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
Prosperity Policy: Epic fail: It has not, to put it mildly, been a good couple of months for David Chaney and Ben Harris, co-founders of Epic Charter Schools, Oklahoma’s largest virtual charter school. Launched in 2011, Epic has enjoyed explosive growth. It enrolled over 21,000 students in 2018-19, making it larger than the state’s fifth-largest school district. It operates online programs statewide and three centers that blend virtual and in-person learning in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. [David Blatt / Journal Record]
In The News
Health care working group gets overview at first meeting: The Oklahoma Legislature’s new Health Care Working Group met for the first time Wednesday morning and heard presentations from state agency leaders who provided an overview of health problems Oklahomans. The bipartisan and bicameral Healthcare Working Group was created by House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC) with a stated goal of developing ways to increase Oklahomans’ access to health care. [NonDoc] The working group was formed in response to a move to place healthcare expansion on the ballot next year. Click here for more information about SQ 802.
Department of Corrections hopes to hire hundreds of correctional officers: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is making a push to hire more than 600 entry-level correctional officers to work in facilities across the state. The agency has dealt with understaffing issues for years. At the end of July, only about 55% of the agency’s 1,366 cadet positions were filled. Officials hope a recent $2 an hour pay increase for correctional officers will help the agency to attract and retain candidates. [The Oklahoman] The dire need for additional corrections workers is partially due to our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate.
Health care, criminal justice reform on agenda for 2020 legislative session, governor says: For better of worse, the Jenks Republican has undeniably cut a wide swath during his first eight months in office. He convinced the GOP-led Legislature to surrender much of its control over state agencies, replaced much of the government’s top leadership, and pushed through most of the priorities on his legislative agenda. [Tulsa World] What to know what happened on these issues last session? Review our End of Session Roundup on Health Care and Criminal Justice Reform.
Gov. signs bill to track federal dollars: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill to improve government transparency in a ceremony at the State Capitol last week. Senate Bill 271 was authored by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, and Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. The bill requires all state agencies to annually disclose and rank all federally affiliated funds, programs and priorities. [Norman Transcript]
Oklahoma governor calls for gaming talks to start in a month after making concession: Gov. Kevin Stitt is pushing for gaming talks to begin Sept. 3, after backing away somewhat from his position that compacts with Oklahoma’s Native American tribes have to be renegotiated. “I propose we table the issue of the renewal or termination date of the existing compact, and use our time more productively by focusing on coming to a shared vision of gaming in Oklahoma for the future,” he told tribal leaders in a letter sent Tuesday. [The Oklahoman] What’s That? Tribal Gaming Compacts
$230 million taken from counties to fill state budget holes spurs county advocacy efforts years later: When Oklahoma lawmakers faced extreme budget holes in the last few years, roughly $230 million was taken from a fund helping county governments in the state complete extraordinary road and bridge projects they couldn’t otherwise afford. [The Oklahoman]
Stitt pushes toward a $2 billion reserve in a state that can’t provide adequate government services: Last year, at the governor’s insistence, the Legislature left unspent $200 million that was available for appropriation. In the state’s news release announcing the end-of-the-fiscal-year balances, Stitt said his goal is to build the state’s reserves to $2 billion. There’s obvious wisdom in planning for bad times. We all remember the past decade. And if the state budget were in the right place, building a bigger reserve would be the right choice, but that’s not the case. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]
County Commissioners take up contract renewals, social services grants: Much of Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners was taken up with contract renewals from several departments including eight from the Sheriff’s Department. [Free Press OKC]
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister talks about the state Of Oklahoma’s education: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister joined News On 6 to talk about the current state of Oklahoma’s education as kids are headed back to school. Hofmeister said that students will be going back to school with nearly $75 million in funding this year, and that the state’s improvements on education legislature is not “one and done.” [NewsOn6] See how education fared last year in our Budget Overview
Conversations over ICE raids begin at OKCPS: Growing fears of immigration authorities after a record-setting sweep rounded up hundreds in Mississippi on the first day of school have Oklahoma City Public Schools authorities planning for the possibility here in the Sooner State. [KFOR]
Oklahoma groups sorting out potential impact of Trump’s “public charge” immigration rule: Experts are finding it hard to say how many people living in Oklahoma may be affected by the Trump administration’s strict new “public charge” rule. [Public Radio Tulsa] This rule means that families will face the terrible choice of accepting the help they need and staying the United States.
In rural areas, a ceaseless struggle to get domestic abuse victims to testify: Oklahoma has many small towns where everyone knows everyone else, which is often a point of pride. But that can also mean domestic-violence victims feel isolated. They may not report abuse to police or seek help out of fear their story will become public or no one will believe them, prosecutors and advocates say. [Oklahoma Watch]
Appeals court denies DA’s request to reverse judge’s decision: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has denied an appeal by Cleveland County’s top prosecutor to reverse a judge’s decision to keep a woman in a drug court program after she violated the terms of her performance contract. [The Oklahoman]
Side effects: Politicians and marijuana activists look ahead to future changes: A year after medical marijuana became legal in Oklahoma, state lawmakers and marijuana advocates seem to have found a balance in implementing State Question 788 and moving the industry forward into the near future. [The Oklahoman]
Equality Indicators: City councilors question panelists about diversity in Tulsa Police Department: The city’s Equality Indicators reports are all about numbers. Wednesday night, city councilors received a bunch more, this time on racial and gender diversity in the Tulsa Police Department. The bottom line: The department is not where it wants to be when it comes to diversity. [Tulsa World]
OKC expects increased economic benefits from Innovation District development: City and state entities are considering developing Oklahoma City’s Innovation District into a research hub. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses the project’s potential $1.2 billion economic impact and how it could create 6,600 new jobs, while strengthening nearby neighborhoods, parks and schools. [KGOU]
City drafting ballot for sales tax measure: The City of Norman is currently drafting and discussing a ballot initiative for a potential one-eighth percent sales tax. The council is still leaning toward using the one-eighth percent sales tax solely on public transit, if Norman voters pass the tax in November. [Norman Transcript]
Cherokee officials take oaths of office, bid farewell to previous administration: It was standing room only in the Chota Conference Center in Tahlequah Wednesday, when more than 1,500 people gathered to watch the inauguration of Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, and eight tribal councilors. [Tahlequah Daily Press] In his inaugural address, Hoskin told Cherokee citizens to rally not around him but around common goals, like taking care of elders, helping small towns thrive and preserving their language. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Citizen petition wants Cherokee chief race invalidated and investigated by feds, but Bureau of Indian Affairs says it has no authority to step in: A petition asking the federal government not to recognize the results of the Cherokee chief election has been filed by a tribal citizen but is not signed by the candidate whose disqualification is cited as a grievance. [Tulsa World]
Former Muscogee (Creek) Nation principal chief indicted on federal bribery charge: A federal grand jury has indicted former Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger for bribery as part of a scheme that included the purchase of land for a tribal casino, according to court records released Wednesday. [Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
“…the business of state government isn’t building a bigger reserve. The job is meeting the state’s legitimate needs for basic government service. Until we meet that standard, the governor should keep his desire for more savings in perspective.”
– Tulsa World Editorial Board on Gov. Stitt’s push toward a $2 billion dollar “Rainy Day” fund [Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
The number of Oklahoma school districts on a 4 day school week as of July 2019.
[Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education]
Las Vegas program bridges digital divide in public housing: It’s important to make sure that we bridge that digital divide and connect residents to the same opportunities that rich, privileged, affluent kids … get,” said housing authority Executive Director Chad Williams. “The disconnect is racist, discriminatory and marginalized, and it just shouldn’t be happening.” [Review Journal]
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