In The Know: state Department of Corrections needs additional $84 million

by | October 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot Nov. 4? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says it needs $84 million in additional funds next year, with much of the new funds designated to deal with its record-high prison population. The Board of Corrections approved the budget on Thursday. On the OK Policy Blog, the executive director of The Oklahoma Innocence Project argued that exonerating innocent prisoners should be a shared priority. A federal judge has sealed documents related a lawsuit brought against Gov. Fallin and the state’s execution team by the family of an inmate who died during a botched execution. The sealed documents including the name of a physician involved in the execution, and state attorneys argue that revealing the name was a violation of state law.

In his Tulsa World column, Wayne Greene reviews a new report and points out that Oklahoma gets more money from the federal government than it pays in federal taxes. Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton argued in the Journal Record that legislators who call themselves pro-life should support such measures as banning texting while driving and disallowing carrying guns on college campuses. A new report from the CDC finds that heart disease death rates in Oklahoma and other Southern states are dropping less quickly than elsewhere in the US.

The editorial board of the Tulsa World writes that the state should invest the money and manpower in implementing the Pinnacle Plan, if only because failure to do so could return the issue to federal court, likely prompting a far more expensive outcome. The state Department of Education’s budget request for next year includes a $2,500 salary increase for teachers. The pay raise is expected to cost $213.4 million. Legislative studies on Thursday looked at revisions to the Reading Sufficiency Act. The consulting firm that runs the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative says that it expects “greater interface” with gay and lesbian couples now that same-gender marriage is legal in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has announced the first laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in Oklahoma for the 2014-2015 flu season. The Osage Nation is challenging development of a windfarm on Osage land. State economic officials say that Oklahoma’s dwindling water supply is impacting the decision of businesses to move to the state. Coal mining in eastern Oklahoma has stalled because demand from steel producers in China has dropped. The Number of the Day is the number of motor Vehicle thefts reported in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox argues that Americans need a constitutional right to vote.

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In The Know: Criticism ignites over “impossible” Oklahoma petition demands

by | October 23rd, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot Nov. 4? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

After three petitions to put state questions on the Oklahoma ballot recently failed, advocates are criticizing the state’s petition laws. Compared to surrounding states, Oklahoma require substantially more signatures to be gathered over a shorter period of time to get a petition on the ballot. NewsOn6 examined why lottery revenues haven’t helped Oklahoma school funding as much as promised. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why the lottery didn’t fix Oklahoma’s education funding problems. David Blatt’s Journal Record column points out that lawmakers have taken away far more revenue by passing tax cuts and growing tax breaks than have been added by the lottery, Indian gaming, and tobacco taxes. Tulsa Public Schools is expanding the role of an outside contractor in assisting with teacher recruitment, amid a statewide teacher shortage.

NewsOK reported that Gov. Fallin personally has given substantial raises to state agency directors that are larger than any of the 48 agency director pay hikes that the governor criticized earlier this week. A new report from Oklahoma Policy Institute finds that states that expanded Medicaid are lowering their uninsured rate, improving the health of their people, and boosting their economies and state budgets. The Tulsa Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women is taking up the issue of Oklahoma’s high female incarceration rate. You  can see the Commission’s initial report on female incarceration here

An Oklahoma judge refused to block new restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs from going into effect Nov. 1. Developers looking at building an outlet mall in east Tulsa say the plan will not go forward without taxpayer help. Kansas has missed its tax revenue targets again, with revenues for the new fiscal year coming in more than 10 percent below estimates. Following major income tax cuts, the state has burned through its rainy day fund and now faces even larger budget cuts or tax increases to fill a growing budget hole.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of women in Oklahoma who have report having at least one poor mental health day each month. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discusses a new study showing that poor college graduates stay poor about as much as rich high school dropouts stay rich.

