In The Know: Superintendent-Elect Hofmeister Announces Transition Team

by | November 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Superintendent-Elect Joy Hofmeister announced on Thursday that she had selected a group of Oklahomans to advise her as she transitions into her new role as Superintendent of Public Instruction. The state Regents for Higher Education, which oversees Oklahoma’s 25 colleges and universities, is asking for nearly $100 million in additional funding for the next fiscal year, bringing their total requested appropriation to more than $1 billion. Oklahoma’s preterm birth rate has dropped, but still remains well above targets, prompting the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card to award the state a ‘C’ grade.

 The Tulsa World argued that recent drops in oil prices are bad for Oklahoma because so much of the state’s economy relies on the industry. In his Journal Record column, Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton suggested three takeaways from the recent elections. The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board praised new transparency laws that went into effect on Saturday. The state received $1 million in federal Affordable Care Act funds to help establish or expand behavioral health services for almost 3,000 people. State health officials say that at least 14 people have been diagnosed with the flu in Oklahoma since late September. We’ve written about why everyone should get a flu shot before.

A spate of domestic violence-related homicides in Tulsa this summer has prompted plans for a summit on the issue in early 2015. A blog post on the New York Times’ editorial blog praised the state Supreme Court for blocking two laws would have closed all but one of the state’s abortion providers. The state Supreme Court has elected John Reif to serve as the Court’s new chief justice, replacing Chief Justice Tom Colbert, who will rotate out of the position. 

The Chickasaw Nation is partnering with a tech start-up that’s developing an app to help women on WIC determine which grocery items are WIC-eligible and where they can be purchased. The Number of the Day is the number of obstetricians and gynecologists working in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox examines the plight of workers trapped in forced labor in the US.

continue reading In The Know: Superintendent-Elect Hofmeister Announces Transition Team

In The Know: Oklahoma voter turnout in governor’s race is lowest on record

by and | November 6th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Voter turnout in Oklahoma’s election Tuesday was possibly the lowest on record in a state gubernatorial election, according to an analysis of state voting data by Oklahoma Watch. Ervin Yen, the newly elected State Senator for District 40, will become the first Asian-American in the Oklahoma state legislature. David Blatt’s Journal Record column suggests an agenda for Gov. Mary Fallin’s second term, following a reelection campaign in which she said almost nothing about what she would do. Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation said they are ready to work with President Barack Obama on issues such as road building, the Keystone pipeline, foreign trade, financial reform and U.S. military actions in Syria.

A group home for juvenile offenders in Custer County will close after four years because runaways are causing concerns in the community. The deadline for a threatened takeover of the Oklahoma County jail passed Wednesday without a word from the U.S. Department of Justice. A 2009 agreement had given the jail five years to make changes to end civil rights abuses. Oklahoma’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs Rita Aragon suffered a “mini stroke” Tuesday and has been hospitalized. Oklahoma’s state treasurer says falling crude oil prices could darken an otherwise bright revenue picture for the state.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed why Oklahomans should get flu shots. Now that the election’s over, Tulsa’s Metropolitan Environmental Trust Director Michael Patton discussed the best way to dispose of campaign signs. OK Policy’s David Blatt will be among the honorees at the inaugural Dan Allen Social Justice Awards tonight. The city of Denton, Texas voted to ban fracking on Tuesday due to concerns about pollution of drinking water, but a state agency is attempting to override the ban.

The Number of the Day is the average amount of money saved, in medical expenses and lost productivity, for each suicide prevented in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports that only 11 percent of uninsured Americans know about the Affordable Care Act’s next open enrollment period beginning November 15.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma voter turnout in governor’s race is lowest on record

Go get your flu shot. Yes, you. Now.

by | November 5th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
Photo by David Reber used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by David Reber used under a Creative Commons license

What’s highly contagious, put over 1,000 people in the hospital and killed nearly 60 people in Oklahoma last year alone?

It’s certainly not Ebola. It is, in fact, the flu – and flu season is upon us. The state recently announced its first confirmed cases this year. That means it’s time for your reminder that the flu is easily transmitted, miserably uncomfortable at best, and deadly at worst.

