In 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.
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Today you should know that House lawmakers proposed 93 interim studies to explore before the 2015 legislative session begins in February, including a study of alternatives to Oklahoma’s lethal injection execution method. See the full list of proposed studies here. Due to the severity of some of Monday’s earthquakes in central Oklahoma, Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials inspected bridges within a 5-mile radius looking for potential structural damage. Federal officials say 255 children who were detained while trying to enter the U.S. illegally are currently being housed at Fort Sill.
On the OK Policy Blog, we called on Oklahomans to speak out against proposed copay increases on some of the poorest and sickest Oklahomans to cover a Medicaid funding shortfall. A limited amount of summer cooling assistance funds will be available to Oklahomans through a federal program designed to help low-income households that are extremely vulnerable to summer-heat stresses. KGOU discussed the role of state philanthropic leaders in promoting high quality early-childhood education in Oklahoma. Circulators of an initiative petition seeking to legalize medical marijuana said they have been repeatedly harassed by the Tulsa Police Department.
After a drought and late freeze that harmed this year’s wheat crops, late rains are making it harder to harvest the wheat that did grow. Oklahoma has lost about 8 percent of its swine inventory due to a virus sweeping across the country. Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler has filed a petition challenging the candidacy of his rivals in the Tulsa County DA election. The suit argues that state Rep. Fred Jordan and state Sen. Brian Crain are both constitutionally prohibited from being elected as DA because they approved a pay raise for the job in the Legislature this year. Sen. Crain has already suspended his campaign over this concern.
Tulsa Public schools started summer classes Monday that will be especially focused on helping third graders who didn’t pass a reading test. The Tulsa school board approved a preliminary budget that will fund an additional 25 classroom teachers, six assistant principals and 14 other positions to support teachers and principals. Tulsa World Photographer Mike Simons is walking all 16 miles of Peoria Avenue and sharing the stories of the people and places he discovers.
The Number of the Day is the total number of volunteer service hours performed by Oklahomans in 2012. In today’s Policy Note, NBC News shared stories in their own words from some of the thousands of children who have fled Central American countries to come to the United States.
In The News
House Lawmakers Propose 93 Topics To Explore In 2015
Alternatives to Oklahoma’s lethal injection execution method are among 93 topics House lawmakers hope to explore before the 2015 legislative session begins in February. The 101 House members had until last week to submit requests for studies to House Speaker Jeff Hickman, who will decide by July 11 which ones to approve. Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Mike Christian says his study into alternatives to Oklahoma’s method of executing death row inmates was prompted by the botched April 29 lethal injection of Clayton Lockett. Other topics requested for study include texting and driving, taxes, marriage and funding for health care and education.
Monday Earthquakes Prompt Bridge Inspections By ODOT
Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials said Monday due to the severity of some of Monday’s earthquakes in central Oklahoma, the department inspected bridges within a 5-mile radius looking for potential structural damage. Four bridges were inspected Monday morning, said Brenda Perry, spokeswoman for ODOT. Bridges inspected include a bridge over Crutcho Creek, the bridge over Choctaw road and the bridge over the North Canadian River in Harrah. One bridge on state highway 66 was inspected near Luther, as well. “The nearby bridges were checked and no damage was noticed,” Perry said.
255 immigrant children currently at Oklahoma base
Federal officials say 255 children who were detained while trying to enter the U.S. illegally are currently being housed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The children are mostly teenagers from Central America. They are among the more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors taken into custody at the border since October. Fort Sill is one of three facilities where the children are being held. The others are in Texas and California. Kenneth J. Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, did not immediately respond to a follow-up email on Monday about when the children arrived at the Army base.
Act quickly to stop harmful Medicaid changes
A few weeks ago, we reported on the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s plan to increase copayments for Medicaid recipients in an effort to cut costs in the face of a $90 million budget shortfall. These copay increases could be devastating to Oklahoma’s poorest and sickest citizens, and they won’t even save money in the long run. Oklahomans need to act quickly to stop the fee hikes from taking effect. The Health Care Authority Board will meet on Thursday, June 26th to consider adopting an Emergency Rule to increase the copayments. In our new fact sheet, we explain why Oklahoma should not hike Medicaid copays.
Summer cooling assistance available for low-income households
A limited amount of summer cooling assistance funds will be made available across the state through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which is administered through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS). The funds are designed to help low-income households that are extremely vulnerable to summer-heat stresses. DHS will begin taking applications Tuesday July 8, and will continue until all allocated funds are depleted. DHS has approximately $17 million in federal funds for this year’s Summer Cooling Program in Oklahoma. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on each household’s income and assets.
Two Of Oklahoma’s Major Philanthropies Stay Grounded Through Local Focus
A 2012 study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Oklahoma 11th in terms of generosity, with a typical Oklahoma household putting about 5.6 percent of its discretionary income toward charitable giving. Those donations were fueled by Oklahoma City, whose residents ranked as the 7th most-generous among the top 50 most-populous metropolitan areas. Ken Levit is the Executive Director of the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation. He says what makes philanthropy unique in Oklahoma is that many of the large foundations focus on state issues, rather than national or regional problems.
