April 10, 2023
Committee work continued this week as the deadlines for bills to be advanced from opposite committees in their house of origin is Thursday, April 13. The exception are those bills assigned to House A&B and the deadline for those measures is April 19. Any legislation surviving these deadlines will then have until April 27th to be heard on the floor of the opposite chamber of origin. 
Historic Highs Continue for Gross Receipts
Gross Receipts to the state Treasury paint a picture of a sound but moderating Oklahoma economy as total collections climb to a new high, State Treasurer Todd Russ announced.
The 12-month record total of $17.64 billion is $1.77 billion or 11.2 percent more than the year before. However, when reviewing the monthly comparison, the difference between March and last March of $16.6 million or 1.2 percent is the lowest level of growth seen since June 2022.
“The results continue to reflect an expanding Oklahoma economy,” said Treasurer Russ. “With that said, rising interest rates are adversely impacting economic activity for both consumers and businesses.”
Other indicators
As measured by the Consumer Price Index, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the annual inflation rate at 6.0 percent in February. The energy component of the index increased 5.2 percent over the last year, and the food index remained high at 9.5 percent.
The U.S. jobless rate was 3.6 percent in February, up by 0.2 of a percentage point from the prior month. Oklahoma’s employment numbers continue to show strength. In February, the rate was 3.0 percent, a decrease of 0.1 percent from January.
Regional economic trends remain positive. For March, the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index for the nine-state region stayed above growth neutral at 50.8. The Oklahoma component of the index rose to 55.3 in March, increasing from 54.9 the previous month.
March collections
March 2023 collections compared to gross receipts from March 2022 show:
  • Total monthly gross collections are $1.4 billion, up by $16.6 million, or 1.2 percent.
  • Gross income tax collections, a combination of individual and corporate income taxes, generated $500.2 million, up by $10.2 million, or 2.1 percent.
  • Individual income tax collections total $431.5 million, an increase of $11.4 million, or 2.7 percent.
  • Corporate collections are $68.7 million, down by $1.3 million, or 1.8 percent.
  • Combined sales and use tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $556.0 million – up by $29.8 million – or 5.7 percent.
  • Sales tax collections are $470.1 million, an increase of $19.6 million, or 4.3 percent.
  • Use tax receipts, collected on out-of-state purchases including internet sales, generated $85.8 million, an increase of $10.2 million, or 13.5 percent. 
  • Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas total $156.6 million, a decrease of $8.7 million, or 5.2 percent.
  • Motor vehicle taxes produced $79.2 million, down by $3.3 million, or 4.1 percent.
  • Other collections composed of some 60 different sources produced $107.7 million, a decrease of $11.4 million, or 9.5 percent.
Twelve-month collections
Combined gross receipts for the past 12 months compared to the prior period show:
  • Gross revenue totals $17.64 billion. That is $1.77 billion, or 11.2 percent, above collections from the previous 12 months.
  • Gross income taxes generated $6.1 billion, an increase of $655.1 million, or 12.0 percent.
  •  Individual income tax collections total $5.1 billion, up by $566.7 million, or 12.5 percent.
  • Corporate collections are $1.0 billion, an increase of $88.4 million, or 9.6 percent.
  • Combined sales and use taxes are $6.98 billion, an increase of $491.8 million, or 7.6 percent.
  • Gross sales tax receipts total $5.9 billion, up by $380.9 million, or 6.9 percent.
  • Use tax collections generated $1.08 billion, an increase of $110.9 million, or 11.5 percent.
  • Oil and gas gross production tax collections produced $2.02 billion, up by $665.4 million, or 48.0 percent.
  • Motor vehicle collections total $880.0 million, a decrease of $4.5 million, or 0.5 percent.
  • Other sources generated $1.65 billion, down by $27.7 million, or 1.6 percent.
Drummond issues formal opinion on State Board of Education rulemaking authority
Oklahoma law does not give the State Board of Education (SBE) the ability to make administrative rules without proper direction from the state Legislature, Attorney General Gentner Drummond ruled in a formal opinion issued today.
“It is well settled that an agency may only exercise the powers expressly given by statute,” the opinion states. “An agency cannot expand those powers by its own authority.”
