In The Know: Data and access to justice; OK Policy launches mental health initiative; Edmondson, Stitt clear up accusations…

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 Summit on A2J: How data deepens our understanding of access to justice: Studying civil legal data increases understanding of access to justice problems and helps lawyers and laypeople alike see how they can be part of the solution. In this On The Road episode from The Oklahoma Summit on A2J, host John Williams talks to Ryan Gentzler, director of open justice Oklahoma, and Anna Carpenter, associate clinical professor of law at the University of Tulsa College of Law. They discuss the ways data helps them advocate for fair policies and services for low-income people. [Legal Talk Network]

OK Policy adds mental health fellows and policy analyst to launch new initiative: With three new hires, Oklahoma Policy Institute has launched the Oklahoma Mental Health Policy Fellowship, a new initiative supported by the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation. The fellowship emerged out of an April 2018 report on improving mental health and wellness in Tulsa, published by the Urban Institute and developed by the University of Tulsa Oxley College of Health Sciences, as well as individuals and representatives from local agencies. The report recommended building intellectual capacity around mental health and wellness in the Tulsa community. [OK Policy]

Drew Edmondson and Kevin Stitt try to clear up accusations made in ads: Gubernatorial candidates Kevin Stitt and Drew Edmondson continued to go ‘round and ‘round last week, with each accusing the other of misleading the public on their tax policies while former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett showed up in campaign plugs for both candidates. [Tulsa World] Republican support continues to pile on for gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt, the latest endorsement came from U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas. [Enid News & Eagle]

Optometrists frown on State Question 793: “If Walmart gets its way, Oklahoma will be the first and only state in the country to give a corporation the power to redefine and limit a medical practice,” Amanda Hatcher, a Sallisaw optometrist who joins many others in the same profession said this week in opposition to State Question 793. [Sequoyah County TimesSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 793 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

SQ 794: Should OK add Marsy’s Law to its constitution? Unlike other state questions voters will decide in November, State Question 794, also known as Marsy’s Law, is part of a nationwide movement. Each effort seeks to address the discrepancy between convicted violent offenders, who have protections under federal and state laws, and their victims, who have no federal protections and only statewide protections in states with enacted Marsy’s Laws. [NonDocSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 794 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

Wayne Greene: SQ 800 may be visionary, but its chances rely too much on voters’ trust of state government: If every Oklahoma voter could spend an hour listening to Sen. John Sparks, State Question 800 would have a better chance. As it is, they will face an arcanely worded proposal opposed by prominent school leaders and which relies on citizen trust in legislators, something that’s in short supply in Oklahoma at the moment. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa WorldSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 800 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

Kendra Horn calls private prisons unethical and immoral at VOICE forum: At a forum meant for two but attended by one, Democrat Kendra Horn called for an end to private prisons, vowed to protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and committed to voting for a clean Dream Act if elected to Congress. Voices Organized in Civil Engagement — a left-leaning coalition of Christian congregations, labor unions and nonprofits — held a forum for Horn and Republican Rep. Steve Russell on Sunday in a St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church auditorium. [NewsOK]

Meet the candidates: State Superintendent of Education: Three people are running for State Superintendent of Education in November. Our current State Superintendent, Joy Hofmeister is being challenged by Democrat Dr. John Cox and Independent Larry Huff. They all want to make it better for teachers and students in Oklahoma. [KSWOFind more information from OK Policy on Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions here

Enacting Change: One young voter at a time: Brenna Sawney, an 18-year-old senior at Sallisaw High School in eastern Oklahoma, is battling the stereotype that young people don’t care enough to vote. “There are a lot of people who think that the younger generation is lazy and don’t care about what happens in the world,” she said. “It’s frustrating because I’m not one of those people.” [KOSU

Governor’s poll, education rally & surge in registered voters: his Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU’s Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and, sitting in for Ryan Kiesel, Oklahoma Policy Institute Legislative Director Bailey Perkins about a new poll on the governor’s race showing Republican Kevin Stitt with a narrow 46% lead over Democrat Drew Edmondson at 40%, education supporters plan a rally at the State Capitol ahead of the general election and the independent candidate for State Treasurer attacks his Republican opponent over pension reforms. [KOSU]

