In The Know: Another Budget Special Session Is Ahead

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

Another Budget Special Session Is Ahead: Gov. Mary Fallin will ask the Oklahoma Legislature to return to the state Capitol for a special session to address the state’s ongoing budget shortfalls that have jeopardized funding for state services. Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt said Monday the governor is working to pin down potential dates and define the parameters of her special session call that will determine what kind of bills lawmakers can consider. The Republican governor caught legislative leaders from her own party off guard last week when she vetoed a bill that would have closed a $215 million hole in the budget through a combination of cuts to agency budgets and raids on state savings accounts [AP]. The vetoed budget was a squandered opportunity of massive proportions [OK Policy]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session, including an update after Gov. Fallin’s veto [OK Policy].

Fallin’s bold move to force a better state budget needs public help: Just when it looked like Oklahoma was doomed to more legislative negligence at the behest of big oil companies, Gov. Mary Fallin asserted her authority and insisted that things must change. On Friday, Fallin vetoed most of an unacceptable state budget, which lawmakers had thrown at her as they fled the state Capitol, falsely declaring their work done. It was a bold move, and the right one [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Thanksgiving and Gov. Fallin’s courage [Ted Streuli / Journal Record].

More fights expected during second special session: The Oklahoma Legislature will convene for a second special legislative session this year, and if Friday was any indication, the Senate will be a force to be reckoned with. The Senate was broken into two factions during its vote on the budget deal Friday: a group that wanted to kill the bill and keep trying for a better package, and a group that said the bill was terrible but had to pass. Friday’s debate highlighted an already visible divide between the two chambers. About 8 p.m. that night, hours after the Senate lamented, then passed House Bill 1019 by a vote of 29-14, Gov. Mary Fallin announced she had line-item vetoed almost all of it [Journal Record].

McCall forms ‘Special Investigative Committee’ to examine agencies: House Speaker Charles McCall announced this afternoon that a new “Special Investigative Committee” has been formed to examine financial “mismanagement” at state agencies. The committee, which a press release says will feature 11 Republicans and four Democrats, will begin meeting next week after the Thanksgiving holiday. McCall’s announcement comes less than 72 hours after Fallin vetoed a majority of HB 1019 on Friday night [NonDoc].

This district is all-in on school meals: It’s a tough time to be an educator in Oklahoma. Between low teacher pay, stretched support staff, and the deepest per pupil funding cuts in the country, there’s little wonder morale is low. At the same time, Oklahoma’s already-high poverty rate ticked up this year, and more than one in four Oklahoma kids are at risk of hunger. But a rare bright spot for Oklahoma schools is the opportunity to combat child hunger through their nutrition programs, and one district in southeastern Oklahoma has gone all in [OK Policy].

‘Bad moms’ or women in need of help? Oklahoma rethinks view of female inmates: It was late at night and Laura Richards was behind the wheel, drunk and unhappy, arguing with her husband over who should drive. She was in her late 20s and a mother of two, married to a man who she says abused her. Finally he got out of the car. “I don’t know what happened, but something snapped,” she says. Ms. Richards later told police that she had tried to run over her husband – that when she drove the car toward him in her alcoholic haze and he jumped out of the way, it was intentional [Christian Science Monitor].

Task force tackling challenges of Oklahoma higher education system: Recommendations to improve and modernize Oklahoma’s higher education system are taking shape six months into an initiative launched to bring innovations and efficiencies to the status quo. Dozens of education, business and community leaders are working in four subcommittees on what Chancellor Glen Johnson calls the first “deep dive into higher education in three decades.” [NewsOK]

Tulsa Public Schools to add three administrative positions paid for by private funds: Tulsa Public Schools received the go-ahead Monday night to add about a third of a million dollars in administrative payroll. But it won’t be taxpayer funds footing the bill. Instead, private funds will pay the salaries of the district’s new executive director of early childhood education, director of portfolio management and director of community engagement. The three positions could pay a combined $353,400, not including the cost of benefits [Tulsa World].

Company with DA group contract faces legal challenges in 2 states: A private national company with a lucrative contract to catch uninsured drivers in Oklahoma using license-plate scanning cameras faces legal challenges in at least two other states for alleged breaches of motorists’ civil rights. Plaintiffs in lawsuits in Florida and Iowa have accused cities of trying to outsource police powers to the Massachusetts-based traffic camera company Gatso USA. The company is a subsidiary of the Swedish transnational corporation Sensys Gatso Group [The Oklahoman].

A billionaire wages war on poverty in Oklahoma: Inside a sun-splashed classroom, George Kaiser folds his lanky frame into a tiny plastic chair next to a blue mat. For the dozen-plus 3- and 4-year-olds sitting on the mat in various stages of squirming, it’s afternoon story time. Mr. Kaiser is the billionaire benefactor behind this and other preschools for the poorest children in Tulsa, Okla., and he’s the reason why this classroom looks the way it does – cozy nooks, fairy lights, play kitchens, books everywhere – and has two certified early education teachers [Christian Science Monitor].

Study: More Oklahoma Grandparents Raising Children: Beverly Dow remembers the call from child welfare. “Did my son-in-law kill my daughter?” she asked, bracing herself. No, was the response. But her five grandchildren were being starved to death. Dow picked them up and brought them to her home, where they have been ever since that cold day in February 2012. As fast as she could get food onto their plates, it was gone [AP].

Upcoming Tulsa Forum: The Marijuana Question: Oklahoma Watch will host a public forum previewing what could be one of the most controversial issues on a statewide ballot next year: State Question 788, which would legalize medical marijuana. The “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum, titled “The Marijuana Question,” will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7, at Central Center at Centennial Park, 1028 E. 6th Street, in Tulsa [Oklahoma Watch]. 

Ownbey opts out of reelection for District 48 seat: State Representative Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) announced via press release Sunday that he would not be seeking reelection in 2018. Ownbey is now in his tenth year serving as representative of District 48. He could have chosen to run for a final two years before reaching his term limit in the state house. Ownbey began his legislative career serving as a member of a bipartisan task force to reform the Department of Human Services [Daily Ardmoreite].

Former Oklahoma state senator admits to child sex trafficking while in office: Former Oklahoma state Sen. Ralph Shortey has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors months after investigators uncovered a secret life that they say involved child pornography and a rendezvous with a 17-year-old boy he had met through Craigslist’s personal ads. Shortey, a Republican who resigned last spring amid allegations that he had solicited sex from the teen, will plead guilty to a child sex trafficking charge, his attorney, Ed Blau, said [Washington Post].

Quote of the Day

“Fallin accepted part of the budget, sparing the state’s most vulnerable citizens from threats of horrific service cuts, but the veto certainly means lawmakers will have to return to the Capitol to address the state’s unmet needs: long-term funding solutions to chronic budget holes and teacher pay raises to end the exodus of Oklahoma’s education talent. We hope lawmakers got the message: Fallin won’t waver on core concerns. But she needs the public’s help.”

– The Tulsa World Editorial Board, urging Oklahomans to call their representatives and demand a better budget in the second special session (Source)

Number of the Day


Offices requesting information from Oklahoma’s Prescription Monitoring Program in 2016, up from 4,428 in 2011

Source: OK State Stat

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

I looked for a state that’s taken the opioid epidemic seriously. I found Vermont: A group of more than a dozen addiction care providers gathered at a community health center one morning in September for their monthly meeting, where they chatted about their latest thorny problem. One of their patients had vanished. Again. The missing man, a 28-year-old whom I’ll call Tyler, was never an easy patient [Vox].

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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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