In 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
Tulsa’s growing immigrant population responsible for significant economic gains, study shows: If you told Manuel Gomez 15 years ago how much of an impact Tulsa’s immigrant population would have on its economy now, he probably wouldn’t have believed you. Gomez, co-owner of local grocery chain Supermercados Morelos, is one of thousands of Tulsa immigrants contributing to the economic boost outlined in a study released Wednesday. Even now, he felt surprised while reading through the study’s documentation of the financial influence of immigrants in the Tulsa metropolitan area [Tulsa World]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].
Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education: Despite numerous promises by Oklahoma lawmakers that this would be the year they begin undoing K-12 education cuts and funding a desperately needed teacher raise, ultimately too many of our legislators refused to raise revenues. Unsurprisingly, a new update from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for cuts to our state aid formula since before the Great Recession [OK Policy]. Two big myths that distort Oklahoma’s education funding debate [OK Policy].
Review finds more valid signatures, but teacher pay raise initiative still falls short in Oklahoma City: If they can’t reverse a ruling by the Oklahoma City clerk’s office, advocates of a local income tax for teacher pay raises will “stand up, brush ourselves off and keep fighting,” says Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid. A review this week produced 1,731 additional valid signatures on an initiative calling for a vote on the income tax proposal, but organizers of the petition drive were still short of number of signatures they needed [NewsOK].
State grand jury investigating Oklahoma Health Department: The unfolding scandal at the Oklahoma Health Department took a new turn Thursday when the state’s multicounty grand jury began investigating who is to blame for the financial mismanagement there. The investigation could result in criminal charges against former officials next year. Grand jurors conduct their investigations in closed sessions, but two former officials were seen arriving at their meeting place Thursday morning [NewsOK]. Oklahoma’s State Health Department has yet to provide emails that could shed light on allegations of financial mismanagement, despite state laws that urge prompt filling of records requests [NewsOK].
Oklahoma House subpoenas top Fallin aides, escalating budget feud between governor, leadership: The feud between Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ GOP leadership escalated late Thursday when a House committee issued subpoenas for three of Fallin’s closest advisers. The subpoenas are related to a special House investigation into the state Department of Health, which is already the subject of at least two other probes [Tulsa World].
Lawmaker wants to ban agency lobbyists: An Oklahoma state senator is pushing for fewer lobbyists and more auditors, a move he said would create a clearer picture for lawmakers. State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, introduced a bill that would divert personnel from legislative liaison services and divert money from contracted lobbyists. Senate Bill 876 would require those resources to be allotted instead to the Legislative Services Bureau to create a team of auditors who report to lawmakers [Journal Record].
Local legislators still hopeful about budget deal: Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto of House Bill 1019X has caused consternation among lawmakers, but the men charged with representing Tahlequah in the Senate and House of Representatives are not among those criticizing Fallin for gunning down the budget measure. State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, and State Rep. Matt Meredith, D-Tahlequah, voted against HB 1019X, and said they were not averse to returning to Oklahoma City for a second special session [Tahlequah Daily Press]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].
OUR VIEW: Fix our broken justice system: The alarm isn’t being sounded, so much as it’s constantly ringing, for years now. Oklahoma has too many people in prison. We need far fewer. We could speed up the process for releasing prisoners, or we could do a whole lot more to make sure they never get there. The other option, as suggested by Oklahoma Department of Corrections Joe Allbaugh, is to spend more money. Allbaugh has requested $1.5 billion for next year’s corrections budget [Stillwater News-Press]. Oklahoma’s sprawling criminal code could make a felon of almost anyone [OK Policy].
Lamb unveils ethics plan, Stitt staffer says Lamb manager ‘breached’ call: Oklahoma’s 2018 gubernatorial race is heating up, with campaigns releasing reform plans, taking firmer positions on state budget negotiations and one even accusing an opposing campaign manager of a nefarious action. Thursday, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb announced a six-point “ethics reform” plan at a morning press conference. The recommendations are aimed at everything from punishing legislators who resign to applying campaign donation restrictions during special sessions [NonDoc].
Gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson announces plan to increase transparency: Complaining that a pervasive culture of secrecy and backroom deals exists among government leaders, gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson announced Wednesday he wants to create a special office to ensure compliance with Oklahoma’s open government laws. “Government belongs to the people,” Edmondson said in a news release [NewsOK].
City officials move to flip election schedule after low voter turnout for charter change proposals: Two weeks after key changes to the city’s charter were made by a tiny fraction of Tulsa’s registered voters, Mayor G.T. Bynum and city councilors took action Wednesday to try to ensure that such a dismal turnout does not occur again. A proposal by Bynum to schedule charter change elections for the same even-numbered years that mayoral and council elections are held was presented for a first reading at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting [Tulsa World].
Oklahoma Health Officials Say 2 People Die Due to Influenza: Health officials say the deaths of two people due to influenza are the first flu-related deaths in Oklahoma this season. The state Department of Health said Thursday the two deaths were recorded between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28 and that both were patients over the age of 65. Oklahoma health officials say a total of 105 influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported across the state since the current flu season began on Sept. 1 [AP].
Former Oklahoma senator pleads guilty to child sex trafficking: Former state Sen. Ralph Shortey began his new life Thursday as a locked up felon immediately after pleading guilty to child sex trafficking. A judge will decide his punishment at a sentencing next year but he will be held in jail until then. He had been free on conditions that included wearing an ankle monitor. He faces at least 10 years in federal prison for the offense [NewsOK].
Trump picks populist Oklahoma officials for federal jobs: The Trump administration has plucked some of Oklahoma’s most visible and most conservative politicians and placed them into high-ranking federal jobs, a move locals said reiterates the president’s dedication to a populist message. The state’s attorney general and one of its most prominent state representatives have already left their posts to work for President Donald Trump [Journal Record].
Governors implore Congress to renew children’s health funding: The National Governors Association is urging Congress to fund critical health-care programs — including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and community health centers — before the year ends. Lawmakers failed to reauthorize money for CHIP, health centers and other health programs by Sept. 30. The funding lapse has frustrated officials and advocates, who say the uncertainty is causing angst for those charged with running these programs [The Hill].
“Trigger” in Senate Tax Bill Flawed, Inadequate, and Unrealistic: Some Senate Republicans have raised important concerns that the tax bill on which the Senate is likely to vote this week would significantly increase deficits. In response, Senate Republican leaders are considering adding a “trigger” to the bill that would reportedly activate corporate tax increases if in 2022 the promised positive economic effects of the bill have not materialized. This trigger mechanism, however, is deeply flawed and cannot undo the harmful fiscal impact of the bill’s unfinanced tax cuts [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]. Senator Lankford ignores the example of his own state if he thinks tax triggers are responsible [OK Policy].
Quote of the Day
“Sometimes change is hard to accept, especially here in Oklahoma. Change is a positive thing. It’s good for Oklahoma. We cannot stay the same as in the late ‘40s or ‘50s. We have a new community now, and we need to learn how to accept that community. By learning about each other, I think it will make it easier for the immigrant community and the nonimmigrant community as well.”
– Francisco Trevino, president of the Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, reacting to a study showing that Tulsa’s growing immigrant population is responsible for significant economic gains (Source)
Number of the Day
Structurally deficient bridges in Oklahoma in 2016, down from 706 in 2011
Source: OK State Stat
If you tax the rich, they won’t leave: US data contradicts millionaires’ threats: In the classic Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, the rich go “on strike” – withdrawing their services and disappearing from society in protest against taxes and regulation. Weary of carrying an ungrateful world on their shoulders, business leaders and other top income earners finally shrug, and leave the world without them. The book’s metaphor inspires political rhetoric to this day: if you tax the rich, they will leave. Variations on the threat are issued by well-off individuals all over the world – not least in the United States, where each state sets its own tax policies, and periodic warnings are issued that taxes on the rich will lead to millionaire migration to more obliging US states [The Guardian].
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