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

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

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

Today In The News

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

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

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

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In The Know: Survey shows at least 2,800 education jobs lost, statewide teacher shortage persisting

by | August 23rd, 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

Survey shows at least 2,800 education jobs lost, statewide teacher shortage persisting: A new statewide survey found that at least 2,800 public school jobs have been lost to budget cuts and in the first part of August, schools were still in need of more than 500 teachers. In the Oklahoma State School Boards Association survey during the first two weeks of August, school districts representing about 83 percent of all public school students participated. Budget cuts were the primary factor in districts’ decisions to eliminate 1,500 teaching positions and 1,300 support worker positions [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma voters choose nominees in primary runoff election: Oklahoma voters will head to the polls Tuesday for a primary runoff election that will decide the final list of party nominees for a handful of legislative seats and a congressional seat in November’s general election. Voters in central Oklahoma will choose between former state Sen. Al McAffrey and retired university professor Tom Guild in Tuesday’s runoff for the Democratic nomination in the 5th Congressional District. The winner will face Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, who is seeking a second two-year term, and Libertarian Zachary Knight on Nov. 8 [Associated Press].

Research On Tulsa’s Head Start Program Finds Lasting Gains: In 1998 Oklahoma became one of only two states to offer universal preschool, and it’s been one of the most closely watched experiments in the country. Today, the vast majority of these programs are in public schools. The rest are run by child-care centers or Head Start, the federally funded early-childhood education program [NPR]. Head Start works; now let’s work on the rest of the education system [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

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In The Know: Five Things You Should Know About Tuesday’s Election

by | August 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

Five Things You Should Know About Tuesday’s Election: The lineup for November’s general election ballot will be settled after candidates in one congressional and 13 legislative races face off Tuesday. The run-off elections will feature the top two vote earners from the June primaries in races where no candidate received at least 50 percent of the votes. Districts in much of the state won’t vote because their legislative and congressional match-ups for the general election have already been set. Here are five key points about Tuesday’s elections [Oklahoma Watch].

Fed Up With State’s K-12 Stance, Okla. Teachers Run for Office: Fueled by their fury over cuts to K-12 budgets, low pay, and an array of other grievances, a scrappy group of teachers is attempting to upend Oklahoma’s political establishment this election season. After ousting the state’s superintendent in a 2014 primary, the loosely organized group of educators from around the state successfully campaigned to scrap the state’s teacher-evaluation system that was tied to students’ test scores. They notched another victory when they lobbied to defeat a bill backed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin that would’ve expanded the use of vouchers. So last spring, when someone suggested to their Facebook group that they start legislating themselves, more than 40 teachers filed to run for one of the 126 open seats in the state’s Senate and House of Representatives [Education Week].

Funding tightens for Oklahoma trooper raises as teachers step up in line: Two years after troopers got hefty raises, the state can no longer afford them and is considering furloughs and other cuts to make ends meet in the Department of Public Safety. The plight of troopers now concerned about whether their raises will stand up is feeding doubts about plans to give an even more expensive boost to the state’s 44,000 public school teachers. Some local school leaders cringe at the thought of scrambling to pay for those increases [Norman Transcript].

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In The Know: Oklahoma faith leaders declare support of SQ 779

by | August 19th, 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 faith leaders declare support of SQ 779: A group of faith leaders on Thursday called voter support for a ballot measure to fund education and teacher pay raises in Oklahoma a “moral imperative.” Metropolitan Baptist Church Pastor Ray Owens hosted about half a dozen ministers from churches as far away as Enid for a press conference to advocate for State Question 779. He spoke of the summer departure of longtime Booker T. Washington High School teacher Anthony Marshall for a much higher-paying job at Washington, D.C., Public Schools [Tulsa World]. OK Policy’s statement on the proposal is here

TPS Starts School Year With No Teacher Vacancies For Second Year: For the second year in a row, Tulsa Public School will have a teacher in every classroom for the first day of school. Despite a shortage of teachers, TPS was able to fill about 286 vacancies; last year the district had to fill almost 500 open spots. Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist made the announcement Thursday, saying every student deserves a quality teacher in the classroom [NewsOn6].

In Catoosa Schools, Cash for New Buildings but Cuts for Classrooms: Perhaps nowhere in Oklahoma is the irony of school funding more stark than in Catoosa Public Schools, a district of 2,100 students 15 miles east of Tulsa. School bonds have resulted in an infusion of cash, spent on MacBook computers for all middle and high school students, a monolithic dome cafeteria that doubles as a tornado shelter, new air conditioner units, buses and a plethora of other upgrades. The school board in July approved a contract to build a $1.5 million press box with an elevator at the high school football field [Oklahoma Watch]. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy]. Some districts, including Catoosa Public Schools, are switching to four-day school weeks to save money, but this leaves some students at risk of hunger [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Unguarded: State Agency Struggles To Regulate Security Guards

by | August 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

Unguarded: State Agency Struggles To Regulate Security Guards: A state agency is unable to keep track of the very industry it regulates, and it could be putting the safety of you and your family at risk. That’s the finding of an exclusive News On 6 investigation with our partners at The Frontier. The Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, handles the licensing and regulation of all police officers and security guards in Oklahoma. The problem: CLEET is struggling to keep track of the more than 8,000 security guards it regulates [NewsOn6].

