In The Know: Supermajority requirement for tax increases could get reconsideration by voters, Oklahoma legislators say

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.

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Correction: A headline included in yesterday’s ITK about a data breach at the Department of Human Services mistakenly indicated that the breach occurred at the Department of Health. We regret the error.

Today In The News

Supermajority requirement for tax increases could get reconsideration by voters, Oklahoma legislators say: A legislative supermajority requirement for tax increases is the reason lawmakers must return for a second special session, Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat said Tuesday. Treat, R-Oklahoma City, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, D-Norman, and House Minority Leader Elect Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, spoke at a public affairs forum sponsored by the Oklahoma State Chamber at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City [Tulsa World]. Sen. Treat: ‘State Question 640 is the reason we’re in special session’ [NonDoc]. It’s time to revisit State Question 640 [Rep. Marcus McEntire / OK Policy].

Latest TPS pre-K study finds higher math scores, fewer students held back by seventh grade: Georgetown University’s latest research on Tulsa’s pre-kindergarten program found higher scores on state math tests and a 26 percent reduction in students being held back by seventh grade. In an article released Tuesday in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the researchers offer the first bits of evidence that longer-term effects of the Tulsa pre-K program, while more modest than the significant advantages shown in kindergarten readiness, do not disappear by the time children hit middle school [Tulsa World].

Rape Victims at the Capitol: When pain & politics collide: Rep. Carol Bush trudged through the Capitol on the final day of the Oklahoma legislative session in May, trying to process the last-minute crisis that had threatened to derail one of her bills. “That Friday at 5 o’clock I walked out with 10 of my colleagues,” said Bush, R-Tulsa. “There were no hugs good-bye or ‘have a nice summer.’ It was, ‘Oh My God. I just want to go home. Don’t talk to me. Don’t touch me.’” [The Frontier]

OKCPS board to seek legal advice on potential lawsuit against state: The Oklahoma City Public School board of education unanimously voted Monday to hire a law firm to research the effects the state budget cuts are having on its students and teachers. Board chair Paula Lewis said the district will pay for the Education Law Center out of New Jersey to gather information and determine if a lawsuit against the state is viable. “This isn’t official. We’re not filing suit,” she said. “We’re doing this for all kids in the state of Oklahoma.” [KOCO]

Oklahoma health board fires suspended internal auditor: The Oklahoma State Board of Health has fired internal auditor Jay Holland as director of the Office of Accountability Systems. The board voted Tuesday to dismiss Holland, who was placed on leave following the resignation of Terry Cline as health commissioner amid what the board called financial mismanagement [AP].

State health department to cut seven jobs in Pittsburg County: The Oklahoma State Health Department will cut seven jobs from the Pittsburg County Health Department as part of a reduction-in-force plan to eliminate 161 jobs at the county level across the state. OSDH Regional Director D’Elbie Walker said the Pittsburg County Health Department is reeling from the announcement of the cuts. “It’s heartbreaking to lose any staff and we are a family,” Walker said [McAlester News]. Health care is increasingly central to Oklahoma’s economy [OK Policy].

State moves up in national health rankings, still 43rd out of 50: Paced by the lowest smoking rate ever recorded, Oklahoma moved up three spots to 43rd in America’s Health Rankings, issued by the United Health Foundation. The improvement was the second highest among all states, trailing only Florida and Utah, which improved their ranking by four spots. America’s Health Rankings are based on four components or aspects of health – behaviors, community and environment, policy and clinical care [Muskogee Now]. The rankings are available here.

Join us for the 2018 State Budget Summit: As Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session approaches, the state continues to struggle with huge and chronic budget shortfalls and an inability to make the critical investments needed to ensure our prosperity and well-being. We are seeing real and encouraging signs of progress towards the adoption of smarter policies, but obstacles still stand in our way [OK Policy].

Local groups work to end court reporter shortage and speed up Tulsa County case flow: Allison Hall, a court reporter for 18 years, says there’s a national shortage for court reporters. Hall says Oklahoma is about 300 hundred court reporters short. Currently there are between 375 and 400 court reporters working in Oklahoma. Hall says the Tulsa County case flow has slowed down as a result of the shortage [Fox 23].

ACLU fights for release of Oklahoma woman imprisoned for failing to protect children from abusive dad: The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting for the release of an Oklahoma woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for failing to protect her children from their abusive father. Tondalao Hall, 33, has spent the past 12 years in prison after her boyfriend, Robert Braxton broke three ribs and a femur of their infant daughter. Braxton took a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to two years time served and eight years probation [NewsOK].

Groups call for OU regent’s resignation: Advocacy groups and campus organizations criticized OU Board of Regents vice chairman Kirk Humphreys for his comments equating homosexuality with pedophilia, calling on him to resign, as he apologized for his “lack of clarity.” Humphreys, who was appointed to the board of regents by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2012, is set to become chairman of the board next year and will likely play a key role in the selection of OU President David Boren’s successor [Norman Transcript]. Paula Lewis, chair of Oklahoma City Public Schools board of education, also called on Humphreys to resign from the board of John Rex Charter Elementary [Oklahoma City Free Press].

Scott Pruitt’s War On Wind Energy Will Only Hurt Oklahomans: Construction on America’s largest wind power plant began last year in Oklahoma. This project, the Wind Catcher Energy Connection, will consist of 800 wind turbines, span over 350 miles, and create 8,400 good paying jobs. It will also save consumers $7 billion by providing cheap electricity to over 1.1 million people in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Although known for its oil and gas, Oklahoma, like its oil-producing neighbor Texas, has some of the best wind resources in the country [New Energy America Executive Director Mike Carr / Huffington Post].

Quote of the Day

“I’m going to continue to beat the dead horse: State Question 640 is the reason we’re in special session and the reason we haven’t been able to pass the cigarette tax. We could have passed that easily if it was a 51-vote (measure). We wouldn’t be in special session if it weren’t for State Question 640 because we would have been able to pass a cigarette tax under the House and the Senate, but the 75 percent threshold has forced us to put revenue in there that we as Republicans may not be typically in favor of.”

– Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) (Source)

Number of the Day

3.8 years

Growth in average test scores for students after 5 years of education in Tulsa Public Schools (3rd to 8th grade). This growth rate was 7th worst out of the 200 largest school districts in the U.S.

Source: Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis via New York Times

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Expensive specialty drugs are forcing seniors to make hard choices: For 23 years, Diane Whitcraft injected herself every other day with Betaseron, a drug that helps prevent flare-ups from multiple sclerosis. The drug worked well, drastically reducing Whitcraft’s trips to the hospital. But as her 65th birthday approached last September, she made a scary decision: to halt the medication altogether. With health insurance through her job, Whitcraft had paid a $50 or $100 monthly co-pay for the drug; she hadn’t even realized that the price of Betaseron had soared to more than $86,000 a year [Washington Post].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Supermajority requirement for tax increases could get reconsideration by voters, Oklahoma legislators say

  1. their was no breach ! and all of you stood on the side lines for 3 years and did nothing ! I hold this legislation responsible. and I think the feds should be bough in after all, this is federal money given by the feds to run health departments . and I want accountability , not just some firing of a director for not doing his job . this go’s much deeper. we want to know where and to whom this money was given and for what ? and Fallin had a lot of gull just to hand over 30 million dollars without knowing where it went ? and I hold you to responsible ! Oklahoma is in tatters as legislators spend as they please without accountability, for anything . and this must stop!

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