In The Know: Oklahoma Senate pro tem says another revenue failure is a ‘real possibility’

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.

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Today In The News

Oklahoma Senate pro tem says another revenue failure is a ‘real possibility’: Oklahoma faces the “real possibility” of a revenue failure this budget year, Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz said Friday. “We’re six months into the budget year, and there’s been no real trend,” said Schulz, R-Altus. “After December’s numbers, I think (a revenue failure) is a real possibility.” Revenue failures occur when deposits to the state’s general revenue fund fall more than 5 percent short of the estimate on which a fiscal year budget is based [Tulsa World].

Thousands gather Saturday at Oklahoma Capitol for Women’s March: When asked why she had traveled to Oklahoma City for a rally and march at the state Capitol, Natalie Taft pointed to her daughters who sat in a circle playing a clapping game and wearing orange and green flowers in their hair. “We are here for equality,” said Taft, who joined a crowd of thousands Saturday for the Women’s March on Oklahoma. “But I am here for them.” [NewsOK].

Oklahomans in Washington see inauguration from all angles: Before Friday, Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Pam Pollard had gone to just about every kind of political event imaginable except a presidential inauguration. Now she’s done that, too. “The scale of it is enormous,” she said by telephone Friday afternoon. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin attended the ceremony with her husband, Wade Christensen [Tulsa World].

President Obama signs Senator Lankford bill into law before leaving office: In one of his final acts as President of the United States, President Obama today signed into law a bill introduced by Senator James Lankford (R-OK). The President signed the TALENT Act, bipartisan legislation to codify the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, making permanent a pathway for government to attract experienced technology entrepreneurs and innovators to public service. This was President Obama’s final bill signed into law [The Ada News].

State lawmakers file more than 2,200 bills for upcoming session: Oklahoma lawmakers filed more than 2,200 bills and resolutions before Thursday night’s deadline for the first session of the 56th Legislature, which begins Feb. 6. The total is about 200 more than filed for the first session of the 55th Legislature in 2015 and about 200 less than for the first session of the 54th Legislature in 2014. Filings are generally more for a first session because many measures are carried over to the second session the following year [Tulsa World]. This is the time people get very worried and spend a lot of energy on measures that may be going nowhere [OK Policy]

Abortion, firearms among topics of bills filed in Oklahoma: Some familiar topics like abortion and firearms are among those in the more than 2,200 bills and resolutions filed by Oklahoma House and Senate members ahead of the 2017 legislative session that begins Feb. 6. The 2,242 bills and resolutions filed by this week’s deadline is about average for the first session of a Legislature in Oklahoma. There were 2,091 filed in 2015 and 2,466 introduced in 2013. While closing a massive budget gap and finding a way to increase teacher pay will be among the priorities for Republican leaders, hot-button issues like abortion, firearms and the death penalty also will be on the agenda [Associated Press].

Oklahoma Senate bill targets city, school gun critics: A measure filed at the Oklahoma Senate aims to silence critics in the gun control debate who use public funds to get their word out. The bill would ban the use of taxpayer money to lobby against gun rights expansion. State Sen. Nathan Dahm’s legislation covers all public employees, but on Tuesday he specifically cited attempts by universities and local governments to sway opinion about his bills and others filed by lawmakers. Those institutions regularly hire lobbyists to advocate for or against a broad swath of measures, and Oklahoma’s higher education system has come out strongly against proposals that would, for example, allow guns on campuses [NewsOK].

Proposal would delay teacher retirement benefits in Oklahoma by 2 years: New Oklahoma teachers would have to wait for retirement two years longer than their colleagues under a bill proposed in the state House. State Rep. Randy McDaniel McDaniel also filed a bill that would let new teachers choose a separate defined-contribution plan where the teacher would pay at least 4.5 percent of their salary toward retirement. Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said the measures would turn teachers away in a time when the state already is experiencing a shortage [NewsOK].

Oklahoma employers push for increased higher ed funding: Devery Youngblood and other employers in Oklahoma have watched the last two legislative sessions largely from the sidelines as advocates and critics debate education spending, specifically higher education. Last session, higher education funding was slashed by more than $153 million, or 16 percent. At the same time, Youngblood said Oklahoma employers are having a hard time finding people to fill open positions. He and other employers are done sitting on the sidelines [The Norman Transcript].

Tax increase would help close budget deficit, under proposed bill: A plan to bring the state nearly $500 million in recurring revenue relies on tax increases and closing loopholes that benefit businesses and the wealthy, a state lawmaker said. Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City) has introduced House Bill 1279, which takes aim at closing a budget shortfall that’s nearing $900 million. The bill would raise taxes on individuals making at least $200,000 and families bringing in at least $400,000, which Dunnington said is only about three percent of Oklahomans. If passed, the bill would also require businesses to combine all their tax returns and pay corporate tax on one return. Right now, Dunnington said, businesses can skirt the laws by setting up subsidiary companies in tax-free states and moving their assets so they pay less [KFOR]. Rep. Dunnington’s revenue proposals are among several that have been suggested by OK Policy [OK Policy].

