In The Know: Oklahoma’s Board of Equalization Certifies Budget As It Faces Mounting Legal Battle

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’s Board of Equalization Certifies Budget As It Faces Mounting Legal Battle: The state’s recently approved $6.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2018 is facing multiple legal challenges, another lawsuit was filed Wednesday, but that didn’t keep the State Board of Equalization from certifying the spending plan. The new fiscal year begins on Saturday. Gov. Mary Fallin already signed the budget into law, but certification by the Board of Equalization is also required. Generally, approval by the board (comprised of six statewide elected officials — the governor, lieutenant-governor, attorney general, treasurer, superintendent of instruction, and state auditor — plus the secretary of agriculture) is a given [NewsOn6]. Next year’s budget starts over $400 million in the hole [OK Policy].

Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate files new court challenge to tax bills: Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court Wednesday to block Saturday’s scheduled implementation of a new sales tax on vehicle purchases. Richardson wants collection of the tax blocked until the court can rule on his constitutional challenge to the tax and two other new revenue-raising laws. Richardson filed his Supreme Court lawsuit challenging the new laws Wednesday. He had announced his intention to challenge the laws in a Tulsa news conference last week [NewsOK].

Disability advocates voice concerns about health care bill: As a television in the room broadcast news of protests around the country, nine disability advocates entered the downtown Oklahoma City office of U.S. Sen. James Lankford on Wednesday afternoon. Once inside, they took turns telling the stories of their disabilities and the hardships they face. Those hardships will be dramatically worsened, they said, if Lankford and 49 other senators approve a Senate health care overhaul [NewsOK]. The Senate Republican health plan would require people to pay more for worse coverage, wreck the health care safety net, and deliver a massive tax cut to corporations and the wealthy [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Broken health care promises: Congressional Republicans spent years campaigning against the Affordable Care Act. Last week, Senate Republicans emerged from secret negotiations to unveil their version of a bill to change the health care law. What’s stunning is how their bill contradicts most of the promises they campaigned on. Since the ACA took effect, millions more Americans have gained health insurance, and the uninsured rate has fallen to a historic low. Still, many Americans remain dissatisfied with high costs, as Republicans have highlighted [Gene Perry / Journal Record].

Regents hear requests for Oklahoma tuition increases: College students can expect to pay an average 5.3 percent more in tuition and mandatory fees beginning next fall under proposed budgets presented Wednesday to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Officials from Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities met with the regents about their budgets for fiscal year 2018, which begins Saturday. All but two requested an increase in tuition and mandatory fees [NewsOK]. The link between education levels and state prosperity is clear [OK Policy].

TU’s Education Department loses state accreditation, jeopardizing students in its teacher-prep program: The University of Tulsa teacher preparation program’s state accreditation has been revoked after 2-year-old deficiencies were found to be unresolved. State officials described the revocation as extremely rare — and possibly the first instance in Oklahoma in 20 or more years. The situation could jeopardize the ability of TU education students who are set to graduate after May 2018 to obtain the state certification required to enter the teaching profession [Tulsa World].

Joe Allbaugh on corrections crisis: ‘I inherited the Titanic’: The Oklahoma Board of Corrections heard a 90-minute staff presentation Tuesday that described a state corrections crisis defined by enormous financial and operational challenges. Beyond dozens of grim statistics concerning Oklahoma’s overcrowded prison system, board members heard tangible examples of a struggling institution: broken air conditioning systems; unmet mental health care needs; a prison water tower full of holes plugged by a mop handle and a toothbrush [NonDoc]. Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster [OK Policy].

Cleveland County inmate trust fund remains overdrawn: Cleveland County commissioners have rejected a request from Sheriff Joe Lester to transfer money from a jail commissary account into an inmate trust account to cover shortages in the latter account. The sheriff will have to find another way to reconcile the inmate trust account, according to commissioners Rod Cleveland, Darry Stacy and Harold Haralson, who voted 3-0 Monday to reject the sheriff’s request. Lester asked commissioners to approve a transfer of $20,591 from the sheriff’s commissary account into an account at Republic Bank & Trust, which is made up of money deposited by inmates or taken from inmates when they are incarcerated [NewsOK].

Lawmaker’s short-term solution to prison overcrowding problem draws controversy: More than 62,000 people are in Oklahoma prisons, and one lawmaker has a plan to let up to 1,000 inmates out early without letting them go free. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections certainly want the state legislature to act and has suggested going into a special session. One lawmaker’s short-term solution to solve the prison system’s overpopulation problem — Oklahoma prisons are at 109 percent capacity — is drawing up some controversy, though. Rep. Bobby Cleveland said he’s meeting with DOC officials this week about cutting prison populations down [KOCO].

