In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers OK bill criminalizing performing abortion

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 lawmakers OK bill criminalizing performing abortion: Oklahoma lawmakers have moved to effectively ban abortion in their state by making it a felony for doctors to perform the procedure, an effort the bill’s sponsor said Thursday is aimed at ultimately overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The bill , which abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights says is the first of its kind in the nation, also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma [Associated Press]. The Oklahoma House also passed legislation that requires the state Department of Health to develop informational material “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society,” but lawmakers didn’t approve any funding for it [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma House OKs earned income tax credit change: In a late-night legislative session that went past midnight, state House members voted early Friday morning to eliminate the refundable aspect of Oklahoma’s earned income tax credit. Senate Bill 1604 is expected to generate $28.9 million for the state budget. …Several House members argued against the bill, saying it would target Oklahoma’s working poor. The measure passed 51-45. The bill now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin [NewsOK]. If the measure goes into effect, a key tax credit for working families will be devastated [OK Policy].

Oklahoma lawmakers call for president’s impeachment, file religious-accommodation bill over transgender bathroom directive: Oklahoma Republican lawmakers are calling for the impeachment of the president and other federal officials and for students to be able to claim that their religious beliefs allow them to be exempted from using restrooms where transgender individuals are allowed. They filed two measures late Thursday in response to last week’s federal directive that schools must allow transgender students to use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lethal injection process muddled by ‘inexcusable failure,’ grand jury finds: A grand jury on Thursday sharply criticized state officials charged with carrying out executions in Oklahoma, describing them as responsible for a litany of failures and avoidable errors. The grand jury’s 106-page report, released Thursday, paints these officials as careless and, in some cases, reckless. The missteps described by the grand jury include a pharmacist ordering the wrong drug for executions, multiple state employees failing to notice or tell anyone about the mixup and a high-ranking official in the governor’s office urging others to carry out an execution even with the incorrect drug. [Washington Post]. The full report is available here. Recent troubles are nothing new for Oklahoma’s execution system [NewsOK]. 

‘Don’t cut me’: Disabled people, hospital execs watch legislative stalemate: Jordan Martin usually spends her time volunteering at an animal shelter in Chickasha. But she spent Thursday at the state Capitol asking lawmakers to do something about the budget. Martin, who sat in a wheelchair in the Capitol’s rotunda with a caregiver by her side, visited the Legislature with other developmentally disabled people wearing T-shirts and stickers emblazoned with the motto “Don’t Cut Me.” Lawmakers might not have a choice. In less than a day, legislative leaders lost two votes that could have been worth nearly $300 million for the budget, which severely dampened the prospects for a fiscal year without significant cuts [Journal Record]. Oklahoma has a responsible solution to tobacco tax standoff [OK Policy].

Small Oil and Gas Producers Urge Lawmakers to Keep or Amend Rebate for Unprofitable Wells: The deadline to fund state government is rapidly approaching, and legislators are struggling to bridge a $1.3 billion budget gap. One idea is to end a tax rebate for unprofitable oil and gas wells, but small oil and gas producers say their safety net shouldn’t be used to plug the state’s budget hole [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Even amid the energy bust, Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks exceed $400 million per year [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House approves bill to put $12.5M cap on ‘at-risk’ oil wells: In a dramatic late night session, the state House of Representatives on Thursday voted to place a $12.5 million annual cap on rebates that can be claimed on production from “economically at-risk” oil and natural gas wells. House Speaker Jeff Hickman had pulled the bill back from consideration earlier Thursday after members passed an amendment to cap the rebates at $25 million a year rather than abolish them as originally proposed [NewsOK].

New state law seeks better use tax collections: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation that allows the state to be more aggressive in getting online retailers to collect use taxes for sales to Oklahoma customers. E-tailers that have a physical presence in the state — such as the online arms of Target or Wal-Mart — have long been required to collect use taxes on sales to Oklahoma buyers. House Bill 2531 requires other online sellers to either begin voluntarily collecting the taxes on sales into the state or send their Oklahoma customers a notice at the end of each year stating the total amount of purchases and a reminder that taxes are due [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Better collection of taxes from online sales is one revenue option to help build a fair and sustainable budget [OK Policy].

Detours on the road to a balanced budget: Legislative leaders have no one but themselves to blame for the blood pressure-spiking brinkmanship at the Capitol this week. It’s not as if they suddenly became aware in the session’s final hours that they either had to raise revenue to patch a $1.3 billion budget hole or impose further draconian cuts in state services. Like students who wait to start a major project until the night before it’s due, budget writers fiddled behind closed doors for three months – finally dribbling out revenue-generating proposals just three weeks before the May 27 deadline [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Two ballot questions aim to decrease the rate of incarceration in Oklahoma: It’s no secret that Oklahoma consistently leads the nation in the incarceration of women, in fact it not only leads but dominates with twice the national average per capita, primarily for low level or nonviolent offenses. Oklahoma also has the second highest overall incarceration rate per capita of any state in the country. While the prison capacity reaches as high as 122 percent, the state spends more than $500 million a year to place and then keep people locked up [Red Dirt Report]. Governor Fallin’s new, inclusive approach to criminal justice reform is bearing fruit [OK Policy].

Top economist: Oklahoma’s historic tax credits program one of nation’s best, shouldn’t be cut: Oklahoma’s tax credits for revitalizing historic buildings are a model standard that if axed by lawmakers would topple crucial investment dollars in the state and drive developers outside our borders, according to a national economist commissioned to study the program. Donovan Rypkema, principal of PlaceEconomics, on Tuesday emphasized the state’s historic tax credits are responsible for about $520 million in investments over the past 15 years [Tulsa World].

Struck by truck, bridge over major Oklahoma City road falls: An Oklahoma City bridge over a major roadway collapsed Thursday after being hit by a tractor-trailer rig. No one was hurt, but the highway will likely be shut down for a significant time. “A semi made contact with the bridge and it collapsed — we’re not sure what the cause of him crashing into the bridge was,” Oklahoma City police Sgt. Ashley Peters said [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day 

“Google it.”

– Steve Mullins, former General Counsel to Governor Fallin, telling Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Miller that potassium chloride and potassium acetate “were basically the same drug” on the day of scheduled execution of Richard Glossip. Glossip’s execution was later postponed due to the drug mix-up. Potassium acetate had previously been used in place of potassium chloride during the botched execution of Charles Warner (Source). 

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s 2015 Bicycle Friendly State Ranking, down from 42nd in 2014.

Source: League of American Bicyclists

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid Improves Financial Well-Being, Research Finds: Expanding Medicaid to low-income adults under health reform improves the financial well-being of those newly eligible for Medicaid, a recent analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) finds. Adults in the geographic areas within expansion states with the largest share of low-income, uninsured individuals have fewer debts sent to third-party collection agencies — and smaller total debts in collection — than adults in similar areas of non-expansion states. Improved financial well-being can translate into greater access to credit, higher savings, and higher consumption of goods and services [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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