In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court hears ballot initiative complaints

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.

In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court Hears Ballot Initiative Complaints: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday heard two challenges to a proposed ballot initiative that would raise taxes on oil and natural gas production to provide a pay raise for teachers. Led by oil and natural gas industry representatives, the challenges centered on the clarity of the proposal and its description, and on whether the initiative would violate the state’s constitutional requirement that state questions embrace only one subject [NewsOK].

Moms Rally for Gun Restrictions, Lawmakers Advance the Opposite: Two weeks after 17 people died in a Parkland, Florida, school shooting, Oklahoma advocates rallied for gun reform at the state Capitol on Tuesday while other citizens showed up to support three bills aimed at loosening gun restrictions Wednesday. As Moms Demand Action advocate for more restrictive gun measures, lawmakers Wednesday advanced bills that soften gun restrictions [NonDoc]. School threat arrests, tips spike following florida shooting [NewsOK].

Budget Trends and Outlook Fact Sheet — March 2018: Our latest Budget Trends and Outlook fact sheet: Lawmakers will have $252 million (3.7 percent) more to appropriate this year than what was in the final FY 2018 budget, but revenue growth will fall well short of covering all of the funding obligations for next year’s budget. [OKPolicy].

State Question 788 Fact Sheet: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative: SQ 788 would legalize medical marijuana and set up a system to tax and regulate its use. The law would allow individuals to apply for a license to grow and buy marijuana. The application would require a doctor’s signature, but there are no restrictions on what conditions marijuana may be prescribed for. The state question also creates a licensing process for marijuana dispensaries, commercial growers, processors, and transporters, and it directs the state to create rules for the preparation and labeling of edible marijuana products [OKPolicy]. Oklahoma family hopes for marijuana law change [News6].

State Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, Won’t Seek Re-Election: State Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, announced Thursday he is not seeking re-election. Rogers also announced his immediate resignation as committee chairman. Rogers, who represents District 98 covering parts of Tulsa and Wagoner County, cited his wife’s health and the workload required of him as chair of the Common Education Committee as reasons for the decision [Tulsa World].

Committees Chaotic on Deadline Day: Thursday was the deadline for bills to make it out of committees within their chambers of origin, and that was apparent. The House Rules Committee was a microcosm of a typical legislative session in Oklahoma. Lawmakers tackled some of the state’s most controversial issues: cracking down on wind tax credits, adjusting revenue-measure requirements, and sex crimes that could lead to abortion [Journal Record]. See more about the legislative process and deadlines in the 2018 Legislative Primer [OK Policy].

Legislators Cooling on Lowering Supermajority Threshold: Lawmakers seem to be backpeddling from proposals to lower the 75 percent supermajority requirement for revenue bills. The only such legislation left standing after Thursday’s first round of committee deadlines was House Joint Resolution 1050 by Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, which would lower the requirement to a two-thirds majority. Fetgatter originally proposed pegging the level at 60 percent, which seemed to be what other lawmakers favored after revenue packages failed in the House last fall and again last month [Tulsa World].

Lawmakers Send Fallin Bill Funding Medical Schools: A bill to help the state’s graduate medical education programs is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk. The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed Senate Bill 1022, which gives $31.7 million to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority for the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University medical schools in the current fiscal year to shore up federal dollars that were lost, said Sen. Eddie Fields, D-Wynona [Tulsa World].

Preaching to Senate, Pastor Ties Shootings with ‘Immorality,’ Gay Marriage: A Durant pastor aggravated some members of the Oklahoma State Senate this morning when he suggested that a string of deadly tragedies is the logical result of creating “immorality in our laws.” At least one Republican senator walked off the floor in the middle of Ledbetter’s comments, which lasted for more than 15 minutes. Multiple senators took offense to the remarks, and Senate Minority Leader John Sparks called for Ledbetter to apologize [NonDoc].

