In The Know: Oklahoma House expected to vote quickly on a massive tax and reform package

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 House expected to vote quickly on a massive tax and reform package: The Oklahoma House will not wait long to vote on a massive tax and reform plan that is gaining support among various organizations. Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday. House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said Tuesday he will bring the Step Up Oklahoma plan to the floor in the lower chamber “early in the session.” [Tulsa World] The Step Up Oklahoma plan adds to the consensus that new revenues are essential [OK Policy].

What’s the matter with Oklahoma? Forty miles from Tulsa, including along unpaved road, sits Wagoner High School, with its 650 students, championship-calibre football team and show barn—a seemingly ordinary small-town school. But unlike most high schools, Wagoner is closed on Mondays. The reason, a severe reduction in state funds, has pushed 90 other school districts in Oklahoma to do the same [The Economist].

Oklahoma’s debtors’ prisons aren’t just a nuisance – they’re an epidemic: The problem of debtors’ prisons in Oklahoma has slowly come out into the open in recent years. A new OK Policy analysis of court records in five counties shows that the number of people who are affected is staggering: In one county, as many as two in three criminal cases result in an arrest warrant for failure to pay at some point [OK Policy].

Oklahoma, America’s No. 2 wind producer, sours on the industry: First the wind came sweeping down the plain, then the dollars, and now the controversy. With ever more spiky wind turbines cropping up across its open lands, Oklahoma has just become the No. 2 state in the country for wind energy production, the American Wind Energy Association announced Tuesday. That has been a boon for local communities, but it has also come at a price for the state, which pays tens of millions of dollars a year in subsidies for wind companies [Christian Science Monitor].

Oklahoma Health Center Foundation declares support for Step Up plan: The Oklahoma Health Center Foundation’s board of directors has voted unanimously to support Step Up Oklahoma’s proposals to resolve the state’s budget impasse and provide $5,000 pay raises for teachers. At least a dozen other organizations previously have announced their support [NewsOK].

Criminal justice reform advocates see hope this session: Criminal justice reform has maintained its rank as one of the most discussed issues at the state Capitol, and its trajectory might shift this year. Leadership positions have changed hands, and several lawmakers have crossed the aisle to sponsor criminal justice reform legislation. Advocates said they’re optimistic. Oklahoma incarcerates more women per capita than any other state in the nation, and it comes in second for overall incarceration [Journal Record].

Oklahoma barber college giving former inmates another chance: wash, a haircut and a shave make up a typical day at JB’s Barber Shop, but the mission behind the shop is not. JB Gaines and Anthony Morgan started working together in 2006. Since then, they’ve opened several barber shops across the metro, and even a barber college in south Oklahoma City. The school serves as a gateway for those who have fallen on hard times and want another chance [KFOR].

OKC district will have to find a new superintendent: Shortly after submitting her resignation letter, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora told colleagues she probably should have done so sooner. Lora made it official Tuesday, a week after taking aim at the school board in a late-night Facebook post the panel’s leader called “regrettable.” [NewsOK

Five Things to Know About OKC Superintendent’s Resignation: Aurora Lora, superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, resigned Tuesday, compounding the instability at the helm of the state’s largest school district. Oklahoma City Public Schools has had 11 superintendents since 2000. Lora took the top job in 2016 after a stint as assistant superintendent under Rob Neu [Oklahoma Watch].

OKC mayoral race: A cheat sheet for upcoming election: At first, Cornett’s announcement drew competition from experienced politicians and newcomers alike, but the mayoral candidate field had narrowed by December filing to include only three: Sen. David Holt (R-OKC), Taylor Neighbors and Randall Smith. The trio will appear on a nonpartisan ballot for the OKC mayor race in a primary election Tuesday, Feb. 13 [NonDoc].

Oil and gas producer Chesapeake cuts 13 percent of workforce: Oil and gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp said on Tuesday it had cut 400 jobs or about 13 percent of its workforce in its latest step to reduce costs. The job cuts affected most functions and were mainly limited to Chesapeake’s headquarters in Oklahoma City, according to an email sent by Chief Executive Doug Lawler to employees. The move comes amid efforts by Chesapeake to raise cash in order to reduce its $9.9 billion debt load and shore up its balance sheet [Reuters].

Liquor prices going up in Oklahoma: Oklahoma alcohol distribution laws said a manufacturer must sell to either a distributor or wholesaler and, then, the middle man sells the product to individual liquor stores. Kerr blames the increase on a little known change that was part of State Question 792, overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2016, to modernize Oklahoma’s liquor laws [KFOR].

Quote of the Day

“The Legislature has a chance to show it can do good things for the people of Oklahoma. It’s no secret that the voters have lost a great deal of confidence in state government.”

– Andrew Speno, Right On Crime Oklahoma Director, expressing optimism for criminal justice reform legislation in the 2018 session (Source)

Number of the Day

$1 billion

Total amount saved by Oklahoma families in 529 college savings plans.

Source: Oklahoma State Treasurer

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Kansas Provides Compelling Evidence of Failure of “Supply-Side” Tax Cuts: The deep income cuts that Kansas enacted in 2012 and 2013 for many business owners and other high-income Kansans failed to achieve their goal of boosting business formation and job creation, and lawmakers substantially repealed the tax cuts earlier this year. Former supporters have offered explanations for this failure to prevent the Kansas experience from discrediting “supply-side” economic strategies more broadly [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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