In The Know: House won’t hear controversial school voucher bill | PSO recovery cost plan approved | Rebecca Hogue sentencing

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

From OK Policy

We are hiring! Join the team: We believe all Oklahomans deserve to live in safe communities, raise thriving families, and lead healthy lives. If you do too, join us in the fight for an equitable future. See the three open positions on our website. [Learn more and apply]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall: ‘I don’t plan to hear’ private school voucher bill: A key school choice bill that would pay for students to attend private schools or homeschool could be dead in its tracks, despite open support from the governor. [The Oklahoman] “Quite honestly, I don’t believe it will be heard in the House,” [Speaker] McCall said Thursday during a legislative summit sponsored by the Oklahoma Press Association. “That is just not a priority of our membership.” [Tulsa World] Senate Bill 1647 would create Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts and require per-pupil state funding to follow the student regardless of where they attend school. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Corporation Commission OK’s $675 million in fuel recovery costs for PSO from 2021 cold snap: A plan that enables Public Service Company of Oklahoma to recover $675 million in fuel costs from the extended cold snap of February 2021 was approved Thursday by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. [Tulsa World

  • Divided Corporation Commission supports two additional winter storm cost recovery orders [The Oklahoman
  • (Audio) Headlines: PSO bills increasing, medical marijuana licenses and Curbside Flowers [KOSU

Rebecca Hogue sentencing set for Friday afternoon: Rebecca Hogue, the Norman mother convicted of first degree murder through enabling child abuse after her former partner killed her son, is set to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Friday. On Jan. 1, 2020, Hogue’s son Jeremiah “Ryder” Johnson died in the care of her then-boyfriend, Christopher Trent. [The Norman Transcript]

Health News

St. John to close pediatric ICU, inpatient unit ahead of adult ICU expansion: To make room for a major expansion of its Adult Intensive Care Unit, Ascension St. John Medical Center plans to close its Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and general pediatric inpatient unit. The closures are to take effect April 30. [Tulsa World

Black maternal mortality rate still out of control in Oklahoma: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women experience pregnancy-related deaths at 3-4 times the rate of white women. In Oklahoma, that rate is even higher. [The Black Wall Street Times

5 questions with Dr. Richard Lofgren, the incoming inaugural CEO of OU Health: Dr. Richard Lofgren, a health care leader with decades of experience, will be the first president and CEO of OU Health. Lofgren will come to OU Health from Cincinnati, where he has served since 2013 as the president and CEO of the UC Health system. He will arrive in Oklahoma City in mid-March. [The Oklahoman

State Government News

Editorial: State audit of Health Department reveals careless missteps and waste. But it also is a win for transparency: The recently released investigative audit of the state Health Department produced a damning picture of corners being cut, wasted funds and an overall disregard for state laws and procedures on how public funds are spent. But there is a silver lining for Oklahomans: Transparency won the day. [Editorial / Tulsa World

  • Report uncovers Oklahoma’s failures in scramble for pandemic supplies [The Journal Record
  • (Audio) Health audit released, Stitt’s State of the State, election results and more [KOSU

Stitt’s budget seeks ‘performance-based culture’: There is an overriding theme to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2023, said members of his Cabinet on Thursday. “It’s a performance-based culture that we’re trying to get to,” said Oklahoma Chief Operating Officer Steven Harpe. “The governor has been very specific about it. He’s brought a business-minded atmosphere here, and he’s trying to implement it everywhere he can, specifically at the agencies with the largest spend.” [The Journal Record

Report from OK Policy: A Better Path Forward: During the past two decades, Oklahoma lawmakers have reduced state government spending by 22 percent (adjusted for inflation and population growth). This means that each year our elected officials and policymakers have fewer dollars to answer today’s needs or to invest in our state’s future success

Governor’s prioritizing ‘hope’ sets state on ‘right path,’ says OU-Tulsa hope science expert: Now that the state’s top elected leader has made “hope” an official priority, one of the concept’s biggest advocates says he couldn’t feel more, well, hopeful. “As a framework for action, it’s the right path for the state, and it’s going to help Oklahoma continue to move into a leadership role” in the field of hope science, said Chan Hellman, a University of Oklahoma-Tulsa professor and founding director of the Hope Research Center. [Tulsa World

Legislative report recommends moratorium on medical marijuana licenses: Oklahoma should temporarily halt the issuance of new medical marijuana licenses until the state has a better handle on regulating the sector, a legislative report issued Thursday recommends. [Tulsa World] The report found the state’s ability to regulate medical cannabis has not kept pace with rapid growth in the industry. [The Oklahoman

