In The Know: Health Department attorney sent threats to herself regarding marijuana rules, felony charges allege

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

Health Department’s Top Attorney Sent Threats to Herself Regarding Marijuana Rules, Felony Charges Allege: The general counsel for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, who abruptly left her post Friday, faces criminal charges of falsely reporting a crime and creating a fictitious email to send herself threats over the agency’s work on the state’s new medical marijuana program. Julie Ezell submitted her resignation Friday afternoon from the health department, hours after the filing of two lawsuits challenging emergency rules approved by the state Board of Health on July 10 regarding State Question 788 [Tulsa World].

Waiver Proposal Threatens Health Care for Parents and Caretakers: SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, helps thousands of families in our state see a doctor or fill a prescription. This spring, Oklahoma lawmakers ordered the state Medicaid agency to build a proposal to cut coverage for parents if they don’t report working or volunteering enough hours. This proposal has serious consequences for Oklahoma families if it’s approved by the federal government [Enid News & Eagle].

Local Leaders Say Pervasive Hunger Impacting School, Workplace Performance in Tulsa: Pervasive hunger and food insecurity is taking a toll on lifelong health and success across the Tulsa area, but local leaders say a significant portion of eligible residents are not seeking assistance. “Hunger doesn’t have county line boundaries. We have partners in Owasso saying their lines have doubled in the last few weeks. Jenks has a homeless coordinator,” said Eileen Bradshaw, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma [Tulsa World].

TPS Testing Program to Help More Needy Families Get Snap Benefits: Tulsa Public Schools and Hunger Free Oklahoma are trying out a program to help needy families get money for food. Through the SNAP In Schools program, Hunger Free Oklahoma is teaching employees at nine schools already in contact with families where the kids receive free or reduced-price lunch to identify the ones not signed up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits [Public Radio Tulsa].

Report Seeks to Explain How Oklahoma’s Promise Survived the Great Recession: Oklahoma’s Promise is one of six state “free college” programs that saw stronger support during the Great Recession. A report from progressive think tank The Century Foundation found its funding went up 46 percent during the downturn, second only to Mississippi’s program. Foundation senior fellow Jen Mishory said lawmakers took measures to preserve Oklahoma’s Promise after struggling to meet its obligations in 2006 [Public Radio Tulsa].

Oklahoma Women Find Common Ground in Unease with Political Parties and Education Issues: Women are a key constituency for both of Oklahoma’s major political parties, and an increasing number of women are running for office. But data suggest a majority of Oklahoma women are disappointed with both major political parties. About 55 percent of women who responded to a political attitudes survey commissioned on behalf of stations for the Oklahoma Engaged project viewed the Democratic party unfavorably compared to about 60 percent for Republicans [KGOU].

With Low Turnout, Should Oklahoma Kill the Primary Runoff? August will be a pivotal month for Oklahoma politics, with likely a record number of candidates facing off in runoff primary elections. Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians will decide their nominees on Aug. 28 in nine statewide races and more than two dozen legislative and congressional contests. But if the past is any indication, far fewer voters will cast ballots in these important second-round runoffs than those who voted in the first round of primaries [Oklahoma Watch]. Time for Oklahoma to off the runoff [OKPolicy].

Oklahoma Medicaid Approved for Drug Pricing Experiment: The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved Oklahoma’s Medicaid program for a first-in-the-nation drug pricing experiment that supporters say could save taxpayer dollars and provide patients with the most effective medications for their ailments. Under the “value-based purchasing” program approved in late June, the state and a pharmaceutical company would agree to a set payment if its medication works as advertised, but only a fraction of that if the drug is not as effective as promised [New York Times].

Mind Your Own Business: Oklahoma Insurers Soon Must Cover the Latest Technology for Detecting Breast Cancer: I had my annual mammogram on Thursday and was delighted to learn Oklahoma, effective Nov. 1, will mandate insurers to cover three-dimensional mammography, which is the latest technology for detecting breast cancer. Medicare has covered 3-D mammograms, or tomosynthesis, since Jan. 1, 2015. But, private insurers have been slow to follow, despite studies that show 3-D detects far more invasive cancers than standard two-dimensional mammograms, and significantly reduces unnecessary stressful callbacks [NewsOK].

