In The Know: Our top priorities in Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session

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

Our top priorities in Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session: With the 2018 legislative session fast approaching, today we released OK Policy’s top policy priorities for the coming year. OK Policy is committed to supporting fair and adequate funding of public services and expanded economic opportunity for all Oklahomans through research and advocacy. [OK Policy]

Why Oklahoma Has No Misdemeanor Drug Courts, Even Though The Law Allows Them: Oklahoma criminal justice reform may be leaving drug courts behind. Voters in 2016 approved two state questions that reclassified some low-level drug crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies. The hope was that more drug users would stay out of prison and get treatment. But, in Oklahoma, you can’t get into drug court unless you have a felony. [StateImpact] SQ 780 should save Oklahoma millions next year [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Slowly Improving When it Comes to State Budget: The head of a prominent think tank says despite serious challenges still facing Oklahoma’s budget, there’s slow progress. Oklahoma Policy Institute’s David Blatt said just five years ago, Gov. Mary Fallin was saying Oklahoma could eliminate the income tax — now she’s calling for new revenue. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education groups step up advocacy of budget proposal, teacher pay raise: Nearly all of Oklahoma’s major public education advocacy groups, along with the state’s two largest school districts, have publicly backed a series of tax hikes being promoted by a statewide coalition of business and civic leaders, largely because of its inclusion of a $5,000 teacher pay raise. [The Oklahoman] Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy]

Without threat of prison, Oklahoma wonders how to encourage drug treatment: Oklahoma recently reclassified drug possession and minor thefts to misdemeanors. For meth addicts who commit nonviolent crimes, treatment is a cheaper option than prison, say observers. But some are concerned that the lighter touch will reduce participation in substance-abuse programs. [Christian Science Monitor]

Momentum growing for Step Up Oklahoma plan: Proposals advanced by the nonpartisan Step Up Oklahoma coalition, like the proverbial snowball rolling downhill, continue to gather momentum via support from individuals and groups across Oklahoma. Lawmakers should take note. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] Step Up Oklahoma plan adds to the consensus that new revenues are essential [OK Policy]

How Tax Code Changes Could Affect Oklahomans: Accountants and other tax professionals are looking for more clarification in the state tax code after changes were made at the federal level. “One of the things most people don’t understand is that the federal tax law impacts the state law,” said CPA and Associate Dean of the Business College at Oklahoma Christian University Elaine Kelly. [News9]

House should pay teachers, too: Oklahoma teachers need raises. That seems be a fairly universally held opinion. The question of how to give our teachers a pay raise is where everything gets complicated. Voters turned down a sales tax increase. Lawmakers can’t find the money to balance this fiscal year’s budget. And that’s just days before a new legislative session begins. That’s the session that should be focused on setting a budget for next fiscal year. [Editorial Board/Muskogee Phoenix]

Lack of data hinders Oklahoma’s tax break study: As the Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission prepares to evaluate its third round of state tax breaks offered to businesses and individuals, the panel could face more challenges than before. Of the 14 incentives up for review this year, just half come with an estimated cost to the state. Over the next several months, a private company used by the commission will analyze each of the incentives to better understand their real value, along with who benefits. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma’s ‘three-legged stool’ of tax incentive reform is incomplete [OK Policy]

Bill would make legislators pay for special elections: Although no headline-grabbing resignations have occurred in months, a slew of lawmakers filed legislation that would ensure Oklahoma taxpayers would bear no financial burden if another comes. Several require lawmakers to pay for their own special elections, which can cost $40,000. Some bills would give more appointment power to the governor. [Journal Record]

Joining the house leadership: Rep. Josh West (R-Grove) has a new item to place on his resumé – floor leader for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. West began his new position this week, as the Oklahoma legislature continues with the second special session. [Grand Lake News]

Authorities Investigating Oklahoma Rig Explosion, Deadliest U.S. Drilling Accident In Years: Federal and state authorities are investigating the cause of the deadly explosion and fire at a natural gas drilling rig in southeastern Oklahoma on Monday. Five workers died in what appears to be one of the country’s deadliest onshore drilling accidents. [StateImpact] Driller in Oklahoma explosion has history of fatal accidents [AP]

Generating new revenue a must for state’s future: Inside the Capitol, GOP leadership still regards t-a-x as the equivalent of a four-letter word, though it increasingly recognizes the truth of basic math: More revenue is needed to prevent the state’s proverbial lights from being turned off. [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record]

Legislation allows CareerTechs to expand STEM education in Oklahoma: Oklahoma is considered one of the premiere states for STEM education and Sen. Ron Sharp wants to expand it further. He has filed Senate Bill 880 to further advance STEM education by moving oversight of the STEM Region/Community application subcommittee from the Coalition for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education in Oklahoma (CASMEO) to the Department of Career and Technology Education. [Okemah News Leader]

Quote of the Day

“We stopped the movement for income tax repeal, and we’ve seen growing recognition … that there is a structural budget deficit, that we do have a revenue problem, that we need more revenue. And we have seen real, unprecedented openness to new taxes in the state.”

– David Blatt, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking at our annual Budget Summit on the state of the Oklahoma Budget as we begin a new legislative session (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of approved foster care beds in Oklahoma in FY 2017, up from 2,310 in FY 2012

Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.: Think about your elementary school. If you attended an American public school, chances are you went to that school because your family lived in that school’s attendance zone. You probably didn’t think twice about it. We tend to assume these are neutrally drawn, immutable borders. But if you take a step back and look at the demographics of who lives in each attendance zone, you’re faced with maps like this…Groups with political clout — mainly wealthier, whiter communities — have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools. [Vox]

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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.

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