In The Know: Fallin wants lawmakers to get to work on solving the state’s budget woes

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

Fallin wants lawmakers to get to work on solving the state’s budget woes: At the halfway point in the legislative session, Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday said lawmakers need to get to work on solving the state’s budget problems. “We need to get down to business,” Fallin said. “It is time.” In her Feb. 6 state-of-the-state address to lawmakers, Fallin outlined several measures to close the nearly $900 million budget hole [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma House speaker questions legality of Rainy Day borrowing: House Speaker Charles McCall said he’s asked his legal staff to research whether Oklahoma law lets the executive branch borrow money from the Rainy Day Fund. McCall, R-Atoka, said he only learned the fund was empty after reading news reports this week [NewsOK].

OKC schools chief recommends $10 million in cuts: Oklahoma City Public Schools will increase class sizes in the coming year but won’t close any schools to cut as much $10 million from the budget, officials said Thursday night. At least for now. Superintendent Aurora Lora announced plans to reduce teaching positions by increasing elementary school class sizes, cutting contracts and central office expenditures and spending down operating cash [NewsOK].

Dallas school district coming after Oklahoma teachers: Phreed Evans is a teacher at Millwood High School. Like many teachers his job is his passion. “None of us are in education to get wealthy but we don’t want to live just above the poverty line,” said Evans. He says lack of support and lower than average pay are constant frustrations [KFOR].

SB 81 would break Oklahoma’s obligation to educate all kids: Article 13 of Oklahoma’s Constitution begins: “The Legislature shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the State may be educated.” That commitment to educate all of the children in our state is prominent in our founding document. Yet in the face of shrinking resources for schools, higher class sizes, and more inexperienced teachers, some Oklahoma lawmakers are proposing we go in the opposite direction [OK Policy].

No explanation for why ‘Good Samaritan’ bill died in Oklahoma Senate: It makes sense for Oklahoma to have on the books a law that provides immunity from arrest for someone who calls 911 to report a drug overdose. This is particularly true given the scope of the problem — preliminary data from the state’s drug bureau shows 952 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, up from 862 the previous year. Thirty-seven states have such “Good Samaritan” laws, but not Oklahoma, where if you’re in a house where someone is overdosing and you call 911, you could face arrest on drug complaints when police get there. Why is there no law here? Because one state senator doesn’t want it [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Wind Industry Says Legislature Betraying a Deal and Undermining Investments By Rolling Back Last Major Incentive: One major tax incentive for wind energy remains on the books in Oklahoma. And the Legislature is poised to end it — more than three years early. The politics of renewable energy have changed as state revenues have failed, but some wind producers say lawmakers are reneging on a deal that sends a bad message to any industry considering investing in Oklahoma [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Oklahoma Senate approves veterans’ legislation in Senate Bill 544, Senate Bill 543, Senate Bill 232: The state Senate approved a trio of veterans bills recently addressing various needs of Oklahoma’s military men and women. Navy veteran and Chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Springer) is the author of the measures [Altus Times].

Saving state park becomes ‘big deal’ for woman as potential cuts loom: Amy Lovell has lived all 25 years of her life in Burns Flat, a small town in far western Oklahoma near the Texas border. Located 105 miles west of Oklahoma City, her hometown has a population 2,057 and is home to the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark, a licensed spaceport. It’s also about 13 miles south of a potentially endangered state park [John Klein / Tulsa World].

Amazon tax change bodes well for state: The remittance of sales and use tax revenue from online retailers such as Amazon is a big step in correcting e-commerce’s impact on Oklahoma and other states, economists and government officials said. However, a few million dollars won’t make much of a dent in Oklahoma’s budgeting woes this year [Journal Record].

Capitol restoration cost totals $34 million with 6 years to go: Construction crews are about $34 million into the restoration project at the state Capitol, and they have years to go. The project started in 2015 and contractors expect another six years will pass before it’s all said and done. Several contractors and government officials shared an update on Thursday afternoon during a State Capitol Expenditure Oversight Committee meeting [Journal Record].

Sheriff pushing to get $1.1 million to fund jail: Sheriff Joe Lester filed a restraining order against the county commissioners on Tuesday in an attempt to get immediate monetary relief for what he has called a funding emergency. The restraining order was a motion associated with the civil lawsuit Lester filed in Cleveland County District Court last week against the Board of County Commissioners, alleging they didn’t fund the county jail to the extent required by law [Norman Transcript].

Oklahoma flu fatalities rise to 84 after late reports of 16 January-February deaths: Late-reported flu deaths have brought the state’s total to 84 fatalities for the season. The 16 deaths recorded since last week were patients who died in late January and early February, the Oklahoma Department of Health says [Tulsa World].

Former Dollar Thrifty Plaza to become home for five nonprofits, affordable housing: Plans for a $60 million renovation and repurposing of the former Dollar Thrifty Plaza were announced Thursday by officials with the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation and area nonprofit agencies. Dubbed the Legacy Plaza, the property will house five nonprofits and 170 affordable housing units [Tulsa World].

OHFA expands housing finance program: The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency is making changes to the Housing Trust Fund of Oklahoma to make it a more attractive financing tool for developers planning to build affordable housing. The changes include removing the limit on the amount of money that can be borrowed, although the amount is still subject to the availability of funds and reasonableness [Journal Record].

EPA chief Scott Pruitt target of Oklahoma Bar Association complaint: An environmental organization and a University of Oklahoma law professor have filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. The complaint alleges Pruitt violated bar association rules by lying to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during his January confirmation hearing. Pruitt was Oklahoma attorney general at the time [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“I would suggest that if we don’t get our budget done pretty soon that we may have to look at having a special session or concurrent session. Certainly if we cut to where our agencies that are critical to core services are hemorrhaging, I am willing to look at vetoing a plan if it is not going to take care of the critical core services that I think our citizens demand that we take care of in our state.”

– Gov. Mary Fallin, urging lawmakers to develop a workable state budget before the Legislature adjourns on May 26 (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma jobs with median annual pay below the poverty threshold for a family of four in 2013. The national average was 25.6%

Source: CFED

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Worry I No Longer Remember Living Without: The day Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education, a friend whose child is also on the spectrum texted me to say that, while absolutely everything had felt like a nightmare since November 8th, this was the defeat that had, so far, cut deepest. That night, I dreamed about shouting at my Trump-supporting relatives: “If they destroy special education in this country, you’ll never see my kid again.” (I would like to be able to tell you I am coping better now, but this has become a recurring nightmare.) My younger daughter, who is in kindergarten, was diagnosed with autism a little over two years ago. I’m never sure how to write about this, or if I should even try at all [Nicole Chung / Hazlitt].

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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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