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.
In The News
Oklahoma Seeing Influx of New Voters: Oklahoma’s top election official says voter registration is surging prior to the Nov. 6 general election. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said Friday almost 2.1 million people were registered to vote in the state at the end of September. Ziriax says more than 76,000 people have registered to vote since Jan. 15. The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Oct. 12. [Public Radio Tulsa] Find more information from OK Policy on Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions here.
Tulsa’s Native American Day back Monday for second year: Coming just three weeks after the resolution establishing it, Tulsa’s first Native American Day in 2017 didn’t have the benefit of a lot of forethought. But for the second go-round that’s not the case, and the planning shows. Celebrating the contributions of native peoples to the community, the second annual Tulsa Native American Day is set for Monday with a number of free, public events scheduled. [Tulsa World] Today is also the first OKC Indigenous Peoples Day thanks to a proclamation from new Mayor David Holt. [NonDoc]
Oklahoma Education Department gets $12.5M in mental health grants: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has received $12.5 million in federal grants to address students’ mental health needs. The funding is going to the area of greatest need: western Oklahoma. “Of the 106 mental health providers that serve students, there are only five that exist west of Oklahoma City metro area,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. “Only five.” [Public Radio Tulsa]
Reading Partners brings the joy of reading to students: With about 1,600 mentors last school year, Tulsa has embraced Reading Partners. The volunteer program has a well-documented history of success throughout its five years with Tulsa Public Schools. But the young students aren’t the only ones who benefit. “What’s really cool about the program is seeing the kids go from the beginning to the end of the program,” said Reading Partners volunteer Will Bruner. [Tulsa World]
Tuesday forum in Lawton: Legislative candidates discuss state issues: A public forum will be held Tuesday evening at Cameron University, featuring candidates running for legislative seats in the Lawton area. The event, which is free, is being sponsored by nonprofit organizations Together Oklahoma and Oklahoma Watch, and will focus on public policy issues facing the state. Audience members will be able to ask questions. [Oklahoma Watch] You can RSVP for this event here.
Capitol Insider: Debunking campaign tactics ahead of the general election: In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU’s Dick Pryor speaks with political scientist Dr. Keith Gaddie of the University of Oklahoma. The two dissect campaign activity leading up to the general election on Nov 6, including negative ads, push polls and the influx of dark money. [KGOU] Keith Gaddie previously appeared on the OKPolicyCast to speak about the forces shaking Oklahoma politics.
Oklahoma voters will be asked to create ‘Vision Fund’: Among the handful of state questions on the Nov. 6 election ballot is SQ 800, which creates a fund for investment of 5 percent of tax revenue from oil and gas development, increasing by .2 percent each year to 100 percent. The “Oklahoma Vision Fund” would be invested by the state treasurer into stocks and private companies under the “prudent investor rule.” [Tahlequah Daily News] See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 800 here.