Tulsa World Editorial: Speaker of the House Charles McCall’s Legislation Would Undercut Tulsa Achieves Funding: Legislation proposed by Speaker of the House Charles McCall would quietly undercut the financing of Tulsa Community College’s successful Tulsa Achieves program, which has offered the benefits of a college education to thousands of local students. McCall’s proposal would require that OHLAP funding be the “last dollar” used to fund OHLAP-eligible students’ costs. In other words, TCC wouldn’t get OHLAP funding for Tulsa Achieves students, even if they are eligible for it, if other money was available. That amounts to a cost-shifting of about $800,000 a year from the state to the Tulsa Achieves program and the property taxpayers of Tulsa County [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Wayne Greene: Another Year Without School Consolidation… Oklahoma Opts for Inertia over Student Needs: The most serious legislative attempts at school consolidation failed in a Senate committee last week, thus Oklahoma will probably go through another year without addressing a critical element of education reform. Because the legislation didn’t get out of committee, it won’t be put to any sort of legislative analysis concerning how much money it might have saved, but it wouldn’t have been very much relative to the need of public schools in Oklahoma [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]. School consolidation won’t fix the funding gap [OK Policy].

Teachers, Students Express Disappointment in State Funding: Muskogee High School students and teachers stayed after school Thursday afternoon, declaring their concern for state education funding. Drivers on Shawnee Bypass honked and waved as they passed the group. Protesters shouted chants of “We’re not an option. We’re a priority.” MHS math teacher Mike Walcutt, president of Muskogee Education Association, said about a dozen teachers, 20 students and some parents protested at MHS. More protested at other schools and at busy Muskogee intersections, he said [Muskogee Phoenix].

‘It’s a Balancing Act’: Tulsa Public Schools Suspending Fewer Students but for More Days: Tulsa Public Schools wants the public to know that it still suspends students. But it doesn’t want to. The district is suspending fewer kids but for more days, trying to balance punishment with restorative practices because of widely held beliefs that suspensions don’t do anything to change behavior and kids don’t learn if they aren’t in school. Suspension rates — the percent of unique students suspended — have fallen at 67 TPS school sites this school year, data show [Tulsa World]. Overuse of suspensions can seriously harm kids’ educational futures [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Health Officials Say Flu Has Taken 194 Lives in State: The Oklahoma State Department of Health says this season’s flu death toll has reached 194 in Oklahoma and that more than 4,100 people have been hospitalized with flu-related symptoms. Health officials said Thursday that 157 people have been hospitalized with the flu since Feb. 21, but that no new deaths were recorded [Public Radio Tulsa]. Flu epidemics are expensive and disruptive, but in the US, many adults are not getting the flu vaccine [OK Policy]. 

Wind Companies Reconsider Oklahoma as Lawmakers Roll up Economic Welcome Mat: Oklahoma started wooing wind companies in the early ʼ90s with generous tax breaks. The state is now the country’s No. 2 wind producer and Wind Catcher, the nation’s largest wind farm, is under construction in the Panhandle. But the cost of these incentives ballooned as the industry grew. State legislators started missing the money as oil prices crashed and state budget gaps widened [State Impact]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].

Quote of the Day

“We need to take care of Carver and yet we can’t violate law and jeopardize our parental rights with Carver either. So, we were left with the option well, we’ve got to fight.”

– Shawn Jenkins, who is advocating for allowing medical marijuana in Oklahoma to treat his son Carver’s epilepsy [Source].

Number of the Day


Drop in Oklahoma’s Q2 2017 tax collections compared to the state’s pre-recession peak, the third largest decrease in the nation.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

When ‘Reform’ Means a Process of Elimination: Reform lives and breathes good intentions. It declares the existence of a concrete problem that really does need to be solved. Political enemies are forced onto the defensive: Opposing reform means defending the status quo, no matter how bloated or feckless the current state of affairs may be. This tactic is particularly useful when so-called reformers hope to gut the very programs they’re claiming to improve. “Welfare reform” set that template in the 1990s, purporting to free Americans from dependency by giving them a whole lot less welfare. Attempts at “reforming” Obamacare, in 2017, meant getting rid of as many of its provisions as possible. [The New York Times].

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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