In The Know: Speaker Shannon enters US Senate race; Bridenstine won’t run

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

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Today you should know that Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon will announce today that he is entering the race for the US Senate seat being vacated by Tom Coburn. He said he will remain as speaker “for the time being.” Rep. Jim Bridenstine has told supporters he will not run for Senate. Rep. Frank Lucas praised a long-sought agreement on a farm bill reached between the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Capital City OK discussed how the policies addressed in President Obama’s State of the Union speech may impact Oklahoma.

OK Policy released a newly updated Legislative Primer that explains Oklahoma’s legislative process. A bill by Rep. Dan Fisher, R-El Reno, seeks to defund the Oklahoma Arts Council, which provides community grants for the arts across Oklahoma. The president of the Integris Bass Baptist Health Center in Enid said he could go out of business if the state doesn’t accept federal money to expand Insure Oklahoma.

A federal appeals court will give expedited hearing to a case challenging Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma driver’s licenses were improperly revoked based on blood-alcohol testing equipment that was not maintained. Criminal misdemeanor charges against the Oklahoma Parole Board are being dropped after members signed a statement acknowledging violations of the Open Meeting Act.

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.4 percent in December and is slightly higher than this time last year. State Sen. Connie Johnson has introduced a bill to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Oklahoma. Parents and school officials in Tahlequah responded to Oklahoma’s poor showing in a national evaluation of academic achievement.

The Number of the Day is the base salary for members of the Oklahoma Legislature. In today’s Policy Note, the Metro Trends blog shows that of the top five jobs projected to grow from 2012 to 2022, only one—registered nurse—provides an annual, full-time salary over $22,000.

In The News

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon set to enter US Senate race today

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon plans to enter the Republican race for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s seat today, and will make separate announcements in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and his hometown of Lawton. Already in the race is Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City businessman Eric McCray, who works for McCray and Sons Heat and Air, said this week that he also will run for the Republican nomination. U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, has been considering the race. In an email to his Republican colleagues in the House, Shannon said Tuesday that he would remain as speaker “for the time being.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Bridenstine won’t run for Senate

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) will not run for Senate in Oklahoma, multiple sources confirmed to The Hill. Bridenstine spent part of the afternoon on Tuesday calling around to supporters to let them know he’s decided against running, including former Kansas GOP Rep. Jim Ryun, who heads the conservative group Madison Project, which had encouraged him to run. National conservative groups had been urging Bridenstine into the race, with the Senate Conservatives Fund lauding him as a strong potential Senate candidate in their endorsement of him last year.

Read more from The Hill.

Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas says farm bill agreement “almost a miracle”

Rep. Frank Lucas praised the long-delayed farm bill agreement as “amazing” on Tuesday, as the House pushed it toward possible passage on Wednesday. After several weeks of negotiations, bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees unveiled their compromise on Monday night. The controversial direct cash payments to land owners, many of whom no longer farm, will be eliminated, and taxpayer subsidies will be linked more closely to market prices for crops and weather-related disasters, Lucas said. The bill would cut an estimated $8.6 billion from the food stamp program, far lower than the $40 billion in cuts originally approved by the House but more than the $4 billion sought by the Senate.

Read more from NewsOK.

An Oklahoma eye on the State of the Union

Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird was invited as a special guest of First Lady Michelle Obama to Tuesday’s State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C. Bird had a great view of the President’s annual address, but got no mention. Nor did the Oklahoma tornadoes, or anything in Oklahoma for that matter. But that doesn’t mean many of the policies addressed by President Obama don’t have a direct impact on the Sooner State.

Read more from Capital City OK.

Legislative Primer for 2014

Where do bills come from? How many make it into law? Who makes up Governor Fallin’s cabinet? How does the committee process work, and who leads which committee? With the 2014 Oklahoma Legislative session beginning next week, our updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more. Every year the Legislative Primer has proven to be one of the most popular resources on our site. It’s been used in high school and higher education classrooms, by citizen advocates, and even by lawmakers seeking to better understand the legislative process.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Art funding cuts proposed

Experts warn that funding for the arts in Oklahoma may soon hit a crisis point if proposed cuts are approved. House Bill 2850 lays out a plan to defund the the Oklahoma Arts Council and is cued for consideration when the Oklahoma Legislature convenes Feb. 3. Bill author Rep. Dan Fisher proposes that OAC funding be cut by 25 percent each year until 2018. Approximately 400 programs are funded by the Oklahoma Arts Council. Half of OAC funding supports art in rural areas; 80 percent of its total funding goes directly into communities via grants.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Expansion critical for Insure Oklahoma, Integris president says

Eddie Herrman, president of Integris Bass Baptist Health Center, believes expansion of the Insure Oklahoma program is important to the health of Oklahoma hospitals and their patients. About 636,000 Oklahoma residents do not have health insurance, Herrman said. Despite the common belief that uninsured adults don’t have jobs, about 80 percent of them do work, but cannot afford health insurance premiums, he said.

