In The Know: Copy-pasted bills; 2 percent COLA proposed; auditors question TANF funds…

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

OK PolicyCast 44: The Campaign to Expand Health Coverage (with Angela Monson): Monson has been involved with health care advocacy going back to the 1980s, and today, she is helping to bring together a coalition to push for bringing our federal tax dollars home to help more than 100,000 uninsured Oklahomans gain coverage. [OK Policy]

In The News

Okla. Legislature Ranks Among Worst For Using Copy-Paste Bills: A two-year investigation shows Oklahoma lawmakers filed more than 400 bills that were either modeled off of or directly copied from bills written by special interest groups, designed to benefit companies rather than voters. Oklahoma was fifth highest in the country for copy and paste bills filed. When it came to passing those bills Oklahoma ranked third, after Illinios and Arizona, respectively [NewsOn6]

New Senate proposal could give retired Oklahoma workers 2 percent cost of living hike: A Senate panel on Thursday is expected to take up a bill that could eventually lead to a cost of living adjustment for state retirees. The Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee is set to meet at noon Thursday to consider a modified version of House Bill 2304. A committee substitute for the bill is expected, according to Senate staff. [Tulsa World]

Auditors question Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ use of $10 million in federal funds: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services improperly used $10 million in federal funds to make adoption assistance payments to families without first checking to see whether the adoptive parents financially qualified for the need-based aid, a state audit has found. The federal funds in question were provided under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. [NewsOK] Oklahoma’s funding of basic income assistance through TANF has severely eroded since 1997, with less than 10 percent of TANF funding now going to basic cash assistance.

Senate confirms Patrick Wyrick to federal district court: The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick to serve as U.S. district judge for the Western District of Oklahoma. Wyrick’s confirmation comes a year after his initial nomination and with vocal support from both Oklahoma senators. [Gaylord News] Wyrick was Oklahoma solicitor general when former Trump EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was attorney general. [Bloomberg Law]

Working in Background, Lawyer Reaps Fees in Opioid Case: Attorneys in the state’s sprawling opioid lawsuit have bragged that they slept on cots in their offices and went through millions of pages of evidence. But one private attorney in the case, a former legislative leader, stands to make $5.6 million in the recent settlement against Purdue Pharma despite having no obvious role documented in court filings and little trial experience in cases like the one Attorney General Mike Hunter brought against Purdue and other drug makers. [Oklahoma Watch]

Pursuit of Curbs and Transparency in Contingency Cases: For more than a decade, state lawmakers have sought various ways to curb contingency fees for private attorneys who contract with the state, as well as make the costs more transparent. But none have passed. [Oklahoma Watch]

OSDH grant to improve access for uninsured: The Oklahoma State Department of Health has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration totaling $890,000 over a five-year period to improve access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable. [Journal Record ????]

Health department transfers last of $30 million back to Legislature: The state Health Department on Tuesday paid back the last of $30 million in emergency funds it got in 2017 after falsely reporting the agency had a funding shortfall. “Getting that done today is a big deal,” Tom Bates, interim health commissioner, said at a meeting of the State Board of Health. “It allows us to close the door on a chapter of this agency and move forward.” [NewsOK]

Oil, gas rights balanced against local ones in committee debate Tuesday: A proposed law that could allow mineral rights owners to sue municipalities or other local jurisdictions because of overly restrictive oil and gas laws, rules or regulations survived a committee hearing Tuesday, barely. House Bill 2150, co-authored by Oklahoma Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, and Rep. John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando, received a due pass recommendation by a 7-to-5 vote by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but only after the measure’s enacting clause was removed. [NewsOK]

Bill would make pollution information secret for companies that self-audit passes House panel: With assurances from its author that no existing environmental rules will change, a bill that would allow industries to avoid some penalties and keep self-audits of pollution issues secret passed the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Reworked bill would let nurse practitioners recommend medical marijuana licenses; ‘pet shop’ bill stays alive in Oklahoma Legislature: Two bills that would modify who can recommend and issue medical marijuana licenses cruised through the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Rules Committee on Tuesday. The same committee, which has become a catchall for the House, also advanced a controversial “pet shop” bill, albeit with considerable reservations. [Tulsa World]

