In The Know: Emails show state struggling to respond to scrutiny over execution

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.

Today In The News

Emails from Gov. Fallin’s office show state agencies’ struggle to respond to scrutiny over execution: An examination of more than 40,000 pages of records released Thursday by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s office in response to an open-records request provides a picture of multiple state agencies scrambling under pressure to send coordinated, consistent responses to reporters and each other after an April 2014 execution went awry [Tulsa World].

Company fighting Oklahoma’s authority to limit wastewater volumes: A Tulsa-based oil and gas operator disagrees that a state regulatory agency can limit how much wastewater the company can inject underground. Marjo Operating Co. Inc. filed a request challenging an Oklahoma Corporation Commission division’s authority directing operators to cut back on salty wastewater disposed of in certain earthquake-burdened areas [Journal Record].

Transportation officials find additional $20M to help with pavement repairs: The Oklahoma Transportation Commission approved spending the $20 million to fix road pavement degraded by heavy truck traffic and extreme weather conditions. The money is part of a $100 million cash balance in a highway program that receives federal funding. Concerns that the flow of money from the Federal Highway Trust Fund could be disrupted by tax shortfalls led transportation officials to increase the balance over the last seven years [NewsOK].

Ten Commandments fight could be a back door to private school vouchers: In the latest development in the contentious saga of Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument, multiple court orders have forced the state to remove the monument from Capitol grounds. Its new home is the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a think tank that has been one of the biggest advocates in the state for expanding vouchers to allow tax dollars to go to private schools and homeschooling parents. The new location of the monument is fitting, because attempts by Governor Fallin and the Legislature to bring the monument back to the Capitol could have a major side effect of opening the door to vouchers [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Tax Commission closes its doors following raw sewage leak: It was a tough way to start the week for many workers at an Oklahoma department. On Monday, workers at the Oklahoma Tax Commission arrived at their office to find raw sewage in the building’s lower floor. Security officers say the sewage is “several inches deep” in spots. If the smell wasn’t bad enough, all 14 public restrooms were out of order [KFOR].

Report says J.C. Watts is interested in Speaker of the House job: A former college football star and former Republican representative from Oklahoma, Watts told current House members who approached him about running for speaker that he was interested, Politico’s Mike Allen reported Monday. The members who approached Watts were not named in Allen’s report. As of Monday, the 57-year-old Watts had not publicly expressed his interest in departing Speaker John Boehner’s job. To become speaker of the House, a candidate does not have to be a current member of the chamber, although every speaker so far has been an elected member of Congress [International Business Times].

Energy Index shows “prolonged” oil and gas stagnation in Oklahoma:  The oil and gas downturn is reflected more deeply in the latest Oklahoma Energy Index from the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, Bank SNB and the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University. It contracted sharply and the Index suggests it means a “prolonged period of oil and natural gas industry stagnation” and echoing a similar recession-driven downturn seven years ago [OK Energy Today].

Lee Roy Chapman remembered as ‘tenacious’ truth teller: Lee Roy was found dead at his home in Tulsa Thursday at the age of 46. While he had no formal training, Lee Roy’s ability to uncover uncomfortable truths should rank him among the state’s top investigative journalists. Lee Roy was a contributing editor at This Land Press, which published stories including his unflinching 2011 story about the role of Tate Brady, one of Tulsa’s most prominent founding fathers, in the Ku Klux Klan and the race riot [The Frontier]. A memorial service is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday at Cain’s Ballroom, 423 N. Main St. The service is open to the public [Tulsa World].

OU to elevate Native American Studies program to full academic department: Indian students were calling for a Native American center at the University of Oklahoma as far back as 1915, and a university president proposed the idea himself in the 1920s. But only now does it seem likely to happen. President David Boren announced Monday he wants to elevate the campus’ Native American Studies program into a full-blown department, complete with a “Native Nations Center” and a tribal liaison officer [Tulsa World].

Muscogee (Creek) Nation approves measure establishing independent press: A third Oklahoma tribe has adopted legislation to give its media outlets greater autonomy. By a 14-0 margin, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council approved an Independent Press Act at its October meeting, moving the tribe’s media department, Mvskoke Media, out of the executive branch and placing it on par with the tax commission and other independent statutory agencies [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“The more you walk downstairs, definitely, we work on the third floor so it wasn’t as bad. But when you go downstairs, it was horrible. It looks like a mass exodus right now. I’m surprised they are not sprinting!”

-Oklahoma Tax Commission Employee Renee Lowe. Lower floors at the Tax Commission had to be evacuated and all public bathrooms in the building were out of order after a raw sewage leak (Source).

Number of the Day


The share of full-time, full-year minimum-wage earnings needed to pay annual child care costs for a 4-year-old in Oklahoma.

Source: Economic Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The staggering cost of day care when you make only the minimum wage: Child-care costs would now devour at least 30 percent of a minimum-wage worker’s earnings in every state, a new report from the Economic Policy Institute has found. This reality leaves few options for families with sparse financial resources and inflexible work schedules, said Elise Gould, senior economist at EPI, who co-wrote the study. Even if a parent qualifies for child-care subsidies, waiting lists in some states can stretch long enough for her to lose a job or leave a child in a risky arrangement [Wonkblog].

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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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