Drummond commented on the opinion, saying the content of the rules are irrelevant to the issue of whether proper authority exists to issue them.
“Whether I agree or disagree with any particular rule in question is irrelevant if the Board does not have the proper authority to issue those rules,” he said. “The Legislature is vested with policymaking authority. I will not allow any state agency, board or commission to usurp the Legislature’s rightful role, even if they have the best of intentions.”
While the opinion notes that the Legislature may delegate some rulemaking authority to the SBE, relying solely on the Board’s general powers and duties is improper for rulemaking. Any delegation of authority to the SBE to determine facts and enact rules must also come with prescribed legislative standards to guide the agency.
The opinion also notes that any rules enacted by the Board exceeding its authority are void, cannot be placed into effect, and cannot be enforced by either the Oklahoma State Department of Education or the SBE.
As a result, the opinion concludes that reliance on the agency’s general powers and duties “constitutes either an impermissible abdication of lawmaking responsibility or an impermissible delegation of policymaking authority to the Board. Either way, it constitutes an impermissible invasion of the proper province of the Legislature secured for it by article IV, section 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution — which is something this office will not permit.”
State Rep. Mark McBride requested the opinion last month. On March 20, Drummond’s office sent a non-binding letter of counsel to the legislator answering his questions about the board’s rulemaking authority. A formal opinion was not initially issued because the question related to legislation that was pending at the time.
‘Senate’s delay in Ryan Walters’
Four months ago, Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters to a second term in the Cabinet as education secretary, a position that requires Senate confirmation.
Walters is still waiting, and it there has been little or no work done to shepherd his nomination through the Senate, even though his previous term expired on Jan. 9. The job is mostly to be an adviser to the governor and has few legal responsibilities. However, the delay highlights the ongoing political conflict between the executive and legislative branches of Oklahoma’s government.
Walters’ nomination would first have to pass the Senate Education Committee. The chair of that committee, Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, said that his office will typically receive paperwork for a nomination and have a meeting with high-level nominees before scheduling a committee meeting. Neither has happened, he said.
Pugh directed specific questions about Walters’ nomination to the senator responsible for sponsoring the nomination. In this case, that person would be Senate leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
When asked for comment, Treat’s spokesman only said that executive nominations are typically considered later in session, and the deadline to approve or deny them is May 31.
Senate approval needed
While that’s accurate, Walters’ first nomination over two years ago didn’t follow tradition.
The bulk of gubernatorial appointments that require Senate confirmation are historically considered near the end of session in May or occasionally April. But in 2021, after the governor first picked Walters as education secretary, the nomination was put in front of senators by March.
Stitt first appointed Walters to be his Cabinet-level adviser on education policy in September 2020. Because the Legislature wasn’t in session, the appointment had to wait until senators returned to the Capitol the following spring. Pugh’s Education Committee voted overwhelmingly to advance Walters’ nomination to the Senate floor on March 30, 2021. Two weeks later, he was approved by the full Senate.
This time around, however, the politics are much different. Since announcing his campaign for state superintendent, Walters’ adversarial tactics and rhetoric have helped the former teacher make a name for himself — and ruffle some feathers. He’s faced strong pushback from members of the House of Representatives who have criticized both his words and actions, complicating his social agenda.
In recent days, as House lawmakers asked Walters to show proof of his claims that public schools were keeping inappropriate material on library shelves, Walters sent all legislators examples of what he described as pornography.
Despite Walters’ accusations, it appears that most of the books he’s targeted are not actually on school shelves.
State Rep. Andy Fugate, an Oklahoma City Democrat who sits on the subcommittee that oversees the education budget, described the superintendent’s relationship with the Legislature as contentious.
 “The most bewildering thing is, here you have a guy who is constantly battering and bashing the very people who hold the purse strings for his agency. I don’t get that,” Fugate said. “Having a frosty relationship is one thing, but this goes far beyond frosty.”
Fugate added that he hopes Walters eventually will sit down with the committee and explain not only the accusations against school libraries, but also the issues with the pandemic EBT food card program and misspent Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds.
Beyond that recent controversy, education policy has become a critical point of negotiations between the House, Senate and governor’s office. Lawmakers are still deciding how to expand school choice in Oklahoma with competing plans for teacher pay and private school tax credits.
