In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court reinstates challenge to Voter ID law

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

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Today you should know that Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a lawsuit that challenges the state’s voter ID law. The lawsuit argues that requiring voters to present identification to vote would pose a particular hardship on the elderly, the poor and minorities. Oklahoma’s general revenue collections improved in January, lessening the chance that mandatory budget cuts will be needed this year. Gross production tax collections remained way down, with collections for natural gas production dropping 96.5 percent below what they were one year ago.

OK Policy launched a new bill tracking tool that can be used to keep an eye on key pieces of legislation in Oklahoma. A House committee moved forward a steep income tax cut in HB 3291. The bill would cut funding for services by $844 million annually if fully implemented. News9 spoke to OK Policy director David Blatt about the lack of transparency in Oklahoma’s numerous tax breaks. Two measures to further restrict abortion were approved in a House committee.

Pro-medical marijuana groups are holding a rally and lobby day today at the state Capitol. A bill has been introduced in Oklahoma to legalize and regulate marijuana, but Public Safety Committee Chair Sen. Don Barrington says he won’t allow it to be heard. Several more school boards voted to cancel school on March 31 so students and teachers can attend an education rally at the Capitol.

Oklahoma students showed improvement on Advanced Placement exams — 11 percent of the state’s high school graduates scored high enough to earn college credit, compared to 8.3 percent in 2003. The city of Tulsa is cutting health benefits for 272 retired city employees to save costs.

The Number of the Day is how much Oklahomans contributed to the low-income health care fund through income tax checkoffs in FY 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog discusses why the Volkswagen corporation is encouraging a union to organize its own plant in Tennessee.

In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court reinstates challenge to Voter ID law

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a lawsuit that challenges the state’s voter ID law, ruling that the Tulsa County resident who filed it has legal standing to challenge the law’s constitutionality. The state’s highest court handed down the ruling in a lawsuit filed by Delilah Christine Gentges, who sued the Oklahoma State Election Board after voters approved the law in a statewide election in 2010. The lawsuit alleges the law requiring voters to present a formal identification would raise “a new barrier” for Oklahoma residents, and pose a particular hardship on the elderly, the poor and minorities.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma revenue collections improve in January

State finance officials say collections to Oklahoma government’s main operating fund improved in January, lessening the chance that mandatory budget cuts will be ordered for the current fiscal year. Figures released Tuesday by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services show January collections to the General Revenue Fund totaled $610 million. Year-to-date collections to the fund are about 4.5 percent below the official estimate.

Read more from NewsOK.

Gross production taxes way down

New general revenue fund collections announced today by Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger give a strong indication of how oil and gas exploration has slowed slightly in the state in the past year. While energy companies report robust 2014 plans for exploration, the story of the slowdown is reflected in the gross production tax collections of $28.3 million for January. Natural gas collections were way down, which shouldn’t be a surprised considering the slumping market prices that have prompted drillers to back off efforts. Collections totaled $344,174. That’s right—only about $344,000. They were $9.5 million or 96.5 percent less than a year ago.

Read more from OK Energy Today.

Introducing our new bill tracking tool

Today we launched a new resource designed to help you keep an eye on what’s happening with specific bills in the Legislature. The Oklahoma Legislation Tracker identifies key pieces of legislation in several categories. With each bill, we have provided a description of the proposed law and why it matters. You’ll also find the latest actions, co-sponsors, and links to additional resources and news updates. We will add bills to the tracker as the session continues, as well as continue to update news and resources about important bills.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma House panel OKs steep cut to income tax

A plan to deeply slash the state’s income tax from 5.25 percent to 4 percent during the next four years has cleared its first hurdle. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation voted 10-3 Monday to approve HB 3291, which now heads to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration. The bill by Mustang Republican Rep. Leslie Osborn would cut the tax rate to 4.75 percent in 2015, then reduce the rate by .25 percent each year until it reaches 4 percent in 2018. A fiscal analysis of the bill shows it would cost the state about $844 million annually when fully implemented.

