In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to nix tax, fee hikes

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 Supreme Court asked to nix tax, fee hikes: Oklahoma’s high court is now mulling over three lawsuits that could nullify taxes and fees adopted this year at the state Capitol. The cases represent a challenge to hundreds of millions of dollars, the bulk of which is earmarked for health programs and services. Consumers are already paying a higher sales tax rate to buy vehicles and this month, smokers will likely have to pay $1.50 extra on a pack of cigarettes as a new fee goes into effect [NewsOK]. The Supreme Court hearing shows ruling could have long term effects [Oklahoma Watch]. Justice Patrick Wyrick, the newest justice, steered much of the questioning [NonDoc]. The court’s livestream was a first [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s $100 Electric Car Fee Challenged by Sierra Club: Oklahoma’s bid to help close a budget shortfall with a new $100 fee on electric vehicles drew a court challenge from the Sierra Club, which argues the state didn’t follow the correct procedures for enacting a tax or properly measure the benefits of having those cars on the road. Under a bill signed by Republican Governor Mary Fallin in May, hybrid vehicle owners would also face a $30 registration fee, but gasoline and diesel engines didn’t get hit with a new levy. On Tuesday, the state’s Supreme Court heard arguments in a separate lawsuit filed in June to block the measure [Bloomberg].

Candidates Set For Senate District 45, House District 76 General Elections: Two state seats are one step closer to being filled. Oklahoma residents in Senate District 45 and House District 76 have voted for their political groups’ candidates. For former Sen. Kyle Loveless’ vacant seat, Steven Vincent decidedly won the Democratic primary while Paul Rosino managed to get the majority of the vote in a 7-way Republican primary, according to unofficial results [News 9].

Republican Ross Ford, Democrat Chris VanLandingham win HD 76 special election primaries: Retired police officer Ross Ford edged out Shelley Brumbaugh and Brian Elliott to win the five-way Republican special election primary in state House District 76 on Tuesday. Teacher Chris VanLandingham defeated Forrest Mayer, also by a narrow margin, in the Democratic primary. “People seemed to be more comfortable with me on the public education side,” said Ford, a former Union Public Schools security director and school board member [Tulsa World].

Arguments linger over long lateral rules: It was like a high school reunion Tuesday at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Friends and foes gathered to drill into details they want included in new emergency rules that will govern changes in oil and gas operations. Several attendees said they were concerned the result could create more work for the agency’s staff. The technical conference held Tuesday was one in a series. The agency is establishing emergency rules to govern horizontal wellbores that can be drilled across two sections, or 2 miles long [Journal Record].

In the midst of gubernatorial race, Tulsa attorney represents vaccine choice group in defamation lawsuit: A Tulsa attorney who is among the dozen candidates vying to become Oklahoma’s governor said he supports the efforts of a political group opposed to childhood vaccinations, which he is representing in court. Gary Richardson, a Republican candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial race, is representing the Oklahomans for Vaccine and Health Choice political action committee as well as Tulsa opthamologist Jim Meehan in a defamation lawsuit filed against them and others by Enid pediatrician Eve Switzer [The Frontier].

Oklahoma university launches full-support program for students on autism spectrum: The academic year begins Aug 21 at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma with a new support program for students with autism spectrum disorder. Three students will participate this fall, said Cathy Perri, who developed the program to assist ASD students in academic and social progress so they can earn a bachelor’s degree [NewsOK].

State Falling Short Of Goals To Recruit New Foster Care Providers: A concerted effort by the state to recruit foster parents to care for children in need has so far fallen short of the success hoped for, according to the Department of Human Services and a report prepared by a group of “co-neutral” evaluators of the “Pinnacle Plan” to improve Oklahoma’s child welfare system. The DHS set a goal for fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30, of adding 1,080 new foster homes. According to information provided by DHS Communications Manager Casey White, 884 new foster homes were added through the year 81.9 percent of the target [Lawton Constitution].

Interim study to look at rural economic development: Kay Decker works with communities in five western Oklahoma counties. She said she’s seen several cities lose out on a large business relocating in the area because they don’t have a site ready. But it takes money to get those sites ready, she said. She’s the executive director of the Freedom West Community Development Corp. in Alva. “Every community is different,” she said. “One of the key things I’ve seen happen in the last 15 years is we can no longer count on our state Department of Commerce to help with business recruitment efforts. Their funding is basically zero.” [Journal Record]

Looking to grow revenue, Tulsa Jail considers selling e-cigarettes to inmates: As Tulsa’s jail looks for ways to grow revenue — including recent changes to the visitation system — it’s geared to welcome a new device: electronic cigarettes. Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Roebuck said although the idea is in its early stages, e-cigarette sales are expected to raise a “good amount of revenue.” The sheriff’s office polled 12 Oklahoma jails that either intend to add e-cigarettes to their commissaries or are currently selling them, Roebuck said [The Frontier].

Oklahoma Sees Surge in Foreign-Controlled Land: Between 2004 and 2014, the amount of agricultural land in Oklahoma that came under foreign control increased nearly sixfold, from 62,325 acres to 371,576 acres, according to the latest federal data available. But unlike in many other states, much of that acreage was in the form of long-term leases held by wind energy companies, which prefer to lease rather than purchase land for their turbines and other infrastructure [Oklahoma Watch].

Shakeup at the top of the Oklahoma National Guard: The Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard has a new boss and he’ll be starting immediately. Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday named Brig. Gen. Louis Wilham to serve as the interim adjutant general. He will serve as the governor’s cabinet secretary and command the guard forces effective Wednesday. Wilham succeeds Maj. Gen. Robbie Asher who served as adjutant general for two years [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“It looks to me like a whole lot of parsing is going on. Sort of a rose is a rose is a rose, and if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

– Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger, questioning the Legislature’s contention that several last-minute fee bills were not intended as revenue-raising measures (Source)

Number of the Day


Voting eligible population in Oklahoma (citizens age 18 and over, 2015)

Source: U.S. Census American Community Survey

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Bosses want capitalism for themselves and feudalism for their workers: If some employers had their way, you would have to pledge eternal fealty to them just to get a paycheck. You would bend the knee, bow your head, and swear to serve them faithfully, now and forever, even if someone else tried to hire you away for more money. And in return for this loyalty, you of course would get none. Your company could fire you whenever it wanted and wouldn’t have to take care of you when you got old. If you were really lucky, it might, just might, give you a small 401(k) match. In other words, it’d be capitalism for bosses, and feudalism for workers [Washington Post].

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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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