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In The Know: Retained Oklahoma City third graders not showing much improvement

by and | October 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot Nov. 4? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

Only five out of 611 Oklahoma City third-graders held back because they failed a state-mandated reading test in April have passed an alternative assessment since the start of August, prompting a district official to blame some teachers and principals for the lack of improvement. Calling it a “game-changer” for less fortunate students, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Rob Neu said the district will pay for nearly 4,000 high school sophomores and juniors to take the PSAT. State Superintendent Janet Barresi is asking the federal government for a reinstatement of a No Child Left Behind waiver that the state lost when the Legislature repealed Common Core, because the state Regents have certified Oklahoma’s current standards as “college and career ready.” The Tulsa World editorial board discussed ImpactTulsa’s efforts to coordinate everyone working to improve Tulsa public schools. We previously wrote about the ImpactTulsa project on the OK Policy Blog.

Slate examined how women in Texas and Oklahoma are obtaining abortions after the passage of more restrictive laws. On the OK Policy Blog, we looked at the case for the US Postal Service to begin providing affordable banking and financial services. Oklahoma beer brewers are hoping to see a state law changed which restricts them from selling beer produced at their brewery directly to customers. The head of a wind industry trade group acknowledged to legislators that state tax incentives for wind energy producers may need to be re-examined in light of their growing cost. At an interim study on Oklahoma’s 665,000 uninsured, health care advocates asked lawmakers to find solutions to extend health coverage — whether it be accepting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act or via its own state funded alternative. A federal contractor helping to enroll Americans in coverage through healthcare.gov will bring about 500 jobs to Lawton.

Members of the House Utility and Environmental Regulation Committee heard outlines of different ways to address Oklahoma’s water needs through a combination of greater infrastructure spending, conservation, and reuse. Administrators from the state’s seven veterans centers asked lawmakers to provide a state match for federal grants to fund much needed infrastructure improvements. African-American leaders in Oklahoma are voicing concerns about a growing sense of apathy about politics within their communities. OK Policy previously discussed way that Oklahoma’s democracy is broken and what’s getting in the way of voting.

The Number of the Day is how many children under the age of six in Oklahoma live in counties classified as high risk for poor school readiness. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times discusses how low-income women sometimes get pushed out of their jobs — and into poverty — when they become pregnant.

continue reading In The Know: Retained Oklahoma City third graders not showing much improvement

In The Know: Both superintendent candidates endorse teacher pay hike, less testing

by and | October 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

The Republican and Democratic contenders to become Oklahoma’s state superintendent both are endorsing pay raises for teachers and a reduction in the number of tests public school students must take every year. The Oklahoman editorial board called for scrutinizing the salaries of superintendents in Oklahoma school districts. A state Senate interim study looked at giving Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter School Board authority over certifying virtual courses for all Oklahoma school districts to alleviate the teacher shortage. The OK Policy Blog discussed how Oklahoma still employs hundreds fewer workers than before the recession, even though the recession has ended and state population has grown significantly.

Tulsa County commissioners voted to approve increases in what it charges the city of Tulsa to hold its inmates in the Tulsa Jail. Tulsa County’s interim information technology director instructed at least four county employees to destroy a document critical of his conflict of interest in selecting an IT management company for the county. Law officers are discussing ways to increase collection of DNA samples from Oklahomans convicted of misdemeanors. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how indiscriminate DNA testing can actually lead to charges and convictions against innocent Oklahomans.

OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt and four other Tulsa-area leaders will receive the inaugural Dan Allen Awards for social justice. NewsOK examined the state Senate race between incumbent Ralph Shortey, who has sponsored some of the most anti-immigrant proposals in the legislature, and immigration attorney Michael Brooks-Jimenez. A need for bilingual teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools has district officials going to Puerto Rico to conduct interviews. Rogers County recently added a translation service to its E911 Dispatch Center to help non-English speaking callers. The University of Oklahoma is under federal investigation for a dog electrocution citation, among other animal welfare violations in university research labs.

