In The Know: Senate kills bill to prevent cities from protecting LGBT community

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.

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Today In The News

Senate kills bill to prevent cities from protecting LGBT community: The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday killed a bill that would have nullified city of Tulsa ordinances offering protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing and employment. Senate Bill 694, by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, failed by a vote of 18 for and 25 against. It requires 25 votes in the Senate to pass a measure. Brecheen held the bill on a motion to reconsider the vote by which it failed. That motion failed as well, by 15 for and 28 against [Tulsa World]. After the bill failed, the author of a second measure to allow businesses to discriminate against gay people withdrew his proposal [NewsOK].

DHS Director: Oklahoma budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable”: Unless lawmakers find new revenues to close their budget shortfall, Oklahoma is looking at unprecedented cuts to the most basic services of state government, including those for the most vulnerable seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Even before next year’s budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will run out of money in May to pay for in-home care of 25,000 seniors and individuals with severe disabilities unless the Legislature acts quickly to provide supplemental funds [OK Policy]. Cuts to programs and services would include eliminating some or all of the staff positions and contracts associated with those programs [Tulsa World].

Agencies: Potential cuts are alarming: Legislators required all state agencies to report how a 14.5-percent budget cut would affect them. On the whole, it would mean more than 1,000 layoffs and a severe drop in services. Agencies have already seen millions drop out of their budgets. They’ve already let thousands of employees go, initiated hiring freezes and capped services. But as 2018’s fiscal year looms with the threat of an almost $900 million shortfall, everyone is looking at what else they can cut. They aren’t mincing words [Journal Record].

Oklahoma House Democrats propose $1.4B in revenue proposals: Oklahoma Democrats are proposing nearly $1.4 billion worth of revenue proposals to help prevent deep budget cuts to state programs and provide funding for a teacher pay raise. House Democratic Leader Scott Inman announced the plan Thursday with more than a dozen Democrats at his side. It includes increasing taxes on oil and gas production, cigarettes and income for individuals earning more than $100,000 a year [NewsOK].

Trump Tells G.O.P. to Fall in Line, Demanding House Vote on Health Overhaul: President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass. The demand, issued by his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, in an evening meeting with House Republicans, came after a marathon day of negotiating at the White House and in the Capitol in which Mr. Trump – who has boasted of his deal-making prowess – fell short of selling members of his own party on the health plan [New York Times]. The proposed legislation would devastate Oklahomans’ access to care [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Medicaid agency discusses potential provider rate cuts: Without additional funding from the Legislature, the state Medicaid agency likely will have to consider paying less money to medical professionals who serve low-income Oklahomans. Leaders at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority said at a board meeting Thursday that the agency needs at least $69 million in additional money from the state Legislature to avoid provider rate cuts [NewsOK].

As Court Challenge Continues, Oklahoma Looks to Solidify Voter ID Law: The ongoing fight to overturn Oklahoma’s voter identification law – a legal challenge that has spanned more than five years – could soon face a new obstacle. The state Senate passed a joint resolution this week that seeks to amend the Oklahoma Constitution with language requiring “proof of identity” to be able to vote [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma Senate Approves Long List of Education-Related Bills: The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved several education related bills, including measures that address teacher pay, teacher recruitment, and the reduction of administrative costs, among other issues. These bills will now go to the House for consideration [KOSU].

Workforce Perspective: Justice-involved employees can help address state’s workforce crisis: Tulsa is in the middle of a workforce crisis. Along with the rest of the state and a good part of the nation, we have a lack of workers with the right skills. The right skills do not equate to the highest skills necessarily. Our biggest gap is in the middle skills category — those workers with more education than high school but less than a four-year degree [Shelley Cadamy / Tulsa World].

Bill to improve state workers’ access to mental health services advances: Although Oklahoma is known for its low investment in mental health, one state legislator is pushing to make it easier for state employees to get access to counseling after seeing violence and trauma on the job. Senate Bill 532 would allow employees to take paid leave and to get counseling services. State Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, introduced the measure, which would allow the state’s mental health services department to oversee the program [Journal Record].

Senate kills watered-down vaccination bill: The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday killed a watered-down version of a bill designed to increase the vaccination rate for school-aged children. Senate Bill 83, authored by Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, originally removed the vaccination exemptions from state law, but left the medical exemption in place [Tulsa World].

Lawmakers wired up over undocumented workers’ transfer fees: Some legislators want to ensure they’re getting revenue from undocumented immigrant workers by tapping into their wire funds. If passed, Senate Bill 547 by state Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan, would increase the existing fee on international wire transfers. The state passed the original user fee bill less than a decade ago [Journal Record].

