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.
[One day left to apply! Oklahoma Policy Institute (OK Policy) is seeking two experienced and effective policy analysts to conduct research primarily related to issues of education policy or criminal justice policy, with a particular emphasis on how these policies affect low- and moderate-income Oklahomans. Learn more here.]
In The News
Group Opposed to Medical Marijuana State Question Organizes: A coalition that includes state medical and hospital associations, district attorneys and the State Chamber has organized to defeat State Question 788, the medical marijuana issue on the June 26 primary ballot, the group announced Tuesday. As its name implies, the group “SQ 788 is NOT Medical” argues that the state question would effectively legalize marijuana production and use for just about any purpose, not just medicinal [Tulsa World]. One Ardmore veteran is sharing his story, saying medical marijuana saved his life, and could save many others [KTEN]. State Question 788 Fact Sheet [OKPolicy].
Oklahoma’s Child Welfare Director Will Resign, Calling It ‘One of the Most Difficult Jobs in State Government’: Oklahoma’s director of child welfare services announced her resignation Tuesday, citing the stress of her job and the pressure of implementing a 2012 legal agreement. Jami Ledoux has led the child welfare wing of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for four years; three years as a director after one year as an interim director [NewsOK].
OSBI Head to Resign Effective June 30; Board Names Ricky Adams Successor: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Commission announced the agency’s deputy director Ricky Adams will become the new head of the OSBI following the resignation of director Bob Ricks. The commission voted unanimously to name Adams to the position effective July 1 after announcing Ricks’ resignation, the agency said in a news release Tuesday. Ricks’ resignation is effective June 30 [Tulsa World].
OK PolicyCast Episode 29: What Just Happened: The OK PolicyCast is back! In this episode, we look at what just happened in one of the most tumultuous legislative years in Oklahoma history. Bailey Perkins speaks about what it was like being at the state Capitol before, during, and after the teacher walkout. Carly Putnam shares some major developments in health care policy. And Ryan Gentzler talks about this year’s most important criminal justice legislation, both the good and the bad [OKPolicy].
Oklahoma Multicounty Grand Jury Hears from Former Health Commissioner: Oklahoma’s multicounty grand jury moved closer Tuesday to wrapping up its investigation into financial problems at the state Health Department. Former Health Commissioner Terry Cline testified before the grand jury for more than an hour Tuesday afternoon. Cline and his chief deputy, Julie Cox-Kain, resigned abruptly from the Health Department last October after the financial issues came to light. He had led the agency since 2009 [NewsOK].
Members Appointed to State Board of Health: The Oklahoma State Board of Health will have three new members after their appointment by Gov. Mary Fallin and confirmation by the state Senate. Ronald Osterhout begins his term immediately. He will serve the remainder of the term of Cris Hart-Wolfe, who resigned. The other two members will join the board on July 1 [Journal Record].
Oklahoma Attorney General and the Director of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Public Utility Division Still Opposed Wind Catcher: The Oklahoma Attorney General and the director of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Public Utility Division stated in a regulatory filing late Monday they remain opposed to Public Service Co. of Oklahoma’s request to obtain preapproval to recover costs to build the Wind Catcher Connection project [NewsOK].
OKC School Board Approves No School on Election Day: The Oklahoma City School Board approved of a measure to have no school on Election Day. The measure was approved in Monday night’s meeting. Several teacher groups have asked school districts across the state to have the day off on Election Day to allow teachers the ample time to vote. Yukon Public Schools is also having no school on Election Day [News9].
OKC Board Votes to Change School Names: No longer will three elementary schools be named after Confederate generals, the Oklahoma City School Board decided by unanimous vote Monday night. Instead, the names of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Stand Watie will be replaced by those of a trailblazing Native American woman, a female philanthropist and the Spanish word for hope [NewsOK].
Study: Despite Modest Income, Nearly All Teachers Pay for Class Needs out of Own Pocket: Every year Anna Graven dips into her modest teacher salary and spends her own money to buy bulletin boards, pencils, paper, highlighters and tissues for her high school students in Oklahoma City. So do almost all of her colleagues across the nation. Nearly all public school teachers report digging into their pockets to pay for school supplies, spending nearly $480 a year, far more than the federal $250 tax deduction available to teachers, according to a study by the National Center of Education Statistics released Tuesday [USA Today].