Like virtually everything else at the state Capitol, Walters’ confirmation could be a secret bargaining chip in those negotiations.
Several Senate committees already have begun hearing executive nominations this year. On Thursday, the full Senate approved nominations to the Oklahoma Election Board. So far, the Education Committee has only met to consider legislation.
It’s rare for a gubernatorial appointment to be publicly rejected by the Senate. Three years ago, senators rejected an appointment to a small college board of regents. In 2008, the same committee blocked the appointment of an Oklahoma State Board of Education nominee. In courteous politics, a nomination without enough support to advance probably would be withdrawn.
A spokeswoman for the governor said Walters’ situation is not unusual, and that the Senate hasn’t yet brought any of the other cabinet nominees for a vote.
Stitt defends Walters, opposes income cap on private school tax credits What does the education secretary do?
Aside from the education secretary’s role as adviser to the governor, state law gives the office several responsibilities.
In this role, Walters oversees the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, monitors school district compliance with the law and makes recommendations on corrective actions when compliance issues are found. The secretary’s role also gives him responsibility for the Oklahoma Educational Indicators Program and its annual report.
State law also gives the education secretary the ability to hire personnel and analyze public school revenue and administrative expenditures. Seats on the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and State Workforce Investment Board are reserved for the secretary.
Walters is paid $40,000 a year to serve as education secretary, and another $124,373 as the elected state superintendent.
Ranson’s effort to double teacher salary increases tabled
Rep. Trish Ranson’s bid to double a teacher pay raise approved by the Senate was tabled Monday in the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education.
Ranson, D-Stillwater, filed the amendment to SB0482 . The bill, by Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Chair Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, who also chairs the Senate Education Committee, and House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education Chair Mark McBride, R-Moore, increases minimum teacher pay by implementing a graduated teacher pay raise of $3,000 to $6,000, depending on the teacher's years of experience.
Ranson’s amendment doubled the pay raises. It also doubled the bill’s fiscal impact to $500 million from $250 million, she said in response to a question from Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin.
Ranson said her proposal would make Oklahoma teachers the highest paid in the region and would be an effective recruitment and retention tool.
There was no discussion of the proposal before McBride made the motion to table to the amendment. The motion passed 11-2. The subcommittee’s two Democrats in attendance Monday – Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa -- cast the only not votes.
With no discussion or debate, the bill as presented received a do pass recommendation 13-0. It now goes to the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee for its consideration.
House committee approves bill mandating schools implement security alert, response systems
The House Common Education passed a bill Tuesday that would require school district to implement a school security and response system.
The version of SB0428 approved by the Senate permitted school districts to enter into contracts with a security system that automatically calls 9-1-1 and alerts certain school personnel that can be used on a smartphone. The committee substitute adopted and approved Tuesday requires every school district to have and to implement a school security alert and response system.
The bill, by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton and Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, also requires the State Board of Education to adopt a list of approved school security alert and response systems. It establishes minimum requirements for approved school security alert and response systems to include automatically alert designated school personnel when an emergency response is initiated on-site by smartphone application, phone call, text message, or other technology; provide emergency responders with floor plans, caller location and other information to assist emergency responders during a 911 call; and integrate designated school personnel with emergency responders to provide real-time situational updates during an emergency.
Wallace noted the Legislature previously had not mandated school districts implement the systems, although it has been providing funding and urging school districts to do so. Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, asked whether the state would continue to provide funding for the effort. Wallace said those discussions were ongoing.
Provenzano also asked if the bill would supersede Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order from June implementing a program he called “Mission: Save Our Schools,” a response to then recent incidents of mass violence in the US. The ordered required every school district to implement the use of the Rave Panic Button by September 1.
The phone-based app, made by Rave Mobile Safety, allows users to simultaneously connect with 9-1-1 and first responders and sends a text alert to school staff in the event of an emergency. According to a 2019 State Department of Education press release, the Rave Panic Button app delivers critical data such as location and school floorplans to 9-1-1 and first responders when activated, enabling them to coordinate a faster, more effective response to any type of school emergency.
Wallace noted there had been pushback from some school districts that were using or considering other systems. The bill, he said, was designed to address that by requiring the State Department of Education to create a list of approved vendors of the system.