Fortunately, keeping the flu away requires neither travel bans nor hazmat suits. All it takes is a flu shot, which lessens the likelihood that you’ll get the flu and pass it on. While it’s recommended that everyone get vaccinated, it’s strongly recommended for particular groups: children age 6 months to 4 years; adults age 50 and older; people with chronic disorders or who are immunodepressed; pregnant women; and nursing home residents and health care personnel. But seriously, everyone should get one. And that includes you*.

continue reading Go get your flu shot. Yes, you. Now.

In The Know: GOP sweeps all state offices, grows majority in Senate

by and | November 5th, 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.

Gov. Mary Fallin won a second term yesterday, defeating Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman in another GOP sweep of all statewide offices. Republicans also increased their majority in the state Senate by four seats. You can see Oklahoma’s statewide and federal election results here and local results here. Joy Hofmeister pulled away from rural educator John Cox to become Oklahoma’s next superintendent of public instruction. U.S. Rep Markwayne Mullin easily won reelection last night, but he might have to face another election because his Democratic opponent died from injuries in a car accident before the election. State law may allow parties to replace deceased candidates, even if it requires a special election. Republican Steve Russell captured the congressional seat representing Oklahoma City. He’s the first Oklahoma Congressman, at least in recent history, that didn’t actually live in the district when he was elected.

Oklahoma voters on Tuesday handily approved three state questions designed to clarify and expand laws related to military personnel and veterans. OK Policy previously examined SQ 769, which allows military guard members to hold elected office, and SQs 770 and 771, which expand property tax breaks for some veterans and their families. On the OK Policy Blog, we looked at reasons behind why Oklahomans are voting at some of the lowest levels in the nation. The Oklahoma Supreme Court put on hold two new laws that would make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions in the state. All state Supreme Court members were retained in office in yesterday’s elections.

Two energy sector companies may get up to $15.7 million in incentive payments through the state’s Quality Jobs Program over the next 10 years. An OK Policy report previously discussed concerns about the growing cost and gaps in oversight of this program. Six more counts have been filed against an Oklahoma City police officer after three more reported victims, including a 17-year-old girl, have come forth alleging he forced them to commit sex acts while he was on duty. NewsOK reported on how an Oklahoma man accused of damaging Ten Commandments monument has struggled with mental illness. Religion Dispatches discussed why Oklahoma’s two recent beheading murders by a “Muslim” and a “Christian” should challenge our narratives around religion and violence.

The Number of the Day is how many fewer Oklahomans voted in this year’s governor’s race compared to 2010, a 20 percent drop in turnout. In today’s Policy Note, The American Prospect looks at the red states that approved minimum wage increase ballot initiatives last night.

continue reading In The Know: GOP sweeps all state offices, grows majority in Senate

Why we don’t vote

by | November 4th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (5)
Photo by Vox Efx.

Photo by Vox Efx.

Sunday’s Tulsa Word featured a series of short articles by nine Tulsans explaining why they vote. These citizens spoke eloquently of their sense of civic obligation and responsibility. They spoke of the hard struggles that prior generations had fought to earn the right to vote for women and African-Americans, and of the journeys from distant lands their ancestors had traveled to gain the privileges of a free and democratic society.  They spoke of the importance of elections to ensure that they have a voice and that their representatives are held accountable.

And yet the World may have been asking the wrong question of the wrong people. In 2010, the last Gubernatorial election, less than half of Oklahoma’s eligible voters – 40.4 percent – cast a ballot. In 2014, turnout is likely to be even lower. When a majority of citizens don’t turn out to select their Governors, Congressmen, and other top state and federal elected officials, the question that most urgently needs to be asked may not be “Why I vote” but rather “Why I don’t vote.”

continue reading Why we don’t vote

In The Know: It’s Election Day, go vote

by and | November 4th, 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 today? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

Oklahoma’s voter turnout has been one of the lowest in the nation in recent years, and political forecasters don’t expect the trend will change today. OK Policy has shared a series of posts on why democracy is broken in Oklahoma. A large number of state lawmakers have already been reelected because no one filed to challenge them in the general election. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed a few close state legislative races to watch today. An 81-year-old Democrat challenging Rep. Markwayne Mullin for a U.S. House seat in eastern Oklahoma has died from injuries he sustained in a car accident.