Early voting this week for Tuesday runoff election in Oklahoma: Early voting is scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday for Tuesday’s runoff election, which will include 13 state legislative races and one congressional contest. All of these races will feature the two top-finishing candidates in party primary contests where nobody got more than 50 percent of the vote. Voters in some counties will also have local elections on the ballot. Early voting will be held at county election boards in the 58 counties where elections are scheduled [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: Restoring the right to vote: With this year’s critical elections looming, there’s a good chance a majority of voting-age Oklahomans will not even cast a ballot. Four years ago, barely half of Oklahoma’s eligible voters – 52.4 percent – voted for president, the third-lowest turnout rate in the nation and the state’s lowest turnout in decades. There are many reasons why Oklahomans fail to cast a ballot, from lack of interest in politics to scheduling conflicts and transportation challenges. But over 50,000 Oklahomans don’t vote because they are ineligible due to having been convicted of a crime [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Under Oklahoma law, felons are disenfranchised, or have their voting rights suspended, for the full lengths of their sentences [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Judge Dismisses Challenge to State’s Voter ID Law

by | August 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

Judge Dismisses Challenge to State’s Voter ID Law: A more than four-year legal challenge to overturn Oklahoma’s voter identification law was rejected again in state district court, with the judge upholding the constitutionality of the measure. Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons dismissed the case Monday after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the Oklahoma State Election Board and Tulsa resident Delilah Christine Gentges. Gentges’ attorney said he plans to appeal the decision as far as the Oklahoma Supreme Court [Oklahoma Watch]. Oklahoma saw record low turnout in the 2014 midterm elections; read our ideas for repairing our broken democracy.

DUI offenders could get licenses back: Hundreds of DUI offenders could be getting their driver’s licenses back after an Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruling. This is all because their attorneys said their constitutional right to a speedy trial is being violated. When someone is arrested for DUI, there is a criminal component handled through the courts. But, if they want a hearing to try and get their license back, that happens at an administrative hearing at the Department of Public Safety. But, that system is apparently so backlogged that some attorneys said their clients are having to wait up to two years [KFOR]. The Department of Public Safety plans to appeal the ruling [KOCO].

Oklahoma gets ‘F’ grade for family leave policies: Oklahoma recently received a grade of F for failing to enact a single policy to support new and expecting parents beyond the now 23-year-old federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). California, New York and the District of Columbia were awarded the only As, while 11 states received Bs. Among Oklahoma’s neighboring states, Colorado and Arkansas received Cs; Texas, a D; and Missouri, an F. The analysis reinforces the need for Congress to advance paid leave and other family friendly policies, said Debra L. Ness president of the nonprofit National Partnership for Women & Families, which conducted the study and drafted and led the fight for FMLA [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Poll shows growing dissatisfaction with state lawmakers

by | August 16th, 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

Poll shows growing dissatisfaction with state lawmakers: In SoonerPoll.com’s statewide survey, Obama’s 36 percent favorable rating was 2 points better than the Legislature’s and only 3 points behind Fallin. SoonerPoll.com President Bill Shapard said Fallin’s favorability rating has dropped from 55 percent early in the year, with the biggest shift among Republicans who have become disenchanted with her. Obama is still very unpopular — nearly half those surveyed said they had “very unfavorable” opinions of him. But 35 percent held very unfavorable opinions of Fallin and 25 percent said the same of the Legislature [Tulsa World].

Business tied to state rep who donated to sheriff’s campaign submits low bid for medical services at Tulsa Jail: A company with ties to a state representative has submitted the lowest-cost proposal for medical services at the Tulsa Jail, it was learned Monday. Officials stressed that cost is only one element considered in evaluating the three proposals opened Monday morning, and the contract — worth roughly $450,000 to $550,000 per month — won’t be awarded until at least September. State Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is a partner in Turn Key Health, one of three companies that submited proposals [Tulsa World].

Join our team as a fall intern: OK Policy is now accepting student applicants for paid part-time internships during the fall of 2016. Interns will be expected to work between 10 and 20 hours per week, depending on their schedules and availability. The position will be based in our Tulsa office. Interns have the opportunity to work as full members of the OK Policy team and participate in most activities of the organization [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Oklahoma finance chief developing options for special legislative session

by | August 15th, 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

Oklahoma finance chief is developing options for possible special legislative session: The state’s top budget negotiator is developing alternative proposals for a special legislative session that contemplate using all, some or none of the extra $140.8 million the state has available for teacher pay raises. “The governor has asked my office for proposals to fund a permanent teacher pay raise at or above $5,000,” said Preston Doerflinger, secretary of finance, administration and information technology [NewsOK]. Since a good portion of the $140 million was cut from education to begin with, using it to fund a teacher pay raise would be like robbing Peter to pay Peter [OK Policy].

