In The Know: Assisted living CEO made DHS director; floods costing $2 million-plus; heroin overdose deaths spike…

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.

New from OK Policy

OKPolicyCast 49: Black Wall Street Times (with Nehemiah Frank): In this episode I spoke to Nehemiah Frank. We talked about the history of Black Wall Street, including some of the aspects of that history that haven’t gotten as much attention, even amid renewed focus on the 1921 race massacre. We also talked about education and continuing inequities for black Oklahomans, and how optimistic we should be, or not be, about addressing those inequities. [OK Policy]

End of Session Round-Up: Criminal justice reform was not enough of a legislative priority in 2019: Oklahoma incarcerates its citizens at a higher rate than any other place on Earth. If Oklahoma does not take action to reverse current trends accommodating prison growth will cost the state nearly $1 billion. At the beginning of the recent legislative session, OK Policy focused on a number of key policy priorities to reverse the expensive and unsustainable growth of our prison population. [OK Policy]

In The News

Stitt hires assisted living CEO as Oklahoma DHS director: Gov. Kevin Stitt has named a new director for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services: Justin Brown, an OKC investment capitalist involved in senior assisted living projects across three states. [NonDoc] Justin Brown, chief executive of Villagio Capital Partners, was introduced by Gov. Kevin Stitt at a press conference held at the state Capitol. He will replace Ed Lake, 70, who is retiring after serving as the agency’s executive director for nearly seven years. [Journal Record]

Office of Disability Concerns discusses advocacy, DHS director: The governor’s advisory committee to the Oklahoma Office of Disability Concerns met Tuesday hours after Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Justin Brown as the new head of the Department of Human Services. Committee members reviewed the 2019 legislative session, discussed challenges facing disabled Oklahomans and celebrated increased appropriations — with cake. [NonDoc]

Okla. transportation director says floods costing $2 million-plus: Recent rains already are costing taxpayers $2 million — and counting, transportation officials said Monday Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Tim Gatz said the total extent of the damage is unknown until the floodwaters, which submerged roadways and neighborhoods statewide, finally begin to recede. Then crews can finally get out and assess the destruction. [CHNI]

Drug company employee testifies about sales calls, warning labels: As Oklahoma’s opioid epidemic grew over the past two decades, people paid by Johnson & Johnson spent a lot of time talking to Oklahoma doctors about pain management. Whether those discussions were aimed at educating Oklahoma doctors about the benefits and risks of their opioid painkillers or were efforts to exert influence to pump up sales is one of the key questions that Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman must decide. [The Oklahoman]

Warning issued as heroin-related overdose deaths spike across state: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is warning residents of the state after identifying a spike in heroin deaths over the past week, possibly due to fentanyl laced doses of the drug. Seven Oklahomans have died from a suspected heroin overdose since May 27 — five in the Oklahoma City metro area and two in the Tulsa metro area. [Enid News & Eagle]

Homeless population increases by 8 percent in Oklahoma City, survey says: There was an 8% increase in the official number of people experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City, according to the 2019 Point in Time count results released Tuesday. On Jan. 24, the day of the count earlier this year, there were 1,273 individuals counted in shelters and transitional housing, at meal sites and on the streets. [The Oklahoman] Over 600 concerned city residents came to the Tower Theater Tuesday night to hear about the city’s homelessness situation. [Free Press OKC]

Constitutional concerns arise in county debate over pretrial release program: A debate over whether or not to continue the county’s successful pretrial release program following recent personnel shortages rested on constitutional claims. The board of county commissioners, Monday, considered a temporary shutdown of the county pretrial services program following the resignations of two key personnel. [Claremore Daily Progress]

New law challenged by members of alcohol industry: The Oklahoma State Supreme Court was asked Tuesday to block the implementation of a new alcohol distribution law. Fourteen petitioners from local and national alcohol businesses are challenging Senate Bill 608. [The Oklahoman] Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the bill into law on May 13. The new law requires the top 25 wine and spirits manufacturers to offer their products to all wholesalers. [Journal Record ????]