Medical marijuana petitioners accuse Tulsa police of harassment
Circulators of an initiative petition seeking to legalize medical marijuana on Monday said they have been harassed by the Tulsa Police Department. Chip Paul, chairman of Oklahomans for Health, said that on four days last week, police came to locations where his group was attempting to gather signatures to get the issue on the ballot. The locations were publicized in advance, he said. Police asked the volunteers to leave, Paul said. When they responded that they were exercising a constitutional right to petition government, police began asking for identification, he said.
Oklahoma’s late rains further harm wheat crop
The rain that could have been a blessing has become a curse.“We have been dry for three years, and it started raining 10 days ago,” said Blackwell wheat farmer Harold Wooderson. The drought and a late freeze harmed this year’s wheat crops, dragging down the yield. Now that it’s early June, it’s time to harvest. But the wheat can’t be cut when it’s wet. And storing damp wheat makes it spoil. Farmers have to wait until the dew dries. Now they’re having to wait for rain to stop and the sun to dry the crops. The longer they wait, the more grass and weeds will grow in the fields.
Oklahoma Loses Eight Percent Of Swine Inventory To Virus
Oklahoma has lost about 8 percent of its swine inventory due to a virus sweeping across the country, and the executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council says the loss has driven consumer prices higher. Roy Lee Lindsey tells The Journal Record that prices are going to rise another 10 to 12 percent throughout the summer. Low supplies have already driven domestic prices 40 percent higher in recent months and current exports are up 10 percent compared with a year ago.
Steve Kunzweiler files legal challenge in Tulsa County DA’s race
The race to select a new Tulsa County district attorney took another turn Monday, with one candidate taking court action to challenge the eligibility of the other two who filed for the office. Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler filed a petition Monday in Oklahoma County District Court, seeking a judicial finding that the other two men who filed for the District Attorney’s Office — state Rep. Fred Jordan and state Sen. Brian Crain — are both prohibited under the state constitution from being elected to the office. Crain had voluntarily withdrawn from the race on May 23, saying he had discovered the day before that a judicial pay raise, approved by the state Legislature that week, made him ineligible to hold the office.
Tulsa Third-Graders Getting Extra Reading Help In Summer School
Tulsa Public schools started summer classes Monday. All grades are involved, but third-grade reading classes are getting extra attention. At Anderson Elementary, a majority of the children didn’t pass the state reading test, so they’ll repeat third grade. That’s unless they can get their skills up through summer school. In Gaylin Zajic’s class – the next four weeks will be spent on just one subject. “No PE, no recess, no music, just reading, only reading because we want them to be successful,” said third-grade reading teacher Gaylin Zajic.
Tulsa school board contemplates preliminary budget with increase of half-percent over 2014
The Tulsa school board approved a preliminary budget Monday evening that will fund an additional 25 classroom teachers, six assistant principals and 14 other positions to support teachers and principals. The 2014-15 budget of $310.1 million reflects an overall increase of nearly $1.57 million, or 0.5 percent, over the fiscal year ending June 30. The board also voted to approve the school district’s participation in a program by the national philanthropy Wallace Foundation that could bring in $800,000 over the next four years to train current Tulsa principals or former principals now working at the central office to one day be future principal supervisors or instructional leadership directors.
Street Level: Peoria – Walking in the shadow of the city
Tulsa World Photographer Mike Simons will walk all 16 miles of Peoria Avenue this year and share the stories of the people and places he discovers. This is the fourth part of an occasional series. For several blocks a loud whistle echoes, followed by a woman yelling “Egyyyyypt!” Standing on the front porch of a small clapboard house, Sam Drywater looks distraught. Her dog Egypt is missing, and she cannot figure out why. “He’s just gone and I can’t find him,” she says, adding that he was chained up in the fenced front yard. She woke up early to take her father to work. After she took a nap, Egypt was gone.
Quote of the Day
“I’ve had parents, and even some of the children tell me, ‘There is no childhood here. There’s not any calculated attempt to game the system. There’s just one last attempt to survive, and try to have some quality of life.”
-Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who is researching the causes of child migration in Central America. Currently 255 children who were detained crossing the border are being held at Fort Sill (Source: http://nbcnews.to/1vzY2Ft)
Number of the Day
Total number of volunteer service hours performed by Oklahomans in 2012.
Border Children Tell Their Stories: Why We Came to the US
Cesar was four years old when a group of men in his tiny hometown killed his father. He was a teenager when he says the same group of men began to threaten his older brother. At age 17, tired of hiding in his house, Cesar left the poverty, violence and drug gangs of Guatemala behind and set out for the U.S. “I wanted to escape all of that,” he said. “You arrive at a point where you can take no more.” He joined a wave of Central American children crossing the U.S. border that is now overwhelming the federal government. Just four years ago, about 6,000 unaccompanied kids crossed the border annually. The numbers jumped in 2011 and have doubled every year since.
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