In The Know: Thousands of health care advocates pack Capitol to rally against cuts

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

‘Save our services’: Health care advocates pack Capitol to rally against cuts: Thousands of health care advocates on Tuesday packed the Capitol and legislative offices to ask lawmakers to prevent cuts to state agencies that provide services. They chanted “Save our services” and wore buttons and hats bearing the message. “Do your job. Fix the budget,” read one sign. Advocates wore green to symbolize mental health and red to support substance abuse and addiction awareness [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Tax hike that would fund pay raises headed to House floor: A tax hike proposal aimed at shoring up the ailing state budget and funding teacher pay raises is expected to be heard Wednesday in the House. Legislative panels on Tuesday passed House Bill 1035, which now heads to the House floor where it faces an uncertain future. The measure calls for a $1.50 per pack tax hike on cigarettes, a 6-cent per gallon hike in gasoline and diesel taxes, and increases the tax on low-point beer [Tulsa World]. OK Policy’s Gene Perry pointed out that the measures all target low-income and middle-income Oklahomans [KTUL]. The plan ignores obvious solutions [OK Policy].

While lawmakers debate on Lincoln, Oklahomans wait on 23 Street: Sam Lee worked the food counter Tuesday at a northeast Oklahoma City convenience store, handing out egg rolls, fried chicken and other “grab-and-go” items to the incoming lunch crowd. Just a few blocks away, thousands of Oklahomans gathered at the state Capitol, protesting a proposed tax increase on cigarettes, fuel and alcohol, while Republican leaders remain opposed to tax hikes on oil and gas production [NewsOK].

GOP Rep. Roger Ford: ‘This plan WILL bomb’: Republican Rep. Roger Ford (R-Midwest City) blasted his party’s legislative leaders and their purported revenue “plan” on Facebook hours after it was announced Monday. Tuesday, as lawmakers prepared to hear components of the GOP agreement in the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, Ford’s Facebook post remained online, but its message was delighting Democrats and frustrating Republicans [NonDoc]. It’s time to end the special tax break for oil and gas producers [OK Policy].

Court strikes down another Oklahoma ‘fee’: Another fee adopted in the closing days of the Oklahoma Legislature’s regular session this year has been ruled unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a fee that would have been charged to drivers of electric and hybrid vehicles is an unconstitutional tax, mirroring an earlier ruling on the cigarette fee. Unlike the $215 million cigarette fee, however, this ruling won’t take such a large chunk out of the budget [NewsOK].

Lawmakers need to put Oklahomans first: These are the faces of Red River Youth Academy, a psychiatric residential treatment (PRTF) center in Norman that provides specialized, inpatient behavioral care for children throughout Oklahoma. And, sadly, these are the children who will go without the treatment they need and deserve if our state legislators fail to find a permanent solution to our state’s budget shortfall [Red River Youth Academy CEO Amy Steely / NewsOK].

House leader offers Democrats a vote on gross production tax: After weeks of political wrangling, a budget measure is expected to be put to a vote in both the state House and Senate. Oklahoma Democrats could get their vote on a 5 percent gross production tax, but only if they support a Republican revenue plan introduced this week. House Floor Leader Jon Echols made the pledge during debate on the revenue bill that would raise more than $173 million from taxes on cigarettes, motor fuel and low-point beer [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s Successful Drug Court Program To Be Cut: If the legislature doesn’t act soon to replace $75 million in lost revenue to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the agency says it will cut all outpatient services. Among those cuts would be elimination of the Oklahoma Drug Court. The program has been around since 1995 and provides treatment for those convicted of drug possession instead of incarceration [News 9].

Newly Obtained Surveys Show Concerns Over Education Standards Law: Advocates for students with disabilities, minority students and low-income students were among the stakeholders who weighed in on the state’s plan for education under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Some had recommendations adopted in the final plan, which was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education last month. Others say their concerns were brushed aside [Oklahoma Watch].

