In The Know: Cigarette and fuel tax increases survive preliminary votes in Oklahoma Legislature

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Cigarette and fuel tax increases survive preliminary votes in Oklahoma Legislature: A bill that would raise Oklahoma’s cigarette and fuel taxes and also eliminate about $50 million in oil and gas production tax incentives survived preliminary votes in the House and Senate on Monday. House Bill 2365, by Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, got through the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget with no discussion and little opposition, but ran into a tougher time in the House [Tulsa World]. Both ideas are part of the Blueprint for a Better Budget supported by a coalition of state organizations including OK Policy [Save Our State].

During three-year period of upheaval, Pardon and Parole Board quietly ceased reviews of commutation applications: When William D. Wood and Donnie M. Daniel had their prison sentences for separate drug convictions commuted in 2016, an article in The Oklahoman noted it was the first two commutations Gov. Mary Fallin had authorized since 2012. However, The Frontier has learned that commutation applications weren’t being denied during the years prior to Wood’s and Daniel’s successful attempts at clemency — they weren’t being reviewed at all. During a nearly three-year period beginning in 2013 and lasting until late 2015, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board did not review a single application for commutation, an investigation by The Frontier found [The Frontier].

Law points to wiser direction for state revenue: A bill that would eliminate the “trigger” threatening to further cut the top state income tax rate continues to work its way through the Legislature. Senate Bill 170 won’t solve Oklahoma’s financial mess — far from it — but will slow its growth. Having passed the House and Senate, SB 170 awaits final legislative work. This bill is important, and we urge quick resolution [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. SB 170 would allow Oklahoma to avoid another ill-timed tax cut [OK Policy].

HB 1270 adds bureaucratic hurdles for Oklahoma families and won’t generate promised savings: Earlier this spring, we warned that HB 1270 would grow administrative waste and punish poor families by requiring substantially more rigorous and more frequent verification procedures for families applying for SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid (SoonerCare). Following public outcry, HB 1270 has been pared back to only apply to SoonerCare, with a provision excepting some individuals with significant disabilities. However, HB 1270 is still an expensive, unnecessary bill that would put access to basic health care for Oklahoma families at risk. Here’s how [OK Policy].

Amendment to strengthen rape by instrumentation law awaits Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature: Gov. Mary Fallin is scheduled Tuesday to take action on a bill approved by legislators last week that will strengthen laws regarding what constitutes rape by instrumentation. The move, the bill’s author says, will better protect victims of sex crimes and avoid “international embarrassment” due to archaic language.Currently, the elements of Oklahoma’s first-degree rape by instrumentation law state that the act, to be legally considered a first-degree offense, must result in a victim suffering bodily harm  [Tulsa World].

Most legislation meddling with the judicial selection process is stymied for the year: As the nation observes Law Day, it’s worth noting that Oklahoma appears to have dodged the most pernicious legislative attempts to meddle with the judicial selection and retention process this year. When the legislative session opened, lawmakers presented about a dozen bills and resolutions to alter the way judges are chosen and re-elected. The measures had an odor of vengeance to them. Upset that they weren’t able to get unconstitutional laws through Oklahoma Supreme Court review, lawmakers were looking to politicize the judiciary [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Governor Fallin signs 12 bills into new law: With the deadline to pass legislation looming, both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature pushed through some last-minute measures. The House of Representatives took 149 votes in the span of four days, while the Senate took 153. Gov. Mary Fallin signed a dozen bills on Wednesday, including Senate Bill 26, SB 30, House Bill 2156, HB 2211, HB 2231, HB 2344, HB 1423, HB 1706, HB 1759, HB 1836, HB 1858 and HB 1994. SB 26 adjusts the state’s definition of a “bus,” while SB 30 is generating some conversation. The new law requires abortion providers to post a sign in the waiting room [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Transportation officials suspend work on several Oklahoma highway projects: Citing state budgeting uncertainties, Oklahoma transportation officials announced Monday that they have suspended construction on about a dozen highway projects, including the next phase of the I-240/I-35 interchange project in south Oklahoma City. “That’s going to give us a black eye,” Oklahoma Transportation Commission Chairman J. David Burrage said, describing the situation as “bad.” [NewsOK]

