In The Know: Medical marijuana petition falls short

by | August 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.

A group circulating a petition to put a medical marijuana state question on the ballot did not collect enough signatures to do so. Organizers say they will try again next summer. While collecting signatures, the group registered an estimated 40,000 people to vote. A report from the American Cancer Society said that Oklahoma is lagging in the fight against cancer. The report cited a lack of palliative care programs, a below-average cigarette excise tax rate, and a failure to expand eligibility in the state Medicaid program. You can read the full report here.

A post on the OK Policy Blog examined the data to see if Medicaid recipients overuse the ER as much as commonly thought. Writing in the Journal Record, M. Scott Carter argued that lawmakers overutilize tax incentives without instituting measures to measure and judge their impact. Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman and incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin will face each other in a debate on Oct. 2 at OSU.

The state Corrections Department is considering decommissioning the use of towers at its facilities to save costs, but corrections officers say that removing personnel from the towers would put staff on the ground in jeopardy. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board warned of the costs of an aging prison population. A rally held on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday in response to the police shooting death of unarmed Missouri teen Michael Brown warned that such incidents could happen anywhere. An Oklahoma City police officer has been arrested for allegedly raping at least seven women while on patrol. All of the victims were African-American women.

A criminal investigation into state schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister’s campaign is underway. The investigation is looking for evidence of public corruption, campaign contribution violations and illegal collusion with political candidates. A top Tulsa Public Schools administrator who worked for the district for a year has been found to lack the necessary credentials to perform her duties.  An editorial in the Tulsa World chastised Tulsa County officials for giving themselves a raise to the highest salary allowed by law when many Tulsans, including correctional officers and teachers, are struggling to get by.

A state multicounty grand jury investigation concluded an 18-month investigation yesterday without handing down any indictments. The grand jury was investigation multiple allegations of wrongdoing in Rogers County. July traffic at Tulsa International Airport was up 11.8 percent compared to this time last year. Local officials attribute the growth to a strong local economy and success in recruiting new events into the city. StateImpact explained that upriver states have a significant impact on Oklahoma’s scenic river protection policy because pollution standards in other states determine water quality in Oklahoma’s rivers.

AAA is predicting a 2 percent boost in Labor Day travel compared to last year, slightly above the projected national average. AAA credits increased consumer optimism. The first human case of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in Oklahoma was confirmed yesterday. The Number of the Day is the value of goods and services that can be purchased for $100 in Oklahoma, compared to the national average. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times explains how the gender wage gap most significantly disadvantages mothers in low-wage jobs who need to take time off to care for children.

continue reading In The Know: Medical marijuana petition falls short

Are Medicaid patients overusing the ER?

by | August 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

ERIn the debate over Medicaid, a frequently heard claim is that Medicaid recipients overuse emergency rooms for non-emergency care, and that we need to address this problem if we are to contain Medicaid spending.

This past session, the Legislature approved HB 2906, which directs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, to conduct a study of current and potential ways to reduce trips to the emergency department. Earlier in session, legislation passed the House that would have limited Medicaid coverage to six emergency room visits per year.

However, Health Care Authority data seems to dispel the idea that ER overuse by Medicaid members is as pervasive or as serious a problem as many assume. In State Fiscal Year 2013, there were just over 1 million Oklahomans enrolled in SoonerCare. Of this population, nearly three in four (73.8 percent) made no emergency room visits in a 12-month period. Another 21 percent visited the ER once or twice. Only 11,763 individuals, or 1.1 percent of the Medicaid population, had six or more ER visits. This small population accounted for some 107,000 ER visits, or about one in five of all visits.

ERusageFY2013Since 2004, the Health Care Authority has operated the High ER utilization project, which identifies and contacts members who have been to the ER more than once in a quarter and provides information about appropriate usage and referrals to care management. The program has a provider education component as well. Since 2007, emergency room usage has declined from an annual average of 0.58 annual visit per member to 0.53 annual visits per member. Although we should be careful about making direct comparisons because of differences in demographic make-up and data sources, ER utilization for Medicaid recipients appears comparable to the overall population. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Oklahomans had 488 ER visits per 1,000 people in 2011; OHCA data suggests that Medicaid recipients made 550 visits per 1,000 people in fiscal year 2011.

