Hey guys! Welcome back - this will be a short post as the weather made for a short legislative week. The House met only on Monday and Tuesday while the Senate met briefly on Wednesday. All legislative offices were closed on Thursday with no floor or committee activity. That also meant our first Capitol Day of the year was canceled. Don’t worry though, we have several more coming up and we’d love to see you there. Also, be sure to catch up with us on Let’s Pod This - next week should be a busy one!
Don’t Miss This
There is so much news and noise being created these days it can be hard to know where to look for good information. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here is a list of the the articles, podcasts, blog posts and more from this week that you don’t want to miss.
We’re going to start this week with a commentary from Otis White of Civic Strategies in Governing. The piece wasn't written for Oklahoma specifically but it sure feels like it could have been. White contends state governments that find themselves facing crises of funding or gridlock could learn a lot from the way municipal governments have been handling these problems for the last twenty or thirty years. We agree.
While most of the focus on new revenue has been on raising taxes, another avenue is the creation of new jobs and industries that pay into the existing tax structure. NonDoc takes a look at HB2913, which creates a pilot program for industrial hemp. The authors think could lead to a whole new division of Oklahoma’s agriculture sector (and thereby add some much-needed diversification to our state's economy).
What would happen if all our teachers just decided not to show up for work one day? Well, that appears to be an increasingly likely possibility. Oklahoma Watch discusses the petition started by a teacher from Tulsa advocating for a work stoppage. They also recap the last time there was a teacher strike in Oklahoma and its ultimate result (hint: it was a state question and it rhymes with “fix-shorty”).
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was created during the Obama Administration has been in the news a lot lately due to the recent Justice Department decision to rescind the program. Sometimes debates about these issues can seem very detached from how we and those people in our circles of influence live our everyday lives. This article from NewsOK highlights how personal this issue is for many Oklahomans.
The folks FiveThirtyEight have officially listed Oklahoma as one of the state who could see their Governor’s Mansion change hands in November. We included this because the idea that the Governor’s race would be competitive feels like news.
Capitol Watch and Legislative Recap
This was a short week at the Capitol but there still were some important developments. One of the most consequential events of the week was the meeting of The State Board of Equalization met this week and the news is, well, mixed. The Board of Equalization is responsible for certifying the states revenue estimate for the upcoming fiscal year; in other words, they tell the Legislature how much money they have to spend.
At their meeting on Tuesday, the board certified the revenue projection for FY18-19, which comes with a $167.8 million budget hole. This is actually a smaller budget hole than anticipated as economic growth has been more robust, but the increase in revenue is not enough meet spending obligations.
The other major piece of news was the passage of HB1020XX and HB1022XX. These will likely be two of the last bills passed in the 2nd Extraordinary Special Session of 2017. HB1020XX is the big budget bill that cuts all agencies by 0.66% for the last quarter of FY17-18. It passed both the House and Senate this week largely along party lines and will go to the Governor’s desk for signature early next week. HB1022XX is an emergency spending bill that fills a $140 million dollar funding gap in medical education created by the loss of a waiver from the federal government that matches state Medicaid dollars with federal funds for medical education. 1022XX passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.
A couple other noteworthy developments this week were the passage of SB1104 out of the Senate Education Committee and HB1530 passing out of House Appropriations. SB1104 prohibits lunch shaming by requiring schools to provide meal applications for students as well as assistance with completing the application. It also prevents schools from taking punitive measures against students who develop negative account balances due to their inability to pay for lunches. The bills passed out of committee unanimously. HB1530 is a bipartisan bill that prohibits discrimination in wages and other compensation on the basis of sex; HB1530 passed out of committee 24-2.
It’s going to be a busy four days at the Capitol next week. March 1 is the deadline for bills to be heard out of committee and the Legislature lost two working days this week. So, next week will likely be a whirlwind. We’ll make sure you get all the details right here. See you next week, and remember: Decisions are made by those who show up.