In The Know: Lawmakers could tax OKC Thunder tickets

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.

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Today In The News

Lawmakers could tax OKC Thunder tickets: Lawmakers could tap into Oklahoma City Thunder’s loyal fan base as a way to raise revenue. House Bill 2350 would reinstate sales tax for professional sports tickets, which could raise $1.8 million for Oklahoma’s budget. The legislation and four other bills that would raise revenue were quickly introduced Monday just hours before lawmakers were called to vote on them. After passing the committee stage, the bills are now just one vote away from reaching the governor’s desk [NewsOK].

Oklahoma to end tax credit that propelled wind production: A state tax credit that helped propel Oklahoma to third in the nation in its capacity to generate electricity from wind is coming to an end, but it will be years before state coffers see results of the change. Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed legislation that rolls back a 10-year tax credit for electricity generated by zero-emission facilities that was launched in 2003. Under the measure, zero-emission facilities must be operating by July 1 this year to qualify for the credit, instead of Jan. 1, 2021 [Associated Press]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].

House Bill 1913 is a legislative outrage: The Tulsa World has had some harsh words for Rep. Kevin Calvey in the past. But when it comes to House Bill 1913, Rep. Calvey couldn’t be more correct. Calvey wrote a prayerfully considered and well argued op/ed column for the Tulsa World last week that presents the conservative case against HB 1913, which seeks to create the legal framework for a new predatory loan product [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. The “small loan” product created under the bill would trap Oklahomans in debt [OK Policy].

Proposed Bill Would Change How OK Lottery Funds Education: A bill headed to the State Senate would change the way the Oklahoma lottery funds education, and the lottery commission is convinced it will mean bigger prizes and millions more for schools. The Oklahoma Lottery Commission is all in on House Bill 1837 – which would change the formula on how they give money to education. The new bill, which has already passed the House, would set aside $50 million of annual net profits from lotto sales for education. Anything above $50 million would help fund Pre-K through third-grade reading initiatives or STEM programs. The current lottery-education funding system is based on a flat percentage [NewsOn6].

Parents upset by Tulsa schools consolidation proposal: ‘We’re losing out on a unique education’: Closing Remington Elementary School would waste a highly acclaimed outdoor learning environment that could benefit Tulsa Public Schools by attracting families from other school districts, according to a parent of two kids attending the school. Closing Park Elementary School could mean losing a “family atmosphere” in which another parent says her academically advanced son has thrived. Under a school consolidation proposal, Remington and Park would be closed and relocated, along with Early Childhood Development Center-Porter, to the campus currently occupied by Clinton Middle School [Tulsa World].

MAP: Where schools have four-day weeks: Four-day school weeks have become one of the most commonly used examples of Oklahoma’s ongoing challenge to adequately fund its public schools as 97 districts have cut a day from the school week in an effort to save money. The nearly 100 districts that operate with four-day weeks are mostly small and rural school systems that can be found across the state. But the map does show there is large number of districts with four-day weeks near the state’s southern border with Texas and the eastern border with Arkansas, two states that have been siphoning teachers in recent years who are searching for better pay [NewsOK]. 

Four-day school week may provide little benefit in Oklahoma: In recent years, many Oklahoma school districts have shifted to four-day weeks. Many officials blame financial challenges for that change. A new report from the Oklahoma Department of Education suggests that claim is exaggerated, at best. Of the more than 500 school districts in Oklahoma, 97 use a four-day school week, and it’s already estimated another 40-plus districts may join the list. Numerous news stories have reported school officials are using the offer of three-day weekends to attract staff, rather than using the shortened week primarily for cost savings [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Oklahoma amends marijuana definition: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed a bill amending Oklahoma’s definition of marijuana. With House Bill 1559, any federally approved cannabidiol drug or substance will not be considered marijuana. No cannabidiol drug has been approved yet by the Food and Drug Administration, however. Removing it from the definition of marijuana clarifies its difference from the illegal drug [NewsOK].

House Honors Late Rep. David Brumbaugh on Floor: The House honored the late Rep. David Brumbaugh on the House Floor. The House placed a folded United States flag on Brumbaugh’s desk and draped an Oklahoma flag across his empty chair. Brumbaugh was a veteran and served in the U.S. Army’s legendary 101st Airborne Division [KSWO].

