In The Know: House Republicans elect Atoka banker Charles McCall as speaker designate

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 Republicans elect Atoka banker Charles McCall as speaker designate: House Republicans on Monday elected Rep. Charles McCall as speaker designate. He defeated House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, is serving his final term in office. McCall, 46, is a banker from Atoka. He and his wife, Stephanie, have two sons. He is a former Atoka city councilor and mayor [Tulsa World].

Questions remain regarding proposed Medicaid reform plan in Oklahoma despite widespread support: Nico Gomez stood before a small group of 25 concerned residents. How will we save Oklahoma’s Medicaid program? That’s the question at hand. Gomez, Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO, has his answer: the Medicaid Rebalancing Act of 2020. Under Gomez’s proposal, 354,000 Oklahoma men, women and children would receive private health insurance over a four-year period [NewsOK]. Here’s what we know about Oklahoma’s plan to extend health coverage [OK Policy].

Budget, Medicaid Likely To Dominate Closing Weeks Of Oklahoma Legislature: It’s now the final month of the legislative session, and lawmakers have less than four weeks to pull off a budget deal to close a $1.3 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Will they get it done? “Yes,” said state Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, told reporters Thursday. “I want to go home.” Oklahoma’s constitution requires the legislature to adjourn on the final Friday in May. Lawmakers have discussed wrapping up their work a week early, which they’ve done every year since 2012 [KGOU].

No soldier left behind? How budget cuts impact veterans: Many Oklahomans are bearing the brunt of this budget crisis, but one specific group we should be concerned about are Oklahoma’s veterans. Large numbers of veterans face the possibility of seeing their benefits drastically reduced by state budget cuts. The Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs has a budget of approximately $140 million, $35 million of which comes from state appropriations. The Department’s funding from the state had already been cut 13 percent compared to 2009 levels, and Oklahoma’s mid-year revenue failures brought an additional 7 percent reduction [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has history of inflated projections: Over the past 55 years, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has consistently missed the mark with the traffic and revenue studies it has commissioned to justify and market bonds for new turnpikes, an investigation by The Oklahoman has revealed. The Turnpike Authority has built nine turnpikes since 1961. Actual revenues have failed to meet projections for every one of those nine turnpikes during their first five years of operations [NewsOK].

Debate heats up over the impact of 4-day school week on kids, schools: In the face of a major budget crisis many Oklahoma school districts are looking at drastic changes. Right now schools across the state are making the switch to a four-day school week, or considering it. Each day parents send their kids to school, trusting they’ll receive a quality education. “Our children are our investment in the future in our state,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. In 2016 in Oklahoma, many educators are not only struggling to provide a quality education, but to even keep their doors open [Fox 25]. Four-day school weeks could leave thousands of Oklahoma kids hungry [OK Policy].

In Teacher and Superintendent Ranks, Gender Gaps and Their Effects Persist: The teachers in K-12 classrooms in Oklahoma and other states historically were mostly women. Their bosses — the principals and superintendents — were mostly men. In two of those jobs, not much has changed. Nearly eight in 10 certified public-school teachers in Oklahoma are female, a ratio unchanged in the past decade, according to state Department of Education data acquired by Oklahoma Watch [Oklahoma Watch].

There’s More Than One Way to Starve a Child: The Oklahoma Public Education Budget Crisis: Of all the institutions explored in the United States none impact lives more permanently and personally than education. Offering a broad curriculum base available to the masses, Oklahoma public school students learn to reflect on their world, make personal and mental connections learning to actively evaluate. It is through the use of foundational as well as scaffolded, assimilated and accommodated information learned through active participation in the public school setting that masses of adults assess electric bills and medical test results, read interstate road signs and evaluate food labels [Huffington Post].

Burrage resigns from Oklahoma Tax Commission: The Oklahoma Tax Commission says its chairman is stepping down after a little more than a year in office. Steve Burrage delivered his resignation letter to Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday, saying he needed to step down because of “unexpected events.” Fallin appointed Burrage to the post in 2015. Burrage is a former Democratic state auditor and inspector who also was appointed by Fallin to the state Board of Corrections [Associated Press].

County cancels jail contract with Department of Corrections: Oklahoma County commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to cancel the county’s annual jail contract with the Department of Corrections. That decision will be carried into the county’s new 2016-2017 fiscal year budget, Commissioner Ray Vaughan said, eliminating $2.3 million in revenue from Sheriff John Whetsel’s operations. Whetsel had already asked the three-commissioner board to increase the jail’s general fund budget last year of $32.8 million by $4 million [Journal Record].

OG&E proposal causing public outcry: ‘I struggle to live’: A 67-year-old retired nurse wrote the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on April 15 in opposition to a $7-per-month rate increase to her electric bill proposed by Oklahoma Gas & Electric. “I struggle to live from one payday until the next month,” wrote the daughter of a former Johnston County sheriff. Commissioners will begin the required public hearing for the OG&E proposal at some point today [NonDoc].

KKK ties: TU could change name of its law school: The University of Tulsa may soon remove the name of a key figure in the school’s development from a campus building because of a brief involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, the Tulsa World has confirmed. TU trustees are expected to decide Wednesday to take down the name of John Rogers from the university’s College of Law, which Rogers helped found in 1943 [Tulsa World].

A higher state cigarette tax is good idea … and the state needs the money: We already have endorsed the idea of a $1.50-a-pack increase in the state cigarette tax as part of the governor’s effort to save the state’s health-care system from destruction. We thought we’d spend some time saying that it’s a good idea all by itself, too. In her legislative program, Fallin initially endorsed the idea as a means of giving a much-needed pay raise to Oklahoma teachers, but in its latest proposal, the Fallin administration would use the money to stave off a planned 25 percent reduction in state Medicaid rates to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other essential providers [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Quote of the Day

“The most important thing we have to deal with right now is the budget because if we don’t deal with the budget, the rest of the plan that we’re here to talk about really falls apart, falls apart very quickly.”

-Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez, speaking to a group in Durant about the Medicaid Rebalancing Act of 2020 (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma foreign exports going to Canada in 2015, the most of any non-U.S. country.

Source: Kansas City Federal Reserve

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What’s the Right Minimum Wage?: Just a few years ago, small groups of fast-food workers went into the street to demand a $15 wage. With some important help from their friends—most notably from progressive trade unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and advocacy groups like the National Employment Law Project—the movement not only stayed alive, but has been transformative. Who could have imagined that one of the biggest news stories this week would be New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Jerry Brown’s competition over which would be the first to enact a statewide $15 statutory wage floor? [American Prospect].

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.