In The Know: Legislature passes 25 lawsuit reform bills to end special session

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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Legislature ended a special session after passing 25 bills to restrict consumer lawsuits, including a certificate of merit requirement for suits that has twice been thrown out as unconstitutional. Sports Illustrated is planning to publish a series of articles about corruption in Oklahoma State University’s football program since 2001. 

Student proficiency rates on science tests have plummeted after the State Department of Education hiked the scores needed for passage. Sapulpa superintendent Kevin Burr wrote that it’s unfair for the state Department to have changed the cut score after tests were already taken. The OK Policy Blog looked at Oklahoma’s uneven progress on reforming the child welfare system.

KFOR discussed cuts to food stamps that will begin affecting Oklahoma families in November. The Oklahoman editorial board wrote that conditions in Oklahoma’s correctional system are leading to serious violence and a federal takeover. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank among the states for the share of aged 50+ households with a person that has any disability. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog discusses how the cult of shareholder value has wrecked American business.

In The News

Oklahoma Legislature passes 25 lawsuit reform bills to end weeklong special session

The House took some persuading, and even then the Republican leadership and the Fallin administration didn’t get exactly what they wanted, but a sheaf of 25 lawsuit reform bills went through the final stage of adoption by the Oklahoma Legislature on Monday to bring a weeklong special session to an end. The bills are intended to replace a single, omnibus measure enacted in 2009 and declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in June. Twenty-four of the 25 bills are intended to correct the 2009 law’s violation of the state’s single-subject rule. The 25th and most controversial deals with the so-called certificate of merit requirement, which the court has twice thrown out on other grounds.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Report alleges corruption in Oklahoma State football program

Oklahoma State said Saturday that Sports Illustrated has informed the school it plans to publish a series of articles about alleged misconduct in the university’s football program starting in 2001. The university said in a statement that the allegations outlined don’t involve any current coaches or players. The Oklahoman reported Saturday, citing an unidentified source, that the allegations include payments to players from boosters and academic improprieties, including changing grades. The Oklahoman also reported former assistant coach Joe DeForest is accused in the story of running a bonus program, paying players for big plays as recently as 2011. Sports Illustrated also will report on widespread drug abuse and that hostesses in a university program provided sex to recruits, according to the Oklahoman.

Read more from ESPN.

EOI passage drops dramatically after state hikes cut scores

A recent decision by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to hike the scores needed for passage of biology and other science tests appears to have sent student proficiency rates plummeting in Tulsa-area schools. Passing rates on other subject exams were trending between steady to modest increases. Local schools are releasing latest student proficiency rates from the testing during the 2012-13 academic year. The science and biology scores were raised in August for tests that were taken in April. In Tulsa Public Schools, Biology I EOI passage rates fell from 54 percent of test-takers to 32 percent. On Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests, science proficiency fell from 72 percent in fifth and eighth grades to 34 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Sapulpa superintendent: Changing cut scores after tests taken unfair

Imagine yourself on the first day of school. You’re a high school senior and the teacher has handed out the syllabus that explains the grading scale. Fast-forward to May. It’s two weeks until graduation, and you’ve worked your tail off to earn an “A” with a 91 percent. Without warning, the teacher says, “I’m throwing out the old grading scale. To get an A in my class you’ll need a 95 percent.” This is the situation facing Oklahoma students today.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Reforming the child welfare system: A progress report

One year after Oklahoma finalized an historic plan to transform its child welfare system, significant changes have been put in place. However, major obstacles remain and the ultimate success of the Pinnacle Plan will depend on many more years of hard work, shared commitment, financial resources, and institutional creativity. In July 2012, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) announced the Pinnacle Plan to reform  child welfare services. The plan emerged out of a settlement agreement reached in a federal class action lawsuit, D.G. v. Yarbrough, challenging the state’s treatment of children in foster care. The system was faulted for allowing  abuse of children in its care, placing children in overcrowded and understaffed emergency shelters, and failing to provide secure and long-term placements, among other concerns.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Food stamp program to be cut in November

Nearly 16 percent of Oklahomans who receive help from the government’s food stamp program, known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), will soon find it harder to put food on the table. 622,166 Oklahomans received SNAP benefits in July. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services said Monday the SNAP program is being cut an estimated $5 billion in fiscal year 2014. Starting November 1st, that cut will translate to a $66 million loss for Oklahomans. Money earmarked for the program from the federal government’s 2009 economic stimulus plan will run out October 31st. At that time, DHS said each Oklahoman using SNAP will only receive about $1.40 per meal, per day. That’s the equivalent of a family of four losing 21 meals per month.

Read more from KFOR.

County jail problems tied to Oklahoma’s overall corrections approach

Conditions at Oklahoma’s county jails offer another reminder of why Oklahoma has to rethink its approach to corrections policy. The Oklahoman’s Andrew Knittle spent time traveling to various county jails and reviewing complaint reports. The results aren’t pretty. Many county jails are overcrowded, in part because they hold inmates who are supposed to be locked up in state prisons but can’t get in because those prisons are overcrowded. A number of new county jails have been built during the past decade to replace structures that had long ago outlived their usefulness. But those days may be coming to an end.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

Locals are wary of investing in new digs for inmates. On a broader scale, lawmakers are unlikely to embrace significant corrections reform. The stage is set for serious violence at state prisons and a federal takeover of some local jails.

-The Oklahoman editorial board, on the severe overcrowding and unsafe conditions in Oklahoma’s jails and prisons (Source:

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank among the states for the share of aged 50+ households with a person that has any disability, 42.1 percent versus 33 .7 percent nationally

Source: AARP

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How the cult of shareholder value wrecked American business

In the recent history of management ideas, few have had a more profound — or pernicious — effect than the one that says corporations should be run in a manner that “maximizes shareholder value.” Indeed, you could argue that much of what Americans perceive to be wrong with the economy these days — the slow growth and rising inequality; the recurring scandals; the wild swings from boom to bust; the inadequate investment in R&D, worker training and public goods — has its roots in this ideology. The funny thing is that this supposed imperative to “maximize” a company’s share price has no foundation in history or in law. Nor is there any empirical evidence that it makes the economy or the society better off.

Read more from Wonkblog.

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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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