In The Know: Rep. Jeff Hickman becomes news House Speaker

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 the Oklahoma House of Representatives selected Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, as the new Speaker. Rep. Hickman was one of the few Republicans to vote against an income tax cut last year, saying it was irresponsible when the revenue picture is uncertain.  Governor Mary Fallin recommended in her State of the State speech that five state agencies be consolidated into the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. The directors of those agencies said they were stunned and perplexed by the speech, and it was the first they had heard of the idea.

The Senate Pensions Committee approved a bill to move most new state employees into a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. A House Committee approved a bill to automatically boost education funding by $57 million next year, rising to $575 million by FY 2023. Another House Committee narrowly voted to create a tax deduction for married couples that grows based on the length of the marriage.

On the OK Policy Blog, OSU economics professor Dan Rickman shared his research showing that income tax cuts aren’t a good strategy for boosting economic growth. Oklahoma Watch released an in-depth report on the growth of prescription drug addiction in Oklahoma. OK Policy previously discussed the data behind Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is moving to fire two employees after allegations that they did not respond to complaints of neglect before the death of a teenager with special needs. The federal government approved a plan by Public Service Company of Oklahoma to retire its coal-fired power plants. The agreement seeks to reduce pollution in national parks and wildlife refuges.

The Number of the Day is how many barrels of crude oil produced per day are produced in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, a survey of successful entrepreneurs finds that most locate startups based on access to talented workers and quality of life factors – not the low-tax,  low regulation approach that many state and local governments tout.

In The News

Rep. Jeff Hickman becomes news House Speaker

Oklahoma representatives Monday selected Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, to be the new House speaker. The House Republican Caucus tabbed Hickman for the post Monday morning, and the full House voted Monday afternoon, 69-29, to give him the job. While Hickman and his predecessor are both Republican conservatives, some view him as more moderate and flexible than Shannon, who was known to stake out conservative positions on issues quickly.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Rep. Hickman one of few Republicans to oppose tax cut last year from Oklahoma Watch

Fallin’s speech leaves 5 agency heads stunned and perplexed

The directors of five state agencies say they were stunned and perplexed when Gov. Mary Fallin recommended in her State of the State speech that their agencies be consolidated into the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. The governor neither consulted with them nor gave them a heads up about her intentions, they said. The head of tourism wasn’t consulted, either, said a spokeswoman for that agency. In the governor’s State of the State speech, she recommended consolidating the Oklahoma Arts Council, J.M. Davis Memorial Commission, Oklahoma Historical Society, Will Rogers Memorial Commission and Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission into the Tourism Department.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Senate Committee approves pension changes

The state Senate Pensions Committee on Monday approved legislation that would move new state employees away from the state’s traditional defined benefit pension plan to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. Gov. Mary Fallin praised the committee’s action Monday, while an organization representing state correctional officers criticized it. Senate Bill 2120 would apply to state employees hired after Nov. 1, 2015, who participate in the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System. It would require new employees to contribute from 3 to 7 percent of their salaries, which would then be matched by their employer.

Read more from NewsOK.

Bill to boost education funding advances in House Committee

A proposal to earmark nearly $3.2 billion for common education over the next decade advanced from a House committee on Monday. House Bill 2642 by Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, would create a special account to receive escalating apportionments drawn from tax receipts before they reach the general revenue fund. The bill specifies that the money would be in addition to regular school funding. The account, to be called the Securing Educational Excellence Fund, would receive $57 million in the budget year beginning July 1, growing to $575 million  by fiscal year 2023.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Bill would give tax break to Oklahoma couples who stay wed

Oklahomans who stay married would earn the benefit of an income tax deduction based on the length of their marriage under a bill approved by a House subcommittee. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation voted 7-6 on Monday for the bill that is projected to cost the state about $11.6 million each year. The bill by Republican Rep. Tom Newell of Seminole would increase the tax deduction for joint filers from $200 for three years of marriage to $2,400 for those who stay married 50 years or more.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Dan Rickman: Do cuts in state income taxes boost economic growth?

As state and local government budgets struggle to recover from the recession of 2007-2009, loud voices call for cuts in state and local taxes to spur economic growth. In particular, advocates argue that cuts in personal income taxes promote growth and development. But what is the evidence for this idea? Objective scholarly research on the economic effects of state and local expenditures and taxes is often neglected or misrepresented by tax cut proponents. Evidence from my own studies and those of many others suggests that adjustments in state and local taxes and spending can, at most, spark marginal gains in economic performance.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

As drug deaths rise, millions of narcotic prescriptions filled

Oklahoma pharmacies filled nearly 10 million prescriptions for narcotic painkillers and other controlled dangerous substances last year, according to newly obtained state data. Those prescriptions — an average of 68 per patient, including refills — contained 597 million doses of painkillers, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, steroids and other controlled pharmaceuticals tracked by the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program. The statistics, provided to Oklahoma Watch in response to an open records request, show that many medical professionals do not routinely check the PMP’s online database before writing or refilling scripts.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem isn’t what you think from the OK Policy Blog

Two Oklahoma DHS workers to be fired over developmentally disabled teen’s death

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has initiated steps to terminate two employees following an internal investigation into the January 2013 death of Quinten Wood, a 15-year-old boy with special needs who died after state officials allegedly failed to respond appropriately to complaints of neglect. DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said her agency will not name the employees involved or reveal details about what they allegedly did wrong until disciplinary proceedings become final. Both were served termination notices Friday.

Read more from NewsOK.

Federal government approves PSO’s plan to retire coal-fired power plants

Public Service Company of Oklahoma — which provides electricity to more than a half-million Oklahomans — can move ahead with plans to retire its coal-fired power plants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday. The agreement between the utility, state, and EPA is expected to bring PSO into compliance with regional haze regulations, the federal government’s effort to clear the air at national parks and wildlife refuges. PSO took a different tack than its counterpart and the state’s largest utility, Oklahoma Gas and Electric. OG&E continues to fight the EPA in court over the federal agency’s authority to enforce the regional haze rule.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Quote of the Day

My co-authored research suggests that cuts in individual income taxes lead to only slight increases in economic activity, yet produce a substantial net reduction in tax revenues. Governments can keep providing services to residents and businesses only if they increase other taxes to offset the losses from reduced personal income taxes. However, there is no clear evidence that other taxes are preferable to income taxes, or that cuts in spending can be achieved without harm to the economy.

-Dan Rickman, Regents Professor of Economics at Oklahoma State University (Source:

Number of the Day


Barrels of crude oil produced per day in Oklahoma in November 2013.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What cities really need to attract entrepreneurs, according to entrepreneurs

Creating high-growth, high-impact entrepreneurial enterprises has become a common goal of cities. Metros and states have cut taxes, implemented entrepreneur-friendly business policies, launched their own venture capital efforts, and underwritten incubators and accelerators – all in the hope of creating the next Apples, Facebooks, Googles, and Twitters. But what really attracts innovative entrepreneurs who create these economy-boosting companies? The answers: talented workers, and the quality of life that the educated and ambitious have come to expect – not the low-tax, favorable-regulation approach that many state and local governments tout.

Read more from Atlantic Cities.

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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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