In The Know: The world turned upside down: Oklahoma Republicans urge Democrats to vote for tax increase

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

The world turned upside down: Oklahoma Republicans urge Democrats to vote for tax increase: Things have turned so upside down under the Capitol dome that Republicans were begging Democrats to vote for a tax increase on Wednesday. And the Democrats said no. House Democrats have generally opposed all Republican revenue-raising measures this session, saying they won’t vote for anything that doesn’t include a general income tax increase. But Wednesday was a tougher call. The Republican majority’s House leadership — and Gov. Mary Fallin — were counting on Democrat votes to pass House Bill 3210, a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase they say is needed to keep the state’s Medicaid program solvent [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmakers ponder response to transgender bathroom directive: With the clock ticking on the legislative session and no budget agreement in sight, lawmakers are considering their options in response to a federal directive regarding which restrooms transgender individuals can use. “Senators are hearing from constituents who are registering their complete frustration and disappointment in the federal government,” Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, said Wednesday [Tulsa World].

Revenue options still on the table could avert budget catastrophe: With less than two weeks until the end of the Legislative session, there’s still no agreement on the state budget. The stakes are exceptionally high: unless legislators agree on ways to close the budget gap, deep cuts are certain to have a devastating impact on health care, education, public safety, and other critical services. As Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger recently said, “Cuts to core services will be untenable and take years to recover from if recurring revenues are not enacted this year.” [OK Policy]

Prosperity Policy: When rules go out the window, watch out: I know Oklahoma’s legislative process pretty well. Yet after 19 years working closely with the Legislature, first as a Senate staffer, now as a public policy analyst and advocate, I’m still surprised and dismayed at how legislation gets decided in the final days and weeks of session. For the first three months of session, the Legislature generally follows a set of clear rules and guidelines [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Oklahoma House votes to close sodomy legal loophole: A bill crafted to close a legal loophole and make it a felony to sodomize a person who has been drugged or is unconscious was approved unanimously Wednesday by the state House of Representatives. The measure passed 86-0. House Bill 2398 will now go to the state Senate where final passage of the bill will be considered. Lawmakers drafted the bill after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a sodomy case out of Tulsa County [NewsOK].

License Plate Bill Passes In Oklahoma House: A bill that would force drivers to purchase re-issued license plates is on its way to the state Senate after members of the House of Representatives passed it earlier this week. House Bill 3208 would make a mandatory change to every default license plate in the state at the cost of $5 per vehicle or $15 per vehicle if drivers wanted to keep their existing plates. Supporters say a change in license plates is long overdue calling the measure a public safety issue [NewsOn6].

Legislators face special session if they can’t fill budget hole: Lawmakers have limited options if they finish this week without finding $1 billion in new revenue: Agree to painful spending cuts or trudge back to the Capitol in June for a special session. By law, the Legislature cannot pass revenue measures in the last five days of session. The mandatory last day is May 27, which means those bills can only be sent to Gov. Mary Fallin before 5 p.m. Friday. According to a report from the Associated Press, Senate leader Brian Bingman said it’s possible the Legislature could meet on Saturday or Sunday – a rare occurrence – to extend the deadline [Journal Record].

Civil disobedience: Students march to Oklahoma Capitol: In an effort one screaming teenager dubbed “civil disobedience,” dozens of Classen School of Advanced Studies students and their parents marched three miles to the Oklahoma State Capitol this morning to protest education funding cuts. “It’s finally come down to affect us as we’re seeing entire programs get cut, our favorite teachers or subjects getting fired or getting cut,” said Jasper Urie-Lanman, a freshman at the high school. “For a while, it hadn’t been affecting us, but now we kind of realize that it really is.” [NonDoc]

Uninsured rate drops to historic low nationwide: The rate of uninsured people fell to 9.1 percent nationally in 2015, according to data released Tuesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new statistic marks the first time that fewer than 1 in 10 Americans lacked health insurance. In Oklahoma, the uninsured rate dropped to 14.8 percent, according to the report [Tulsa World]. The uninsured rate gap between states that have expanded coverage to the low-income uninsured and those that have not is widening [OK Policy].

‘Darker Possibility’ For Workers When Employers Opt Out of Workers’ Comp: Injured workers face “inherent conflict of interest,” barriers to benefits, “unequal treatment,” limited appeals and little to no independent oversight when employers opt out of state-regulated workers’ compensation, according to a new study. The report from the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions is the first independent assessment of an emerging “opt out” alternative to workers’ comp since NPR and ProPublica began reporting on the phenomenon last year. The association focused on Oklahoma, which permits employers to dump state-mandated workers’ comp benefits and regulation in favor of their own workplace injury plans [NPR].

Census Bureau: Glenpool fastest growing city in state: The city of Glenpool was the fastest growing city in the state last year, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. The city added an average of about 100 new residents per month for the 12-month period ending July 1, 2015, according to the bureau. The 10 percent annual growth rate is tops among the nearly 600 cities and towns in the state [Tulsa  World].

American Energy Partners LP to close: American Energy Partners executives on Wednesday began taking steps to close the business, the company’s leadership team confirmed. Nearly half the Oklahoma City company’s 100 employees were laid off Wednesday, and the remaining employees have begun closing the company through a process expected to take two to four months, according to a source knowledgeable of the situation. American Energy Partners’ actions Wednesday follow a series of bankruptcies and layoffs in the oil and natural gas industry as nearly two years of low prices have reduced revenues and led to budget cuts throughout the oil patch [NewsOK].

New Tulsa County Sheriff Aims To Bring Back 9 Reserve Deputies: We learned on Wednesday the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is close to putting nine reserve deputies back on duty. The program was suspended last year after then-reserve deputy Bob Bates shot and killed Eric Harris. When new sheriff Vic Regalado took office, he implemented significant changes, including more field training, more time at the gun range, scenario training and patrol training [NewsOn6].

Chairman of Oklahoma Tax Commission withdraws resignation: The chairman of the Oklahoma Tax Commission is withdrawing his resignation and says he intends to continue to lead the three-member panel. Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday that Steve Burrage asked her to withdraw his resignation. Burrage had notified Fallin last month that he intended to resign due to personal reasons. Fallin said in a news release that she never accepted the resignation and is pleased Burrage will remain as chairman of the commission [FOX23].

Quote of the Day

“I feel a little bit like I’m out here doing this because my representatives, the Legislature, my governor, they’re not doing the job they’re appointed to do, and that’s to keep the state running and healthy, and that includes good infrastructure and good public education. We’re facing a situation where that’s really in jeopardy, and that means to me they’re not doing their job and that means I have to come out here and — not do their job — but remind them to do it.”

– Timothy Bradford, who has two children in Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City and marched with Classen students to the Capitol on Wednesday to protest education funding cuts (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of school sites in Oklahoma offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses in 2014

Source: OK State Stat

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Where Just a Misdemeanor Could Keep You Out of a Job: Just a misdemeanor can shut workers out of fast-growing jobs with higher-than-average wages—if the job happens to be among those that require a license. Occupational licensing boards in the majority of states use a worker’s criminal record to deny certifications required to work in fields as health care and education, according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. Although 40 states have general laws intended to restrict consideration of criminal records, the group deemed the vast majority of them minimally effective [Wall Street Journal].

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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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