In The Know: Felony drug possession bill pulled from Oklahoma Senate committee

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

Felony drug possession bill pulled from Oklahoma Senate committee: The bill that would reinstate felony drug possession crimes in Oklahoma has been pulled from its Senate committee, meaning it likely won’t be heard this year. In the bill’s absence, the committee approved four criminal justice reform measures requested by Gov. Mary Fallin. House Bill 1482 would have created a 1,000-foot zone around schools where drug possession would trigger a felony charge [NewsOK]. A series of smart-on-crime proposals are working their way through the legislative process [Editorial Board Writers / Tulsa World].

Gov. Mary Fallin signs bill to give DHS a supplemental appropriation: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday signed a bill to give a supplemental appropriation to the Department of Human Services. House Bill 2342 taps the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund for nearly $30 million and the currently empty Rainy Day Fund for $4.2 million. The Rainy Day Fund is empty because state officials borrowed $240 million from it to cover cash flow issues [Tulsa World]. Without a supplemental appropriation, DHS doesn’t have the funds to pay providers for the care of more than 25,000 Oklahomans after April [OK Policy].

Update: Rainy Day Fund 101: Last week, news broke that the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) had borrowed money from the Rainy Day Fund to make budget allocations to state agencies. The fund had a beginning balance of some $243 million, and OMES apparently transferred the full amount. It’s rare, if not unprecedented, for the state to borrow money from the Rainy Day Fund, but this year, revenues have fallen below projections and the funds that are typically borrowed from, including the Cash Flow Reserve Fund and Transportation funds, have already been emptied [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House bill could make opiate overdose reversal drug more readily available: Often times, the true first responders to drug overdoses aren’t police officers, firefighters or paramedics. Instead, they’re family members, friends or even other addicts. Naloxone – also known as Narcan – is already available at some pharmacies in the state without a prescription; others require it. In some pharmacies or clinics, the drug is available for free. It is harmless, non-habit forming and only reverses an opioid overdose [KFOR].

Governor Mary Fallin signs bill allowing young veterans to carry guns: Oklahomans as young as 18 who have served in the military would be able to receive a handgun license under a bill signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. The “Handgun Carry Military Exemption Act” is one of 11 bills signed by Fallin on Thursday. It modifies existing law that requires individuals to be at least 21 years old to obtain a license to carry a handgun [KJRH].

Popular bill would let county officials carry guns in courthouses: One legislator pitched a fix for the lack of security in smaller county facilities: more guns. State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, said many of Oklahoma’s elected officials don’t enjoy the same protection that legislators do. “In rural towns, a lot of times you don’t have security,” he said. “A lot don’t have metal detectors.” [Journal Record]

Hindus to seek Bhagavad-Gita monuments if Oklahoma House Bill 2177 becomes law: Hindus would seek erecting monuments with verses from ancient Sanskrit scripture Bhagavad-Gita ((Song of the Lord) in public buildings and on public grounds in Oklahoma, if House Bill 2177 becomes the law. Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that Bhagavad-Gita was a “historically significant document”, “recognized throughout the world” and was a “treasure that should be displayed in public buildings and on public grounds” in the form of monuments/tablets carrying its verses [Norman Transcript].

House Leader Says Agency Didn’t Speak Up on State Budget While Publicly Eyeing Park Closures: In March, the legislature asked state agencies how they would deal with worst-case budget reductions of nearly 15 percent. A cut that deep at the Department of Tourism could cost Oklahoma half of its state parks. Since 2009, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department has lost about 40 percent of its legislatively appropriated funding, agency officials say [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Not everyone thinks Oklahoma schools are suffering: For the past week, I’ve been in some email and phone correspondence with a few readers about the education budget. It was in response to a piece about Tulsa Public Schools budget cuts. These readers just don’t believe the school districts. Based on their own figuring, they say districts are either sitting on piles of money somewhere or misallocating millions [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Webster High School Could Double In Size Under TPS’ Consolidation Plan: Drastic cuts at Tulsa Public Schools to save millions could mean closing schools and merging sports teams, buying fewer textbooks and sending teachers home without pay for two days. Hundreds of westside students will change schools under a plan that closes three smaller elementary schools and moves the students of Clinton Middle School into Webster High [NewsOn6].