Emergency stay or restraining order sought in charter schools’ funding lawsuit against state: Oklahoma City Public Schools moved to halt any settlement of the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association’s funding lawsuit against the state, while the Tulsa school board voted to also legally intervene. The association’s member charter schools are seeking a share of traditional public schools’ revenues from the state’s gross production, motor vehicle and rural electrification association tax collections; state school land earnings; and local dollars from county tax collections [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City Council considering proposed change “Median Safety Ordinance” that targets panhandlers: The Oklahoma City Council is considering a proposed change to the “Median Safety Ordinance” that targets panhandlers. City officials say the proposed change would place restrictions for pedestrians on medians only for streets with speed limits of 40 mph and higher. The change, introduced during Tuesday’s Oklahoma City Council meeting and set for a public hearing and vote Nov. 7, is recommended by the Municipal Counselor’s Office [KFOR].

Cities ready their legislative agendas: City officials are getting ready to enter a new round of lobbying the state Legislature for more local control over government issues, mass transit funding assistance and maybe just a little flexibility in developing revenue sources. Some of the items on the city’s latest list of legislative issues have an almost immortal aspect – the need for community service aid for indigent defendants, for example, is noted as a “holdover from last year.” And City Hall is still smarting from the Legislature’s negation of its derelict properties registry a year ago, another item on the list [Journal Record].

Law written to deter frivolous malpractice lawsuits declared unconstitutional: A state law designed to deter the filing of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits was declared unconstitutional Tuesday by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This is the third time the state Supreme Court has struck down similar legislation. In each case, the Legislature attempted to deter frivolous negligence lawsuits by requiring the person filing the lawsuit to include an affidavit from an expert witness attesting that the claim has merit [NewsOK].

Oklahoma DHS changes policies amid girl’s death case: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services records show the agency has made policy changes and disciplined five employees after a 10-year-old girl died from an asthma attack. The Oklahoman reports the girl died on April 28 at a hospital after suffering an asthma attack at her aunt’s apartment. No charges were filed in the case. Records show the girl and her siblings had been staying with their aunt while DHS worked to help their mother [Associated Press].

Divided Oklahoma Supreme Court holds convenience stores potentially liable for some beer sales: A divided Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday convenience stores may be held liable when they sell beer to an intoxicated person. By a 5-to-4 decision, the court ruled the state should allow lawsuits that target a commercial vendor of alcohol for non-premises consumption when it sells the product to a noticeably intoxicated person and when that person is subsequently involved in an accident that kills or injures himself or others [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Democrats have made it perfectly clear they will not vote for any plan that does not include a [gross production tax] increase. It’s not on this plan, so there is no way we will have the votes to reach the magical number. It’s not rocket science.”

– Rep. Roger Ford (R-Midwest City), predicting that the budget proposal put forth by Gov. Fallin and House and Senate Republican leadership this week would fail (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank for percentage of income going to state and local taxes out of all 50 states and Washington DC (2014). Only Tennessee and Florida had lower taxes.

Source: US Census via OK Policy

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Child Poverty Falls to Record Low, Comprehensive Measure Shows Stronger Government Policies Account for Long-Term Improvement: The child poverty rate fell to a record low of 15.6 percent in 2016, a little more than half its 1967 level of 28.4 percent. This finding emerges from a new poverty series we have developed that combines the Census Bureau’s poverty data for 2016 with long-term poverty data compiled by Columbia University researchers. The new poverty series relies on the federal government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), a comprehensive yardstick that most analysts believe provides a more accurate assessment of the resources available to low-income households to meet basic needs than the “official” poverty measure does [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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: Thousands of health care advocates pack Capitol to rally against cuts

  1. Re: OK drug courts

    The key words in the story are “those going THROUGH the program.”

    ODMHSAS stats never give you the outcomes of all those who STARTED the program. When they and their costs are figured in, outcomes are no better than similar offenders who started probation supervision at much less cost than drug courts. It’s nice to hear about drug court successes, but there’s no baseline of probation successes for comparison. IOW, these stories are just drug court propaganda, and the loss of the courts will only be bad if those who would have participated end up in prison rather than on probation. That’s the question that needs to be dealt with in this story, not the loss per se.

    (BTW, was the drug court featured nationally for sending offenders to do unpaid chicken processing included in the analysis that came up with those numbers?)

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