In The Know: House committee changes mind, passes two bills limiting abortion

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

House committee changes mind, passes two bills limiting abortion: A revised version of an abortion bill that stalled in a House committee last week advanced Tuesday along with another controversial measure that would give men the final say in many if not most abortions. House Bill 1549, by Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, seeks to ban abortions sought solely because of indications of fetal defects such as Down syndrome. This week’s rewrite was sufficient to sway two Republicans who originally voted against the measure when it failed on a 4-4 tie last week in the House Public Health Committee [Tulsa World].

General revenue continues to fall short of expectations: Deposits to the state’s primary operating account, the General Revenue Fund, continued to lag expectations in January, officials said Tuesday. Pulled down by weak sales- and use-tax collections, deposits to the fund totaled $505.1 million, or 3.4 percent less than the estimate. The total was only $2.5 million below the same month a year ago. Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said long-term trends support Gov. Mary Fallin’s call for new recurring revenue sources, including an increase in the state cigarette tax and extending the state sales tax to services [Tulsa World].

Shortey vows to hold back changes to SQ 780, 781: State Sen. Ralph Shortey told a raucous town hall he won’t advance legislation that would seem to repeal two criminal justice reform measures adopted by Oklahoma voters last year. Shortey said he doesn’t want to completely repeal State Questions 780 and 781. There are some parts of the law he wants to revisit. For example, State Question 780 changed virtually all drug possession crimes into misdemeanors. Shortey said he would be in favor of placing distance modifiers back into the law that increase penalties if drugs are found on a person within 1,000 feet of a public area like a park or school [NewsOK].

ACLU sues over appointment to Oklahoma State Supreme Court: The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit Tuesday, asking the state Supreme Court to prohibit Justice Patrick Wyrick from serving on the court from District 2 in southeastern Oklahoma. The lawsuit on behalf of southeast Oklahoma residents Susan Spencer and Cheri Chandler alleges Wyrick doesn’t meet the state Constitution’s requirement that justices be a “qualified elector” — or voter — within the district for at least a year. ACLU attorney Brady Henderson said Wyrick has lived for years in central Oklahoma, not in District 2 in southeast Oklahoma [Associated Press].

Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry: One certainty about the 2017 legislative session is that tax breaks for the wind industry are going to be a prime target for lawmakers looking for ways to address the state’s short-term budget gap and long-term structural budget deficit. Close to 20 bills have been filed that would limit or eliminate subsidies for wind producers, and Governor Fallin in her FY 2018 Executive Budget called for wind production to be taxed. While it is true that subsidies for the wind industry have been rising, the reality is that they pale in comparison to those the state provides to oil and gas producers [OK Policy].

Senate committee kills bill requiring five-day school weeks: A Senate panel on Monday killed a bill that would have required schools to have five-day weeks, with some exceptions. The Senate Education Committee rejected Senate Bill 37 by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. The measure gathered four votes of support and 11 against it. Loveless said the bill would have allowed districts to seek a waiver from the five-day class requirement through the State Board of Education, if the districts believed they could save money [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma House Bill Would Make Children’s Statements of Neglect Admissible in Court: Statements about neglect by children younger than 13 could be admissible in court under an Oklahoma House bill. Right now, state law only allows such evidence in cases of physical or sexual abuse. Edmond Republican Kevin Calvey said expanding the law to include neglect, which is not defined in the bill, is going too far. “The potential for abuse of taking kids out of the home on this is so great, and it’s been such a problem in U.S. history, that we have a federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, because so many Indian kids were yanked out of their homes under statutes just like this one,” Calvey said [Public Radio Tulsa].

Less than a handful have voted at some precincts: As of noon Tuesday, only three voters have shown up at a precinct for a Tulsa School Board candidate election. At a location in Jenks, which has about $10.4 million in school bonds at stake, about 20 voters have turned out. It’s not that rainy out to keep folks away. I can’t think of an argument for not casting a ballot today. These are elections closest to our daily lives with decisions being made on who will oversee our schools, how much money schools will have for facilities and who will represent some neighborhoods in the suburbs [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].

OK PolicyCast Episode 24: All about the revenues: The OK PolicyCast is back! Governor Fallin surprised many observer of Oklahoma politics by calling for dramatic revenue increases and major tax reforms in her State of the State address. In this podcast, we discuss the Governor’s ideas, what’s most likely to make it through the Legislature, and what other ideas Oklahoma Policy Institute has put forward to fix our state’s budget hole [OK Policy].

Investigation launched into death of Oklahoma County inmate: A 32-year-old inmate died Saturday, four days after she was arrested on a drug possession complaint, the Oklahoma County sheriff’s office reported. Amanda Freeman was housed in the jail’s medical wing, and about 4:30 a.m. Saturday, medical staff entered her cell for a scheduled medical check and found her unresponsive. Staff members and paramedics were not able to resuscitate her, according to a news release [NewsOK].

Former Kirby aide calls his actions ‘heartbreaking and disgusting’ amid spotlight on statehouse sex harassment: When Carol Johnson landed a position as a legislative assistant in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, she saw it as an exciting step toward her goal of serving in elected office herself someday. But the experience soon soured, Johnson says, when the member she worked for began remarking on her figure and her attire, and later asked her to send him nude photos of herself. “He regarded me as if my education, experience, hard work and career aspirations meant nothing,” said Johnson, 37, about her time in Republican Dan Kirby’s office beginning in 2012. “And that’s heartbreaking and disgusting.” [Associated Press]

Quote of the Day

“What these January numbers are showing us is that we are a ways from any significant recovery. There will be little recovery to state coffers without an infusion of recurring revenue.”

-Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, announcing that general revenue collections for January were 3.4 percent below projections (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent change in hospital readmission rates among Oklahoma Medicare beneficiaries (2010-2015)

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why we should free violent criminals: The criminal justice reform movement, Pfaff argues, needs a reorientation — and a willingness to show mercy for prisoners beyond the proverbial nonviolent drug offender. That means diverting more people — whatever their offenses — away from the system, thereby sparing them from a criminal record. And there’s only one way to do that, he says: Change the behavior of the most powerful actor in the criminal justice system, the prosecutor [Boston Globe].

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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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