In The Know: Gov. Fallin tops list of least-popular governors in America

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

Gov. Mary Fallin Tops List of 10 Least-Popular Governors in America in Her Final Months in Office: Morning Consult’s Governor Approval Rankings were compiled from online surveys conducted with 326,051 registered voters from April 1 through June 30. Term-limited Gov. Mary Fallin will be out after November, but in her final stretch in the Oklahoma governor’s mansion, she edged out Gov. Dan Malloy (D-Conn.) to become the nation’s most unpopular governor for the first time since her election [Tulsa World].

Chelsea Church Terminated as Pharmacy Board Director: Chelsea Church has been terminated as executive director of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy, effective immediately. The board went into executive session shortly after 2 p.m. to discuss whether to take employment action against Church, the non-appropriated agency’s executive director, who is under criminal investigation. The board features six members, all of whom were in attendance Wednesday. After more than 80 minutes in executive session, the board reconvened in open session and voted unanimously to terminate Church [NonDoc].

OK Policy Announces Fellowship Program Focusing on Mental Health, Addiction: Oklahoma Policy Institute, in response to the critical needs in Oklahoma’s mental health care and addiction services, has announced a new fellowship program to prepare early-career professionals to become highly competent advocates for impactful policy reform. In addition to the Mental Health Policy Fellowship, OK Policy will add a new Mental Health Policy Analyst position [OK Policy].

Resign or be fired: Jabar Shumate says OU gave him ultimatum, was told banned fraternity would return to campus: Jabar Shumate, whose resignation as the University of Oklahoma’s vice president over diversity and inclusion efforts was announced Tuesday, said Wednesday that he was given an ultimatum to quit or be fired. OU spokeswoman Erin Yarbrough said in a prepared statement Wednesday that officials conducted an audit and confronted Shumate with allegations of “significant misuse of university assets.” In a prepared statement read at a press conference Wednesday, Shumate described the ultimatum and allegations of misuse of university assets as a “high-tech lynching” and as “false accusations.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Ethics Commission Called “Rogue” Agency: The Oklahoma Supreme Court is being told the state Ethics Commission has become a “rogue” agency. Justices were told the Ethics Commission wants a “blank check” to fund its operations and wrongly considers itself a fourth branch of government. “On the contrary, the Commission is an executive agency not unlike all other executive agencies created by the Constitution,” Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz told justices in a legal filing. “And the Legislature is the branch of government required — and equipped — to determine adequate funding levels for all state agencies, including the Commission” [NewsOK].

Health Department Announces Top Budget Officer: For the first time in nearly six months, the Oklahoma State Department of Health has a top official dedicated solely to its finances. The department announced Wednesday that it had hired Gloria Hudson as chief financial officer. Hudson previously worked as director of general accounting at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program [NewsOK].

Health Board Sets Special Meeting for August: The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced its governing board will hold a special meeting on Aug. 1. The meeting’s agenda isn’t yet available, but it would be the first opportunity for board members to reconsider medical marijuana regulations they passed July 10. Attorney General Mike Hunter said last week that the board likely overstepped its authority with some of the regulations [NewsOK].

Medical Marijuana Working Group Will Meet Until It Has “Something That Works”: Oklahoma lawmakers’ Medical Marijuana Working Group met for the first time Wednesday afternoon. The 13-member, bipartisan, bicameral group is taking up medical marijuana rules in the wake of State Board of Health actions that drew two lawsuits. It will meet Wednesdays until it comes up with a set of regulations [Public Radio Tulsa]. After more than two and a-half hours of presentations and questions Wednesday during the group’s first meeting, Sen. Greg McCortney (R-Ada) described the situation facing lawmakers as “a whole lot to learn and a short time to do it” [NonDoc]. With regulations currently up in the air, proponents of medical marijuana are forming a group focused on patient rights [Public Radio Tulsa].

Poll: Oklahomans Not Ready for Recreational Marijuana: Oklahoma voters may have embraced medical marijuana but they remain a bit standoffish to recreational use, a recent poll suggests. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed by SoonerPoll on behalf of Griffin Communications said they’re against proposed State Question 797, a constitutional amendment that would cause marijuana to be treated “in a manner similar to alcohol” [Tulsa World].

Voter Registration Deadline Approaching for August Run Off: Voter registration is open through August 3, according to Carter County Election Board Secretary Diane Hall. Registration and personal information can be updated through that date. Party affiliation may not be changed until September 1 as it is a primary election year, Hall said [The Daily Ardmorite]. See key election dates and more information at our 2018 State Questions and Elections Page [OKPolicy].

Following State Budget Cuts, Oklahoma’s Adult Protective Services Is Doing More with Less: As the director of the state’s Adult Protective Services, Gail Wettstein remembers a time when no matter the case, the department would take it on. Times have changed. “We’re not doing that now,” Wettstein said. “We’re trying to have a focused scope, and also not waste anyone’s time.” The department has lost about 30 percent of its workers since 2014, Wettstein said [The Frontier].

