Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers unveil redistricting plan | Treating, rehabilitating criminal offenders | More

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. 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 from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Déjà vu all over again: When gathering my thoughts about the upcoming Nov. 15 special legislative session on redistricting, I was torn whether to lead with something biblical (Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”) or something slightly more contemporary from the Talking Heads (“Same as it ever was.”). Regardless, when it comes to redistricting, I get the feeling that we’ve seen this movie before. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Factors could create progress towards treating, rehabilitating criminal offenders (Capitol Update): For years, DOC has advocated for more diversion along with more and better treatment, education, and training programs. That’s not surprising. DOC officials see the back end of the criminal legal system and often have no choice but to carry out expensive sentences of incarceration that add little or nothing to public safety and fail to treat and rehabilitate offenders. There is a convergence of three factors that could lead to real progress. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Weekly What’s That

Capital gains deduction

A capital gain is a rise in the value of a capital asset (investment or real estate) that gives it a higher worth than the purchase price. The gain is not realized until the asset is sold. Capital gains income is taxable, but may be taxed at a different rate than other forms of income (earned, retirement, dividend, etc.).

In Oklahoma, certain capital gains income is fully deductible from state income 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. To qualify for this exemption, the seller must have owned the property for at least five years or the stock for at least two years before the sale.
2017 report prepared for Oklahoma’s Incentive Evaluation Commission estimated that the capital gains tax deduction led to an estimated $474 million in forgone tax revenues from 2010 to 2014, while only creating $9 million in positive economic benefits. The report’s recommendation to repeal the capital gains deduction was rejected by the Commission. Legislation to repeal the capital gains deduction, SB 1086, passed the Senate in 2018 but was not taken up in the House.
The capital gains deduction cost the state $127.5 million in FY 2020, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“Look at one revenue stream that is a top (priority) for me — which is the gaming revenue, that is put into the state. That’s about $167 million this year. That was a record. The tax cuts last session are (nearly) twice that. Yet, I heard the governor of the state of Oklahoma hollering, with some hysterics, that the tribes ought to be paying more.”

-Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. [NonDoc]

Editorial of the Week

Redrawn Oklahoma congressional districts raise questions

Oklahoma lawmakers this week unveiled their maps for how the new state congressional districts will look, taking into consideration changes in population revealed in the 2020 U.S. Census.

The biggest change to the congressional districts was adding a third representative to Oklahoma County, by far the state’s most populous county. That was accomplished by putting a portion of Oklahoma County into the largely rural 3rd Congressional District, currently held by Republican Rep. Frank Lucas.

The part of Oklahoma County that would be included in the 3rd Congressional District is a heavily Hispanic part of Oklahoma City. A final decision on congressional districts will be made by lawmakers when they meet in special session Nov. 15.

Opponents of the new maps say the change is an example of gerrymandering, the process used to ensure one political party remains in control.

Moving Democrat votes out of the 5th Congressional District into the staunchly conservative 3rd Congressional District dilutes those votes and certainly bolsters Republican chances of keeping control of the 5th District.

Republican state lawmakers, who decided the new district maps because they are the majority in the Legislature, say they did not consider political affiliation or race when crafting the maps. But it is interesting that a piece was taken out of Oklahoma County, which is one of the most purple of the state’s counties. As of Oct. 31, Republicans accounted for 42.5% of the registered voters in Oklahoma County, while Democrats made up 36.6%.

Andy Moore, head of People Not Politicians, which aims to ensure the redrawing of the state’s voting districts is free of partisan influence, said his organization is considering a legal challenge.

Congressional districts must be redrawn after every decennial census. Over the past decade, nearly two-thirds of Oklahoma counties saw their population decrease, losing a combined 69,000, an analysis of census data shows. But the remaining counties — predominantly urban and suburban — saw their populations grow by about 277,000 people. While the state saw a net gain of about 208,000 people in the past decade, nearly half of all Oklahoma residents now live in four counties — Canadian, Cleveland, Oklahoma and Tulsa. Oklahoma County is home to nearly 800,000 people.

Congressional districts are required to have roughly the same population. Given that requirement, the 3rd Congressional District is huge — encompassing about half the total land area of the state, stretching from the Panhandle across to Osage County, and taking in almost all of sparsely populated Western Oklahoma.

Redrawing districts is not an easy job, but some of the changes were puzzling. We will have to see how things work out.

[Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • $12.9 Billion – The total economic impact that tribes made in Oklahoma in 2017. In addition to direct contributions, tribes generate billions in production by companies that support tribes’ business operations. [Oklahoma Native Impact]
  • 44% – Percent of people in locally run jails who have been diagnosed with a mental illness [Bureau of Justice Statistics]
  • $1 billion – Oklahoma lawmakers cut the top rate of the individual income tax from seven to five percent between 2004 and 2016, which has cost the state more than $1 billion each year after 2016. [OK Policy]
  • 7% – Percentage of Oklahoma children under age 17 who lack health insurance. This represents about 70,000 children in the state. [KIDS COUNT
  • 5,619 – Number of people on the state’s waiting list for disability services, as of March 2021 [The Frontier]

What We’re Reading

Note: November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. 


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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