In The Know: Supreme Court rejects tax cut law as unconstitutional

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.

Today you should know that the state Supreme Court struck down a law that cut the income tax and funded repairs to the state capitol building because it violated the rule in the Oklahoma Constitution that new laws can deal with only one subject. Oklahoma Policy Institute released a statement that the striking down of the tax cut offers a lifeline to lawmakers, who face a flat budget and rising costs in the coming year. OK Policy announced the hiring of a new policy analyst and outreach staff.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi is calling for legislation to strengthen academic and financial standards for the state’s virtual charter schools. The state has declined to release this year’s A-F grades for one virtual charter school due to evidence that student test data may have been manipulated. State Rep. Joe Dorman established an exploratory committee to evaluate running as a Democratic candidate for governor, saying he intends to make education his top issue.

The Oklahoma Gazette reports on how big business is profiting from the War on Drugs and high incarceration in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog previously ran a three-part series on concerns about the state’s use of private prisons. The animal rights group PETA is seeking to hang a banner at the state Capitol encouraging people not to eat meat. They join a Satanist group and a Hindu group in proposing additional monuments at the Capitol after lawmakers approved a Ten Commandments monument.

The Oklahoma City Council will vote on whether to allow more urban farming practices in OKC, including backyard chickens. The okeducationtruths blog discussed how Oklahoma’s new science standards are copied verbatim from standards developed for the Common Core, except with references to evolution and climate change taken out. Oklahoma City is asking the state for authority to place liens on property of residents in more rural areas of the city who refuse to pay trash collection fees.

Governor Fallin is hoping to lure more drone tests to the state to expand the aerospace industry. The Number of the Day is the average annual percentage growth in Oklahoma health care expenditures from 1991 to 2009. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released on updated guide for understanding historical trends in income inequality.

In The News

Supreme Court rejects tax cut law as unconstitutional

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday tossed out a highly touted income tax-cut bill signed into law this year by Gov. Mary Fallin. House Bill 2032 would have reduced the top income tax-rate to 5 percent from 5.25 percent on Jan. 1, 2015. The measure also created a fund to repair the crumbling state Capitol. The measure also set aside $60 million in fiscal year 2014 and another $60 million in fiscal year 2015 for Capitol repairs. The measure was challenged by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, who said it violated the single subject rule of the Oklahoma Constitution. The state’s high court sided with Fent in a five-page opinion that was unanimous.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Striking down of tax cut offers a lifeline to lawmakers from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Three more join the OK Policy team

Oklahoma Policy Institute is excited to introduce three new staff members who are joining the organization. Carly Putnam is our new full-time policy analyst. Our outreach work will be shared by Kara Joy McKee, who will have the title of Outreach Specialist, and Damario Solomon-Simmons, who will be our Legislative Liaison.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Barresi wants legislation to strengthen virtual charter school standards

State Superintendent Janet Barresi is calling for legislation to strengthen academic and financial standards for the state’s virtual charter schools. Although a strong proponent of these schools, she believes that they must be held to “the same standards of accountability and transparency that are applicable to other charters in the public school system.” She said she would like to get legislation in place soon, as the number of virtual charter schools in Oklahoma continues to grow. Twenty-five charter schools operate in Oklahoma, two of which are virtual schools.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma Rep. Joe Dorman explores race for governor

State Rep. Joe Dorman established an exploratory committee Tuesday to evaluate running as a Democratic candidate for governor, saying he intends to make education his top issue. “Of course education is going to be the top issue,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “Visiting with teachers … about the conditions we’re seeing in schools, what we’ve seen Governor Fallin and Superintendent Janet Barresi do to education, I think that has to be one of our most critical issues we’ll look at.” Dorman has been a strong backer of an initiative petition that would allow the public to vote on whether to issue up to $500 million in bonds for the construction of storm shelters in Oklahoma schools.

Read more from NewsOK.

Big business profiting from War on Drugs in Oklahoma

Locking up nonviolent drug users and perpetuating the 42-year-old War on Drugs has become a profitable and political tool used by Oklahoma’s elected officials and the for-profit prison industry. Many of those offenders have a recognized need for treatment or a halfway house setting instead of incarceration, said state Rep. Gus Blackwell (R-Laverne), an advocate for reforming Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. Nonviolent offenders make up 51.6 percent of the 25,580 inmates housed in state-run and for-profit prisons. In addition, 2,683 inmates (10 percent) are serving time in Oklahoma prisons for drug possession.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

See also: Punishment and Profits: Private prisons in Oklahoma from the OK Policy Blog

Animal rights group seeks banner at Oklahoma capitol

Officials with the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say they want to hang a banner at the Oklahoma Capitol encouraging people not to eat meat. PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman says in a letter Tuesday to the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission that the banner would promote “compassion and understanding for all.” The animal rights group is the latest to express its desire to have a display at the state Capitol, where the Legislature approved a Ten Commandments monument in 2009.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma City Council will vote on easing restrictions on urban farming

Changes intended to bring Oklahoma City ordinances in line with trends favoring locally grown food and urban farming advanced Tuesday after the city council took comments from residents. Proposals include a measure to allow city residents to keep up to six egg-laying hens in the back yard. Other measures would promote gardening, composting and rainwater conservation. The council is set to vote on the proposals Dec. 31. Resident Shauna Lawyer Struby told the council that expanded opportunities for urban agriculture could help address high poverty rates and cuts in federal food support programs.

Read more from NewsOK.

On science, executive orders, and plagiarism

I posted late last week that the Oklahoma State Department of Education is asking for comments from Oklahomans like you on the new OASS (Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science). They want you to know believe that the standards were written by Oklahoma educators. They weren’t. They were lifted, practically verbatim, from the Next Generation Science Standards. As Jenni White and Rob Miller point out in their analyses, reading the OASS side by side with the NGSS shows very little difference. Essentially, Oklahoma has removed references to evolution and climate change. That’s it.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Rural trash fee rebellion costs Oklahoma City $5.5 million

Oklahoma City has a $5.5 million hole in its finances, thanks in part to a taxpayer rebellion over trash collection that began in 1994. Customers who receive trash service but are not on city water owe the money. Their delinquent utility accounts include penalties for nonpayment. The city is asking the state Legislature for authority to place liens on property to collect the money. City officials said they usually can get the attention of customers with overdue utility bills by threatening to shut off the water — but those customers are in the more densely developed parts of town.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma hopes to lure more drone tests, expand aerospace sector

Oklahoma could know by year’s end whether it will be chosen as a site for federal tests on the safety of unmanned aircraft, or drones, for domestic use, Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday. Oklahoma is vying to become one of six Federal Aviation Administration sites to test the safety of unmanned aircraft. Expanding Oklahoma’s aerospace sector is crucial to diversifying the state’s economy, Fallin said during an event organized by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent.

-One of the science standards developed as part of the Common Core that does not appear in Oklahoma’s new science standards. The state’s new standards copy verbatim most of the Common Core standards, except for deleting references to evolution and climate change. (Source:

Number of the Day


Average annual percentage growth in Oklahoma health care expenditures, 1991-2009.

Source: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality

The broad facts of income inequality over the past six decades are easily summarized: The years from the end of World War II into the 1970s were ones of substantial economic growth and broadly shared prosperity. Incomes grew rapidly and at roughly the same rate up and down the income ladder, roughly doubling in inflation-adjusted terms between the late 1940s and early 1970s. The income gap between those high up the income ladder and those on the middle and lower rungs — while substantial — did not change much during this period. Beginning in the 1970s, economic growth slowed and the income gap widened.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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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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