In The Know: Education Cuts Prompt Revolt, Despair in Oklahoma

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

Education Cuts Prompt Revolt, Despair in Oklahoma: Oklahoma is accustomed to being at the back of the class in funding for public education: It ranks 48th among the 50 states plus the District of Columbia in teacher pay and 49th in spending per student. But even many long-suffering Oklahoma educators and parents are revolting over the latest round of proposed cuts amid the state’s worst-ever budget crisis [ABC News]. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House, Senate committees pass budget legislation: Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday began the daunting task of addressing a projected $1.3 billion hole in the next state budget, backing legislation that would raise or save roughly $200 million but knowing more difficult haggling lies ahead. Members of House and Senate appropriations committees adopted a series of joint budget bills that would increase revenue, including an attempt to capture about $125 million from a cash-flow reserve fund, and trim tax credits, including limiting a credit for clean-burning motor fuel equipment [NewsOK].

Everyday folks call, email and visiting lawmakers before end of legislative session: Andy Moore was fed up with dreary headlines about the state’s financial mess. Articles covering the revenue shortfall and its impact on state agencies and school districts that are now facing massive budget cuts frustrated the Oklahoma City resident and father of two young children. Like many, Moore logged on to Facebook to share his irritation with friends and family members; however, that action didn’t prompt any change. About a month ago, Moore jokingly suggested to friends they take a day off work to visit the state Capitol to talk with lawmakers about the $1.3 billion budget hole and funding issues regarding core government services [Oklahoma Gazette].

Even amid energy bust, Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks exceed $400 million per year: Oklahoma continues to give up well over $400 million per year in tax breaks to oil and gas producers, even as oil prices fall and the industry sheds thousands of jobs, according to data compiled from the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Last year (FY 2015), the state lost $473.0 million in revenue from taxing horizontal production at 1 percent and deep wells at 4 percent rather than the standard tax rate of 7 percent, based on OTC data [OK Policy].

Puppet campaign urges Oklahomans to “get off our butts,” do something about budget shortfall: A group of Oklahomans are taking an unusual approach to voicing concern over the state’s $1.3 billion shortfall. The Oklahoma Policy Institute, a non-partisan independent policy think-tank, started the ‘Do Something’ campaign to encourage Oklahoma residents to educate themselves about what the budget deficit means and how to help make a change. “We’ve got to get off our butts and fix this great, great, great state,” a video featuring puppets talking about the budget deficit illustrates [KFOR]. Click here to learn more and join the campaign.

Speaker says Judicial Nominating Commission bill likely won’t be heard in House: A bill pending in the Legislature that could greatly alter how state appellate court justices are selected apparently is running into trouble in the House of Representatives. House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Thursday that the Senate’s amended version of House Bill 3162 is unacceptable to the House. The bill would require both Senate and House approval to bring about the changes. The version of the House bill that the Senate revamped would exclude the House’s input on judicial selections [Tulsa World]. No less than 20 measures to change Oklahoma’s judicial system were filed this year [OK Policy].

Lawmakers, City Leaders ‘Panicked’ By Corrections Consolidation Plan: Oklahoma’s Board of Corrections unanimously approved leasing a private prison in Sayre and consolidating 15 work release centers across the state Thursday, a decision that left many legislators scrambling and upset. Under the five-year contract, the Department of Correction would transfer roughly 1200 inmates from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite to North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre. Inmates in work release programs across the state would be relocated to Granite [KGOU].

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a bill outlawing the practice of social media sharing so-called “revenge porn,” along with 29 other bills now set to become law: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a bill that outlaws the practice of sharing so-called “revenge porn,” along with 29 other bills now set to become law. Starting Nov. 1, it will be a misdemeanor in Oklahoma to distribute private photos featuring nudity or sexual acts without the consent of the subject of the image. Violators convicted of trying to “harass, intimidate or coerce” the photo subject by sharing the photos could face up to one year in prison, a $1,000 or both [Daily Reporter].

Feral hog bill headed to governor: Legislation to help reduce the number of feral hogs in the state was approved Thursday by the Oklahoma Senate. Senate Bill 1142, by state Sen. Nathan Dahm and state Rep. Sean Roberts, allows the hunting of feral hogs day or night if the hunter has permission from the landowner. Under the measure, a license would no longer be required. “This invasive species has been found in all 77 counties of Oklahoma and is a menace to safety and property,” said Roberts, R-Hominy [Journal Record].