Tulsa County jail commissary nets $400K in six months with 9 in 10 items marked up at least double wholesale costs: The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is on pace to make $800,000 in its first year running the jail commissary, driven by sizable markups on convenience items sold to inmates. Nine in 10 of the products sold — from potato chips to combs — are marked up at least double (100 percent) what the Sheriff’s Office pays and half are at least triple (200 percent). By comparison, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said it had an average price markup the past 12 months of 36 percent on its commissary items — or about one-third of wholesale [Tulsa World].
Amazon Deal One Step Closer After Econ Dev Trust Vote: The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust voted Tuesday to offer a $1.7 million incentive to Amazon to bring a new fulfillment center to the metro in exchange for job guarantees. The Trust turned in a unanimous vote for the measure. Next, the deal will go before the full Oklahoma City Council for a decision on the offer idea [Free Press OKC].
Tulsa City Council Member Named to National EPA Advisory Committee: Tulsa City Councilman Ben Kimbro is one of 14 persons named to the Local government Advisory Committee of the Environmental Protection Agency. The 33-member LGAC helps EPA develop strong partnerships with local governments to provide more efficient and effective environmental protection at the community, state and federal level [OK Energy Today].
Norman City Council Members Mull Plastic Bag Fee: At an August Norman City Council retreat, members discussed how to address the city’s plastic bag problem. One solution is to place a fee on every plastic bag used in Norman, in hopes to discourage their use. Ward 6 Councilwoman Breea Clark says cities like Boulder, Colorado, have successfully placed a five-cent fee on bags [KGOU].
Newly Legalized Sports Wagering Won’t Start Right Away in Oklahoma: With the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing sports betting, you can expect it in Oklahoma casinos — eventually. “We look forward to being able to embrace that and bring it to the market. Obviously, our main focus is providing a steady revenue stream to our shareholders, and it’ll create some jobs,” said Cherokee Nation Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Mark Fulton [Public Radio Tulsa]. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that a ban on sports betting is unconstitutional opens a lot of doors for the states that choose to walk through them [Editorial /Journal Record].
Tulsa World Editorial: Women Never Should Have Been Shackled in Childbirth: Women giving birth don’t need to be tied to the bed, yet many formerly incarcerated inmates say they had been subjected to this practice while in custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. It’s not only an indignity, but also an inhumane and potentially dangerous situation to the mother and child. House Bill 3393, wisely approved by the governor last week, states that no restraints are to be used on an inmate during labor and delivery [Editorial / Tulsa World].
TSET Readies for Quitter Surge: Now is the perfect time to help your employees quit smoking, said Christin Kirchenbauer. An impending tax increase on cigarettes is prompting more people to ask for help to ditch the nicotine addiction. The state’s tobacco quit helpline contractor is already experiencing small increases in the number of calls, with an influx expected soon [Journal Record].
Cherokee Nation Lauded for Hepatitis C Elimination Effort: The Cherokees, the second-largest tribe in the U.S. after the Navajo Nation, started the program three years ago looking to screen 80,000 of its 350,000 citizens, mainly targeting those 20 to 65 because of their statistically higher chances of having the disease. More than half of the target group has been screened, with more than 1,300 citizens testing positive, and a 90 percent cure rate among those who have started treatment, the tribe says [Public Radio Tulsa].
Group Seeks Additional Funding for Promoting Tourism: During the 2015 legislative session, the state’s tourism promotion budget was cut 30 percent, and it has remained at the lower rate since then. A tourism advocacy group is going to try to get some of that money back next year, said Stephen Koranda, director of OK Tourism Works. While Oklahoma City and Tulsa are able to market their cities nationwide, smaller cities may not have the money to reach such a large audience. That’s what Jennifer Mullins and her staff do, but they’re doing it with almost $3 million less than what they before 2015 [Journal Record].
Quote of the Day
“We do what we need to do for our students and for us to be able to do our job. It would be less of a burden if we were also paid a livable wage.”
– Anna Graven, a high school American literature teacher in OKC, speaking about how she and most of her colleagues are forced to pay out of pocket for classroom supplies [Source].
Number of the Day
Percentage of high school students in Oklahoma who reported participating in 60 minutes of daily exercise in 2017. In that same year, 33.6% were reported overweight or obese.
House Farm Bill’s SNAP Changes Are a Bad Deal for States and Low-Income Households: The House Agriculture Committee farm bill would impose new mandates on states, limit state flexibility, and make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more complicated to administer. These changes would increase state costs and significantly undermine almost two decades of progress in simplifying, streamlining, and modernizing SNAP (which until the 2008 farm bill was known as food stamps). The bill would take away SNAP benefits from recipients across the country who need them while failing to achieve the proponents’ stated goals of improving employment outcomes [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.