Wallace said approximately 90 percent of districts use Rave. “This will allow them to use different systems,” he said.
Wallace added, “Oklahoma has been fortunate. My fear is we will have a serious emergency event, a shooing, and I want to make the Legislature has done everything it can to protect the students.”
The bill, as amended by the committee substitute, received a do pass recommendation from the committee.
House takes up, advances first regular Senate bill off the floor
The House took up its first regular Senate bill of the session Monday, which aims to bring Oklahoma statute into compliance with the Student Athlete Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) Rights Act.
Rep. Jon Echols presented SB0840  on the floor, taking questions and concerns from his fellow members.
SB0840, by Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, and Echols, R-Oklahoma City, changes provisions of the Student Athlete Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) Rights Act.
Rep. Mickey Dollens, who ran NIL legislation previously, expressed concern about striking out the requirement for the representation of student athletes to be a licensed attorney and replacing it with “literally anyone.”
“Could this include a coach, principal, even a fellow classmate,” Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, asked Echols.
Echols responded, “What is going on in the NIL world is not only attorneys that are representing these players.” He later added no other state did or would ever mandate attorneys negotiate NIL deals.
“It will never be the case where that happens,” he said.
Dollens then noted there was no cap on how much a representative could make of a student athlete’s NIL deal.
“That’s correct,” Echols said. “What we’re seeing happen in the market right now is most states are adopting uniform rules so you don’t miss out on some of the best recruits in the nation because they’re previously determined representation doesn’t jive with the actual state-by-state law is. That’s why most people are passing model legislation like this.”
Dollens asked if it gave Echols a “little bit of heartburn” knowing the language took away qualified representation and giving it to “just about anyone who wants to do contract,” potentially impacting a student athlete’s best interests from being protected.
“It gives me a lot of heartburn,” Echols confirmed. “The whole world of NIL gives me a lot of heartburn.”
The reality, he continued, was the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was “tone deaf” by neglecting to establish salary caps, rules and guidelines.
“If [NCAA] are listening, I would say get your act together or ten years from now you’re going to go the way of the dinosaur,” Echols said. “That all being said, so why am I passing this bill? Because if we don’t, we need to go shut down OU and OSU Athletics. Not passing this is tantamount to saying, ‘We now longer wish to compete on the collegiate level.’ It has gotten to that level.”
SB0840 and its emergency vote passed on a vote of 84-5.
SB0840 is subject to the session’s deadlines for bills to be heard in committees and on the floor, although it is ahead of that process. Its passage Monday on the House floor puts it two steps ahead of the April 13 deadline for Senate bills to be heard in a House committee other than House Appropriations and Budget. Bills that go through the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget process are exempt from the deadlines.
Millions of dollars meant to boost broadband access in Oklahoma has gone to emergency responders instead
Large parts of the state lack access to high-speed broadband. A state office tasked with fixing the problem has diverted some federal relief money for upgrades to public safety communications systems.
Researchers from Oklahoma State University work to install transmission equipment to deliver broadband internet in rural Oklahoma. COURTESY OSU Agricultural Communications Services
A state board tasked with expanding access to broadband internet to Oklahoma households has shifted millions in federal money to instead upgrade telecommunications systems for emergency responders. Legislators previously rejected funding such a plan.
Oklahoma currently ranks in the bottom ten states when it comes to residents with access to highspeed broadband. So state lawmakers created the Oklahoma Broadband Office in 2022 with the goal of bringing high-speed broadband to 95% of Oklahoma households by 2028. The Legislature sent the new state agency $382 million of the state’s $1.87 billion share of federal relief money from the American Rescue Plan Act funds to help accomplish that mission.
In November, the Broadband Governing Board voted to send $19.9 million of federal relief money to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to help upgrade its telecommunication system and towers for first responders in 21 counties. State lawmakers had previously declined to hear the Department of Public Safety’s request for federal relief funding, putting it aside until a larger plan could be hammered out to upgrade all state-owned telecommunication towers.
Department of Public Safety officials said they never asked the Broadband Office for the money.
“We thought it was a dead issue after the Legislature said ‘no,’” said Sarah Stewart, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Mike Fina, chairman of the Broadband Office board, said the Department of Public Safety did not specifically request the money from the Broadband Office. He said he saw the project on the state portal for relief funding proposals and legislators encouraged him to pull it out and fund it. But he declined to provide names.
