In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin: Special session likely needed after cigarette ‘fee’ ruled unconstitutional by Oklahoma Supreme Court

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.

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Today In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin: Special session likely needed after cigarette ‘fee’ ruled unconstitutional by Oklahoma Supreme Court: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday said she thinks a special session is in order after the Oklahoma Supreme Court nullified a $1.50 “fee” on cigarettes. In a lawsuit brought by tobacco companies, the state’s high court ruled lawmakers failed to follow constitutional requirements for revenue-raising measures and tax increases when they passed Senate Bill 845 last session. The measure “conclusively demonstrates that the primary operation and effect of the measure is to raise new revenue to support state government,” according to the opinion [Tulsa World]. After the cigarette fee ruling, what will the Legislature do next? [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma health providers fear they’ll bear costs after cigarette tax falls [NewsOK].

Lawmakers must go back to special session and finish job of funding core services: This ruling confirms that the Legislature did not complete its job this year of crafting a balanced budget that pays for the core services Oklahomans expect and need. Governor Fallin shouldn’t wait a single minute to call a special session and instruct the Legislature to find additional revenue, fix the broken budget, undo cuts to core services, and invest in education. The Save our State Coalition has issued a blueprint for a better budget that does just that, and we urge lawmakers to take it seriously [Save Our State Coalition]. How does the Supreme Court define a revenue bill? [OK Policy

ABLE sees $1 million go up in smoke: The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission was slated to get the first $1 million collected by the new cigarette fee. But with the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling the $1.50-per-pack fee unconstitutional, ABLE Commission Director A. Keith Burt said his agency is now in a tough spot. The $1 million would have been used to help with the prevention of youth access to tobacco. The commission was given that charge without extra money to hire additional staff members [Journal Record].

Trump’s emergency declaration leaves questions for Oklahomans: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will issue an order declaring a national emergency related to opioids, but it isn’t clear what that will do for Oklahoma’s efforts to fight a wave of overdoses. Trump didn’t release specific information about the wording of the declaration, which still was being drafted as of Thursday afternoon. He alluded to spending additional money to combat addiction [NewsOK].

Teach First, Train Later: Becoming An Emergency Certified Teacher In Oklahoma: Oklahoma schools are becoming more and more reliant on teachers with no training. A lack of school funding, low pay, and waning morale have driven many of the experienced teachers out of the classroom, or out of the state. Superintendent of Mid-Del Schools, Rick Cobb, said he used to have 10 to 15 applicants for every open teaching position. Now he’s lucky if he has two [StateImpact Oklahoma].

OKC school board considers added financial transparency: Some Oklahoma City school board members are exploring the possibility of expanding financial transparency by posting contracts, purchase order explanations and employee salaries online. The board’s finance committee is considering the additional reporting in hopes of providing more public access to data. “We want to give people a better look into how the district is spending its money,” committee member Rebecca Budd said Thursday [NewsOK].

Mayoral candidates differ on OKC revenue strategy: The candidates for Oklahoma City mayor are bringing different governance perspectives to the city’s tax base and budget constraints. Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan said sales tax-anchored tax revenue is working well and he is opposed to property taxes. State Sen. David Holt is open to any alternatives to diversify the revenue stream, even if that means voters might want to tap into real estate values, he said [Journal Record].

Cherokee Nation Reaches Promise Scholarship Funding Agreement: The Cherokee Nation has reached a solution to fund its Promise Scholarships for students. Principal Chief Bill John Baker says each qualifying student will receive the amount they were expecting. Last week, the nation sent out letters saying the Cherokee Promise Scholarship would not be accepting new students [NewsOn6].

Newcastle Continues With Four-Day School Week: Newcastle students go back to school today, marking the start of the second year of utilizing the four-day week. Newcastle Public Schools Superintendent Tony O’Brien says, according to survey information, the four-day school week was initially difficult but it created an overall boost in morale among district staff and students. Even though students in the district will only be in the classroom for 149 days this year, the district is managing to avoid some problems causing a headache for other districts in the state [News9].

Tulsa agencies aim to reduce mental-health related 911 calls, connect people to better resources: The man had mental health problems and would often stand on a street corner in midtown Tulsa. When he had mentally unstable behavior, paramedics would take him to an emergency room. But that was rarely the place he needed to go. Most of the time, he needed a mental health facility. And when he ended up at a hospital, law enforcement would have to make calls to paramedics [The Frontier].

Betty Shelby sworn in at Rogers County Sheriff’s Office as reserve deputy: Speaking publicly on Thursday for the first time since her acquittal on a manslaughter charge in May, Betty Shelby announced her addition to the Rogers County Sheriff’s Department as its 31st active reserve deputy. …Sheriff Scott Walton, a vocal supporter of Shelby while she awaited trial in the Sept. 16 shooting death of Terence Crutcher, said Wednesday that Shelby would become a reserve deputy with the possibility of full-time deputy status depending on her other obligations [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma drilling boosted by longer laterals: FourPoint Energy LLC has drilling rigs ready to go in western Oklahoma, waiting to drill horizontal wells up to two miles long beginning Nov. 1 when the new state law allowing the process becomes effective. “This is going to be huge for us,” Steve Goodwin Jr., FourPoint’s vice president of operations, said at the Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention in Woodward on Thursday [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“We could see some serious damage to our health care providers and clients before the Legislature is able to respond. Agencies will have to make real decisions based on this ruling.”

– Oklahoma Policy Institute executive director David Blatt on the state Supreme Court’s ruling that a $215 million cigarette “fee” is unconstitutional (Source). The Save Our State coalition, which includes OK Policy, has called on Governor Fallin to convene a special session to fix the budget

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma households on SNAP (food stamps) containing at least one working adult

Source: Food Research Action Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Innocence Is Irrelevant: It had been a long night for Shanta Sweatt. After working a 16-hour shift cleaning the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, in Nashville, and then catching the 11:15 bus to her apartment, she just wanted to take a shower and go to sleep. Instead, she wound up having a fight with the man she refers to as her “so-called boyfriend.” He was a high-school classmate who had recently ended up on the street, so Sweatt had let him move in, under the proviso that he not do drugs in the apartment. Sweatt has a soft spot for people in trouble. Over the years, she had taken in many of her two sons’ friends, one of whom who had been living with them since his early teens [The Atlantic].

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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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