In The Know: Fallin picks Mike Hunter to succeed Pruitt

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

Fallin picks Mike Hunter to succeed Pruitt: Gov. Mary Fallin has appointed Mike Hunter to succeed former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who officially joined President Donald Trump’s administration last week. Hunter has served just a few months as secretary of state under Fallin and before that, spent about a year working as a top attorney and administrator in Pruitt’s office. He also worked for Republican Gov. Frank Keating as an adviser and secretary of state [NewsOK].

Preliminary figures show Oklahoma revenue failure likely: Oklahoma revenue officials are likely to declare a revenue failure when a state board meets Tuesday to certify the amount of money lawmakers have to appropriate next year. Preliminary figures from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services indicate that collections by the general revenue fund are projected to fall 5.7 percent below estimates for the fiscal year ending June 30. Finance officials are forced to declare a revenue failure when collections fall more than 5 percent below estimates [Associated Press].

Oklahoma Senate Panel Passes Education Savings Account Bill: Legislation creating education savings accounts for Oklahoma public school students has been approved by a state Senate panel in spite of critics who say it will siphon money away from public schools. The Senate Committee on Education voted 9-7 Monday to send the measure to the Senate floor for a vote. The measure by Republican Sen. Rob Standridge of Norman is one of several bills filed in the 2017 Oklahoma Legislature to create education savings accounts [Associated Press].

Will legislative Republicans kill criminal justice reform for a second time? Former Speaker of the House Kris Steele, who now runs Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, is encouraging a freshman Republican member of the state House of Representatives “to take a deep breath, relax and stop misleading the public.” Steele issued a press release with that comment, in response to an earlier missive from state Rep. Tim Downing, R-Purcell. The latter asserted State Question 780, approved in November, removed punishments that target drug dealers who aim at children. Downing is sponsoring House Bill 1482, a measure he asserts is needed to fix S.Q. 780 [CapitolBeatOK].

Teacher pay raise bill clears House hurdle: The Oklahoma House of Representatives’ teacher pay proposal moved to the floor calendar late Monday after winning approval from the Appropriations and Budget Committee. Unlike the Senate, which has six live teacher raise bills, House leaders have concentrated their efforts on one — House Bill 1114, by Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow. Rogers’ bill calls for raises totaling $6,000 per teacher over the next three years, beginning with a $1,000 bump in the 2017-2018 school year. Increases of $2,000 and $3,000 would follow [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma bill would shed light on who pays taxes: In her 2017 State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin called for the elimination of the state sales tax on groceries, saying that “this plan eliminates the most regressive tax on the books today.” It’s widely accepted that taxing groceries is regressive, since grocery bills are a bigger part of the budget for low-income households than for wealthier households. But where’s the data that actually shows how much Oklahomans at different income levels pay in sales tax on groceries? And what about plans to raise the excise tax on cigarettes and motor fuels that the Governor also proposed as part of her FY 2018 budget? What would be the impact on Oklahoma households across the income spectrum if those taxes were raised? This kind of information about who pays taxes is critical for making well-informed decisions on tax policy, but it’s largely unavailable to most legislators [OK Policy].

Local legislators think ‘service taxes’ may not fly: During her State of the State address Feb. 6, Gov. Mary Fallin submitted a long list of ideas for increasing Oklahoma’s tax revenue as the Legislature entered its third annual session facing a large shortfall. Fallin essentially suggested an overhaul in the state’s taxation priorities – eliminating state sales taxes on groceries and the corporate income tax, while increasing collections on cigarettes, gasoline and more than 140 services. Sectors that would probably collect the most tax include residential utilities, cable TV, repair and maintenance, legal services, real estate agent services, plumbing and heating, electrical and wiring, oil field services, business services and accounting [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Bill would mandate overtime pay for state employees: Despite the state’s continual budget woes, lawmakers moved forward a bill on Monday that would force agencies to pay lower-salaried workers overtime. State Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, introduced the measure, which would make more than 1,000 state employees eligible for overtime pay over three years. During the first year, those making $30,000 or less would begin earning overtime pay. The next year, that would increase to $35,000, and by the third year, all state employees earning $45,000 or less would receive overtime pay. Critics warned the law could cost already-struggling agencies too much and that it would hurt seasonal workers, but the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government voted to pass House Bill 1868 by a vote of 5-3, sending it on to the House Appropriations and Budget Committee [Journal Record].

