In The Know: Goals become clearer 4 weeks into 2016 Oklahoma Legislature

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

Goals become clearer 4 weeks into 2016 Oklahoma Legislature: With a key deadline just past them, Oklahoma lawmakers are finding out which of Gov. Mary Fallin’s legislative priorities might eventually be signed into law and which are likely to wind up in the trash bin. Thursday marked the last day for bills to be considered by committees in their house of origin. So far, the 2016 Oklahoma Legislature has embraced Fallin’s proposals to reduce mandatory drug possession sentences by non-violent offenders to reduce prison overcrowding, and lawmakers have supported reducing or delaying hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax breaks as state budget writers work to fill a $1.3 billion hole in next year’s state budget [Associated Press].

Juvenile justice, Sunday liquor sales on local ballots for Oklahoma voters: Logan County voters will decide Tuesday whether the sale of liquor by the drink on Sundays and holidays ought to be legal in the county. That question is one of a handful of matters that voters can expect to see alongside presidential primary races on Tuesday’s ballot. In Canadian County, voters will consider a 15 percent cut in a sales tax that funds the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center. The cut would take the tax from 0.35 percent to 0.30 percent [NewsOK].

OKWatch Radio: The Challenge of Getting More Oklahomans to the Polls: Voter turnout among Oklahomans is expected to be higher than usual in Tuesday’s presidential primary, according to the State Election Board. That’s good news in a state that has experienced a decline over the years in voter participation. Oklahoma Watch reporter Brad Gibson looks at what’s being done, and has yet to be tried, to increase voter turnout [Oklahoma Watch]. An OK Policy report shares ideas for how to increase voter knowledge and participation while giving Oklahomans more choices on the ballot [OK Policy].

Three options at hand for fixing state budget: Oklahoma will have $1.3 billion less to appropriate for fiscal year 2017 than it had for this fiscal year. But if you think we can write a balanced budget and avoid any cuts to our schools, health care or public safety by cutting other agencies and services, think again. If you remove all the agencies that deal with core services and then eliminated everything else altogether, you’d only close the budget gap by about $500 million — less than half of the shortfall [Sen. Mike Mazzei / Tulsa World].

Three factions battling over Oklahoma education policy: It’s no secret there’s struggle in the legislature with regard to Oklahoma’s public schools. Legislators try to reflect the citizens they represent, and there seem to be at least three groups with conflicting points of view. The first group consists of those who believe strongly in public schools, warts and all. They know there are problems. But they feel the biggest problem is inadequate funding, and they see no way to make much improvement until there is better funding. [OK Policy]

Taxpayers beware: The real cost of promoting vouchers: Oklahoma’s Supreme Court recently ruled that it is OK to use public taxpayer dollars to fund private and religious schools. Taxpayers, beware! On the surface, vouchers — or an Education Savings Account — sound very appealing to some. Choice seems like a very logical thing to offer parents when it comes to educating their child. But, if we were to consider seriously the real impact of such a plan on Oklahoma, would we still be eager to promote it? [Superintendent Kirt Hartzler / Tulsa World]

Halliburton Laying Off 5,000 More Workers: Another 5,000 workers are being let go by Houston-based Halliburton. It’s on top of the 9,000 laid off in the past year during the energy downturn. It is unknown how many of the layoffs might occur in Oklahoma where the company got its start in Duncan. By the time the layoffs are finished, it will bring the total to nearly 27,000 workers laid off since the peak of 2014. [OK Energy Today]

Workers’ Compensation Commission rules opt-out unconstitutional: A plan that lets Oklahoma companies opt out of carrying traditional workers’ compensation insurance is unconstitutional, an administrative panel ruled Friday. The three-member Workers’ Compensation Commission said the law deprives injured workers of equal protection and access to the court system [Journal Record]. Oklahoma’s opt-out provision was written by a Texas law firm that specializes in helping companies avoid paying workers’ compensation claims [ProPublica].