Read more from KOCO.

OK tax breaks need more transparency, analysts say

The Oklahoma Tax Commission’s most recent report is out detailing all the tax exemptions, deductions and credits that are given out each year to businesses, individuals, organizations and causes. The report holds 90 pages of tax breaks, everything from the ‘dry fire hydrant credit’ to a sales tax exemption for equipment purchases by manufacturers of low-point beer. One problem, analysts say, is that these measures just automatically renew each year, without anyone really looking to see if they’re worth the cost.

Read more from News9.

Abortion bills clear Oklahoma House committee

Two measures to further restrict abortion in Oklahoma easily cleared a House committee on Tuesday over the objection of outnumbered Democrats who argue the bills are unnecessary. The first bill that the House Public Safety Committee approved would require abortion providers to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice, while the second would restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs. Both measures head to the full House. The bills are among several anti-abortion measures that have been introduced this year in Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which has become a testing ground for some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Medical marijuana rally slated for Capitol today

Wednesday is Medical Marijuana Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol, a topic that’s getting increasing attention as an increasing number of states decriminalize, and in some cases even legalize, the recreational use of marijuana. The rally will take place inside and outside the Capitol, with several activities slated to occur, including lobbying efforts and training. The Oklahoma chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) will host an advocacy training session in Room 104 at 10:00 a.m.

Read more from KRMG.

See also: SB 2116 – Marijuana Legalization

More schools cancel class for education rally

Despite pushback from some state lawmakers, several more Tulsa-area school boards voted Monday to let classes out March 31 so teachers can rally for more public school funding at the state Capitol. The Bixby, Broken Arrow and Sapulpa school boards each voted unanimously Monday to cancel classes for the rally that day. Claremore and Owasso’s boards tabled the matter until next month’s meeting to allow for more parent input. The Tulsa school board approved the same resolution previously, and the Jenks school board likely will vote on the issue later this month.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma students improve on Advanced Placement exams

Oklahoma students are showing improvement in their scores on Advanced Placement exams. The College Board reports that 4,111 of Oklahoma’s 37,260 graduates in 2013 — 11 percent — scored a 3, 4 or 5. A score of 3 or higher is general accepted for college credit. The College Board’s report says 8,228 Oklahoma students took an AP exam during high school. The 11 percent is up from 10.6 percent in 2012 and 8.1 percent in 2003 when the College Board began reporting the scores.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

City of Tulsa cuts retiree health-insurance benefit

City officials have told 272 retired city employees that a portion of their health-insurance benefits will be cut July 1 as a cost-saving measure. The notifications went out on Friday to nonsworn, retired employees under age 65 — meaning there is no effect to retired firefighters, police officers or any retiree age 65 and up. However, the change effectively raises rates on 272 former employees who plowed snow, fixed streets, enforced codes and planned neighborhoods for as long as 20 or more years.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

March 31st is about kids needing additional funding, less high-stakes testing, and more local control. Being funded at 2008 levels with more kids and higher fixed costs like fuel, electricity and water is simple math.

-Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow, on why Oklahoma school districts are cancelling class for students and teachers to attend an education rally at the state Capitol (Source:

Number of the Day


How much Oklahomans contributed to the low-income health care fund through income tax checkoffs in FY 2013.

Source: Oklahoma Tax Commission

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why Volkswagon is helping a union organize its own plant

This week at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., 1,570 workers will vote on whether to join the United Auto Workers. It’s a big deal: While the big three American carmakers are all unionized, so far the foreign companies have avoided it by locating in Southern states with strong Right to Work laws. From their perspective, unions usually just mean work stoppages, expensive benefit plans, and the inability to fire people at will. That’s what’s weird about the VW vote: The German company is campaigning for the UAW, not against it, in a kind of employer-union partnership America has seldom seen. What gives? Well, VW is kind of different, as automakers go. It understands how having a union can boost productivity and allow it greater flexibility in adjusting to downturns.

Read more from Wonkblog.

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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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