In The Know: House will not convene Monday as special session drags on to address $215 million budget hole
In 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 will not convene Monday as special session drags on to address $215 million budget hole: The Oklahoma House will not return Monday to resume a special session at the Capitol, House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols said Friday. Earlier this week, Echols told members to plan on being in session on Monday. “We are still working on some details,” the Oklahoma City Republican said. Gov. Mary Fallin called lawmakers into special session starting Sept. 25 after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled legislators violated the law in passing what amounted to a $1.50 tax increase on cigarettes. The ruling blew a $215 million hole in the state’s budget. Coupled with a loss of federal dollars, the shortage is closer to $500 million. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma House won’t convene Monday [The Oklahoman] Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy]
New poll finds Oklahoma voters want comprehensive revenue deal in special session: A new poll shows a large majority of Oklahoma voters (67 percent) want lawmakers to pass a comprehensive revenue plan in special session that avoids further cuts and funds a teacher pay raise and other critical needs. That compares to just 15 percent of voters who want only a tobacco tax increase without other revenue options and just 11 percent who say the legislature should not pass revenues and allow budget cuts to take effect. [OK Policy]
Teacher pay one piece of Oklahoma’s education challenges: Like many Oklahomans, we support teacher pay raises. Ideally, any pay plan would address pressing needs first and reward the best teachers most of all. But Oklahoma’s education problems don’t begin and end with teacher pay, and policymakers should not pretend otherwise. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] Oklahoma continues to lead U.S. for deepest cuts to education [OK Policy]
Pending state budget cuts endanger seniors: Oklahoma is experiencing another budget shortfall ($215 million) and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and Oklahoma Health Care Authority are being threatened with significant funding cuts. The special session might reconvene soon. Without a plan and the votes needed to approve new revenue streams, cuts will be enacted to reduce or eliminate entirely programs that help at-risk seniors as well as the disabled, mentally ill and children. [Laura Kenny/Tulsa World] Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall [OK Policy]
Legislature is putting Oklahomans at risk: Our Legislature is putting at risk thousands of vulnerable Oklahomans. These range from the infants depending upon food stamps for their formula to older Oklahomans receiving health care services in their home. The lives of these people are dependent upon state-funded services. [Trish Eming/The Oklahoman]
Lawmaker resignations cause growing special election costs for state: With various legislator scandals and resignations, the Oklahoma State Election Board is on track to spend as much as a quarter of a million dollars on special elections this year. Eight state legislators have resigned their seats early since Dec. 31, 2016. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma Commission Mulls Rule Change for Lobbyists: The Oklahoma Ethics Commission is considering a rule change that would ban all state employees and officials from lobbying for two years after their tenure ends. The proposed rule change would create what Oklahoma officials are calling a cooling-off period, The Journal Record reported. A group of lobbyists, lawyers and lawmakers asked the commission to abandon it at a meeting Thursday. [AP] Make legislators wait before cashing in at the lobbying trough [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World]
New child support services fee raises questions that parents want answered: A letter from Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) came as a huge surprise to Renee Mack-Mitchell, an Oklahoma City mother who receives child support payments through the agency’s Child Support Services division. Beginning in October, the state agency would assess a 3 percent fee on child support payments, a measure taken by DHS leaders to balance their budget during the state’s financial crisis, Mack-Mitchell read on Sept. 15. [OK Gazette]
Tulsa Jail ICE detainers double in a year as immigrant enforcement partnership nets millions for Sheriff’s Office: At the Tulsa Jail, the number of people held on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers has doubled since the last fiscal year. During most of that time, ICE agents — and local detention officers deputized through the 287(g) agreement to enforce federal immigration law — have been working under President Donald Trump’s more stringent immigration enforcement priorities. [Tulsa World]
Immigration cases at all-time high backlog: A backlog of immigration cases is pending at 632,261 as of Aug. 31, an all-time high across the U.S., with an average wait of nearly two years — 681 days — to get a court date. Depending on the defendant’s country, the wait could be up to six years, according to the data collection nonprofit Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). [Ginnie Graham/Tulsa World] Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy]
CareerTech critical to state’s economic, business success: Oklahoma CareerTech provides paths for Oklahomans to earn knowledge, skills and credentials that help individuals obtain jobs and grow in their careers while also providing workers for Oklahoma employers. We are facing challenging times. We have experienced a 16 percent reduction in the last two years for a total of a 30 percent reduction since 2010. These reductions have directly affected classrooms and educators. [Dr. Marcie Mack/Stillwater News Press]
State receives grace period for Real ID implementation: Oklahoma and other states with Real ID extensions expiring Tuesday have been granted a grace period through Jan. 22, according to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. “What this means for Oklahoma license and ID card holders is that the federal government will continue to recognize Oklahoma’s driver’s license and ID cards until at least Jan. 22, 2018,” according to DPS. “Oklahomans will still be able to gain access to federal buildings and military installations using these documents.” [Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
“There’s been a lot of disorderly resignations over the past two years and it’s kind of broken trust with the Oklahoma voters. The Oklahoma people have been disappointed and lawmakers have not really been held accountable for the cost of the special elections they cause.”
– Rep Zack Taylor (R-Seminole), who has introduced a bill that would require lawmakers who resign due to misconduct to pay for the cost of a special election and forfeit any accrued retirement benefits (Source)
Number of the Day
Percentage of Oklahoma voters who want lawmakers to pass a “comprehensive revenue plan” in special session that avoids budget cuts and allows for a teacher pay raise and other funding priorities.
Source: Global Strategy Group poll
How the Trump administration is reshaping health care — without Congress: While Congress tussles over Obamacare, the Trump administration is quietly pressing ahead with plans to gut major Obama-era rules and relax federal oversight of swaths of the health care industry. Top health officials have already signaled their intention to end mandatory programs making hospitals more accountable for their patients’ health, slowed the transition to a system that pays doctors based on quality rather than quantity, and indicated they will reverse a high-profile rule blocking nursing homes from forcing residents to sign away their right to sue. [Politico]
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.