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In The Know: CEO Nico Gomez to resign from Oklahoma Health Care Authority

by | August 30th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

CEO Nico Gomez to resign from Oklahoma Health Care Authority: Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez announced his impending resignation Monday afternoon in a press release. The release notes his final day will be Sept. 30. Gomez assumed the CEO’s position from Mike Fogarty, who retired in 2013. He had previously served as the agency’s legislative liaison, and in the past three years he worked closely with legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin’s office to navigate the state’s tight budget situation [NonDoc].

The New Scourge of Meth: The methamphetamine scourge is spreading again in Oklahoma, with fatal overdoses from the drug spiking last year, according to numbers from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Meth was a factor in 265 deaths in 2015, or nearly a third of all fatal overdoses. The total represented a 157 percent increase since 2010, when 103 deaths were attributed solely or partly to meth [Oklahoma Watch].

Medical marijuana petition unlikely to make November ballot: A petition to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma is unlikely to go before voters in November because advocates say they will challenge the attorney general’s rewording of the ballot title — a legal process certain to push the measure beyond the general election. But state officials say it’ll be delayed because supporters of State Question 788 didn’t submit the required 65,987 voter signatures to qualify with enough buffer time for legal challenges and for the state’s Election Board to print and send ballots to counties, military members and overseas voters [Associated Press]. SQ 792 will be the only alcohol question on November ballot after a competing measure that would phase in strong beer and wine sales at grocery stores missed its signature gathering deadline [NewsOK]. Read about the State Questions that will be on the ballot [OK Policy].

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New federal education law could change how we fund high-poverty schools

by | August 29th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (2)

Kylie Thomas was an OK Policy summer intern. She is a Master’s student in economics at American University and previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in December, Congress changed the language to a key requirement of Title I, the federal program that is the primary source of federal funds for public schools. Title I funding goes to schools that include a large number or high percentage of “disadvantaged” students, meaning students in low-income families, foster homes, or who have been abused or neglected. The key change made by ESSA affects the safeguards meant to ensure that federal dollars add to rather than replace state and local funds (commonly known as “supplement, not supplant”).

Prior to ESSA, districts could show compliance by proving they use Title I funds to provide students with services they would not have been able to receive otherwise. ESSA eliminated this language but did not replace it with new language to specify how to determine compliance. Instead, the U.S. Department of Education was required to enter into a process of negotiated rulemaking to write new regulations for supplement, not supplant. The regulations drafted by the Department earlier this spring would require state and local funds per student in Title I schools to be at least equal to the average amount of state and local funds in non-Title I schools. However, negotiators were unable to reach a consensus on the drafted regulations. As a result, the Department will now rewrite the new regulations on its own.

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In The Know: Aging prison buildings are growing problem for Corrections Department

by | August 29th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Aging prison buildings are growing problem for Corrections Department: More than a century ago, around the time of statehood, The Indian Mission School Haloche Institute was opened in Taft. By 1909 it was an orphanage for deaf and blind children, and the building would serve as various children’s homes until the late 1980s. Today it houses more than 1,000 female inmates, nearly twice the number it is rated to hold [The Oklahoman].

Department of Public Safety discusses potential furloughs: As the governor and legislative leaders continue to disagree over how to spend more than $140 million in available money from last fiscal year, agencies across the state feel the clock ticking. The Department of Public Safety announced earlier this week there was the possibility of having to dole out 23-day furloughs for more than 1,500 employees, including 811 highway patrol troopers and roughly 750 civilian employees. Durant said the longer talks between Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leadership are drawn out the less time they have to fit in furloughs, which could put an even larger strain on operations [News9]. The trooper furlough is the latest blowback from lawmakers’ failure to fund state government adequately [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

DHS cuts prompt DA to end child support program: The State of Oklahoma’s budget shortfall isn’t news to many at this point. But now people are beginning to feel the local impact as programs that lost funding make cuts. Payne County’s well-regarded Child Support Services office is one of them. Payne and Logan County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas said she decided not to renew her office’s contract with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for child support collections after finding out just how much the program would be changed by budget cuts [Stillwater News-Press].

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The Weekly Wonk: An achievable step towards justice for all; Progress towards hunger-free schools; & more

by | August 28th, 2016 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler argued that ending money bail would be an achievable step towards justice for all. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam heralded Tulsa Public Schools’ decision to adopt a program to serve breakfast and lunch to all elementary students free of charge.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that until lawmakers adequately fund higher education, Oklahoma will be less prosperous. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update explained how a recent water deal between the Choctaw and Cherokee nations and the state of Oklahoma could resolve longstanding water disputes. We announced our Fall Policy Boot Camps in Tulsa and Edmond (details below).

Upcoming Opportunities

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State-tribal deal could end long dispute over water rights (Capitol Updates)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

When the federal lawsuit was filed by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in 2011 to stop an agreement between the State of Oklahoma and the City of Oklahoma City to allow OKC to receive water from Sardis Lake in Southeast Oklahoma, predictions were that it would tie up water policy in Oklahoma for many years. At stake was the tribes’ claimed ownership interest in public waters, including Sardis, located in their treaty areas. Many of these types of complex cases have taken decades to resolve, either by trial and appeal or by agreement.

But recently an announcement was made by the tribes, the state and OKC that a settlement had been reached. News coverage has not included the complex details, but generally the agreement retains the state’s primary authority to make agreements regarding the water, but it gives a role to the tribes in the management of the waters, largely dealing with conservation measures such as lake levels. The tribes will not be entitled to payment for water sold by the state.

