In The Know: Oklahoma governor wants special session to fill health agencies’ funding gap

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.

Today In The News

Oklahoma governor wants special session to fill health agencies’ funding gap: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday said she wants a special session to fill a $215 million shortfall in several agencies’ budgets, but she now must wait for lawmakers to strike a deal. Four agencies lost that expected cash after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a cigarette “fee” this month, the Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Human Services, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the commission that enforces alcohol and tobacco laws [NewsOK]. Lawmakers must go back to special session and finish the job of funding core services [OK Policy]. Gov. Mary Fallin talked second chances, new beginnings and special session during day in Tulsa [Tulsa World].

Petition drive for citywide income tax to support schools begins: An initiative petition drive aimed at calling a vote on a temporary citywide income tax to supplement lagging teacher pay has begun. A coalition of education and political leaders, Save OKC Schools, has 90 days to gather enough signatures to put the proposal before Oklahoma City voters. The proposal calls for a 0.50 percent income tax to raise about $50 million per year. Individuals and families living near or below the poverty line would be exempt [NewsOK]. Oklahoma’s investment in preK-12 education has plummeted in recent years [OK Policy]. 

Events In Charlottesville Reverberate With OK’s Violent Racial History: Images of the Oklahoma 46 flag at that white supremacy rally have begun surfacing online. Those photos, coinciding with the recently foiled bomb plot downtown, are raising new questions about hatred here in Oklahoma. Oklahoma, unfortunately, is no stranger to homegrown extremist violence. The state’s history is littered with racial and anti-government violence [NewsOn6]. Although politicians and visible government officials are normally quick to voice support and unity after a tragedy, most of Oklahoma’s have been silent on the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend [Journal Record]. OK Policy’s statement on this weekend’s events in Charlottesville is available on Facebook here.

OKC schools leader wants public to decide on name changes: Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora said Wednesday she will gauge public input before deciding whether to rename four elementary schools named after Confederate leaders. Lora said she is hearing from “families and people” who find the names “offensive” and others who believe the names are “part of history.” [NewsOK]

Prosperity Policy: A second shot: Last week’s Supreme Court decision striking down the smoking cessation fee gives lawmakers another shot at correcting a blunder by passing a budget that respects the law and meets the needs of Oklahomans. To recall, the Legislature approved the smoking cessation fee in the final hours of the 2017 session as part of a last-ditch effort to pass a budget that filled most of the state’s nearly $1 billion budget shortfall. …The gamble failed when the court ruled the smoking cessation fee to be a tax. [David Blatt / Journal Record]. With the doomsday clock ticking, how might the state’s budget emergency be solved? [OK Policy]

Lawmakers talk special session and how to protect vulnerable children: The mood in the room was exasperation mixed with curiosity and a sliver of hope. Representatives of the 27-member Tulsa Child Protection Coalition met last week to hear four area legislators explain how they are going to help the state’s most vulnerable children and families [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].

Bail reform should be the solution for Oklahoma’s overcrowded jails: Oklahoma voters know that the time is right for criminal justice reform for our state, and they showed it by passing State Questions 780 and 781 by wide margins last November. Not all stakeholders were on board: Just before the questions took effect on July 1, some Sheriffs and District Attorneys raised concerns about rising county jail populations, since many low-level drug and property offenders are no longer eligible for terms in state prisons. While overcrowded jails are a real problem, the state can do much more to solve it by reforming bail practices than by undoing recent reforms [OK Policy].

Council OKs mayor’s proposal for Tulsa to operate its own lockup for city inmates for $1.2 million per year: The city of Tulsa plans to get back into the jail business, as Mayor G.T. Bynum announced plans Wednesday for a municipal lockup with operating costs estimated at $1.2 million a year. Bynum said the move would bring some jailing duties in-house as a cost-saving measure against Tulsa County’s soon-to-be increased charges of $1.4 million per year to hold municipal inmates. An additional agreement would have the city holding overflow inmates in Okmulgee County [Tulsa World].

University of Central Oklahoma program for Hispanic student success wins Excellence and Innovation Award: The University of Central Oklahoma was recognized Tuesday by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities for its Hispanic Success Initiative. UCO is one of 11 schools nationwide named winners of the association’s 2017 Excellence and Innovation Awards. UCO launched the Hispanic Success Initiative in 2015 [NewsOK].

Report: Aviation, aerospace bring $11.7 billion annually to Tulsa economy: One of Tulsa’s biggest marketing tools has just gained altitude. Tulsa’s Tulsa International Airport and surrounding off-airport and aviation and aerospace businesses in the Tulsa Metropolitan Statistical Area generate an annual economic impact of $11.7 billion, a report shows. “Nobody saw these numbers this big,” Tulsa Airports CEO Mark VanLoh said. “Nobody guessed it. So it’s fantastic. We’re going to shop it for all it’s worth.” [Tulsa World]

Jim Bridenstine to become administrator of NASA, according to NASA Watch blog: First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine will be named administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration within a few weeks, according to a blogger with ties to the agency. NASA Watch, run by former NASA employee Keith Cowing, said Bridenstine will be paired with Aerojet Rocketdyne executive and former NASA Chief of Staff John Schumacher, who will serve as deputy administrator [Tulsa World].

Family of man accused in Oklahoma City bomb plot “heartbroken,” questions FBI’s tactics in statement to KFOR: In a letter to KFOR, the family of a man who is accused of plotting to bomb a downtown Oklahoma City building says they are heartbroken by their son’s actions and are questioning the FBI’s tactics in the case. Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, was arrested in the early morning hours of Aug. 12 after attempting to detonate what he thought was a bomb outside the BancFirst building in downtown Oklahoma City [KFOR].

DEQ to clean up yards in Ottawa County in latest round of Tar Creek decontamination: The state Department of Environmental Quality is planning a cleanup project this fall for Ottawa County residential properties contaminated with lead and zinc. …Ottawa County is home to Tar Creek, which encompasses 40 square miles of contaminated land. For years, the area was at the top of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list after mining companies left the area in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving behind countless environmental, hazardous waste and medical problems [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“I don’t think this initiative is the first choice of anyone at this table. But we’ve waited and waited and waited.”

– Oklahoma City Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, organizer of a petition drive for a temporary 0.5 percent income tax increase to raise about $50 million per year to supplement a teacher pay raise (Source)

Number of the Day


Turnover rate for Oklahoma state employees in 2016. The regional average was 15.2%

Source: OK State Stat

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Throwing Money at Businesses Has Been a Bad Idea Since the Start: While spending public resources to lure private companies and the jobs they bring has mushroomed in recent years, the idea is actually pretty old. In his book City Power: Urban Governance in a Global Age, published last year, law professor Richard Schragger cites a passage from the September 1890 issue of Scribner’s Magazine: “A curious outgrowth of the rivalries of American cities, is the practice that obtains so generally of offering bonuses and pecuniary inducements to manufacturers to move their plant.” It was a bad idea then. It contributed to a municipal bond default crisis when promised returns did not materialize and cities could not pay off the debts they had incurred. And as the evidence densely piled up in Schragger’s book demonstrates, it remains a bad idea today [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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