In The Know: Battle brewing for state Republican party’s tone, direction

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

There seems to be a battle brewing for state Republican party’s tone, direction: In the past two years, Oklahoma voters have made alcohol and medical marijuana more readily available, reformed criminal justice procedures, reaffirmed a state constitutional ban on using state resources for religious purposes and turned away nine incumbent Republican lawmakers in their own party’s primaries. Clearly, something is going on. Mostly, it seems the policy points that carried Oklahoma Republicans to power over the last quarter-century aren’t working with voters the way they used to [Tulsa World].

Cities, counties begin dialogue on zoning, other details of medical marijuana: Here’s something Tulsans might not know about State Question 788: It gives cities the authority to allow medical marijuana license holders and caregivers to have more marijuana than set forth in the referendum. But don’t expect that to happen. Mayor G.T. Bynum said he and his staff are beginning to explore the implications of the initiative, which will become law July 26 [Tulsa World]. With voter approval of State Question 788, Oklahoma gun owners join residents of 25 other states in a conflict between state and federal laws governing guns and marijuana [Tulsa World].

Groups Joust over Proposed Content of Medical Marijuana Regulations: The medical marijuana election is over, but jousting continues over the shape of proposed regulations. Some would like to see major changes in the law before it takes effect. Others would like to see just minor tweaks and the adoption of laboratory testing standards designed to ensure product safety. Supporters and opponents, alike, have been weighing in as the Oklahoma Health Department seeks to develop regulations to guide the new industry [NewsOK]. Medical Marijuana: From policy setting to cultivation to testing and transportation, many months will pass before Oklahomans can buy it [Tulsa World]. Looking for a new job? Oklahoma is looking for someone to run the medical marijuana bureaucracy [NewsOK].

Teachers Increase Candidate Numbers and Organization This Cycle: While speaking with voters on their front steps, Carri Hicks regularly invited them to take a mental tour of her fourth-grade classroom as she described the diminishing conditions that have come with an increase in students and a decrease in state funding. That exercise may have won Hicks enough votes to emerge from a competitive primary election last week, becoming the Democratic nominee in Oklahoma City’s Senate District 40 [NewsOK].

Public Schools Still Need to Fill Teacher Positions, Despite Pay Raise: Despite the approval of teacher pay raises earlier this year by the Oklahoma legislature, the state’s Education Department says there are still hundreds of teacher positions to fill. The department says it is considering 384 emergency teaching certifications right now.  But, they add, over 60 percent of those are renewals. In a tweet, the department indicates these renewals are because some teachers are choosing to stay in the classroom another year to continue trying to get full certification [News on 6]. Fact Sheet: Is education fully funded? [OKPolicy].

Now That Oklahoma’s Federal Medicaid Funding Is Climbing, Let’s Not Repeat past Mistakes: For Oklahoma families to prosper, they must be able to take advantage of work and educational opportunities. But working or doing well in school is much, much harder without consistent access to health care. SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, provides that needed care for more than one million low-income Oklahomans every year, two in three of whom are children. SoonerCare is an effective, efficient system that is funded by a combination of state and federal dollars [OKPolicy].

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Medical Marijuana, the Race for Governor & Teacher Pay: This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU’s Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about the election in Oklahoma which made medical marijuana legal in the state and saw a runoff election without Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, but instead between former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt [KOSU]. In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss what Todd Lamb’s loss means for the remaining gubernatorial candidates [KGOU].

With Winners, Losers Set, Oklahoma Voters Ready for Runoffs: Oklahoma voters are gearing up for another round of elections after turning out in large numbers for primary balloting. Among winners in Tuesday’s primary were dozens of schoolteachers campaigning for seats in the Legislature who advanced to runoff elections or won outright. They continued momentum following a walkout in April when educators demanded more funding for public education and teacher salaries [AP News]. Lawmakers weigh in on primary results [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Tulsa World Editorial: Your State Taxes Go up on Sunday, and That’s Good: State tax increases that will boost teacher pay go into effect Sunday. After several fits and starts, lawmakers accomplished the once-believed impossible task this spring by passing a revenue-raising measure with the three-fourths majority required by the state Constitution. The time was clearly right politically for a tax hike. Teacher pay ranked at the bottom nationally. The state’s prison population ranked at the top. Waiting lists or outright denial of services were increasingly common for ordinary social programs [Tulsa World]. Tax hikes funding teacher pay raises begin Sunday; Convenience stores, oil and gas industry brace for expected financial impact [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Falls in KIDS COUNT Rankings: Oklahoma’s not giving its children a very good start in life, according to an annual report that ranked the state 44th. The Kids Count report compares states based on children’s health, education and families’ economic and social well-being. Oklahoma has improved on some measures, but other states have improved faster, pushing Oklahoma farther down in the rankings. The 44th-place finish this year is its worst showing since at least 2012 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Ranked Last in Feeding Children During Summer, Report Finds: A new report just released shows Oklahoma ranks last in the nation when it comes to feeding children during the summer. The Department of Education and non-profits are now teaming up to end child hunger. There are more than 600 summer food sites across the state but the problem is getting kids there. Only 1 in 20 kids who qualify for free meals are getting them in the summer [News on 6]. Why is Oklahoma worst in the nation for feeding hungry kids in summer? [OKPolicy]

