In The Know: Battle looms over effort to move Oklahoma opioid Lawsuit to federal court

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

Battle Looms over Effort to Move Oklahoma Opioid Lawsuit to Federal Court: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter vowed Thursday to fight an effort by pharmaceutical companies to have a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers decided in federal court. Attorneys for the state plan to ask an Oklahoma City federal judge to conduct an emergency hearing, where they can argue drug company attorneys breached a contractual agreement by transferring the case. State attorneys will ask that the case be sent back to Cleveland County District Court and allowed to proceed, Hunter said [NewsOK].

State Question 788 foes report $453,000 media buy to combat medical cannabis ballot measure: The coalition of business, medical, religious and law enforcement organizations opposed to State Question 788 laid out $453,000 this week for advertising to combat the medical cannabis ballot measure, according to independent expenditure reports filed with the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission. The vast majority, $443,000, went to an Oklahoma City marketing company for media buys [Tulsa World]. SQ 788 Fact Sheet [OK Policy].

Justice Patrick Wyrick Wins U.S. Senate Committee Vote: Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick cleared a major hurdle Thursday in his bid to become a federal judge. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved Wyrick’s nomination along party lines, with 11 Republicans voting in support and 10 Democrats opposing his nomination to sit on the federal bench in the Western District of Oklahoma. His nomination overcame concerns about his ties to former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who now serves as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency [NewsOK].

Anxiety About Teacher Pay-Raises Grows as Tax Repeal Effort Builds and Legal Questions Mount: When the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 1010xx in March, it was the first time lawmakers had increased state taxes in 28 years. Both the House and the Senate applauded themselves. The governor acted swiftly to sign the bill, and at first, it seemed like a reason for school leaders to celebrate. They had been begging lawmakers to increase teacher pay for years, and it finally happened. But the excitement quickly faded [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Here’s what we know – and don’t know – about the revenue bill veto challenge [OKPolicy].

No Standing Still on Criminal Justice Reform: Nothing is ever simple when it comes to criminal justice reform in Oklahoma, as is seen in inmates’ frustration that a state question approved by voters in 2016 doesn’t benefit them. State Question 780 reclassified some drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The aim was to send fewer men and women to prison, thus bringing some relief to a system that has been dangerously overcrowded for many years. Yet as The Oklahoman’s Dale Denwalt reported recently, the fact SQ 780 didn’t apply retroactively means many inmates are serving lengthy sentences for crimes that would have brought a different punishment had they been committed after July 1, 2017, when the new law took effect [Editorial Board/NewsOK].

Net Neutrality Bill for Oklahoma Proposed by Southside Rep: A bill that would provide net neutrality for Oklahoma is being drafted by southside Rep. Mickey Dollens in preparation for the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature. This comes on the heels of a controversial, partisan vote of the Federal Communications Commission in December that went into effect Monday. At the same time, Congress struggles to pass a net neutrality law that would pre-empt the FCC action. A bill has passed the Senate but is stuck in the House of Representatives [Free Press OKC].

Six Departing Legislators Leave Tulsa Area up for Grabs: With 21 non-term-limited lawmakers leaving office, the Oklahoma Legislature will have an influx of new members for the 2019 session. Six of those departing legislators are from Tulsa-area districts, and 32 people (seven Democrats, 22 Republicans, two independents and a Libertarian) have filed to fill their seats. Reps. Dennis Casey (R-District 35), Glen Mulready (R-District 68), Katie Henke (R-District 71), Dale Derby (R-District 74) and Michael Rogers (R-District 98) as well as Sen. Eddie Fields (R-District 10) will not return to the Legislature next year [NonDoc]. Oklahoma 2018 State Questions and Elections [OKPolicy].

Corporation Commission to Vote Friday on Lower OGE Utility Bills: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is moving quickly to adapt the historic $64 million OGE rate reduction agreement reached with Attorney General Mike Hunter. The Commission has the item on its Friday morning agenda for a vote on the Cause No. PUD 201700496 to lower utility bills beginning next month. Part of the agreement involves a one-time refund as a result of the $18.5 million federal corporate income tax cut [OK Energy Today].

