In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers in late-night meeting advance bill for temporary oil, gas tax increase

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Today In The News

Oklahoma lawmakers in late-night meeting advance bill for temporary oil, gas tax increase: In dual committees that met after 11 p.m. Monday, the Oklahoma Legislature advanced a temporary raise in the gross production tax and rejected a bill targeting state agency “swag.” House Bill 2429 raises the oil and gas production tax rate to 4 percent on wells that are taxed at 1 percent. While new horizontal wells are taxed at 2 percent, some older wells drilled between 2011 and 2015 are taxed at the lower discount rate [NewsOK]. A full repeal of tax oil and gas tax breaks could bring more than $300 million in FY 2018 [OK Policy].

Oklahoma city business groups call for the Legislature to vote on criminal justice reform bills: Frustrated with a House committee chairman’s failure to call for votes on several criminal justice reform initiatives, leaders of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Tulsa Regional Chamber issued a joint statement Monday urging House leadership to get involved. “It is midafternoon on the day everyone was assured these bills would get the hearing they deserve, yet no meeting is scheduled,” Roy Williams, president & CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, and Mike Neal, president & CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, said in a joint news release Monday [NewsOK]. Misguided budget concerns are endangering criminal justice reform [OK Policy].

Without deal, Oklahoma House advances bills with $200 million in revenue: House lawmakers have begun to advance revenue in a piecemeal fashion absent a deal on filling Oklahoma’s budget shortfall. The House budget committees originally were scheduled to meet in the early afternoon Monday, but leadership pushed back the meetings several times. The latest meeting time, for which there was no agenda, was scheduled at 9 p.m. as of press time. A special session call from Gov. Mary Fallin, although expected, had not yet materialized [NewsOK]. The revenue-raising bill is not a tax increase, legislators contended [Tulsa World].

Tiresome, disappointing games played at the Legislature: Why do Oklahoma voters hold the Legislature in low esteem? One explanation is provided by the continued name-calling and back-and-forth and gamesmanship stemming from negotiations on how to fill an $878 million budget hole. But there are certainly others. Recall that early in this session, barely two months after voters had given strong approval to two state questions dealing with criminal justice reform, members filed seven bills to significantly change the language adopted by voters. Why? Because, one Republican senator said, voters didn’t understand what they were voting for when they approved State Questions 780 and 781 [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Still no budget deal as end of session looms: After spending Friday night and much of Saturday at the Capitol, lawmakers still didn’t manage to pitch a budget package on Monday. The weekend featured a 30-minute goodbye speech from a departing member and a few non-revenue policy bills. There were a few press conferences at which each party blamed the other for the budget impasse, but they didn’t reach a compromise [Journal Record].

Special Legislative Session Could Deepen Budget Deficit Lawmakers Need To Fill: When state lawmakers walked away Saturday from a rare weekend legislative session, without a deal on the budget, it all but guaranteed that they will have to complete their work in a special session. That possibility would further deepen the budget hole they are trying to fill. The regular session of the Oklahoma Legislature ends Friday. State law requires that any measure that would raise new revenue be approved at least a week prior to the end of the regular session, which didn’t occur [News9].

Lawmakers are back at work after weekend session yields no budget plan: Oklahoma lawmakers will be back at work today after budget talks broke down this weekend. Governor Mary Fallin will have to call a concurrent special session as a result as there is a constitutional ban on passing any revenue bills during the final week in session, and the House and Senate are scheduled to adjourn this Friday. Lawmakers met this weekend in the state capitol but were not able to come to an agreement, blaming the gross production tax on oil and gas companies for the problem [KSWO].

Committee approves bill shifting education funding: One legislator’s attempt to put more equity into education funding has critics calling the deal a Robin Hood measure. Senate Bill 859 essentially shuffles $7 million in car tag taxes away from school districts with high local tax revenues. Districts close to expensive developments would lose out. For example, Pryor Public Schools benefits from its proximity to a Google location, and the district would lose almost $1 million in state funding. State Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, carried the bill. He said it would achieve two goals. It would shore up more money for the Legislature to control, instead of maintaining more so-called off-the-top dollars, and it would give more money to the poorer schools that need it [Journal Record].

How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas: In a gas field here in Wyoming’s struggling energy corridor, nearly 2,000 miles from Washington, the Trump administration’s regulatory reversal is crowning an early champion. Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen [New York Times].

A time for reform: The Sept. 16 shooting of an unarmed black man by a white Tulsa police officer has brought several calls for change from people affected, and we think a lot of those ideas have merit. Based on the public comments of the jury that heard the manslaughter case against Officer Betty Shelby, the family of Terence Crutcher and the proposals of the grass-roots group We the People Oklahoma, we endorse this program for reform [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

The GPT: Oklahoma’s Oil and Gas Cognitive Dissonance: Oklahoma and oil & gas, sometimes like peas and carrots or sometimes like oil and water — at least when it comes to our complicated economic history. We have a lot to thank the industry for and a lot to be ashamed of. The production of oil and gas in Oklahoma should have been the key to economic prosperity in our state — had we appreciated it, had we nurtured discipline, stewardship, conservation and accountability. But we didn’t [Lanie James / Medium].

Many Oklahoma legislators refuse to discuss their choices for their children’s education: The question wasn’t even complete when Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, kicked me out of his Capitol office. A Tulsa World and FOX23 News investigation found that 35 percent of the members of the Oklahoma Legislature have chosen to educate their children in public schools. But that’s not an accurate number. Like Rep. Roberts, a little more than half of the elected lawmakers refuse to discuss their own decisions regarding family education or provide comments about whether that makes a difference in how they govern [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Oil and gas leaders, it’s time to step up (again) and decide — are you a part of this community or are you here for the ‘shareholder value?’ You need to answer this carefully because if you want to treat Oklahoma and its citizens with a ‘it’s just business’ attitude — we can do that and you’ll be facing citizens demanding more than just 7 percent GPT.”

-Lanie James, a former oil and gas communications professional, urging energy companies to contribute to solving the state’s budget crisis through higher gross production taxes (Source)

Number of the Day


Approximate percentage of Oklahoma births covered by SoonerCare in 2016

Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Not Trained to Not Kill: Every year, around 1,000 people are shot and killed by police, according to the databases. Of those victims, more than half were wielding guns, leaving officers few choices in how to respond. But in the rest of the cases, where people were holding knives, toy weapons, or no weapons at all, police might have taken additional steps, like using communication skills or waiting for backup, to try to defuse the situations [American Public Media].

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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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