Should an Oklahoma lifetime hunting license holder shoot bears without a fee? State House members spent an hour debating it. Among the weighty problems pondered at length Wednesday night by the Oklahoma House of Representatives was whether lifetime hunting license holders should be exempt from a $100 fee for shooting bears. The House spent the better part of an hour debating the pros and cons of the matter before deciding in favor of the hunters [Tulsa World].

Watching HB 1270 at the Capitol as an Average Joe: Wednesday night at the Oklahoma State Capitol, I learned a lot about my personal privilege. As a proud member of the underpaid media, it was not until I had wandered to the people’s house with a Let’s Fix This pub crawl that I realized how much behavioral leeway I typically have that “regular people” apparently don’t. For instance, did you know that citizens are not allowed to record smartphone video of their legislators from the House gallery? [NonDoc]

More unpaid leave for state workers: Sen. David Holt’s plan to give state workers the option of taking eight additional weeks of unpaid – repeat: unpaid – leave when transitioning into parenthood barely survived state Senate scrutiny this week. It now goes to the House, where its future may be even less certain. Seriously? Are some lawmakers really indifferent to the plight of new moms and dads, scrambling to get their sea legs after the birth of a child or adoption? Sadly, yes [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

State board of education has to transfer funds to cover new cuts to school activity funds: The Oklahoma State Board of Education had to shuffle monies within its budget Thursday because of the state revenue failure declared late last month. Common education, under the Feb. 21 revenue failure, saw a reduction of $11.1 million. That included $644,000 for direct services to students across the state from the Oklahoma Public School Activities budget, often referred to as “education line items.” [Tulsa World] Big changes, including school closings, could be on the table for Tulsa Public Schools if expected budget cuts come to pass [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma State Board OKs second non-urban charter school: For the second time in as many meetings, the state Board of Education approved a charter school application despite the local school board’s objections. Last month, the Norman School Board unanimously rejected an application from Le Monde International School, a proposed charter school being pushed by parents in response to the district’s decision to end a French immersion program last year at Reagan Elementary School [NewsOK].

Action To Protect Small Creek Pits Mining Companies Against Oklahoma Community Worried About Water Supply: Pennington Creek in south-central Oklahoma is the only source of drinking water for the town of Tishomingo. Residents there are worried limestone mining operations threaten the creek. Now, the city council is taking on the companies doing the digging. In February, the Tishomingo City Council voted to approve a new ordinance limiting how much groundwater mining companies can withdraw near Pennington Creek. The vote was unanimous [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Tulsa Jail legal woes may burden taxpayers with millions more past $10 million Elliott Williams verdict: Legal woes at the Tulsa Jail could end up costing taxpayers millions more beyond a $10 million verdict issued against the Sheriff’s Office earlier this week in the Elliott Williams jury trial. Defense attorney invoices to the county in the Williams case and in two other adjudicated lawsuits total at least $524,000 thus far, while plaintiff attorneys have billed the county another $659,000 in fees (plus costs) in a case they won in 2016, records show [Tulsa World].

Weekend meetings target education funding shortfall in Oklahoma: A group of congregations and other civic organizations is planning a series of meetings this weekend to address the Oklahoma teacher pay crisis and its impact on students. ACTION (Allied Communities of Tulsa Inspiring Our Neighborhoods) will hold at least nine events, said Shay White, an ACTION leader with Together Oklahoma [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“This sort of approach, ‘when things are bad you cut,’ has worked horribly in many businesses. And it’s exactly what we did in the 1930s. We exacerbated the recession. The indifference to the lives of all these people is really pretty impressive.”

– Oklahoma City University economist Jonathan Willner, on the effects of possible staffing cuts at state agencies as a result of the state’s nearly $900 million shortfall (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma households with no checking or savings accounts in 2013

Source: CFED

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The GOP health care plan could force Americans with disabilities back into institutions: Much of the back and forth over the House GOP’s proposed American Health Care Act has focused on the number of people likely to lose coverage because of the legislation. That’s understandable, given that the Congressional Budget Office predicts 24 million fewer people will be insured as a result of AHCA. Yet for millions of people with disabilities receiving Medicaid-funded home care, the House legislation means something worse than loss of coverage: loss of freedom. Many people with disabilities already had access to Medicaid prior to the Affordable Care Act, due to automatic Medicaid eligibility available for those receiving Supplemental Security Income, one of the two major programs that provide income to non-veterans with disabilities. For this population, the greatest threat AHCA poses comes in the form of Medicaid per capita caps, a major shift in the traditional state-federal partnership that has defined the Medicaid program for half a century [Vox].

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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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