In The Know: Lawmaker calls for study of ‘unconstitutional legislation’

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

Lawmaker calls for study of ‘unconstitutional legislation’: For years, State Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma County) has kept a list handy when bills become law. It’s a list of bills she expects to be challenged and eventually struck down in court. “I have had constituents come to me and say, ‘There were three pieces of legislation that were found unconstitutional the last couple years. Do y’all not know what you’re doing?'” she said. “I think when lawmakers are perceived as not knowing how to make law, that that hurts the perception people have of how our government is supposed to work.” [KFOR]

Lagging sales tax collections blamed for 11 percent drop in state revenue for July: Funding for state government continued spiraling downward in July as weak sales tax collections in the first month of the state’s 2017 fiscal year dragged general revenue collections 4.4 percent below expectations and 11.1 percent below the same month a year ago. The general revenue fund is the state’s basic operating account. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported that state sales tax receipts were 7.5 percent below expectations and 8.4 percent below the same month a year ago [Tulsa World].

Indian tribes, Oklahoma reach deal on water rights dispute: Negotiators for two Indian tribes and the state of Oklahoma said Wednesday they have reached a settlement that would end a modern-day water rights and tribal sovereignty dispute that has its roots in the 19th century. The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have claimed Oklahoma isn’t abiding by the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which gave them authority over water in their jurisdiction. The state claimed the tribes are ignoring an 1866 pact in which they gave up certain rights after backing the Confederates in the Civil War [Chicago Tribune].

Survey finds more homeless OKC residents: Despite increased efforts to provide housing, the homeless population in Oklahoma City is on the rise, according to the latest census by the Homeless Alliance. The agency’s most recent Point in Time head count found about 1,500 people this year living on the streets, local shelters and makeshift camps. Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan said that sample statistically suggests a total homeless population of 6,000-7,500 and a 16-percent increase from the 2015 census [Journal Record]. The 2016 Point-in-Time report is available here.

Norman police to test body cams: Norman police on Tuesday began testing body-worn cameras on some of their officers, with a plan to put body cams on all officers by the end of the year. Officers are beginning a three-week trial period with 12 cameras from three vendors. At the end of the three weeks, officers will evaluate the cameras and decide which vendor to use, Lt. Brent Barbour said. Barbour said the department has been researching the use of body-worn cameras for about a year with an eye toward equipping every officer with one by Dec. 31 [NewsOK].

Protect And Serve? Oklahoma City Residents Question Police Rifle Expansion: A string of violent attacks across the country has many cops on high alert. And now, some departments are arming officers with more powerful gear. In Oklahoma City, that means police can soon start carrying personally owned rifles on duty, a decision that’s leading the department to find a balance between gearing up and preserving community relations [KGOU].

New report shows what Oklahoma’s missing by refusing Medicaid expansion: Three years ago, a central provision of the Affordable Care Act kicked in – the option for states to expand their Medicaid programs for the low-income uninsured via a substantial infusion of federal funds. While 31 states and Washington D.C. have expanded coverage to date, Oklahoma is one of 19 states still taking a “wait and see approach.” The time for wait and see is over [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Turning a corner: Since the news broke that Oklahoma ended last year with $140 million in surplus revenues, there have been lots of competing calls for what to do with the money. What’s also notable is what hasn’t been called for. Gov. Mary Fallin wants a special session to provide teachers a pay raise. Teachers and school officials would rather the money cut from school budgets last session be restored, leaving voters to decide on a pay raise. Others point to dire needs in human services and public safety and urge that cuts be restored on a proportional basis. What no one suggested – not even the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs – is that the unexpected surplus be returned to taxpayers in the form of a tax cut or tax refund [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Expected of Teachers: Spend Hundreds on Classroom Supplies: Elementary music teacher Tony Flores’ entire classroom budget for the year will be expended on music for three performances. Last year, he bought new instruments, to the tune of $1,000 out of his own bank account. In Danielle Childers’ pre-kindergarten classroom, students will have snacks for snack time, mats for naptime and stickers for a job well done, but the cost of those items falls on her [Oklahoma Watch].