The Oklahoma Attorney General ruled that the Workers Compensation Commission must hold its deliberations in public. The Tulsa World discussed why a woman with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon to obtain a physician-assisted suicide would not be able to do that in Oklahoma. OETA’s Executive Director said he had been asked by the Legislature to develop plans for operating the public television network without state funding. Oklahoma City Public Schools has nearly quadrupled the size of its curriculum department in recent months, but officials say the district remains severely understaffed compared to similarly sized districts.

Since new abortion restrictions took effect in Oklahoma on Saturday, one of the two abortion clinics in the state has been forced to halt its services. Another law taking effect Saturday makes several prescription drugs now subject to Oklahoma’s drug trafficking laws. Customers wanting to generate power from small wind turbines and solar panels without being assessed fees rushed to make their installations fully operational by Saturday. Controversial statements by Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern and Rep. John Bennett were featured in a segment on John Oliver’s HBO show about the importance of voting in state elections. The Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice is launching a campaign against anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric by state legislators.

Thousands of newly digitized American Indian records held by the Oklahoma Historical Society are now available to Ancestry.com subscribers. October revenue numbers brought more bad news for Kansas’ budget, which has faced huge shortfalls after the state approved major income tax cuts. The Number of the Day is the median annual wage of a substance abuse counselor in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox discusses why the most important elections happening today are for state offices, not Congress.

continue reading In The Know: It’s Election Day, go vote

State legislative races to watch tomorrow (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | November 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (0)

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot tomorrow? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

The 2014 elections are finally coming to an end tomorrow.  In several states there are hotly contested, well financed campaigns that have filled the airways and mail boxes with campaign ads.  In Oklahoma, not so much.  Joe Dorman has waged a creditable campaign but still faces long odds having been able to raise only about a third of the money Governor Fallin has raised.  The race for State Superintendent seems to be the most exciting-if only because the candidates had several publicized debates.  The candidates in the two U.S. Senate races and the governor’s race have hardly engaged each other.  You really can’t blame a candidate, especially an incumbent who is way ahead, for not agreeing to several debates.  The idea of an election is to win, not to be a good sport.  Why would you want to give your unknown opponent free publicity?

continue reading State legislative races to watch tomorrow (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: Close state superintendent race turns contentious

by and | November 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

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 rhetoric has grown more contentious in the race for state superintendent, which polls show remains very close on the eve of the election. The okeducationtruths blog argued that both candidates will be an effective advocate for funding and common sense when it comes to school regulations. Brett Dickerson wrote that there may be a power struggle between the governor’s office and state superintendent after the election. The state of education funding and whether to accept federal funds for health care have been key issues in the campaign for governor. With 53 Republicans in both chambers of the state Legislature running unopposed, Republicans’ super-majority control is unlikely to change in this election. New voter registration statistics for Oklahoma show Democrats still outnumber Republicans, but the gap is narrowing. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed why covering the uninsured is not a hard problem if we only have the political will to do it. A recent OK Policy issue brief found that the Medicaid expansion’s track record in other states shows it’s a good deal for Oklahoma. 

The deaths of 17 developmentally disabled people transferring or already transferred out of two large state-run institutions are raising questions about whether the closing of the centers put residents’ health at risk. Former caretakers at the facility said they believed the private-care providers residents had been transferred to were too inexperienced. NewsOK examined how home builders are seeking to make homes more accessible for seniors to remain in. Oklahoma’s large number of earthquakes is overwhelming the Oklahoma Geological Survey’s attempts to make timely recommendations about oil and gas wastewater disposal wells that are likely to be triggering them.

