In The Know: Backers of Failed Education Tax Vow to Press On at Capitol

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

Backers of Failed Education Tax Vow to Press On at Capitol: Count them down but not out. With the defeat of State Question 779, which proposed to raise the state sales tax by one cent for education, some supporters say their voices will be even louder at the Capitol next year. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was among them. …The outlook, however, is somewhat bleak, at least in the short term [Oklahoma Watch]. Educators and supporters of more education funding who claimed seats in the Legislature could help push the issue when the next session starts in February [Oklahoma Watch]. Our fact sheet on SQ 779 is available here.

Counties along state borders to east, south show most support for failed education sales tax: Reaction to Tuesday’s State Question 779 vote ranged from relief from those opposed to raising Oklahoma’s sales tax to more vows by demoralized teachers to “abandon ship.” …After more than two years of public education groups documenting the relationship of pay to a deepening teacher shortage across the state, only eight counties approved the ballot initiative led by University of Oklahoma President David Boren [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Voters Soundly Reject State Question to Constitutionally Protect Farming and Ranching: Oklahoma voters on Tuesday rejected State Question 777 — known by supporters as the right-to-farm amendment. The final vote was 60-40 against the measure, which would’ve elevated farming and ranching to a constitutional right. The ‘Yes on 777’ coalition raised more money, earlier, and polling showed a race in flux weeks before the vote [StateImpact Oklahoma]. OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 777 is available here.

Retail Liquor Association Plans To Challenge Change In Oklahoma Law: The president of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma says the group plans to challenge voter approval of a constitutional amendment that overhauls state liquor laws. Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved State Question 792 in Tuesday’s general election. Under the proposal, grocery stores can sell wine and strong beer beginning in 2018 and the state will have permission to sell alcoholic beverages in state lodges [News9]. OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 792 is available here

Medical marijuana closer to, and possibly for, Oklahoma: The movement to legalize recreational marijuana in the United States scores its biggest wins yet. California, Massachusetts, and Nevada voted to approve recreational use of cannabis. Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota approved medical marijuana. Medical marijuana was close to getting on the ballot in Oklahoma this year as well, but a few legal roadblocks kept it off [KTUL]. 

A Redder, and Greener, Legislature Faces Steep Challenges: Republicans built further on their dominance of the state Legislature on Tuesday by securing a net gain of four House seats and three Senate seats. The change was relatively slight, but contrasted with intensive efforts this year by Democrats, educators and others pushing for more bipartisan influence over the budget and policies. Next session, the GOP will control 78.5 percent of the Legislature’s 149 seats, instead of just under 74 percent [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma voter turnout surpasses 2012: The number of Oklahomans who voted for president this year was higher than four years ago but lower than in 2008, unofficial election results show. A total of 1,451,056 Oklahomans voted for president Tuesday, which represented about 67.3 percent of the state’s 2,157,450 registered voters. This year there were also 15,916 “undervotes,” where voters left the presidential race blank, and 588 “overvotes,” where voters marked more than one candidate for president [NewsOK]. Why don’t more Oklahomans vote? [OK Policy] Oklahoma Watch has precinct-level results here

State Treasurer talks job creation, Trump and funding government services: Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller spoke Wednesday to the League of Women Voters, outlining the reasons why Oklahoma is in a recession but saying he’s still bullish on the state in the long term. After the speech, Miller talked with the World about the state’s economy, its future, the role of government in the economy and what the Trump administration will mean for Oklahoma [Tulsa World].

Local evangelicals buoyed by Trump victory: In the end, evangelical Christians overlooked Donald Trump’s crude comments about women, his bragging about adulterous pursuits and his unseemly lack of humility and turned out in huge numbers to vote him into the Oval Office. Exit polls indicated that white evangelicals, a fifth of the electorate, voted 81-16 for Trump, a higher percentage than voted for John McCain, George W. Bush or Mitt Romney [Tulsa World].