Republican Mike Hunter tries to fend off Democratic challenger Mark Myles in attorney general’s race: Republican Attorney General Mike Hunter is hoping his track record in office will secure him a full term on Nov. 6. Democratic challenger Mark Myles thinks he is better qualified. Myles, an Oklahoma City attorney who made a failed bid for U.S. Senate in 2010, said Hunter is the “consummate political insider” who spent his career working in and around politics. [Tulsa World]
Two vying for Insurance Commissioner in Nov. 6 race: A Republican state lawmaker faces the chairwoman of the Tulsa County Democratic Party in a bid to become the next insurance commissioner. The general election is Nov. 6. Insurance Commissioner John Doak is term limited and can’t seek re-election. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoma lawmakers consider school savings from later start: Oklahoma lawmakers are exploring whether schools should start the school year later to cut utility costs. CNHI Oklahoma report s lawmakers launched a legislative study Wednesday where Oklahomans for School Calendar Reform said school districts spend money on cooling schools that could be appropriated to classrooms. [AP News]
Scott Meacham: Oklahoma giving up potential millions in unfunded research opportunities: Statewide concern over Oklahoma’s budgetary challenges and priorities has become a roar over the last several years. The Legislature took some steps to increase revenue this past legislative session and, very appropriately, used that revenue to add funding to education. Education is of critical importance, and overall funding certainly isn’t yet where it needs to be, but the lack of appropriate investment in education isn’t the only way Oklahoma’s future is being shortchanged. [Scott Meacham / Tulsa World]
Tulsa, Oklahoma City mayors explore economic role of entrepreneurship with local startup founder: The mayors of Oklahoma’s two largest cities joined together Sunday to discuss the economic impact of entrepreneurship on the past and future of their communities. Those in attendance were part of the first batch of Oklahoma entrepreneurs to participate in the Thunder Launchpad business accelerator program, which is designed to help technology-driven startups succeed. [Tulsa World]
Pauls Valley Hospital’s struggles reflect challenges rural hospitals face: Five years ago, Pauls Valley General Hospital became a poster child for struggling rural hospitals. After a plan by its management company to purchase the hospital fell through, the Pauls Valley Hospital Authority filed for bankruptcy to restructure its debt. Many in the 6,000-person community wondered if their hospital would survive. [Oklahoma Watch]
Study on moms in jail merits policymakers’ attention: After studying practices at the Oklahoma County jail two years ago, researchers with the Vera Institute of Justice noted that roughly four-fifths of the population was made up of people awaiting trial. Those weeks or months (or sometimes longer) of waiting can turn a person’s life upside down. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]
Oklahoma state rep: Lawmakers need to visit prisons to understand reforms: There will be more than 40 new lawmakers sworn into the House of Representatives after the November elections. I want to encourage them each to get involved in what is going on in our state’s prison system. They will be tasked with appropriating funds to our Department of Corrections, but they can only learn how money is spent and how much is needed by visiting our state’s prisons for themselves. [Rep. Bobby Cleveland / NewsOK]
Medical marijuana by the numbers: Current patient-to-dispensary ratio is 12:1 as health department gets $5 million: If all 600 submitted retail license applications are approved and each business manages to open its doors, the ratio of medical marijuana patients to dispensaries in Oklahoma would be about 12 to 1. Although those numbers could signal the start of a competitive marketplace that enjoys light regulations, industry figureheads differ on whether a de facto free-for-all landscape is good in the long run. [Tulsa World]
Tulsa Council takes up revised truancy ordinance: After months with a task force, Tulsa City Councilor Karen Gilbert’s truancy ordinance is back before the city council. Those meetings focused the ordinance on getting families into a new Therapeutic Attendance Court, which will connect them to social services they may need. The therapeutic court would be optional and offered after schools show they have exhausted all their efforts at getting a kid back in class. [Public Radio Tulsa] We previously discussed how Tulsa has better options than punitive responses to truancy and homelessness here.
Tulsa County judge says he was ‘ordered’ to ‘maintain confidentiality’ about his use of jurors’ private information: Tulsa County District Judge James Caputo this week issued a public apology for using jurors’ private information in his campaign for re-election, but he won’t say how many jurors had their contact information taken from court records. “I’m not trying to be avoiding you, it’s just that I can’t. I have to respect what I’ve been ordered to do, which is to maintain confidentiality,” Caputo told the Tulsa World on Friday. [Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
“Of the 106 mental health providers that serve students, there are only five that exist west of Oklahoma City metro area. Only five.”
-State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, speaking about why her department is using federal grant funding to address students’ mental health needs in Western Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
Number of the Day
Oklahoma 2017-2018 charter school student enrollment growth. Nationally, charter school enrollment grew by 5%.
November offers major test of Medicaid expansion’s support in red states: In November, four states are voting on the issue — Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and Utah. The ballot measures will test support for a central tenet of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) in red states, which make up the bulk of the 14 holdouts. It will be the first referendum on provisions of the ACA since Congressional Republicans tried and failed to repeal it last year. Supporters of Medicaid expansion see it as a vital part of the social safety net, especially because qualifying for Medicaid in nonexpansion states can be tough. Opponents, however, see expansion as fiscally irresponsible since states will start picking up 10 percent of the costs in 2020. [Governing]
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