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In The Know: Business leaders join Stitt transition team; new Judicial Nominating Commission chair; Pauls Valley nursing homes…

by | November 21st, 2018 | 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.

Note: In The Know will be on break Thursday and Friday for the holiday. The Weekly Wonk will also be on break this Sunday. We’ll be back Monday with a round-up of news from over the break!

In The News

Business leaders named to Stitt’s transition team: Jill Castilla, president and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond, will join Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt’s transition team, along with several other business leaders and government officials. Stitt’s office also announced chairs for seven policy advisory committees that will help shape his platform as governor. “We are excited for the talented Oklahomans who continue to join Oklahoma’s Turnaround,” Stitt said in a Tuesday release, which included a list of new team members. [NewsOK]

Ardmore attorney named chair of Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission: Mike Mordy, an attorney from Ardmore, has been elected chair of the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission. DB Green, a banker from Marlow, was chosen as the vice chair. Mordy succeeds Tulsan Steve Turnbo and Green succeeds Mordy at the vice chair position. [Tulsa World]

Despite uncertainty, Pauls Valley holds on to nursing homes: Pauls Valley saw its hospital close last month because of financial troubles. But that isn’t stopping the city from holding on to 28 nursing homes that only two months ago it said it acquired to save its only hospital. Instead of benefitting the hospital, city and nursing home officials say, Pauls Valley hopes to unlock millions of dollars in federal funds to improve the overall quality of health care in the community. [Oklahoma Watch]

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In The Know: Millions in overtime to staff prisons; vague laws for on-call state workers; revamped school report cards…

by | November 20th, 2018 | 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.

Note: In The Know will be on break Thursday and Friday for the holiday. The Weekly Wonk will also be on break this Sunday.

In The News

Oklahoma spends millions in overtime pay to staff prisons: Over pizza and soda in a strip mall restaurant, Oklahoma prison guards spoke with The Frontier about being so exhausted from working 60 to 70-hours a week that they sometimes fall asleep sleep while driving home. One man said he hit a mailbox after dozing off behind the wheel after work. Others said they can’t use their vacation or sick leave because there aren’t enough staff to cover for them. [The Frontier] In the latest OKPolicyCast episode, we spoke with Sterling Zearley of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association about problems facing correctional officers and other state workers

Oklahoma lawmakers asked to come up with clear rules for on-call state workers: The Oklahoma Public Employees Association is asking lawmakers to fix “extremely vague” laws governing on-call workers. Pittsburg County Adult Protective Services worker Courtney Fox said with seven workers there covering six counties, being on call is stressful. … OPEA’s Sean Wallace said state workers are dealing with on-call duty on top of poor pay and benefits. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Revamped school report cards have new look, different focus: After a two-year hiatus, school report cards are coming back. The school accountability tool underwent a significant revamp and will now include student test scores, a new way of measuring academic growth component and measures of chronic absenteeism and college readiness. [Oklahoma Watch]

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No family should be punished for accepting help when they need it

The proposed rule change will be available for public comment until December 10. Click here to submit your own public comment.

Bad luck or hard times can hit any of us, and when it happens we should all be able to seek and accept help to meet basic needs while we work to get back on our feet.  But for many Oklahoma families, that assurance of compassion and help may soon disappear. Recently proposed changes to federal immigration rules would make it harder for families to put food on the table, get medical care when they need it, pay for prescription drugs, and find a safe place to live.

The “public charge” test

Anyone seeking to come to the United State, or anyone already here legally seeking to stay here permanently, must demonstrate that they, or someone sponsoring them, can provide for their family so they won’t become dependent on the government. Current immigration rules consider a broad set of factors when considering applicants – age, health status, skills and education, and financial resources are just a few.  Any use of cash assistance programs (like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) is also considered a negative factor.

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Office of Juvenile Affairs makes improvements, but more work needed (Capitol Update)

by | November 19th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates | 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.

Last week the Office of Juvenile Affairs Board of Directors (OJA) approved a new, higher rate for some group home beds. They will provide intensive services to potentially aggressive or violent youths in OJA custody who need specialized mental health treatment. Several months ago, OJA asked mental health organizations for their best ideas for treating these kids if given the opportunity. I’m guessing the new rates signal an effort to implement some of these proposals. Thanks to OJA for its forward-thinking approach. It’s a truism that the earlier a child can get help to avoid involvement in the criminal justice system the better the likelihood of success. Some of these kids, with the right help, can avoid incarceration as adults. When they do, it will save a lot of heartache for them and their families and potential victims-and a lot of money for taxpayers.

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In The Know: School funding promise; Gov. Fallin to retire from politics; largest class of freshmen lawmakers…

by | November 19th, 2018 | 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.

In The News

School funding promise draws cautious optimism from teachers: Following an election year largely defined by battles over education, legislative leaders say public school funding will be a priority in 2019. Teachers and school organizations plan to hold lawmakers accountable to that pledge. [NewsOK 🔒]

After decades in politics, Gov. Mary Fallin says she is done: After nearly three decades of service, Gov. Mary Fallin said Friday she is done with politics. “I think so,” Fallin said when asked if her political career was over when her current term ends. “I have been serving in office since I was 35 years old.” Fallin is 63 and recently welcomed her first grandchild. [Tulsa World]

Lobbyists await largest number of freshmen lawmakers since statehood: Casey Murdock admits that he was lobbyists’ prime target during his first year at the state Capitol. After discovering conversations were happening outside the halls of the Capitol, the then-state representative said he went to every possible lobbyist-sponsored dinner he could in an effort to be the most informed legislator. [CHNI]

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The Weekly Wonk: Decrease in property crime; biggest issues facing state workers; key differences in this year’s election; and more

by | November 18th, 2018 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week, Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade analyzed court data and found property crime decreased in Oklahoma after SQ 780 reduced minor property crimes to misdemeanors. In a new episode of the OKPolicyCast, Strategy and Communications Director Gene Perry spoke with Sterling Zearley, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, about the biggest issues for state workers and what OPEA hopes to accomplish in next year’s legislative session. 

