In The Know: Hundreds of DHS workers mull taking buyouts this week

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

Hundreds of DHS Workers Mull Taking Buyouts This Week: Nearly 6 percent of Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ staff could leave their jobs this week. DHS has offered voluntary buyouts to 413 of its more than 7,100 employees. Their packages include one week of pay per year of service, limited to $10,000, 18 months of employee insurance premiums and a payout of accrued time off [KWGS].

Oklahoma religious leaders fighting payday loan bill, call it an ‘evil’ practice: Some religious leaders in Oklahoma are working to defeat a bill they say gives payday loan companies more authority. The federal government is set to enact stricter standards on these types of businesses. Before that happens, their lobbyists have been contacting state legislators across the country, trying to get legislation that would allow them to offer a wider range of products. Some say that’s not good news for Oklahomans [KFOR]. Read our Advocacy Alert on SB 1314, the “flex loan” bill, here.

Oklahoma Private, Public Schools On Opposite Sides Of Voucher Bill: Monday, the legislature looked at another school voucher bill, but the idea has already advanced further than ever before in Oklahoma. Private schools are supporting the idea of a taxpayer subsidy – figuring the dollars for education should follow the student. Public schools recognize the potential of losing students, and dollars; one estimate puts it at a $250 million yearly loss for traditional public education [News On 6].

Senate panel OKs bill that targets over-testing in Oklahoma schools: The Senate Education Committee on Monday approved a bill that would eliminate the controversial, state-mandated tests known as end-of-instruction exams. Under current law, high school students must pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to graduate from high school, even if they received passing grades in all required classes [Tulsa World].

Senate panel kills bill removing student vaccination exemption: A Senate panel on Monday killed a bill that would have removed the personal exemption for mandatory vaccinations for public school students. The measure would have left intact the exemptions for medical or religious purposes. Senate Bill 1478 died in the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 6-7 [Tulsa World].

Push to privatize Medicaid could disrupt care for seniors and Oklahomans with disabilities: As directed by a law created last year, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) spent much of the fall exploring options to move the roughly 180,000 SoonerCare patients who are aged, blind, or have one or more disabilities (ABD) into privatized, managed care. In November, OHCA reported that they would develop a request for proposals from private companies to offer this care statewide under a “fully capitated” model [OK Policy].

Legislature Considers Cutting a Wind Industry Tax Credit Spared During Last Year’s Negotiations on Incentives: Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill in May 2015 ending a program that afforded many wind developers a five-year exemption on property taxes. The measure, Senate Bill 498, authored by Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, was projected to save the state $500 million over 10 years by sunsetting an ad valorem exemption on Jan. 1 2017 [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Oklahoma’s Nonprofits Sales Tax Exemptions a Crazy Quilt of Illogic: In Oklahoma, simply being a nonprofit does not make a group exempt from a 4.5 percent state sales tax. In fact, the tax code relative to the issue is wildly idiosyncratic. That sales tax can go to 10 percent when you add in local levies. How silly is the landscape? [Nonprofit Quarterly].

Abortion bills advance in Oklahoma Legislature: The Legislature continued testing the legal bounds of abortion restrictions, with three bills advancing Monday. The full House voted 78-10 to ban abortions “solely” because a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome, “genetic abnormality” or the “potential” for those conditions. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee, meanwhile, advanced measures that would strip doctors providing abortions of their medical licenses and prohibit abortions if “an embryonic or fetal heartbeat” is present [Tulsa World].

Liquor store owners, distributors fight proposed Oklahoma ballot question: Oklahoma liquor store owners and a group representing two of the state’s largest liquor distributors have filed legal challenges to a proposed state question on wine and full-strength beer in grocery and convenience stores. The Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association, which represents package store owners in the state, on Friday filed a challenge to Oklahomans for Modern Laws’ proposed state question at the Oklahoma Supreme Court [NewsOK].

OKC VA mental health doctor positions remain unfilled: As veteran suicide rates remain a problem in Oklahoma and across the country, a doctor shortage problem has emerged at the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, KOCO found 21 percent of mental health provider positions are unfilled, although VA officials said the shortage stands at 11 percent as they recently hired two providers. In addition, 23.5 percent of medical doctor positions are vacant [KOCO].

America’s hidden economic crisis: The rising tide of statewide recessions: According to economic indexes tracked by Moody’s Analytics, four states – Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming – suffered consecutive quarters of economic contraction at the end of 2015. That means those states met the technical definition of a recession. Another three – Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma – saw economic growth decline in the final quarter of the year, and could be headed toward recession themselves [Salon].

Quote of the Day

“We are to bring good news to the poor.  Payday lending is not good news to the poor.  It is the worst news possible.”

-Pastor Mitch Randall of New Haven Church in Norman, on his opposition to SB 1314, which would create a new type of short-term, high interest loan in Oklahoma (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of local governments – including town, school districts, fire protection districts, public library systems, and more – in Oklahoma in 2012, 19th in the US

Source: Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Education spending gap widens between college haves and have-nots since recession: Students are getting the message that a college education is a necessary prerequisite for a middle class life. Today, more than 85 percent of high school graduates eventually make their way to college. But much of the increase in college-going isn’t at traditional four-year universities with grassy quads and intellectually stimulating seminars. Instead, the nation’s community colleges are absorbing the largest chunk of the new students. [The Hechinger Report].

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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: Hundreds of DHS workers mull taking buyouts this week

  1. Oklahoma government is the most evil run organization since the Chicago mob of the roaring 20’s. At least those poor souls didn’t try to hide their intentions. Well I guess our leaders aren’t either because time after time they vote in favor of the “haves” on the backs of the “have nots.” Dosen’t matter the topic…, health, cost of living, taxation, sadly I could go on. These men and women are so mean spirited they don’t even realize what their actions indicate about their intentions.

    To not take advantage of systems they are already funding is certainly not leadership. And tell me one more time Republicans how “trickle down” is beneficial to our economy.

    But the worse indication of how evil these people are is best illustrated by our governor and her stance on teacher compensation. How many times has her “belief” swayed in the wind of public opinion? Too darn many. Dang if she doesn’t sound and act like Hillary. Wait a minute, is she posturing to be vice prez…………

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