Billions of dollars for Oklahoma and health care for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans at stake in this election: The new CEO of the Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA), Patti Davis, has decided to advocate openly for Medicaid expansion to access federal health care funding under the Affordable Care Act. Oklahoma has missed out on this funding since 2012 when Governor Fallin decided to abandon any effort to claim these tax dollars Oklahoma sends to Washington D.C. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Pauls Valley hospital likely to stay closed unless donor puts up $5 million: Unless a charity with $5 million on its hands steps in immediately, a financially troubled rural hospital in Pauls Valley likely will close down for good, its operator said Monday. Pauls Valley Regional Medical Center closed its doors on Friday. Frank Avignone, the CEO of Alliance Health Partners, said the company’s plan required $5 million to keep the hospital running until a permanent owner could step in. [NewsOK]

Prejudice and prosecution: Juror racism at issue in Tulsa County DA election: In late 2017, during jury selection for a trial where a black man stood accused of attempting to rob an Owasso shoe store with a loaded pistol, one potential juror offered a compelling reason why she shouldn’t serve. “I’m probably racist,” the woman told District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, District Judge Kelly Greenough, and defense attorney Brian Boeheim who represented the suspect. [The Frontier]

OKC sees payoff from online sales taxes: City Manager Jim Couch calls them “crazy numbers.” Use tax receipts were up sharply in September and October from the same time a year earlier, driven by increases in sales tax collected on online shopping. Sales tax remitted by and by third-party vendors selling through Amazon, helped along by a favorable U.S. Supreme Court ruling, are contributing to the surge. [NewsOK]

Commissioners approve revised drug test policy regarding medical marijuana: Pittsburg County commissioners have approved a revised drug testing policy for county employees to reflect the state’s recently-passed medical marijuana law — with conditions. One condition is their approval is contingent upon District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan giving the revised policy the go-ahead once he’s reviewed it. [McAlester News-Capital]

Wildlife Department wants to build land holdings in Oklahoma: Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say continuing to acquire land will help preserve hunting and fishing. They warn participation will drop precipitously as private landowners offer less access and younger Oklahomans move to cities, so public land is needed to maintain access to and interest in hunting and fishing. [Public Radio Tulsa]

True Wireless fights injunction request by state regulators: A regulator’s request for an injunction violates a company’s commercial speech rights, said Chris Savage, attorney for True Wireless LLC. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Public Utility Division is seeking to stop the company from enrolling new customers in a federally subsidized cellphone program as part of an ongoing enforcement case, alleging the company fraudulently signed up ineligible customers. [Journal Record ????]

Cherokee Nation slams Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test as ‘inappropriate and wrong’: On the same day that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren released DNA results that she says prove her Native American heritage, the Cherokee Nation called DNA tests useless for determining tribal citizenship. “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., the tribe’s secretary of state. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“Strong mental health is essential for a good quality of life, but Oklahoma still ranks among the worst in the nation on many measures of mental health. We’re glad to be able to increase the focus on this issue that is sorely needed for Tulsa and all of Oklahoma.”

-Policy Director Carly Putnam, on the launch of OK Policy’s new mental health initiative [OK Policy]

Number of the Day


Gap between the average wage for Oklahoma teachers and other college graduates in the state, 2011-15. This was the 6th largest gap in the U.S.

[Economic Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Retraining workers for new jobs and new lives after prison and addiction: But a more nuanced and more accurate view is that the decline in coal production and accompanying job loss coincided with something much more devastating: a spike in prescriptions for opioids, among other pain medications, as well as an increase in substance abuse generally. And that increase caused a drop in employment, according to Matthew Murray, a professor at the University of Tennessee who is studying the interaction of opioid use and the labor markets. “Opioid use has a large impact on both unemployment rates as well as employment participation rates,” both indicators of the health of a local economy. [New York Times]

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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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