“I’ll Miss You”: Oversight Panel Shuts down Laura Dester Shelter. DHS Scrambles into Uncertain Future with Special Needs Foster Children: Staff members lined the hallway in Laura Dester Children’s Center as Hallie offered hugs to her moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas. Wearing a blue, sleeveless T-shirt with glittering letters that spelled out “Love me,” the 11-year-old was met with wide smiles and hints of tears in some eyes. Waterworks were in others [Tulsa World]. Ginnie Graham: Closing Laura Dester was inevitable, next chapter to help special needs foster kids [Ginne Graham / Tulsa World]. Laura Dester timeline: First lawsuit filed against DHS came two years before Laura Dester opened [Tulsa World].

Forget Tests: Measure Schools by Their Civic Engagement: Education watchdogs have long looked to test scores as we consider the condition and efficacy of a state’s education system. During the peak civic engagement and civic learning of April’s teacher walkout, however, a theory was reaffirmed that standardized testing may fail to effectively measure student learning [Amy Curran and Elizabeth Sidler / NonDoc].

Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules Insurer Is Owed Millions: An Oklahoma Supreme Court decision entitles one insurance company to more than $10 million in state rebates, and could cost the state far more in the long run. CompSource sought nearly $10.8 million from the Oklahoma Tax Commission in rebates from money previously paid to the state’s Multiple Injury Trust Fund. In a related case, the Oklahoma Association of Electric Self Insurers Fund sought about $138,000. Both entities sought rebates from assessments paid to the Tax Commission in 2015 [NewsOK].

ACLU Official: Our Consistent Fight Against Government’s Use of Violence: In “Group has wobbly stance on violence” (Our Views, June 27), The Oklahoman editorial board treated readers to a master class in false equivalency. At issue is the use of violent force by an elected county sheriff against a member of the public, but the editorial dodges that issue in a column that is as erroneous as it is incoherent. The agenda is clear: divert attention from its failed attempt to defeat State Question 788 by making disjointed attacks on the ACLU and, to no small extent, me personally [Ryan Kiesel / NewsOK].

Oklahoma City Rally Is One of Hundreds Held Saturday in Response to U.S. Immigration Policies: Despite the oppressive summer heat, with a heat-index value of 100 degrees by 1:30 p.m., hundreds of Oklahomans converged Saturday afternoon outside the Capitol to voice their dissatisfaction with the outcome of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. “It’s sickening,” said Alec Scully, 32, of Oklahoma City, as he spoke of the policies that have left thousands of children separated from their parents in the U.S. in recent weeks [NewsOK]. Hundreds of people rallying outside the Tulsa County Jail Saturday morning were protesting the separation of immigrant families [KJRH].

Oklahoma Has Increased Rig Count While the National Numbers Drop: Oklahoma was one of the few states that saw an increase in oil and gas rigs in the past week. The state’s count grew by 2 to 140 while the national count fell by 5 to reach 1,047. New Mexico was the only state in the surrounding area that saw an increase in rig activity, moving upward by 2 to reach 95 rigs. Texas slipped by 3 but remains at the top with 530 active rigs [OK Energy Today].

Quote of the Day

“We have a child and it’s hard for us to imagine any child, no matter where you’re from and no matter who you are, to be separated. It’s wrong. It’s not about politics at this point. It’s about basic human decency.”

-Elizabeth Scully, attending an Oklahoma City protest of the Trump administration’s immigration policies with her husband and 18-month-old son [NewsOK].

Number of the Day

$3.04 billion

Value of Oklahoma imports from Canada in 2017, 31.3% of all foreign imports to the state and more than any other country.

[U.S. Census]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

To Make Ends Meet, 1 in 5 Teachers Have Second Jobs: Working an extra job during the school year has consequences, researchers and teachers themselves say. For more than three decades, researchers at the Sam Houston State University in Texas have conducted a biennial survey of Texas State Teachers Association members about working outside jobs. The survey is not representative of teachers in the state: It’s voluntary and doesn’t always have a large sample size. But Startz said there are still lessons to be learned from it: Two of the survey’s main findings are that teachers who work a second job are more likely to say they’re considering leaving teaching, and that teachers say that working an extra job negatively affects their teaching [Education Week].

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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.

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