In The Know: Teacher pay raise, cigarette tax increase stay alive in House committee

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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Teacher pay raise, cigarette tax increase stay alive in House committee: House Republicans apparently aren’t giving up on teacher pay raises or a cigarette tax increase this session, despite repeated setbacks. Two teacher pay bills, a single $1,000 bump and the “1-2-3” plan introduced at the start of the session, and a measure to reapportion cigarette taxes if an increase is adopted were heard late Wednesday in a key House committee. All three measures passed [Tulsa World].

House Democrats trying to influence negotiations on raising revenue to fill budget hole: Negotiations on revenue-raising options continued Wednesday at the Capitol as lawmakers struggle to come up nearly $1 billion to fill the fiscal year 2018 budget hole. The talks came after a $345 million revenue-raising package failed in the House late Tuesday. Republican and Democratic legislative leaders met with Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday morning and again in the afternoon, said House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairwoman Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang [Tulsa World].

Weekend session at Oklahoma Capitol remains a possibility: At the close of business Wednesday, Oklahoma House leadership told lawmakers they should be prepared to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The announcement, whether it was a saber-rattling wakeup call or simply the reality of the situation, capped the midpoint of a week where legislators have to choose whether to raise about a billion dollars in revenue or endure massive budget cuts across state government [NewsOK].

Focus on “government spending” instead of real people is leading lawmakers astray: Right now most Oklahomans are worried about how our lawmakers will fill a huge budget shortfall following years of cuts that have contributed to teachers fleeing Oklahoma classrooms, left Oklahomans with severe disabilities and children in the child welfare system at risk of losing basic protections, and created an extremely dangerous environment in prisons for both inmates and staff, among other damaging effects [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Better to pay now: This year began with high hopes for strong reform proposals that came out of Gov. Mary Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force. Our prison population – already among the largest in the country – will grow by another 25 percent in the next 10 years without bold action, at a cost of nearly $2 billion to taxpayers. The task force offered 27 recommendations to avoid this growth while protecting public safety. Unfortunately, many of their proposals have been severely weakened in recent weeks by legislators unwilling to pay for the initial cost of reforms [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Misguided budget concerns are endangering criminal justice reform [OK Policy].

Is meaningful corrections reform possible in Oklahoma this session? One of the higher-profile issues this legislative session has been criminal justice reform, with a series of bills introduced following the work of a governor’s task force. We’ll see in these closing days of the session whether this effort really gets a boost. Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh didn’t sound encouraged in a radio interview last week, telling his host, “The likelihood of any serious criminal justice reform seems to be waning.” [Editorial Board /The Oklahoman]

Biggest Oklahoma agencies could be audited: Lawmakers gave final approval to a commission that will assign deep-dive performance audits on the state’s largest agencies. House Bill 2311 now heads to the governor’s desk for her signature. The independent comprehensive performance audits would be on the 20 agencies that receive the most in state appropriations [NewsOK].

Oklahoma budget negotiators target another wind incentive: Oklahoma budget writers are targeting another wind incentive as part of their solution to close an almost $900 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year. Admittedly, it’s a moving target to write about the budget in the last few weeks of the Oklahoma Legislature, but one Senate proposal from Monday included elimination of the manufacturer’s sales tax exemption for wind equipment [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Senate votes to allow county option for Sunday liquor store sales: County voters in Oklahoma would have the option of allowing liquor stores to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. Under Senate Bill 211, county commissioners could vote to call an election on the issue [NewsOK].

For Oklahoma’s newest House member, an oath, then a really big vote: Just three hours after taking the oath of office, brand-new state Rep. Zack Taylor faced what many GOP lawmakers dread — a vote to raise taxes. The Seminole Republican took office about 6 p.m. Tuesday, as the newest member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Not long after, the House took up a tax increase that could have pumped $342 million into next year’s budget [NewsOK].

Oklahoma school districts move on cuts without clear budget picture: Many Oklahoma public school districts are pulling the trigger on major cuts to next year’s budget as education officials brace for the worst. The Enid school board slashed $1.8 million from next year’s budget during a meeting Monday, the same day Tulsa schools approved a plan to close three schools in an effort to cut $12 million. School districts in Woodward and Muskogee have also approved cuts of at least $1 million made through the elimination of summer school and staff reductions [NewsOK]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

OKCPS to provide free meals for every student next school year: Officials with the Oklahoma City Public Schools announced they will provide free meals for every student next school year. Officials announced Tuesday that next school year, all 44,000 students will be eligible for free meals at every school site, via USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision. Free meals had been provided at 55 sites, now adding an additional 23 sites. Officials said the initiative is funded through the Community Eligibility Provision, a USDA Federal Program that subsidizes meals for schools and school districts in low income areas [KOCO]. Community Eligibility Provision can help make Oklahoma schools hunger-free [OK Policy].

Where to start a career? Most Oklahoma grads stay in state: New college graduates entering the job market may want to venture into unknown territory, but many likely will start a career close to home. More than 17,800 students received bachelor’s degrees from Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities this academic year, according to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Employment data tracked by the regents show 85 percent of Oklahoma residents who graduate with a bachelor’s degree are employed in the state one year after graduation [NewsOK].

