In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs human services reform bills into law

In 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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Gov. Fallin signed legislation that overhauls the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and streamlines the agency’s child welfare division.  The Governor also signed a bill to boost school textbook funds by $3 million.  Kansas workers are attempting to permanently plug a leaky valve to stop the flow of sewage into the Arkansas river.

OK Policy breaks down appropriations for FY 2013 in a new budget overview.  The Oklahoman reflects on outgoing House Speaker Kris Steele’s record of service in the legislature.  The Tulsa World profiles one nontraditional high school senior who’s been denied a diploma under the state’s new high-stakes graduation testing requirements.

Communities in NW Oklahoma do not have enough foster homes to care for displaced children.  The state’s two medical schools are moving forward with a new plan for a residency program designed to combat a shortage of doctors in rural areas.  An Oklahoma Corporation Commission official told a Congressional committee that states are focused on building a strong regulatory framework around hydraulic fracturing.

In today’s Policy Note, the Associated Press finds that despite accusations of EPA overzealousness, the number of enforcement actions against oil and gas producers under the current administration is markedly lower than the previous administration.  The Number of the Day is the amount state appropriations for FY 2013 remain below pre-downturn FY 2009 levels.

In The News

Gov. Fallin signs human services bills into law

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation that overhauls the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and streamlines the administration of the agency’s child welfare division.  A class-action lawsuit filed by a child advocacy group alleged children in DHS care suffered physical abuse and neglect. The case was settled earlier this year.  Among other things, the measures signed by Fallin change the organizational structure of the agency’s child welfare division and give the governor the authority to appoint the DHS director, with Senate confirmation. Another would allow voters to decide whether to abolish the governing board.

Read more from the Shawnee News Star at

Fallin signs $3 million textbook funding boost

A last-minute bill to provide an additional $3 million in textbook money to local school districts has been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.  The funding bill was one of more three dozen bills Fallin signed into law on Wednesday.  The additional $3 million increases the total amount schools will receive for instructional and textbook purposes to $33 million.  The money traditionally has been earmarked strictly for textbook expenses, but local school districts have been granted greater flexibility in recent years to spend the money on other needs.  State Superintendent Janet Barresi said the additional money will be used to “lessen the impact of a tough budget year.”

Read more from the Associated Press at

Permanent plug being installed to stop sewage flow into Arkansas River

Workers on Friday are expected to complete construction of a concrete, permanent plug for a leaky valve to stop the flow of contaminated water into the Arkansas River.  State health officials said Thursday their public health advisory remains in effect, but they reduced the river’s area for the warning so it will now start at the 47th Street Bridge and continue to the Kansas-Oklahoma border.

Read more from the Wichita Eagle at

FY 2013 Budget overview: Been down so long it feels like up

In the 1960′s, Richard Fariña titled his novel of his college days and experiences, “Been Down So Long It Feels Like Up To Me.” The sentiment might also apply to the state budget for the upcoming year. After being down so long – three straight years of shrinking budgets and cuts across almost all areas of state government – a budget that provides flat funding for most agencies as well as some targeted increases may “feel like up”. However, the FY 2013 budget still falls well below pre-downturn levels and will continue to strain the capacity of most state agencies and school districts to fulfill their core functions.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma Legislature could use more members like outgoing House speaker

During his 12 years in the Legislature, Kris Steele always preferred policy over politics. Would that more of his colleagues felt the same way.  Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled Legislature has grown more and more partisan every year during Steele’s tenure. He spent his first four years as a member of the minority party and leaves after two years as House speaker with Republicans in firm control of the House and the Senate. Yet the 2012 session was marked as much by what the GOP didn’t accomplish as what it did. Chalk that up to competing interests in the two chambers, and to a Republican faction in the House that took great delight in trying to thwart Steele at every turn.

Read more from News OK at

Oklahoma’s EOI testing blocks high school graduation, college scholarship; future in the balance

J.J. Lauck’s father managed to survive a heart attack, a coma and inoperable cancer to see him walk across the stage at high school graduation last week. That’s why Lauck can’t bear to tell his father he didn’t actually earn a diploma.  “I don’t want it to be the death of him that he has to worry about his last kid,” said Lauck, whose father was sent home from the hospital with a prognosis of two weeks to live just days before graduation.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

More foster parents are needed for Garfield County, NW Oklahoma communities

Candidates need to have adequate room for the children and sufficient financial resources. The approval process takes between 90 and 120 days.  The issue now is there aren’t enough foster homes in the area to meet the needs.  According to DHS, Garfield County has 130 children in foster care. There is a need for 22 more foster homes. The same is true in other northwest Oklahoma counties.  For instance, Woodward County needs 10 more foster homes, and Blaine County needs two more.

Read more from the Enid News & Eagle at

Oklahoma medical schools battle lack of rural doctors

Officials at Oklahoma’s two medical schools are moving forward with a plan they hope will combat a shortage of doctors in rural Oklahoma.  The Oklahoma Hospital Residency Training Program Act provides just over $3 million to create residency programs at hospitals in rural, underserved areas across the state.  The bill passed out of the Oklahoma Senate in the final hours of the 2012 legislative session, which ended May 25.  Under the program, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority would contract with the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City to establish and run new residency programs in medically underserved areas.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma regulator says states can monitor hydraulic fracturing

States have comprehensive programs to regulate hydraulic fracturing and are adapting to new challenges from the rapidly growing practice, an Oklahoma Corporation Commission official testified here Thursday.  Lori Wrotenbery, the commission’s director of the Oil and Gas Conservation division, told a House subcommittee that outside organizations also are helping states build regulatory frameworks to monitor potential pollution problems.  State regulatory programs are “strong, they’re responsive, they’re flexible and they’re adaptive,” Wrotenbery said.  “For all of those reasons, I believe they are effective in ensuring hydraulic fracturing operations are done safely.”

Read more from NewsOK at

Quote of the Day

Not everyone is good at taking tests, and not everybody has the same reality going on. I’ve had more than that one thing – school – to focus on.  I wrote it (the writing test) to the best I could, but I guess it wasn’t good enough. It’s their way or no way.

Jimmy Lauck, Tulsa senior denied a diploma under new high-stakes testing requirements, on working to support his terminally ill father while attending high school

Number of the Day

$274 million

Amount state appropriations for FY 2013 remain below pre-downturn FY 2009 levels, or 3.8 percent

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

FACT CHECK: Oil stats belie tough enforcement talk

In the three years since President Barack Obama took office, Republicans have made the Environmental Protection Agency a lightning rod for complaints that his administration has been too tough on oil and gas producers.  But an Associated Press analysis of enforcement data over the past decade finds that’s not the case. In fact, the EPA went after producers more often in the years of Republican President George W. Bush, a former Texas oilman, than under Obama.

Read more from the Associated Press at

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.