Prosperity Policy: Small signs of change: If you look only at the headlines from Tuesday’s elections in Oklahoma, it would appear that little has changed in state politics. The Republican presidential candidate won the state by nearly 40 points, once again sweeping all 77 counties. Republicans kept control of the state’s entire congressional delegation and picked up seats in the state House and Senate, piling on to their already sizable majorities. But this continuity can hide ways in which this election season was different [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Delay at Osage County precinct pushed results past midnight: State election officials said Wednesday that staffing issues were responsible for long lines that kept an Osage County voting precinct in Tulsa open until 10 p.m. Tuesday. “Turnout was fairly heavy and some lines were expected, but that was well beyond what we expect of ourselves,” said state Election Board spokesman Bryan Dean [Tulsa World].

Key Witness in Hofmeister Case Resigns from School Administrators Group: The executive director of an Oklahoma education administrator’s group, who was one of the key players in an investigation that led to felony criminal charges against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, has resigned, Oklahoma Watch has learned. Ryan Owens served as general counsel for the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration before being named executive director in July [Oklahoma Watch].

Two more accused alongside Hofmeister turn themselves in: Two people charged with conspiracy along with the Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction have turned themselves in. Oklahoma County Jail records show Robert Fount Holland and Lela Odom turned themselves in on two complaints of conspiracy to commit a felony. The charges date back to Joy Hofmeister’s 2014 campaign for office [FOX25].

Unemployment rates continue to rise in Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s unemployment rate increased to 5.2 percent in September, shifting the state .2 percent above the national average of 5 percent for the month, according to a report released by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The state’s unemployment rate has steadily increased in the past year, according to the report. Of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, 76 have an unemployment rate higher than one year ago and one county had a lower rate [The Ada News].

Downtown advisory board recommends denial of zoning exception for new Iron Gate: The Downtown Coordinating Council formally expressed its opposition to Iron Gate’s proposed new location at a special meeting Wednesday. The council voted 7-2 to recommend that the Tulsa Board of Adjustment, and subsequently Tulsa County District Court, deny Iron Gate’s request for a zoning exception that would allow the agency to move forward with plans to build a new soup kitchen and food pantry in a currently vacant area between Seventh and Eighth streets and Kenosha and Elgin avenues [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Receives $3.3 Million Federal Substance Abuse Grant: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is providing up to $3.3 million to Oklahoma for substance abuse screening, intervention and referral. The funding program allows health care workers in primary care centers, hospital emergency rooms, trauma centers and elsewhere to better identify underlying substance abuse problems and provide early intervention with at-risk substance users before more severe consequences occur [News9].

About half of Oklahoma’s earthquakes occur on unidentified faults: Approximately half of all the state’s earthquakes occur on unidentified faults, according to Oklahoma Geological Survey director Jeremy Boak. Unless scientists can obtain seismic data from industry sources, experts won’t be able to see faults that are causing a lot of the earthquakes, Boak said during a presentation Wednesday. While many faults have been mapped, he said, there are plenty more to find [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Dear Oklahoma, I moved away from you once. Looking for bright lights and big city action. I lasted barely a year before scurrying back as quickly as I could. I missed your sunsets and thunderstorms. I missed your wide open plains of beauty. I missed your welcoming faces in every city. I missed the feeling of knowing my roots and being grounded to a place that would always be ‘home.’ I missed QuikTrip and Taco Bueno. I missed my family. I missed my state. Today, I’m about to break up with you.”

– A post on the Facebook page of Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education by Lea Nance, a kindergarten teacher and mother of three who says she’s planning to search for education jobs in bordering states because SQ 779 failed (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma families with children who were not able to afford food sometime in the prior year (2014-2015), 14th highest in the US

Source: Food Research Action Center analysis of Gallup data

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How America’s criminal justice system became the country’s mental health system: Kevin Earley of Fairfax County, Virginia, knows too well what it’s like to be on the bad side of a police officer as a person with bipolar disorder — scared you’re about to die. Prior to the encounter, Kevin’s father, Pete, called police when Kevin, now 37, acted violently on a night in 2005. Kevin refused to surrender and tried to flee, thinking police were trying to hurt him. Officers blasted him twice with a Taser, shocking him with up to thousands of volts of electricity each time [Vox].

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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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