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
Legislative Committees To Take Up ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ Plan: State lawmakers are expected to pass a series of bills in committee Thursday, that would raise taxes and give teachers $5,000 annual pay raises. There are bills to increase taxes on wind energy and coal production. Income taxes will be impacted by another bill, and yet another bill will raise the taxes on tobacco. That was a sticking point in last year’s budget negotiations [News9]. State worker pay raise would help Step Up chances, group says [NewsOK]. Sooner Poll shows Step Up Oklahoma support, wind tax omitted [NonDoc]. Step Up Oklahoma plan adds to the consensus that new revenues are essential [OK Policy].
Business-Backed Plan to Increase Taxes Gets Broad OK From Oil Groups After Expanding Discount: After getting concessions, a group of small independent oil and gas producers is now endorsing a suite of tax increases and government reforms written by a group of business leaders known as the Step Up Oklahoma plan. The plan calls for a 4 percent tax for the first three years of production. At first, many vertical well producers opposed this idea and backed State Question 795, which would ask voters to end all discounts and restore the standard 7 percent rate [StateImpact Oklahoma].
Step Up coalition’s new tax credit is a poor substitute for restoring the EITC: Just a few weeks ago, the Step Up Oklahoma coalition announced their plan for a variety of tax increases and reforms to resolve some of Oklahoma’s long-standing budget problems. Since then, the proposal has attracted support from a broad range of groups representing different parts of Oklahoma’s private and public sectors, and House leaders have promised that they will vote quickly on the package [OK Policy].
Income tax bill would eliminate many deductions: Although the bill adjusting Oklahoma’s income tax could reduce the burden for many Oklahomans, some of the state’s most vulnerable would see an increase. Lawmakers are scheduled to consider House Bill 1037 in committee on Thursday morning. It would make several changes to Oklahoma’s income tax structure [Journal Record]. How proposed changes in the state’s income tax code could affect you [Tulsa World].
Prosperity Policy: Cuts with consequences: Miami Public Schools in Ottawa County serves about 2,500 K-12 students in seven schools. This year, four school librarian positions were cut, leaving the district without a single librarian. In Newkirk, there is no librarian and no speech or drama classes. In Edmond, elementary school students no longer learn Spanish [David Blatt / Journal Record].
Legislature considers changes to Oklahoma’s voting laws: The Oklahoma Legislature is considering several bills this session that would change voting laws, including bills that would require voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship, would prevent some individuals from voting for a period of time and others that would make voter registration automatic. In 2016, Oklahoma had the sixth-lowest percentage of its citizen voting-age population cast a ballot when compared to other states, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission [The Frontier].
Move to restrict governor’s cabinet appointments advances in House: A bill by Speaker Charles McCall, R-Altus, that would restrict appointments to the governor’s cabinet advanced from committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday. House Bill 3597 would bar chief executives of any executive branch board, commission, department or program from serving on the governor’s cabinet [Tulsa World].
Tempers flare with talk of ‘punitive’ wind energy taxation: Tempers flared Tuesday as members of a wind advocacy group accused some lawmakers of pressing for “punitive” taxation that would harm the industry. “I think there have been some that have grabbed onto the anti-wind rhetoric and believe that’s the scapegoat for the state’s problems and the state’s ills,” said Mark Yates, executive director of OK WindPower, which promotes wind development [CNHI]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].
Brighter prospects for OK criminal justice reform: In lining out House Republicans’ priorities for the legislative session, House Speaker Charles McCall said last week, “Criminal justice bills will move forward.” It’s already happening — welcome news indeed following a highly frustrating 2017. Last year saw a governor’s task force propose a dozen bills intended to change some of the ways Oklahoma approaches criminal justice [NewsOK]. Lawmakers must not waste another opportunity to pass the critical criminal justice reforms [OK Policy].
Oklahoma state agency says it didn’t overlook health department budget woes: An agency accused of ignoring financial problems at the Oklahoma State Department of Health said the former official who pointed the finger misconstrued a conversation between friends. Mike Romero, who resigned as the Health Department’s chief financial officer last week, said in a memo written Jan. 31 that some employees of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services knew the Health Department faced a financial shortfall but did nothing in response [NewsOK].
Fallin makes executive order on occupational licensing: Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order this afternoon establishing the Oklahoma Department of Labor as the “central coordinating entity” for occupational licensing in the state. Fallin’s executive order comes less than one month after a task force led by Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Melissa Houston issued an 85-page report about occupational licensing that recommended centralized jurisdiction under one agency [NonDoc].
Experts Say Oklahoma’s Opioid Plan Does Little to Expand Treatment: Drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma increased 91 percent over the last decade and a half, prompting the state to form a task force charged with a daunting goal: Brainstorm a plan to guide the state out of an opioid epidemic that kills three Oklahomans nearly every day. The Commission on Opioid Abuse released its final report in January [StateImpact Oklahoma] .
State asks U.S. Supreme Court to review ‘Indian Country’ ruling that would require federal jurisdiction: Oklahoma would become a “fractured, second-class state” if an appellate court ruling that greatly expanded what is considered “Indian country” is allowed to stand, a petition filed on behalf of the state with the U.S. Supreme Court argues. The petition, filed Tuesday by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, asks the Supreme Court to review a decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding where the state has jurisdiction in criminal cases involving Muscogee (Creek) Nation tribal members [Tulsa World].
Quote of the Day
“Both of these are examples of legislation we see both in Oklahoma and around the country of trying to limit the number of people who can participate in our democracy. This is unique among advanced democracies. Most advanced democracies are trying to enlarge the number of people who are participating in democratic decision making.”
– ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel, on legislation filed this spring that would restrict voting for individuals convicted of drug crimes and require Oklahomans to present identification beyond what the state already requires before being able to vote (Source)
Number of the Day
Number of Oklahoma legislators who are term-limited in 2018 (12 House members and 6 Senators)
Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute
Immigration Crackdown Raises Fears of Seeking Health Care: Many people get nervous any time they need to go to the doctor. But in the past year, some U.S. residents became more concerned than usual. Immigrants around the country who are on edge about broader enforcement under the Trump administration have been skipping appointments, questioning whether enrolling in government-funded health care coverage could undermine their immigration applications and showing anxiety about visiting unfamiliar physicians, according to nearly two dozen medical providers and lawyers interviewed recently [Roll Call].
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