In 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
Oklahoma Policy Institute names new director to lead the growing organization: The Oklahoma Policy Institute has tapped a new executive director to lead the organization that has become a major voice in Oklahoma politics. Oklahoma native and Cherokee Nation citizen Ahniwake Rose will succeed the group’s longtime director David Blatt. Rose, who grew up in Owasso, is the deputy director and interim executive director of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C. [The Oklahoman]
In The News
Annual ‘point in time’ homeless count: Having a job doesn’t guarantee having a place to live in Tulsa: One out of five homeless people in Tulsa has a job, including nearly 100 people who suffered homelessness last year, despite having full-time employment, according to newly released data from the Community Service Council. [Tulsa World] Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness builds collaboration, releases five-year plan to end homelessness. [The Oklahoman]
More electronic monitoring means less need for halfway house beds, Department of Corrections says: A halfway house in Enid contracted by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is closing its doors, as agency officials note that demand for such a facility has declined during the past year due to a recent law change. The number of Oklahoma inmates staying in halfway houses has dropped more than 30% since May 2018, when a state law passed expanding eligibility for electronic monitoring. [The Oklahoman]
Dozens of new laws along with $1,500 pay hike for state employees go into effect on July 1: Dozens of new laws take effect Monday, in addition to a much-desired pay raise for correctional officers and state employees. House Bill 2771 provides for a $1,500 hike for state employees with an annual gross salary of $40,000 or less. It provides for a $1,250 hike for those with an annual gross salary more than $40,000 but less than $50,000. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoma lawmakers request interim studies: Lawmakers this month started filing requests for interim studies, which can look back on the implementation of new laws or explore topics of interest to legislators. Oftentimes, these studies help inform lawmakers on issues that they will address in legislation the following year. [The Oklahoman] Conversion therapy, student loan debt, gun deaths in children and surprise medical bills are among topics being considered for interim studies by the state’s House of Representatives. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoma air quality dips after years of steady gains: Oklahoma’s air may be getting worse. The newest data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows air quality throughout much of the state was down during each of the past two years. That bucked a trend in which Oklahoma, like most of the country, had seen significant strides in making the air healthier during much of the past decade. [Oklahoma Watch]
Oklahoma coalition pushes for smoke-free workplace laws: Second-hand smoke contributes to the death of 41,000 nonsmokers a year, Sharon Eubanks said last week in Oklahoma City at an event for community leaders that focused on pushing for passage of smoke-free workplace laws in the 2020 legislative session. [The Oklahoman]
Report highlights federal human trafficking cases in Oklahoma: Seven cases of criminal human trafficking in Oklahoma moved through the federal courts in 2018, with five defendants convicted that year. Oklahoma ranks 28th in the nation for the number of active criminal human trafficking cases going through federal courts, according to a report released by the Human Trafficking Institute, which looks at all federal human trafficking court cases in the United States and its territories in 2018. [The Oklahoman]
Attorney accuses Johnson & Johnson of providing deceptive information to the court: An attorney for the state accused Johnson & Johnson of providing false and deceptive information to the court Friday as action heated up in a trial where Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries have been accused of helping cause the state’s opioid crisis through false and misleading marketing. [The Oklahoman]
Opioid Crisis: The lawsuits that could bankrupt manufacturers and distributors: The attorney behind a multibillion-dollar tobacco settlement in 1998 has turned his attention to the opioid epidemic. And he wants drug companies to pay. [60 Minutes] With billions of dollars and historic legal precedent on the line, attorneys nationwide are paying close attention to Oklahoma’s ongoing public nuisance trial against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. [The Oklahoman] Opioid trial judge ‘a man of deep conviction.’ [CHNI News]
Wayne Greene: Evidence mounts that Medicaid expansion can make Oklahomans healthier: Medicaid expansion saves lives. Since 2014, the federal government has funded Medicaid coverage for working-age people who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Thirty-six states and Washington, D.C., have bought into the program, currently and permanently funded with 90% federal money. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]
Woman says process to expunge record complicated after SQ 780 became retroactive: The felonies Mize served time for have been reclassified as misdemeanors because of a law that made State Question 780, which Oklahomans voted in favor of in 2016, retroactive. Mize thought she’d be able to get the felonies off her record, but she’s learned she’s not eligible to apply for expungement. [KOCO] We previously discussed how HB 1269 makes SQ 780 retroactive but leaves many issues unresolved.
Drilling slowdown provides challenges, opportunities for service providers: The working number of rigs drilling for oil and gas in Oklahoma is about 28% lower than what it was the first week of January. The decline has squeezed the number of employed rig workers, which likely has slowed sales and hotel tax revenues in communities near where the rigs had run. [The Oklahoman]
Judges keep Oklahoma oil company’s bankruptcy cases local: White Star Petroleum’s bankruptcy cases will be handled by the federal bankruptcy court in Oklahoma City, court records show. Orders issued earlier this month by bankruptcy judges in both Delaware, where the company incorporated, and in Oklahoma City set hearings in the case locally — something the company had argued against. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma Watch response to Epic commentary: Last week, Epic Charter Schools issued a lengthy commentary on our reporter Jennifer Palmer’s story, “Former Epic Teachers Describe Pressure to Manipulate Enrollment.” Most of the commentary was written by two former journalists now employed by Epic. [David Fritze / Oklahoma Watch]
Horn town hall focuses on soaring costs of insulin: U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, who organized a town hall meeting on Saturday about the impacts of soaring insulin prices, said the problems defied easy solutions. Robyn Sunday-Allen, CEO of the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, said 11% of the clinic’s patients are diabetic and another 40% are prediabetic. [The Oklahoman]
Quote of the Day
“This speaks to the need for affordable housing and livable wages. The current rent cost for a two-bedroom in Tulsa would require an income of $16 an hour.”
-Rhené Ritter, program coordinator for A Way Home for Tulsa, on a survey that found one out of five homeless people in Tulsa has a job [Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Percentage of Oklahoma teenagers (ages 15 to 19) who are in the labor force.
[Source: U.S. Census American Community Survey]
How Medicaid expansion prevents child neglect: The study’s authors looked at state data from 2010 through 2016 for 31 states and the District of Columbia that expanded Medicaid and the 19 states that hadn’t expanded Medicaid during that period. “Medicaid expansion was associated with a reduction in the reported child neglect rate (422 fewer cases of reported neglect per 100,000 children younger than 6),” Brown and her colleagues wrote in JAMA Network Open in their 13-page analysis, which was published Friday. [Forbes]
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