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
Oklahoma governor to decide fate of wind energy tax credits: The Oklahoma Senate gave final approval Monday to a measure ending income tax credits for wind production more than three years early. House Bill 2298 now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin, who asked for the early sunset legislation in February. Leadership in both chambers have praised the bill, citing it as one way the state can reclaim revenue in future budget years [NewsOK]. While it is true that subsidies for the wind industry have been rising, the reality is that they pale in comparison to those the state provides to oil and gas producers [OK Policy].
Senate Committee Passes Three Controversial School Bills: A state Senate committee passed three controversial bills dealing with schools on Monday. The bills cover disciplining students with disabilities; a grading system that’s been called institutional racism; and schools reportedly using four day school weeks as a teacher incentive. House Bill 1684 would require school districts planning to go to four-day school weeks to simply submit a plan to the state Department of Education. Right now, schools aren’t required to do that [News9].
State Medicaid leader: ‘We will be putting people’s lives at stake’ when services are eliminated: Low-income Oklahomans will have limited access to a range of health care services if the state Medicaid agency moves forward with a slew of cuts to the publicly funded health care program. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, announced Monday that, as the agency prepares for whatever money the Legislature provides, the authority will consider provider rate cuts of up to 25 percent to balance the agency’s budget [NewsOK].
Oklahoma Medical Centers At Risk Of Losing $650M In Federal Funds: The State’s only level one trauma center at OU Medical Center and the hospital’s NICU unit is in jeopardy of closing. That could be just some of the consequences if the state continues to move forward with privatizing part of their Medicare system. Officials at OU say hospitals across the state could lose about $650 million in federal funding [News9].
Oklahoma’s state auditor proposes tax changes: Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones proposed a series of changes to Oklahoma’s tax structure Monday, describing them as a “sensible” approach to addressing the state’s budget woes. Jones, who is considering a race for governor, said he is recommending an across-the-board 5 percent gross production tax on oil and gas, a 5 percent tax on wind generation, capping the top individual income tax rate at its current level of 5 percent and implementing a moratorium on tax credits [NewsOK].
Bill would allow out-of-state carriers to sell health insurance in Oklahoma: A bill allowing out-of-state insurance carriers to sell plans in Oklahoma will be heard in committee next week. The House author of Senate Bill 478 said his measure would give Oklahoma residents a chance to buy less expensive health insurance, but opponents have criticized the fact that those policies might not have the coverage mandates consumers need or expect [NewsOK]. SB 478 would roll back autism coverage and allow worthless plans disguised as insurance [OK Policy].
Nurses stay under doctor oversight after Oklahoma bill stalls: Advanced nurses will have to remain under doctors’ oversight following a legislative blockade in a Senate committee. House Bill 1013 made it to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, but its chairman stood firm on his promise that the bill wouldn’t get a hearing. State Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, had previously said he would not hear the bill this year.The bill was hailed by supporters as one solution to Oklahoma’s health care provider shortage because it could have loosened restrictions on nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses [NewsOK].
OKC Public School Leaders Ask Lawmakers For More Money: Oklahoma City teachers, staff and parents met at the Capitol on Monday to lobby state lawmakers for more money. You can add teachers and parents to the long list of groups that have visited lawmakers this session demanding money. But with a $900-million budget deficit, a lot of those demands will go unanswered. On Monday, the group went door-to-door meeting with legislators asking them to raise taxes and end some tax breaks [News9].
Oklahoma House staffer emails warning about ‘cross-dressers’ in Capitol: An Oklahoma House staffer emailed her colleagues Monday to warn that “cross-dressers” would be at the Capitol. The email alerted other House employees that high school-age students in the page program, who shadow lawmakers for a week at a time, would be allowed to use a restroom typically reserved for staff and legislators instead of the public restrooms on the fourth floor. “Again, there are cross-dressers in the building,” wrote Karen Kipgen, who supervises the page program for the Oklahoma House. The term is considered grossly offensive to the transgender community, which includes people whose biology at birth does not match their gender identity [NewsOK].
Report: Tulsa psychiatric hospital being investigated after abuse, neglect claims: Allegations of abuse and neglect at a south Tulsa psychiatric facility are being investigated by Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services. BuzzFeed News posted a story early Tuesday that Shadow Mountain Behavioral Center was under a state investigation. A DHS official confirmed Monday to the Tulsa World that the state was investigating [Tulsa World]. Employees have told state regulators that Shadow Mountain was short-staffed, and some of them said that low staffing levels helped lead to the riot and contributed to a general climate of violence [Buzzfeed].
Oklahoma Drinking Water Poisoned By Fracking, Claims New Report: A new report from the Clean Water Fund claims that drinking water supplies in Oklahoma are at risk from several oil and gas wastewater wells. Many private wells could also be affected by wastewater disposal wells permitted by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC). “It’s disturbing that the OCC may have permitted oil and gas wells to inject directly into potential drinking water sources and that the agency can’t accurately point to where the drinking water is located,” said John Noël, lead author of the report [Clean Technica]. The report is available here.
Quote of the Day
“Just because you purchase coverage that doesn’t include cancer treatment because your family doesn’t have a history of cancer, insurance could then prove to be totally useless if, surprise, you develop an actual serious health condition like cancer. At that point, this health coverage might be slightly less expensive but it would also be useless in the case of a medical emergency.”
-OK Policy Analyst Carly Putnam, explaining how loosening health insurance mandates through HB 478 could lead to skimpy coverage that fails to cover important treatments and services (Source)
Number of the Day
Number of Oklahomans who died from overdoses in 2016, an increase of over 10% from 2015
Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policies Are Scaring Eligible Families Away From the Safety Net: As the evening rush hour peaked, Blanca Palomeque stationed herself by the carts selling roasted corn, tamales, and ice cream at the exit to the 90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue subway stop in Queens. She spotted a woman pushing a baby in a pink stroller and tugging along two school-aged girls with pigtails. “Excuse me, good afternoon, how are you?” Palomeque said in Spanish. “Do you have food stamps for your children? Here is some information.” She pushed a flyer into the mother’s hand before rushing over to a pregnant woman to speak with her as well [The Atlantic].
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