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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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In The Know: Same-Sex married couples must wait for new drivers’ licenses

by and | October 8th, 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.

Although same sex marriage is now legal in Oklahoma, couples seeking to change their name on state identification cards, such as a drivers’ licenses, may have to wait a few days as the Department of Public Safety and tag agencies work out a process. An attorney told NewsOK that private sector employers with self-funded health plans still can decide whether to extend health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses. With same-sex couples on front pages across the state, Oklahoman reporter Chris Casteel looked back to the first time the paper did a feature on gay and lesbian Oklahomans in 1983.

Almost simultaneously last night, debates were held for the state superintendent’s race, the open US Senate race, and local judicial candidates. U.S. Rep. James Lankford and state Sen. Connie Johnson differed on drug policy, same-sex marriage and use of military force as they brought their U.S. Senate campaigns to Oklahoma State University. The candidates for state superintendent squared off on the issues of Common Core standards, standardized testing and teacher pay at a debate in Claremore. The College Board is releasing SAT scores for the graduating class of 2014, and the news is good for Oklahoma, even though fewer students showed up to take the test. You can see the full Oklahoma SAT report here.

A state lawmaker said she will reintroduce legislation to require a DNA sample from everyone arrested for a felony in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how this kind of indiscriminate DNA testing can lead to innocent Oklahomans being wrongfully convicted. NewsOK reported that law enforcement agencies neglected to perform DNA tests on tens of thousands of people convicted of serious misdemeanors, despite a provision in state law for such testing. Inmates inside Okmulgee County jail are threatening to resume rioting due to severe overcrowding. Fox 25 reported on new hopes that Oklahoma will implement real corrections reforms. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed signs that Governor Fallin may begin supporting criminal justice reform.

The OK Policy Blog discussed how there are limited economic opportunities for women in Oklahoma and what we can do to fix that. Oklahoma Watch launched an online data center to search for useful and revealing facts about public agencies, cities and towns, and the state as a whole. The Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah has been gifted a heard of bison and will tend to the animals for the first time since the 1970s.

The Number of the Day is percentage of Oklahoma students who took the SAT in 2014 who met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discussed a surprising Obamacare experiment that is improving health in low-income communities while saving taxpayers $24 million last year.

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In The Know: Same-sex marriage now is legal in Oklahoma

by and | October 7th, 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.

Gay and lesbian couples began marrying in Oklahoma after a surprise announcement from the U.S. Supreme Court that could quickly expand same-sex marriage to nearly two-thirds of the states. Among the first to get married were two Tulsa women who filed the lawsuit against Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban nearly ten years ago. SCOTUSBlog examined the implications of the Supreme Court’s action across the country.

Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller says Oklahoma’s gross revenue collections in September grew by more than 8 percent over receipts from the same month last year and that the growth was the highest monthly growth rate since April 2013. Gross revenue is everything the state brings in before paying back tax refunds and diverting revenue to mandatory programs. Treasurer Miller argued against an idea suggested by both Gov. Fallin and her challenger Rep. Joe Dorman to move Oklahoma to a two-year budget.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed warning signs that state leaders may overreact to a recent killing in Moore in ways that harm all of us. Curtis McCarty, who spent 19 years on Oklahoma’s death row before being exonerated by DNA evidence, spoke with Wichita Public Radio about his wrongful conviction and life behind bars.

Flu season is beginning and health officials recommend everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. Debates and forums involving candidates for U.S. Senate, state superintendent of public instruction and Tulsa County district judge will be held this evening. The Together Tuesday tour by Together Oklahoma, a coalition led by OK Policy, is coming to Woodward this evening. The tour is a series of forums on the state of democracy in Oklahoma and how we can develop a state budget and tax system that better reflects our values. The City of Duncan, which is already facing a severe drought, is now dealing with contamination of its drinking water that violates federal standards.

