In The Know: Oklahoma House votes to ban abortion of abnormal fetuses

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma House votes to ban abortion of abnormal fetuses: The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted Tuesday to ban abortions of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome or “viable genetic disorder” or the possibility of one. The measure, House Bill 1549, by Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, would bring penalties against persons performing such abortions, but not the woman involved. It passed 67-16. It is expected to be challenged by abortion rights groups [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Senate approves expanding OSBI role in police shooting inquiries: Faced with growing controversy over officer-involved shootings in Oklahoma and elsewhere, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that would give the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation increased authority to investigate such incidents. Under Senate Bill 247, the OSBI would be given the responsibility of investigating all law enforcement- or peace officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, excluding jails or prisons, for all jurisdictions with a population less than 150,000 [NewsOK].

Opponents Of New OK Bill Say It Could Impact Healthcare Coverage: A new bill that just passed the house and senate insurance committees has some Oklahomans worried about their health care coverage. Families flooded the State Capitol this time last year to advocate for Autism insurance reform in Oklahoma. They won their fight, but now they say they’ve been handed another. Senate Bill 478 is a bill that would allow insurance companies from out of state to sell policies to people in Oklahoma, including businesses [NewsOn6].

Daycare Tax Credit for Deployed Military Families Endorsed by OK State House: Legislation authorizing a state income tax credit for daycare expenses of deployed military personnel has passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Bill 1312 would authorize a tax credit for daycare expenditures on a qualifying dependent child during any period when a member of the armed services is deployed “to another location in support of combat, contingency operation, or natural disaster” for 30 or more consecutive days, during which time the service member is unable to be accompanied by his/her family at government expense [KSWO].

Mary Fallin praises Oklahoma Senate for passing of 8 criminal justice measures: Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is praising the Senate for passing eight criminal justice measures. The Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, which was convened by the governor last year, recommended these reforms after studying the data and facts of the criminal justice system in Oklahoma, and the governor asked lawmakers to consider them in her State of the State [KFOR]. The Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Lawmakers tackle State Questions 780 and 781: State legislators say they are trying to fine tune two ballot measures passed by a vote of the people. One in three people in Oklahoma’s prisons needs mental health treatment, and one quarter of prisoners are serving time for a nonviolent drug offense. Oklahomans went to the ballot in November to pass State Questions 780 and 781. Voters cast their ballots to reduce felony convictions for personal drug use to misdemeanors and set aside additional resources for drug treatment, mental health and rehabilitation programs [Edmond Sun].

Despite Oklahoma infant mortality drop, rate remains fourth highest in nation: In recent years, Oklahoma has seen its infant mortality rate decline, although the state saw one of the smallest declines in the country, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Tuesday. Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate — the number of babies who don’t live to their first birthday — has historically been higher than other states. The CDC report notes that, from 2005 to 2007, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate was among the top 10 highest in the country — a rate of 8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births [NewsOK].

Bill would legalize cannabidiol: Two legislators are continuing their push to get a form of medical marijuana into Oklahoma. Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is a drug that comes from marijuana but won’t get users high. It lacks the chemical that causes the buzz, but maintains some other effects, such as appetite increase. It’s a popular alternative treatment for epilepsy, especially for children. Rep. Jon Echols and Sen. Ervin Yen, both Oklahoma City Republicans, have already brought some CBD treatments into Oklahoma’s legal fold [Journal Record]. Read more about HB 1559.

Christian holy day would be paid state holiday in bill passed by Oklahoma House: Among measures heard by the House on Monday, a bill passed that would make Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, a designated paid state holiday. House Bill 1444 passed by a vote of 69-24 and was opposed by 22 Republicans and two Democrats, according to a spokesman for the House. It now goes to the Senate for consideration [Tulsa World].

No vacancy yet, but a candidate emerges: An Oklahoma immigration attorney has announced he’s running for a state Senate seat that is likely to become vacant Wednesday when state Sen. Ralph Shortey resigns. Michael Brooks-Jimenez, a Democrat, ran against Shortey in 2014 but only garnered about 42 percent of the vote. No one else has announced their intention to succeed Shortey, who is facing three felony prostitution charges after police found him in a hotel room with a 17-year-old. Brooks-Jimenez wrote in a news release that working families in southwest Oklahoma City haven’t had a voice at the Oklahoma Capitol [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmaker charged with child prostitution filed odd bills: A Republican state senator charged with child prostitution once proposed a bill to prohibit the use of human fetuses in food and spent 17 years working with a program that introduces young people to government. Sen. Ralph Shortey, who was elected to represent part of the Oklahoma City area, planned to resign Wednesday after being accused of soliciting sex from a 17-year-old boy, according to his attorney. Joe Dorman, a former Democratic state representative who was active in the same youth program, said the 35-year-old lawmaker was “peculiar” and “a little quirky.” [Associated Press]

Osage Nation voters approve redefinition of marriage: The Osage Nation has voted to change the definition of marriage in an election that drew an overwhelming number of absentee ballots. The tribe will now define marriage as a union between “two persons” rather than “a man and a woman.” More than 1,100 people sent in absentee ballots but only 347 people showed up for onsite balloting during a two-day early voting period and on Monday, the actual election day [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“You know, we can’t choose which conditions we get, so I don’t know how we can choose which conditions we want to pay for.”

-Autumn Ryan, an advocate for Autism insurance reform, arguing that SB 478, a bill that would allow insurance companies from out of state to sell policies to people and businesses in Oklahoma, would endanger coverage for Autism (Source)

Number of the Day


Average lost health insurance tax credit for an Oklahoma family of four with $40k annual income under Congressional Republicans’ health care proposal.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement: Studies of voucher programs in several U.S. cities, the states of Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and in Chile and India, find limited improvements at best in student achievement and school district performance from even large-scale programs. In the few cases in which test scores increased, other factors, namely increased public accountability, not private school competition, seem to be more likely drivers. And high rates of attrition from private schools among voucher users in several studies raises concerns. The second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools [Economic Policy Institute].

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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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