The Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.
This week, we released tools to help you decipher the Oklahoma legislature: our updated 2015 Legislative Primer, and What’s That?, a new online glossary of terms related to Oklahoma politics and government. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board praised both features. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis shared how, with the start of session, months of talk will turn into legislative action.
A new report from CFED shows that while the state economy may be improving, too many Oklahomans are on the verge of financial disaster. Executive Director David Blatt explained how a $300 million shortfall will means this year’s budget will be a rocky ride, and detailed why a called-for Constitutional Convention would be dangerous foray into uncharted waters.
In his Journal Record column this week, Blatt wrote that a number of election reform proposals could address Oklahoma’s electoral participation crisis. Our report “Repairing Oklahoma’s Broken Democracy” further explores the topic. KWGS reported that our 2015 State Budget Summit paints a bleaker picture of the state budget, and noted Mickey Hepner’s comments that proposed anti-gay legislation would make Oklahoma less friendly to businesses seeking to expand into the state. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board criticized OK Policy for noting that oil and gas industry tax breaks are costing Oklahoma more than $500 million this year alone.
Quote of the Week
“When you’ve gotten to that point when seven out of 10 are not participating, I think you have a crisis on your hands.”
– State Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City), on why he introduced electoral reform bills this session that would, among other measures, allow online voter registration and move the state to a vote-by-mail system (Source: bit.ly/15FCZsC)
Editorial of the Week
During a recent discussion about whether significant criminal justice reform could happen in Oklahoma in 2015, state Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said he hoped so. “I think we ought to look to Texas as a model,” Bingman said.
Yes, look to Texas. No state in America may have a more pronounced law-and-order image, and yet lawmakers there — Republican lawmakers — finally came to realize that spending more money to warehouse prisoners wasn’t the best fiscal or moral policy.
Numbers of the Day
- 46.70% – Percentage of Oklahomans vaccinated for for the seasonal flu between fall 2013 and spring 2014.
- 450 – Average number of autopsies per staff member per year performed by the Oklahoma Medical Examiners office in 2014, nearly double the recommended limit of 250.
- $949 million – Amount the state of Oklahoma paid to companies through the Quality Jobs Program from 1993 to 2014. Oklahoma Watch analysis reveals that fewer than half the promised jobs were created by required deadlines.
- 2,279 – The number of incarcerated Oklahomans who participated in GED programs in 2013
What we’re Reading
- When public schools get more money, students do better. (Wonkblog)
- Some jails have ended human contact between inmates and visitors and allowed a private company to charge family members to do video calls with their love ones. (Northwest Public Radio)
- Little-noticed legislative tweaks appear to have created the conditions for far-reaching changes that are helping to lift the burden of student debt.
- You might be wrong about who really pays your taxes. (Bloomberg View)