The Weekly Wonk: Our Legislative priorities, the cost trap, block grants, an ebook, and more

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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

This week, we released our top priorities for the 2017 Legislative session and compiled the resources you need to be ready for the 2017 session. Our online budget guide is now available as an ebook. Our statement on the Governor’s proposals at the State of the State is available here

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam explained why turning safety net programs like Medicaid and SNAP into block grants would functionally dismantle them. In a statement, Executive Director David Blatt urged Sen. Lankford to reject a measure to block fee and fraud protections on prepaid cards.

In his Journal Record column, Blatt noted that excessive fees and fines unnecessarily burden criminal defendants and are an inefficient way to fund government. Previously, a report by Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler described how excessive fees lock Oklahomans into the criminal justice system and don’t boost revenue. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argued that we should be ashamed if the Legislature doesn’t address over-incarceration this year.

A rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 14, will urge Legislators to reform civil asset forfeiture. We’ve previously written that New Mexico ended civil asset forfeiture abuse, and Oklahoma can, too. 

OK Policy in the News

Outreach and Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins appeared on The Oklahoman’s Political State podcast previewing the 2017 Legislative session. Policy Director Gene Perry appeared on KTUL discussing the Governor’s proposed tax increases and spoke to the Journal Record on her proposal to eliminate the corporate income tax. KJRH discussed Gentzler’s analysis of fees, fines, and speeding tickets. The Stillwater News Press included our statement in a round-up of reactions to the State of the State, as did The Oklahoman. The Tulsa World shared information about local advocacy groups’ budgets and Boards, including ours. You can learn more about our Board here.

Weekly What’s That

Shell bill

A shell bill is a bill that is introduced at the beginning of the legislative session with little or no substantive language. Shell bills are intended to serve as a placeholder for legislative proposals to be filled in later. Shell bills will typically include nothing more than a title that describes the section of law being changed or some meaningless wording changes. Read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“Oklahoma will continue to struggle if we don’t fix the structural deficits of our budget. Let’s focus on the reality of our state budget deficit. To start, for decades, we have attempted to balance our budget for too long with the use of one-time resources. We cannot afford to pass another budget using a large amount of non-recurring revenue.”

– Governor Mary Fallin, calling for the Legislature to pass new recurring revenues in her State of the State address (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Oklahoman

Since the 2008 assessment, officials from the Health Department have gone to the Legislature year in and year out seeking funding to build a new lab. Lawmakers keep deferring action. First, they opposed construction (even in years of revenue growth) because of opposition to bond financing. Yet now those delays may generate an emergency situation requiring new spending in the midst of a major shortfall.

Those delays have significantly increased the cost to Oklahomans. In 2009, officials with the Department of Health estimated the cost of a new 49,000 square-foot lab would be $40 million. Today, they believe it will require a 20-year bond for $58.5 million.

Numbers of the Day

  • 56 percent – Percentage of nonviolent offenders sent to Oklahoma prisons in FY 2015 who had little or no serious criminal history
  • 14 percent – How much less Oklahoma spends per Medicaid enrollee below the average for our six border states
  • 35 – Oklahoma children and teen deaths per 100,000 in 2014, down from 46 in 2008
  • 148 percent – Percent increase in the cost of a ticket for speeding 20mph over the limit between 1992 and 2016, from $107 to $265.25
  • 2,244 – Number of Oklahoma children adopted out of foster care in Oklahoma in FY2016, the highest number since 1998

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • State Budgets Aren’t Accounting for Obamacare Repeal [Governing]
  • Medicaid could struggle to cover breakthrough treatments under GOP’s plans [STAT]
  • Away from Washington, a new breed of prosecutors takes first steps [The Marshall Project]
  • Should Government Control What Low-Income People Eat? [Real Clear Markets]
  • Don’t Like the Ballot Measure Voters Approved? Just Ignore It, Some Lawmakers Say [Governing]


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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