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In The Know: Supporters of medical marijuana state question criticize AG Scott Pruitt’s rewrite of ballot title

by | August 26th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Supporters of medical marijuana state question criticize AG Scott Pruitt’s rewrite of ballot title: Supporters of an effort to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma said Thursday they will challenge the ballot title rewording by Attorney General Scott Pruitt. The ballot title explains the measure to voters. Pruitt on Thursday submitted the ballot title for State Question 788, a measure that if approved by voters would legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]. More information about 2016’s State Questions here.

State questions, the will of the people and raw political power: Better pack a lunch. That’s my advice to those headed to the polls Nov. 8. General election voters won’t just be deciding the presidential race or congressional and legislative contests. They also will be passing judgment on at least seven – count ‘em, seven – state questions, each with potentially profound implications for our state. Welcome to representative democracy, Sooner style [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

The Oklahoma Oil Billionaire Shaping Donald Trump’s Bid to Win on Energy Issues: Donald Trump is wooing energy-state voters by promising a presidency that will champion coal, promote drilling and free frackers from federal regulations limiting oil and gas development. If the Republican candidate’s energy platform sounds like it was written specifically for fossil fuel companies, that’s because an Oklahoma oil billionaire helped craft it [StateImpact Oklahoma].

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Registration now open for Fall Policy Boot Camps in Tulsa and Edmond

by | August 25th, 2016 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

P1020339Do you want to learn more about the state budget, criminal justice reform, poverty, and other critical policy issues affecting our state? If so, you’re in luck: registration is now open for OK Policy’s second Fall Policy Boot Camp (FallPol). This year, we will host two FallPols — one at OSU-Tulsa on Friday, October 14th and one at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond on Saturday, October 15th.

FallPol is an intensive, one-day policy training intended primarily for emerging professionals working for non-profits, advocacy groups, government, and businesses, as well as educators, parents, civic volunteers, and other rising leaders with an interest in Oklahoma issues but without in-depth familiarity with the state’s policy landscape. Advocates and professionals with expertise in one policy area who wish to be better informed across a broader canvas of issues will find this training especially useful.

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In The Know: Year after Costello’s death, mental health spending lags

by | August 25th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Year after Costello’s death, mental health spending lags: Oklahoma spends less money on its mental health system than it did the day Labor Commissioner Mark Costello died. On Tuesday, the anniversary of his death, Costello’s widow Cathy said the state’s lack of investment in treatment for residents with brain disorders is heartbreaking. …At a tree planting ceremony outside the Oklahoma Department of Labor building, Cathy Costello and three of her children shoveled dirt into a hole where a redbud tree will grow in honor of their slain husband and father [NewsOK]. The FY 2017 budget adds to the cost of mental illness in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

DHS forced to make changes to SNAP program due to budget cuts: Benefits provided to low-income Oklahomans is being slowed after statewide budget cuts, the state agency overseeing the program said. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, is changing the way it replaces cards. Cards were available immediately, but now cards have to be provided through a third party, delaying them for a week. In a typical month, about 25,000 cards are issued. Of those, 15,000 represent replacement cards [FOX25]. More than 1 in 4 Oklahoma children rely on SNAP to get enough to eat [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Public Safety Department considers furloughing troopers: The Department of Public Safety is considering 23-day furloughs for state troopers and civilian employees as the agency struggles with budget problems, officials said Wednesday. DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson has requested a $12 million budget supplement. He said that without this emergency funding, his agency will not be able to maintain present levels of staffing and operations, which have been reduced after millions of dollars in budget cuts the last two years [NewsOK]. Fifty-nine of 73 state agencies receiving state appropriations saw a further cut in FY 2017, following midyear cuts in FY 2016 [OK Policy]. 

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In The Know: Oklahoma medical marijuana petition gets enough signatures to be examined for ballot

by | August 24th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma medical marijuana petition gets enough signatures to be examined for ballot: An initiative petition to let Oklahomans vote on whether to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes has enough signatures to potentially get on the ballot, Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge announced Tuesday. Backers of the petition say they hope to get the issue on the November ballot, but state officials say time constraints may make that impossible. If the issue fails to make the November ballot, voters still might get a chance to vote on it later during a special election or the 2018 primary or general election, officials said [NewsOK].

Runoffs produce November favorites in many legislative races: Most of the 13 legislative runoffs on Tuesday produced likely general election winners in heavily Democratic and Republican districts, while a few results set the table for competitive November ballots. “I think people were attracted to the type of campaign we ran and I think they were attracted to the message we shared,” said Adam Pugh, the Republican runoff winner in Edmond’s Senate District 41 [NewsOK]. A former Amazing Race’ contestant lost his Oklahoma Senate runoff [Associated Press]. Longtime Oklahoma County Clerk Caudill lost her re-election bid [NewsOK]. Here are the full results from Tuesday’s elections [NewsOK]. 

Seminole voters defeat school bond issue: For the second time in 18 months, voters in the Seminole School District have soundly defeated a bond issue designed to finance construction of a new high school. Defeat of the proposal means that for the foreseeable future, high school students will have to continue attending classes in a renovated building that previously served as a grocery store and call center [NewsOK]. Voters approved school bond issues in several central Oklahoma school districts Tuesday [NewsOK].

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An achievable step towards justice for all: End money bail

by | August 23rd, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (4)

Hand in handcuffs on a pile of dollarsThe criminal justice system tends to move slowly. The time between a person’s arrest and sentencing usually stretches for months, depending on the charges, but where that time is spent depends mainly on whether the person can afford to pay bail.

An increasing number of jurisdictions, including here in Oklahoma, are now paying attention to the inequality and inefficiency this creates and taking steps to improve the situation. The Legislature should consider following the lead of other states and replace its money bail system with one that takes an evidence-based approach to risk and ends the unequal treatment of poor defendants. 

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