In The Know: DA acuses parole board of violating law, releasing prisoners early

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has accused the Pardon and Parole Board of regularly violating the Open Meeting Act and other state laws; a board member says the act was not violated and that all meetings are audio recorded and available to the public.  Representatives from top U.S. auto manufacturers will meet in Oklahoma City today to discuss increasing production of natural gas vehicles.

The Oklahoma VA and Indian Health Services have signed a placement agreement to help train new nurses.  State and federal officials are set to tour parts of the state affected by wildfires.  A new program is helping families buy and build new homes in southeast Oklahoma.

The OK Policy Blog discussed the state impact of the House-approved budget plan developed by Congressman Ryan, which would cost Oklahoma $345 million in 2014 alone and threaten the state’s fiscal stability.  The Oklahoman Editorial Board suggests that it might be time to consider adequately funding fire departments or eradicating eastern red cedar trees.

Monitoring doctors and hospitals for overreliance on C-section births improves health outcomes and saves money.  The Number of the Day is the number of veterans who use VA health services in Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, Economic Policy Institute discussed the improving, but still daunting, condition of the labor market for unemployed job seekers.

In The News

District attorney: Parole board violating Open Meeting Act, 85 percent rule

Gov. Mary Fallin has asked the state Pardon and Parole Board to place a moratorium on its practice of “docket modifications” during monthly meetings after Oklahoma County’s district attorney publicly accused board members of violating state laws.  The Pardon and Parole Board has regularly violated the state’s Open Meeting Act and statutes requiring inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, according to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.  In a scathing nine-page letter released Wednesday, Prater outlines what he sees as deceptive practices by the board to place inmates, including some who are required by state law to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole, on a “Pre-Docket Investigation” list for early consideration, he said.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Auto Manufacturers Converge in Oklahoma to Discuss CNG Vehicles for State Fleets

“The objective behind our efforts is simple,” said Gov. Fallin. “We want auto manufacturers to know that states mean business and are strongly committed to the use of CNG vehicles in state fleets so more vehicles can become available to consumers.”  Fallin added, “By incorporating more CNG vehicles into our state fleets, we can save tax dollars by reducing the amount we spend on fuel.  We can also support the use of an abundant, American-made energy source that will help create jobs, strengthen tax revenue bases at the state level, improve the environment, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Read more from PR Newswire at

VA, IHS sign 2 agreements during SW Tribal Relations Summit

“IHS was having difficulty placing nurses in positions due to unavailability of vacant places,” said Walmus.  “By signing this agreement with Oklahoma City VA Medical Center, IHS’ nursing staff can initially be placed with a VA nurse preceptor for a few months and then be placed on a unit to work full-time as a VA employee.”  The goal of the agreement was to provide novice nurses with the opportunity to master higher level nursing procedures and specialized training by placing them in a tertiary medical center which had the patient volume to support their learning needs. Upon completion, the nurses will return to IHS to fill staff nurse positions in their hospitals.

Read more from Native American Times at

Federal, Okla. officials to assess wildfire damage

Gov. Mary Fallin says federal officials will join the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management in a survey of damage caused by the state’s wildfire outbreak.  Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration will tour affected areas beginning Thursday to determine uninsured losses and the needs of those whose homes and businesses were damaged.

Read more from the Associated Press at

Oklahoma non-profit helps families work for new dream homes

Voices echoed loudly as Denny discussed future furniture arrangements. She is one of the first people around Madill to be a part of the Self-Help Housing program, put on by Little Dixie Community Action Agency.  The program gives low interest housing loans to low income families, under the condition that they help build the house. Families paint, stain, caulk, insulate, and clean, while professionals take care of plumbing, electric, and other hard jobs.  “It’s a special program because all this labor that they put in is considered sweat equity and they don’t have down payments or closing costs. So that helps out a lot too, especially since a lot of people are first time home buyers,” said Terri Harless, program director for Self-Help Housing.

Read more from KTEN at

Federal aid to Oklahoma under the ax in Ryan budget plan

Without new revenue, federal deficit reduction efforts will lead to devastating cuts in federal support for education, transportation, law enforcement, the social safety net, and other state and local programs, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Oklahoma faces a loss of $345 million in discretionary state and local aid in 2014 alone, and over $3 billion from 2013-2021 under the House-approved budget plan developed by Congressman Paul Ryan, which illustrates the kind of approach Congress likely would take if it rejects significant new revenues.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Wildfires highlight need for Oklahoma policymakers to look anew at suppression resources

AS five large fires swept across Oklahoma on Friday night, Gov. Mary Fallin said every available state resource was being used to help local firefighters do their jobs. “The challenge,” Fallin said, “is we can use even more.”  We are reminded of that every time Oklahoma suffers through an outbreak of wildfires — the state can use more firefighting equipment. So let’s get to work examining what is needed most, and see how we can go about obtaining it.  The wildfires that burned through the weekend, destroying dozens of homes and leaving at least one person dead, are only the latest round of fires that have torched Oklahoma in recent years. Last year’s large fires in northeast Oklahoma City were among more than 1,700 wildfires that burned 132,000 acres across the state.

Read more from NewsOK at

C-section scrutiny saving Oklahoma money

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority wants to reduce the number of expensive C-section births. The authority is the state’s Medicaid administrator. As such, it’s forced to stretch scarce dollars in covering medical services. Doctors accepting Medicaid are being scrutinized. If the rate of C-sections crosses a threshold of 18 percent, the fees paid to physicians and hospitals are reduced. Just the threat of reduced fees has had the effect of lowering C-sections significantly, according to the authority.  Induced births related to convenience rather than necessity are a luxury that Medicaid can’t afford. The authority and private insurance carriers have an obligation to scrutinize nonemergency C-section births. There’s also the effect on children: Infants who are born this way tend to have higher rates of admission to neonatal intensive care units.

Read more from NewsOK at

Quote of the Day

Fallin and the Republican-controlled Legislature also might want to reconsider a push by Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, to eradicate eastern red cedar trees, which are ubiquitous, drink lots of water and are exceedingly flammable. Fallin vetoed the bill in 2011; this year it died in a Senate committee.  As property owners, particularly those in rural areas, pray for rain, policymakers must redouble their efforts to ensure the state is as well-positioned as possible to deal with the fires ahead.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

Number of the Day


Number of veterans who used VA health services in Oklahoma in FY 2011, about a third of veterans living in the state.

Source: Dept. of Veterans Affairs

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Job seekers’ odds improve but remain slim

The June Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides evidence that the recovery continues to edge in the right direction. While job openings in June increased by 105,000, unemployment that month increased by 29,000 (unemployment data are from the Current Population Survey and can be found here). This means that the “job-seekers ratio”—the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings—fell slightly (by one-tenth), to 3.4-to-1.

Read more from Economic Policy Institute at

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