In The Know: State lawmakers eyeing budget, revenue fixes with new 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.

Today In The News

State lawmakers eyeing budget, revenue fixes with new bills: Oklahoma lawmakers have begun filing legislation for the 2018 session, which begins Feb. 5. While many of the bills already introduced are standard fare for a legislative session, several focus on the most pressing issues at the state Capitol: revenue and the budget. State Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, seeks to amend the law that requires a portion of public construction projects to set aside money for public art installations [NewsOK]. Other bills deal with sunscreen, chemical castration, and school consolidation [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma revenue, reform plan is worth pursuing: Weary of watching Oklahoma slide toward the bottom of so many national rankings, and frustrated with inaction driven by political expediency, a coalition of citizens has given the Legislature a revenue and reform package to consider when the special session resumes this month. The Oklahoman supports the plan and urges citizens and lawmakers to as well [Editorial Board / NewsOK]. Here’s a plan to solve the state’s budget problems that everyone should get behind [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Let’s hope lawmakers step up [Editorial Board / Enid News].

Incarceration Numbers Stay Relatively Flat Despite Justice Reforms: The number of people sentenced to Oklahoma prisons in 2017 fell slightly, but the state remains second in the nation in overall incarceration and could be ranked first by the end of this year. Oklahoma Department of Corrections data shows that on the last working day of 2017, a total of 28,153 inmates were in state prisons, halfway houses or in jails awaiting transfer to prisons. That was a less than 1 percent decline from the end of 2016 [Oklahoma Watch]. The DOC called the federal estimate of state prison population misleading [Tulsa World]. What’s driving Oklahoma’s prison population growth? [OK Policy]

Step Up Oklahoma: How the organization formed and evolved: Six weeks ago, Step Up Oklahoma didn’t exist and wasn’t a thought on anybody’s mind. My, how things have changed. The nonpartisan, grassroots coalition of Oklahoma civic and business leaders burst on the Oklahoma political scene on Thursday. That’s when coalition members called a news conference to announce they had come up with a detailed plan to solve the state’s budget impasse, provide a $5,000 pay raise for teachers and restructure state and county government to improve accountability [The Oklahoman].

Oklahoma DHS wins legal case over child support payments; will not refund thousands of fathers: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services will not have to refund millions of dollars to fathers in paternity cases after all. An Oklahoma County judge in 2015 ruled in a class-action case that the state agency for years had charged fathers in paternity cases too much in interest on back child support payments [NewsOK].

Foundation tracks challenges, successes in public education: Recapping the past year provides a way to celebrate successes and to review meaningful data and define direction for the future. Focus, alignment and impact were words that continued to guide The Foundation for OKCPS’s work in 2017. This past year was another incredibly challenging one for public education. Budget cuts continued and teachers left our state in record numbers. Despite that, the Foundation’s work, thanks to generous community support along with a strategic, focused effort, has provided significant impact for Oklahoma City Public Schools in a variety of ways [Mary Mélon, The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools / NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s five highest paying school districts: The minimum starting pay for first-year teachers in Oklahoma is $31,600. That starting salary increases some depending on education level, topping out at $34,000 for a doctor’s degree. Around 325 districts pay the state minimum. But school districts can pay teachers more than the state minimum, and many do, especially if a neighboring district (in Oklahoma or another state) is offering more [NewsOK].

Oklahoma tribes make multimillion dollar investments in health care: Several tribes in Oklahoma are planning major investments in health care, including a Cherokee project that will be the largest joint venture in Indian Health Service’s history. The Cherokee, Muscogee and Osage nations all are expanding their health facilities and planning to hire more providers [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett talks public health and infrastructure: During Republican Mayor Mick Cornett’s four terms in office, Oklahoma City has created 100,000 new jobs and 9,400 new businesses. It’s also invested nearly $2 billion in schools and infrastructure. To help improve public health, Cornett, who’s now running for governor of Oklahoma, put his city on a diet. His weight loss program helped citizens lose a collective one million pounds between 2007 and 2012 [CBS News].

Oklahoma sheriffs upset with ”bully’ legislator who criticized their private association: Oklahoma sheriffs are complaining about a state legislator who has criticized their private association. One sheriff last week called Rep. Bobby Cleveland a misguided “bully” and demanded a public apology. “I believe that declaring war on a nonprofit that represents and provides support to Oklahoma sheriffs is a strange and reckless dereliction of duty for any state official,” Canadian County Sheriff Chris West said in a news release sent to The Oklahoman and other media [NewsOK].

Facing unprecedented opposition, Jim Bridenstine’s NASA nomination is in jeopardy: An unlikely array of circumstances has aligned to dim U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s odds of becoming NASA administrator — arithmetic in the Senate, an election in Alabama, the failing health of two octogenarians — leaving the likelihood of confirmation only marginally better than a coin flip. “Fifty-one to 49,” said John Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. “That’s about the odds. They’re slightly above even.” [NewsOK]

Oklahoma family seeking medical marijuana for child hopes for legalization: As Oklahoma voters prepare to make a decision on legalizing medical marijuana, one family is using cannabis oil to help a young girl with a rare medical condition. Jaqie Angel Warrior suffers from a rare and potentially deadly form of epilepsy. Traditional pharmaceuticals haven’t worked well for her, the family says [Fox 23].

Is Oklahoma ready to elect a wealthy outsider to high office? Kevin Stitt stood in a circle of business people and community volunteers Wednesday morning waiting for a chance to speak. A 45-year-old entrepreneur who built a mortgage company with offices around the nation, the Norman native is accustomed to commanding a room [NewsOK].

Drew Edmondson wants to ease state’s dependence on gross production tax revenue: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson said last week Oklahoma cannot depend on oil and gas taxes to run state government, and recommended gross production tax revenue be funneled into a capital improvement endowment instead of the general fund. “When revenue is down, that means services like education, public safety, and health care suffer,” Edmondson said in an email to supporters [Tulsa World].

Superintendent race shaping up to be repeat of 2014: This year’s race for Oklahoma’s top public school official could mirror the 2014 election. Incumbent state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and Peggs Public Schools Superintendent John Cox are the only two who have confirmed their candidacy to The Oklahoman [NewsOK].

Oklahoma County continues buying flood-prone residences in Crutcho community: Oklahoma County has purchased and removed 69 homes from the flood-prone Crutcho community in the past decade, but the work isn’t finished. Up to 30 more homes could be demolished through the voluntary program to relocate people from homes in the eastern Oklahoma County floodplain, county planner Erik Brandt said [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Unfortunately, none of this is a surprise.”

– Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, commenting on the latest prison statistics, which show Oklahoma still has the second-highest incarceration rate and the highest rate for women (Source)

Number of the Day


Median family income among households with children in Oklahoma in 2016

Source: Kids Count

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least? One snowy February morning at the Arbors Kids preschool branch in downtown Springfield, Mass., 38-year-old Kejo Kelly crouched low over a large, faded carpet and locked eyes with a blond-haired boy of 3. It was circle time, and Kelly was trying to get each of her 13 tiny students to articulate a feeling. “Good morning, good morning, and how do you do?” she sang softly to the little boy [New York Times].

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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.

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