Oklahoma lawmaker’s bill sets rules for medical marijuana: Oklahomans won’t vote until next year on whether to legalize medical marijuana, but a state lawmaker has already introduced legislation that would set the framework if sales of the drug are approved. State Rep. Eric Proctor of Tulsa has introduced a measure that’s nearly an exact replica of what’s being considered in neighboring Arkansas, where medical marijuana was legalized by voters last November. The bill mirrors Arkansas’ proposed plan, calling for a maximum $7,500 fee to apply to run a dispensary and a maximum $15,000 fee to apply for a marijuana cultivation license. It also calls for the creation of a medical marijuana commission, as in Arkansas [Associated Press].

Anti-LGBT bill advances from committee: Advocates for the LGBT community on Monday expressed frustration with the passage of a measure they say would allow for discrimination and the rolling back of protections that some cities have already established. The Senate Committee on General Government passed Senate Bill 694 by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, on Monday. The measure would prohibit local cities and counties from passing ordinances that are stricter than state law in the areas of employment and public accommodation [Tulsa World].

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Foundation aims to raise $300,000 to implement body cameras, citizen advisory board: To help the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office cope with budget problems, officials on Monday announced the formation of a nonprofit foundation to help raise private dollars toward providing better law enforcement services. The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Foundation hopes to raise $300,000 as soon as possible for its first two priorities: obtaining body cameras for patrol deputies and establishing a citizen advisory board. Tim Harris, a former Tulsa County district attorney, is serving as foundation chairman [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“[Downing’s] bill is written in a way that causes a large geographic portion of the state to be a felony drug possession zone that turns addicts into felony prisoners instead of patients – exactly the opposite of what voters wanted.”

-Former House Speaker Kris Steele, criticizing a bill, HB 1482, which would make drug possession a felony if committed within 1,000 feet of a school, park, day care, or church, or in the presence of a child. This would make drug possession a felony over a large majority of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well as large portions of other Oklahoma cities and towns. Voters approved SQ 780 in 2016, making drug possession a misdemeanor rather than a felony when the law takes effect in July (Source)

Number of the Day

$1.9 billion

Projected cost of building and operating the three new prisons in the next ten years that would be required under Oklahoma’s current criminal justice policies.

Source: Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

New Jersey Alters Its Bail System and Upends Legal Landscape: Jamie Contrano squirmed at the defendant’s table inside the Passaic County Court House here. She had been charged with possessing four envelopes of heroin, and, having failed to show up for more than a dozen court appearances over the years, she was a perfect candidate for a high bail — and a lengthy jail stay. But under an overhaul of New Jersey’s bail system, which went into effect Jan. 1, judges are now considering defendants’ flight risk and threat to public safety in deciding whether to detain them while they await trial. Otherwise, they are to be released, usually with certain conditions [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.

One thought on “In The Know: Fallin picks Mike Hunter to succeed Pruitt

  1. The former prosecutor turned legislator who seeks OK legislature imposition of its wisdom over the will of state voters plays the old game that those involved in OK crim just reform saw over 20 years ago with the earlier efforts. Note that he cites not one case or statistic about the efforts to sell to the kids at those schools whom he cares so much about. His interests are purely to give back to DAs a “bargaining chip” in charge bargaining with accused offenders and thus to increase DA power in the system, not to protect public safety. Once again, always remember that the first group to benefit in resources, power, prestige, and politics from the status quo crim just system in OK which has led to the state being among the highest in crime victimization in the nation is the state DAs. If you had a “SAFE” button to reduce crime by a huge percentage in the state, ask yourself who would lose from it being pushed and who would fight it the most. Just like they’re fighting the initiatives from last year, weak tea for impact that they actually were. And also remember this insistence on keeping their weapons for plea bargaining and determining who gets charged with what the next time an OK DA is criticized for abuse of power and argues that s/he “didn’t write the laws but has to choice but to enforce them.” If OK DAs had any capacity for shame, it would have overwhelmed them a couple of decades back. The only way to get the kinds of policies that other states have used to lower crime rates and protect public safety far better than OK’s outcomes with DA dominance is to cut the DAs out of any and all deliberations on reforms, as the initiatives did. And that includes DAs who join the biggest sample of Dunning-Kruger examples in the state (people too stupid to know they’re stupid).

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