It’s also not apparent that ER visits are a major expense in the Medicaid program. In fiscal year 2013, total emergency department costs, including facility and professional claims, were $141.0 million, which represents less than 3 percent of total SoonerCare expenditures of $4.97 billion (with ancillary services, the total cost was $178.3 million, or 3.6 percent of total expenditures). The average cost per emergency room visit was $257.31.

The Health Care Authority’s efforts to monitor and prevent inappropriate emergency room usage should certainly be continued. However, the idea that many Medicaid members make unnecessary trips to the ER seems to reflect myths and anecdotes more than reality.

In The Know: Gov. Fallin applied for $3 million Affordable Care Act grant

by | August 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.

A new report released by Oklahoma Watch reveals that Gov. Fallin applied for a $3 million Affordable Care Act grant designed help states develop innovation and efficiency in health care delivery. The Governor has previously steadfastly refused to consider accepting federal funds to expand health coverage to low-income Oklahomans. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt discusses the release of 31 emails from the Governor’s office concerning with the state’s refusal to expand eligibility, noting that they deal far more with a 2012 blog post written by the right-leaning think tank Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs than they do with the impact of leaving 150,000 Oklahomans without health care.

NewsOK reports that Oklahoma has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation, and that its teen birth rate has declined more slowly than most states. Vox discusses the falling teen birth rate nationwide. Oklahoma City Public Schools are considering expanding its partnership with the state Department of Human Services, including placing social workers in high-poverty schools to help connect students and parents with social services. OKCPS Superintendent Rob Neu is challenging local business leaders to play a greater role in funding schools and supporting students. Class started on Tuesday for students in the rebuilt Moore elementary school after the previous building was destroyed by a tornado, killing seven students. Previously, M. Scott Carter of the Journal Record had revealed that the old building had been constructed with code violations, without which it likely would have withstood the tornado. Confusion and glitches with a new enrollment process meant that hundreds of Tulsa Public School students were unable to start school on Wednesday. After struggling with years of lagging student achievement, three Tulsa elementary schools are opening with nearly all-new faculties.

The OK Policy Blog re-examined the novel Kind of Kin, which explores the fallout of immigration politics on a small Oklahoma town. We had recommended the book last summer, but revisited in light of recent immigration issues. The author, Oklahoman Rilla Askew, recently published an essay in This Land Press about growing up near McAlester. Some local officials say that the city of Lawton saw economic benefits from increased activity at Fort Sill when some 1,500 refugee children from Central America were housed there this summer. We’ve debunked some myths about the children at Fort Sill before.

A state senator  who helped write a law a law that took effect in 2013 giving the state Department of Mental Health greater oversight into Narconon Arrowhead expressed dismay over reports that the agency buried the results of an investigation into the facility.  Three Narconon patients have died at the facility since 2011. Al Jazeera America examined an Oklahoma juvenile sex offender program with very high success rates, which the program credits to its emphasis on not treating children like criminals. A Tulsa World editorial questioned why the state has so far refused to release its records of a botched execution in April. In their final debate, Tulsa county district attorney candidates discussed office operations and procedural issues. The state Ethics Commission is considering amending its rules to allow the agency to collect fees for training events and materials.

