In The Know: Senate panel passes six teacher pay raise bills

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 panel passes six teacher pay raise bills: A Senate panel on Wednesday passed six measures that would increase teacher pay. The bills move to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. State officials expect to have $868 million less to spend in crafting the fiscal year 2018 budget, but legislative leaders have said increasing teacher pay is a priority. Senate Bill 97, by Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, would provide a $1,000 raise the first year, a $2,000 raise the second year and a $3,000 raise the third year [Tulsa World].

Plans to change voter-approved drug laws face backlash: Some Republicans in the Oklahoma Legislature are pushing back against voter-approved changes in November to soften drug possession penalties, arguing that voters didn’t know exactly what they were doing when they approved the initiatives with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Several proposals have been introduced this year by tough-on-crime Republicans who want to undo some of the changes approved by voters just a few months ago, including one bill to reinstate felony penalties for some drug possession crimes that easily cleared a House committee on Wednesday. Those plans are riling up voters who approved the changes and said they are fed up with Oklahoma’s overcrowded and underfunded prisons [Associated Press].

Immigration agents arrest more than a dozen in central Oklahoma: An immigration attorney said the threshold of who is picked up by immigration officials has been lowered by the new administration. “It’s wide open who they go after,” Michael Brooks Jimenez said. He represents five of the eight men picked up by immigration agents with the fugitive task force this week in Purcell. Authorities told KOCO 5 that more than a dozen undocumented immigrants were arrested in central Oklahoma. “When (agents) go to arrest someone, if they encounter anyone else they think might not be documented, they pick them up as collateral damage,” Brooks Jimenez said [KOCO].

Tulsa Authorities Answer Questions About Immigration Policy: Many people are asking questions about immigration raids. President Donald Trump said the recent arrests of hundreds of people in several large American cities fulfill a campaign promise. We wanted to know if Tulsa County can expect to see raids here. Right now, there are 153 undocumented immigrants being held in the Tulsa County Jail, but the majority of them were not even arrested here. Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado is known for taking a tough stance on immigration [NewsOn6].

Prosperity Policy: A balancing act: In last week’s State of the State, Gov. Mary Fallin laid out a blunt truth. The state, she said, has a structural budget deficit, which means it’s not raising enough revenue to pay for the services Oklahomans rely on. To address this year’s budget shortfall and put Oklahoma on a sustainable long-term path, the governor acknowledged that we need more recurring tax revenues, not deeper cuts to our core services. This assessment seemed to gain broad agreement, but agreement breaks down when it comes to deciding where to get those recurring revenues [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Let cities use property tax to pay for public safety costs: These are tough times for Oklahoma. Government leaders responsible for providing public services face the reality that the traditional sources of public revenue necessary to support the quality of life we expect can no longer be counted on. This requires a new order of thinking on how to fund and deliver the most vital of services — public safety. Cities and counties provide the front line for public safety by our first responders. Without community safety and protection, all other visions of our leaders have little meaning or purpose [Bob Sullivan and Sharon King Davis / Tulsa World].

Okla. County voter turnout low, OKCPS to hold runoffs: The Oklahoma City Public School Board elections emerged as the hottest races Tuesday, as all three positions up for grabs will head to a runoff election scheduled for April 4. Paula Lewis and Stanley Hupfeld wound up basically neck and neck in the race for board chairperson, with a margin of only 2.5 percentage points separating the two. The same margin separated Charles Henry from Cheryl Poole in the race for Office 1, while 3.3 points separated Rebecca Budd from Nick Singer. Similarly, Oklahoma City’s Ward 4 contest will have to be decided in a future election, as veteran politician Richard Morrissette (48.0 percent) failed to garner a majority of votes over second-place finisher Todd Stone (33.3 percent) [NonDoc].

‘People have a right to quiet,’ Oklahoma lawmaker wants to reduce noise pollution at oil drilling sites: They just want some peace and quiet. That’s what some families in rural Oklahoma are saying about all the oil and gas companies drilling near their homes. The noise is constant for some in Payne County. “It sounds like a giant dentist drill that goes up and down in intensity and makes your teeth grind and your nerves stand on end,” Kel Pickens said. Some of these folks who live near the drilling sites aren’t getting any of the royalties, but they’re getting all the dust, traffic and round-the-clock noise [KFOR].