Lottery allocation to education increases: The Oklahoma Lottery contributed a total of $66.4 million to Oklahoma education during the fiscal year ended June 30. Original estimates to the state totaled $54.3 million, but a world-record Powerball jackpot helped boost sales and increase contributions to education by more than $12 million. Since it started, the lottery has contributed $755 million to state education [Journal Record]. Almost without fail, any news story related to money for Oklahoma schools will attract commenters bitterly pointing out they thought the lottery was supposed to solve our education funding problems [OK Policy].

Scientists dip pressure monitors into inactive disposal wells to better understand man-made earthquakes: Hydrologist Kyle Murray lowered a pressure transducer — essentially an Ethernet cable wrapped in Kevlar — 440 feet down an inactive disposal well on Wednesday into water underneath Alfalfa County. The instrument will monitor and transmit fluid pressure and density data in intervals of seconds. Scientists studying Oklahoma’s seismic concern hope to solidify their shaky understanding of underground water flow characteristics and how they correlate with man-made earthquakes [Tulsa World].

Marriage Initiative program finally comes to deserved end: It took a budget crisis to kill the state’s controversial Marriage Initiative after 17 years of much lower than expected success. The initiative, pushed through the Legislature by then-Gov. Frank Keating in 1999, provided counseling, workshops and other support services for Oklahomans. Its goal was to reduce the rate of divorce as a way to combat poverty. Then in 2002, reducing the number of divorces was deemed unattainable and the program’s emphasis turned to encouraging healthy marriages and families [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Contrary to popular belief, marriage won’t even poverty [OK Policy].

Revenue exploration: Oklahoma needs long-term budget reform, Sen. John Sparks, D- Norman, told The Transcript this week. One of only a handful of Democrats in the Oklahoma Senate, he is also one of an even smaller Senate minority — lawyers. Long gone are the days when the majority of Oklahoma lawmakers were educated in the law. Sparks had three interim studies he proposed approved by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman this year. Altogether, 36 requests for interim legislative studies were recently approved [Norman Transcript].

Judge: HUD gets to keep $1.2 million in leftover Picher Housing Authority funds: A federal judge Wednesday turned away a request by Ottawa County officials to award the county $1.2 million in funds left over after the Picher Housing Authority ceased operations. U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan granted summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, ending a 2-year-old lawsuit over how to dispose of $1.2 million in unspent low-income housing project funds [Tulsa World].

Medical providers suing Health Care Authority: Two medical providers are suing the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, alleging that it conducts audits against providers using secret rules. Moore Primary Care and OSU-AJ Homestead Medical Clinic requested Tuesday that the Oklahoma Supreme Court consider a writ of prohibition against the OHCA. The two clinics were audited separately, but both accuse OHCA personnel of subjectively using criteria that were not approved by the agency’s board of directors [Journal Record].

Program Cut Spurs Norman Parents To Push For Charter School: Parents upset over the axing of a Norman Public Schools language program are driving an effort to create what could be the state’s second charter school allowed outside Oklahoma City and Tulsa under a new law. A group of parents is asking the district to sponsor the school, which would continue the mission of a French immersion program that was eliminated in the spring at Reagan Elementary School to save the district $400,000 [KGOU].

Quote of the Day

“How much does it cost the state? How much does it cost the citizens of Oklahoma to pay for defending legislation that once passed ends up in a higher court and is found unconstitutional?”

– State Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma County), who has requested an interim study on the ramifications of unconstitutional legislation [Source]

Number of the Day


Number of people living in Lotsee, the least-populous incorporated town in Oklahoma.

Source: Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Near Impossibility of Moving Up After Welfare: Is it possible for Candace Vance to find a good job? Vance, 31, is a single mother of two who hasn’t worked for more than a year. She’s on Wisconsin’s version of welfare, called Wisconsin Works, or W-2, which provides her with $650 a month. In order to receive that money, Vance is required to look for a job, and if she doesn’t find one, she’ll eventually lose her benefits. The challenge, for Vance and for millions of people like her, is that the jobs available to her don’t provide much of a chance to build a better life [The Atlantic].

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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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