What Will You Buy With Your Framework? While responding to questions about education funding during a meeting with reporters last week, Senate Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus said, “I am fully confident that we will leave this session with a framework of a teacher pay raise in place. And it will be a stepped-in pay raise as we go through the next couple of years. If we identify some funding sources this year, it could start as early as this year.” Schulz immediately walked this statement back a few steps when he added, “But again, we have got a pretty big budget hole to fill before we start spending additional dollars.” [A View From The Edge]

Democrats Push For Expansion Of Insure Oklahoma: For the second week in a row, Democrats in the State House of Representatives have revealed their plan to bridge the state’s nearly $900-million budget deficit. Also for the second week in a row, Republican’s response was lukewarm. Just a week ago, house Democrats proposed rolling back tax breaks and imposing certain taxes to raise more than a billion dollars. This week, they say the state can raise $900-million more by expanding the “Insure Oklahoma” program and accepting federal dollars [News9]. A new report surveying dozens of studies found that expanding coverage yields significant coverage gains, grows access to care and utilization of health services, and improves state economies [OK Policy].

Crushed by defeat, patients and providers vow to fight on to expand Medicaid in Kansas: The vote felt like a blow to Suzan Emmons. Kansas came close this week — achingly close — to expanding Medicaid to extend health insurance to low-income adults like her. The Republican-dominated Legislature had passed the bill and supporters vowed to override the governor’s veto. But on Monday, the House fell three votes short [STAT].

Health officials: Oklahoma death toll from flu stands at 90: Health officials say that while the number of flu hospitalizations continues to decline across the state, the number of deaths related to the virus now stands at 90. On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced that two people died from the flu between March 29 and April 4 [KFOR].

State housing assessment: Affordability lacking in Tulsa County: Tulsa County continues to fall well short of the demand for affordable housing, an analyst told the Tulsa Development Authority on Thursday. “Really, the main takeaway is that we’re not even getting close to meeting the needs,” David Puckett said. “That’s especially pronounced in the Tulsa area, where we are getting about 10 percent of our needs met.” [Tulsa World] Even though Oklahoma is considered an affordable place to live, housing costs are still unaffordable for many lower wage earners [OK Policy]. The assessment is available here.

Tulsa County sues state over jail reimbursements: Tulsa County and the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority have sued the state Department of Corrections seeking $10 million they say is owed for housing state prisoners and, more importantly, a doubling of that reimbursement going forward. Filed in Oklahoma County District Court, the lawsuit says the statutory rate of $27 a day paid by DOC does not cover the county jail’s costs and therefore violates the state constitution’s provision against the use of local tax revenue to support the prison system [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Keeping the state questions intact and supporting the governor’s task force bills saves taxpayers nearly $2 billion, makes us safer and restores lives. We’re optimistic that when this session ends, legislators will have built on the progress made by Oklahoma voters by enacting more historic reforms that send Oklahoma’s criminal justice system back in the right direction.”

– Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform chairman Kris Steele responding to news that HB 1482, which would have backtracked on criminal justice reforms approved by voters in November, is unlikely to advance in the Legislature (Source)

Number of the Day


Uninsured rate for children age 0-18 in Oklahoma in 2015, down from 11% in 2013

Source: Commonwealth Fund

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

“It’s the right thing to do”: why GOP state legislators are fighting to expand Medicaid: While Republicans in Congress work overtime to repeal Obamacare, Republicans in statehouses are actually working to expand it. Republican legislators in multiple states have introduced bills and supported ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid, the public program that covers low-income Americans. If the efforts succeed — and they’ve demonstrated early victories in recent weeks — Obamacare enrollment would increase by an estimated 200,000 people [Vox].

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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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