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.
In The News
Gov. Mary Fallin signs temporary rules for medical marijuana; advocates say they violate voters’ intent: Amid ongoing threats of legal challenges to emergency rules approved by the state Board of Health, Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed off on the temporary new regulations for State Question 788. She conceded that she expects modifications to occur in the future on an issue that is “uncharted territory” for the state. The board, in a 5-4 vote, authorized a last-minute amendment that bans the sale of smokable products and requires that a pharmacist be on staff at dispensaries [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma House Democrats have voiced strong opposition to the emergency medical marijuana rules [OKCFOX]. This isn’t the first time Oklahoma officials have heard that a policy could be illegal [Journal Record].
State agencies could lose power in furor over new cannabis rules: The medical cannabis rules introduced Tuesday by the Oklahoma State Board of Health surprised many political observers and marijuana industry hopefuls. Perhaps most surprising was the last-minute introductions of rules that would ban smokable forms and some edibles, and the requirement that retailers employ a pharmacist to dispense marijuana. Oklahomans took to social media to express outrage, including members of the Legislature. That kind of thinking could galvanize support for stripping agency boards of power. [NewsOK]
Plea deals have unbalanced Oklahoma’s justice system: One of the most basic rights for Americans accused of a crime is the right to a fair trial before a jury. However, the vast majority of criminal convictions – 90 to 95 percent – don’t happen at trial. Instead, they’re the result of a guilty plea, a deal negotiated by prosecutors and defense attorneys absent a trial. Plea deals are the norm for a number of reasons, but the justice system’s dependence on them is a serious problem [OKPolicy].
Public feedback wanted before new SoonerCare rules go into effect: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority wants feedback from the public before new rules surrounding SoonerCare go into effect. The law would impact people on SoonerCare. “It would require them to work like 20 hours per week or participate in some kind of community engagement activities,” Stainby said. However, the law isn’t written in stone yet [KFOR]. Advocacy Alert: Protect SoonerCare for Oklahoma Families [OKPolicy].
Prosperity Policy: Don’t shoot the messenger: “Do you folks ever report good news?” That was the subject line of a recent email sent to my organization, the Oklahoma Policy Institute, after we shared results of the latest Kids Count data book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The annual report found that Oklahoma ranked a disappointing 44th among the states on a composite ranking of child well-being. [David Blatt / Journal Record]
State’s top principal leaving OKC district post: One of Oklahoma’s top principals is leaving Oklahoma City Public Schools for Tulsa, where she will head an effort to design better high schools, The Oklahoman has learned. John Marshall Mid-High Principal Aspasia Carlson has been offered the position of project director for Reimagine High School by Tulsa Public Schools. Reimagine High School is a design process for teaching and learning that includes equitable options for students, meaningful relationships between students and adults, and opportunities to learn beyond the walls of the school, according to the Tulsa district. [NewsOK]
Program aims to help first-year teachers succeed in Oklahoma classrooms: In a few weeks, classrooms in Oklahoma will be filled with students and new teachers. Two groups — the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the K-20 Center at the University of Oklahoma — are teaming up to put together a program that helps new Oklahoma educators find success in the classroom. The program helps with several areas in the classroom, including classroom management, engaging with students and communicating with students and parents. [KOCO]
Engage OK education conference makes stop at Owasso High School Tuesday: Vehicles filled the parking lot to capacity and beyond. Teachers and administrators flooded the hallways and classrooms. Such a scene at Owasso High School normally is reserved for special events like the first day of school. But that is still more than a month away. Instead, OHS was a host site for the fourth annual Engage OK Summer Education Conference, which attracted education professionals from around the state. [Tulsa World]
Community effort leads to Cherokee Nation purchase of historic parcel, galvanizes neighbors: The future of a historic parcel of land appears secure as the Cherokee Nation closed on the purchase of the Delaware County property, where clearing had already begun for construction of a chicken farm. The effort not only saved the property from development but helped galvanize a community that is concerned about poultry operation expansion in the area. [Tulsa World]
Task Force Considers Stormwater Incentive to Bring Grocers to Underserved Areas of Tulsa: A city task force on hunger is in the early stages of coming up with a stormwater fee incentive to encourage grocery stores in underserved areas of Tulsa. The City of Tulsa has taken a look at how much grocers generally pay, which is calculated based on how much impervious surface area they have — basically, how big the parking lot is. The typical range is $180 to $600 a month. The incentive idea came from Councilor Ben Kimbro, who said there are many barriers preventing grocers from setting up shop in parts of Tulsa. [Public Radio Tulsa]
More law grads heading to public sector jobs: The state’s three law schools have had an increase in students getting government-related jobs. In recent years, the public sector’s hiring of law school graduates has surpassed that of business and industry. “This class (from 2017) is a very public-service-minded class,” said Christy Caves, the University of Tulsa’s associate dean and director of professional development. “They came in wanting to serve the public and do good. They generally want to help people.” [Journal Record]
John O’Connor, an Oklahoma judicial nominee, faces questions about Tulsa men’s club: Tulsa attorney John O’Connor, who is being considered for a federal judgeship that would span all of Oklahoma, faced few questions during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, asked about O’Connor’s membership in the Brother House of Tulsa, a decades-old men’s club. Durbin said the group discriminates against women and read aloud from a Tulsa newspaper article that stated Brother House’s mission was to “develop male spirituality and fatherhood in response to male bashing from the opposite sex.” [NewsOK]
Earthquakes Might be Taking a Toll on Oklahomans’ Mental Health: Earthquakes may be causing Oklahomans’ mental health to suffer. “From 2010 to 2017, it looked like after there were fault earthquakes — earthquakes larger than or equal to magnitude 4.0 — in the state of Oklahoma, people were searching about anxiety more often on Google compared to times there weren’t these earthquakes,” said Joan Casey, a researcher at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health. Not only did the increase in Google searches for anxiety after earthquakes outpace an existing upward trend, but it also persisted for several weeks after an earthquake. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Quote of the Day
“This would be a radical new change in how health care for low-income Oklahomans is administered. We know, if someone’s getting treatment for say bipolar disorder or for asthma and, then, if they can’t fill a prescription, that really affects their ability to parent, to find work.”
-Carly Putnam, Policy Director for Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking about a proposal to take health care from low-income Oklahomans who don’t report working enough hours every month [KFOR]
Number of the Day
Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2016, 25 percent higher than the national average.
The deadliest drug: States have made progress against the carnage caused by drunken driving. But they’ve been much slower in dealing with the nearly 80,000 other deaths alcohol abuse causes every year. Most Americans have a general sense that drunken driving isn’t as bad a problem as it was a generation ago. But few realize how much those numbers changed in a relatively short time. When the federal government started counting alcohol-impaired traffic deaths in 1982, there were more than 21,000 a year. By 2011, the death toll was down by 53 percent [Governing].
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