According to a new study, the state of Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban could be costing the state over $20 million in a three-year period. The state Banking Commission says that it is not planning to add any new legislation. The National Park Service has awarded two Native American tribes in Oklahoma nearly $100,000 in grants to assist in the return of human remains and cultural artifacts. The Number of the Day is the total number of motor vehicles registered in Oklahoma in 2011. In today’s Policy Note, FiveThirtyEight discusses why there aren’t good statistics on the number of Americans killed by the police every year.

continue reading In The Know: Gov. Fallin applied for $3 million Affordable Care Act grant

[Summer Rerun] Read This: “Kind of Kin”

by | August 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Immigration | Comments (0)

This post, authored by then-intern Carly Putnam, first ran on our blog on July 25, 2013. It has been updated.

coverIt’s rare to find a novel set in Oklahoma; it’s rarer still to find a novel set in Oklahoma that actually feels like Oklahoma, with all of its quirks, dangers, and beauty. Author Rilla Askew is Oklahoman herself and it shows; Kind of Kin is funny, poignant, and very smart. The novel deftly describes the fallout of immigration politics in a small (but fierce) Oklahoma town. Competing factions of families, faith communities, local politicians, and the migrants themselves struggle to adjust as forces outside their control shape their worlds.

Kind of Kin was inspired by Oklahoma’s HB 1804, signed into law in 2007, which made it a felony to harbor undocumented immigrants (we analyzed HB 1804 here). HB 1804 was considered the nation’s most far-reaching immigration reform law until Arizona passed its own immigration reform in 2010. Although HB 1804 initially created widespread panic in the state’s Latino community, the alarm subsided as its effects proved less disruptive than initially feared.

continue reading [Summer Rerun] Read This: “Kind of Kin”

In The Know: Oklahoma schools begin academic year with more than 800 teacher vacancies

by and | August 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.

A new survey found Oklahoma public schools are still grappling with more than 800 teaching vacancies for the 2014-15 academic year. With the new school year beginning today, Tulsa Public Schools is still deciding where to send 600 3rd graders after reading testing results.  Oklahoma students taking the ACT exceeded the national average in meeting English and reading benchmarks, but they fell behind in math and science. Gloria Torres has become the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Oklahoma City school board. A new kind of partnership with three proposed charter schools in Tulsa could require a state attorney general’s opinion or change in law. An Oklahoma City substitute teacher shared his experience in an essay for This Land Press.

A federal indictment alleges that a Tulsa gang distributed $10 million worth of cocaine from Mexican cartels, murdered at least one witness, ran a dog-fighting ring and had a vast network of co-conspirators, including a former NFL player. Fifty-two members and associates of the gang were charged with 238 criminal offenses. Despite a decline in overall violent and property crime in Oklahoma over the past two years, the number of reported rapes has soared.  A second woman has joined a lawsuit against an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper accused of rape.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman out-raised GOP incumbent Mary Fallin during the most recent state Ethics Commission filing period. The Oklahoma Democratic Party has asked for an investigation into alleged ethics violations by Gov. Mary Fallin, over her involvement in two public service announcements that began airing in August. An Oklahoma tea party leader convicted of felony blackmail for sending a threatening email to a state lawmaker was sentenced Tuesday to pay a $1,000 fine. The two Democrats still in the race for state schools superintendent took in close to $300,000 each through Aug. 11.

Oklahoma’s Teachers’ Retirement System investments grew 22.4 percent last fiscal year, performing among the top 1 percent in the country. A lawsuit against the state Department of Mental Health alleges that the agency buried an investigation into a drug rehab facility where 3 patients died because they did not want to get involved with litigation involving the Church of Scientology. The Lost Ogle reported that  David Stanley Chrysler Jeep Dodge was hit with a record $350,000 fine for airing deceptive and misleading commercials.

Federal funding has been utilized to open a new health clinic in Afton for low-income patients. Tulsa’s sales-tax returns for July and August came in 1.9 percent over the same period last year and 3.6 percent above budget estimates. While a growing chorus of scientific research has linked Oklahoma’s spike in earthquake activity to oil and gas industry disposal wells, a new study suggests such artificial earthquakes are less intense than naturally occurring ones.

The Number of the Day is the total acres of farmland in Oklahoma, comprising 77% of all land in the state. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News reports that as more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma schools begin academic year with more than 800 teacher vacancies

In The Know: Tax credits hinder Oklahoma’s budget projections

by and | August 19th, 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 officials are concerned that Oklahoma is handing out millions of dollars in tax credits a year, but the state lacks basic information to predict their budget impact. As the political dust settles on third grade reading, the OK Policy Blog examined how the modified law is playing out in schools. In Tulsa, 9 more kids passed the reading test at the end of the summer and will advance to the 4th grade. Superintendent Keith Ballard is recommending Tulsa Public Schools partner with three new charter school operators.

