created for.  It will help mitigate the situation to get us through this year. Next year, we still have some tough decisions to make as we prepare our budget.”

– Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) on the decision of Gov. Fallin and legislative leaders to tap the Rainy Day Fund for public schools and the Department of Corrections (Source)

Number of the Day


Estimated turnout rate for Oklahoma citizens age 18-29 in this year’s Presidential primary election.

Source: Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning and Engagement

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Effects of Changing State Theft Penalties: Since 2001, at least 30 states have raised their felony theft thresholds, or the value of stolen money or goods above which prosecutors may charge theft offenses as felonies, rather than misdemeanors. Felony offenses typically carry a penalty of at least a year in state prison, while misdemeanors generally result in probation or less than a year in a locally run jail. Lawmakers have made these changes to prioritize costly prison space for more serious offenders and ensure that value-based penalties take inflation into account. A felony theft threshold of $1,000 established in 1985, for example, is equivalent to more than twice that much in 2015 dollars [Pew Charitable Trusts].

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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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