In 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 tax revenue for May below estimate, but it’s enough to cover expenses: General Revenue Fund collections in May missed the estimate by 1.5 percent but still provided enough money to cover the state’s current needs and avoid further cuts to agencies as borrowed funds are returned, according to a report released Tuesday. “While May’s collections were still below the monthly estimate, total collections are now on a more stable footing and, with only one month left in fiscal year 2017, we are clearly on schedule to repay the money we were forced to borrow this fiscal year without further cuts,” said Finance Secretary Preston L. Doerflinger [Tulsa World].
Oklahoma Slow to Adopt Changes to Ease Voting Laws: More than 60 legislative bills have been filed since 2015 that seek to expand or create new options for Oklahomans to vote or register to vote. But an Oklahoma Watch review of the legislation considered during the past three sessions shows that most didn’t even get a committee hearing. All but 10 failed to reach the governor’s desk. Among the survivors, the most potentially significant one – approved in 2015 to allow online voter registration – may not take effect for two to three more years, meaning most voters in the 2018 elections will likely encounter few changes that appreciably improve voter convenience or efficiency [Oklahoma Watch].
Oklahoma City teachers, parents want sales tax money for education: They sat quietly through a city council meeting until it was their turn to speak, but the message from education advocates was much less polite. “This is not a respectful request,” said Rev. Lori Walke, addressing the council during a public hearing. “It is a desperate, anxiety-ridden, panic-filled plea for help.” Schools struggling in Oklahoma City can see some relief in the form of temporary sales tax revenues. The current proposal would send three-quarters of a cent to patch potholes and repair sidewalks. Educators want one-quarter of a cent to go to schools [KFOR].
Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session (Part 2): Yesterday we shared a recap of what happened this legislative session with the state budget, taxes, and education policies. Today in part two, we’ll look at outcomes related to health care, criminal justice, and economic opportunity. We began the session with a set of top priorities in all of these policy areas. We made progress on some of our issues and were disappointed by others, but we were also heartened by the large number of Oklahomans who got involved this year, many for the first time, to advocate for a better future [OK Policy].
Gov. Fallin says Oklahoma must reform its budget structure: It’s not exactly breaking news that Oklahoma’s state budget has been problematic, both in planning and execution. Gov. Mary Fallin confirmed that when she addressed the Oklahoma Press Association at its annual convention in Oklahoma City Saturday. Fallin once again said the state must find ways to reform its budget structure. Using one-time funds and borrowing from the Rainy Day Fund and the Unclaimed Property Fund to fill budget holes have only delayed the inevitable and created a cascade of recurring budget shortfalls for the past several years [CNHI]. This year’s budget left Oklahoma services massively underfunded [OK Policy].
Budget cuts leave Oklahoma elder care teetering: Following several years of combined federal and state funding challenges, Oklahoma’s infrastructure to care for our frail elderly and disabled is facing risk of eventual collapse. As revenue cuts are made, services will be eliminated, nursing staff and caregivers will be let go and facilities will be forced to close. As budget reductions continue year after year, the constant erosion is decimating the critical long-term care infrastructure vital to the burgeoning population of aging Oklahoma residents [Mary Brinkley / NewsOK].
Oklahoma governor signs new DUI law: Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill revamping Oklahoma’s DUI statute Thursday, disregarding warnings from DUI attorneys who claim the law tramples on citizens’ due process rights. The new law, which is scheduled to take effect Nov. 1, calls for drunken driving suspects to be given an option: They can either have ignition interlock devices put on their vehicles and participate in a diversionary program or they can await the outcomes of their criminal cases to determine whether their license revocations are upheld [NewsOK].
Oklahoma County ordered to pay $3.3 million to jail medical company: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that Oklahoma County must pay $3.3 million to the county jail’s medical provider. The court on Tuesday said the county is required by the state constitution to pay for the care of inmates and ordered the payment to Armor Correctional Health Services. The county did not dispute the amount owed, but argued it shouldn’t have to pay because Armor had not provided proof the funds were available and had appealed a lower court ruling that it should pay the company [Associated Press].
OKC school district, substitutes settle pay dispute: Oklahoma City Public Schools has agreed to pay 341 substitute teachers nearly $100,000 they were shorted during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, officials said. The school board approved a $135,100 payment to the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers on Monday night to settle a 4-year-old legal dispute. The amount includes $37,000 in union attorney fees. Teachers will divide $98,100, with payments ranging from $9.32 to $1,099.52, union President Ed Allen said [NewsOK].
Oklahoma City Council approves 2018 budget: The Oklahoma City Council has approved a budget for 2018. The council voted Tuesday to approve the city manager’s $1.38 billion budget for fiscal year 2018 which begins July 1. The majority of the budget, $404.5 million, is dedicated to the General Fund for day-to-day services. The fund is down .2 percent over last year due to a continued loss in sales tax revenue. City Manager Jim Couch says the approved budget also has a decrease in 18 city staff positions bringing the city to 4,642 employees [KOKH].
OKC sales tax proposal unsettled after public hearing: Business leaders proposed Tuesday that the Oklahoma City Council put a quarter-cent sales tax increase before voters as part of plans to fix streets and put more muscle in the police and fire departments. Business leaders’ ideas are influential because the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the city’s leading business organization, would run the campaign to persuade voters to approve a tax hike. The Chamber’s push for streets and public safety collided Tuesday with education advocates’ pleas that a share of the proceeds from continuation of the MAPS sales tax go to classrooms [NewsOK].
OSBI investigating after Tishomingo police officer shoots knife-wielding man: State authorities are investigating after a Tishomingo police officer shot a knife-wielding man after responding to a domestic violence call. Officers about 8 p.m. Monday were called 705 Parkway Road where they were told a man was armed with a knife and choking another person, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said. “When officers arrived, they found Jered (Jared) Keith Tolbert, 34, destroying the inside of the home,” the OSBI said in a news release [Tulsa World].
Quote of the Day
“I think roads are important but I think schools are more important. I can dodge a pothole, I can repair a car tire, I can’t re-educate my child if it doesn’t get done right the first time. We need to invest in our future and that’s our children. Oklahoma is doing a terrible job at it and we need to do better.”
– Oklahoma City parent Nick Singer, arguing for a portion of city sales taxes to go to local schools (Source)
Number of the Day
Percentage of children living in small towns and rural areas in Oklahoma who are covered by Medicaid, 2014-2015.
The Painful Truth about Teeth: Two hours before sunrise, Dee Matello joined the line outside the Wicomico Civic Center, where hundreds of people in hoodies, heavy coats and wool blankets braced against a bitter wind. Inside, reclining dental chairs were arrayed in neat rows across the arena’s vast floor. Days later, the venue would host Disney on Ice. On this Friday morning, dentists arriving from five states were getting ready to fix the teeth of the first 1,000 people in line [Washington Post].
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