Oklahoma school meals programs bring new strategies to fight child hunger: In Oklahoma school meal programs are vital to helping children who are food insecure get reliable access to nutritious meals. Schools offer breakfast and lunch as a matter of course, but some districts are going a step further and providing after-school meals. In Oklahoma City Public Schools, Capitol Hill High School is testing a pilot program providing dinner at school at no cost to students who choose to participate. Similarly, Shawnee Public Schools provides an “enhanced snack” to students at the end of the school day. The pilot programs set a good example for how we can better feed hungry children across the state [OK Policy].

New law broadens sick-leave transfer policy: Some Oklahoma teachers are about to get better access to sick leave. Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1188 last week. It gives teachers at the Oklahoma School for the Blind and Oklahoma School for the Deaf the same access to accrued sick leave as every other teacher in the state. The Oklahoma State Department of Education ensures teachers under its authority get to take their sick time with them to a new job. The law sets the maximum at 60 days, although individual districts have the option to enact a more generous policy. Education advocates call the policy a good recruiting tool for school districts. However, that department doesn’t oversee schools for the blind and the disabled [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Gov. Fallin approves commutations for some drug offenders: Gov. Mary Fallin commuted the sentences of 14 offenders serving life without parole for nonviolent drug offenses in March, giving many of the inmates hope for a life outside prison walls one day. Since June 2016, Fallin has approved commutations for 21 offenders serving life without parole for drug-related convictions, or about a third of Oklahoma prison inmates serving such sentences [NewsOK].

Seven inmates injured in fight at Oklahoma prison: Seven inmates were injured at the North Fork Correctional Center after a fight broke out inside the prison Friday evening. Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials said the altercation started about 7:30 p.m. Friday when two groups of inmates got into a “verbal confrontation.” One of the groups attacked with “homemade weapons,” leaving seven of the prisoners injured, according to a news release [NewsOK]. The effects of budget cuts on Oklahoma prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

After Year and a Half, Charges Filed in Deadly Cushing Prison Fight: A year and a half after the deadliest prison fight in Oklahoma history, Payne County prosecutors brought charges Monday against seven people in connection with the incident. None of the seven, however, was charged with murder in the prison-gang fight that saw four inmates stabbed to death at Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing on Sept. 12, 2015. Rather each was charged with one count of participating in a riot, a felony whose punishment is the same as second-degree murder – from 10 years to life in prison [Oklahoma Watch].

Bill would give better ballot access: Oklahoma’s next presidential ballot could have a few more names on it. Senate Bill 145 would ease access for third-party candidates in presidential races. It would lower the threshold for requisite petition names and create a filing fee mechanism that would circumvent the petition process altogether. Third parties have been on the up for a few years in Oklahoma. The Legislature passed two bills over the past two years that make elections easier for candidates who are not running as Democrats or Republicans. One of those bills made it possible for Libertarians to become the first recognized third party in Oklahoma [Journal Record].

Rep. Markwayne Mullin isn’t sure whether he’ll run for re-election, but his campaign filed the paperwork just in case: Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin’s chief of staff on Monday sought to tamp down internet reports that the three-term Republican has decided to seek re-election in 2018. “Recent blog posts and media reports claiming Congressman Mullin has filed for re-election are inaccurate,” Mike Stopp said in a written statement. “These false reports appear to have been generated by a routine filing with the Federal Election Commission. Congressman Mullin and his family are continuing to pray about this important decision.” [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Our staff members do the best they can when it comes to properly securing our facilities. It’s a difficult task we ask of them, because agency wide we have correctional officer staffing shortages. Our (correctional officer) positions don’t pay enough to be competitive in the job market and with the current budget crisis we are experiencing the situation isn’t going to get any better anytime soon when it comes to filling vacancies.”

-Oklahoma Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, commenting after a fight at a prison in Sayre left seven inmates injured (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahomans killed by police in 2016, the third highest per capita rate in the country

Source: The Guardian

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes too. Here’s how they do it: A 36-year-old woman was working on her taxes with a tax preparer Friday morning when a green box popped up on the computer screen: “Taxpayer’s Social Security number is not valid.” Unauthorized workers aren’t eligible for benefits like the earned income tax credit — which is what the green box on the screen was warning Gonzalez about. Nor can they get Social Security or Medicare. But the IRS still wants unauthorized immigrants to file their taxes, and many of them do. The best estimates from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, DC, think tank, suggest about half of undocumented workers in the United States pay income taxes [Vox].

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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.

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