Oklahoma Appeals Court Could Take Fresh Look at Julius Jones Conviction: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals will take a new look into the murder case that put a 19-year-old star athlete on death row. Julius Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell. Jones, who turned 38 years old Wednesday, has spent 19 years on death row [KOCO].

OKC Adjusts Judicial Processes to Cut Incarceration: The number of people put in jail in Oklahoma City for municipal charges has dropped more than 40 percent since 2015, Police Chief Bill Citty said. And the number of days that detainees spent in jail declined even more, nearly 55 percent for the same period. The result is a significant economic savings to the city, Citty said [Journal Record]. 

Council Member Shadid Prepares Open Meeting Act Lawsuit Against City of Okla City: The attorney for Oklahoma City Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid is drafting a lawsuit against the City of Oklahoma City over possible violations of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. Shadid is ratcheting up his long-standing criticism of City Manager Jim Couch and others over the practice of dividing the Council into smaller groups out of public view to skirt Oklahoma Open Meeting Act rules [Free Press OKC].

Tulsa World Editorial: Gov. Fallin Should Sign Tulsa’s Charter Changes or Explain Why She Won’t: Gov. Mary Fallin shouldn’t further delay citizen-approved changes to Tulsa’s city charter without offering some valid explanation. In 2017, 68 percent of Tulsa voters OK’d a charter change proposal to allow city employees to participate in municipal elections so long as they do so on their own time and out of uniform. Voters also approved (with a 64 percent vote) a measure to make sure a municipal public safety sales tax wasn’t used for other purposes [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Talihina Residents Strive to Keep Veterans Center: The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs put out a request for proposals last month for site selection for a new Talihina Veterans Center in southeastern Oklahoma. The veterans nursing home came under scrutiny following the deaths of two veterans. The new center can be located within 90  miles or 2 hours of Talihina. The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports residents of Talihina are fighting to keep the facility in their small town [KGOU].

Oklahoma’s First Quarter GDP Growth Ranks No. 22 in Nation: Oklahoma’s real gross domestic product at the beginning of 2018 reflects broad-based economic growth. After a big 3.3 percent real GDP increase mainly driven by oil in the fourth quarter of 2017, it increased a moderate 1.7 percent in the first quarter of 2018 from growth in a variety of sectors. That put the state’s growth rate at No. 22 in the nation, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis [NewsOK].

Environmental Groups Claim OKC Energy Companies Received Favorable Treatment: Three environmental groups on Tuesday sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, asking the new leadership to address what they say appears to be preferential treatment shown to three Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas companies. The Oklahoma companies said they are continuing to work with the EPA, and the agency said the environmental groups’ letter contains “significant factual errors and omissions” [NewsOK].

New Energy Index Indicates Continued Strong Growth for Oklahoma Oil and Gas Industry: The latest Oklahoma Energy Index shows the state’s oil and natural  gas industry isn’t letting up in its expansion. Dr. Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute, said the ongoing expansion in the state’s primary industry is driving widespread economic growth and stronger than expected fiscal conditions across the state [OK Energy Today].

All Bets Are Off: Details of Sports Betting’s Future Unknown: There’s no clear answer for how sports betting will look in Oklahoma or the other states that do not have a sportsbook yet. “Those looking at a one-size-fits-all answer to this might be looking at this for a long time,” said Kevin Mullally with Gaming Laboratories International. “There are different issues for the tribes and the states to consider” [Journal Record].

New Interstate Half-Mile Markers Designed to Improve Emergency Response: The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has been installing half-mile marker signs along Interstate 35 from near Davis to the Oklahoma County line in a pilot project to better assist motorists and improve emergency services. “I know our partners in the emergency community will be very happy to see these because they’ve been requesting that we consider these for a long time now,” said Terri Angier, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“[Adult Protective Services] staff come to work every day knowing they cannot fully meet the needs of the communities they serve,” Wettstein said. “Someone out there may be in real trouble and we just don’t have the resources to respond as quickly as we want to.”

-Gail Wettstein, director of Oklahoma’s Adult Protective Services which investigates neglect, abuse or exploitation of vulnerable adults. The department has lost about 30 percent of its workers since 2014 due to state budget cuts. [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Number of emergency teaching certifications granted by the State Department of Education for the 2018-2019 school year. At this time last year, 874 emergency certifications had been granted for the 2017-2018 school year.

[State Department of Education via The Journal Record]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Who Lives in Education Deserts? More People Than You Think: So how many adult Americans live in education deserts? The Chronicle’s analysis found that 11.2-million adults, or 3.5 percent of the adult population, live more than a 60-minute drive from a public college. Areas of the country that qualify as education deserts under our definition are largely rural and predominantly in the West. Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana, in that order, have the greatest percentage of adults living more than 60 minutes from a college [The Chronicle of Higher Education].

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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