In The Know: State House votes to reinstate drug felony voters axed on November ballot

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

State House votes to reinstate drug felony voters axed on November ballot: By the slimmest margin, the Oklahoma House of Representatives decided Thursday that voters might not have fully understood what they were doing when they passed a criminal justice referendum in November. With 51 votes, the bare minimum needed, the members passed House Bill 1482, by Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, which in its original form took a big hunk out of State Question 780, which reclassified many lesser drug and property felonies as misdemeanors [Tulsa World]. Learn more about HB 1482 and how to contact your Legislators here.

Missed opportunities for criminal justice reform this session (Capitol Updates): Legislators missed an opportunity with three bills that are now dormant for this session to make significant reforms in the criminal justice system. The bills were SB 364 and SB 369 by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and HB 1730 by Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa. The bills were casualties of the legislative deadline requiring bills to be passed out of the committee to which they were assigned in their house of origin by last Thursday. None of the three bills received a hearing in committee [OK Policy].

Payday loan legislation resurfaces: A measure that riled up consumer protection advocates and religious leaders this year died in committee, or so they thought. A measure that would allow what opponents call predatory lending practices has resurfaced in the other chamber [HB 1913]. For a few years now, cash advance companies have pushed for what they’ve called flex loans or installment loans. They increase the cap on small loans [Journal Record]. Learn more about HB 1913 and how to contact your Legislators about it here.

Oklahoma’s bad budget choices make it a riskier bet to Wall Street: Wall Street is now saying what everyone in Oklahoma knows: The state’s credit is decaying because state Capitol leaders have failed to make wise fiscal choices for years. After two years of budget failures, a succession of budget holes, and a continued reliance on one-time funding sources to keep the state solvent, S&P Global Ratings lowered the state’s general obligation bond debt rating from AA+ to AA last week [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma House approves earlier end to wind tax credit: Oklahoma’s tax credit for renewable energy, called unsustainable by opponents, could end for new projects this summer under a bill passed Thursday by the state House. House Bill 2298, by Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, would end the zero-emissions tax credit July 1, more than three years earlier than its current sunset date [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Senate Leader: Teacher Pay Bill Gives ‘False Hope’: A bill [HB 1114] approved overwhelmingly in the House to raise Oklahoma teacher pay by $6,000 over the next three years, but without a funding mechanism, amounts to giving teachers “false hope,” a state Senate leader said Thursday. The House voted 92-7 this week for the bill that calls for a $1,000 pay raise for teachers next year, $2,000 the following year and $3,000 in the third year. But each $1,000 pay raise costs the state about $53 million and the Republican leader of the Senate, Mike Schulz, said there is no agreement on how any part of the plan would be funded [Associated Press].

Proposed Electric Vehicle Fee Stirs Resentment Among Oklahoma Owners: A bill [HB 1449] passed by the state House of Representatives Wednesday would impose an annual fee on owners of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles in Oklahoma, and that’s leaving some electric car owners feeling singled out. A gray 2013 Nissan Leaf sits in Edmond resident Jonathon Stranger’s driveway. “There’s no gas. There’s no motor oil,” Stranger says. “It’s the future.” [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Further reforms needed to deal with Oklahoma prison trends: In a recent story about challenges faced by correctional officials in Alabama, The Wall Street Journal noted that prison crowding left many inmates “packed in open dorms with bunk beds arrayed within an arm’s length of each other. Meanwhile, only 46 percent of authorized correctional officer positions were filled, in part because of low pay and the perils of the job.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Journal reporter could have been describing Oklahoma [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin says number of children in state custody declining: The fewest children in “a long, long time” are in state custody, Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday. …Oklahoma has been trying to beef up its foster care services as part of a court-mandated improvement to the state’s child welfare system. And it’s been trying to accomplish the task as state resources dwindle [Tulsa World].

OU offering retirement incentive again: Faculty and staff at the University of Oklahoma will again be offered an early retirement incentive as the university explores cost-cutting measures. Those eligible can opt to retire early and receive a financial benefits package now, saving the university in personnel costs down the line. OU predicts the 2017 special voluntary retirement incentive (SVRI) will save $9.4 million [Norman Transcript].

Thank you, ACA, for CPC: Thank you, ACA. Few Oklahomans are aware of the amazing success stories and advantages the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) has brought to our state. I’m not referring to the 192,000 people who now have insurance they didn’t have before, the end of annual or lifetime limits on coverage, no more discrimination based on pre-existing conditions — but rather the quality improvement programs brought to the state funded by the ACA [Dr. Michael Maxwell / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City sales tax slide persists; end in sight, officials say: Sales tax is down 2.8 percent in Oklahoma City, worse than the 2 percent decline budget officials projected for March but an improvement over February’s 5.8 percent decline. Through the first three quarters of the fiscal year, sales tax collections are down $6.6 million compared to the first three quarters of fiscal 2016, Budget Director Dowler said [NewsOK].

City’s sales tax report shows rare gain for month, grants slight relief on $5.5 million shortfall: The March sales tax report for Tulsa shows slight gains against budget expectations — a change seldom seen this fiscal year as the city still faces a $5.53 million shortfall. The report, which reflects Tulsa sales tax receipts from mid-January to mid-February, shows a paltry gain of 0.43 percent — or $92,641 — against the amount anticipated in the budget of $21,424,759 [Tulsa World].

Domestic violence crisis line offers new service to Native American women: A new domestic violence crisis line offered in Oklahoma is the first ever to provide American Indian women with assistance based on tribal affiliation. The StrongHearts Native Helpline launched Monday by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline will be available for women in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. It is free to speak to an advocate, who can connect victims with resources based on location and culture [NewsOK].

Jail staff cursed at Elliott Williams; nurse accused him of faking paralysis, ex-inmate testifies: Tulsa Jail and medical staff cursed at Elliott Williams and accused him of faking his paralysis nearly a week before he died from complications of a broken neck, a former inmate testified Thursday. Derrick Latham, who is currently in prison for illegal possession of a firearm, took the stand on the 12th day of a federal civil rights trial in which former Sheriff Stanley Glanz and the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office are defendants [Tulsa World].

While Trump Was Dominating In Deep-Red Oklahoma, This Democrat Won A Landslide: As precinct data rolled into his war room at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City last November, Joe Maxwell realized his team had a landslide on its hands. He saw no need to delay the victory speeches, having been up since before daybreak orchestrating a statewide get-out-the-vote operation for what was expected to be a close contest. His team took the elevator to the rooftop bar, where about 50 small farmers gathered anxiously to watch the returns and, they hoped, celebrate [Huffington Post].

Correction: Yesterday’s edition of In The Know incorrectly identified HB 2312, which would ban driving in the left lane unless to overtake and pass another vehicle. We regret the error. 

Quote of the Day

“This idea that voters didn’t know what they were voting on is wrong. I’ve heard from people inside my district and outside who said, ‘I knew exactly what I was doing.’”

– Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman), arguing against HB 1482, which would reverse some criminal justice reforms approved by voters in November. Proponents of HB 1482 have argued that voters didn’t understand what they were voting for. HB 1482 passed through the state House on Thursday (Source)

Number of the Day


Average loss of tax credits to purchase insurance for Oklahoma consumers under the proposed Republican health care plan, a 62% decrease and the third biggest loss in the nation

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins: The confirmation of Betsey DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform. But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may  harm students who receive them. The results are startling – the worst in the history of the field, researchers say [The Upshot]. 

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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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