“I really don’t want to escalate this, so I prefer not to use any legislator’s names,” he said.
Fina, who was appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, said no one from the executive branch asked him for the funding.
Legislators in charge of the committee distributing the state’s American Rescue Plan funds said they didn’t discuss the emergency responder funding with Fina and were unaware of the agency’s decision to divert federal money to it.
Upon learning of the project at the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding meeting last week, state lawmakers expressed confusion about why the Broadband Office sent money intended to expand public high-speed internet access to the Department of Public Safety.
Kirk Martin, the interim director of the agency, told the committee that Fina was encouraged to fund the project by “legislative leaders.”
“I’m not aware of anybody in leadership — and we’ve been polling people — in the House or the Senate that had conversations along those lines,” Sen. Chuck Hall, R, Perry, told The Frontier.
Hall told Oklahoma Broadband executives during the meeting last week that the Legislature had made it “very clear” they do not support using federal relief money on the tower upgrades for the Department of Public Safety.
Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City; House Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow; a spokesperson for House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka and the co-chairs of the committee on relief funding, Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, and Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, all said they were unaware of the diverted funds.
Thompson said he is “digging into” what happened and believes there was some major miscommunication.
House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, also said he has no clue who instructed Fina to send money to the Department of Public Safety.
“Who called Mike Fina?” Echols said to The Frontier following the meeting. “If somebody called him and told him to do a proposal that wasn’t approved, who did it? Those are my questions and I don’t understand how we got to this point.”
Preston Lay, a legislative liaison for the Department of Public Safety, said the agency did not ask the Broadband Office for funding and assumed any request for money would instead have to go through the regular state appropriations process. Lay said he was notified in December that the agency’s request for federal relief money was being rerouted to the Broadband Office. Fina later told him the money would be ready in January.
The director of the Department of Public Safety’s wireless information network gave a presentation at the meeting before the Broadband Office approved the funds. Stewart said Fina asked the agency to provide the information.
A spokesperson for the Broadband Office said the Department of Public Safety has already pulled down nearly half of the relief money, about $8.9 million. According to the state’s ARPA tracking system, of the $382 million allocated, the only funds the Broadband Office has disbursed is the $8.9 million to the Department of Public Safety.
Stewart said the department has not yet expended the funds, but there are “invoices out for purchases concerning that money.”
Members of the Legislature want the Department of Public Safety to hold off on spending anymore.
Fina told The Frontier that he had been aware of the need to upgrade communication towers for emergency responders for nearly 20 years and believed sending the relief money for the project would be a good way to help. Fina said his office has followed all state and federal rules on how the relief money should be spent.
He said he would look at pulling back the funds if the Legislature requested it. But it would be hard to get the money back because some of it has already been drawn down and has contracts attached to it, he said.
“We funded a really great project that’s going to protect first responders,” Fina said. “That’s what I’m going to hang my hat on. And if the legislature wants us to pull that back, we will review that and see if that’s even possible.”
This is just the latest scrutiny the Broadband Office has come under in the past month.
The Oklahoma Broadband Board recently came under fire for not having the minutes from two previous meetings, when members discussed hiring a new executive director. The board also faced pressure to hire the governor’s preferred candidate for the job.
CTE Priority Measures
OkACTE tracks and monitors legislative bills. These bills can vary from CareerTech education policy, common education policy, education funding, teacher pay raise, tax credits, licensing, Ad Valorem, retirement, state employee pay raise, guns, economic development and much more.

Of these bills, we've compiled a listing of CTE Priority Measures linked below.

Visit oklegislature.gov to view entire text of the measures.

April 2023
April 13: House Measures from Senate Committees Deadline (Bills & Joint Resolutions)
April 13: Senate Measures from House Committees Deadline, Except for Full A&B Committee (Senate Bills & Senate Joint Resolutions) 
April 19: Senate Measures from House Full A&B Committee Deadline (Senate Bills & Senate Joint Resolutions) 
April 27: House & Senate Third Reading Deadline, Opposite Chamber (Bills & Joint Resolutions) 
May 2023
May 27: Sine Die Adjournment (5:00 p.m.)