In The Know: SandRidge Energy considering bankruptcy

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

SandRidge Energy considering bankruptcy: SandRidge Energy Inc. said Wednesday it is considering reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing high debt levels and still low oil and natural gas prices. The filing came one day after SandRidge reported a $4.3 billion loss in 2015 and slashed its 2016 drilling budget by 60 percent. SandRidge said it had $3.6 billion in long-term debt at the end of 2015, plus preferred stock with a liquidation option of $542 million. [NewsOK].

Unprofitable Wells Now a Big Tax Break: It’s become one of the state’s biggest tax breaks almost overnight. The Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates the state will pay out $158 million in rebates next year to operators of “economically at-risk” wells that are no longer profitable at current oil and gas prices. Two years ago, before prices plunged, those rebates totaled just $11 million. A bill introduced this year would have suspended the break for two years to reduce the state budget squeeze, but it failed to advance past a legislative deadline [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma budget work is ongoing, lawmaker says: The chairman of the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Committee wants people to know his panel has been working diligently to fill a $1.3 billion budget hole even though much of the work has been done behind closed doors. “The perception that nothing is going on is ludicrous,” said Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. “We have been doing our due diligence.” Some fellow lawmakers and policy groups have said that with this year’s four-month legislative session half over, it’s surprising major plans for boosting revenue have not emerged from the committee [NewsOK]. Legislators are running out of time to develop a budget plan [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: This is real: The evidence is now undeniable: Oklahoma is facing a full-fledged emergency. With each passing day, the toll of budget cuts on Oklahoma families, businesses, and communities becomes more widespread and alarming. After years of doing everything possible to shield direct instruction from budget cuts, school districts now are being forced to eliminate teaching positions and expand class sizes. Oklahoma City Public Schools has announced plans to eliminate 208 classroom teaching positions, and other districts are following suit [David Blatt / Journal Record]. We’ve offered a number of balanced solutions to Oklahoma’s budget emergency [OK Policy].

Health care providers: Proposed agency cuts will create a “crisis for Oklahoma seniors”: As we continue to learn how the state’s revenue failure will affect Oklahoma schools, health care providers say the budget crisis will also take a toll on Oklahomans’ health. On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced that it plans to slash 25 percent of the amount it reimburses to hospitals and physicians for treating patients on Medicaid, which is called SoonerCare in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers say the cuts will create a “crisis for Oklahoma seniors and threaten to completely dismantle the state’s network of nursing homes” [KFOR].

Senate kills a cruel solution to the state’s Medicaid problem. Now what? The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee did the right thing Monday when it killed a plan to eliminate Medicaid eligibility for 111,000 Oklahomans. On a bipartisan 3-5 vote, the committee killed House Bill 2665, which was pitched as a cost-saving measure aimed at getting “able-bodied adults” off Medicaid. Most of those able-bodied adults are single mothers earning less than $9,500 a year. The bill was cruel in effect and counterproductive to its own purposes [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Other states’ experiences show that expanding coverage for low-income residents would be a good deal for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House panel votes to deny medical licenses to abortion providers: A bill that would deny medical licenses to abortion providers advanced from the state House of Representatives’ Public Health Committee Wednesday on a 6-4 vote. Senate Bill 1552 by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, defines abortion except in certain cases as “unprofessional conduct” that would prevent a doctor from obtaining a new license or renewing an existing one. Exceptions would be limited to sexual assault and medical conditions endangering the lives of the mother or fetus [Tulsa World].

“We agreed collectively that it was the best solution,” Entire district to take pay cut to save jobs: More budget backlash. School districts across the state are scrambling to regroup after their budgets were slashed by the state. Some districts, like Oklahoma City, are taking the drastic step of cutting teaching positions. Others, like Millwood, are chopping the school week instead of cutting jobs. The compromise could save Millwood big bucks but stands to impact teachers’ bottom line [KFOR]. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

TPS begins slashing administrative jobs because of budget crisis; more cuts imminent: Tulsa Public Schools has begun notifying administrators that their positions are being eliminated at the end of the fiscal year. Multiple sources told the Tulsa World that the notifications began Tuesday and include high- and low-level positions, including executive directors all the way down to instructional coaches who support teachers. Superintendent Deborah Gist confirmed that a “reorganization” has begun. Midyear state budget cuts have left the district $4 million short this academic year, and TPS is bracing for cuts up to $20 million next year [Tulsa World].

A generation after education reform, Oklahoma is facing familiar issues: Multiple cuts in education funding, low academic achievement and teacher pay ranked as one of the worst in the nation created a challenged public education system in Oklahoma in 1990 — elements that appear to still exist today. “People were feeling back then like they feel now about (education),” said Steve Lewis, Oklahoma’s speaker of the House in 1990. “Classrooms were crowded and textbooks were old, it was the very same issues that you see now” [NewsOK]. House Bill 1017, the Education Reform Act of 1990, was landmark legislation that funded a broad range of education initiatives through increased taxes [OK Policy].

