In The Know: Oklahoma Legislature to consider 2,000-plus measures in 2014

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma legislators have filed more than 2,000 bills and resolutions for the session beginning Feb. 3, including another attempt to lower the state’s income tax and efforts to restructure pay for state employees and retirees. Experts at OK Policy’s State Budget Summit pushed back against the movement to further cut Oklahoma income taxes, and the Oklahoman Editorial Board wrote that income tax cuts need to take a back seat while funding for core services is still stretched thin.

Rep. James Lankford will run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Coburn. Rep. Tom Cole and Attorney General Scott Pruitt said they will not run. Oklahoma’s public health lab is close to losing its accreditation because of serious disrepair. The Tulsa World endorsed changing Oklahoma’s gas tax to a percentage of the price rather than a flat number of cents per gallon. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed this idea here.

Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is worsening as salaries remain among the nation’s lowest and workplace pressures mount. NewsOK reports that despite some mixed results, public charter schools in Oklahoma City are generally outperforming traditional public schools. Rep. Jason Nelson is proposing a bill that would allow public education funds to be used for private and home schools. Sen. Kyle Loveless is proposing to require school districts with fewer than 250 students to consolidate administration.

The Oklahoma Board Corrections selected Robert Patton as Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections Director. Patton is currently the Assistant Director of Corrections in Arizona. M. Scott Carter writes that lawmakers need to take action to finish the American Indian Cultural Center this year. The Number of the Day is the number of bills filed for Oklahoma’s 2014  Legislative Session. In today’s Policy Note, Jared Bernstein examines the limits of marriage as a path out of poverty.

In The News

Oklahoma Legislature to consider 2,000-plus measures in 2014

Oklahoma legislators will have more than 2,000 bills and resolutions waiting for them when they open their session Feb. 3, including another attempt to lower the state’s income tax and efforts to restructure pay for state employees and retirees. When last week’s bill-filing deadline passed, senators had put forward 976 proposals, plus 35 joint resolutions. House members filed 1,197 bills and 23 regsolutions. Appropriations bills are handled separately.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Experts disagree with movement to cut Oklahoma income taxes

Cutting income taxes. The state’s been here before, and quite recently. “The [Oklahoma] Supreme Court threw the legislature a lifeline by striking down 2032,” said Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt at the organization’s budget summit last week. As passed, House Bill 2032 would have cut the state income tax to 5 percent in 2015 and 4.85 percent after that. The state Supreme Court threw it out in December because it also provided money for capitol repairs.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

See also: Oklahoma lawmakers should put budget writing ahead of tax cuts from NewsOK

Rep. James Lankford to run for Senate; Cole and Pruitt bow out

Rep. James Lankford has decided to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Coburn and will announce his intentions Monday afternoon, multiple political sources in Oklahoma said Sunday. Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, declined early Sunday afternoon to comment. Also, the sources said, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas and state Sen. Clark Jolley — both Republicans from Edmond — are expected to announce their intentions to run for Lankford’s seat, which includes most of Oklahoma County and Pottawatomie and Seminole counties.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma’s public health lab is ‘crumbling from the inside out’

Oklahoma’s public health lab is in a fluctuating state of disrepair, with a failing air conditioning unit, drains that frequently back up and no room to expand. Public health officials warn that if Oklahoma does not update its public health lab, it will not only prevent the lab from growing but also will potentially cause the lab to lose its accreditation. And without accreditation, the lab cannot perform the thousands of tests that its scientists provide to county health departments and hospitals across Oklahoma.

Read more from NewsOK.

