In The Know: Early in-person voting begins today in Oklahoma

by and | October 30th, 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.

Three days of early, in-person voting is set to begin today at county election board offices across the state as most political experts predict turnout will be relatively light for next week’s general election. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed what’s behind the decline in voting among Oklahomans. On the OK Policy Blog, Ryan Kiesel makes the case for creating multi-member districts to expand the number of voices at the Legislature. See more from our series on Oklahoma’s broken democracy here.

Gov. Mary Fallin raised more than $932,000 from donors in the final push toward Tuesday’s election while her main challenger, Joe Dorman, raised more than $828,000, their latest campaign reports show. Overall, Dorman has received almost $1.5 million in contributions since beginning fundraising in December while Fallin, who began her reelection effort in 2011, has raised more than $4.5 million. Campaign finance reports show state schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister has outraised and outspent her opponent, John Cox, heading into the closing days of their campaign. U.S. Rep. James Lankford collected $1.2 million in the last quarter, as former foe T.W. Shannon and a host of special interest groups kicked in cash for his U.S. Senate race.

Since it began operations in February, the state Workers Compensation Commission has not sought payment from businesses to replenish a fund that pays injured workers when self-insured companies cannot pay their claims, even though the fund is far below levels required by law. For more than two months, the state Workers Compensation Commission has refused to hear appeals involving injured workers’ claims until the Attorney General’s Office decides whether the commission can close its deliberations to the public. An appeals court ruled that Tulsa County will have to pay the legal fees for one of two couples involved in a lawsuit that led to Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriages being overturned.

The director of the Oklahoma State Climatological Survey said Oklahomans should prepare for a drought that could extend through the spring and possibly for years. State officials and researchers updated a legislative committee on their efforts to study the state’s ongoing earthquake swarm, which has been connected to wastewater disposal practices by the oil and gas industry. The Senate Insurance Committee examined applying the state’s unclaimed property laws to unclaimed life insurance benefits. NewsOn6 examined a new Oklahoma law that makes it easier for prosecutors to confiscate cars that belong to drunk drivers.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton told legislators that county jails are inadequate holding facilities for those with long-term criminal sentences, but the state still has a backlog of 240 inmates in county jails. The Tulsa World discussed why Oklahoma continues to lead the nation in incarcerating women. An Oklahoma Watch investigation found that serious violations by inmates plagued Oklahoma’s largest private halfway houses for three years before the state took action in January by removing all inmates from one and later demanding a corrective plan at the other.

The Number of the Day is the number of Atmospheric and Space Scientists who worked in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox shows how the Affordable Care Act is significantly reducing inequality as it expands access to health insurance.

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In The Know: Candidates spar over the direction of public schools

by | October 29th, 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.

 State superintendent candidates John Cox and Joy Hofmeister debated the direction of public schools during a televised debate. Under new guidance from the Health Dept., Oklahoma will not require a blanket quarantine for all health-care workers who visited West Africa.

The House Utility and Environmental Regulation Committee held an interim study on the link between fracking and earthquakes in Oklahoma. The Oklahoman Editorial Board argued that lawmakers can’t be ‘tough on crime’ if they aren’t fully funding corrections.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa rank among the most-affordable big cities in the United States according to Kiplinger. A guest post on the OK Policy Blog discussed a new effort to bring millennial voters to the polls and millennial voices to the policy-making table.

In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities demonstrated the long-term economic growth potential for states who would choose to spend less in maintaining extremely high prison populations and spent more instead on public education. The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans with physical or mental disabilities obtained gainful employment through services provided by the Department of Rehabilitation Service.

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In The Know: Superintendent candidates square off in debate

by | October 28th, 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.

Today you should know that the state’s superintendent candidates squared off in a public debate. Applications to vote by mail with an absentee ballot in Oklahoma can be requested until 5 p.m. Wednesday and the polls will be open for early voting this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The Cherokee Nation celebrated the construction of a $5 million treatment center for teens struggling with substance abuse. Amid predictions of a steep drop in oil prices, industry leaders are reassuring investors that even at much lower prices they can still return ample profits. Family Builders operates one of several domestic violence intervention programs, which provide court-ordered therapy and rehabilitation to perpetrators of abuse.

OK Policy posted the next in its series on ‘broken democracy’, soliciting ideas from citizen leaders to address lackluster voter participation in local elections. U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe says he’s spending “almost every waking moment” campaigning for other people and yesterday was in Lithuania for the opening of a port facility to handle liquefied natural gas.

In today’s Policy Note, the Legal Action Center highlights the case of a three year old toddler put into official immigration court proceedings on his own, without legal representation to help him explain to the court why he should be granted asylum and not be deported. The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans who acknowledge that the climate is changing. 

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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.

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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.

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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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