Group recommends funding to increase nurses: The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding — Health and Human Services Working Group unanimously approved a number of projects to send to the full committee that would substantially increase the number of nurses in the state. [The Lawton Constitution]

Anti-abortion bill creates government database for pregnant women: The Oklahoma Legislation started their 2022 sessions this week with a slew of anti-abortion bills. Senate Bill 1167, filed by Sen. George Burns (R) titled the “Every Mother Matters Act,” or EMMA seems to be the most radical. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma nonprofit used federal funds for vacations instead of victim services: Federal auditors uncovered a pattern of improper and irresponsible spending under Manion that included conference trips to Southern California and Florida. Money intended to support Oklahoma shelters, crisis centers and victims was spent on employee and board member vacations.  The findings jeopardize critical aid for Oklahoma women and their children, who suffer abuse at a rate nearly twice the national average, according to the latest Kids Count report. [Oklahoma Watch

Tribal Nations News

‘Just a mess’: Hughes County sheriff ends agreement with Muscogee Nation: In a letter she described to NonDoc as “a last resort,” Hughes County Sheriff Marcia Maxwell declared she would no longer be honoring the county’s cross-deputization agreement with the Muscogee Nation owing to concerns about their working relationship, particularly as it relates to the prosecution of alleged criminals. [NonDoc

Criminal Justice News

State grand jury looking into sexual misconduct accusations against former judge: The state’s new multicounty grand jury has begun its own investigation into sexual misconduct accusations against a former Oklahoma County district judge. Tim Henderson, 63, resigned last year after being accused but denies any wrongdoing. [The Oklahoman]

Viewpoint: Function of law is to do justice, and Oklahoma’s piling on of fees fails miserably: When the justice standard is applied, the Oklahoma practice of piling on fines and fees in criminal court fails miserably. It almost seems as though the system makes rules with an underlying ethos that a violator can be justifiably subjected to whatever power dynamics permit without regard to proportionality. [Opinion / The Oklahoman

Previously from OK Policy: Rural Oklahomans frequently carry larger burden for court fines, fees

Economy & Business News

First-time jobless claims decline 29% in state: First-time jobless claims in the state declined 29% last week, compared to the prior week, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 1,474 initial claims for unemployment benefits were filed the week ending Saturday in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World

US inflation rate marks 40-year high at 7.5%: Inflation soared over the past year at its highest rate in four decades, hammering American consumers, wiping out pay raises and reinforcing the Federal Reserve’s decision to begin raising borrowing rates across the economy. [The Journal Record

New from OK Policy: How should Oklahoma’s Legislature respond to inflation?

Education News

One week of session down, where do education issues stand?: It’s obvious that education is going to be one of the major focuses of Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma lawmakers during the 2022 legislative session. Oklahoma’s Senate Education Committee has already met and advanced a dozen bills forward, including one to give teachers 12 weeks of maternity leave. [State Impact Oklahoma

General News

‘A world of wounds’: Decline in grasshopper populations offers window into consequences of climate change: In a few months, the Konza Prairie will be teeming with jumping, chirping, munching grasshoppers. But more than likely, not as many as last year. For the last two decades, the grasshoppers of the Konza Prairie Biological Station in Manhattan, Kansas, have been declining — even as their main food source, grass, has nearly doubled in abundance. [State Impact Oklahoma]

What is Oklahoma’s most popular special-interest license plate?: According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, there are over 100 different active designs to choose from. Some of the most popular designs reflect Oklahoma’s culture: In God We Trust, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Don’t Tread On Me. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Commissioners hire lawyers – hear from angry public about OK County Jail [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“The obvious question for a person that lives in Atoka, Oklahoma, population 3,000 people, 12,000 in the county, (is) what does a kid with a voucher do? What do they do with that? The population is so sparse that are there going to be options that really pop up?”

– House Speaker Charles McCall speaking about a voucher bill that would allow any student to use public state funds to cover private-school or homeschool costs, noting limited options would be a concern for rural lawmakers [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

42.4 months

Average probation term for Oklahomans released from prison. The national average was 22.4 months.

[Source: Pew Charitable Trusts]

Policy Note

New data: The changes in prisons, jails, probation, and parole in the first year of the pandemic: Newly released data from 2020 show the impact of early-pandemic correctional policy choices and what kind of change is possible under pressure. But the data also show how inadequate, uneven, and unsustained policy changes have been: most have already been reversed. [Prison Policy Initiative]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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