In The Know: House Republicans taking wait-and-see approach to state budget

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 taking wait-and-see approach to state budget: State House Republicans met to discuss their options Monday in light of an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision last week that struck down a smoking cessation fee that was being counted on to provide about $215 million for the budgets of three health-related state agencies. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said the House Republican caucus met and lawmakers will be ready to address the budget, but are waiting to see how the Supreme Court rules on a challenge to another bill that removed an exemption for sales tax on the purchase of automobiles. That is projected to generate about $110 million for the fiscal year 2018 budget [NewsOK].

With the doomsday clock ticking, how might the state’s budget emergency be solved? Last week’s Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down a $1.50 per-package smoking cessation fee passed by lawmakers in May has created a genuine state emergency. Without quick and decisive action, Oklahoma faces unimaginable cuts to health care and other protections for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. However, if they can overcome partisan differences and ideological rigidity, our leaders have an opportunity to not only resolve this crisis, but to come out of it with even stronger investments in Oklahoma families and communities [OK Policy].

Labor Department seeks to simplify occupational licensing: Oklahoma Department of Labor officials are developing plans to help lawmakers be more efficient while creating new occupational licenses and to help industry members be more efficient at applying for them. Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston released the plans on Monday. One of the developing programs creates a rubric for lawmakers who want to create new licenses. The form asks several questions to determine whether a license requirement is appropriate. It offers alternatives that are less expensive and restrictive. The other goal is to create an interactive database for current and soon-to-be business owners who want more information on their industry’s requirements [Journal Record].

Regents create new entity to run OU Medical Systems: OU Medical Systems doesn’t need outside partners to run the hospital system. After two breakups, university regents chose themselves. University regents voted unanimously late Friday on an affiliation agreement with a newly formed nonprofit, OU Medicine Inc., to take control of the hospital and clinic systems. The new entity will manage the hospital systems’ operations. The affiliation agreement is between OU Medicine Inc. and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center [Journal Record].

Who is going to college in Oklahoma? As colleges are gearing up to start the school year, thousands of Oklahoma students will soon begin or return to their studies. So who is going to college in Oklahoma? The Frontier analyzed data on enrollment trends to find how many people are going, who they are, and what high schools are sending the most students. Enrollment numbers have fluctuated, and in recent years, they’ve declined [The Frontier].

Steele: More reform legislation needed: Oklahoma’s prisons are overcrowded and will soon have both the highest female and male incarceration rate in the nation. In 2016, voters went to the polls and passed two state questions that advocates hope to address the problem of putting people in prison for low-level drug possession and property crime charges. Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele is chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. He is also the executive director of The Education and Employment Ministry [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]. Proposals from the Justice Reform Task Force are a great place to start [OK Policy].

Oklahoma is hanging by a thread! How did Oklahoma get into such a financial wreck? Looking back at history, two Oklahoma actions have had a horrible effect on Oklahoma. First, a few of the unhappy, wealthy people circulated an initiative petition, State Question 640, which passed in 1992. This required all revenue measures to pass by a 75 percent supermajority vote of both House and Senate. Second was the constitutional change limiting legislative terms to 12 years. This has taken away the institutional knowledge from our legislators and put it in the hands of lobbyists who are financed by in- and out-of-state wealthy individuals and dark money corporations! [Ed Long / Enid News]

A Handful of Lawmakers Accept Few or No Lobbyist Gifts: Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, is a rarity in the Legislature: He refuses to accept any gifts or meals from a lobbyist. State ethics records show that the average lawmaker accepted more than $1,100 in meals or gifts from January to June. Of lawmakers who served the entire session, only three – Murphey; Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton; and Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola – took in less than $100 in gifts or meals [Oklahoma Watch].

Labor commissioner responds to county concerns over fines: Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston said Pontotoc County commissioners have nothing to fear from a newly implemented schedule of fines her department’s inspectors will be handing out for violations discovered during random safety inspections. County commissioners, already struggling amid deficits and funding cuts to their operations, have eyed the new schedule of fines with suspicion and trepidation [Ada News].

Deadlines for state house election on horizon: Friday is the last day to register to vote in the Sept. 12 election to fill the state House District 46 seat formerly held by Norman resident Scott Martin. House District 46 includes west Norman, southwest Norman and Noble and will involve 16 voting precincts in Cleveland County. On that September ballot two Norman residents will face off for the seat [Norman Transcript].

Oklahoma Representative Challenges Lawmakers To Deliver Paper To Schools: Newly elected District 75 House Representative issued a challenge to all other Oklahoma lawmakers to help public schools. On her Facebook page, Representative Karen Gaddis said she’s continuing a tradition she started of delivering a case of paper to every public school district in District 75. This year, however, she said she’s going one step further [News On 6].

State water official Tom Buchanan inadvertently violated federal law with Inhofe fundraiser, feds say: Federal investigators have determined a member of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and general manager of a southwest Oklahoma irrigation district violated a federal law when he allowed U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and supporters onto public land for a political fundraiser in 2014. On July 17, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel ruled Tom Buchanan, who is also president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, inadvertently violated the Hatch Act [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“I encourage all voters who subscribe to the philosophy of loving your neighbors as yourselves, to call your legislators and Gov. Fallin today. Tell them you want a bill passed putting to the vote of the people, a state question allowing legislation lowering and raising revenue, to pass by a simple majority! Nothing more than a simple majority.”

– Former Oklahoma state senator Ed Long, arguing for the repeal of the three-quarters majority for revenue-raising measures in the Oklahoma Legislature (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of households in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, participating in SNAP, the highest participation rate in Oklahoma

Source: Food Research Action Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Practical Case for Parole for Violent Offenders: The American criminal justice system is exceptional, in the worst way possible: It combines exceptionally coercive plea bargaining, exceptionally long sentences, exceptionally brutal prison conditions and exceptionally difficult obstacles to societal re-entry. This punitiveness makes us stand out as uniquely inhumane in comparison with other industrialized countries. To remedy this, along with other changes, we must consider opening the exit doors — and not just for the “easy” cases of nonviolent drug offenders [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.

One thought on “In The Know: House Republicans taking wait-and-see approach to state budget

  1. Gotta love the DA’s response to Speaker Steele’s support for the recent criminal justice reforms and call for more: the counties run up the tab on the state by using the state’s credit card to put more people in prison than more effective crime-stopping policies but then get mad when the counties are forced to pay for their actions. Let’s make this clear to all the OK district attorneys: the state can’t afford the state budget decisions that every sentence in a district court effectively is. The only way for the state to get its mendaciously overpenalized sentencing system under control is to make the counties have to consider whether unique senses of “justice” are really worth what they say they are when they can’t force the tab on all the state taxpayers. Any future reforms need to keep that dynamic in mind and include stringent provisions to make the counties own up to what they are doing. IOW, take the “responsibility” that DA in the story claims is the state’s and fix it where it truly is: on the DAs and the counties they represent.

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