In The Know: Bill Passed To Raise Taxes On Older Oil Wells But Addiction Programs Could Still Be Cut

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

Bill Passed To Raise Taxes On Older Oil Wells But Addiction Programs Could Still Be Cut: The state House of Representatives passed a bill raising the taxes on so called “Legacy” oil wells, but lawmakers still seem miles apart on a budget solution. [News9] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]

Special session produces first revenue measures: After agreeing on nothing for more than a month during its special session, the Oklahoma Legislature has sent one funding bill to Gov. Mary Fallin, and will likely send another soon. House Bill 1081 passed the House of Representatives 92-3 and appropriates $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. [Tahlequah Daily News]

Funding Not Enough to Prevent Massive Cuts: Legislation that appropriates $23.3 million to Oklahoma’s mental health agency is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk to be signed into law. The measure received final approval in the state Senate on Wednesday. [AP] Public Health In Question In Light Of Impending State Agency Cuts [NewsOn6] Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy]

Oklahoma caregivers devastated by possible budget cuts: Oklahoma caregivers are devastated that cuts to programs could hurt their community. “This will be the shame of Oklahoma because we are putting out the most vulnerable people on the street.” Executive director Jackie Parks says her phones at the Metropolitan Better Living Center have been ringing constantly. “People are scared,” Parks said. [KOCO]

OK lawmakers need to properly fund mental health: I was licensed in 1996 by the state of Oklahoma to do a job. Should devastating mental health cuts occur, I will be among those no longer able to provide care for the most at-risk people the state licensed me to serve. [Kandis Gatewood/The Oklahoman] Oklahoma’s costly lack of foresight in not funding mental health care [OK Policy]

Firing back at critics, House speaker says his chamber has plugged 70 percent of state budget hole: Oklahoma Speaker of the House of Representatives Charles McCall fired off another round in the ongoing tiffle between his leadership team and the Senate. In a written statement Friday afternoon issued long after most lawmakers had called it a week, McCall, R-Atoka, said the House has passed bills that would account for $156 million of the $215 million budget hole while the Senate more or less twiddled its thumbs through six weeks of special session. [Tulsa World

Gamesmanship, taxes and accepting reality: As the not-so-special legislative session winds down, consider this irony: Oklahoma lawmakers’ base pay is second highest in the region – and more than five times higher than Texas. Teachers, can you feel the love? Don’t get the wrong idea: This isn’t a rant about an overpaid Legislature. [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record] Oklahomans left guessing by actions in special session [OK Policy]

Lawyers sue Oklahoma sheriffs over state’s debt-collection system:  A federal lawsuit filed Nov. 2 challenges the debt-collection system that jails poor Oklahomans for their inability to pay court fines and fees. According to court documents, Aberdeen Enterprizes through a contract with the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association engages in intimidation tactics to force impoverished Oklahomans to pay court fees they can’t afford. [KTUL] The Cost Trap: How Excessive Fees Lock Oklahomans Into the Criminal Justice System without Boosting State Revenue [OK Policy]

Something’s burning at the Capitol? Call the firefighter: Someone should give state Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger a bunker coat and helmet. He’s become the Fallin administration’s firefighter, so he might as well dress the part. When $10 million mysteriously was missing at the state health department a few days ago, and officials started talking about layoffs, Gov. Mary Fallin sent in Doerflinger as the interim head of the department. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World] AG asks for investigative audit of Oklahoma Health Department [Tulsa World]

A year after SQ779, Oklahoma teachers still without statewide pay increase: Ray Robinson, a literacy teacher at Highland West Junior High School in Moore, remains hopeful that a pay raise for Oklahoma teachers will happen sometime soon, which may speak more to his optimistic personality than a reading of the political climate in the state Legislature. [The Oklahoman] Two big myths that distort Oklahoma’s education funding debate [OK Policy]

Seeking solutions Educators talk about coping with limited resources: Ada Junior High School has lost 13 staffers over the past three years, including a counselor who retired and was not replaced. Reductions in staffing have affected class sizes at the school and created more stress for the employees who remain, Principal Ronny Johns said. [The Ada News]

Oklahoma food bank working to shrink the line of needy: For 37 years, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma has done terrific work providing meals for the hungry in central and western Oklahoma. Perhaps someday, through the food bank’s efforts, the need won’t be as great. That’s the hope of CEO Katie Fitzgerald, who during her first year in charge has led efforts designed at confronting hunger, which the food bank does so well, but also at solving the problem of hunger. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] At the intersection of hunger and health [OK Policy]

State House aide criticized for energy ties: House Speaker Charles McCall’s top legislative aide also works as an oil and gas attorney, a connection that has raised claims that his dual role is a conflict of interest. [The Oklahoman]

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma providing in-person support at Open Enrollment: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma’s (BCBSOK) Mobile Assistance Center (MAC) will host 31 education and enrollment events throughout the state during the Open Enrollment Period, which runs from Nov. 1-Dec. 15, 2017. [Edmond Sun] Oklahomans have from now until December 15 to get health insurance for 2018 [OK Policy]

Quote of the Day

“I took lawmakers at their word. It was their responsibility to come up with a plan to make sure that teachers got a pay raise and that schools were funded properly and they haven’t done it.”

– Amber England, Executive Director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, expressing frustration that the state legislature says a teacher pay raise is a priority but has not yet come up with a way to fund it (Source)

Number of the Day

20.7 %

Increase in the number of drug-related arrests in Oklahoma from 2015 to 2016

Source: OSBI

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Barriers Stopping Poor People From Moving to Better Jobs: Seccora Jaimes knows that she is not living in the land of opportunity. Her hometown has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, at 9.1 percent. Jaimes, 34, recently got laid off from the beauty school where she taught cosmetology, and hasn’t yet found another job. Her daughter, 17, wants the family to move to Los Angeles, so that she can attend one of the nation’s top police academies. Jaimes’s husband, who works in warehousing, would make much more money in Los Angeles, she told me. But one thing is stopping them: The cost of housing. “I don’t know if we could find a place out there that’s reasonable for us, that we could start any job and be okay,” she told me. [The Atlantic]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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