In The Know: Child welfare worker caseload struggles; OKC investigates recovery program; report finds nursing shortage…

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 struggles to keep workloads managable for child welfare workers: Oklahoma continues to struggle keeping caseloads manageable for frontline child welfare workers who investigate abuse, according to a report released this week. About a third of DHS workers who investigate cases of child abuse were still working over recommended caseloads standards in June 2018, according to a report from the monitors of a class action, civil rights settlement to improve the state’s child welfare system. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma City says it will take action if federal investigation finds recovery program broke any laws: The City of Oklahoma City said it will take action if an ongoing U.S. Department of Labor investigation into the Firstep recovery program finds the program has violated any laws. Attorneys for the city met this week to discuss the Firstep men’s and women’s recovery program in response to a joint investigation by The Frontier and StateImpact Oklahoma that found the program may have broken labor and workers’ compensation laws. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma faces nursing shortage as many reach retirement age: Oklahoma is in need of more nurses, according to a report by the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development. It shows that the ratio of registered nurses (RN) per population in the state at 700 RNs per 100,000 people is below the national average of 1,150 per 100,000. [KJRH]

Stitt names two more to top-level administration posts: Oklahoma’s newly elected governor has named a Tulsa banker and an economic development professional from Enid to two key posts in his administration. Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt announced Thursday the appointment of Brent Kisling of Enid as the new executive director of the Department of Commerce. Stitt also announced his plans to nominate Tulsa banker Sean Kouplen as his Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development. [AP News]

Gov. Mary Fallin says the state accomplished much on her watch and has a bright future: In just a matter of days, Oklahoma will have a new governor and I will once again — after 28 years be a private citizen. I’ve enjoyed my decades of service as a public servant, as a state legislator, lieutenant governor and a member of Congress, especially the past eight years serving as your governor. [Governor Mary Fallin / Tulsa World]

Legislation would raise minimum wage in Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s minimum wage has remained stagnant for about a decade, but now a state lawmaker hopes to raise it by $3.25 an hour. State Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, filed legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.50 an hour starting in 2020. Young said he files a similar measure every year, but the lawmaker is optimistic it will gain some traction this year based on interest the idea has received. [Enid News & Eagle] We previously wrote about how minimum wage increases have been popular when put on the ballot in numerous conservative states.

Nepotism bill targets city council candidates: Oklahoma towns could soon have restrictions on who runs for city council. Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson filed a bill that would prohibit residents from running if they have a spouse or immediate family member who works for the city government. Senate Bill 109 is intended to prevent nepotism among city officials across the state. [Journal Record]

Police never investigated her case and said her rape kit didn’t exist. 7 years later, they’ve found it: Coni knew her rape kit had to be somewhere. She remembered the long, painstaking process of a nurse collecting evidence from her body at a Tulsa hospital in 2011. She recalled a police officer taking the kit from the hospital, and not long after, receiving a $98 bill for the exam. But years later, Oklahoma City Police detectives would tell Coni the kit didn’t exist, and her case had been dismissed for lack of evidence. [The Frontier]

A preview of the big issues StateImpact is watching in 2019: Twenty-nineteen means a new governor for Oklahoma and a fresh class of state legislators — nearly 40 percent of whom have zero political experience. It’s a new year, but the state government’s slate hasn’t been wiped clean. Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest policy issues on deck for the upcoming year and legislative session. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Hamilton: A pivotal year for public schools: For statehouse leaders, the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s normally would be blocked out for downtime. Family get-togethers. Church services. Watch a little football. The proverbial lull before the legislative session storm. Not this year. Instead, Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt, House Speaker Charles McCall – even Lt. Gov.-elect Matt Pinnell – jumped online for the weekly #oklaed Twitter chat to discuss all-things public ed. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Kendra Horn sworn-in as Oklahoma City congresswoman, casts first vote for Pelosi: For the first time in 44 years, the vast majority of Oklahoma City is represented by a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Kendra Horn was sworn in Thursday afternoon, 58 days after she surprisingly defeated Republican Steve Russell in a race for Oklahoma’s 5th District, which includes most of Oklahoma County, along with Seminole and Pottawatomie counties. [NewsOK]

Alabama pension fund now sole owner of CNHI newspaper chain: Alabama’s employee pension fund, with nearly 360,000 members and some $44 billion in managed assets, has become sole owner of one of the largest chains of local U.S. newspapers, the company said Thursday. Oklahoma properties include the Claremore Daily Progress, Stillwater News-Press, Muskogee Phoenix and Tahlequah Daily Press. [AP News]

Quote of the Day

‘They made commitments to us about what they were going to do to lower caseloads and that doesn’t seem to be happening. I think that’s a problem.”

-Marcia Lowry, an attorney for the plaintiffs in a class action settlement against Oklahoma’s child welfare system, speaking about the state’s lack of progress in reducing child welfare worker caseloads for the past two year [Source: The Frontier]

Number of the Day

41%

Share of Oklahomans of color with medical debt that is past due and has been sent to collections agencies.

[Source: Urban Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The rising tide of wrongful convictions: In 2014, a record-setting 147 people were exonerated. That record was broken in 2015, when 160 people were freed. It was broken again in 2016,when the number rose to 168, an average of more than three people per week. In a 2017 report, the National Registry of Exonerations came to this sobering conclusion: “Exonerations used to be unusual; now they are commonplace.” Yet, “the record numbers of exonerations we have seen in recent years have not made a dent in the number of innocent defendants who have been convicted and punished. [Longreads]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. Born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, she immigrated to Oklahoma with her family at a young age and obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University as a Clara Luper Scholar. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked as an Inbound and Digital Marketing Specialist for an OKC based firm. She is an alumnus of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a Board Member for Dream Action Oklahoma, a community organization dedicated to advocating and empowering immigrant youth in the state.

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