In The Know: State lawmakers look to fiscal 2019

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.

In The News

State lawmakers look to fiscal 2019: After more than a year – and nine months into fiscal 2018 – the Oklahoma Legislature has finally put to bed the budget under which the state has operated since July 1. On Wednesday morning, the Senate passed House Bill 1020XX, which cut about 2 percent from the budget of all state agencies, over the final months of the fiscal year. [Tahlequah Daily Press] Try, fail, repeat, success? [OK Policy]

Lawmakers, educators still hope for teacher pay raise: Educators and lawmakers have not given up on teacher pay during the current legislative session, despite the gloom that followed the defeat of House Bill 1033xx nearly two weeks ago. “There’s no doubt it will be discussed,” said state Senate Education Committee Chairman Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa. “I would say we’ll see something if there’s an agreed-on revenue source. “We’re willing to negotiate, but we want to make sure we include all state employees.” [Tulsa World] Calculate opportunities, risks before Oklahoma teacher strike [William W. Savage III/NonDoc] 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy]

The threat to DACA is very real for recipients and their families, but also the greater community: The debate over DACA and immigration has a direct correlation to the economy. New American Economy’s research finds that 93 percent of the 11,672 young people in Oklahoma who are DACA-eligible are working, thus contributing $20 million in state and local taxes. [OK Gazette] ‘We all deserve to be here’: Immigration activists rally to support DACA [Tulsa World] Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy]

Taking away health coverage is no way to strengthen Oklahoma’s workforce: SoonerCare is a health care program, not a jobs program. If our goal is to fill the jobs that Oklahoma companies desperately need filled, we should instead fully fund the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which actually is a jobs program. It creates the federal workforce system of which Workforce Tulsa is part. We connect job-ready talent to employers. For people in low-paying jobs (like many SoonerCare members), we help get training for in-demand occupations. Then we place them into a great job where they can demand a family-supporting wage with their new skills. We do this with federal funds only, because Oklahoma doesn’t contribute any state dollars to workforce development. [Shelley Cadamy/Tulsa World] Oklahoma ​should avoid the temptation to pass new Medicaid​ restrictions [OK Policy]

Bill allows prison canteens to sell smokes to inmates: Despite efforts to snuff out smoking rates and related health care costs, one lawmaker wants to change course and allow prison inmates to light up again behind bars. State Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener, said the nearly six-year ban on cigarettes sales and smoking inside prisons has caused nothing but problems for inmates, wardens and correctional employees. He’s proposing a controversial measure that would allow inmates to legally purchase cigarettes from prison canteens and then smoke in designated areas at prisons. [CNHI]

State Senate panel votes to eliminate tax break for the wealthy: A Senate subcommittee has approved a plan to eliminate a tax break that has cost the state millions, but can’t be shown to be helping the Oklahoma economy. The Finance subcommittee OK’d Sen. Dave Rader’s Senate Bill 1086, which would end the state capital gains income tax deduction effective in the 2018 tax year. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World] 2018 Policy Priority: End the Capital Gains Tax Break [OK Policy]

We know who’s holding up criminal justice reform — prosecutors: Community leaders, law enforcement, criminal justice experts, judges, legislators, the governor and voters have all thrown their support behind meaningful criminal justice reform in Oklahoma. Missing from this broad coalition are our prosecutors. The sad truth is Oklahoma prosecutors have never been true partners in the criminal justice reform effort, despite recent public posturing otherwise. [Kris Steele/Tulsa World] Bill Watch: Will 2018 be the year Oklahoma finally gets serious about criminal justice reform? [OK Policy]

Trump administration’s ‘food boxes’ idea can’t replace SNAP, Oklahoma congressman says: The “food boxes” idea proposed recently by the Trump administration is not going to be replacing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, any time in the foreseeable future, Oklahoma’s 3rd District Congressman Frank Lucas said Friday. [Tulsa World] How Might Trump Plan For Food Boxes Affect Health? Native Americans Know All Too Well [NPR]

A small step toward fewer licensing regulations in Oklahoma: Once a government regulation is enacted, it often seems to stay on the books forever, regardless of how unnecessary or counterproductive it may be. So Oklahomans should cheer when lawmakers try to address their predecessors’ mistakes. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] Occupational licensing is a growing barrier to Oklahomans who seek a decent job [OK Policy]

Oklahoma losing out on millions through uncollected taxes: Oklahoma is leaking. The leaking is in the form of millions of dollars the state should be receiving but is currently not receiving. The money is from alcohol sales and economists say while there are proposals to change how alcohol is taxed, the real money maker might just be enforcing the current tax laws. [Fox25]

