In The Know: Legislature limps toward finish line as Friday adjournment looms

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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Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

In The Know will take a break for Memorial Day and will return Tuesday, May 30.

Today In The News

Legislature limps toward finish line as Friday adjournment looms: Lawmakers on Thursday were limping toward adjournment following several long days. The Legislature must adjourn by 5 p.m. Friday. The Oklahoma House on Friday is expected to take up a $1.50 smoking cessation fee on cigarettes and the state’s $6.8 billion general appropriations bill. Both are expected to be controversial. Previous efforts to pass the $1.50 increase on cigarettes as a tax failed in the House [Tulsa World]. Capitol reporter Dale Denwalt provided live updates from the final days of the Oklahoma legislative session. Here’s a transcript for Thursday, May 24.

Proposed budget leaves Oklahoma services massively underfunded: After months of wrangling and stalled negotiations, legislative leaders finally introduced budget bills late Tuesday evening, just three days before the deadline to adjourn legislative session. Separate House and Senate versions of the General Appropriations (GA) bill were rolled out; however, the Senate refused to consider the House version of the budget, leaving the Senate’s bill, SB 860, as the only budget moving forward [OK Policy].

Governor criticizes committee chairman for holding up criminal justice reform bills: Gov. Mary Fallin called out a House committee chairman Thursday for bottling up criminal justice reform bills, saying it’s time to let lawmakers vote. “We are down to the final day and a half … and there are a lot of bills that are still yet to be heard,” Fallin said. “It is no secret that the public gave a pretty clear mandate this past summer on State Questions 780 and 781 that the public supports … criminal justice reform in our state.” [NewsOK]

Policy dominates Thursday session at Oklahoma Capitol: The Oklahoma House of Representatives is expected to vote on the budget Friday, the final day of the 2017 legislative session. It has already passed the Senate. Several revenue measures still need final approval, but policy issues dominated much of the day on Thursday. Tempers briefly flared on the House floor while considering House Bill 1465 [NewsOK].

Not even supporters like the budget: The resounding sentiment regarding this year’s state budget, even among its supporters, is disappointment. As the nearly $7 billion spending bill made its way through the Legislature during the last week, endorsements sounded similar: Sign off on this because it’s the best we could do, and let’s get out of here. Senate Bill 860 made its way off the Senate floor about 10 p.m. Wednesday night [Journal Record].

Final days nonrevenue revenue bills defy sense, if not law: Way back when Democrats and Republicans were trying to work together to come up with reasonable changes to the state tax code — in other words until late Monday — there was a puzzling story making the rounds. We were told that Speaker of the House Charles McCall, R-Atoka, wouldn’t accept any changes to the state’s gross production tax that applied to oil wells that were already in production [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World].

All My Ex’s Teach in Texas: “All my ex’s teach in Texas. And Texas is the place our teachers love to be.” That’s the remix of George Strait’s classic I’ve written for Oklahoma. Teaching in Oklahoma can feel like being in a dysfunctional relationship. You’ve got people telling you to stay and to go. You hear things like, “But we can change. Things will get better soon, we promise.” And sometimes you feel pressured to stay in it for the kids [2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan]. The state continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].

What about the children? What about all of us! “Think of the children.” This sentence is so overused as a persuasive tactic that Wikepdia, the online encyclopedia, actually has an entry for it, and defines it as a worn-out cliché. “The Simpsons” has mocked it as trite for years. Yet I still hear it. Often, when teachers talk about low pay, low per-pupil expenditures, and high budget cuts, we are told to overcome these inconveniences and spend more time thinking about the children [2017 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year  Jon Hazel / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education prepare for budget cut, future of higher education: Oklahoma’s higher education system is bracing for a 6 percent cut in state funding under the general appropriations bill lawmakers are voting on this week. A summary sheet shows the cut to higher education will be 4.5 percent — from $810 million to $773 million — but the bill requires the system to make additional cuts internally to pay bond debt service, Amanda Paliotta, vice chancellor for budget and finance said Thursday [NewsOK].

