In The Know: Officials say state budget hole has doubled to $600 million

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

State officials say that the state’s budget hole has doubled to more than $600 million, due in part to falling oil prices. The state Board of Equalization will release an official estimate on Tuesday. Corrections officials say that at least one state prison is operating at double its capacity, and most others are holding 20 percent more inmates than they were designed for. Bills aimed at reducing prison overcrowding by allowing inmates to begin working towards early release earlier in their sentence and dropping the top threshold of maximum sentences from life to 20 years passed a Senate panel on Thursday.

The state House has passed a bill that would grant immunity from civil liability to ministers who refuse to officiate same-sex marriages. A bill that would prevent local governments from banning oil and gas drilling in their city limits has advanced through committee and will next be heard by the House. The state’s unemployment agency says it’s preparing for further oil and gas company layoffs. On the OK Policy Blog, intern Nikki Hager examines the effect of President Obama’s executive order on immigration in Oklahoma. 

StateImpact writes that politicians’ views on water legislation in Oklahoma are divided by geography, not by party. Asked about nitrogen hypoxia executions, Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said that little is known about the method. Oklahoma’s vaccination rate for human papillomavirus (HPV) in teen girls is below the already-low national average, according to the CDC, although the state has outpaced the national average for teenage boys receiving the vaccine.

Health officials say that the flu has killed 82 Oklahomans this season, breaking last year’s record of 72. The Number of the Day is the number of female homicide victims and domestic violence-related deaths in Tulsa in 2014, a 26-year high. In today’s Policy Note, Governing breaks down who will lose their health care coverage if the Supreme Court rules against the Affordable Care Act this summer

In The News

Oklahoma budget hole could be twice as big as previously estimated

Oklahoma’s budget hole, caused in part by an oil industry decline, has doubled to more than $600 million, meaning deeper cuts to state government may be needed, state officials said Thursday. The state Board of Equalization is to release an official state revenue estimate Tuesday, but some state elected officials got an early preview.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma prisons beyond overflowing, corrections officials say

At least one Oklahoma prison is at more than double its capacity and most others are crammed with about 20 percent more inmates than they were designed to hold, corrections officials said Thursday. Monday is scheduled for the first meeting of a panel of state officials tasked with re-examining Oklahoma’s stalled Justice Reinvestment Initiative, and based on the state’s prison population, that meeting can’t come soon enough for Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Senate panel passes bills aimed at reducing prison overcrowding

A Senate panel passed measures Thursday aimed at making a dent in the state’s growing prison population. The Senate Public Safety Committee passed Senate Bill 112, which would allow those convicted of a crime requiring them to serve 85 percent of a sentence to be discharged earlier than is currently allowed.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma House OKs Bill For Ministers To Refuse Gay Marriage

The Oklahoma House has approved legislation that grants immunity from civil liability to ministers who refuse to officiate a same-sex marriage. House members voted 88-7 Thursday for the bill by Republican Rep. David Brumbaugh. The measure now goes to the state Senate.

Read more from News9.

Bill would prevent Oklahoma towns from banning drilling in their own city limits

A proposal that is being considered by the legislature would prevent local governments from banning oil and gas drilling in their own city limits. Supporters say the measure is needed to protect Oklahoma’s economy.

Read more from KFOR.

Unemployment office prepping for energy layoffs

The state’s unemployment agency is preparing for layoffs in the oil and gas industry by providing a point of contact to the industry’s companies and workers. In an email obtained by the Enid News & Eagle, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Richard McPherson told companies the OESC is waiting for their call.

Read more from the Enid News.

What President Obama’s immigration order means for Oklahoma

In November, President Obama issued an executive order to grant deportation relief to approximately half of the nation’s estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants. The Immigration Accountability Executive Action (IAEA) is contentious and its future is uncertain—Oklahoma and 24 other states are suing the President over the order—but it nonetheless will have a significant effect on Oklahoma’s undocumented residents.

Hear more from the OK Policy Blog.

2015 Water Legislation Divides Oklahoma Politicians by Geography, Not Party

After 5 years of drought, Oklahoma’s dwindling water resources have the attention of state lawmakers. There are competing bills to study moving water from southeast Oklahoma to the Altus area, and to encourage self-sufficient, regionally based plans to meet future water needs.

Read more from StateImpact.

Prisons Director Says Nitrogen Gas Executions Are Untried

The head of Oklahoma’s prison system says little is known about a proposed new method of nitrogen gas execution, but that he stands ready to carry out executions however the state determines they should be done. Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton was asked about the idea Thursday after legislative panels voted this week to make “nitrogen hypoxia” the state’s second execution option after lethal injection.

Read more from KGOU.

Most Oklahoma teens are not vaccinated for HPV

Less than half of teenagers in Oklahoma counties have received a complete series of the HPV vaccine, state Health Department data shows. HPV is short for human papillomavirus and is a group of more than 150 related viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Influenza Deaths Reach Record Levels

Oklahoma health officials say 14 people have died from influenza in the state during the past week, bringing the state’s death toll this flu season to a record 82. The state Department of Health said Thursday more than 1,700 people have been hospitalized with flu-related symptoms since the season began on Sept. 28, including 76 hospitalizations recorded within the past week.

Read more from KGOU.

Quote of the Day

“I would say short of emergency, one-time needs, I think at this point the discussion is quickly turning to: ‘What will the amount of budget cuts be for a state agency?’”

– House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, on news that the state’s budget hole could be twice as large as previously calculated (Source:

Number of the Day


Number of female homicide victims and domestic violence-related deaths in Tulsa in 2014, a 26-year high

Source: Tulsa World.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Who Would Lose Health Care If the Supreme Court Rules Against Obamacare?

If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down tax credits for people buying health insurance on the federal exchange, about 8.2 million Americans in 34 states could lose their coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Most of the people likely to be affected are white, employed, and low- to middle-class. They also are concentrated in a single region of the country: the South. Health insurance rates in those states are expected to rise by as much as 35 percent, which may make coverage unaffordable even for those who don’t qualify for tax credits.

Read more from Governing.

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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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