In The Know: Disabled Oklahomans could lose daycare if DHS can’t get supplemental funding

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

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Disabled Oklahomans could lose daycare if DHS can’t get supplemental funding: Staff at the Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled are on pins and needles waiting for the new Oklahoma legislative session to begin. Lawmakers will have to consider whether they can give supplemental funding to the Department of Human Services, otherwise the disabled adults who depend on state money to attend the Foundation’s daycare program, could lose that opportunity [KOKH].

State budget needs far exceed state revenues: After two weeks of public budget hearings by the state House of Representatives, it’s pretty clear that something is going to have to give. Agencies are lining up for more money, but the state has less of it to appropriate. State agencies haven’t been shy in their budget requests. The Corrections Department asked for a $1.16 billion budget increase to cover the cost of pay raises for workers, critical repair costs for decrepit prison infrastructure and construction of two new medium-security prisons [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Deadline this week for proposals at Oklahoma Capitol: Oklahoma lawmakers have until Thursday to submit legislation that can be heard this year, and some are working down to the wire. By Monday, just 291 House and Senate bills were filed and available online. In a typical year, there are well more than a thousand bills proposed to amend, add to or repeal state laws. That total doesn’t include joint resolutions, which can carry the force of law like bills, and other simple resolutions that only proclaim the House or Senate’s opinion on an issue [NewsOK].

The Road Ahead: Election heightens anxieties in north Tulsa: Pieces of black construction paper line the walls inside a north Tulsa church, some freshly placed, others appearing faded and curled at the corners, evidence of their sporadic placement during the past several months. Written in white marker on each is the name of a black man or woman killed by American law enforcement since the beginning of 2016. One paper carries the name Terence Crutcher, a man shot and killed Sept. 16 by a Tulsa police officer just a few miles away from the church, an incident that put the city on the national map of controversial killings of black people by police in recent years [NewsOK].

The Road Ahead: As Oklahoma City moves forward, it hopes for help from Donald Trump: Michelle Patterson stepped off the still rumbling train just as it pulled into its final stop a little more than 30 minutes behind schedule. The weary traveler whipped her backpack around to her front, pulled her phone out of the front pouch and hailed an Uber car that was estimated to arrive in seven minutes. “Long day,” Patterson, a resident of northwest Oklahoma City, said about her train ride that began 10 hours earlier in Temple, Texas. “But it’s good to be home.” [NewsOK]

State Lawmakers to Consider Payday Lending Reforms: A state senator is proposing reforms for Oklahoma’s payday lenders. Sen. Kevin Matthews has filed a bill that would institute a 24-hour waiting period between a borrower paying off their payday loans and a lender giving them a new one. It would also limit borrowers to 90 days of indebtedness a year with a 365-day waiting period between a borrower’s final loan being paid off and a lender being able to give them a new one [Public Radio Tulsa]. If predatory lending is restricted, Oklahomans will find better alternatives [OK Policy].

Senator proposes across-the-board pay hike for prisons: The Department of Corrections could see its first across-the-board salary increase in years as soon as July, and officials said it could help the department’s soaring turnover rate and dropping morale. Senate Bill 150, by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, proposes a 5-percent increase for all full-time employees. “It’s been well over a decade since most of the Department of Corrections employees have seen any new money for salaries,” said department spokesman Alex Gerszewski [Journal Record]. The effects of budget cuts on Oklahoma prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

Oklahoma County Court Sees Increase In Felony Filings: Oklahoma County prosecutors are fighting an uphill battle, one that only seems to get steeper. A record high number of felonies — 10,043 — were filed in 2016. At the same time, budget cuts left fewer people to handle them. The two bearing the burden of this caseload are Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and Oklahoma County Chief Public Defender Bob Ravitz. Ravitz said it is a critical situation [News9]. Despite falling crime rates, felony filings have risen across Oklahoma in the last five years [OK Policy].