Time to consider price-based fuel tax system

The Oklahoma Academy -— a nonpartisan public policy advocacy group dedicated to improving our state —- has called for the state to shift its fuel tax from a per-gallon levy to a percentage tax on the wholesale price. Right now, gasoline and diesel fuel is taxed by the gallon. If you buy a gallon of gasoline, the price you pay includes 16 cents of state taxes. For diesel fuel it’s 13 cents. Those tax levels remain the same whether the price of the gasoline is $2 a gallon or $4 a gallon. The proposal would mean that as the price of fuel rises, so would the amount of taxes paid. So, a price-based fuel tax is not going to be an instantly popular idea, but it has some merit.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Previously: Oklahoma’s gas tax needs a tune-up from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma teacher need reaches crisis point

Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is worsening as salaries remain among the nation’s lowest and workplace pressures mount, prompting school districts statewide to implement strategies to retain and recruit educators. Tulsa Public Schools has long faced the high teacher turnover rates typical for urban school districts, but the trends of baby boomer teachers retiring and newly trained teachers coming out of Oklahoma colleges and universities and moving to higher-paying states have exacerbated the problem. Suburban districts often have a deeper pool of candidates than do urban areas, where educators face different challenges. But they, too, are increasingly feeling the effects of the decline in teacher candidates.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Charter schools make their mark on OKC district

Despite some mixed results, charter schools in the Oklahoma City school district generally are outperforming their traditional public school counterparts. And that has district administrators taking notice. Once perceived as a threat to other public schools because of their nontraditional methods, the success of the district’s 13 charters, including five A’s and three B’s on the latest state-issued report cards, has prompted a desire for collaboration.

Read more from NewsOK.

Proposed bill would allow public funding of private schools, home school

Using public school money for private education needs, that’s what one lawmaker is proposing with the Oklahoma Education Savings Account Act. The bill helps parents pay for tutors and private school tuition if they feel their child’s needs aren’t being met in public school. House Bill 3398 by Rep. Jason Nelson would give money from public schools to parents to pay for tuition, tutors, therapists or textbooks, at home or at private schools. Nelson says funding for a student could range from $1,500 to $15,000 based on showing significant need.

Read more from News9.

Bill ‘nibbles’ at school consolidation

Consolidating Oklahoma’s school districts has been an idea floated by some but has never gained any real traction. Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Okla. City, is a believer in district consolidation. But he’s looking to take a more subtle step with Senate Bill 1321, rather than major reform. SB 1321 would require any school districts with fewer than 250 students to consolidate administrative staff with a neighboring district once the current superintendent leaves.

Read more from Capital City OK.

Oklahoma Board of Corrections selects new director

The board that oversees the state’s overcrowded prison system has selected a new director. The Board of Corrections has selected Robert Patton as the new Director of Corrections for the Department of Corrections. This is the first selection in 8 years. Patton is currently the Assistant Director of Corrections in Arizona. Patton has been Arizona’s division director of operations for four years and has been in corrections for over 30 years. His salary will be $160,000 per year.

Read more from News9.

M. Scott Carter: Forget the politics, keep the promises

If you listened closely during the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s legislative breakfast, you might have heard what sounded like an agreement. Four members of the Oklahoma Legislature – party leaders from both sides – each said that something needed to be done about the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. Two Republicans, two Democrats – but pretty much one voice: Each lawmaker onstage agreed that the unfinished museum needed to be completed.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Quote of the Day

The pool of candidates is smaller now than I have seen in my entire career. This is a reflection of a toxic political climate where education is considered a liability, not an investment, by many of our policy makers. This is a self-imposed crisis due to a lack of leadership that should concern us all.

-Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow, whose District is among many in Oklahoma that are having trouble finding applicants for teacher and librarian positions (Source:

Number of the Day


Number of bills filed for Oklahoma’s 2014  Legislative Session, which begins February 3rd.

Source: Associated Press

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The limits of marriage as a path out of poverty

Every time I see an article advocating marriage as a solution to poverty, I have a decidedly mixed reaction. There are compelling aspects to the argument. Obviously, two earners will prevent poverty-level incomes more readily than one; poverty rates for married families with kids are far below those of single-parent families. And there’s considerable research showing that much else being equal, child outcomes are better when kids grow up with two parents rather than one. Of course, “much else” is often not equal, and children are often better off outside of dysfunctional or abusive marriages.

Read more from Economix.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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