In The Know: Lawmakers resume partisan stances as special session begins

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

Lawmakers resume partisan stances as special session begins: Oklahoma lawmakers met for about 15 minutes Monday, the first day of a special session that so far has produced no answers to the state’s $215 million budget shortfall. Aside from procedural votes to kick-start the special session, state Capitol politics picked up where lawmakers left it four months ago. House Republicans are calling for a cigarette tax, and criticizing Democrats for not supporting a stand-alone vote [NewsOK]. Lawmakers have good revenue options for special session if they have the will to use them [OK Policy].

Cigarette tax passes first test in special session: A $1.50 per pack cigarette tax the Republican-led Legislature is depending on to patch a $215 million hole in the state budget passed House and Senate committee votes Tuesday on the second day of a special session. Tuesday’s actions set up a floor vote in the House as soon as Wednesday, but passage is far from certain. The bill will require 76 of the current 100 votes in the House, and has significant opposition in both parties [Tulsa World]. The second attempt at the cigarette tax is already in jeopardy [Public Radio Tulsa]. A House Democrat called the cigarette tax a distraction [Rep. Shane Stone / NewsOK].

Oklahoma Could Lose $49M for Needy Children’s Health Care: Though the Senate now will not vote by Saturday’s deadline for Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a simple majority, it’s also the last day for another significant action. Additional funding approved under President Barack Obama for the Children’s Health Insurance Program must be reauthorized by then. “Should the enhanced CHIP funding not be reauthorized, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority stands to lose about $49 million in federal funds in state fiscal year 2018,” said Cate Jeffries with OHCA [Public Radio Tulsa].

Bills filed in special session put many options in play: Yesterday was the first day of the special legislative session called by Governor Fallin to fix Oklahoma’s chronic budget problems. One day in, the outcome of special session is still very much up in the air. With so much at stake, it’s an essential time for Oklahomans to call, write, and visit lawmakers. Read on for analysis of the bills filed so far and what you can do to influence the result. Although Governor Fallin promised to veto any budget that makes further cuts to state agencies, House Speaker Charles McCall continues to insist that the only revenue on the table will be another try at a cigarette tax [OK Policy].

Bill filed to end Affordable Housing Tax Credit program: A few years ago, Belmont Development had considered renovating an affordable multifamily property in Coweta. But with only federal tax credits available, it didn’t add up financially, said Corey Farmer, vice president of development. Then in 2015, the state Legislature approved the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Tax Credit program. It allocates annually $4 million in tax credits, which is a match to the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits program [Journal Record].

Proposed legislation aims at saving money amid lawmaker scandals: One of several proposed bills at the state capitol would require outgoing lawmakers to pay for their replacement election, which costs the state around $40,000. Several lawmakers have left office in lieu of scandals, and there have been several resignations since last year. It costs the state around $40,000 to fill those empty seats [KFOR].

Full-scale casinos for tribes? An Oklahoma legislator has come up with an idea to fill the state’s yawning budget gap that looks interesting on the surface, but probably won’t gain much traction. Lawmakers slid through a cigarette tax last session in attempt to plug the $215 million hole, but the move was folly. Though legislative supporters tried to mask it as a “fee,” the state’s high court accurately recognized it as a tax, and shot down the 11th-hour move because of the timing and the way it was passed [Editorial Board / Tahlequah Daily Press].

Lawmaker’s bill would shield senior programs from future DHS cuts: As the Legislature grapples with how to fill a budget hole, a state representative introduced legislation this week to protect senior programs from Department of Human Services cuts. House Bill 1073 from Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, would require the agency to fully fund its Medicaid Advantage program, which grants waivers for older adults who seek care in their home. The bill would also require full funding of several senior nutrition programs and developmental disability service programs [NewsOK]. Care for seniors and people with disabilities is at risk as DHS grapples with the budget shortfall [OK Policy].

U.S. Senate won’t vote on ObamaCare repeal bill: Senate Republicans have decided to not vote on their latest ObamaCare repeal legislation, signaling a collapse in their last-ditch effort to kill off President Obama’s signature law. The last-ditch bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would dismantle ObamaCare’s insurance subsidy program and Medicaid expansion and convert their funding into block grants to states [The Hill].