The Number of the Day is the estimated number of unmarried, same-sex couples living together in Oklahoma before same-sex marriage was legalized. In today’s Policy Note, Al Jazeera America looks at the human cost of Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid.

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In The Know: Court monitors find Oklahoma has not made “good faith effort” to fix child welfare

by and | October 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

he Oklahoma Department of Human Services has not made a “good faith effort” at attracting new foster homes, bringing down worker caseloads, reducing shelter use for children older than 6, staffing the hotline and finding permanent homes for foster children, according to a report issued Wednesday by an independent oversight panel. You can read the full report here. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed some recent efforts at the Capitol to look at child welfare, juvenile justice, and suicide prevention. The Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a new $3.4 million no-bid contract with New Hampshire-based testing company Measure Progress to conduct winter testing in Oklahoma schools.

Public Radio Tulsa discussed levels of participation in parent-teacher conferences at Oklahoma schools and research on whether this matters. The Tulsa World examined a new effort by ImpactTulsa to coordinate everyone working to improve Tulsa schools. We previously discussed this effort on the OK Policy Blog. The okeducationtruths blog examined the recent decision by State Regents to certify PASS standards, which Oklahoma reverted to after repealing Common Core, as college and career ready. The OK Policy Blog discussed a new report showing Oklahoma continues to lead for making the largest education cuts in the nation since the recession. Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham suggested that legislators ought to have their session in classrooms to see the effect their decisions have had on public schools.

Dozens of state agency directors quietly received raises averaging 18 percent during the last fiscal year, according to a report released by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. Oklahoma’s relationship with tribal nations has warmed in recent decades with economic success, but tensions are rising over education funding and sales taxes. Tulsa World editor Wayne Greene discussed what Oklahoma is giving up by refusing federal dollars to expand health coverage. A series of public safety summits by Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s will start by focusing on prescription drug abuse. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why prescription drugs are Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem.

An Oklahoma County district judge was asked Friday to put a controversial abortion bill on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge. Amid frequent earthquakes, the US Geological Survey is installing 4 seismographs around Cushing, Oklahoma. There were ten earthquakes in Cushing last week, the two largest at 4.0 and 4.3 magnitude, and one geologist said the earthquakes are a potential catastrophe at the town where up to 46 million barrels of crude oil are stored. As oil prices drop, the number of rigs exploring for oil and gas has begun to decline in Oklahoma. Oklahoman reported William Crum discussed how anyone can vote by mail in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is the number of new foster homes approved by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, 27 fewer than the previous fiscal year and nowhere near their goal. In today’s Policy Note, a Miami Herald in-depth report looks at how America’s racialized view of poverty bears no resemblance to reality — the vast majority of those in poverty are white.

continue reading In The Know: Court monitors find Oklahoma has not made “good faith effort” to fix child welfare

In The Know: Oklahoma leads the U.S. in education cuts for 2nd straight year

by | October 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

Oklahoma leads the nation for the second straight year in the percentage of per-student spending cuts, according to a new report. The Governor’s Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity held its first meeting earlier this month, but the council can’t write rules, it has no formal responsibilities or authority and it is not planning on preparing a report or making any policy recommendations.

OK Policy wrote about how the state’s judges are chosen, what’s at stake in the elections, and how you can learn about the candidates. The blood lead levels of children living in Ottawa County and the Tar Creek Superfund cleanup site have been falling since 1997

The Oklahoman Editorial Board argued that the state was right to continue to postpone pending executions. The large gap between educational attainment and workforce needs continues to grow in Oklahoma; only two in ten high school graduates earn a post-secondary certificate or degree.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma’s elementary school teachers who are women. In today’s Policy Note, a new study has found that the number of emergency room visits falls dramatically within a year when low-income adults are enrolled in public health coverage. 

