In The Know: Oklahoma health providers fear they’ll bear costs after cigarette tax falls

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 health providers fear they’ll bear costs after cigarette tax falls: A cigarette fee that would have balanced Oklahoma’s budget has gone down in flames, and some health care providers worry cuts could devastate rural services if lawmakers don’t come up with more revenue. The court’s decision raised fears of cuts to Medicaid and other social services programs. The tax would have raised $215 million. [The Oklahoman] Lawmakers must go back to special session and finish job of funding core services [OK Policy]

The tobacco fee was our ‘only opportunity to balance the budget’: On Thursday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that SB 845, that instituted a $1.50 per pack fee on cigarettes, was unconstitutional. The fee was expected to generate $258 million to be allocated to several health agencies in the state. House Speaker Charles McCall stated that the state budget is suffering because Oklahoma families and businesses are struggling. [Fox25]

Oklahoma Legislature in limbo after courts declare cigarette fee unconstitutional: The Supreme Court has deemed the controversial “cigarette fee” passed by the Oklahoma Legislatures during the 2017 session unconstitutional. The fee, which was expected to generate $254 million for the state by adding a $1.50 per pack fee on cigarettes, was deemed by the court a revenue generating bill that was not passed through the legal channels in Oklahoma. “It doesn’t surprise me that the bill was deemed unconstitutional,” Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) said. “The reason I did not support that legislation is because it was unconstitutional. I wasn’t against what it was trying to do, but I thought it was a revenue raising measure.” [The Daily Ardmoreite]

State Ethics Rules Often Hide Sources of Lobbyists’ Gifts, Meals: An Oklahoma Watch review of thousands of gifts and meal purchases made during the first six months of 2017 found it’s impossible to confirm through records who was bankrolling efforts to influence policymakers for a quarter of the record-setting $485,000 that lobbyists spent on state officials and legislators. That’s because Oklahoma, unlike dozens of other states, doesn’t require lobbyists to reveal what bill or topic they are discussing when they buy a meal for a state official. Lobbyists also don’t have to list what client they are representing when they buy a meal or a gift. [Oklahoma Watch]

State sales tax exemptions surpass $6 billion annually in Oklahoma: State Sen. Roger Thompson is calling his just-concluded study on Oklahoma’s tax code a success. The second of two meetings, featuring in-depth presentations on state taxes, exemptions, credits and spending, concluded Wednesday with eighteen members of the Senate attending the final hearing. Thompson, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance, organized the hearings. [Sandite Pride News] Sales Tax Exemptions: A Puzzling Roster of Haves and Have-Nots [Oklahoma Watch]

For undocumented youth, ‘life is on hold’ amid DACA uncertainty: Yovana Medina’s future ability to legally drive, work and attend law school is in doubt as the young professional waits for a conclusive decision from President Donald Trump on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. “I feel like my life is on hold,” said Medina, 24, who moved to the United States from Mexico at age 8 and is an undocumented resident living in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Officials sound off on Oklahoma Supreme Court cigarette fee decision: Whether it’s counted as a hit or a miss, Thursday’s Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a $1.50 per-pack fee on cigarettes did not fail to cause a stir. With its back firmly in a corner, the state has been struggling to find ways to boost revenue. Most of the court justices stated they believed that to be the underlying motivation behind the fee. [Shawnee News-Star]

As Special Session Looms, Tulsa Lawmaker Says ‘We Need to Do Better’: When the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a dollar-fifty “fee” on a pack of cigarettes last week, it triggered a new budget crisis for the Oklahoma legislature. While the governor has called a special session “likely” and “necessary,” so far she hasn’t called one. State Rep. Carol Bush, a Tulsa Republican, tells KRMG she’s giving lawmakers some time to come up with a plan, so they can enter a special session with an eye toward keeping it short and sweet. [KRMG]

Norman Chamber and local schools celebrate education partnerships: Norman Public Schools Superintendent Nick Migliorino said schools are thankful for financial donations to the NPS Foundation and for people who volunteer at Norman schools, but NPS is also hoping to strategically grow its community partnerships. “The impact a partnership can have on a child’s life is tremendous,” Migliorino said. [Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma lawmaker says Legislature is ready for tax reform: Lowering taxes on some items and raising them on others — one state lawmaker said the Legislature is ready to reform the taxes we pay. Sen. Roger Thompson said an in-depth study over state taxes, exemptions, credits and spending over the last two decades was a success. “We need to understand where we are today in our taxes,” Thompson said. [KOCO] The promising life and untimely death of tax credit reform in Oklahoma [OK Policy]

Teacher of the year offers back-to-school pep talk: Oklahoma’s reigning Teacher of the Year delivered a pep talk to Ada’s educators during their back-to-school meeting Friday at the Cougar Activity Center. Teachers will return to their classrooms Tuesday for the start of a new school year. Hazell, who teaches science at Durant High School, was named the state’s 2017 Teacher of the Year in August 2016. His duties as an education ambassador include encouraging people to enter the profession or remain in the field. [The Ada News] Where teacher raises are needed most [OK Policy]

Cigarette “fee” ruling a victory for Oklahoma taxpayers: The Oklahoma Supreme Court sent a deserved rebuke to the Legislature in striking down a cigarette “fee” as an unconstitutionally enacted tax increase. The ruling Thursday may complicate state budgeting, but it sends a strong message: Lawmakers cannot ignore the constitution or the will of the people merely because they find it politically expedient. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Democratic leaders call for special session after cigarette fee struck down: Democratic leaders of the Oklahoma Legislature are calling for a special session after the state Supreme Court ruled a cigarette tax unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled a $1.50 per pack “tobacco cessation fee” passed by the legislature to be unconstitutional. House Minority Leader, and gubernatorial candidate, Scott Inman said that Republicans and Governor Mary Fallin had failed the state. [Fox25]

In Oklahoma, keeping a business going isn’t a sure bet: Keeping a new business open for at least three years or longer in Oklahoma never is a sure thing. Data released recently by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s Economic Research and Analysis Division shows those businesses have about a six-in-10 chance of surviving that long. [The Oklahoman]

Bixby High School to require drug tests for parking permits: Bixby Public Schools says they will soon require any students who park on campus to first pay for and take a drug test, becoming one of the first school districts in the state to do so. The school district reportedly announced in an email this week that they believe parking on school property is a privilege, and they intend to implement a policy requiring all those seeking parking passes to first take a drug test. [Fox23]

Quote of the Day

“It would be devastating for rural Oklahoma, because services in rural areas are hard to come by anyway. Everybody will be affected. The police will be affected. The emergency rooms will be affected. It’s like a tsunami.”

– Charles Danley, CEO of Grand Lake Mental Health Center in Nowata, on the impact of the cuts that will be necessary if the legislature does not restore the funding that will be lost as a result of the court decision finding the cigarette fee unconstitutional (Source)

Number of the Day

4 minutes

Average wait time for voting in Oklahoma in 2014, 18th highest in the US

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Will Congress force me to deny health care to children once again?: It has been 20 years since I’ve had to tell a mother she had no options for insuring her child. At the time, I had been treating a little boy who was born prematurely and required developmental therapies. He toddled over to me from across the waiting room, shouting my name to show that he could. But his mother had found a new job at her aunt’s hair salon, making her no longer eligible for Medicaid. We were forced to turn them away. [Dorothy R. Novick/Washington Post]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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