Corrections department to begin new supervised release program to combat prison growth: In an effort to combat the state’s increasing prison population, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections will soon begin a new program that allows certain nonviolent prisoners nearing the end of their sentence to be released from prison under supervision. During the Oklahoma Board of Corrections meeting at the privately-owned Cimarron Correctional Facility on Tuesday, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh told the board that the department is taking the action because the Legislature has done little to stem the growth of the state’s record prison population [The Frontier].

State lawmaker hopes to eliminate DHS’s 3 percent fee on child support recipients: Oklahoma Department of Human Services officials said earlier this month they didn’t have another choice after announcing they had to charge child support recipients an extra 3 percent fee. The charge came after DHS had to close 40 child support offices and eliminate its court liaison program. “For this fee to work, it had to be withheld from the collections that we paid to the custodial person,” said Jeff Wagner, with the Department of Human Services [KOCO].

Oklahoma City school leaders to decide on renaming schools: The Oklahoma City School Board will not gather public input before deciding whether to rename three schools that are named for Confederate generals. The board on Monday adopted an agenda for its next meeting that doesn’t include a recommendation from Superintendent Aurora Lora to survey parents, students and others on whether to rename Lee, Jackson and Stand Watie elementary schools [Associated Press]

TU takes a more aggressive, realistic approach to sexual assaults: The University of Tulsa is taking a more aggressive stance against sexual assault. Sexual assault can tear a university apart, as a scandal that rocked Baylor University has demonstrated. A 2015 report to the Baylor regents says administrators discouraged sexual assault reports and that the athletic department failed to address sexual assaults by student athletes. Subsequently, the school’s football coach was fired and the president resigned. More than a dozen lawsuits from sexual assault victims have resulted [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Low adult literacy cannot be ignored: I had a 40-year-old woman in my reading comprehension class who told me she quit her job when she was offered a promotion. She was too embarrassed to tell her employer she couldn’t read and write well enough to do the tasks associated with the new role. She was a hard worker and good with people [Julie Serven / NewsOK].

OSU Associate Head Basketball Coach Lamont Evans Charged In Bribery, Fraud Scheme: Lamont Evans, associate head coach for the Oklahoma State University basketball team, was one of 10 people charged in federal court. Evans was charged Tuesday with multiple counts of conspiracy and soliciting bribes in a federal corruption case, according to court documents provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Southern District of New York. Evans is accused of taking part in a bribery and fraud scheme involving three other college basketball coaches, as well as managers, financial advisers and representatives of a major international sportswear company [News 9].

Quote of the Day

“The votes, when this comes to the floor … are not there. Insanity is putting the same thing up over and over again, knowing it will fail.”

– Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, predicting that a proposed $1.50-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax, intended to help fill the $215 million budget gap, will not pass the House and Senate with the three-quarters majority required for revenue-raising measures. A similar measure failed during the regular session (Source)


Number of the Day


Uninsured rate for Oklahoma adults without dependent children in 2015

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How tax policy subsidizes homeownership, mostly for the wealthiest Americans: In fact, the higher the income, and the bigger the home you buy, the more you stand to profit from all of these special deals. The value of the mortgage interest deduction, exclusions of imputed rent, and deductibility of state and local taxes are all worth more to you if you are in a higher tax bracket. The mortgage interest deduction only has value if you earn enough to itemize deductions, meaning few low income homeowners can take advantage [City Observatory].

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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: Lawmakers resume partisan stances as special session begins

  1. From the mouths of babes, or in this case, self-appointed archangel legislator/former prosecutors:

    “If we want to get nonviolent people out of prison and into a program that will help rehabilitate them, I am all for it, but this proposal does the opposite.”

    Thank you for the formal and official recognition from the chair of the House corrections committee that OK prison serves no purpose to rehabilitate. If you were intellectually capable, Rep. Biggs, you would make the next connection to the continuing high crime rate despite the massive overincarceration of last decades, especially when compared to states that have decarcerated. We realize that this would require you to accept that your previous work was not only a failure but intellectually wrong, however, and, as mentioned, you have shown over and over again your capacity for that kind of thought.

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