In The Know: Gov. Fallin calls on Legislature to pass budget proposed by Step Up coalition

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

Gov. Fallin calls on Legislature to pass budget proposed by Step Up coalition: Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday called on lawmakers to quickly find a compromise to fix the state’s budget problems. She called it a defining moment for the state. “The time to act is now,” she said in remarks released before her State of the State address to a joint session assembled in the House chamber. “No more delaying. No more putting things off. No more kicking the can down the road. No more addressing long-term budget problems with short-term solutions. We can do this, and we must do this now.” Fallin, the state’s first female governor, delivered her eighth and final State of the State address to the second regular session of the 56th Legislature [Tulsa World]. OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt released a statement saying that Governor Fallin has identified the right goals for this year’s legislative session [OK Policy]. Annotating Fallin’s State of the State speech [Oklahoma Watch].

Five takeaways from the first day of legislative session: Monday marked the start of the second regular session of the 56th Legislature, and it began with Gov. Mary Fallin’s State of the State address. The 2018 regular session opens with Oklahoma facing a major budget hole, which Fallin told the Legislature they were primarily responsible for fixing. However, problems with the state budget have persisted through four regular sessions (and two specials) as legislators have struggled to fill consecutive budget shortfalls [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Legislature leaders optimistic of a compromise following State of the State: Leaders in the Oklahoma legislature hope for compromise following Governor Mary Fallin’s final State of the State address. The governor delivered her eighth State of the State address Feb. 5 to kick off the second regular session of the 56th Oklahoma Legislature. Fallin spent several minutes during the speech urging legislators to work for a compromise and pass the “Step Up Oklahoma” plan. The plan was proposed by a group of community and business leaders to fund education, public safety, health and infrastructure needs [KOKH].

Oklahoma health department prepares for layoffs: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is preparing to lay off more than 150 employees next month due to budget woes. Data obtained by The Oklahoman show that 43 registered nurses are scheduled to lose their jobs at local health departments. According to the data, 28 patient care assistants, 16 licensed practical nurses and 50 office workers are also expected to be laid off [AP].

Death by PowerPoint: House committee stymied by presentation: The House investigative committee was slated to interview Oklahoma’s top information technology official about the state’s software policies and how those factored into the financial scandal within the state Department of Health, but members will have to wait another day. Chief Information Officer Bo Reese testified before the committee Monday morning, hours before Gov. Mary Fallin delivered her State of the State address and began the legislative session. His opening comment, which focused on the state’s attempts to update its IT policies, did not touch on the Department of Health nearly at all [Journal Record]. 

Oklahoma higher education officials optimistic at start of legislative session: Higher education officials are “very excited” about the start of a historic legislative session, Chancellor Glen Johnson said last week during a meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Gov. Mary Fallin opened the new legislative session Monday with her final State of the State Address, which nodded to that optimism, noting “the prospect of a brighter path forward is so very near.” [NewsOK] Higher education funding cuts continue to drive up tuition and threaten college access [OK Policy].

Oklahoma’s newest legislators offer ideas: The Oklahoma Capitol’s newest lawmakers didn’t hesitate to offer legislation this year, with bill topics ranging from schools to criminal justice. The 2018 legislative session starts Monday and will continue through May. The first round of committee hearings will take place over the next few weeks as details of the proposals are hammered out during the legislative process [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session began Monday. Our updated Legislative Primer will help you follow what’s happening: What are the steps for a bill to become law? Who chairs key legislative committees and who serves in the governor’s cabinet? What does it mean to “strike the title” of a bill? As the 2018 Oklahoma Legislative session gets underway, our newly updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more. Whether you are a veteran advocate, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the 2018 Legislative Primer will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format [OK Policy].

Before the Oklahoma State Legislature Begins Its New Session, a Chat with David Blatt: On this installment of StudioTulsa, with the Oklahoma State Legislature set to begin its new session on Monday of next week, we check in with David Blatt, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute. This non-profit public-policy think tank recently posted a detailed list of legislative priorities for the new year at its website. Blatt reviews several of these goals with us today: from Budget and Taxes to Economic Opportunity and Security, and from Education and Criminal Justice to Health Care [Public Radio Tulsa].

Fallin uses State of the State speech to push urgently for revenues and reform: With a sense of urgency and hope, Gov. Mary Fallin used her final State of the State address to demand a better future for Oklahoma. Fallin’s speech broke with expectations. Instead of a valedictory review of two years in office anda pro forma budget presentation, Fallin used the moment as an opportunity to push for a fundamental reordering of state government along the lines of the recent Step Up Oklahoma agenda [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Learn from our experience: In 2012, I helped author a bill to enact triggered income tax cuts – which are future tax cuts enacted when state revenues meet certain thresholds. The bill became law. Five years later, I find myself spending most of my time as a state legislator trying to clean up what I had a large hand in creating. Since we enacted the tax cuts, Oklahoma hasn’t experienced the promised surge in economic growth [Rep. Leslie Osborn / Rapid City Journal].

Oklahoma lawsuit over debtors’ prisons captures national attention: A follow-up to a FOX23 Investigation revealed a local lawsuit targeting what some say is a “statewide extortion scheme, aimed at targeting impoverished Oklahomans” is getting national attention. FOX23 learned Oklahoma is one of a few states who fund their criminal justice system through court fines paid by the alleged criminals themselves [Fox 23]. Oklahoma’s debtors’ prisons aren’t just a nuisance – they’re an epidemic [OK Policy].

GOP lawmaker pushing bill that calls for chemical castration for sex offenders: A Republican lawmaker is pushing to add Oklahoma to the list of states in which so-called chemical castration is an option for certain sex offenders, albeit an option that rarely gets used. State Rep. Rick West, a first-term lawmaker from Heavener, said he filed the bill at the request of a constituent and that he fully intends to push for its passage, though it’s likely to face strong opposition, even in a conservative state with a tough-on-crime reputation [AP].

New Research: Limiting Volume And Depth Of Disposal Wells Key In Reducing Oklahoma Earthquakes: Oklahoma experienced a dramatic drop in earthquakes in 2017 — a decline likely due, in part, to regulations limiting activity at oil-field disposal wells, scientists and experts say. New research suggests those regulations might be reducing some quakes more than others. It’s been two years since state oil and gas regulators adopted a broad regional plan that limits the amount of wastewater pumped into disposal wells in quake-prone areas [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“The time to act is now. No more delaying. No more putting things off. No more kicking the can down the road. No more addressing long-term budget problems with short-term solutions. We can do this, and we must do this now.”

– Gov. Mary Fallin, using her final State of the State address to call for raising new revenues to pay for priorities including a teacher pay raise (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Black or African-American owned firms with paid employees in Oklahoma, less than 1 percent of all firms in the state.

Source: U.S. Census 2015 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem: You might think that the kind of extreme poverty that would concern a global organization like the United Nations has long vanished in this country. Yet the special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, recently made and reported on an investigative tour of the United States. Surely no one in the United States today is as poor as a poor person in Ethiopia or Nepal? [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.

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