The Empire Strikes Back: Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Derailed In Oklahoma: The bi-partisan and pan-ideological movement to reform the abusive civil asset forfeiture system has had some signal victories, but has also run into bitter opposition from the groups that like this form of, as Frederic Bastiat put it, legal plunder. Last year, New Mexico’s legislature unanimously passed a sweeping reform bill, giving the state the best rating among all states from the Institute for Justice in its 2015 Policing for Profit report [Forbes]. New Mexico stopped civil asset forfeiture abuse; Oklahoma can, too [OK Policy].

Bill requiring insurance coverage for autism heads to Senate floor: A bill requiring insurance companies to cover the treatment of autistic children is headed to the Senate floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed House Bill 2962, by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie. The measure requires coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals younger than 9 years old [Tulsa World].

High number of child deaths linked to abuse and neglect concerns officials: The first three months of the year have seen an alarming number of cases of alleged abuse or neglect in connection to child deaths. Since Jan. 1, the Department of Human Services has launched investigations into 10 child deaths in Tulsa County associated with allegations of abuse and neglect. “We have child deaths every year, but to have at least one or two each month has been kind of a shock to everyone in the system,” said Rose Turner, managing director of the Child Abuse Network, an agency that serves as coordinator for the multiple agencies that interact with children of reported child abuse [Tulsa World].

Upcoming Event: Practice & Policy lecture explores new study on Oklahoma’s affordable housing: On Thursday, April 21, from noon to 1pm, a free public presentation will discuss a new comprehensive statewide affordable housing needs assessment for Oklahoma. The event, titled “Oklahoma’s Affordable Housing Study: The Demand and Cost of Housing, Homelessness, Fair Housing, and Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazards”, will be at the Oklahoma History Center (800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73105). The Oklahoma Housing Needs Assessment is a statewide study that analyzes the affordable housing needs of moderate to low income households for each county and the state as a whole [Tulsa World].

‘No longer relevant’: U.S. hazard map doesn’t account for recent changes: Oklahomans face the most significant hazard from man-made earthquakes in the nation, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report released Monday. However, the analysis doesn’t reflect policy or operational changes that could show a lower potential risk, said Mark Petersen, USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project chief. Scientists agree wastewater injected deep into underground faults can trigger seismic activity. However, it can be difficult to link specific wastewater disposal wells to specific earthquake swarms, especially in Oklahoma, where there are thousands of disposal wells [Journal Record].

Tests for lead in water have missed areas of Oklahoma City: Finding homeowners willing to assist with lead water testing can be a challenge in Oklahoma City, which is one reason water department officials said some parts of the city have not been included in the testing process for quite some time. The Department of Environmental Quality requires a city the size of Oklahoma City to test at least 50 taps for lead every three years in homes that are known to have or likely to have lead or copper piping. The Oklahoman mapped all testing sites for 2012 and 2015, and found a lack of testing in northeast Oklahoma City, even though homes in that community have characteristics of likely having lead piping or solder [NewsOK]. 

Quote of the Day

“There is a better solution available, if Oklahoma would only look to the east. Arkansas has proven that states can accept available enhanced federal Medicaid reimbursement funding and use it to underwrite private health insurance for its poorest citizens. The infusion of federal money has spurred the Arkansas economy, cut state costs, increased state tax revenues and produced a more robust insurance market.”

– The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board, urging state leadership to accept an infusion of federal dollars to expand health coverage for low-income Oklahomans (Source). Other states’ experiences show that expanding coverage for low-income residents would be a good deal for Oklahoma.

Number of the Day


Estimated number of occupied housing units in Oklahoma with lead-based paint hazards

Source: Oklahoma Housing Needs Assessment 

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Politicians Push Marriage, but That’s Not What Would Help Children: Should the government push poor people to marry? The urge to do so has a long pedigree, dating perhaps as far back as 1965. When serving as a Labor Department official in the Johnson administration, Daniel Patrick Moynihan – who was later a top adviser to President Richard M. Nixon and ultimately one of the most influential Democrats in Congress as a senator from New York – argued that the surge of African-American families headed by single mothers was condemning many black children to fail in school and in life. Promoting marriage and two-parent families was part of President Bill Clinton’s welfare overhaul of 1996. His successor, George W. Bush, offered up a Health Marriage Initiative. The Obama administration policy quiver included marriage promotion, too. And today, when almost 40 percent of new mothers are unmarried, when one in five white children, one in four Hispanics and one in two blacks live without a father at home, fixing the American family has again acquired urgency across the political spectrum [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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