In The Know: Senate plan for teacher pay raises hinges on fuel tax hike

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Senate plan for teacher pay raises hinges on fuel tax hike: The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would increase teacher pay. But the funding mechanism, an increase in the motor fuel taxes, must start in the House, said Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, the author of the bill. Senate Bill 618 passed by a vote of 40-2 and heads to the House for consideration [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmakers rush to hear bills, including teacher pay: Oklahoma lawmakers are rushing to decide whether or not bills will move forward into the House and Senate this week. Today, the Senate voted on a number of issues, including 22 bills pertaining to education. One bill, which would give teachers a raise, is headed to the House for consideration. Oklahoma is losing teachers, creating a shortage, but lawmakers and teachers both agree that a salary increase could help fix the problem [KTUL].

Oklahoma House passes bill that could restore Ten Commandments monument to Capitol grounds: State representatives voted late Tuesday to allow monuments to “historically significant documents” — primarily the Ten Commandments — to be displayed on public property. House Bill 2177, by Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, is offered as an antidote to a state Supreme Court decision that removed such a memorial from the Capitol grounds and a vote of the people last fall that essentially reinforced that ruling [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma DHS is about to run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities: There are honest arguments and discussions to be had about the place and role of government. However, we generally agree that the government has an important role in protecting the lives and health of Americans who aren’t able to protect themselves, including those who are elderly or have significant disabilities. However, in Oklahoma, years of budget cuts have now compromised our Department of Human Services’ ability to fulfill this core function of government [OK Policy].

Eliminate the false idea that prosperity comes from whittling away at state income tax rates: Two ideas to save the state from another disastrous state revenue hit are competing for the favor of Oklahoma legislators. One is an improvement over our current disastrous course, but the other is clearly better. In 2015, the Legislature passed a poorly considered law that would cut the state’s top income tax rate from 5 percent to 4.85 percent as soon at the state’s general revenue growth is more than the cost of the tax cut, roughly $97 million [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. The cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually [OK Policy].

Cities, towns could receive property taxes if bill passed through House becomes law: A bill with revolutionary implications for municipal finance passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday even though more ruling Republicans voted against it than for it. House Bill 1374 by Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, would restore municipalities’ direct access to ad valorem taxes for operations by allowing creation of “public safety districts” that match towns’ and cities’ corporate limits [Tulsa World].

House shoots down AIDS education bill: In a late-night session Wednesday, the Oklahoma House rejected a bill that would update HIV and AIDS prevention education at public schools. Among other provisions, the measure would have required curriculum include specific recommendations that people who engage in high-risk behavior should get tested and use available prevention methods, like condoms [NewsOK].

Senate passes bill to move Talihina veterans center: The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow for the relocation of the veterans center in Talihina in the wake of two high-profile deaths. Senate Bill 544 initially failed, but Sen. Frank Simpson, the author, held it on a motion to reconsider the vote by which it failed. It then passed with the title off, a procedural move that requires it to return to the Senate if it passes the House [Tulsa World].

Bill would enable Oklahoma to recommend sharing school services: A bill that passed the Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday would trigger a study, ultimately leading to recommendations for schools to share administrative services. Senate Bill 514 also could lead to school districts sharing superintendents. If the bill passes the House and is signed by the governor, the Education Department would begin the study by the end of 2017 [NewsOK].

Proposal to Open Norman Charter School in a Church Raises Questions: Toeing the line between separation of church and state, backers of a proposed charter school say they want to open the new school inside a church. The potential location of the LeMonde International School, a language immersion elementary, is one of several reasons Norman Public Schools Superintendent Joe Siano recommended last month the school board deny the school’s application [Oklahoma Watch].

ACLU files open records request following OKCPS proposed school consolidations: The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has filed an open records request into a proposed round of school consolidations in Oklahoma City. On Monday, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora presented a plan to consolidate five schools as the school looks for cost-saving measures [FOX25]. Oklahoma ranks worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].

Rep. Jim Bridenstine says he’ll vote for health care bill: First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday in a blog post he will vote for the controversial “repeal and replace” American Health Care Act on Thursday. Bridenstine said in his four-plus years in Congress he has often voted “no” to get to a “better Yes,” but in this case decided the AHCA “is the best ‘Yes’ that the House is able to accomplish legislatively at this time.” [Tulsa World] The House Republican health care bill would devastate  Oklahomans’ access to care [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: No more peace of mind: Just over three years ago, I wrote a column about a friend’s mother named Beth. Beth was then a 58-year-old, self-employed home renovator and woodworker. In the mid-1990s, she left her job with a large company to start her own business. Health insurance on the individual market was never affordable for her. For 18 years, she went uninsured [David Blatt / Journal Record].