Teacher reluctantly leaving Tulsa for Texas: ‘It’s not just salary … it’s about respect’: If Texas is like a whole other country, as the state’s tourism slogan goes, then Oklahoma is its chief teacher exporter. The latest Tulsa teacher to pack up her classroom and head 270 miles south is LeAnna Snyder, former fifth-grade teacher at Carnegie Elementary School. “Leaving Carnegie is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. My stomach was in knots for months,” Snyder said, as her eyes welled with tears. “I feel like I’m letting the children down — and my district — but I’ve stayed here as long as I can.” [Tulsa World]

Health insurance costs increasing for state employees, retirees: State employees and retirees on the state’s insurance plans are likely to see a rate increase next year. The Oklahoma Employees Insurance and Benefits Board approved increases in all of the plans it oversees, from 6 percent for one of three HMOs and nearly 16 percent for the Medicare-based high option plan offered through the state’s self-insured group. The rate increases are the highest in recent years. In one of the plans offered by the self-funded HealthChoice program, rates never grew beyond 5.5 percent since 2010. Next year, pending approval from Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, monthly rates will go up 8.4 percent [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Increased regulation may be easing Oklahoma earthquakes

by | August 12th, 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

Increased regulation may be easing Oklahoma earthquakes: While the earth continues to shudder more frequently than seven years ago beneath Oklahomans feet, the rate of earthquakes in the state in 2016 is down from last year. The state has been shaken by 448 magnitude-3.0 and greater quakes so far this year, down from the 558 it experienced in the same time frame in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Increased regulation on wastewater disposal related to oil and gas extraction could be one reason behind the decline, said Robert Williams, a geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey [USA Today].

Dispute over numbers complicates Oklahoma education funding debate: Within the larger dispute over education funding policy taking place in Oklahoma, sometimes the very numbers used as a baseline are up for debate. A conservative think tank has accused schools of sitting on piles of cash that could shore up recent budget cuts. But educators disagree with that accusation and blame it on a misinterpretation of school budgets [NewsOK]. The report is available here. Oklahoma leads the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Education Leaders Want Teacher Pay Raises, But Still Support $140M Surplus Lawsuit: Leaders of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration are supporting a legal challenge filed in the state Supreme Court this week by Oklahoma City attorney David Slane. The lawsuit accuses Gov. Mary Fallin of violating state law as she considers calling a special legislative session to figure out what to do with the $140 million surplus created by mid-year state budget cuts that were higher than necessary. Fallin has suggested using the money for teacher pay raises. But the lawsuit asserts she does not have the right to hold the money while she figures it out [KGOU]. After two revenue failures, Oklahoma ended the year with surplus. What? [OK Policy]

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In The Know: Lawmaker calls for study of ‘unconstitutional legislation’

by | August 11th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, 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

Lawmaker calls for study of ‘unconstitutional legislation’: For years, State Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma County) has kept a list handy when bills become law. It’s a list of bills she expects to be challenged and eventually struck down in court. “I have had constituents come to me and say, ‘There were three pieces of legislation that were found unconstitutional the last couple years. Do y’all not know what you’re doing?'” she said. “I think when lawmakers are perceived as not knowing how to make law, that that hurts the perception people have of how our government is supposed to work.” [KFOR]

Lagging sales tax collections blamed for 11 percent drop in state revenue for July: Funding for state government continued spiraling downward in July as weak sales tax collections in the first month of the state’s 2017 fiscal year dragged general revenue collections 4.4 percent below expectations and 11.1 percent below the same month a year ago. The general revenue fund is the state’s basic operating account. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported that state sales tax receipts were 7.5 percent below expectations and 8.4 percent below the same month a year ago [Tulsa World].

Indian tribes, Oklahoma reach deal on water rights dispute: Negotiators for two Indian tribes and the state of Oklahoma said Wednesday they have reached a settlement that would end a modern-day water rights and tribal sovereignty dispute that has its roots in the 19th century. The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have claimed Oklahoma isn’t abiding by the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which gave them authority over water in their jurisdiction. The state claimed the tribes are ignoring an 1866 pact in which they gave up certain rights after backing the Confederates in the Civil War [Chicago Tribune].

Survey finds more homeless OKC residents: Despite increased efforts to provide housing, the homeless population in Oklahoma City is on the rise, according to the latest census by the Homeless Alliance. The agency’s most recent Point in Time head count found about 1,500 people this year living on the streets, local shelters and makeshift camps. Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan said that sample statistically suggests a total homeless population of 6,000-7,500 and a 16-percent increase from the 2015 census [Journal Record]. The 2016 Point-in-Time report is available here.

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