Bill proposal to limit Oklahoma superintendent salaries: The legislative session gets underway in February and, already, a number of plans are in the works to funnel more money into Oklahoma schools. The latest bill proposal aims to cap top-dollar school superintendents. Bi-partisan polling shows Oklahomans do want more state funding spent in the classroom [KFOR].

Bill would snatch money from special needs students: Mark Smith, now 12, wasn’t supposed to make it to 3. His mother, Shelley Smith, began fostering him one December, a month shy of his second birthday. The doctors told her he would likely die by summer, and other people told her that she shouldn’t go through with the adoption. If he were still a foster child, the government would pay for his funeral, they said. She decided Mark deserved a last name and an advocate. She went through with the adoption. Once he outlived his grave expectations, he got new ones: He’d never walk, and he’d never talk [Journal Record].

Better collection of online taxes needed: Nobody likes paying taxes, which makes it difficult for one to voluntarily report sales taxes owed for internet purchases, as required on Oklahoma state tax returns. Over the past several years, Oklahoma like many states, has seen a significant decrease in sales tax revenue despite growth in our economy. E-commerce sites like Amazon are seeing record sales [LifeStyles Stores CEO Gregg Tunison / NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmaker refuses to appear before sexual harassment committee unless sessions are open to public: A Stilwell lawmaker who was accused of sexual harassment said Tuesday he will not appear before a panel looking into the allegations, citing problems with the investigatory process. Rep. Will Fourkiller, a Democrat, said he notified Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, chairman of the Special Investigation Committee, that he had nothing to hide but would appear and testify in an open format with notice of the specific allegation against him [Tulsa World].

Bill would cut gift, meal allowances to 1 cent: Oklahoma legislators could be required to pick up their own lunch and coffee tabs soon. A Republican legislator is pushing to effectively drop the caps on meal and gift allowances to nothing. House Bill 1004 would reduce the $200 and $500 gift allowances to 1 cent. “I have long held that view that it’s inappropriate for lobbyists to give personal gifts to legislators,” said Rep. Jason Murphey, who sponsored the bill. “That bill is an effort to say the Legislature should have professional standards.” [Journal Record]

Cockroft bill would expand health services via nurse practitioners: Rep. Josh Cockroft on Jan. 10 filed legislation intended to increase access to health care services for all Oklahomans, especially those in rural areas of the state. House Bill 1013 would give full practice authority to nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses, allowing them to provide health care services in line with their education and training without the requirement of a collaborative agreement with a physician [Shawnee News-Star].

Trump’s EPA pick took hands-off approach to environmental crisis that shook Oklahoma: Oklahoma is one of the more unlikely places in the United States to experience earthquakes. But in the six years that Scott Pruitt has served as the state’s attorney general, Oklahoma has been rattled by hundreds of quakes with a magnitude of 3.0 and greater, with some areas facing the same level of risk as high-hazard parts of California [CNN].

Quote of the Day

“Some legislative leaders have said some of the budget requests have been unrealistic, and there’s some truth there. No one, including Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, actually expects the state to come up with more than a billion new dollars to lock up prisoners. But, in another way, the numbers are completely realistic. They represent that real cost of running the state the way the Legislature says it wants it run. The Legislature created the criminal justice system the way it is, and Allbaugh is just telling the powers that be — realistically — what it should cost.”

-Tulsa World Editorial Board, on budget requests by state agencies that ask for significant increases in funding in the coming year (Source)

Number of the Day


Youth unemployment rate in Oklahoma, 2013.


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Health Law Repeal Could Cost 18 Million Their Insurance, Study Finds: Eighteen million people could lose their insurance within a year and individual insurance premiums would shoot upward if Congress repealed major provisions of the Affordable Care Act while leaving other parts in place, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday. A report by the office sharply increases pressure on Republicans to come up with a comprehensive plan to replace the health care law. It is likely to doom the idea of voting to dismantle the 2010 health law almost immediately, with an effective date set sometime in the future while Congress works toward a replacement [New York Times].

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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.

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