Read more from the Enid News & Eagle.

Appeals court to expedite hearing in suit challenging Oklahoma same-sex marriage ban

A federal appellate court will give expedited consideration to an appeal of a decision by a Tulsa federal judge earlier this month which found that Oklahoma’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages violates the U.S. Constitution, according to an order issued Tuesday. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set a briefing schedule on Tuesday that spans from Feb. 24 until April 7. The same order says the Oklahoma case will be assigned to the same panel of appellate judges that will consider a similar case from Utah.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Ruling on blood-alcohol breath tests could impact other Oklahoma cases

Oklahoma driver’s license revocations based on failed breath tests that determine blood-alcohol level are once again being called into question under a state Supreme Court ruling issued Tuesday. Citing a lack of prescribed maintenance procedures for the Intoxilyzer 8000 breath-alcohol testing instrument, the court found that the driver’s license of Mark Muratore should not have been revoked following his April 2012 arrest by an Edmond police officer.

Read more from NewsOK.

Charges against Oklahoma Parole Board to be dropped

Criminal charges are being dropped against the five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, The Oklahoman has learned. They were accused in misdemeanor charges filed last March of illegally voting on inmates’ requests for early release without proper public notice. The charges are being dismissed because all five signed a one-page statement that acknowledges a long-standing procedure on such requests appears to have been in violation of the Open Meeting Act.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma jobless rate steady at 5.4 percent, slight increase over same time last year

Oklahoma’s jobless rate didn’t budge in December, holding steady at 5.4 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. In December 2012, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 5.1 percent. Oklahoma was one of six states that posted a jobless rate increase from a year earlier. Another 42 states and the District of Columbia had rate decreases from a year earlier, and two states had no change, according to the BLS. The nationwide unemployment rate declined to 6.7 percent from November.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

State Senator launches effort to regulate, tax marijuana like alcohol in Oklahoma

State Sen. Connie Johnson has introduced a bill that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Oklahoma. Senate Bill 2116 would make the personal use, possession and limited home-cultivation of marijuana legal for adults age 21 and older, and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. National polls have shown a steady increase in support for taxing and regulating adult use of marijuana in recent years, with a majority of Americans now consistently supporting an end to its prohibition.

Read more from the Norman Transcript.

Locals think Oklahoma schools are doing better than assessment shows

Another evaluation of education in the U.S. has been released, and Oklahoma finished behind more than three dozen other states in the rankings. But area education officials aren’t putting a lot of stock into the assessment. In Education Week’s recent 2014 Quality Counts assessment, Oklahoma was listed at 41st in kindergarten through 12th grade academic achievement. A general correlation in the rankings can be drawn between academic achievement and funding. The five top achievement states all rank in the top 15 in per-pupil expenditure. Just one of the 10 worst states was in the top 15 in spending per student.

Read more from the Tahlequah Daily Press.

Quote of the Day

By taxing and regulating marijuana, we can take the lucrative market out of the hands of criminals and drug cartels and put it in the hands of tax-paying, law-abiding businesses. More importantly, we can stop arresting adults simply for using a substance less harmful than alcohol and focus our law enforcement resources on violent crimes and real threats to public safety.

-State Senator Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma County (Source:

Number of the Day


The base salary for members of the Oklahoma Legislature. The President Pro-Tem of the Senate and Speaker of the House receive an additional $17,932.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How do we grow our economy when most of the jobs are low wage and low skill?

Today’s job report was disappointing – just 74,000 estimated new jobs in December. What’s more, overall job growth is mainly concentrated in low-wage, low-skill occupations. And the difference between the upper and lower classes is expanding as fewer high-growth occupations provide middle-class wages. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections released this week suggest that job growth will remain concentrated in lower-wage occupations. Of the top five jobs projected to grow from 2012 to 2022, only one—registered nurse—provides an annual, full-time salary over $22,000.

Read more from MetroTrends.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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