In 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
Capitol building to temporarily close: The state Capitol building, which will be without power, will be closed to everyone but workers from Manhattan Construction for one week starting at 7 p.m. on Friday. The temporary closure is necessary to ensure the safety of construction workers, tenants and visitors while the Capitol’s outdated electrical infrastructure is being replaced. The building will be reopened to tenants and the public on Oct. 23 [Journal Record]. The Legislature will not meet while the Capitol is shut down [OK Policy].
Proposed tax hike could fund teacher raises, new textbooks: Cash-strapped lawmakers are eyeing a plan that would ask voters next year to approve an income tax hike to pay for teacher raises and new textbooks for schools. State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, said asking voters to approve a 0.5 percent hike to the state’s income tax rate is the only surefire way to generate enough revenue to pay for $5,000 raises for more than 40,000 public school teachers [CNHI]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].
Former Oklahoma Teacher of the Year who left for Texas shares his own cost-of-living comparison: When Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year penned a viral breakup letter to the state and announced his reluctant departure for a higher-paying job in Texas, he promised to keep advocating for Oklahoma teachers. This week, Shawn Sheehan followed through by publishing a full, side-by-side comparison of his and his wife’s teaching incomes and household expenses from when they worked at Norman Public Schools and now, in public schools in Lewisville, Texas [Tulsa World]. Cost-of-living doesn’t make up for Oklahoma’s low teacher pay [OK Policy].
Rep. Carol Bush’s email raises GOP caucus questions: An email newsletter titled “the not so special session” from Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa) to her constituents has frustrated members of her own caucus for two reasons: It discussed caucus whip counts, and it understated GOP support for new revenue ideas. “I cannot speak to what happens behind closed doors but I can speak about what happened within the Republican Caucus,” Bush wrote [NonDoc]. Bills filed in special session put many options in play [OK Policy].
State budget cuts to affect Oklahoma veterans: Budget cuts in Oklahoma will hit home and hit hard, especially for our veterans. The state announced this week that money will no longer be distributed to three agencies, starting immediately. “When we start talking about budget reduction at Oklahoma Heath Care Authority, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, you’re still talking about all three of those agencies that provide, directly and indirectly, services to veterans,” Pete Reed, coordinator of the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, said [KOCO].
Oklahoma legislators must put ‘least of these’ ahead of re-election concerns: Over the weekend I had the opportunity to read the letter former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, former Gov. Frank Keating and former Oklahoma Secretary of State Larry Parman sent members of the Legislature. I do not presume to have the answers to a budget crisis that has been many years in the making [Ralph Richardson / Tulsa World].
Oklahoma agency ‘scrambles’ after taking medical contract in-house: A backlog of requests to perform medical services for SoonerCare patients is going down, but the state still has work to get the process up and running after budget problems forced a quick plan B. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority had contracted with a private vendor to handle decisions on whether it pays for some services for SoonerCare recipients since 2010 [NewsOK].
Oklahoma’s sprawling criminal code could make a felon of almost anyone: In the wake of the failure of the criminal justice reform proposals put forth by the Justice Reform Task Force this year, Rep. Scott Biggs, the chairman of the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee, blamed Governor Mary Fallin and others of refusing to discuss the definition of “violent” and “nonviolent” crimes used by some of the bills [OK Policy].
A River of Uncertainty Lingers As State Approves OKC’s Permit For Southeastern Oklahoma Water: Oklahoma City’s decades-long quest for a permit to pump water out of southeastern Oklahoma is over. This week, state regulators approved a key part of the city’s $1 billion-plus project to meet the metro’s long-term water needs, but residents and water rights groups say the urban victory marks a milestone — not the end of the road. Oklahoma City has water storage rights at Sardis Lake in southeastern Oklahoma [StateImpact Oklahoma].
Midwest City company that illegally dumped toxins was never punished: On April 8, 2003, Imogene Clark called the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to say her water was being contaminated from tanks at a nearby warehouse owned by Eagle Industries. On her body were lingering rashes. Two months later, a DEQ investigator spoke to Clark’s neighbor. His four kids were consistently sick and his wife required gallbladder surgery. He thought water from a nearby well could be to blame [NewsOK].
University of Central Oklahoma gets $1.3 million federal grant to serve veterans: The University of Central Oklahoma will expand its services to student veterans in metropolitan areas through a five-year $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will allow UCO to serve 125 veterans who are first-generation college students, from low-income families or at high risk for academic failure, regardless of where they attend college, said Kennan Horn, director of UCO Veteran Student Support [NewsOK].
Rep. Mullin to speak at forum: U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., will be the speaker at a Tulsa Regional Chamber Congressional Forum scheduled from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel & Convention Center, 6808 S. 107th East Ave. Mullin was first elected to represent the 2nd Congressional District in November 2012 and is serving his third term in office [Journal Record].
Quote of the Day
“I hope these numbers help provide anecdotal evidence to respond to the cost of living argument. Yes, some things cost more here in Texas. And when we begin to look at buying a house, that’s going to change things, too. But at the end of the day, we have something here in Texas that we likely never would have had teaching in Oklahoma: financial stability.”
– Former Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan, sharing his family’s budget information to show that he and his wife are earning roughly $40,000 more teaching in Texas than they did in Oklahoma (Source)
Number of the Day
How much Oklahoma’s total per pupil funding of public schools decreased from 2006 to 2016, a 7.3 percent drop.
The report Trump officials don’t want you to see: Psst. Hey, you. Wanna read something dangerous? It’s a government document so incendiary that the feds have tried to suppress it. They’ve purged it from their websites and disavowed its claims. But it’s not about Roswell, or who killed JFK. It’s not even about climate change. It’s something far juicier: a 34-page technical paper about corporate income taxes. And it’s a document that matters if you’re trying to game out whether (and how much) enormous corporate tax cuts will trickle down to workers [Washington Post].
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