In The Know: Senate panel passes bills to make massive changes to state judiciary

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

Senate panel passes bills to make massive changes to state judiciary: A Senate panel on Tuesday passed a number of bills that would make massive changes to the judiciary. After securing approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee, the measures move to the full Senate for consideration. “These are important reforms that would shift the balance of power in the judicial appointment process in Oklahoma away from trial lawyers and back to the people,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus [Tulsa World]. 

Gov. Mary Fallin proposes tax on Oklahoma wind production: Oklahoma would become the second state to impose a tax on wind power, and its tax would be the nation’s highest, under a proposal announced Monday by Gov. Mary Fallin. In her executive budget, Fallin proposed a 0.5 cent per kilowatt hour tax on electricity from wind generation. She also wants to sunset existing tax incentives for the wind industry earlier than planned. The proposals brought praise from groups opposing wind incentives, but wind industry representatives said they could chill future investment in the state [NewsOK].

Grocery tax cut would cost $235 million: Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposal to kill the state’s grocery tax hasn’t drawn any torches or pitchforks, but some have looked at it with a leery eye. The measure would save a family of four between $350 and $676 per year, but it would also drop $234.7 million out of the budget, according to the executive budget Fallin released Monday. The repeal is part of a tax modernization package, which would cut taxes the governor called outdated while implementing new ones and raising old ones. Some officials are concerned there’s nothing keeping legislators from ending the grocery tax with no replacement [Journal Record].

Abortion bill stalls as activists rally at Oklahoma Capitol: While hundreds of anti-abortion activists descended on the Oklahoma Capitol for a rally on Wednesday, a GOP-led House committee failed to pass an anti-abortion bill in a move that could signal a shift in priorities for Republican lawmakers in a deep-red state. Three freshman Republicans on the House Public Health Committee joined with a Democrat voting against a bill to prohibit abortions based on the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality or Down syndrome. The 4-4 vote, which only temporarily stalls the bill, is a signal that at least some GOP lawmakers are growing weary of anti-abortion bills getting tied up in court [Tulsa World].

Senate, House panels pass bill to implement Real ID: House and Senate panels passed measures on Wednesday to bring the state into compliance with the federal Real ID Act. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed Senate Bill 791 by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus, and Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City. The measure now moves to the Senate floor for consideration. Later Wednesday, the House Rules Committee OK’d its version of the legislation, House Bill 1845, by Rep. Leslie Osborn [Tulsa World].

Measure gives victims control over accounts: A measure that let victims of domestic violence have control over cell phone and utility accounts passed Wednesday out of the House Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice and Corrections. House Bill 1466, by state Rep. Elise Hall, would create a procedure to allow the victim of domestic violence to transfer wireless telephone and utility accounts to their name when the account was previously in the name of another. The bill would require a court order containing relevant information to be sent to the wireless service provider or public utility to transfer the account [Journal Record].

Nurse practitioner bill advances: A bill that would eliminate the requirement that nurse practitioners sign a collaborative agreement with a physician passed the House Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee on Wednesday. House Bill 1013, by Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, passed with a 12-2 votes. …The Association of Oklahoma Nurse Practitioners is organizing a legislative day on Feb. 14 to visit lawmakers and advocate for the measure. Under current state law, a physician can only sign agreements with two nurse practitioners, placing a cap on the number of nurse practitioners who are able to work in the state [Journal Record].

Prosperity Policy: The cost trap: OK readers, pop quiz. Jane is caught driving 20 miles over the speed limit in a work zone. If the regular ticket for driving 20 miles over the speed limit is $265, and fines double in a work zone, how much is Jane’s ticket? The answer is… $300. The reason is that of the $265 a motorist is charged for an ordinary ticket, the fine that would be doubled in a work zone is only $35. The rest consists of 15 different fees added to the ticket to help fund the courts, state and local law enforcement, and other things [David Blatt / Journal Record]. OK Policy released a report detailing the growth of fines and fees and their effect on Oklahomans and agency budgets [OK Policy].

