In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.
A bill (HB 2562) that would reduce the gross production tax on oil and natural gas wells from 7 percent to 2 percent for the first 36 months of production is expected to reach the state House of Representatives late Wednesday or early Thursday. The OK Policy Blog shared talking points on why this bill is a bad deal for Oklahoma. Oklahoma Watch reported that oil companies claiming the gross production tax will affect their decisions on where to drill have been singing a different tune in their reports to investors and presentations to Wall Street. You can contact legislators about this issue using the form here.
The Oklahoma Senate approved a $7.1 billion budget bill that funds state services for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The bill appropriates about $102 million less than the budget for the current year, and most state agencies will receive cuts averaging 5.5 percent. The House passed a bill (HB 2630) that would move all new state employees to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. Lawmakers said the bill was needed to reduce Oklahoma’s unfunded pension liabilities, but OK Policy explained how taking new employees out of the traditional pension system will actually make unfunded liabilities worse.
A House committee approved pay raises of up to 6 percent for district attorneys and district judges across Oklahoma. A bill targeting the association that regulates high school athletics is headed to the governor to be signed into law. The bill requires the OSSAA to have written policies consistent with the Open Records Act and Open Meeting Act. It also must have a performance audit done every five years. Al Jazeera America reported on how putting storm shelters in Oklahoma schools has become a “political football.” The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition with an international Commission on Human Rights seeking an investigation of executions planned in Oklahoma and Missouri.
Fallin vetoes bill that would change third-grade reading law
Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a measure Tuesday that would allow a team of parents on educators to decide whether third-graders who don’t pass a reading test should be held back. Fallin said the measure would “gut” the law and return the state to “a broken system.” The House of Representatives, which passed House Bill 2625 last week, immediately geared up for an override attempt Tuesday night but had to stand down when an official copy of Fallin’s veto statement could not be obtained.
Tulsa Educators React To Fallin’s Reading Bill Veto
It’s a bill meant to give third graders a second chance, but Governor Fallin said passing it would be immoral. The governor vetoed a bill, that would have let parents and educators send kids to fourth grade, even if they failed the state’s reading test. Fallin said if students can’t read proficiently by the time they’re in third grade, they’ll only continue to fall behind. Some educators say the way children learn can’t be categorized as one way fits all. “We have seen where students are catching up by fourth grade or by fifth grade, it takes time, not everyone develops at the same pace,” said Tracy Bayles, Chief Academic Officer for Tulsa Public Schools.
Bill to make gross production tax break permanent heads to House
A bill that would set the gross production tax rate on oil and natural gas wells at 2 percent for the first 36 months of production is expected to reach the state House of Representatives late Wednesday or early Thursday. House Bill 2562 would affect the early production of vertical and horizontal wells throughout the state. After three years, the wells’ remaining production would be taxed at 7 percent. The bill on Tuesday was approved by conference committees in both chambers. The full House must wait 24 hours before taking up the measure.
HB 2562 would make permanent a huge tax break for oil and gas production by taxing all drilling at just 2 percent for the first 3 years of production. Extending and expanding the current tax break is unnecessary for the oil and gas industry and not in Oklahoma’s best interests.
Oil Firms’ Reports Strike Different Tone than CEOs’ Warnings on Production Tax
The CEOs of three big Oklahoma-based oil companies have declared publicly they might curtail their drilling activity in the state by as much as half if the state doesn’t act by the end of the month to extend an expiring tax break for horizontal wells. The three firms — Continental Resources Inc., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Devon Energy Corp. — said restoring the state’s 7 percent production tax on horizontal wells would reduce future returns and cause them to shift their drilling to other states. They’ve been singing a slightly different tune in their reports to investors and presentations to Wall Street.
Oklahoma Senate approves $7.1 billion budget for 2014-15 fiscal year, $102 million less than 2013-14
The Oklahoma Senate has overwhelmingly approved a $7.1 billion budget bill that funds state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The Senate voted 31-9 Tuesday for the bill that puts into law the agreement reached last week between the Senate, House and governor’s office. The measure now moves to the House for final consideration. The bill appropriates about $102 million less than the budget for the current year. Most state agencies will receive cuts averaging 5.5 percent.
New state employees who participate in the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System would be switched to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan under a measure approved Tuesday by the state House of Representatives. House Bill 2630 passed the House 58-33. It now will go to the state Senate. House author Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond, argued it is good for taxpayers. “The state has over $11 billion in unfunded liabilities,” he said. “We spent $823 million last year to service those debts.”
Judges on Oklahoma’s appellate courts and statewide elected officials like the governor and attorney general won’t be getting pay raises next year under a measure approved by a House budget panel. A House committee on Tuesday approved the resolution by House Speaker Jeff Hickman. The proposal would allow pay raises of up to 6 percent for district attorneys and district judges across Oklahoma. The measure still must be approved by the full House and Senate. A state board last year recommended a 12 percent pay raise for the judiciary, whose salaries are linked to the pay for statewide elected officials like the governor.
Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association bill advances to governor
A bill targeting the association that regulates high school athletics is headed to the governor to be signed into law. The state House of Representatives on Monday approved 59-30 the latest version of the bill that even supporters acknowledged had been watered down. Supporters said it would still send a message to the widely disliked Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association. The bill will require the OSSAA to have written policies consistent with the Open Records Act and Open Meeting Act. It also must have a performance audit done every five years.
A year later, school storm shelters in Oklahoma are ‘a political football’
In quiet moments, the grief hits her hardest. A rough-and-tumble 9-year-old, Christopher Legg sometimes conspired with his older brother to frighten his little sister. The siblings’ high jinks sent a familiar clamor throughout the family’s home. Christopher loved wrestling with his siblings and dad, and his family did not take moments like these for granted. Christopher’s young life had been shaped by courage he displayed in the face of a formidable diagnosis: skin cancer. On May 20, 2013, he needed that courage.
ACLU calls for international investigation of Oklahoma execution
Executions in Oklahoma and Missouri, including one scheduled for Wednesday, will violate international law and should be halted until an international body can investigate, the ACLU said in a petition Monday. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition Monday with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking to halt the execution of Russell Bucklew, set for Wednesday in Missouri, and Charles Warner, set for Nov. 13 in Oklahoma.
“I have overseen the budgeting process of drilling thousands of wells at two different companies in Oklahoma. In the process of drilling a well, there were many factors that are considered. However, the implication of a state’s gross production tax has never had a material impact on whether to drill or not drill. … The intent of the Oklahoma gross production tax holiday has outlived its purpose of subsidizing the experiment of horizontal drilling … The tax holiday had an expiration for good reason and was never intended to create a long-term entitlement for the industry.”
- Tom Ward, former CEO of SandRidge Energy Inc. and current CEO of Tapstone Energy LLC (source: http://bit.ly/1vDmvuh).
Number of the Day
The number of Oklahoma third-graders with disabilities who failed a high-stakes third-grade reading exam, nearly half of all students who failed.
What 60 years of political gerrymandering looks like
Last week I wrote about the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the United States, as measured by how geometrically compact they are. I found that districts in some states are a bit of a hot mess, particularly in North Carolina and Maryland. The natural follow-up question: have they always been that way? To answer that, I grabbed historic district “shapefiles” and did the same geometric analysis for a handful of states, going back to the 83rd Congress, which convened in 1953. In nearly every state, the average gerrymander index value — that is, the average of the gerrymander scores for all districts in a given state — has risen substantially since then.