In The Know: More women reach for the legislature; Feds claw back more Medicaid money; audits will cost state $1.4 million

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.

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In The News

More Women Reach for the Legislature. What Are Their Chances in November? Before the first vote was even cast in Oklahoma’s elections this year, women had already made history. What is likely a record number of female candidates, 140, filed paperwork in April to run for one of the state’s 125 legislative seats to be decided in November. In a state where men outnumber women in the Legislature six to one, ranking Oklahoma 49th in percentage of legislators who are female (14%), many women’s advocates saw this as an opportunity to narrow the gender gap [Oklahoma Watch]. An opportunity for more electoral diversity [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Feds Claw Back More Medicaid Money for Medical Schools, But Offer One Break: The federal government has clawed back another $32 million in Medicaid matching funds as part of an ongoing dispute over Oklahoma’s use of the money to help fund medical schools that treat Medicaid patients. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services notified state officials Aug. 31 that it disallowed a total of $64.2 million in federal matching funds for the 2017 calendar year. The total includes almost $33 million that was previously disallowed [Oklahoma Watch].

Agency audits will cost state $1.4 million: A group of private-sector officials has commissioned about $1.4 million in audits that will investigate six state agencies. Lawmakers created the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission in 2017. The group-appointed executives will oversee contracted audits meant to assess the top 20 agencies with the highest appropriations. The governor and the top legislators in each chamber appointed members, who worked on the requests for proposals, chose the bidders and assigned the contracts [Journal Record].

Activism: the teacher revolt reshaping US politics: Ronny Johns is an accidental Republican. The Oklahoma school principal only signed up with the party a few years back so that his vote might mean something in a state where the Republican party overwhelms politics. At the time, he was keen to vote against a state school superintendent he regarded as a disaster. Johns stuck with the Republicans even as they used their grip on Oklahoma’s legislature to bind the state ever tighter in the ideological straitjacket of tax and spending cuts at the cost of public services, not least education [Guardian].

The official SQ 780 savings calculation rests on flawed assumptions: As required, OMES released the savings calculation for Fiscal Year 2018 on July 31. To the surprise of many, they estimated that the changes made by SQ 780 would save the state $63.5 million in FY 2018 and a total of $137.8 million from FY 2018 to FY 2026. Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh strongly criticized the report, saying that the Department of Corrections had not saved any money over the last year. Why is there such a divergence between the two agencies? Our analysis shows that the assumptions that OMES made are not supported by data, and they lead to an unrealistic picture of what SQ 780 accomplished in its first year [OK Policy].

Why Some Oklahoma Schools Are Shifting The Way They Respond To Students’ Bad Behavior: Kristin Atchley, the Executive Director of Counseling for the State Department of Education, said it’s standard practice for Oklahoma school teachers to yell at kids who are causing trouble, send them to the principal’s office, or tell them to put their head down without much regard for what might be driving their poor behavior. Now she’s trying to change that [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Oklahoma’s Promise tuition scholarship stands out nationally, reviewer says: Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program is doing what it was designed to do — help students from families with limited income aspire to, prepare for and graduate from college. That’s the conclusion of a new performance review of the program by the Southern Regional Education Board. Students who earn the scholarship outperform their peers in every measure — from high school grade-point average to college graduation — and nearly 89 percent of graduates work in Oklahoma and contribute to the state’s economy, Cheryl Blanco said Wednesday in a report to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education [NewsOK].

Drew Edmondson considering GPT state question if lawmakers won’t approve his plan: Drew Edmondson, Democratic candidate for governor, said Thursday he would consider calling for a state question to raise the gross production tax if lawmakers refuse to implement his education funding plan. Despite the tax rate on oil and gas production being a hot-button issue at the Oklahoma Capitol, lawmakers this year raised the discounted rate on new wells from 2 percent to 5 percent while in the throes of a debate on teacher pay [NewsOK].

Numbers suggest medical cannabis supply could exceed demand: It is now legal, and it appears there is enthusiasm for medicinal marijuana in Oklahoma. Only a few days after the state began accepting commercial license requests, more than 1,100 applications to grow, process or dispense marijuana were crammed into the mailbox of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority within the State Department of Health. Given the early numbers, supply would exceed demand [CNHI].

Medical marijuana regulations adopted in Bartlesville: Bartlesville City councilors passed several new ordinances Tuesday night dealing with medical marijuana, alcohol sales and smoking in city parks. The jam-packed meeting began at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers of Bartlesville City Hall, 401 S. Johnstone Avenue. In a 4-1 vote, Bartlesville City Council passed new regulations that would allow for the retail sales and personal use of medical marijuana. Ward 3 City Councilor Jim Curd voted against the measure after he offered a failed amendment that would have limited retail sales of marijuana products within 1,000 feet of a daycare facility [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

Witnesses say Corey Atchison isn’t a killer. Will their testimony set him free? Stephanie Harris will never forget the man who shot and killed James Warren Lane on an early morning in north Tulsa 28 years ago. She vividly remembers the man was “short,” about 5-foot-5, and slim. He wore a long T-shirt and jeans. His hair was short. About six months after Lane died, Corey Atchison was arrested in connection with his death. In June of 1991, Atchison was convicted of first-degree murder [The Frontier].

Tulsa County sheriff visits Congress, White House to call for increased border security, immigration reform: Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado spent two days in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with lawmakers, President Trump and Vice President Pence to discuss immigration policy and border security. Regalado joined 44 sheriffs from 35 states to discuss the “public safety challenges” associated with immigration and to call on Congress to increase border security, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Wind Farms Mapped: Oklahoma ranks No. 2 in the nation for installed wind power capacity, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association. This electricity — enough, the association estimates, to power the equivalent of 2.3 million homes — is generated by 3,736 wind turbines operating in Oklahoma, a public dataset compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, AWEA and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory show [KOSU].

Blake Shelton appointed to wildlife board in Oklahoma: Country singer and “The Voice” star Blake Shelton has been appointed to the board of a foundation that will raise money for wildlife conservation in his home state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation spokesman Micah Holmes said Shelton was appointed Tuesday to the newly formed board of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation. The foundation will fundraise for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation [AP].

Quote of the Day

“There are a lot of promise programs but they are not as robust, as richly rounded and as driven by information and data as [Oklahoma’s Promise] is. As I talk with other groups around the nation and their legislators about financial aid programs that make a difference, that work, this is the one I spotlight.”

– Cheryl Blanco of the Southern Regional Education Board, highlighting the success of the Oklahoma’s Promise tuition scholarship program for low-income students (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s overall rank in Oxfam America’s listing of the best and worst states to work in America [Oxfam America]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Where even Walmart won’t go: how Dollar General took over rural America: When Dollar General came to Haven, Kansas, it arrived making demands. The fastest-growing retailer in America wanted the taxpayers of the small, struggling Kansas town to pick up part of the tab for building one of its squat, barebones stores that more often resemble a warehouse than a neighbourhood shop. Dollar General thought Haven’s council should give the company a $72,000 break on its utility bills, equivalent to the cost of running the town’s library and swimming pool for a year, on the promise of jobs and tax revenues [Guardian].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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