Senate bill would alter DUI penalties: First-time offenders of the drinking-and-driving law could have a new punishment option rather than having their license revoked. Senate Bill 643 provides for an alternative penalty if it’s someone’s first time to be caught driving under the influence. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s general counsel, Stephen Krise, said the change would give the department the ability to handle offenders in a more fitting manner. He said the agencies involved are fooling themselves if they think revoking someone’s license keeps them from driving [The Journal Record].

Legislators line up to debate police property seizures: State Sen. Kyle Loveless is once again filing a bill that would prohibit authorities from keeping property seized from people who are not convicted of a crime, and once again the legislation is being criticized as an affront to law enforcement. The Oklahoma City Republican was unable to get such a measure out of committee last year. He has added new elements to try to make it more palatable this time. Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, a former assistant district attorney, is already lining up in opposition [NewsOK]. New Mexico stopped civil asset forfeiture abuse; Oklahoma can, too [OK Policy].

Tulsa, Oklahoma counties address jail changes, mentally ill inmates: In the coming months, the Tulsa County sheriff’s office will open mental health pods to better address the needs of inmates with mental illnesses. A full-time psychiatrist and nurses will work throughout the unit, and the jail administration hopes to find a way to provide individual and group therapy. However, although the pods are necessary, officials point out that they are not a solution to Oklahoma’s larger issue: a mental health and substance abuse system that has been underfunded and overburdened for decades [NewsOK].

DOC asks Legislature for two new prisons: Oklahoma’s prisons are past capacity, so state officials have asked for new ones. The Department of Corrections requested almost $850 million to build two medium-security prisons. The state’s prison population is at 108 percent of capacity, said Alex Gerszewski, the department’s spokesman. Agency officials projected there will be a 25-percent increase in prisoners over the next decade. “That’s going to put us at an overwhelming number,” he said. “We don’t have room for our current population” [The Journal Record].

Oklahoma drug rehab center continues to operate but Stacy’s Law advocates wonder why: After the death of 20-year old Stacy Dawn Murphy at a Church of Scientology-backed drug rehab program in Pittsburg County, the state enacted a new law to provide more oversight of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. However, Narconon Arrowhead, where Murphy and three other clients died, continues to operate legally because the law allows only limited supervision from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services [The Oklahoman].

Cherokee Nation could have congressional delegate: One way the Cherokee Nation could increase its effectiveness in Washington, D.C., would be to seat an Indian delegate in the House of Representatives. The Cherokee Nation has had the opportunity to implement this right for years, in accordance with 1785’s Treaty of Hopewell and 1835’s Treaty of New Echota with the United States. The right is embedded in the U.S Constitution and also maintained in the tribe’s constitution. While the Cherokee Nation hasn’t taken advantage of this provision in the modern era of its constitution, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the tribe isn’t missing out on anything [Muskogee Phoenix].

Oklahoma Capitol restoration work uncovers mysteries in hidden spaces: Restoration specialists at the Oklahoma State Capitol are scratching their heads over unusual discoveries made inside the walls and in other hidden spaces of the 100-year-old building. Amid a $245 million renovation project, workers wonder why metal-framed windows and screens were once installed in a cavernous basement, then painted over with thick beige paint before being covered up. And what was the purpose of a large green door surrounded by glass panels, also walled up? [Tulsa World]

The Oklahoman editorial board’s health rhetoric still irrational: It comes as little surprise that The Oklahoman’s editorial board decided to write in support of congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. What’s surprising, however, is that the editorial author attempted to argue that access to women’s health services might actually improve if such funding is directed to community health centers instead. To read about The Oklahoman’s tangential support for community health centers — and the broad populations they serve — is positive. It just doesn’t seem congruent with so many other health care arguments that the paper’s editorial board makes [NonDoc]. Oklahoma’s support for community health centers had dramatically declined in recent years [OK Policy].

Behind the Scenes of New York Times journalists’ trip to Tulsa: I’ll always remember the time Nick Kristof and I went to jail. This fall, during our reporting journey, Nick and I visited the Tulsa County Jail to look closely at America’s mass incarceration problem. (Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of female incarceration in the country — which experts say is largely due to stringent drug laws.) In this crowded dorm, the incarcerated women were still people, clinging to their humanity. The circumstances of their incarceration may have been painful, and many were mothers who had been separated from their children [New York Times].

Quote of the Day

“If you actually look at the trends, recidivism has gotten worse as our prisons have gotten more crowded. I’m not surprised that the DOC is over capacity because we basically have been throwing the key out on people for a long time in this state.”

-John Carl, a criminology professor in the University of Oklahoma’s sociology department, speaking about the Oklahoma Department of Corrections requesting $850 million to build two new prisons in Oklahoma because the current prison system is seriously overcrowded (Source).

Number of the Day


Number of bills and resolutions filed for the 2017 session of the Oklahoma Legislature.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Punished twice: Prisons across the U.S. routinely flout the Americans With Disabilities Act, subjecting thousands of inmates with physical and mental health problems to painful and sometimes humiliating conditions, according to watchdog groups, inmates, corrections officials, and a former Justice Department official in charge of enforcing the law. And the situation is only expected to get worse as the U.S. prison population ages. Incarcerated people are three or four times more likely to report having a disability than the rest of the U.S. population [Vice News].

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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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