Together Tuesdays Update: Bills are out of committee, so let’s get focused.

In this Together Tuesdays Update we will continue to focus on our priorities that hit that sweet spot of important, urgent, and achievable.

What happened in the last week AND what you can do next

At this point, with a few exceptions, all the bills that will be heard this session are out of committee.
Below is where each of our TOK priorities stand, the bills that we are watching, and what we hope you are doing about each of them.

Oppose Constitutional Convention:  

We are very concerned about potentially catastrophic dangers of a balanced budget amendment and the potentially enormous funding cuts that could follow, leading to bigger and prolonged recessions! Make sure you really understand these issues so you can help your friends and your legislators understand.  

Constitutional Convention bills to watch:

Steps to take:

  1. Read this to make sure you understand this issue.
  2. Urge your legislators to vote NAY on any resolution calling for a Con Con or Balanced Budget Amendment. (HB1804, HJR1018, SB53,SJR4) Find you legislators HERE.
  3. Tell your friends and colleagues why stopping the Constitutional Convention is both urgent and achievable.
  4. Download the TOK Con Con Fact sheet HERE

Restore Education Funding:

Did you see how motivated folks were to stop the AP US history bill? Citizens WON that debate by raising their voices loud and clear.  Education FUNDING should be getting that same kind of support!  You can make that happen by talking to your friends and colleagues about these priority bills in addition to making sure your legislator knows how you stand on the following:

Education bills to watch:

  • HOUSE BILL 1682 by Denney– Creates a dedicated stream of income tax revenue to the “Securing Educational Excellence Fund.” beginning in 2017. Suspends increases in dedicated funding going to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation until the education fund reaches a certain level.

Steps to take:

  1. Know the facts about the lack of adequate support and lack of funding for Public Education in Oklahoma.
  2. Urge your legislators to vote YAY for HB 1682 and to look for even more ways to support our teachers and schools.
  3. Tell your legislators you plan to be at the capitol on March 30th (Rally details HERE) and that funding for common education is your primary concern. Find you legislators HERE.
  4. Connect the dots between continued revenue cuts and lack of adequate funding.
  5. Tell your friends and colleagues that this is urgent, important, and achievable and why.
  6. Download the TOK Education Fact sheet HERE.

Get Smart on Crime:

Some Criminal Justice win-win scenarios are taking shape!  We’re so pleased to be able to share some bi-partisan progress, but we still need you to keep up the pressure and make sure your legislators know that we want more bills that reduce incarceration and the cost to the taxpayers, allow judges to decide sentences based on the case instead of strict and extreme mandatory minimums, and offer real options for rehabilitation and safe alternatives to prison.

Criminal Justice bills to watch:

Steps to take:

  1. Urge your legislators to re-frame how they think about criminal justice and focus on plans that work.  Vote YAY on these bills that aren’t just “tough” but actually smart on crime including: HB2168, HB1518, HB1574, SB112, and SB211. Find you legislators HERE.
  2. Tell your friends and colleagues that this is urgent, important, and achievable and why.
  3. Download the Smart On Crime Fact sheet HERE.

Boost Electoral Participation:

These bills are receiving bi-partisan support and enthusiasm from all sorts of voters especially young voters, who want to see government become more responsive to the needs of individual citizens.  Enthusiastic support for these bills needs to be coming from citizens in each and every district in the state.

Election Bills to watch:

  • HOUSE BILL 1846 by Inman and Bass and Senate Bill 313 by Holt  – This allows eligible citizens with a driver’s license to securely register to vote online. Over half the states offer this modern accommodation. Over a third of eligible Oklahoma voters are not registered to vote. Younger voters especially are not used to a world where such tasks cannot be accomplished online. 
  • HOUSE BILL 2181 by Hickman Makes it easier for third parties to get on the ballot.
  • SENATE BILL 312 by Holt – This consolidates all local candidate elections to one cycle in the spring or one cycle in the fall. Currently, for example, in Oklahoma City this year, school board and career tech board elections were held in February, but city council elections will be held in March.
  • SENATE BILL 315 by Holt  and SENATE BILL 173 by Fry and Banz– SB315 allows voters to request to be placed permanently on the absentee voter list, rather than the current practice of requiring an application each year. SB173 increases the number of absentee ballots a notary may notarize from 20 to 100 ballots per election.
  • SENATE BILL 315 by Holt and Hall– Allows registered Oklahoma voters to request permanent absentee voting status, in which they would receive all ballots in the mail prior to elections.

(Holt authored an additional seven election reform measures which have not been given a committee hearing but are still eligible for consideration in the 2016 legislative session.)

Steps to take:

  1. Urge your legislators to enthusiastically vote YAY on these exciting bills that can help heal Oklahoma’s Broken Democracy including HB2181, SB312, SB313, and SB315.  
    Find you legislators HERE
  2. Tell your friends and colleagues that this is urgent, important, and achievable and why.
  3. Download the Boost Electoral Participation Fact sheet HERE.

Curb Unnecessary Tax Breaks:

You’d think that a $600 million dollar budget hole would cause our legislators to WAKE UP and vote against more unnecessary and unaffordable tax breaks, but so far no such luck.  A majority of legislators continue to support bills that keeps us digging into that deep hole of revenue loss.  At least we can be glad there are also bills to start evaluating how well the tax credits are working. Tell your friends and tell your legislators about these…

Tax Break Bills to watch:

Steps to take:

  1. Make sure you understand that continuing to cut revenues through unnecessary and unaffordable tax cuts and tax breaks is directly linked to the disasters happening in education and other core services in Oklahoma.
  2. Urge your legislators to vote NAY HB1747 because tax breaks should only be used to encourage commerce that wouldn’t have happened otherwise and that will actually improve the economy.  This bill is unclear on the definition of a resident and it opens a huge loophole in the income tax with unknown cost.
  3. Urge your legislators to vote YAY on HB2182 and HB2183 because we can all agree with state Auditor Gary Jones in his assertion that we really should know what tax breaks we have out there, who has them, how much they are for, and when folks are likely to cash them in. Find you legislators HERE
  4. Tell your friends and colleagues that this is urgent, important, and achievable and why.
  5. Find the Curb Unnecessary Tax Breaks Fact sheet HERE.

Expand Health Coverage:

Expanding coverage is now a question of WHEN and HOW but NOT IF.   Right now health care providers around the state and especially in rural Oklahoma are scrambling to figure out which services to cut to make ends meet. Oklahoma is leaving millions of federal dollars on the table that could be used to expand Insure Oklahoma.  Keep talking about the coverage crater and the refusal to take care of our own that is keeping Oklahomans getting sicker and dying sooner. 

Health Care bills to watch:

  • There are no bills suggesting expanding health coverage bills at this time. Ask your legislators why.

Steps to take:

  1. Read up on the health care issues that face Oklahoma on the OK Policy blog.
  2. Remind your friends, colleagues, neighbors, and legislators that as a society we are only as good as the way we treat our most vulnerable citizens. Find you legislators HERE.
  3. Download the Expand Health Coverage Fact sheet HERE.

How together we are making a difference

Sometimes we have to tell our legislators something year after year before it finally clicks, but one of the biggest ways you can make change now is by sharing what you know with the people who trust and care about you.  Last week we encouraged you to set aside at least one day a week to think about Public Policy.  

This week we ask that you use the hash tag #TogetherTuesdays to share your opinion about at least one of the priorities we’ve discussed in this email.  Start a conversation with someone about something you are likely to agree about and give them the tools to make their voice heard.  Set achievable goals for yourself for sharing this information every week.

Together we are crafting a better future for Oklahoma!