New App Could Save Tulsans Money, Keep Some Out Of Jail: Failure to appear in court is a common problem with consequences for the offender, not to mention taxpayers. But, a group of volunteer computer programmers is coming to the rescue; and it could save people money, and, even some jail time. It can be hard for someone to remember their court date, and if they forget, an arrest warrant is issued and their bond is tripled. That’s where some computer coders come in. Right now, Tulsa County runs on a pretty outdated system to let people know when they need to appear in court [NewsOn6].

Mandatory vaccination critics rally against legislation removing exemptions: Critics of mandatory vaccinations rallied at the state Capitol on Wednesday. They are opposed to Senate Bill 83, which would remove two of the three exemptions to mandatory vaccinations. The bill would allow a child to be exempt from school-required vaccinations only if a doctor says the child’s physical condition is such that immunization would endanger his or her life or health. Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, said critics of his bill are absolutely wrong and the state’s vaccination rates are too low [Tulsa World].

Statement: Sen. Lankford urged to reject measure to block fraud and fee protections on prepaid cards: Today, Oklahoma Policy Institute called on U.S. Senator James Lankford to not use obscure law to block the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new prepaid card rule. The move would block basic fraud and fee disclosure protections for all prepaid cards, the vast majority of which don’t have overdraft fees. “We urge Senator Lankford to side with Oklahoma veterans, seniors and struggling families and not with a company that takes overdraft fees out of the pockets of these and other Oklahoma residents,” said David Blatt, Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based think-tank that supports policies that expand financial security and economic opportunity [OK Policy].

Norman board denies charter school application: Parents backing a proposed language immersion charter school will appeal to the state after the school board denied their application for sponsorship for a second time late Monday night. Panel members voted 5-0 against the revised application of Le Monde International School, which is seeking to offer immersion programs in French or Spanish to students in prekindergarten through eighth grade. Learners would study school subjects, such as math, science and social studies by using a foreign language [NewsOK].

Oklahoma economy officially out of recession; key indicators trend positive: For the first time in more than a year and a half, monthly state tax receipts grew in January as Oklahoma’s economy emerged from recession, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Wednesday. “Low prices and curtailed production in the oil field led us into the latest downturn, and it appears rising prices and production are leading us out,” Miller said Wednesday. “Several data points — rising state GDP, rig counts, business conditions, and employment — give reason for cautious optimism.” [NewsOK]

Expansion Allows Food Bank To Feed 150 More OK Seniors: The Food Bank will be able to feed 150 more low-income seniors in eastern Oklahoma thanks to an expansion from the USDA. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides seniors with a free box of food once a month, which contains items like canned fruits, vegetables, and meat. The need for the extra funding is growing, as one in six seniors in Oklahoma doesn’t have food security on a daily basis [NewsOn6].

Quote of the Day

“Eliminating the grocery tax will be good for the clients we serve. But we are concerned that the revenue needs to be replaced with something.”

– Effie Craven,  state advocacy and public policy director at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, on Gov. Fallin’s proposal in her State of the State to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries. The measure would save Oklahoma families hundreds of dollars, but would cost the state $234.7 million per year (Source). Our statement on the Governor’s speech is available here

Number of the Day


Percent increase in the cost of a ticket for speeding 20mph over the limit between 1992 and 2016, from $107 to $265.25

Source: OK Policy

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Should Government Control What Low-Income People Eat? In Free to Choose, Milton Friedman argued “There is no place for government to prohibit consumers from buying products the effect of which will be to harm themselves.” Is there still broad agreement on this principle—and should it extend to all Americans? Or should those receiving government assistance be subject to particular restrictions? In the case of the food stamp program, should Uncle Sam be dictating what people can eat and drink? And if so, would it prevent people from consuming unhealthy foods, regardless? That’s a question at the heart of recent calls to try to alter the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) to attempt to encourage healthier eating among low-income Americans [Real Clear Markets].

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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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