Former lieutenant governor Jari Askins has been named interim executive director of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. A lawsuit filed in federal court Monday alleges that the University of Tulsa failed to protect a student from one of its prominent basketball players who has a history of facing sexual assault allegations. The Tulsa World examined the various policies Oklahoma universities have in place to educate students about the dangers of sexual violence on campus and to deal with reports of assault. A new USDA report estimates that middle-income parents of babies born last year will pay about $245,340 for the child to reach legal adulthood.

Early voting for the Aug. 26 runoff election starts Thursday, and voters have until Wednesday to request an absentee ballot for the runoff. Patients of at least one Oklahoma medical center had their personal information stolen in a data breach affecting 4.5 million patients nationwide. Oklahoma City is partnering with Langston University’s Goat Research Extension Program to turn a small herd of goats loose along the canal between Northwest Expressway and Wilshire Boulevard to keep weeds and brush in check. Wind energy developers in the northeast corner of the state are facing opposition from both environmentalists and oil interests.

The Ethics Commission will seek additional public comment regarding whether its Financial Disclosure Statements will be made available online and, if so, what information they will contain. The Office of Juvenile Affairs may need to consider shutting down some juvenile facilities next fiscal year if the Legislature does not increase its appropriations. Members of the Alcoholic Beverage and Laws Enforcement Commission were informed Friday that federal funds intended as reimbursement for the agency were diverted to satisfy another Oklahoma state agency’s debt. Tulsa is conducting a study on barriers to fair and equal housing opportunities in the city.

Activists in Oklahoma City last week celebrated the second anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – a program that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to be protected from deportation. Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma expect each campus will have about 2,000 students from other countries for the fall semester. The Washington Post examined how Oklahoma’s increase in immigration is connected to the state’s strong economy. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s unemployment rate in July, up slightly from June’s unemployment rate.

continue reading In The Know: Tax credits hinder Oklahoma’s budget projections

As the political dust settles on 3rd grade reading, what’s happening in schools?

by | August 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)
Rebecca Hollis

Rebecca Hollis

This post is by Rebecca Hollis, who worked with OK Policy during the summer as a Southern Education Leadership Initiative Fellow. Rebecca attends Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH and is part of the Philosophy, Politics, and the Public Honors Program.

In 2011, Oklahoma amended the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), requiring schools to retain third grade students who score “unsatisfactory” on the reading portion of the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT), unless the student meets certain exceptions. The upcoming school year is the first year that third graders will be retained under the law.

School districts and individual schools have implemented new strategies to comply with the law, including both preventative measures to increase OCCT scores and also remedial actions after the release of scores. While a focus on increased reading ability is important, some districts have experienced strain because of their increased efforts without sufficient funding. This post examines what is being done before and after retention to improve students’ reading scores.

continue reading As the political dust settles on 3rd grade reading, what’s happening in schools?

In The Know: Arrival of jail inmates puts most Oklahoma prisons over capacity

by and | August 18th, 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 Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ effort to shift thousands of state prisoners out of county jails has resulted in nearly two-thirds of state prisons being over capacity. In response, the agency is proposing to increase the capacity rating of prisons to include temporary beds. Tulsa-area educators responded positively to gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman’s latest education proposal to create a commission of state educators at all levels to develop and oversee educational standards. The latest episode of the OK PolicyCast shares highlights from a panel of education leaders at the 2014 Summer Policy Institute.