Executive Director David Blatt noted that while the general election gave the appearance of politics as usual in Oklahoma, there were several important differences this year. In his weekly Journal Record column, Blatt pointed to initiative petitions as a way to bring about progressive change in Oklahoma. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update gave us a forecast on four policy issues under Governor Stitt and a largely inexperienced legislature. 

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Carly Putnam spoke with Politico about the success of Medicaid expansion in red states and what that means for Oklahoma. Likewise, Blatt spoke with Healthcare Dive about the possibility of putting Medicaid expansion on the ballot in 2020. Perry spoke with Fox News and CBS News about the George Kaiser Family Foundation’s offer of $10,000 to relocate to Tulsa. Our annual State Budget Summit announcement was included in the Tulsa World’s Political Notebook.

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In The Know: Prison admissions surge; Oklahoma teens are smoking less; state senators take oath of office…

by | November 16th, 2018 | 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.

In The News

Prison admissions surge despite criminal justice reform, report say: Some Oklahoma prosecutors appear to be circumventing the intent of State Question 780, with the result that Department of Corrections admissions actually increased by 11 percent in the first year of the landmark criminal justice reform measure. That’s the conclusion of a report to be released Friday morning by Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and FWD.us, which are leading advocates for reducing the state’s prison population. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma teens are smoking less, but adults keep puffing: Oklahoma’s teens are making healthier choices. Adults, not so much. Smoking, obesity, binge drinking and physical inactivity went up among Oklahoma adults from 2016 to 2017. So did the percentage who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. The mortality rate increased, signaling that Oklahomans were dying younger than expected. [NewsOK 🔒]

Education takes center stage as Oklahoma state senators take oath of office: There will be future disagreements, but Wednesday was a day for smiles and introductions as the oath of office was administered to state senators who were either re-elected or won election for the first time this year. Twelve of the winning candidates will be new to the Senate, so one-fourth of the 48-member Senate will face a learning curve as they set out to conduct the people’s business. [NewsOK] House members will be sworn in Thursday. Stitt and other statewide elected officials will take the oath of office on Jan. 14. [Tulsa World]

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Oklahoma’s 2018 elections were different in many ways

by | November 15th, 2018 | Posted in Elections | Comments (3)

Looking at the headlines, the results of the November elections might give the impression that nothing much has changed in Oklahoma. Led by Governor-elect Kevin Stitt, Republicans swept all eight statewide offices for a third consecutive election, with all candidates winning by double-digit margins. Republicans also continued a 26-year streak of making gains in the Legislature at the time of general elections, picking up a net of three additional seats in the House while losing one in the Senate. Republicans will enjoy a 76-25 seat majority in the House and a 39-9 seat advantage in the Senate next year.

Still, while the election gave the appearance of politics as usual in Oklahoma, there were several important differences this year. Here are six ways that 2018 was not like other years in Oklahoma politics:

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In The Know: OK House Republicans pick leaders; property crime decreased after SQ 780; strong turnout makes ballot initiatives harder…

by | November 15th, 2018 | 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.

In The News

Oklahoma House Republicans pick leaders for next session: Dozens of newly elected state legislators are helping to pick their new leaders for the upcoming session that begins in February. In the House, the new Republican caucus on Wednesday picked Speaker of the House Charles McCall to serve another term as its top leader. McCall will be the speaker-elect until he’s formally elected in January. [AP News]

House Democrats to select new leader: Two central Oklahoma representatives are vying to become the next leader of the House Democrats, both pledging a mix of progressive and pragmatic approaches for a caucus that saw its numbers shrink during last week’s election. Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, told The Oklahoman they are seeking the position of minority leader, which will be decided by a caucus vote Thursday. [NewsOK]

Property crime decreased in Oklahoma as SQ 780 reduced punishments: Before 2016, stealing a smartphone in Oklahoma could be charged as a felony with the possibility of prison time. The passage of SQ 780 raised the felony theft threshold in Oklahoma from $500 to $1000, meaning a person has to steal something worth more than $1000 to be charged with felony larceny. These changes went into effect in July 2017, and the early returns are very encouraging: statewide reports of theft fell in Oklahoma between 2016 and 2017. [OK Policy]

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Property crime decreased in Oklahoma as SQ 780 reduced punishments

by | November 14th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (5)

Before 2016, stealing a smartphone in Oklahoma could be charged as a felony with the possibility of prison time. The passage of SQ 780 raised the felony theft threshold in Oklahoma from $500 to $1000, meaning a person has to steal something worth more than $1000 to be charged with felony larceny.  

These changes went into effect in July 2017, and the early returns are very encouraging: statewide reports of theft fell in Oklahoma between 2016 and 2017. After SQ 780 reduced minor property crimes to misdemeanors, rates of theft continued to fall. Lower crime numbers, coupled with the sharp decline in felony filings strongly support the idea that smart justice reform can lead to both less crime and less punishment. These positive trends should help to sustain justice reform efforts as Oklahoma works to reduce its world-leading incarceration rate.  

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