The Number of the Day is the number of endangered species in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, John Oliver offers a revealing look at civil forfeitures, a process which allows state and federal government to seize individuals’ property without convicting them of a crime.

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In The Know: Oklahomans begin lining up before midnight for free medical care

by and | October 6th, 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 began lining up before midnight for a free medical care event by Remote Area Medical Oklahoma. Jaclyn Cosgrove shared stories from the event in a multi-part series for The Oklahoman. Oklahoma’s overdose death toll dipped slightly in 2013, from 850 to 821 deaths. About three-quarters of all overdose deaths in the state involve prescription drugs. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why prescription drug abuse is Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem. NewsOK reported on how the city of Moore is responding to its latest tragedy to bring national attention.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has put a moratorium on ethics complaints during election season, which some are complaining allows candidates to skirt campaign laws. An Attorney General’s Office opinion has deemed electronic signatures on voter registration applications invalid. Electronic signature devices have been used to help people register to vote over the internet. Currently 27 states offer or are planning to implement online voter registration, but Oklahoma is not one of them. Oklahoma is planning to resume executions on November 13, but death penalty experts are questioning whether the state will be prepared to implement changes following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. The Oklahoman outlined the planned changes to Oklahoma’s execution protocol.

Oklahoma Muslims are seeking to improve outreach to push back against the hateful rhetoric being spread by state Representative John Bennett. The Tulsa World reported that the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City has received several threats of violence against Muslims after Bennett called them a “cancer that needed to be cut out of America.” The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is sharing a presentation on how much it costs to raise children to try to reduce Oklahoma’s teen pregnancy rate, which is the second-highest in the nation. Gun rights activists are pushing to make Oklahoma the latest state to legalize concealed carry of guns on college and university campuses.

Hundreds of rape kits have been collected from victims but not tested by the Tulsa Police Department due to lack of funding. Oklahoma wheat growers are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand subsidized crop insurance to help their businesses survive the state’s ongoing drought. The Number of the Day is the growth in Oklahoma’s Asian-American population from 2000-2010. In today’s Policy Note, KGOU examined a new program that doubles how food stamp recipients can purchase at farmers’ markets.

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In The Know: Dorman, Fallin meet in only debate

by | October 3rd, 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.

Last night, Gov. Mary Fallin and Rep. Joe Dorman met in their only debate before November’s election. Transcript and video of the debate are available from C-SPAN. NewsOK reports that the gap between the parties of registered voters in Oklahoma is narrowing, with slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state. OK Policy announced an upcoming event on the 2014 elections and the future of health reform.

A lawsuit filed Thursday challenges a state law requiring doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It’s the second suit challenging the state’s abortion restrictions filed this week. The US Supreme Court has says it will hear the case of a Tulsa Muslim teenager who was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch because they said her hijab violated the chain’s employee dress code. State Rep. John Bennet (R-Sallisaw) doubled down on recent anti-Muslim comments on Thursday, suggesting that American Muslims lied when they condemned violence done by extremists.

NewsOK spoke with an attorney specializing in health law about the more restrictive reclassification of commonly-prescribed (and frequently abused) painkillers such as Lortab and Vicodin. We’ve written about painkiller addiction in Oklahoma before. The attorney for Oklahoma death row inmates argued that the drug cocktails allowed under revamped execution procedures have failed in other states, and shouldn’t be under consideration in Oklahoma. A rally at the state capitol on Thursday called for statewide criminal justice reform. You can see our suggestions for criminal justice reform here.

Pawnee Elementary’s new domed storm shelter has been declared ready for use. Walnut Creek State Park closed indefinitely last weekend due to shifting state budget priorities, and StateImpact spoke to the tourists and area businesspeople impacted. The Number of the Day is the percentage of income that renters in Oklahoma devoted to housing in 2013, up from 24.3 percent in 2000. In today’s Policy Note, Oxfam America explained why most businesspeople support raising the minimum wage.

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