Minor injuries reported at private prison in Cushing after ‘altercation’ between guards, inmates: Five employees of a Cushing prison were injured in what corrections officials described as an “altercation” between the guards and inmates Tuesday night. State Department of Corrections spokesman Mark Myers said the altercation started verbally between an inmate and a corrections officer at the Cimarron Correctional Facility, a private prison operated by Nashville-based CoreCivic. The five injured employees were treated at a hospital and released, according to a news release [Tulsa World].

Former Oklahoma Gov. Keating doesn’t expect to get FBI top job: Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating was interviewed Wednesday by President Donald Trump for the FBI’s top job but said he does not expect to be chosen. “If they wanted me, I certainly would be honored, but I really don’t think that’s going to happen,” Keating, 73, told The Oklahoman after his interview at the White House. Keating, a Republican, was identified as one of four candidates being interviewed Wednesday for the position of FBI director [NewsOK].

Immigration attorney: Growing staff trying to keep up with demand: Immigration law has been added to the footprint at the Fry & Elder law firm. Lorena Rivas, who joined the firm in the fall of 2015, quickly found she not only was serving clients but also educating colleagues about the complexities of immigration law. “I have helped because while the firm attorneys knew of immigration law, they really didn’t understand it,” she said [Tulsa Business & Legal News].

Cherokee program provides a helping hand to homeless veterans: Dennis Christie has a place to call his own. “It’s great to finally have a nice place,” he said. “It’s good to have some place that I can call home.” Christie is the first Cherokee Nation member to receive rental assistance under a new program to help homeless veterans. He now lives in a small one-bedroom apartment in Claremore. “It’s helped me out a lot,” Christie said. “It’s a nice place. I can walk to everything. It’s life-changing.” [Joe Klein / Tulsa World]

Contentious trial ends with acquittal of embattled Tulsa police officer: “Miss Shelby, you are free to go.” It took less than five seconds for embattled Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby to leave the courtroom Wednesday night after Tulsa County District Judge Doug Drummond uttered those words. And like that, the woman who has dominated the city’s headlines for the last eight months was gone. Neither she nor her attorneys spoke to reporters following the verdict, nor did they issue a statement [The Frontier].

Quote of the Day

“In a budget of $6 billion, I think we can prioritize a teacher pay raise.”

– Rep. Michael Rogers (R-Broken Arrow), on two teacher pay raise bills in a key House committee on Wednesday. Funding sources have not been identified for either bill (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s total gross domestic product produced in the OKC metro area, 2015.

Source: Oklahoma Employment Security Commission

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How the Affordable Care Act Drove Down Personal Bankruptcy: As legislators and the executive branch renew their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this week, they might want to keep in mind a little-known financial consequence of the ACA: Since its adoption, far fewer Americans have taken the extreme step of filing for personal bankruptcy. Filings have dropped about 50 percent, from 1,536,799 in 2010 to 770,846 in 2016 (see chart, below). Those years also represent the time frame when the ACA took effect. Although courts never ask people to declare why they’re filing, many bankruptcy and legal experts agree that medical bills had been a leading cause of personal bankruptcy before public healthcare coverage expanded under the ACA [Consumer Reports].

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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.

2 thoughts on “In The Know: Teacher pay raise, cigarette tax increase stay alive in House committee

  1. Two decades ago NC and OK both passed essentially the same criminal justice reform packages. NC has since seen its prison populations and budgets grow much less than projected and, most importantly, seen its crime rates decline even more than the national average decline over the same period. OK repealed its reforms for the most part and now has the population and budget problems predicted at the time as well as having crime rate reductions significantly below what the nation has seen, much less NC. In fact, in some areas OK has in some years seen increases in rape and homicide.

    One of the reasons for the differences is simply that, like the well-intended items in today’s links, the misguided emphasis of the reforms in OK today is the impact on budgets and populations, NOT on the crime rate reductions predicted by basically all the research and by NC’s example when a state avoids overuse of one of the very most least effective methods of crime control–incarceration, which only delays and doesn’t prevent crime for many and which turns many offenders into more likely and even more violent offenders due to their experience once released.

    Criminal justice reform focused on the best means of achieving the highest rates of crime and victimization reduction and of public safety improvement will automatically move away from the proven ineffectiveness of prisons for protecting citizens. The population and budget reductions will also follow automatically, as will the political power and legislative influence of prosecutors and self-proclaimed victims’ represenatives whose own power, resources, and prestige are maximized by overincarceration policies far more than public good. Until advocates of reforms stop editorializing about populations and dollars and start demonstrating, make that “shouting about” the improved welfare of citizens in the policy and program changes they propose, criminal justice reform will always be piecemeal and weak tea (like the initiatives passed last year) or worse (like anything that has to go through the clown car known as the OK legislature).

  2. Consumer Reports has got to be kidding!!! Just like most media, you want to take incredibly complex issues and boil it all down to a one page report or 30 second sound bite. Saying the fall in the number of bankruptcies is a direct result of ACA is a joke. Did it contribute, yes. But the way that article is written is completely misleading. Put the graph of unemployment on that same chart. It will mirror the decline. We were coming out of the sharpest, longest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Of course bankruptcies were going to spike. Related to healthcare, job loss, declining home values. These are all just pieces of this big problem. I really wish the media would quit distorting things to make their point. I agree its a piece of that decline, but nothing like that author would lead you to believe. How did our political system get this messed up!!!

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