Oklahoma House OKs bill allowing medical use of cannabis oil: The Oklahoma House has given final approval to legislation that expands the medical use of an oil derived from marijuana. The House voted 69-14 for the measure and sent it to Gov. Mary Fallin to be signed into law. The treatment allows the medically supervised use of cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating derivative of marijuana [KOCO].

State Chamber of Commerce attacks equal pay for women bill: Equal pay for women took a direct hit from the State Chamber of Commerce. Right now, women make 73 cents on the dollar, compared to men. A bill that would change that sailed through the House and Senate. Then, came the letter. The bill has been in committee to work out some of the language, and then a big blow came Wednesday afternoon from the business community [KFOR].

Terminated Planned Parenthood contracts: Other Oklahoma providers had higher error rates: Nearly six months after Gov. Mary Fallin asked the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to end its Medicaid contracts with Oklahoma’s Planned Parenthood groups over “alarming” billing-error rates, the agency has terminated the contracts “without cause,” according to an agency press statement. While OHCA refused interviews Thursday and will not say whether the decision was made related to the reproductive care providers’ previous 14.2 percent and 20.3 percent billing-error rates, NonDoc has been investigating Gov. Fallin’s request and SoonerCare error rates for months [NonDoc].

Reports show contributions from alcohol PACs: Groups tied to the state’s alcohol industry have contributed nearly $70,000 to candidates and legislators in the first quarter. One representative took home the largest piece of the money. State Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, received a combined $1,750 in contributions from the Beer Distributors of Oklahoma Political Action Committee and the Oklahoma Beverage Employees Political Action Committee [Journal Record].

OKC defends panhandling ordinance in federal lawsuit: Attorneys for the city of Oklahoma City say the panhandling ordinance passed by the city council in December serves “significant governmental interests” in protecting public safety. The city makes the assertion in its response to a lawsuit brought by the state’s leading civil liberties organization. The 25-page document was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma (ACLU) contends the ordinance suppresses free-speech rights of the “poor and rich, charitable and political, young and elderly, healthy and ailing” [NewsOK]. The panhandling ordinance is part of a disturbing trend of criminalizing poverty [OK Policy].

How Close is SandRidge Energy to Bankruptcy Court? Officials at Oklahoma City-based SandRidge Energy aren’t talking publicly about it but reports are growing that the firm might be on the verge of filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Reuters and the investor website known as Seeking Alpha indicate the company could file as soon as Friday but no later than June 1. SandRidge confirmed weeks ago it was in debt restructuring talks with financial experts hired to assist the company with its growing debt [OK Energy Today].

Moody’s Lowers Kansas’ Credit Outlook: The day after the state Legislature passed its latest budget bill, the international bond-rating agency Moody’s dropped Kansas’ credit outlook from “stable” to “negative.” Moody’s cited the state’s use of one-time-only money and pension underfunding — key features of the budget bill passed early Monday — as reasons for caution in investing in Kansas bonds [Governing]. 

Oklahoma’s wheat forecast rebounds from historic lows: After struggling through years of drought and harsh freezes, farmers attending the 118th annual meeting of the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association are looking at a far more optimistic wheat forecast for this spring. Statewide numbers far exceed those from 2015, when the average bushels per acre totaled 27. This year’s forecast, meanwhile, predicts an average of 34 bushels of wheat per acre, or 130.6 million bushels to be harvested from 3.8 million acres [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“At this point, I don’t think anyone knows how this will end. I don’t think any of the scripts have a good ending. …We can’t fix all of our problems. Even if the price of oil doubled, there are still major budget challenges. There is no great ending. There is worse and there is catastrophic.”

– OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt, on legislative efforts to find solutions to Oklahoma’s budget crisis (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s state vehicle fleet that run on natural gas (2014)

Source: OKStateStat

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Poverty, Compounded: It’s true that poverty affects people of all races, genders, and nationalities, but it’s also true that poverty—especially deep, persistent, intergenerational poverty—plagues some groups more than others. That’s because poverty isn’t just a matter of making too little money to pay the bills or living in a bad neighborhood—it’s about a series of circumstances and challenges that build upon each other, making it difficult to create stability and build wealth [The Atlantic].

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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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