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The Oklahoma Legislature May Need You to Start Smoking

A question from David Van Risseghem on his Facebook page got me thinking. He asked, “Hey? Is the impending special session being called to help folks quit smoking? Or just to get more money?”

Very quick background for those who don’t know – During the last Oklahoma legislative session a bill was passed enacting a $1.50 per pack ‘cessation fee.’ Senate Bill 845, the Smoking Cessation and Prevention Act of 2017, was designed to bring in about $215 million into the state coffers. Earlier this week the state Supreme Court ruled the bill violates the Oklahoma Constitution for various reasons that are completely correct but not relevant to the discussion here.

Now the question is what to do about the $215 million in taxes (note – taxes, not ‘fees’) that the stat will not be receiving, but was included by the legislature in the 2017-2018 budget appropriations. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the governor will call for a special […] → Keep reading

Is Oklahoma a ‘Backwards’ State?

Legislative sessions in Oklahoma are usually rife with contention, last-minute budget deals and unconventional bills and this year has certainly been no exception. With this year’s budget still being a huge question mark, cuts are already happening and many departments have already begun trimming staff. Medicaid, the earned income tax credit and education funding are issues making the news, along with non-budgetary items including abortions and school restrooms. Yes, restrooms.

Put it all together with a few other things and it’s apparently enough that some have labeled Oklahoma a ‘backwards’ state. A national laughingstock. An embarrassment. I have probably seen more negative articles and comments about Oklahoma and our legislature this year than any other. Articles such as the one titled “Oklahoma Continues Marching Backwards Into the 1950s With New Laws.” One column I saw shared frequently was from Ginnie Graham of the Tulsa World, who said, “Oklahoma sure had one embarrassing week.” It was pretty clear from her column […] → Keep reading