In The Know: Cigarette tax increase advanced by House committee, but passage into law not assured

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. Click here to check out our resources for the Legislative session, including our Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide

Today In The News

Cigarette tax increase advanced by House committee, but passage into law not assured: A proposed $1.50 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax backed by Republican leaders and the Oklahoma State Chamber lumbered from the House Appropriations and Budget Committee late Monday afternoon on a less-than-overwhelming vote. As now written, House Bill 1841 by Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, would ultimately direct revenue from the proposed tax increase into a Health Care Enhancement revolving fund for “activities eligible to be matched with federal Medicaid dollars or mental health safety net services.” The increase, which would become effective Sept. 1, has a hard pull to become law [Tulsa World].

Town hall meeting heated about SQ 780, 781: More than 200 people packed into a town hall meeting with a clear message: don’t mess with their vote on State Questions 780 and 781. “We, the people of Oklahoma, believe that the issues of addiction and mental illness are better addressed through treatment rather than punishment,” said one attendee. SQ 780 allows certain non-violent drug and theft crimes to become misdemeanors, easing growing problems in prisons [KFOR]. Reporters with The Oklahoman live-tweeted the event [NewsOK]. Oklahoma Policy Institute formally endorsed State Questions 780 and 781 in January [OK Policy].

Senate committee kills bill requiring five-day school weeks: A Senate panel on Monday killed a bill that would have required schools to have five-day weeks, with some exceptions. The Senate Education Committee rejected Senate Bill 37 by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. The measure gathered four votes of support and 11 against it. Loveless said the bill would have allowed districts to seek a waiver from the five-day class requirement through the State Board of Education, if the districts believed they could save money [Tulsa World].

House committee passes bill that would give Oklahoma teachers ‘student loan forgiveness’: In a 12-0 vote, the House committee passed House Bill 1402, which would give Oklahoma high school teachers “student loan forgiveness” if they stay at any school for at least seven years. Rep. Mickey Dollens proposed the bill, which would also expand the proposed benefit to all high school teachers who attend an Oklahoma university. Right now, math and science teachers can get student loan forgiveness if they stay at a school for five years [KOCO].

Tax cut triggers are anything but fiscally responsible: Ten states, including Oklahoma, have enacted tax cuts in recent years that are deferred to a future date based on state revenues reaching a certain level or rate of growth. A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a national think tank, makes a convincing case that while tying tax cuts to “triggers” may seem fiscally responsible at first glance, triggers are likely to harm states’ ability to provide critical service for their residents. Twice in the past decade, Oklahoma lawmakers have passed tax cuts triggered by future revenue growth [OK Policy].

Bill proposes creative ideas to form new social services: An Oklahoma lawmaker is pitching another idea to get the state’s surging corrections and health care tabs lowered. The measure would invest in Oklahomans long before they commit crimes or need treatment for chronic diseases. It aims to break the addiction and poverty cycles before those issues begin. A.J. Griffin introduced Senate Bill 748, which aims to bring private companies and nonprofits on board to help some of the state’s most vulnerable children. The Guthrie Republican’s bill would implement a “pay for success” model, which has already kicked off nationally [Journal Record].

From Oregon to Oklahoma, advocate pushes for rape victim rights: Danielle Tudor’s path to reforming Oklahoma’s rape victim laws began one night, 38 years ago, as she sat at home alone watching a movie. She was a high school senior in Portland, Oregon, living in a neighborhood that had been targeted by a man known as the city’s “jogger rapist.” The attacker kicked down her door and the two locked eyes. She ran. He followed. She couldn’t get away. He did [NewsOK].

Lawmaker calls pregnant women ‘hosts’: State Rep. Justin Humphrey said he considers pregnant women hosts to a fetus, sparking online outrage after his comments were reported Monday. Humphrey’s House Bill 1441 is scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday morning at the Oklahoma Capitol. The measure would require written permission from the father before a woman gets an abortion, giving men the final say on whether a woman can terminate her pregnancy [NewsOK].

Pending bills would change how Oklahoma’s judges are chosen, retained: Lingering frustration with a series of state court decisions has prompted members of the Oklahoma Legislature to file a series of bills that would reshape how Oklahoma judges are selected and who is eligible to serve on the bench. In recent years, state district and appellate courts have overturned several tough anti-abortion bills that were overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin [Tulsa World]. The Tulsa World Editorial Board called the proposals “retributive lawmaking…below the dignity of legislators and, most important, bad for the state” [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Democratic Party cries foul over Fallin’s high court pick: The Oklahoma Democratic Party is challenging Gov. Mary Fallin’s appointment to the state Supreme Court, saying he doesn’t live in Supreme Court District 2 in southeastern Oklahoma. The party released a statement Monday saying Fallin’s selection of Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick to the state’s highest court shows “a callous disregard for the Oklahoma Constitution.” [Tulsa World]

Deadline set for proposals to operate juvenile detention facility: Muskogee County commissioners set a March 20 deadline for the receipt of all proposals from entities interested in operating a juvenile detention facility shuttered in December following an inmate’s suicide. The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs on Dec. 22 temporarily revoked the license that allowed the Muskogee County Regional Juvenile Detention Center to operate after a 16-year-old inmate was found dead inside a cell. The facility was being operated at the time by Muskogee County Council Of Youth Services, with which commissioners had contracted for that service [Muskogee Phoenix].

After Controversial Clip, Mayor Announces Termination Of ‘Live PD’ Contract: The Tulsa Police Department is cutting ties with a reality show that follows gang officers out on patrol. The announcement comes after a video posted online shows an encounter with a man who said he’s being wrongly accused of gang ties. The police department didn’t say anything about canceling the contract until after the controversial clip got some attention [NewsOn6].

Quote of the Day

“[Schools] are looking for any way possible to be efficient. What we would like to see is a long-term funding plan for education and improved funding for schools so they can add instructional time. We believe our students need more instructional time, but schools can’t offer the more instructional time without having the resources needed.”

– Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, on SB 37, which would have required schools to have five-day weeks. The bill failed in committee on Monday (Source)

Number of the Day


How much federal funding has increased for Oklahoma TANF since the welfare program was turned into a block grant in 1996. Since that year, the funding has lost about a third of its value due to inflation

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

As fact checkers proliferate, where are the policy checkers? The failures of the press in the 2016 election have by now become familiar: an over-emphasis on personality and politics, a lack of detailed coverage of policy, a focus on the controversial and provocative. These failures were, I believe, fundamentally not the result of any lack of ability or courage on the part of journalists, or even commercial pressures on news organizations. They were rather caused by the lack of a clear and strong model for drawing fair and objective conclusions about the candidates’ policies. Lacking a strong model, journalists desiring to be fair instead fell back on a misguided ideal of “balance,” a confused notion that misled them time after time [Columbia Journalism Review].

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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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