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In The Know: Donald Trump picks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead EPA

by | December 8th, 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

Donald Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Ally of Fossil Fuel Industry, to Lead E.P.A.: President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a transition official said, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change. Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda [New York Times].

Oil and gas lobbyist, Secretary of State seek AG’s job: Local attorney Anthony “AJ” Ferate is one of at least two people who applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy. Ferate is the regulatory affairs vice president for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, a position he took in 2014. Secretary of State Mike Hunter also applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy, according to sources familiar with the matter. Gov. Mary Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt would not confirm how many people had applied. The governor’s office has a policy that it does not release names of applicants, McNutt said. Ferate applied for the job with the condition that he would only seek to fill the unexpired term, if appointed, according to documents obtained by The Journal Record [Journal Record].

Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations: Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews. The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations [Reuters]. Rep. Mullin said his ‘privatization’ of Indian land comments were distorted by the media [OK Energy Today].

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In The Know: State Unveils Plan for A-F School Report Cards, Keeping Single Overall Grade

by | December 7th, 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

State Unveils Plan for A-F School Report Cards, Keeping Single Overall Grade: Oklahoma schools would continue to receive a single letter grade from the state Department of Education under a new plan for school accountability released Tuesday, but the components of the grades would be expanded. The new system, if adopted by the state Board of Education and the state Legislature, will add measures of chronic absenteeism, post-secondary opportunities and academic growth of English language learners, in addition to student assessments in math, English and science [Oklahoma Watch].

Economists’ school-funding proposals may draw stiff resistance: Voters’ rejection of a sales tax increase to pay for teacher raises and other education initiatives has officials looking for other ways to boost school funding in Oklahoma. A panel of economists recently offered suggestions for doing so. But their proposals involve hard-to-achieve constitutional change and could draw bitter opposition from many school administrators, school boards and teachers unions. Speaking last week at a Greater Oklahoma City Chamber forum, Robert Dauffenbach, senior associate dean at the University of Oklahoma, endorsed “local option” in school funding by removing “these constitutional restrictions on millage.” [The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Medicaid money to help solve state’s doctor shortage: Researchers with the National Governors Association will spend the next five months developing recommendations on how Oklahoma should spend Medicaid money on the doctor shortage. Unlike Medicaid allocations used for reimbursements, the research target is money earmarked for physician education, known as Medicaid Graduate Medical Education or GME. Last year, Oklahoma spent millions in federal and state funds across several types of physician workforce needs, including payments to medical schools and doctors who agree to work in rural areas. Gov. Mary Fallin announced last week that Oklahoma had received the grant [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Oklahoma political waters get murky in 2018 after Trump win

by | December 6th, 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

Political waters get murky in 2018 after Trump win: The political waters for the 2018 cycle have become murkier with several of Oklahoma’s rising Republican stars jockeying for spots in Donald Trump’s administration. The biggest prize will be Oklahoma’s governorship, since current Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is term-limited. But with speculation swirling that Fallin might take a post in the Trump administration, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb would assume the post and the power of incumbency in 2018. The former state senator and ex-U.S. Secret Service agent has long been discussed as a likely candidate for governor in 2018 and already has more than $1 million in his campaign war chest [Associated Press].

How Would Todd Lamb Govern? If Gov. Mary Fallin joins President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb will step in to finish the two years left in her term. The question is, would that mean status quo in policies since both are Republicans, or would Lamb’s half-term, combined with a big crop of new legislators, bring significant changes? Lamb, an Enid native and former Secret Service agent, would become governor at a challenging time for the state, with another sizable budget shortfall expected for fiscal 2018 and state agency heads describing their funding needs in crisis terms [Oklahoma Watch].

When Police Confront the Mentally Ill: Patricia Tompkins wanted help for her son, Eric Tompkins. Eric, 41, of Ardmore, was suffering from severe depression, according to statements made online by Patricia and other members of Eric’s family. On the morning of Aug. 8, 2015, she suspected he had attempted to kill himself by drinking roach poison. When she called the local mental health crisis center, Patricia was told that for Eric to be admitted, the police would have to be involved first, she wrote in a posting. She was instructed to call 911 [Oklahoma Watch].

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In The Know: Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post

by | December 5th, 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

Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post: Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, is among the American Indian voices in Oklahoma who have endorsed Gov. Mary Fallin as secretary of the interior for the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Fallin also has the sanction of the oil and gas sector. The relationships of her political campaigns with companies such as Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy are well-documented in donation disclosures. “Given all the choices and potential nominees for secretary of the interior, the most advantageous for Oklahoma is Gov. Mary Fallin,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Federal appointments could leave limited replacement options: If any of Oklahoma’s statewide elected officials are tapped to join the president-elect’s administration, the vacancies could have the governor pulling candidates from the private sector. Gov. Mary Fallin could be a finalist to lead the Department of Interior and Attorney General Scott Pruitt is rumored to be angling for the Environmental Protection Agency administrator’s job. If Fallin leaves Oklahoma, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb would assume her office. Lamb would then be able to appoint his choice for lieutenant governor without legislative confirmation. However, despite the long line of eager politicians who could benefit from holding that office, the governor would not be able to elevate a state senator or representative to the position [Journal Record].