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma leads the U.S. in education cuts for 2nd straight year

In The Know: Attorney General says state not ready for executions

by | October 14th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

Despite earlier reassurances from the Department of Corrections that the state was prepared to move forward with executions scheduled for November, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed a 60-day stay on all upcoming executions. The family of Clayton Lockett, who was killed during a botched, 43-minute execution in April, is planning to sue Gov. Fallin and the state’s execution team, claiming that the procedure constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments today in a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, which claims that an income tax cut passed and signed into last spring is unconstitutional. We’ve written about the lawsuit before. Steven K. Mullins, a top attorney in Gov. Fallin’s administration is applying for an open seat on the state Court of Criminal Appeals. A Judicial Nomination Commission will narrow the field of 11 applicants down to three, one of whom is then chosen by Gov. Fallin to fill the open seat. Last week, during an intermission of an interim study on the state’s Common Core repeal, some educators and parents requested assistance fighting changes to the AP U.S. History curriculum. Opponents claim that the new curriculum overemphasizes the role of racism and oppression in American history.

Google has designated Tulsa an eCity of the year, citing the state’s strong online business community. The award is given to one city in each state, with Edmond having received it last  year. The cost for the city of Tulsa to house municipal inmates in the Tulsa Jail may increase in November from $45 per inmate per day to $52.02, plus a new $118 booking fee. Oklahoma City Public Schools plans to recruit 150 community members to help the district devise a district improvement plan focusing on student learning and achievement.

Owasso residents will have the chance to vote on a half-cent sales tax increase in January. City officials say that the tax will help cover things the general revenue fund can’t. The water level in Skiatook Lake is over 15 feet below normal, the lowest level noted since the lake’s impoundment in 1984, due to drought and the lake’s small drainage area. The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma’s public elementary school teachers who are women. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post explains why connecting employees to social services can reduce employee turnover, particularly in entry-level, low-income jobs.

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In The Know: Hispanic Oklahomans underrepresented in state government

by | October 13th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

Analysis by Oklahoma Watch notes that despite a large and growing Hispanic population in Oklahoma, Hispanic legislators are underrepresented at all levels of Oklahoma’s government. Community leaders are working to not only convince Hispanic candidates to vote and run for office, and representatives from both political parties are increasingly urging Hispanic Oklahomans to get involved. The Tulsa World described some of the lower-profile statewide races, and The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board urged Oklahomans to vote in  upcoming elections. We’ve written about some of the factors prompting Oklahoma’s chronically low voter turnout before.

State officials reiterated that access to scholarships, such as Oklahoma’s Promise, is a major determining factor in whether Oklahoma students go to college. We’ve written about the mechanics of the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship before. Oklahoma Watch discussed the disparity in college- and career-readiness forecasted by SAT and ACT results in Oklahoma: the SAT is taken by fewer than 5 percent of Oklahoma graduating seniors, but indicates that those who take it are overwhelmingly likely to be ready for college, while results from the more widely-taken ACT suggest that only one in five students are.

On the OK Policy Blog, a Tulsa high school teacher described how he sees the state’s education crisis play out in his classroom. The state Office of Juvenile Affairs is proposing opening a charter school inside its detention facilities, arguing that their students’ needs can’t be adequately handled by the local public school system. A new program from the state Department of Human services can provide intensive, home-based services to parents who are at risk of losing custody of their children. The recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Oklahoma has been somewhat subdued in Oklahoma’s rural counties, with only a few couples applying for marriage licenses outside the state’s metro areas. On Friday’s PolicyCast, we discussed a new report in which Oklahoma scored poorly on a nationwide ranking of the economic status of women. We’ve written about the topic before. 

A column in the Tulsa World explained why upcoming judicial elections are important, and urged voters to inform themselves before going to the polls. On average, Tulsa has the lowest gas prices in the US, according to industry analysts. Due to the current drought, Oklahoma wheat farmers are urging the USDA to implement a new crop insurance policy planned for 2016 ahead of schedule. The Number of the Day is the number of deaths due to stroke in Oklahoma in 2012. Strokes were the fifth leading cause of death in Oklahoma that year. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains why racial disparities in the criminal justice system mean that African Americans are the people most likely to be affected by death penalty cases and least likely to have a say in those cases.

