In The Know: What to watch in Tuesday’s primary elections

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

Five Things to Watch in Tuesday’s Primary Election: The first decisive moment in Oklahoma’s 2016 election season will occur on Tuesday, when Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians nominate candidates for dozens of legislative and congressional races. Some of these primary races will lock up the ultimate winner because only candidates from one party are running. Others will be decided in a later run-off or in November. Making sense of primary results can be difficult. Here are five things to watch for on Tuesday [Oklahoma Watch]. “Dark money” groups that seek to influence elections have spent more than $300,000 over the past five weeks on Oklahoma’s legislative and congressional primary contests [Oklahoma Watch]. With all five U.S. House incumbents in Oklahoma facing a Republican primary challenger, Tuesday’s congressional primaries may see upsets [NewsOK]. Find links to information about Tuesday’s elections here.

Republicans continue to gain in voter registration in Oklahoma: Current statistics in Oklahoma show the Republican Party continuing to lead in voter rolls. Records maintained by the state Election Board show 929,989 registered Republicans, 838,665 Democrats, 281,790 independents and 807 Libertarians. The number of Republican voters went up by about 3 percent from 2014 to 2016, a net increase of about 26,000 voters. The number of Democrats fell by 6 percent, a net loss of 53,000 voters from 2014. Independents, meanwhile, had a net increase of 28,000 voters in that period [NewsOK].

Supporters of penny sales tax for education call legal challenge ‘obstruction’: Backers of a penny sales tax for schools say a legal challenge to keep the issue off the Nov. 8 ballot ignores the will of more than 300,000 people who signed petitions to place the measure before voters. Anna King, a proponent of the initiative, criticized OCPA Impact, the conservative lobbying group behind the challenge. “It’s time to let the people vote to invest more in our schools and our teachers,” she said at a state Capitol news conference Friday. “Obstructing direct democracy — especially at such a critical time for our schools — is shameful.” [NewsOK]

Oklahomans stalled at heaven’s gate: Reports from recent near-death experiences have revealed an emerging obstacle for Tulsa-area residents seeking to enter the kingdom of heaven. Apparently, conversations are going something like this: “Greetings,” said St. Peter to a room of dearly departed from northeast Oklahoma. “We have installed greater security measures for those from your part of the country. It’s similar to losing your preclearance at airport security.” “Wait,” said one brave soul, “Oklahoman’s are among the most religious in the nation — fully two thirds are considered “very religious,” according to a recent Pew research finding. We are the buckle of the Bible Belt.” “Buckle’s a bit tarnished of late,” said the presiding angel [Craig Rainey / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s capital gains tax break is a windfall for the wealthiest with no proven benefit for the economy: One of Oklahoma’s largest tax breaks got no attention from legislators last year, despite its questionable legality, its questionable benefit for the economy, and a $1.3 billion budget shortfall that inspired legislators to go after many other tax breaks and programs. The “Oklahoma Source Capital Gains Deduction” was enacted in 2004 as part of State Question 713, which also increased Oklahoma’s tobacco tax. The deduction allows taxpayers to exempt from their taxable income any gains from the sale of property located in Oklahoma or stock of a company headquartered in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

“We are already at a crisis point,” Oklahoma mental health officials expect things to worsen: Officials at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services say they’re in crisis mode. Beds are full in every treatment center in the state, and the agency is about $20 million in the hole. When you take into account the money the agency won’t get because we lost our federal Medicaid match, it’s more like $60 million. Earlier this month, ODMHSAS had to trim $14 million from its budget. Officials did that by cutting therapy services for more than 70,000 patients [KFOR].

Oklahoma Senator Blogs About Bills, Legislative Process Of His Measures Fallin Signed In 2016: State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, is using social media to pull back the curtain for his constituents on the nearly a dozen bills he authored last session that were signed into law. He’s using the hashtag #11BillsIn11Days to explain the origin of each piece of legislation, how it progressed through the chambers, and how it affects Oklahomans. He goes into much more detail on his blog [KGOU].

If we want change in next year’s Legislature, there’s work to be done now: Will the current deterioration of state government become a crucible for change? Starting with passage of unsustainable tax cut policies a decade ago, then driven by a national recession followed by more unfortunate fiscal policies, and finally accompanied by an oil and gas downturn, we are caught in a race to the bottom. You will know whether things can change soon by what happens in the eight months between the end of the last legislative session and the beginning of the next session in February 2017 [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Board of Education votes to close troubled school: The state Board of Education on Thursday ordered the mandatory annexation of Grant-Goodland Public School, a troubled K-8 district in southeastern Oklahoma plagued by financial misconduct and other issues. Board members, acting on the recommendation of the state Education Department, voted to close the 118-student district during a special meeting. In recent months, $200,000 went missing from Grant-Goodland, the administration building was raided by federal investigators and the superintendent was suspended [NewsOK].

After decades of sprawl, Oklahoma City officials know something must change: Oklahoma City is implementing an unprecedented series of actions to slow sprawl, require developers to help pay for costs associated with growth and even potentially de-annex far-flung areas of the city to end what Mayor Mick Cornett and others see as an unsustainable status quo. At 621 square miles, Oklahoma City is geographically bigger than any city in Texas. Excluding sparsely populated large towns in Alaska and Montana, Oklahoma City ranks fourth in the nation in size. The strain is evident with each pothole-riddled street, the demand for new fire stations and a backlog of requests for traffic signals, road improvements and water lines needed to keep up with a population that has in the past 25 years grown from 403,040 to 581,688 and is expected to hit 810,883 by 2040 [NewsOK].

Supreme Court tie is seen as win for tribal jurisdiction: An evenly split Supreme Court gave a limited victory on Thursday to Indian tribes seeking jurisdiction over civil suits involving nontribal members. The court’s 4-4 tie effectively upheld a federal appeals court decision that nonmembers could be sued in tribal courts. However, that decision was limited to the 5th U.S. Circuit, which includes Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana. The case caused a split between state Attorney General Scott Pruitt and five Oklahoma tribes — the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Muscogee Creeks, Cherokees and Seminoles [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“People got to rely on the automobile, and civil engineers kept working on that direction,. It was their inspiration to see how fast we can get out of downtown and onto the highways. We’ve built the city around the car, and now we have to build it around the people.”

-Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, speaking about the city’s efforts to slow to slow sprawl that is straining the city’s ability to maintain services (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma adults who said they did not have enough money to buy food sometime in the past 12 months (2015), the 4th highest in percentage US.

Source: Gallup

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Families That Can’t Afford Summer: What are your kids up to this summer? Sounds like a casual question. But for working parents at this time of year, it’s loaded. What have you managed to pull together that will keep your kids engaged, healthy, happy and safe, while still allowing you to keep feeding and clothing them? For most parents, summer, that beloved institution, is a financial and logistical nightmare [New York Times].

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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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