Puzzle of Nitrogen Execution Could Present Issues for State: The condemned man enters the room where he will draw his last breath. He will be restrained in some way, perhaps strapped to the T-shaped platform where other offenders have been executed by injection. He may have taken a sedative or will be given one in the room. But he likely won’t be too groggy. The prisoner may then have a mask or a plastic hood or bag strapped to his face. Colorless, odorless nitrogen gas will stream into the mask from a tank similar to those used to inflate helium balloons [Oklahoma Watch].

Still Illegal: 10 Things Medical Marijuana Patients Would Not Be Allowed to Do Under SQ 788: State Question 788 goes into effect July 26 as Oklahoma implements the medical marijuana program approved by voters. The rules for implementation were posted to on July 10 after the board of health approved emergency rules that were required as part of the accelerated 30-day timeline of SQ788 taking effect. Those rules included two controversial amendments that have drawn two legal challenges [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Gasoline Prices Remain Among 10 Cheapest in U.S.: Oklahoma continues to have some of the cheapest gasoline in the country with an average of $2.63 a gallon, same price as a week ago. AAA Oklahoma says the state is ranked 8th lowest. Alabama’s $2.55 average is the lowest in the country followed by Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia and Tennessee. However, national prices have gone up 3 cents on average in the past week, reaching a U.S. average of $2.88 a gallon [OK Energy Today].

Who Writes Oklahoma’s Highway Message Boards? “Don’t be a stinker, use your blinker.” “Did I do that? Don’t Urkel in the work zone.” Oklahoma interstate signs have sported more than 100 different (often punny) safety messages like these in the past two years.  The displays are part of an Oklahoma Department of Transportation project called Work Zone Wednesday started in 2016 to increase driver safety and awareness [KGOU]. 

Northeast Oklahoma Neighbors Organizing to Call for Limits on Poultry Industry: With concerns about water shortages, water quality, air quality and health, residents of northeast Oklahoma are organizing to address issues they have with new and expanding poultry farm operations. A group gathered at the Peggs Community Center Sunday also made it clear that anyone running for political office this fall best be aware of their issues [Tulsa World].

OKC National Memorial Featured in PBS Program ’10 Monuments That Changed America’: After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Amy Downs and other survivors kept saying, “We will never forget.” In 2000, when the Oklahoma City National Memorial opened, Downs said it was the “fulfillment of that promise.” “While it does teach people about the horrific tragedy and loss of life, there’s also elements that show our resilience,” Downs told The Oklahoman on Monday [NewsOK].

Real-Life ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’: Hundreds of Former Students Surprise Retired Oklahoma High School Music Teacher: On quiet days, which they all are now, retired high school music teacher Robert Moore likes to pore over the list: The names of all 900 of his former students. He spent 30 years directing one of the greatest high school choral groups in the country — the Ponca City Chorale of Ponca City, Oklahoma. “Wouldn’t it be great to get those kids back together,” he said [CBS].

Quote of the Day

“Full employment doesn’t necessarily mean people can provide everything they need. A ton of jobs here pay $10 or $11 an hour. Think about supporting a family on that — the math doesn’t work.”

-Eileen Bradshaw, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, explaining why many working Oklahomans still need help getting enough food for their families [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma students participating in free or reduced-price lunch at school who also participated in breakfast in the 2016-17 school year, 23rd in the U.S.

[Hunger Free Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

As Feds Pull Back, States Step in to Regulate For-Profit Colleges and Universities: The case is among a slew of enforcement actions, lawsuits and legislative proposals through which states are cracking down on for-profit colleges and universities and loan-servicing companies they say cheat or mislead students. And the trend is picking up momentum as the Trump administration and Congress seek to soften federal regulations that were beefed up during the Obama years. The for-profit companies’ own securities filings disclose growing numbers of class-action lawsuits by students based on state instead of federal consumer laws and rising concern in the industry about intensifying state scrutiny [Hechinger Report].

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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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