In The Know: Early voting begins; celebrating 10 years of OK Policy; surge in Oklahomans seeking psychiatric crisis care…

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

Early voting for Tuesday’s runoff elections begins: Early voting begins Thursday in the run-off election that will help determine several party’s candidates for state and federal offices. You can start early voting at 8 a.m., but, in most counties, you can only vote at your county election board. Sometimes there’s a second site – in Tulsa County, you can vote at the downtown Election Board or at Hardesty Library near the Creek and Memorial. There are several state races for Oklahomans to decide. [NewsOn6] Advocacy 101 Video: Runoff Primaries in Oklahoma [Together Oklahoma]. Oklahoma 2018 State Questions and Elections [OKPolicy].

Celebrate, support OK Policy with New Yorker humorist: The past decade of Oklahoma politics has featured a lot of changes, but one thing lawmakers, media and voters have more of than ever before is access to quality, nonpartisan data. Thanks largely to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank, this state has had an incubator for responsible public policy since 2008. Now, executive director David Blatt, the OK Policy board and its passionate base of supporters want you to consider making a $100 donation — $10 for each year of existence, perhaps? — to ensure Oklahomans keep receiving responsible information about public policy decisions for the next decade. In making that donation, you will receive a ticket to OK Policy’s 10th anniversary gala dinner. [NonDoc] The deadline to buy tickets for the September 13 dinner is September 7 [OK Policy].

‘People seem sicker now’: The number of Oklahomans seeking psychiatric crisis care has surged: In an era of budget cuts to state agencies, the number of Oklahomans in need of psychiatric crisis care services has surged and mental health providers say people are sicker than previous years. From fiscal years 2015 to 2018, the number of Oklahomans who are need of crisis care centers across the state increased by 21 percent — from 8,049 people to 9,735, according to data provided by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma officials say challenges ahead for Medicaid work requirement: Matilda Williams doesn’t rely on Soonercare for her insurance, but she still decided to make the hourlong drive from Seminole on Tuesday to state her opposition to proposed work requirements. Williams, 70, was one of a handful of members of the public who attended a forum held by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority on Tuesday afternoon at Variety Care’s Lafayette clinic. [NewsOK] Learn more about the Medicaid proposal and how it could hurt working families in Oklahoma. [OK Policy]

Doctors, residents voice different sides of medical marijuana argument: As lawmakers heard from doctors and residents on Wednesday, a divide presented itself. The doctors – an anesthesiologist and a doctor with experience in emergency rooms and family medicine – warned against medical marijuana’s unknowns. Patient advocates and patients themselves said the medications that have become well-known, opioids, are destructive and should be phased out when possible. [Journal Record]

Judge rules cameras permitted in courtroom for opioid trial: News cameras will be permitted in the courtroom to cover a trial in which the State of Oklahoma has accused more than a dozen drug manufacturing companies of causing the state’s deadly opioid epidemic through fraudulent marketing practices. The trial is expected to begin in May. “Unquestionably, the issues presented in this matter are of great importance to the citizens of Oklahoma,” Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said in his ruling Wednesday. [NewsOK]

Federal law fogs pot’s promise for real estate, Oklahoma panel says: Medical marijuana comes with federal strings attached that entangle most aspects of commercial real estate, from buying, selling and leasing, to finance and insurance. So cautioned a panel of experts Tuesday at the 2018 Affordable Housing Conference presented by the Oklahoma Coalition of Affordable Housing. [NewsOK ????]

Housing panel cites recent wins, future concerns: While affordable-housing advocates are proud of what was accomplished on the federal level in fiscal year 2018, there’s work to do in combating the nation’s housing crisis. One of the recent housing wins was keeping the private activity bonds, which are a popular funding mechanism in housing because they are paired with a 4 percent federal tax credit. The bonds could have been cut in a tax bill proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives. “It’s of your voice,” said Josh Yurek to a crowd of housing developers, property managers, and investors. “The stroke of a pen is the biggest threat in our industry.” [Journal Record]

10 years to life for a misdemeanor?: In 2016, Oklahoma voters decisively approved State Question 780 to make drug possession a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail. The passage of SQ 780 reflected Oklahomans’ understanding that most substance abusers need treatment and community support, not a prison term. SQ 780 took effect on July 2017 and applies to all drug possession charges going forward. But it doesn’t affect the sentences of those charged with crimes before voters changed the law. This has left countless Oklahomans serving long prison sentences – in some cases 20 or 30 years – for crimes that if charged today would be a misdemeanor. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

Congressional Black Caucus asking Gov. Fallin to review Julius Jones murder case: A national organization is asking Governor Mary Fallin to take a closer look at the case against a man on death row. When he was just 19-years-old, Julius Jones was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, an Edmond businessman who was gunned down in cold blood in his parent’s driveway. [KFOR] Rep. George Young: Grave doubts raised about the fairness and reliability of Julius Jones’ death sentence [Rep. George Young / Tulsa World]