Laws that expand gun rights, help combat domestic violence, create new abortion restrictions and expand the punishment for human trafficking are among about 250 new Oklahoma laws that went into effect Saturday. The Tulsa World examined how a fight over funding the Tulsa County Jail could lead to tax increases, service cuts, and costly litigation. Wayne Greene wrote that Oklahoma’s lottery has been a modest success at boosting education funding. The OK Policy Blog previously explained why the lottery hasn’t solved all of Oklahoma’s education funding struggles. Oklahoma’s gross revenue collections during September grew by more than 8 percent compared to the prior year, with every major state tax growing except for the corporate income tax. Although Oklahoma’s unemployment rate remains stable, the total labor force has shrunk by 38,410 over the last 12 months.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans received aid purchasing food from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Journalist’s Resource summarizes the state of research into the environmental impact of fracking.

continue reading In The Know: Close state superintendent race turns contentious

The Weekly Wonk November 2, 2014

by | November 2nd, 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.

As Oklahoma voters get ready to go to the polls on Tuesday, our 2014 Elections page provides you all the information you need on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

This week on the OK Policy blog, we ran a series of guest posts as part of our “Broken Democracy” project. Dr. Randal Buriss offered several ideas for improving representative democracy in Oklahoma; University of Tulsa student Nikki Hager looked at what could be done to boost voter turnout among the millennial generation, and Ryan Kiesel made the case for multi-member electoral districts as a way to give Oklahoma voters more and better electoral choices.  Meanwhile, David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed what’s behind the decline in voting among Oklahomans. You can find more discussion of Oklahoma’s broken democracy here.

Also on our blog, Steve Lewis’ weekly Capitol Update discusses a recent legislative study on how to cover Oklahoma’s uninsured. An article in the Daily Ardmorite about the legislative study cites OK Policy’s recent issue brief shows how the track record of Medicaid expansion in other states shows why it would be a good deal for Oklahoma. Our health care data is also cited in a Muskoee Pheoeix article about the candidates for Senate District 8. In our Editorial of the Week, The Oklahoman Editorial Board argued that lawmakers can’t be ‘tough on crime’ if they aren’t fully funding corrections.

Next Monday, November 10th, OK Policy will host Dr. Lawrence R. Jacobs, a leading national expert on health care policy, for his lunchtime talk, “The 2014 Elections and the Future of Health Reform,” at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. There are just a few days left to purchase tickets, which are $15 and include a full meal.

Quote of the Week

“In the last 16 years, only three initiative petitions qualified for the statewide ballot. Every other state question reached the ballot via action by the state’s elected powers that be – the Legislature. This begs the question: Is it too difficult – nigh on impossible, really – for rank-and-file Oklahomans to take matters into their own hands when they can’t get lawmakers to act?”

-Journal Record columnist Arnold Hamilton (Source: http://bit.ly/1wNeNyQ)

See prior Quotes of the Day here

Numbers of the Day

  • 22% – Graduation success rate of Oklahoma State University men’s basketball players who enrolled in 2007, the lowest in the Big 12

  • 260 – The number of Atmospheric and Space Scientists who worked in Oklahoma in 2013.

  • 1,900 -The number of Oklahomans with physical or mental disabilities who obtained gainful employment through services provided by the Department of Rehabilitation Services in 2013.

  • 87 percent – The percentage of Oklahomans who acknowledge that the climate is changing; 72 percent believe past warming has been caused by humans.

See prior Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

 

 

Covering the uninsured is not a hard problem (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | October 31st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

The House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Public Health and Social Services, chaired by Rep. Doug Cox (R-Grove), an emergency room physician, took up three interim studies this week on the topic of trying to find a way to provide healthcare for Oklahoma’s 665,000 uninsured.  Over 17% of our population is uninsured which means over 1 in 6 people.  The three studies were requested by Rep. Emily Virgin, Rep. David Perryman, Rep. Joe Dorman and Rep. Chuck Hoskin, all Democrats.  It’s encouraging that Speaker Jeff Hickman, our Republican Speaker, approved the studies, something he didn’t have to do.

continue reading Covering the uninsured is not a hard problem (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

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