In The Know: Oklahoma Legislature will be recalled for special session

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 Legislature will be recalled for special session: In the wake of a court ruling that stripped $215 million from four agency budgets, Gov. Mary Fallin said she will call a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature. The governor said she officially will call a special session within a few days, and that it would convene Sept. 25. In August, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected lawmakers’ attempt to raise revenue from cigarettes, saying the Legislature implemented an unconstitutional tax [NewsOK]. Lawmakers have a second chance to get the budget right, and they shouldn’t waste it [OK Policy].

Oklahoma higher education officials await special session on state budget shortfall: A midyear adjustment would cost higher education about $25 million if lawmakers decide to make an across-the-board budget cut to make up for revenue they expected to get from a cigarette “fee” ruled unconstitutional. The 3.17 percent cut in funding would be in addition to the 6.1 percent cut higher education already absorbed in the fiscal year 2018 budget, Amanda Paliotta said Wednesday in a report to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s ACT scores drop as record number takes test: Oklahoma’s ACT scores dropped in every category this year, and the state’s composite score fell below 20 for the first time this decade. The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test that measures the skills taught in schools and deemed important for success in first-year college courses. The number of Oklahoma students taking the ACT increased from 28,988 in 2016 to 42,405 this year as a result of the state Education Department funding the test for all juniors statewide [NewsOK].

Student loan debt grows to a record $1.4 trillion: Student loan debt in the United States has grown more than $833 billion in the past decade to a record $1.4 trillion. A new analysis by the global information services company Experian shows 13.4 percent of U.S. consumers have one or more student loans with an average balance of $34,144. The numbers are better in Oklahoma, which is among the states with the lowest student loan debt, according to multiple studies [NewsOK].

Insurance Commissioner John Doak tells Congress that ACA in Oklahoma ‘can’t be sustained’: As the U.S. Senate considers temporary patches to the nation’s health insurance system, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak told a Senate committee Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act has led the state along a “flawed path” that cannot be repaired with minor fixes alone. “What is happening now can’t be sustained and we expect that eventually Oklahomans will have no marketplace options,” he told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions [NewsOK]. With insurance premiums rising amid congressional Republicans’ failed attack on the Affordable Care Act, a group of bureaucrats whom few Americans can identify hold considerable power over consumers’ health plans: state insurance commissioners [Washington Post].

Prosperity Policy: A blow to special interests: What the Legislature gives with a simple majority, it may take away with a simple majority – at least when it involves tax exemptions. That’s what the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled last week when it upheld the partial repeal of a long-standing exemption to the state sales tax. In a 5-4 ruling, the court rejected a challenge to House Bill 2433, which lawmakers passed late in the last legislative session to help close the state’s massive budget shortfall. Under HB 2433, buyers of motor vehicles must now pay a 1.25-percent sales tax, along with the 3.25-percent excise tax that was already being charged in Oklahoma [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Eastern Flyer update: Lawmakers hold study session over Tulsa-OKC passenger rail service: Lawmakers met Wednesday at the Capitol to talk about the stalled Eastern Flyer passenger rail project. Tulsa and Oklahoma City leaders both have committed millions of dollars to upgrading transit hubs specifically for their railroad depots. Construction is underway in Oklahoma City at its downtown train depot. It’s where the Heartland Flyer leaves every morning taking passengers down to Fort Worth and back [KJRH].

Task force takes a first look at Corporation Commission: State officials said they’re taking a fresh approach to examining an agency that regulates several of Oklahoma’s largest industries. Energy and Environment Secretary Michael Teague said he had no preconceived outcome for the task force he’s leading to examine the Corporation Commission. There’s a good chance the group will find the agency doesn’t have enough resources to handle everything it oversees, he said. And there isn’t another state that has a parallel agency that the group could study, he said [Journal Record].

Former Inspector General Suing State For Wrongful Termination After Narconon Whistleblowing: A state Inspector General who wanted to shut down the Scientology-based Narconon Arrowhead drug treatment facility is suing the state. Kim Poff says she was fired after blowing the whistle on an attempted cover up. A motion asking for a jury trial in the case was filed in Federal Court Tuesday. In the filing Poff says she not only lost her job with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse when she pushed to shut down Narconon, but was then fired from her new job at DHS when her attorney told News 9 about what was going on [News9].

Oklahoma County clerk develops website to ease access to records: Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten has developed a new website to give taxpayers access to county records by simply talking on their phone. Hooten will demonstrate OKCC.Online to the Board of County Commissioners at their meeting Wednesday. He now owns the URL domain name OKCC.Online, but said he will donate it to the board. The new site will provide a way to check public records by voice control and will accept payment if someone wants a document delivered, Hooten said [NewsOK].

U.S. attorney nominees on Thursday committee agenda; Bridenstine NASA bid official: Trent Shores and Brian Kuester are expected to get the thumbs-up from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning. Shores and Kuester are the Trump administration nominees to head the U.S. Attorneys offices for the Tulsa-based Northern and Muskogee-based Eastern districts of Oklahoma. The two are among 11 nominations to be considered during the committee’s business meeting Thursday. Neither nomination is controversial [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

Fatal hit-and-run, assaults send shock waves through Tulsa’s homeless population: Just before dark Tuesday, three people retreated underneath an overpass in west downtown, behind the Tulsa Jail. They’d trekked up a steep concrete incline to their makeshift shelter at the apex, just beneath the bridge. It’s open to the front, partly enclosed on the sides by metal support beams. Every time a car passes, a low, loud rumble fills the tiny space. Staci Owens, 44, and Shawn Teague, 40, sat on a ledge on an assortment of foam pads and blankets. Cory Banta, 39, sat below them with his back against the ledge and his legs in front of him, resting on the slope [Tulsa World].

Former Oklahoma state senator accused in federal indictment with child sex trafficking and child pornography offenses: Former state Sen. Ralph Shortey wept in court Wednesday after being charged with four federal child sex crimes that will require him to spend at least 15 years in prison if convicted. A federal grand jury meeting in Oklahoma City returned a four-count indictment Tuesday charging Shortey, 35, with child sex trafficking and child pornography offenses [NewsOK].

Oklahoma senator charged after police investigation into Uber driver’s complaint: State Sen. Bryce Marlatt was charged Wednesday with sexual battery after Oklahoma City police completed an investigation into an Uber driver’s complaint. Marlatt, R-Woodward, was charged with the felony in Oklahoma County District Court. The Uber driver told police Marlatt, 40, “made advances on her during transit,” according to a police report [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“The longer this goes on without a solution, the bigger the cuts would have to be because you have fewer months to spread it out. That’s why, with the clock ticking, it’s incredibly important we have solution sooner rather than later.”

– Oklahoma State Regent Jeff Hickman on possible cuts to higher ed depending on the outcome of special session (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of driver fatalities in Oklahoma in 2014

Source: AARP

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Real Opioid Emergency: Every Friday evening, with sadness and with pride, I make a 90-minute trek from Columbia University to Sing Sing Correctional Facility to teach a drugs and behavior course. My students, who are bright and predominantly black, enthusiastically engage with the curriculum, not least because some of them have a personal stake in the subject. Several are serving time for a drug-related offense, as are hundreds of thousands of other Americans.On Aug. 10, driven largely by public perception that many white Americans are experiencing problems and even dying from opioid use, Donald Trump proclaimed the opioid problem a national emergency. The president’s announcement appeared to consolidate a shift in the way we view certain drug users. They are now patients in need of our help and understanding, rather than criminals deserving scorn and incarceration [The New York Times].

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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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