Vacancies and paperwork push Tulsa Public Schools administrators into classrooms for third straight year: At least one fifth-grade class at Celia Clinton Elementary School had two teachers for the first day of school on Wednesday. One, Robin Lemmons, a 30-year veteran of teaching who just returned to the profession, will be their teacher for all of the school year. The other, LeeAnne Pepper, is there because Lemmons was hired late in the summer and all the paperwork hasn’t been processed. So, legally, she’s the teacher at the moment. Pepper is among the more than a dozen TPS administrators working as teachers across the city because for the third straight year, the state’s second-largest district didn’t fill all of its vacancies in time for school. [Tulsa World]

Education leaders talk teacher shortage, need for more advocacy at Tulsa World forum: State and local education leaders hammered home the severity of the state’s teaching shortage and the need for continued engagement from parents in their children’s education Wednesday evening. They stressed the importance of building relationships and the need to fight for more funding in education, even after the Oklahoma Legislature appropriated hundreds of millions of additional dollars as a result of teachers’ advocacy this spring during and before the two-week teacher walkout. [Tulsa World]

Oil and Gas Association sues over Kingfisher County attempt to regulate temporary pipelines: In the eyes of the oil and gas sector, one Oklahoma county has overstepped its bounds in an attempt to set rules on temporary pipelines lying on private property. The state’s largest industry relies on those temporary plastic lines to make drilling economic, said Chad Warmington, Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association president. Kingfisher County veered into regulatory territory that should be reserved for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, according to a lawsuit filed with the state Supreme Court on Tuesday. [Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma judicial nominee John O’Connor is unqualified, Bar Association says: For the second time in 10 months, the American Bar Association has determined one of President Donald Trump’s choices for a federal judgeship in Oklahoma is unqualified. Tulsa attorney John O’Connor was deemed unqualified Tuesday by a panel of 15 fellow attorneys across the country. The rating, while not a death knell for his nomination, could harm his chances of Senate confirmation. [NewsOK]

Gallogly, McDaniel headline chamber event: The new leader of Oklahoma’s largest school district said Tuesday he is “laser focused” on providing access to opportunity for all students to succeed in the classroom. Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel, speaking to about 600 people at the annual State of the Schools luncheon, acknowledged the need to improve test scores, attendance and equity across the district. McDaniel addressed the challenges facing the district’s 45,000 students, pointing out that more than 90 percent qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches and one in four has had at least one parent who has been incarcerated. [NewsOK]

Mick Cornett, Kevin Stitt attack each other over attack ads during GOP gubernatorial debate: Gubernatorial candidates Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett criticized each other over attack ads during a debate on Wednesday night, calling them a “vulgarity” and “painful.” “It’s a pretty bad one when you use profanity in someone’s name,” Stitt said, referring to a television attack ad on him in which people say “Bull. Stitt.” “Cornett later said to Stitt, “You take a person’s record, and you try to tear it down, and … you have no right to try to destroy my conservative record.” [Tulsa World]

Records Show Stitt Signed Document That Failed to Disclose Disciplinary Actions: Newly obtained documents from Wisconsin regulators show gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt personally signed background-check documents for Gateway Mortgage Group in 2008 that did not disclose previous regulatory actions against his company in three other states. The Stitt campaign previously called the omission a “clerical error.” But the background questionnaire shows Stitt signed the form, which, in response to a question about whether Gateway had ever been involved in a disciplinary action in any state, indicated, “No.” [Oklahoma Watch]

Quote of the Day

“We are the safety net for the state. It would be ideal if funding were available so we could see people before they get sick. Our mental health system says, ‘No, let’s wait until you’re as sick as you can be.’ That’s backwards.”

-Joy Sloan, the CEO of Green Country Behavioral Health Services, which she said due to years of state budget cuts has had to turn patients away until they’re facing a full mental health crisis [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Growth in mining and logging jobs (including oil & gas industry) in Oklahoma from July 2017 to July 2018, the highest increase of any sector.

[Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

It’s Hard to Manage Your Credit When You’ve Never Heard of ‘Interest’: When Kentucky state Treasurer Allison Ball and a colleague talked with high school seniors last year about credit cards and other pieces of the personal finance puzzle, something wasn’t right. “We kept using the word ‘interest’ and we kept getting blank stares,” Ball recalled. Finally, she asked the students who knew what interest is. No one did. “Here they were, about to be adults, two weeks before graduation — and they had no idea about interest on credit card payments,” said Ball, a former bankruptcy attorney. “That’s exactly how you get into trouble.” [Stateline]

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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