In The Know: Oklahoma House and Senate recess without budget deal

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 and Senate recess without budget deal: The Oklahoma House and Senate recessed from the special session Wednesday without a deal to close an estimated $215 million state budget shortfall, which could deal a crippling blow to agencies that provide health care services to the poor and mentally ill. The House recessed after it became clear there weren’t 76 members willing to support a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax increase to help restore the lost funding. [Associated Press] Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy] Lawmakers have good revenue options for special session if they have the will to use them [OK Policy]

Little movement during special session’s first days: After spending less than a half hour in debate over its first three days, the special session of the Oklahoma Legislature is now in recess. Though there is general sentiment in the House of Representatives and Senate to pass a cigarette tax to help fill a $215 million funding deficit, it has never gone to a vote because there isn’t enough support to get it through the House. Revenue measures must originate and be passed by the House before being sent to the Senate. [Tahlequah Daily Press] Bills filed in special session put many options in play [OK Policy]

House members back at negotiation table over proposed cigarette tax: House lawmakers were supposed to vote Wednesday on a cigarette tax increase, but that vote never happened. Both sides are playing the political blame game, but the bottom line is the votes were not there for a cigarette tax to pass, therefore the House is going into recess. House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said Republicans are not willing to raise the gross production tax up to 5 percent. That has been the House Democrats’ bargaining chip to support a $1.50 increase on a pack of cigarettes. [KOCO]

House Committee Passes Bill Requiring Stringent Checks of State Medicaid Rolls: Despite complaints it doesn’t fall under the purview of special session, a state House committee passed a bill Thursday requiring intensive checks of Oklahoma’s Medicaid rolls every three months. [Public Radio Tulsa] When you’re working on a budget hole, maybe you should stop digging deeper [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World] This bill was considered and rejected in regular session, and it’s still a bad idea – it adds bureaucratic hurdles for Oklahoma families and won’t generate promised savings [OK Policy]

Bills Take Aim At Film Rebate, Affordable Housing Tax Credit: One bill filed during the special legislative session would end Oklahoma’s film rebate program, while another piece of legislation would eliminate the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Tax Credit. [KGOU]

Oklahoma’s Insurance Commissioner is preparing ​t​o undermine the people working to insure Oklahomans: Earlier this month, Oklahoma Insurance ​Commissioner John Doak testifiedbefore a U.S. Congressional Committee that he wants Congress to eliminate Navigators,​​ the community workers who help enroll people in health care under the Affordable Care Act​. Doak told Congress that he opposes these Navigators because they compete with private insurance agents and brokers.​ [OK Policy]

SoonerCare adds limits to pulling teeth, cystic fibrosis testing: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority board voted to cover only “emergency” tooth extractions for adults covered by SoonerCare. Previously, the program covered “medically necessary” extractions. The move will save the state about $479,017 — a relative drop in the $70 million budget hole the agency may need to fill after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the cigarette tax in August. [The Oklahoman]

Prison Guard Unions Play a Key Role in Expanding the Prison-Industrial Complex: Despite recent pushes for prison reforms and sentence reductions, the ranks of the incarcerated are growing in many states. Meanwhile, there’s a widespread shortage of corrections officers partially due to the profession’s cultural stigma as a job with less prestige than that of a firefighter or police officer. In 2014, 34 states submitted four-year prison projections to The Pew Charitable Trusts. Twenty-eight expected their prison populations to grow between 1 and 16 percent by 2018. [Truthout]

Oklahoma relies on more underqualified teachers as state approves 245 more emergency certifications: Another 224 emergency teaching certifications were approved Thursday by the Oklahoma State Board of Education, tacking onto its record total. In the first four months of the fiscal year, the state board has approved 44 percent more emergency teaching certifications than in the entirety of the previous year. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is not just about salaries [OK Policy]

We run the food banks, and we know how important SNAP is: The devastating floods from recent hurricanes remind us how quickly our situation can change. They further serve to prompt us that hunger is not a political issue, it is a humanitarian one. Everyone deserves to eat. With 47 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings, the risk of hunger is closer to many of us than we realize. This is why we oppose recent proposals in Congress to cut critical food assistance programs like SNAP. [Katie Fitzgerald and Eileen Bradshaw/Tulsa World] SNAP is working to feed Oklahoma’s Children [OK Policy]

Officials investigating after noose found in football locker room at Oklahoma school: Two northern Oklahoma schools are investigating after a noose was found by students returning to a locker room during a football game. The noose was discovered by middle school students from Ponca City Public Schools Sept. 26 as they entered the locker room at D. Bruce Selby Stadium in Enid following a 7th and 8th grade football game. [Fox25]

Quote of the Day

“The state of Oklahoma was cheated this week. We were in session a total of 28 minutes over three days at a cost of $30,000 a day. We believe the Senate Republicans want to work with us. The governor wants to work with us. We’re all wanting to get something done, but we need the revenue. We’re all on the same page: We cannot cut. I’m hoping House Republicans will get on board and work with everybody. You can only blame the Democrats so much.”

– Rep. Matt Meredith (D-Tahlequah) on the lack of a budget deal at the end of the first week of special session (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adolescents age 12-17 reporting marijuana use in 2014-2015. The national average was 7.2%

Source: SAMHSA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now: Gail Evans and Marta Ramos have one thing in common: They have each cleaned offices for one of the most innovative, profitable and all-around successful companies in the United States. For Ms. Evans, that meant being a janitor in Building 326 at Eastman Kodak’s campus in Rochester in the early 1980s. For Ms. Ramos, that means cleaning at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., in the present day. In the 35 years between their jobs as janitors, corporations across America have flocked to a new management theory: Focus on core competence and outsource the rest. The approach has made companies more nimble and more productive, and delivered huge profits for shareholders. It has also fueled inequality and helps explain why many working-class Americans are struggling even in an ostensibly healthy economy [New York Times]

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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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