Hundreds of Oklahomans lined up overnight to get free medical care at an event run by Rural Area Medical Oklahoma. The Stillwater News Press discussed emails showing Governor Fallin’s administration appears to have made health care policy decisions based on politics, without considering how to help struggling Oklahomans. The Oklahoman argued that talking about mental health issues needs to become routine in Oklahoma, and and a Q&A by Jaclyn Cosgrove looks at what it’s like to suffer a mental health crisis.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission accepted an $11,000 settlement agreement with state Rep. Seneca Scott for violations of ethics rules. Though state revenue collections were up in July, officials are expecting a drop in August due to large number of amended returns that are claiming bigger tax refunds. The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is reporting more kids suffering from hunger. A $3.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help provide after-school tutoring and other programs at 13 high-poverty schools in Oklahoma. The City of Norman is considering a half-cent sales tax increase to fund $171 million in quality of life projects.

State officials and a former Narconon Arrowhead executive have been called to testify before a multicounty grand jury that is investigating the drug rehabilitation facility operated by the Church of Scientology. After years of revisions to laws concerning Oklahoma sex offenders, there is still confusion over the offender registry. The organizer of an effort to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma said it likely won’t be included on the November ballot because advocates won’t be able to collect enough petition signatures ahead of the deadline. As climate scientists predict hotter, dryer summers and more intense drought in the coming decades, state and local leaders in Oklahoma are trying to get residents to think differently about how they use water.

The Number of the Day is the average mortgage debt in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s policy note, The Crime Report discusses why ‘Shock and Awe’ policing with military hardware fails to protect public safety.

continue reading In The Know: Arrival of jail inmates puts most Oklahoma prisons over capacity

The Weekly Wonk August 17, 2014

by | August 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week, we explained that tobacco tax revenue declined last year, and why that was (mostly) good news. A guest blog post argued that Kansas’s recent downgraded credit rating is well-deserved. OK Policy is accepting applications for fall interns and research fellows – you can find out more and apply here.

The OK PolicyCast this week featured a discussion of this week’s headlines and highlights from the education panel from our Summer Policy Institute. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt shared the legacy of former Oklahoma governor and state senator Henry Bellmon. We had previously honored Gov. Bellmon with the 2014 Good Sense/Good Cents award. The Tulsa World described the event here. In our Editorial of the Week, the editor of blog The Lost Ogle explains why the blog is continuing its lawsuit against Gov. Fallin regarding documents withheld from an open records request.

Quote of the week:

“I do not like the direction this is going…we sound like we agree with seceding from the union. It is obstructionist. It is not constructive or productive – it is just sour grapes. It is not leading, it is taking the easy way out. And it is does not acknowledge the facts.”

- Katie Altshuler, Gov. Fallin’s Policy Director, in an email to the Governor’s Chief of Staff discussing whether the state should create Oklahoma’s health insurance exchange. The email was part of a trove of documents ordered released on Monday following a lawsuit over their release (Source:

Numbers of the day:

  • $549.33 – Financial aid grant dollars per undergraduate student provided by the State of Oklahoma during the 2011-12 academic year. Oklahoma ranks 24th in the nation for state grant dollars per student.
  • 2308 – Total number of adult Oklahomans who received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments (commonly known as “welfare”) in May 2014.
  • 28.3% – Percentage of Oklahomans reporting no physical activity. The national average is 22.9%.
  • $61,178 – Average household income in Oklahoma in 2013.
  • 71,245 MWh – Net annual energy savings from Oklahoma utility PSO’s energy efficiency programs in 2013, enough to power about 6,500 homes for a year.

What we’re reading:

OK PolicyCast: Episode 4

by | August 15th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)
How are Oklahoma educators like the common grackle? Listen to find out!

How are Oklahoma educators like the common grackle? Listen to find out!

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Today’s episode shares highlights from the education panel at the 2014 Summer Policy Institute. Guests include Jenks Principal Rob Miller, Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr, Booker T. Washington high school teacer Dr. Anthony Marshall, and OU professor and education researcher Dr. Curt Adams.

You can download the episode here or play it in your browser:

Public Radio Tulsa has also provided the full audio from many of the Summer Policy Institute panels.

Summer Policy Institute education panelists featured in today's podcast.

Summer Policy Institute education panelists featured in today’s podcast.

More on stories referenced in this episode:

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 222