A Sticking Point in Justice Debate: What Is a Violent Crime? Is desecration of the American flag a violent crime? What about putting others at risk while fleeing a police officer? Stealing copper? Child abandonment? Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, said his disagreement with criminal justice bills during the session was based on how they distinguished between violent and nonviolent crimes. Offenses like copper theft and flag desecration were among the 34 crimes that Biggs contended were essentially violent and shouldn’t be eligible for lighter penalties under the legislation. He emphasized that issue and the bills’ treatment of repeat offenders in requesting an interim study [Oklahoma Watch].

In wake of 11 deadly police shootings in 12 months, Tulsa police chief says officers are responding to suspects’ actions: Tulsa police officers have been involved in 11 fatal shootings in the past 12 months, including three this month and four overall in 2017. A fifth fatal encounter this year occurred in March when an officer intentionally ran over a shooting suspect. The woman was on the department’s wanted list for a string of gun-related crimes and had exchanged gunshots with police before being fatally struck by a cruiser. A nonfatal police shooting in April involved a man reportedly fleeing an officer on foot and then turning around with a gun in his hand, prompting shots from an officer [Tulsa World].

Amendment that targets safety concerns with panhandling passed by Tulsa City Council: City Councilors approved an ordinance amendment Wednesday empowering prosecutions and increasing fines that largely target panhandling residents. The amendment strengthens an existing ordinance that prohibits people from walking into the roadway for soliciting. Councilor Karen Gilbert, the amendment’s sponsor, said the purpose of the change is to protect residents like church groups and the Tulsa Fire Department who sometimes solicit in the roadway for fundraising [Tulsa World].

North Tulsa grocery store moratorium to get new approach from City Council: The City Council is going back to square one on a proposed moratorium concerning grocery store construction in north Tulsa following a discussion where Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper accused city staff of dragging their feet on the issue. Hall-Harper, who brought up the proposal for a moratorium earlier in the year, said legal staff and others at City Hall were “intentionally procrastinating” on the issue. “Very little has been done to accomplish this,” Hall-Harper said [Tulsa World].

The Tax Credits Ignored by 2017 Oklahoma Legislature: As the Oklahoma legislature targeted the wind energy tax credits for new wind farms under construction to be eliminated on July 1, the legislators did not target what could be hundreds of millions of dollars in other tax credits in the state. Under a law created in 2011 the listing of some of those credits is now available through the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The records include tax credit reports for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, all available under what is called the Tax Credit Transfer and Allocation Reporting System at the Oklahoma Tax Commission [OK Energy Today].

Seven Republicans, one Democrat file for Senate District 37 special election: The Sept. 12 Republican special election primary for state Senate District 37 suddenly became very crowded on Wednesday. Five GOP candidates turned in their paperwork to the state Election Board on the last day of filing for the soon-to-be vacated seat, bringing to seven the total number entered in the no-runoff primary. Only one Democrat, Allison Ickley-Freeman of Tulsa, filed. Filing Wednesday were Brian Jackson, 34, Sand Springs; Rick Hardesty, 56, Tulsa; Nicole Nixon, 31, Tulsa; R. Jay McAtee, Sand Springs; and Phil Nollan, 56, Sand Springs [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma unemployment rate increases: While unemployment rates in Oklahoma’s metropolitan areas climbed in May, the latest preliminary data released this week by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is typical, an analyst said. The data also showed the percentage of unemployed workers is lower in those communities this year than it was a year ago. The smallest increase in the percentage of unemployed workers for the month appears to have been in Enid. But its unemployment rate in May 2016 was 4.6 percent, and its unemployment rate in May 2017 was just 4 percent [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“If my aid gets taken away, I would be forced into a nursing home and just die.”

– Lori Taylor of Norman, one of nine disability advocates who met with Sen. Lankford’s office on Wednesday to voice their opposition to the Senate Republican health bill, which would deeply cut the Medicaid-funded care many people with disabilities rely on (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of people sentenced to prison in Oklahoma for simple drug possession between 2005 and 2015, nearly 18 percent of all prison receptions over this decade.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Car Was Repossessed, but the Debt Remains: More than a decade after Yvette Harris’s 1997 Mitsubishi was repossessed, she is still paying off her car loan.She has no choice. Her auto lender took her to court and won the right to seize a portion of her income to cover her debt. The lender has so far been able to garnish $4,133 from her paychecks — a drain that at one point forced Ms. Harris, a single mother who lives in the Bronx, to go on public assistance to support her two sons.“How am I still paying for a car I don’t have?” she asked. For millions of Americans like Ms. Harris who have shaky credit and had to turn to subprime auto loans with high interest rates and hefty fees to buy a car, there is no getting out [The New York Times].

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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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