Panel kills bill giving Legislature power over turnpike bonds, tolls: A Senate panel on Tuesday killed a bill that would put the Legislature in charge of toll rate increases instead of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. The Senate Transportation Committee killed Senate Bill 201, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. The vote was two in support and seven opposed. Dahm said he filed the bill based on a request from a constituent. The Turnpike Authority recently voted to increase tolls to pay for the $935 million Driving Forward Initiative [Tulsa World].

Lawmakers must confront racial disparities head-on as they reform the justice system: The need for criminal justice reform is well illustrated by outrageous top-level statistics showing Oklahoma’s imprisonment rate among the highest in the nation (about 700 in prison per 100,000 residents), and a need to bring down spending on corrections (nearly half a billion dollars in FY 2016 and yet vastly insufficient to safely operate our prisons). While those numbers are staggering, they hide deep racial disparities. Mass incarceration is bad for the state as a whole, but the damage it is doing to minority communities is even worse [OK Policy].

Civil rights fighter, Tulsa Race Riot survivor shares her experience after 102nd birthday: When you’re Olivia Hooker, it’s OK to talk about age, especially as she’s achieved so much and still has an engaging smile and strong mind. Hooker turned 102 years old on Sunday — sharing a birthday with President Abraham Lincoln and an incredible history of being a great American patriot. Hooker was born in 1915 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. This centenarian has had a front seat to some of America’s most challenging moments, fighting racial injustice and becoming a female trailblazer [Journal News].

Rep. Fourkiller accepts sanctions: A state representative still denies making any inappropriate comments to a House page but he agreed to accept sanctions anyway. “I take this matter very seriously and want to take steps to avoid even an appearance of impropriety,” Rep. Will Fourkiller, D-Stilwell, wrote in a letter delivered Monday to House Speaker Charles McCall. A special House committee in January investigated a complaint made against Fourkiller in 2015 by the page, then a high school student [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“I believe we need to be talking about a $10,000 raise, because we let this fester so long, because we are so far behind, and because it will take years to implement. Not many private businesses would go a decade without providing even a cost-of-living increase.”

-Sen. David Holt, explaining the reasoning behind his bill to provide teachers a $10,000 raise over four years (Source)

Number of the Day

$460.5 million

Estimated cost of tax breaks and rebates Oklahoma is giving to the oil and gas industry in FY 2017.

Source: Oklahoma Tax Commission via Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Repeal of Health Law Could Mean Women Pay More for Less: From a return to higher premiums based on gender, to gaps in coverage for birth control and breast pumps, experts say women could end up paying more for less if the Obama-era health care law is repealed. The 2010 law ended a common industry practice of charging women more than men for policies purchased directly from an insurer. It made maternity and newborn care a required benefit for individual health plans. And it set a list of preventive services to be provided at no extra cost to women, including birth control and breast pumps used by nursing mothers. That preventive care requirement also applies to most employer plans [Associated Press].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: Senate panel passes six teacher pay raise bills

  1. I am all for teachers but as 28 year State Employee, when January rolled around and my paycheck was hit hard, again this year, you start to realize doing the same thing over and over really is insanity. In the past 6 years I have lost over $400.00 out of my household budget due to benefit loss and premium increase. I was poor before this happened now I am just trying to keep the peanut butter on the table for a month. I knew way back when I signed on with the State I would never be rich and never expected to be. It was a sad day when I looked at my 2009 earning statement and realized I made more money back then than I have the past few years though not one thing in my life has changed except for my cost of living expenses have gone up, benefits have gone down; I have had 3 longevity increases and a supposed 3% raise in this time period but still going backwards on my earning statement each year? How does that happen? It blindingly obvious this legislation does not think much of State employee’s,(except maybe a handful) but we are present the whole year and our wages are not any different than teachers who work close to 3 months less out of the year. I still try to count my blessings but they are becoming so small I can almost at this point flush them down the sink.

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