Epidemic not too strong a word where opioids are concerned: Based on research conducted in Minnesota, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of opioid-related deaths in this country could be even higher than what’s been reported. This is troubling news for Oklahoma and other states battling this scourge [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Oklahoma teachers say their pay raise long overdue: Oklahoma teachers are starting to see hopes fade as state lawmakers delay any action on a promise to raise teacher pay. “I wish the legislators would say, hey, we deserve this,” Carolyn Marshall said. Teachers like Marshall, in El Reno, said they’re not in classrooms for the money, but think a pay raise is long overdue. “If those legislators were to walk in our shoes one day, they may say, ‘gosh, they really work hard here.’” Marshall said [KOCO].

Former House Speaker appointed to Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education: A former Oklahoma Speaker of the House has been appointed to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Governor Mary Fallin announced May 1 that former House Speaker Jeff Hickman has been appointed to the board. The Fairview-native will need confirmation of the Oklahoma Senate to take the position. Fallin states that Hickman’s experience with the legislative process will be helpful to the regents [KOKH].

Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson announces run for Oklahoma governor: The past decade has not been kind to Democratic candidates in Oklahoma, and that includes former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson. But, Edmondson said Monday, voters’ decisions on four state questions last November encouraged him enough to give a run for public office one more try. “Not only the defeat of (State Question) 777, but also some of the very smart decisions (voters) made about criminal justice reform and the constitution’s establishment clause,” Edmondson after announcing his candidacy for governor at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame [Tulsa World].

Filing begins for two Oklahoma legislative seats: Just two candidates filed for office Monday as Oklahoma state officials begin tallying who wants to fill a pair of vacant legislative seats. Political hopefuls have until the close of business Wednesday to request their name be on the ballot for Senate District 44 and House District 46. The Senate district encompasses south and southwest Oklahoma City, while the House seat would represent Norman [NewsOK].

$75,500 donated to Hofmeister defense fund: The special committee created to help Joy Hofmeister pay her legal bills in a criminal case has raised $75,500, its first report shows. The state schools superintendent was charged in November with four felony counts involving her 2014 campaign. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August in Oklahoma County District Court to determine if prosecutors have enough evidence for a trial [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“We weren’t joking when we put out the 14.5 (percent cut) scenarios. So far … we’ve brought in $50 million. Our budget hole is $1 billion. … We will close regional colleges. … We will never get more dollars into the per pupil formula. We will never have a teacher pay raise. We will lay off 25 percent of our (Highway Patrol) troopers.”

-Rep. Leslie Osborn, on the need to find new revenue sources to fill the budget gap (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans in families where out-of-pocket spending on health care, including premiums, accounted for more than 10 percent of annual income

Source: SHADAC

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Welfare Reform Offers a Window Into Block-Granting Medicaid: Most Republicans in Congress want to turn Medicaid into a block grant program. That may not happen, but the possibility is real enough that it’s worth thinking about how such a massive change might play out. One way to do that is to think back to the last time Congress converted a federal-state entitlement into a flat block grant to states. The 1996 welfare reform law ended cash assistance for the poor as an entitlement, as was suggested by the program’s new name, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) [Governing].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Cigarette and fuel tax increases survive preliminary votes in Oklahoma Legislature

  1. The dominant actor who organized DAs and victims [sic] groups to kill the 1990s criminal justice reforms in OK was appointed to the sentencing commission by then Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who was made specifically aware of the obstacles and opposition by Judge Lumpkin of the state Court of Criminal Appeals who called Edmondson’s appointment a “used car salesman” directly to the appointment’s face. He was a leader of the state DAs before becoming their state leader as AG and let opportunities after opportunities to actually lead the state to a safer and saner place regarding overincarceration pass by while being directly responsible for the failure of the best effort yet to get us there. This needs to be remembered specifically whenever Edmondson talks about the wonders of criminal justice reform in this campaign and generally whenever considering his principles and credibility for governor. Fallin has been better on criminal justice for OK, and her record has been despicable.

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