Indian cultural center to resume construction in spring: The Chickasaw Nation and Oklahoma City Hall are resolving the last legal obstacles in developing the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum near downtown with expectations of movement on the project by spring, officials said. Craig Freeman, the city’s finance director, said the Chickasaws are in the process of confirming the state government has cleared the site of other obligations. Since 2006, the state has spent more than $90 million to create a site near the Oklahoma River to showcase Oklahoma’s wide mosaic of American Indian heritage, but politics over budgeting stopped construction by 2012. In its current incomplete form, the center is still costing the state about $7 million per year for property maintenance and payments on earlier construction bonds [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Decades of neglect underpins $1.65 billion prisons request

by | November 28th, 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

In The Know is taking a break for the rest of the week as most staff head to conferences. We’ll return on Monday, December 5th. 

Decades of neglect underpins $1.65 billion prisons request: Overseeing chronically overcrowded, rapidly deteriorating facilities, Oklahoma’s prison director is seeking to triple his department’s budget in hopes of reversing decades of deferred maintenance and neglect that has jeopardized a linchpin of public safety. “We’re not a listing ship. We are a sinking ship,” Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said after the state Board of Corrections approved his nearly $1.65 billion budget request for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and sent it to state lawmakers for their review [NewsOK]. The effects of budget cuts on Oklahoma prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

Epidemic Ignored: Lack of accountability in Oklahoma jails leaves prisoners vulnerable, taxpayers on the hook: When the inmate asked for a wheelchair, the Beckham County jail staff gave him an alternative option: crawling. The man’s feet were swollen, bleeding and cracked, caused by gout, a painful form of arthritis. He couldn’t walk. For days, the man crawled on the cold, concrete floor. When his family came to the jail to visit him, he crawled across the floor to meet them. When staff brought his medicine to the cell, he crawled to the cell door [NewsOK]. 

Mothers in Prison: The women’s wing of the jail here exhales sadness. The inmates, wearing identical orange uniforms, ache as they undergo withdrawal from dugs, as they eye one another suspiciously, and as they while away the days stripped of freedom, dignity, privacy, and, most painful of all, their children. “She’s disappointed in me,” Janay Manning, 29, a drug offender shackled to the wall for an interview, said of her eldest daughter, a 13 year-old. And then she started crying, and we paused our interview [Nicholas Kristof / The New York Times]. 

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In The Know: Election Results Are The Final Straw For Some Oklahoma Teachers

by | November 23rd, 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.

Note: In The Know will be on break for the rest of the week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Today In The News

Election Results Are The Final Straw For Some Oklahoma Teachers: Oklahoma’s teacher shortage may get worse before it gets better. State Question 779, which some hailed as a solution to Oklahoma’s education funding woes, failed on Election Day. Many of the teachers running for office were also defeated. These losses have left some Oklahoma educators feeling hopeless. Shawna Mott-Wright, the vice president of the Tulsa Public Schools teacher’s union, said State Question 779 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “Teachers are heartbroken,” she said [KOSU].

U.S. Education Chief Calls for End to Paddling, But Many Okla. Schools Allow It: All schools should stop paddling students as a form of discipline because it’s “harmful, ineffective, and often disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities,” U.S. Secretary of Education John King wrote in a letter Tuesday to all state governors and schools chiefs. Oklahoma is one of 22 states that allow corporal punishment in schools, and one of the states where its use is the most prevalent. Several districts here paddled more than 12 percent of students in the 2013-14 school year according to a new map created by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights [Oklahoma Watch].

It’s time for Oklahoma lawmakers to pass an education funding plan: Supporters of State Question 779 didn’t need to wait for every vote to be counted on Election Night to know standing up for teachers and schools was the right fight. And while SQ 779 might have come up short at the ballot box, it began an important conversation about education funding and where we go from here. We can’t stop fighting to increase teacher pay and ensure budget cuts to our public schools are reversed [Amber England / NewsOK]. 

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin meets with Trump about Cabinet post

by | November 22nd, 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

Gov. Fallin meets with Trump about Cabinet post: Gov. Mary Fallin met with President-elect Donald J. Trump in New York City on Monday morning and said afterward that she was not offered a job in his administration. Fallin, who has two years left on her term, has been discussed as a possible secretary of interior, a department that includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Geological Survey. The department oversees oil and gas production on federal land [NewsOK]. Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon met with Trump over the weekend [KGOU].

Two Oklahoma School Districts Report Success With 4-Day Weeks: When News 9’s Justin Dougherty recently sat down with Gov. Mary Fallin, she brought up the topic of 4-day school weeks. She says they’re bad for business, but for at least two school districts they’re saving money and business is good. “The way I took it is 4-day weeks were an embarrassment. It’s very offensive because we’re doing everything that we can to make students successful,” said Morrison Principal Brent Haken. Morrison Principal Brent Haken and Coyle Superintendent Josh Sumrall have heard Fallin’s request for schools to step up and look at their expenses to avoid 4-day weeks. But that’s tough to hear for these two administrators, who say they’re filling-in as bus drivers, lunch servers and substitute teachers [NewsOn6].