It’s Not Clear How Many People Could Actually Work To Get Medicaid: Republican House leaders are making last-minute changes to their health care proposal in a bid to woo more conservatives ahead of a vote scheduled for Thursday. One of those changes would let states impose work requirements on some Medicaid recipients. A handful of states asked the Obama administration for that authority but were denied [NPR].

Data breach hits Oklahoma employment site: A security breach has affected hundreds of thousands of jobseekers who used an employment website offered by the Oklahoma government. Hackers were able to pull names, birthdays and Social Security numbers of more than 430,000 people who signed up for, a site that connects employers and people looking for a job [NewsOK].

Julie Cunningham named Oklahoma Water Resources Board executive director: The Oklahoma Water Resources Board voted unanimously Tuesday to name Julie Cunningham as the agency’s next executive director. Cunningham had been serving as the interim executive director since October 2016 following the departure of J.D. Strong to lead the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation [Norman Transcript].

‘Watch-Out’ Forum in Tulsa: The Shifting Addiction Crisis: Oklahoma Watch will host a public forum on Monday, April 3, in Tulsa on what can be done to address the continuing epidemic of fatal drug overdoses involving not only prescription painkillers, but also now black-market methamphetamine and heroin. The “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum, titled “The Addiction Crisis Shifts,” will feature Michael Brose, CEO of Mental Health Association Oklahoma; John Scully, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, and a panelist to be announced soon [Oklahoma Watch].

Tulsa projecting $5 million gap between revenue, expenses next year: The city of Tulsa’s upcoming budget is starting from behind with a $5 million gap between expected revenues and anticipated expenses next year, officials said. “We have less revenue and more expense,” Finance Director Mike Kier said. “It’s a lot of money.” Kier said the projected gap between revenue and expenses in the city’s general fund is especially precarious after a decade of more cuts than growth [Tulsa World].

Sheriff: Public not entitled to see inmate death reviews: One day after losing a $10 million civil rights lawsuit over Elliott Williams 2011 death in the jail, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office said that its reviews of all inmate deaths are exempt from the Open Records Act. Following a request by The Frontier for copies of all inmate mortality reviews conducted under Sheriff Vic Regalado, a TCSO spokeswoman said Tuesday those reviews “are not open records.” [The Frontier]

Oklahoma Sen. Shortey resigns after being charged: Oklahoma senators moved quickly to put the latest scandal behind them after Sen. Ralph Shortey resigned Wednesday afternoon. His desk on the Senate floor was unceremoniously cleared off during a break. His name was taken off the electronic voting display at the front of the Senate chamber as well as from the official Senate online site [NewsOK].

Rep. Kevin McDugle on sexual abuse: ‘I thought I might have been the only one’: If it feels like you’ve heard Virginia Lewis’ story on NonDoc before, it’s because you have. What you may not have heard is Rep. Kevin McDugle’s. McDugle (R-Broken Arrow) met Lewis a little more than a month ago as the Tulsa-based victims’ rights advocate was gathering support for HB 1468 and HB 1470, both of which passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously Monday [NonDoc].

Quote of the Day

“The new bill expects me to be able to remain insured with a subsidy of $4,000. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that will never happen.”

– Beth, a 61 year-old self-employed woodworker who purchased health coverage with subsidies available through the Affordable Care Act. Under the House Republican health plan, her subsidy would be cut by two-thirds (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children in families receiving some kind of public assistance in 2015


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Immigration projected to drive growth in U.S. working-age population through at least 2035: For most of the past half-century, adults in the U.S. Baby Boom generation – those born after World War II and before 1965 – have been the main driver of the nation’s expanding workforce. But as this large generation heads into retirement, the increase in the potential labor force will slow markedly, and immigrants will play the primary role in the future growth of the working-age population (though they will remain a minority of it). The number of adults in the prime working ages of 25 to 64 – 173.2 million in 2015 – will rise to 183.2 million in 2035, according to Pew Research Center projections. That total growth of 10 million over two decades will be lower than the total in any single decade since the Baby Boomers began pouring into the workforce in the 1960s [Pew Research Center].

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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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