In The Know: July 21, 2011

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, heat has been blamed for as many as 12 deaths in Oklahoma, and Gov. Fallin declared a state of emergency in all Oklahoma counties due to the heat. Lack of air conditioning in many Oklahoma prisons is creating a health risk for inmates. Drew Edmondson will chair a commission to re-examine cases where DNA tests have been used to clear convicted murderers.

OKC Councilman Ed Shadid is raising questions about whether implementation of the MAPS 3 convention center will have costs that voters weren’t told about. The OK Policy Blog discusses a new study showing large benefits for Medicaid recipients in health outcomes and financial stability. Oklahoma officials saying a failure to raise the federal debt limit could result in chilling Oklahomans’ access to health care and exploding borrowing rates.

OU’s move to reduce the number of licenses for OU branded goods is coming under fire for possibly violating antitrust laws. A bill to allow the Cherokee Nation to operate its own power plant passed unanimously through a House committee. A draft of the 25-year regional transit plan for the Tulsa area calls for improvements in the region’s bus system.

In today’s Policy Note, Miller-McCune examines how state cuts to Medicaid are endangering community health clinics that provide primary care to 23 million Americans, a third of them children. Today’s Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally for watermelon production in 2010; watermelon is also the state’s official vegetable. Read on for more.

In The News

Heat blamed in as many as 12 Oklahoma deaths

A heat wave that has gripped the state for weeks has contributed to as many as 12 deaths, and no relief is in sight. Hyperthermia, or overheating of the body, caused three deaths. Excessive heat was a factor in the death of a fourth person and is suspected in the deaths of eight others, Cherokee Ballard, spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office, said Wednesday. “The risk of heat-related illness will continue this week as the weather pattern of hot days and warm nights persists,” the National Weather Service said in an advisory.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Gov. Mary Fallin declares state of emergency due to extreme heat from KJRH

Lack of cool air leaves Oklahoma inmates miserable

Day after day of sweltering triple-digit temperatures are creating miserable conditions for thousands of inmates and guards inside Oklahoma prisons. Most cellblocks in the state Corrections Department’s men’s units are not air-conditioned, officials said. A recent check of the temperature in one cell revealed a temperature of 96 degrees, said Jerry Massie, Corrections Department spokesman. Even some of the air-conditioned cellblocks have experienced periodic outages because buildings and air-conditioning units in the prison system are so old, Massie said.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Drew Edmondson to chair commission reexamining cases where DNA evidence has cleared convicted murderers

Chairman Drew Edmondson and the 16 members of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Justice Commission intend to re-examine cases where DNA tests have been used to clear convicted murderers. There have been 10 such cases in Oklahoma and more than 250 cases nationally, including 17 where the convicted have been sentenced to death. The problem with those numbers, according to the bar association resolution that established the commission, is that biological evidence – DNA – is available in just a small number of cases; if the percentage of wrongful convictions is similar in other cases, many more innocent people may be serving time. The purpose of the commission is to examine the overturned cases to see what went wrong and what needs changing to prevent further miscarriages of justice.

Read more from this Associated Press editorial at

Ed Shadid: MAPS 3 convention center implementation could take expensive twists voters weren’t told

On December 8, 2009 voters passed MAPS 3, a seven year one-cent sales tax to raise $777 million to pay for a convention center, a world class park, a downtown transit system, four senior wellness center, river and fairground improvements and trails and sidewalks. The convention center was, by far, the least popular of the projects showing large majority opposition regardless of age, gender, political party, race or income. The City never performed a needs assessment study and instead relied solely upon one study, commissioned by the OKC Chamber from a consultant, Convention Sports and Leisure (CS&L , Mar ‘09), to estimate the economic development impact of such a center. The CS&L study, which the OKC Chamber has refused to release to the public, made clear that such a project would need a roughly 650-room convention center hotel which would require public subsidies with a midrange of $50 million. The notion that the public would need to subsidize a hotel was not publicly discussed during the MAPS 3 campaign.