OKCPS board shuts down plan to return to traditional school year: The Oklahoma City Public Schools board voted to keep so-called year-round school Monday night. Superintendent Aurora Lora recommended the board keep year-round school and, ultimately, the members did. The board voted to keep the continuous calendar year with a vote of 6-1, after a heated discussion over whether the cost of the program is really paying off [KFOR].

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress

by | November 21st, 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’s child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress: In a mixed report, three out-of-state experts retained to monitor reforms of Oklahoma’s child welfare system found that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has made “substantial and sustained progress” in 27 of 31 performance areas related to the welfare of children in state care. Casting a gloomy shadow over what otherwise might be viewed as a positive report was a finding that the state continued to perform poorly in what most people would consider the most important category of all — protecting the safety of children in state care [NewsOK].

‘We have criminalized being mentally ill’: Capt. Reese Lane saw an opportunity to do some good in the world. The Payne County jail administrator looked at one inmate’s charges recently and determined, “This is a mental health issue. She is not a criminal. She needs help.” The inmate, a 40-year-old mother of five, had been in and out of the Stillwater jail numerous times. In just one week during the summer of 2007, she called the police and fire department 26 times. Lane was familiar with the woman’s mental health and substance abuse history. He went to the Payne County district attorney and asked to drop the woman’s charges. Next, they filed an emergency order to keep the woman in custody for her own safety, rather than for criminal charges [NewsOK].

Violent Incidents Raise Questions About Officer Training for Dealing with Mentally Ill: For the mentally ill and emotionally troubled, encounters with law enforcement officers and incarceration in jails pose a risk of death. A spike in fatalities in Oklahoma jails this year and several confrontations between police and the mentally ill since 2014 have raised questions about whether officers and jailers are sufficiently trained to deal with people with mental health problems. Training data indicates it is a special concern in rural areas [Oklahoma Watch].

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In The Know: Election Results Show Women Lost Ground in Serving in Office

by | November 18th, 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

Election Results Show Women Lost Ground in Serving in Office: Women, already underrepresented in the state Legislature, will hold fewer seats in 2017 despite a surge in the number of female candidates. Those results, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s failed bid for the White House, have disheartened many women in Oklahoma. Now, at least in the Legislature, women from both parties intend to form a women’s caucus. When the Legislature reconvenes in 2017, there will be 19 women among the state’s 149 elected representatives — or just under 13 percent. Election results show a net loss of three seats; in 2016, 22 women held seats in the Legislature [Oklahoma Watch]. Here’s where women are winning political office in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

‘Innocent misadventure’: Botched 43-minute Oklahoma execution not cruel and inhumane, appeals court rules: The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma disturbed witnesses and stirred the nation: A convicted murderer, deemed unconscious, began twitching and convulsing on the gurney, only able to raise his head. After 43 minutes of apparent anguish, the man died of a heart attack. Lockett’s bungled execution led Oklahoma to reconsider its lethal-injection protocols, and spurred Lockett’s brother to file suit — alleging torture and human medical experimentation, among other claims. In a decision filed Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld the 2015 decision to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that the lethal-injection process did not qualify as cruel and inhumane [Washington Post].

Oklahoma Board of Corrections to request $1.65 billion: The Oklahoma Board of Corrections has voted to request nearly $1.65 billion for the Department of Corrections next fiscal year — an increase of $1.16 billion over its request for the current year. The department received just less than $485 million for the current year as the Legislature struggled to fill a $1.3 billion budget hole. Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said in a news release Thursday that the “aggressive request” is needed to repair critical problems and invest in the department’s long-term future [Associated Press].

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In The Know: Teacher pay raise on the minds of new and returning lawmakers

by | November 17th, 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

Teacher pay raise on the minds of new and returning lawmakers: A teacher pay raise was on the minds of many of the new and recently re-elected lawmakers who were sworn into office Wednesday, the 109th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Reif administered the oath of office first in the House Chamber and then in the Senate Chamber as family members and friends looked on. The ceremonies attracted standing room only crowds in both galleries [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma legislators take oath of office: Members of the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives took their oath of office on Wednesday, promising to uphold the Constitution and not take any illegal compensation. Then they spent hours publicly introducing spouses, children, parents and others. Many prefaced their remarks by thanking God for the honor of being allowed to serve in the Legislature [NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin wants to push for more criminal justice reform: Gov. Mary Fallin said she interprets the votes on State Questions 780 and 781 as a mandate to press for further criminal justice reform in the upcoming legislative session. The two state questions reclassified numerous drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and provided for substance abuse and mental health treatment for offenders. Each passed handily on Tuesday [Tulsa World]. Here’s what to expect in the next round of criminal justice reform [OK Policy].

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