New Medicaid Policy Could Cost Taxpayers More Money, Report Finds: A new study finds Oklahoma’s new work requirements for Medicaid will cost taxpayers more money instead of less. The study was done by the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy and it comes as Oklahoma is on eve of radically changing health insurance for the poor. In a press conference Wednesday, the study’s authors called Oklahoma’s plan to add work requirements to Medicaid eligibility “deeply flawed” [News On 6].

WIC Program Wants Performance Feedback: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is soliciting comments from individuals regarding the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Input is needed for the State Plan of Program Operations for the 2019 Federal Fiscal Year. These comments must be received before July 31, 2018. WIC is a federally funded nutrition education and supplemental food program for low income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age [Public Radio Tulsa].

Task Force Expected to Announce Recommendations on Rape Kits Thursday: The final meeting of the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence will hold its final meeting before their July 1 deadline to provide recommendations to the Governor and state lawmakers. The task force was set up to research Oklahoma’s backlog of nearly 7,000 untested rape kits. The panel is expected to adopt their recommendations based on their findings [News9]. 

Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against Oklahoma School to Continue: A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit alleging officials at an Oklahoma school did nothing to stop sexual attacks against a middle school student. The ruling dated Monday allows the lawsuit against Washington Public Schools to go forward. Judge Stephen Friot did, however, remove from the lawsuit school Superintendent A.J. Brewer and Principal Stuart McPherson in their official capacities [AP News].

Lee School parents told district could be delaying name change to develop new name nominations: Tulsa Public Schools is looking to delay the name Lee School from taking effect on July 1 and will work over the summer to develop a new name. The school was renamed Lee School in May after a months long process that resulted in the school board rescinding its original name, Robert E. Lee Elementary, which will remain in effect until a new name is made permanent [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Lawmakers Share Personal Stories in Wake of Celebrity Suicides: The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week led some Oklahoma state lawmakers to share their own struggles with depression to underscore the fact that anyone is susceptible. “There is no profession and no walk of life that is free from depression,” Rep. Monroe Nichols, a Tulsa Democrat, said in an interview Tuesday [NewsOK]. Oklahoma suicide prevention lines receive more calls following Spade, Bourdain deaths [KGOU].

Long-Delayed Taxing District to Boost Tourism in Tulsa Still in the Works: It’s taking longer than anticipated to set up a citywide special taxing district to lure more tourists to Tulsa. April 2017 was the original target for the tourism improvement district. Initial plans called for a 2.5 percent room tax on hotels with 50 rooms or more. That revenue would go toward marketing efforts like advertisements or conference attendance to boost tourism [Public Radio Tulsa].

Inhofe: “Something Needs to Happen” to Address Pruitt’s Mounting Troubles: Expensive travel; sending aides to find lotion, snacks and a Trump Hotel mattress; and giving some employees big raises while seemingly retaliating against others — Scott Pruitt’s conduct as EPA administrator is being noticed by Oklahoma U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe [Public Radio Tulsa]. AG’s office flooded with open records requests about Scott Pruitt [OK Energy Today].

Quote of the Day

“This is the biggest election day in my lifetime as far as public education is concerned. And I want everybody to know it.”

-Ada City Schools Superintendent Mike Anderson, speaking about if SQ 799 gets on the ballot to repeal the revenues needed to fund a statewide teacher raise [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Number of the Day


How much Oklahoma’s wind power generation increased from 2008 to 2017, going from 2,358 GWh to 24,404 GWh.

[Environmental Research Letters]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The $580 Co-pay: With prisoners living in close quarters, any policy that deters people from going to the doctor also increases the risk of contagion. In 2003, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified inmate co-pays as one of the factors contributing to an outbreak of the super-bug MRSA among prisoners in Georgia, California and Texas. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care, which accredits prison and jail health care programs, cited this outbreak as one of the reasons it opposes fee-for-service or co-pay programs behind bars [The Marshall Project].

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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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