In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court asked to order governor to return $140.8 million to state agencies

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 order governor to return $140.8 million to state agencies: The Oklahoma Supreme Court was asked Tuesday to order Gov. Mary Fallin to give back to state agencies $140.8 million cut from their budgets in March. Oklahoma City attorney David Slane filed the legal request on behalf of seven caregivers who have experienced cuts in or loss of assistance from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. …He accused the governor and her finance secretary, Preston Doerflinger, of violating state law and the Oklahoma Constitution by not returning the money [NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin still plugging special session: Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday she still wants a special legislative session ahead of the November elections. …Fallin wants the Legislature to return to the Capitol to appropriate $140.8 million available because last fiscal year’s revenue failure was not quite as bad as projected. The governor wants the money spent on teacher raises and perhaps one or two other areas. Without legislative action, the money will be distributed proportionately to state agencies, partially offsetting spending cuts made during the 2016 fiscal year [Tulsa World].

Rulings ensure a raft of state questions await Oklahoma voters: Decisions rendered this week by the Oklahoma Supreme Court ensure that voters will have a raft of state questions to decide in November, although getting some of these measures on the ballot has been especially challenging. Backers of State Question 779, which seeks to increase the state sales tax by 1 cent to fund teacher pay raises and other education causes, had no trouble gathering the necessary initiative petition signatures but had to withstand two legal challenges [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Oklahomans Will Be Paying More In Fines, Fee This Year: The Oklahoma Legislature may not have raised taxes this past session, but more money will likely be coming out of your pocket to pay for government services. One example is your license plate. The state will be issuing new license plates, but if you want to keep your old license plate number it going to cost you $18. All those at the Classen Tag agency Tuesday morning probably didn’t realize it, but they were saving $5. That’s because beginning Aug. 26 it will cost an additional $5 to renew your vehicle registration [NewsOn6]. Instead of making progress reducing fees and fines, last-minute legislation hiked them even further [OK Policy].

Inola, Catoosa schools prepare for four-day weeks: In an effort to prevent teacher layoffs and combat growing classrooms as a result of state budget cuts, two public schools in Rogers County are preparing to launch four-day school weeks during the 2016-2017 school year. Catoosa Public Schools begin classes on Aug. 10 and Inola Public Schools begin classes on Aug. 11. Both schools will be completing over 1,000 hours of instruction time required by the state within a four-day week instead of the traditional five-day week. Inola will be closed on Mondays, Catoosa on Fridays [Claremore Daily Progress]. Four-day school weeks could leave thousands of Oklahoma kids hungry [OK Policy].

OKC School Board considers supper program: Oklahoma City Public Schools is exploring the possibility of adding dinner to the meal options for high school students, many of whom participate in after-school activities on an empty stomach. Grab-and-Go Suppers would be offered to all high school students free of charge if a pilot program proves successful, Chief of Capital Projects and IT Scott Randall told school board members Monday night [NewsOK]. A large number of Oklahomans don’t have consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle [OK Policy].

OK’s First Rural Charter School Hopes To Be A Model For Rest Of State: Oklahoma’s first rural charter school is in session on Lake Eufaula. It’s Carlton Landing Academy’s fifth year to be open, but its first as an Oklahoma charter school. The first thing most notice driving up to Carlton Landing Academy are the white picket fences and the picturesque traditional schoolhouses. “They’re based on, inspired by, the old one-room territory schoolhouses,” school board chair Jen Humphreys said [NewsOn6].

Fewer meth labs seen in Oklahoma, but more residents are dying from the drug: Although Oklahoma has seen a significant decline in the number of methamphetamine labs plaguing the state, an increasing number of Oklahomans are dying from the drug. In 2011, Oklahoma had 913 meth labs and saw 108 residents die as a result of the drug, according to data compiled by the state narcotics agency. By 2013, the number of Oklahomans dying from meth outpaced the number of labs. By 2015, the state saw 265 residents die from meth but had only 118 labs [NewsOK].

As oil jobs get hammered, construction jobs fill: Construction unemployment across the state has declined, but there’s still work to be done on getting people in the trades, industry leaders said. In Oklahoma, construction unemployment decreased 1.2 percent from June 2015 to June 2016, according to data generated by the Association of Builders and Contractors. The national organization has a statewide office in Tulsa. Since March, the construction unemployment rate in Oklahoma has dropped 3.1 percent. At that time, the unemployment rate was 7.7 percent [Journal Record].

Oklahoma AG Pruitt claims partial victory in challenge to inmate phone rates: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt claimed victory Tuesday after the Federal Communications Commission modified its plan for reducing rates charged by jails and prisons for inmate phone calls. Pruitt said an order issued by the commission would save the state millions of dollars, but he vowed to continue pressing his lawsuit challenging the FCC’s authority to regulate intrastate calls to and from inmates [NewsOK].

AG oversight agreeable to state boards: A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year forced Oklahoma to rethink the power given to professional boards and commissions, and lawmakers are thinking about ways to keep the state out of the federal government’s spotlight. The court ruled that without proper oversight, state licensing boards could influence the competitive market. The case originated in North Carolina, where a dental examiner’s panel tried to force non-dentists out of the teeth-whitening business [Journal Record].

Sales tax results for August deepen Oklahoma City’s revenue slide: Sales tax collections slipped 6 percent in Oklahoma City in August, the fourth consecutive month sales tax has fallen short of receipts from the same month the previous year. The Oklahoma Tax Commission transferred almost $34.2 million to Oklahoma City after deducting $171,400 for processing and adding just over $28,300 in interest. The August 2015 sales tax check was for $36.4 million, a 2.4 percent increase over August 2014, officials said [NewsOK].

City’s August sales-tax check continues flat trend: The city of Tulsa got a flat sales-tax check from the state this month, which is a leg up from last month’s but still not what city leaders hope to see. The August sales-tax check, covering a period from mid-June to mid-July, was nearly flat, showing a 0.3 percent decrease from last July and just 0.01 percent over budget projections. The Oklahoma Tax Commission’s check to the city this month totaled $19.6 million, the city announced in a news release Tuesday [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Maybe it was an honest mistake. But even one day after the honest mistake, it had to be corrected and it hasn’t been. And everything I’m hearing is that there’s no intention of correcting it.”

– Oklahoma City attorney David Slane, asking the state Supreme Court to order Governor Fallin to return the state’s $140 million surplus left from midyear cuts to state agencies [Source]

Number of the Day


The average number of poor mental health days in the last 30 days reported by Oklahomans in 2016. The national average was 3.7.

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Rise and Simultaneous Fall of Straight-Ticket Voting: The U.S. has recently seen a rise in straight-ticket voting — that is, voters choosing candidates from only one party up and down the ballot. In most states, people have to make their straight-ticket choices contest by contest. But in more than a handful of states, voters can simply check a single box on their ballot that allocates all their votes to one party’s candidates. Where it exists, it’s a popular option. But fewer and fewer states are offering it [Governing].

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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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