A big cigarette tax would save the lives of poor Oklahomans and leave them with more money: The new revenue a cigarette tax brings the state would be the second most important reason for doing it. The No. 1 reason for a cigarette tax hike is that it would save lives — the lives of smokers who quit smoking because of the higher prices and the lives of youngsters who never start smoking because of the high price. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World] Tobacco tax failure highlights Oklahoma legislative dysfunction [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] The progressive case for increasing the cigarette tax [OK Policy]

2018 elections: The real issue at heart of Step Up plan: The agenda known as Step Up should be seen for what it was: The economic elites who helped create Oklahoma’s ongoing budget shortfalls briefly stepped out of their offices to stop a catastrophe and head off a major election defeat in 2018. These same elites accepted some progressive — but more regressive — tax increases in return for advancing their narrative that “reform” of inefficient governance can help get Oklahoma back on track. [NonDoc] Step Up Oklahoma plan adds to the consensus that new revenues are essential [OK Policy]

Govs fear for election security amid Russian cyberattacks: State leaders of both parties worried aloud Sunday about the security of America’s election systems against possible cyberattacks ahead of this fall’s midterm elections, aware that Russian agents targeted more than 20 states little more a year ago, and the Trump administration has taken a mostly hands-off approach to the continued interference. [AP]

OKC’s homeless kids need our help: It’s hard to imagine families with children having no place to go. But often it’s due to little tolerance for complications that children bring. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” Matthew Desmond shows that families with children are 3.5 times more likely to be evicted from housing. [Susan Agel/The Oklahoman] Homeless in a heartbeat [OK Policy]

Recent rain does little for drought in worst hit areas of Oklahoma: It’s a tale of two extremes when it comes to recent precipitation in Oklahoma. Over the past week, parts of southeastern Oklahoma received anywhere between 5 to 10 inches of rainfall, but in the far western parts of the state, most areas saw less than an inch and much of the Panhandle saw less than 0.10 inch of precipitation, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Though there are various moral and legal ambiguities in the issue of immigration, there is no ambiguity to ‘Dreamers’. They are in no way at fault. To leave them in the shadows would be morally abhorrent. To deport them would be abhorrent. The only morally acceptable option would be to create a pathway for them to stay here legally and participate fully.”

– Rev. John-Mark Hart of Christ Community Church, whose congregation helped launch El Camino, a coalition of local faith groups seeking to tell the stories of undocumented immigrants (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of women enrolled in undergraduate colleges in Oklahoma, about 56 percent of all undergraduate students in the state (2016).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A prison system offered all inmates addiction treatment. Overdose deaths dropped sharply: A first-in-the-nation program offering a range of medications to Rhode Island inmates who are addicted to opioids appears to have lowered the number of overdose deaths among people recently released from jail and prison, researchers reported Wednesday. Experts have long advocated for expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, in correctional facilities, but for the most part, jails and prisons remain treatment deserts. Starting in the middle of 2016, however, Rhode Island started rolling out its program and making available to all inmates the three medications approved to treat opioid use disorder. [STAT]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

One thought on “In The Know: State lawmakers look to fiscal 2019

  1. It’s great that former Speaker Steele is taking the bit in his teeth now in calling out the state DAs on their phony alternatives. In the 1990s reforms that got killed by Governor Keating after DA pressure, the DAs proposed alternative sentencing guidelines that population projections indicated would have increased prison pops about 250% within 20 years (aka, now). While an increase of that size was likely an artifact of computer simulations and unlikely in reality, the DAs never backed off when shown the numbers, making clear where the DAs were when they said they wanted change.

    What’s disappointing in Speaker Steele’s excellent op-ed is that he neglected the state that gives his argument the most force. North Carolina and Oklahoma, states categorized together by academics at the time for political culture and quality of leadership, proposed basically the same reforms within a year of each other. NC passed its reforms, OK passed and then rescinded its reforms (See Keating, above). What happened provided an inadvertent experiment in reform and what the OK DAs wanted.

    NC’s experience with that reform package was to see its prison populations go below the totals projected (again, projections are indicators, not truths) and drop more than national averages over the last two decades. It also saw greater than national average declines in its crime rates. OK’s experience without the reforms was to see its current prison population increase and need for reforms yet again and far less reduction in crime rates and victimization rates than not only the national average but much less than NC. For some offense rates, OK has actually seen increases in the subsequent period. (Rape was such an area a few years back, not sure if it’s still true.)

    In any case, we now know for certain, not conjecture, that two similar states consciously accepted the same package of reforms at the same time, that DAs killed the reforms in OK but not NC, and that NC has since seen significant measurable benefits in public safety not seen by OK or the DAs who have self-proclaimed themselves the archangels of public safety in the state. That latter fact alone should disqualify them for any voice at all in criminal justice policy making in OK, and Speaker Steele should use the NC/OK “experiment” as proof of the DA problem that he so rightly exhorts OK to overcome.

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