Read more from this City Sentinel article at

New study finds Medicaid coverage boosts health outcomes and financial stability

As states and Washington grapple with ongoing budget shortfalls, the Medicaid program is often in the crosshairs of those calling for major reductions in government spending. But while the costs of funding Medicaid are readily apparent, we should not forget the program’s crucial role in providing health care for those who may be too poor or too unhealthy to buy coverage in the commercial insurance market. Recently, a path-breaking new study reported that when those without health insurance are enrolled in Medicaid, they see wide-ranging benefits in terms of access to health care services, better physical and mental health, and financial stability.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://medicaid-matters-new-study-finds-coverage-boosts-health-outcomes-and-financial-security/.

Failure to raise federal debt ceiling could chill Oklahomans’ access to health care, explode borrowing rates

Government officials in Oklahoma are preparing for the possibility the United States government will default on bonded indebtedness within the next few weeks. “A prolonged holdup or reduction in federal funding could hurt a wide array of state programs,” said Finance Director Preston Doerflinger. “After all, the state got almost $8.7 billion in federal funds across all agencies and programs during fiscal year 2010… Oklahoma Health Care Authority officials are concerned about paying health care providers as regularly as they do now, and that would have a chilling effect to access to medical care for some Oklahomans.” The financial supervisor on Doerflinger’s staff says the state’s credit or bond ratings would not be directly affected. However, if a protracted shutdown or cash collapse occurred at the federal level, borrowing rates could explode.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

OU’s new license agreement accused of violating antitrust law

OU’s new Sideline +1 licensing initiative, which would reduce licenses held by manufacturers of OU branded goods, is coming under fire for possibly violating antitrust laws, according to a letter sent to the athletic department. Steven Bradbury of Dechert LLP issued a letter to 27 universities — including OU — that accuses Sideline +1 of being an “anticompetitive restraint of trade.” The inititiave is not decreasing liceneses for all of OU’s branded apparel, but a portion of the mid-tier channel — which features men’s T-shirts, fleece and hoodies — has been reducted from about 30-40 licensees down to eight or 10, almost a 75-percent reduction.

Read more from this OU Daily article at

Tribal power plant bill advances

Legislation the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma says it needs to move ahead with a $140 million power plant on the Arkansas River sailed through a U.S. House committee Wednesday. Approved by unanimous consent in the House Natural Resources Committee, the bill by Rep. Dan Boren would change current law to allow the tribe to own and operate the proposed facility and sell the power on its own. A 1986 law that gives the tribe exclusive rights to build the plant requires it to transfer the plant to the Army Corps of Engineers and have its electricity sold by the Southwestern Power Administration.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Tulsa area transportation plan unveiled

Jamie Drake is too busy living to worry about a Regional Transit System Plan. Out the door by 7 a.m., children in tow, she caught the 215 bus at 31st Street and Sheridan Road at 7:21 a.m. Thirty minutes later she was at the Denver Avenue bus station. “I wouldn’t be able to get things done” without the bus service, she said. But Drake, a frequent bus rider for 15 years, knows the system could be better. The draft version of the 25-year Regional Transit System Plan to be unveiled Thursday by the Indian Nations Council of Governments won’t fix everything that ails the city’s bus system, but it does offer suggestions to make it better.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Quote of the Day

Used to be, you didn’t have to wait more than 30 minutes. Now it’s 45 minutes to an hour, or longer.
Jamie Drake, a frequent Tulsa bus rider

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank nationally for watermelon production in 2010; Watermelon is also the state’s official vegetable.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Holes in the medical safety net

Cynder Sinclair, chief executive officer of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics in Southern California, wants to keep her doors open for the poor and sick, but it’s getting harder by the day. On top of their normal caseloads, Sinclair’s four clinics are seeing 400 new patients per month, a record. No one is ever turned away, regardless of his or her ability to pay. Yet this month, state Gov. Jerry Brown signed a budget that cuts funding for Medicaid — a federally funded, state-administered program for the poor that goes by the name Medi-Cal in California — by $2 billion. The cuts (partly a result of a drawdown in fiscal stimulus spending by Washington) include a 10 percent reduction in Medi-Cal reimbursements to community clinics.

Read more from Miller-McCune at

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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