Pork industry pushing hard for “Right to Farm” law: About 200 representatives of the pork industry attended the event for updates on genetically modified foods, marketing and legislation, capped with an awards banquet and auction. Proceeds from the auction, which are usually turned over to the Oklahoma group’s political action committee, will be set to a more specific purpose this year, Oklahoma Pork Council Executive Director Roy Lee Lindsey said. “We’ve got to make sure we raise the money we need to push it across the finish line,” Lindsey said. “Passing State Question 777 on the Nov. 8 ballot is too important. [Journal Record]

HJR 1037: Return of Oklahoma’s ‘Rotten political system’: In Oklahoma, the solemn vow of “Never again” has a shelf life of 50 years. In 1965, Oklahoma endured the worst judicial scandal in American history when three longtime Oklahoma Supreme Court Justices were revealed to have taken bribes in exchange for favorable decisions on appeals pending before the court. Although shocking when finally dragged into the sunlight, the scandal had been a long time coming. Oklahoma’s legal and business communities had whispered — not for years, but for decades — that justice was for sale in Oklahoma. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma needs some education about sex: I’m beginning to think it’s not the kids who need a lesson on sex education. It’s the Legislature. House Bill 2797 by Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, passed out of committee by a 17-2 vote. It is called the Humanity of the Unborn Child bill and would require schools to teach an anti-abortion curriculum to students. It would require the state education department to maintain a list of nonprofits that assist women through pregnancy and have a public information campaign against abortion. Also, the bill specifically bans all public money for sex education, which is the very thing kids need in order to prevent pregnancy – and abortion. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

House Democrats say none of their bills being allowed floor hearing: Democrats have vowed to slow down the state House leadership’s legislative agenda unless bills authored by Democratic representatives are heard on the floor. In a weekly statement to reporters, House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said that for the first time in state history, the minority party had not brought a bill to a floor vote within the first four weeks of session. Many Democratic lawmakers’ bills were adopted by unanimous or large margins in committee, including relief for disaster survivors, transparency requirements for charter schools and assistance for women who are victims of domestic violence. [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“If you think we can write a balanced budget and avoid any cuts to our schools, health care or public safety by cutting other agencies and services, think again. If you remove all the agencies that deal with core services and then eliminated everything else altogether, you’d only close the budget gap by about $500 million — less than half of the shortfall. That means education, which gets about half of the budget, could face a budget cut of $400 million. Other core services would be cut as well. And when all is said and done, every man, woman and child in the state will be negatively affected.”

-Sen. Mike Mazzei (R-Tulsa), who called for eliminating tax breaks, pausing off-the-top increases to roads funding, and delaying an income tax cut to help deal with Oklahoma’s $1.3 billion budget shortfall (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans younger than 18 years who lived at or below the poverty threshold in Oklahoma in 2015.

Source: United Health Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Mental illness cases swamp criminal justice system: In the shadow of enormous wealth, where tourists flock to view the iconic mansions along Bellevue Avenue, about 40% of all calls to police involve people who are mentally ill or have behavioral problems. It is, as Newport Chief Gary Silva described it, an “alarming” number. Yet it only begins to assess how an overwhelmed criminal justice system has become the de facto caretaker of Americans who are mentally ill and emotionally disturbed. [USA Today]

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

One thought on “In The Know: Goals become clearer 4 weeks into 2016 Oklahoma Legislature

  1. I know it might not make a big difference in the “budget hole” but it would be a gesture at least to some of us if the legislatures, governor, and commissioners would take a significant pay cut.

    I was happy to hear that Virginia legalized the growing of hemp in their state. There are a lot of industry and environmental advantages that growing hemp and producing hemp products, that Oklahoma could greatly benefit from and in a relatively short amount of time. If you take the time to research it, hemp could be a viable co-industry to oil and gas, and possibly could economically rescue Oklahoma from our fiscal, health, and environmental quagmire. From inexpensive chicken feed to industrial lubricants and almost everything in between, we really need to take advantage of this prospect.

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