Bill would give doctors in rural areas $25,000 tax credit: A bill that cleared a hurdle at the Oklahoma Capitol on Tuesday was revamped to attract physicians to rural parts of the state where people may not be getting the health care they need. House Bill 2511 would provide an income tax credit of up to $25,000 annually for up to five years for doctors who set up practices in communities of less than 25,000 people. [Journal Record]

Bill Allowing Oklahoma Teachers To Carry Guns Without Special Training Advances: A bill that would allow teachers and other school staff to carry guns without special training advances to the Senate floor. Right now, school personnel can carry guns concealed on campus if they have the permission of their districts; if they have completed CLEET training and possess a valid armed security guard license or hold a valid reserve peace officer certification. [News9]

Legislation would ban ‘red light cameras’ from private companies: Oklahoma lawmakers may put a red light on an option towns currently have to use cameras to catch drivers breaking the law. Senate Bill 260 would prohibit political subdivisions in the state from contracting with companies that provide “photo monitoring devices” at intersections with traffic signal lights. [Journal Record ????]

NewsOK Editorial Board: Justice reform gains needed: Early in the second half of the 2019 legislative session, additional criminal justice reform — something touted by members on both sides of the aisle — remains a work in progress. Here’s hoping the lack of significant movement thus far doesn’t produce minimal results later. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Point of View: Better pay for Oklahoma correctional officers a must: Oklahoma correctional officers are losing their lives at an alarming rate, and people are not speaking up. Oklahoma correctional officer pay is $13.74 per hour, making it extremely difficult to hire and retain officers. The Department of Corrections has a shortage in staff of between 45 percent to 50 percent, and the problem seems to be becoming worse. [Rep. Justin Humphrey / NewsOK]

Local groups taking action to highlight statistics of Black women’s maternal mortality: On April 11, a local collaborative of health-focused agencies are taking action to highlight the staggering statistics of Black women’s maternal mortality. In Oklahoma, the Black maternal mortality rate is higher than that of the nation and for every maternal mortality case, there are another 70 cases of severe or life-threatening complications. [KTUL]

Records: Juvenile detention center staff failed to follow protocol in teen’s death: Staff at a juvenile detention center where a teenager died by suicide in 2016 did not follow policies and protocols upon finding the boy unresponsive in his cell, records show. Detention center employees — including the shift supervisor on duty at the time — told investigators they were not trained to properly respond to the incident. [The Frontier]

Attorneys in ‘Innocent Man’ case spar over records missing for years: Officials with the city of Ada and state Attorney General’s Office struggled on Tuesday during a court hearing to explain why hundreds of pages of previously undisclosed police reports related to the disappearance of Denice Haraway were found and turned over to defense attorneys years after attorneys for Karl Fontenot first requested them. [The Frontier]

OU Board of Regents briefed on sexual misconduct investigation: For six hours, the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents met with attorneys from Jones Day about the law firm’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by former OU President David Boren and former Vice President Tripp Hall. [NonDoc]

The Invisibles: Dealing With a Gambling Addiction: Nearly eight years into addiction recovery, Nicole Zoellner is still paying off $180,000 in gambling debt. The Perry woman is married and has two children who now know of her struggles with a gambling addiction. She said she didn’t tell her husband about her problem until several months into recovery. [Oklahoma Watch]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma correctional officers are losing their lives at an alarming rate, and people are not speaking up.”

-Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, who wrote that correctional officers and prison employees are working for too many hours supervising overcrowded, rundown faculties [Source: NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Amount that Oklahoma has cut per student higher education spending since 2008, adjusted for inflation.

[Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

To Help Mental Health Patients, Hospitals Open a New Kind of ER: In pockets across the country, hospitals are trying something new to address the unique needs of psychiatric patients: opening emergency units specifically designed to help stabilize and treat patients and connect them to longer-term resources and care. [Governing]

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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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