In The Know: Local opioid lawsuits continue; OK’s economic strength; OKC jail crisis…

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.

New from OK Policy

Prosperity Policy: A low-key budget year: What a difference a healthy budget surplus makes. Compared to recent years, this session’s budget debates have been decidedly low-key. There have been no fevered negotiations to muster supermajorities for tax increases, no public rallies to protect threatened services, no tense battles over the magnitude of cuts. [David Blatt / OK Policy]

In The News

Judge: State’s $270 million Purdue Pharma settlement does not apply to cities, counties: The $270 million settlement between the state of Oklahoma and OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma does not extend to cities and counties that have their own lawsuits pending against the manufacturer unless they choose to participate in the agreement, a judge ruled last week. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma improves economic strength: Oklahoma showed signs of economic growth in both real gross domestic product and state unemployment rates, according to recent data. Data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission showed the state has grown in its measurements at the local and national level. [NewsOK ????]

Oklahoma County jail getting hotter as pipe repairs knock out air conditioning: The aging, troubled Oklahoma County jail has a dangerous new problem — no air conditioning and hot days ahead. “This is an unbelievable crisis,” Public Defender Bob Ravitz told county commissioners at their regular weekly meeting Wednesday. “You’re going to be killing people.” Commissioners agreed to hold an emergency meeting Thursday morning to go over possible solutions to cool the 13-story jail. [NewsOK]

Stitt unveils criminal justice reform wish list: With weeks remaining in the legislative session, Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday rolled out his wish list for the criminal justice reforms he would like to see this year. The governor’s criminal justice reform package includes some, but not all, of what reform advocates were pushing this legislative session. But Stitt’s priorities garnered bipartisan praise from lawmakers and support from groups outside the Legislature. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma governor vetoes overtime pay for state workers: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have offered overtime pay to state employees making less than $31,000 annually. In striking the bill, Stitt called for a broader conversation on developing standardized pay policies for all state agencies. House Bill 2465 would have required that employees making less than $31,000 receive overtime pay instead of compensation time for additional hours worked. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma governor vetoes fiercely debated pharmacy choice bill: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday vetoed a bill intended to give patients the right to choose a pharmacy provider without paying a penalty. “Senate Bill 841 attempts to regulate certain health plans sponsored by Oklahoma employers in such a manner that is preempted by, and disallowed by, federal law,” Stitt said in his veto message. “Legislation in other states that is similar to Senate Bill 841 has been struck down for impermissibly attempting to regulate health plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.” [NewsOK ????]

Oklahoma Governor signs $5000 tax exemption for foster families: Oklahoma’s more than 4,100 foster families will soon get some financial relief following the signing of Senate Bill 893 Tuesday. Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan, and Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, authored the bill, which will provide a $5,000 income tax exemption for anyone contracting with a child-placing agency for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2019. [Miami News-Record]

Democrats’ budget proposal includes funding for Medicaid expansion: Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives have outlined a proposed budget for the state that would include income tax rate hikes for high-wage earners and acceptance of $900 million in federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program. House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, led a small contingent in announcing the budget proposal this week. [Journal Record]

Bill would eliminate tax exemptions for business incubators in Oklahoma: A bill that has advanced through the Legislature would end state tax exemptions provided for operators of numerous small business “incubators” across the state. Senate Bill 485 would amend the Oklahoma Small Business Incubators Act, which dates to 1988 and was crafted to stoke investment in startup businesses. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma becomes 30th state to adopt environmental ‘audit privilege’ law: Gov. Stitt signed a bill allowing companies to self-audit their compliance with environmental regulations and seal the records. It’s called an “audit privilege” law, and according to the EPA, 29 other states also have them. They became popular in the 1990s, after model legislation was introduced by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. [KGOU]

Minority communities face additional mental health care access struggles: The number of Oklahomans in minority groups getting help for mental health issues is lower than the average. From stigma to less access, these additional hurdles can make recovery more difficult. Whether we are talking about a race or sexual orientation– your family history, your background, and that oppressive mental illness stigma can all feel impossible to overcome. [FOX25]

Tomorrow’s workers need K-12 career training, JA panelists agree: To find their place in the workforce, kids need a greater exposure to hobbies at an early age. What’s more, their parents and teachers should start homing in on their unique skills sets — and potential careers — when they’re 4 or 5. Such was the consensus of a public-private panel discussion at the annual luncheon of Junior Achievement of Oklahoma on Thursday at the Embassy Suites Downtown/Medical Center. [NewsOK]

OKC appoints interim police chief: Oklahoma City officials on Wednesday named an interim police chief who will succeed longtime Chief Bill Citty on Thursday. Deputy Chief Jeff Becker will lead the Oklahoma City Police Department while city officials continue to look for a permanent replacement for Citty, who announced his retirement in January after heading the department for 15 years. [NewsOK]

OK ag officials aim to address federal concerns with state industrial hemp pilot program: Oklahoma’s Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry aims to eliminate a dispute involving the state’s pilot industrial hemp growing program that has erupted between farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency director in the state. [NewsOK]

Rep Horn uses open house, town halls to reach out: In her first year of a two-year Congressional term, U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn is making a concerted effort to be available to common constituents in her district and especially so in the center of Oklahoma City, the core of Congressional District 5. [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“There’s 1,600 people in the jail, many of them triple celled. … They’re in cells, 10 by 10, three to a person, with zero air flow. Something has to be done. It clearly violates every person in there’s constitutional rights. … You cannot have this happen. The potential loss of life — the potential harm to individuals in that jail — needs to be addressed.”

-Public Defender Bob Ravitz, speaking about the Oklahoma County Jail’s air conditioning system which has been off since March 8 while extensive pipe repairs are being made [Source: NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Average annual loss for the average state EITC recipient in Oklahoma since the credit was made non-refundable in 2016

[Source: OK Policy]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

New study uncovers the heavy financial toll of untreated maternal mental health conditions: Mothers with untreated PMADs are more likely to deliver preterm and have a cesarean delivery than those without these disorders, which increases health care costs for both delivery and care of premature infants and makes it harder for mothers to return to work. In addition, children of mothers with PMADs have a higher risk of behavioral and developmental disorders themselves, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety, and behavioral or conduct disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder. [Mathematica]

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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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