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In The Know: State Medicaid program needs additional $164 million to avoid cuts in 2016

by | October 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

State Medicaid leaders told lawmakers in Thursday’s board meeting that they need at least $164 million in additional state dollars in the next fiscal year just to maintain the state’s existing Medicaid program. The agency plans to ask for a total additional $275 million and hopes to increase the rate it pays providers, which has been cut in recent years. The state Department of Corrections opened its renovated execution chamber to the media, and says that it is ready for November’s scheduled executions.

The Red Dirt Report wrote that state prisons’ officers say that inmates are planning coordinated riots across the state in hopes of forcing a federal takeover of the state’s overcrowded prison system. Staffing levels are too low to restore order if riots break out, according to Oklahoma Corrections Professionals. The Tulsa World’s editorial board argued that the state Department of Education still needs to meet its testing mandate this winter despite unrest over standardized testing and having no testing vendor lined up. A former member of the state Board of Education lambasted Gov. Fallin for her silence regarding the chaos over winter testing.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed a study showing same-sex marriage in Oklahoma will boost the state’s income tax revenue. The State of Oklahoma has confirmed that state workers can enroll a same-sex spouse in employee benefit plans. A state panel has approved a laundry list of repairs needed at the Capitol. The state Department of Human Services collected a record nearly $1 million per day in child support on behalf of Oklahoma children and families between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.

Northeastern Oklahoma officials and business leaders urged the state transportation committee to fund needed repairs to the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation system, and they said continuing to defer maintenance could result in shipping and transport delays.  StateImpact spoke to landowners who have successfully turned to wind farming to preserve their family farms. The Number of the Day is the number of marriage licenses issued in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, a poll of low-income Southerners found that they preferred Medicaid over private health insurance.

continue reading In The Know: State Medicaid program needs additional $164 million to avoid cuts in 2016

In The Know: Voter registration deadline for November elections is tomorrow

by and | October 9th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn 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.

Oklahomans who want to cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 general election have until tomorrow to register to vote. The OK Policy Blog and David Blatt’s Journal Record Column discussed Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit that seeks to take health insurance away from 55,000 Oklahomans. About six weeks into the school year, school districts across the state still have teacher vacancies. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has begun studying how to boost pipeline safety throughout the state. The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration threatened to intervene if Oklahoma does not beef up its pipeline regulations.

Two news organizations are suing Oklahoma prison officials for preventing reporters from viewing portions of an execution that went awry in the spring and are asking a federal judge to stop new state execution protocols from going into effect. Only two of the nearly 1,500 inmates granted an early release by the state Corrections Department since March have returned to prison after they were set free. More than half of Oklahoma’s public college presidents went to the state Capitol to tell lawmakers not to allow guns on campus

A House interim study once again looked at a measure to ban texting while driving, which has failed multiple times in the Legislature. Oklahoma City has launched a new smartphone app for reporting problems to the city and finding public meetings. Oklahoma has adopted emergency regulations to govern health care navigator programs that help Oklahomans find coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The OK Policy Blog previously argued that the new regulations are unnecessary and could hamper efforts to reduce the number of uninsured.

Refilling prescription painkillers will now be more difficult after new rules went into effect this week that put popular hydrocodone medications in a stricter drug class. Tulsa is hosting a drug take-back day on October 18 for people to dispose of unwanted prescription medications. Governor Fallin’s office declined to issue a state of emergency declaration requested by Rep. Mike Ritze due to “the potential spread of Ebola.” Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said that “declaring a state of emergency when no Oklahomans are actually sick would be premature.”

The Number of the Day is the drop in crude oil prices at the Cushing oil hub since mid-June. In today’s Policy Note, Vox examines why oil prices are plummeting and what that could mean for the economy.

continue reading In The Know: Voter registration deadline for November elections is tomorrow

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