Lawmakers Question Legality of ‘Creative’ Legislation to Squeeze More Revenue from Oil and Gas Taxes: Oklahoma lawmakers have struggled for months to agree on a formula to patch a nearly $900 million budget hole and sign off on a plan that funds state agencies. To help pay for the budget plan, lawmakers are considering ways to squeeze more from taxes on oil and gas production, an option that has divided politicians and one of the state’s biggest industries. Throughout the legislative session, demonstrators and educators rallied to urge lawmakers to raise oil and gas taxes [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Gov. Fallin, you should veto the long lateral bill; it’s a bad deal for Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Legislature has enriched big oil and natural gas producers and gotten very little in exchange for the state. By the narrowest of margins, the House gave final legislative approval to Senate Bill 867 Wednesday night. That opens the way for broader use of so-called long laterals, a petroleum drilling method that uses hundreds of feet of horizontally drilled arteries that can greatly enhance productivity of wells [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

DHS Will Likely Have Less to Spend on Local Child Abuse Supports: Oklahoma lawmakers tell the Department of Human Services to allocate $250,000 less next year to local child abuse investigators and advocates. Senate Bill 848 tells DHS to allocate $2.55 million of its 2018 appropriation to CAMA — the Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Account, which is distributed to local investigators and child advocacy centers [KWGS].

Mass casualties, the budget and a long, hot summer: There are certain to be mass casualties from the train wreck that was the 2017 legislative session. The GOP’s governing supermajority failed yet again to solve the state’s structural budget deficit, meaning it guaranteed itself future fiscal heartburn that no prescription antacid could quell. Worse, it confirmed the cynical stereotype that too many lawmakers are wholly owned subsidiaries of the state’s oil and gas barons, driven more by big campaign checks than the needs of working-class Oklahomans [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to fund 2018 OHP Academy: The Oklahoma Turnpike Association will pay $5 million to help pay for the 2018 Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy. Leaders from the OTA, Department of Public Safety, OHP and state lawmakers made the announcement May 25. Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall said the agreement was “historic”. …DPS Commissioner Mike Thompson said the funding will allow the OHP to hopefully graduate 30 troopers by 2018 [FOX25].

Back to normal: OK Legislature restores American Rule: On the second to last scheduled day of the 2017 Oklahoma legislative session, lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Mary Fallin restoring a major legal tenet that had been dismantled without legal associations, business groups or most legislators noticing. HB 1570 (embedded below) included language restoring what is known as the American Rule, the idea that each party bears its own costs in civil litigation. Most American jurisdictions carve at small legislative exceptions to that rule [NonDoc].

Legislature won’t finalize Oklahoma Corporation Commission task force bill: A bill to study the regulatory processes at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission won’t be finalized this session because Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to issue an executive order on the subject. House Bill 1377, by Rep. Wendell Watson, R-Tulsa, created the 21st century Corporation Commission review. The legislation was awaiting a final vote in the House after being amended in the Senate, although Watson said Thursday it won’t be put forward [NewsOK].

Two Ways Oklahoma’s Alcohol Laws Could Change Next Year: Republicans and Democrats are still battling over ways to fill Oklahoma’s budget shortfall. The two parties have found little common ground on tax revenue, but they have been able to agree on some items that could make it easier to toast legislative achievements, or drown their sorrows following a bill’s defeat. A few bills going through the legislature could loosen up state alcohol laws, giving Oklahomans something to look forward to in 2018 [KGOU].

Choctaw Nation expands judicial branch, constructing court building: In the last couple of years, the Choctaw Nation has been working to expand the judicial branch of its government. The tribe is adding a court clerk’s office in Durant, making this the second clerk’s office in the 10-and-a-half Choctaw counties. “We’re on a five-to-10-year strategic plan,” said Pam Young, executive officer for the judicial branch. “We are developing departments as we see them come through the court staff to fulfill the needs.” [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“I’m sorry it’s come to this, but I will leave with my head held high. I poured my heart and soul into my teaching at Norman High School. I represented our state at the highest level. I tried to help find funding sources via SQ 779. I ran for state senate. I started a non-profit focused on teacher recruitment and retention that has spread nationwide. I’ve done everything I know how to do to try and make things better.” 

– 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan, explaining why he and his wife are leaving their jobs teaching in Oklahoma to teach in Texas (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma veterans covered by Medicaid in 2015

Source: Families USA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

L.A. police panel pushes fairness and courtesy as powerful weapons to improve trust in the LAPD: They call it “procedural justice,” and the concept is pretty simple. If people believe they are treated fairly and with respect by police, they are more likely to have a favorable view of law enforcement — even if their encounter ends with a ticket or an arrest. It’s a form of community relations that officials believe can help build goodwill and reduce mistrust. It can be as simple as officers handing out their business cards or spending a few extra minutes explaining why they pulled someone over [Los Angeles Times].

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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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