Optometrists, Walmart prove the value of compromise: Back in November, I wrote an opinion piece discussing access to vision care issues in Oklahoma in the wake of State Question 793’s narrow defeat. I argued the institutional interests who had opposed SQ 793’s constitutional proposal — chiefly the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians — should ask and answer a simple question: “If SQ 793 was not the appropriate pathway to improving Oklahomans’ access to life-changing vision care, what can we do in 2019 to help our fellow citizens?” [Tres Savage / NonDoc]

States that spend the most (and the least) on education: Schools in some states receive much larger sums of money — up to three times more per pupil — than in other states. Where the money comes from differs, too. And how schools opt to spend their funding varies significantly from state to state. The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its Annual Survey of School System Finances, depicting revenues and spending for all public elementary-secondary school systems in 2017. [Governing]

Boosted Oklahoma film incentives expected draw more productions: For almost two decades, Oklahoma has been offering rebates to filmmakers creating projects in the state. But the state’s incentive program is getting a potentially blockbuster boost. Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed Senate Bill 200, which offers two incentive packages designed to keep local productions in Oklahoma and to attract new and larger productions. [The Oklahoman]

OKC state Rep. Stone will not seek re-election: Democratic state Rep. Shane Stone will not seek re-election in his reliably blue Oklahoma City district next year. Stone, the House assistant minority leader and a vocal member of the House Democrats, announced Tuesday he will leave office at the end of 2020 after six years in the Oklahoma Legislature. [The Oklahoman]

Hamon challenges Oklahoma City incentives to defense contractor: “I didn’t expect to win,” Ward 6 Oklahoma City Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon told Free Press at the end of Tuesday’s Council meeting. She had just argued against an economic development deal in the works for the past year to bring one of the top defense contractors to one of downtown’s office buildings. [Free Press OKC] Hamon ultimately voted against paying $250,000 to Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. for the creation of 130 new jobs downtown, as did council members James Cooper and Nikki Nice. The vote passed 6-3. [Journal Record]

OKC City Council adds 65 positions, approves budget: People occupy a prominent place in Oklahoma City’s 2019-2020 budget, from bus riders to the homeless to the city workforce. The $1.55 billion budget taking effect July 1 includes a record $482 million for the general fund, the primary account for day-to-day services such as police and fire protection. [The Oklahoman]

OU names Guzman as interim law dean: Katheleen Guzman has been appointed interim dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, a position previously held by Interim President Joseph Harroz. Guzman, who had been the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law and MAPCO/Williams Presidential Professor, will remain interim until Harroz’s potential position becomes more clear. [Norman Transcript]

Horn co-sponsors marijuana banking bill: The state’s lone liberal representative in Washington, D.C., has earned a little appreciation from the normally conservative-leaning Oklahoma Bankers Association. U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., announced Tuesday that she is co-sponsoring the SAFE Banking Act, or H.R. 1595, which is intended to let banks provide account services to other businesses involved in the burgeoning marijuana trade. [Journal Record ????]

Lankford worried about “tariff war” with Mexico, while Lucas urges approval of long-term trade agreement: U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, whose western Oklahoma district relies heavily on agricultural exports, said Tuesday that he’s more concerned about renewing long-term trade agreements with Mexico and Canada than President Donald Trump’s threats to impose tariffs next week on Mexican goods. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“People in this city are not just open-minded about a different set of priorities this time for MAPS, but actually started demanding a different set of priorities.”

-Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, speaking about the possibility of using part of a MAPS 4 sales tax to address homelessness [OKC Free Press]

Number of the Day

$1.57 billion

The amount requested by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for additional beds, hepatitis C treatment, critical facility repairs, and staff raises in FY 2020. The increase approved by lawmakers this year was $38.3 million (2.4% of the request).

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Raj Chetty has an idea for introducing students to econ that could transform the field — and society: After the financial crisis, many economists have concluded that Econ 101 is broken across the university system and is not preparing students for a world where markets frequently fail. Chetty’s class offers a new way to teach an introductory course, yet at the same time is more closely aligned with what contemporary economic research looks like. [Vox]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

One thought on “In The Know: Assisted living CEO made DHS director; floods costing $2 million-plus; heroin overdose deaths spike…

  1. Thanks for providing that rundown. A rich man again is placed in charge of Human Services. What will his agenda be to help poor children and dysfunctional families?

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