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
NAACP, Community Leaders Demand Changes to Tulsa’s Policing Practices: The NAACP and more than 50 activists, community leaders and elected officials joined the family of Terence Crutcher on Thursday in demanding that the city act immediately to address racial disparities in police practices. In a letter to Mayor G.T. Bynum and city councilors, the group asks the city to adopt six new policies and demands that the city hold public hearings within 60 days to gather more information and recommendations regarding the police department’s use-of-force and arrest practices [Tulsa World].
The History of the Tulsa Race Massacre That Destroyed America’s Wealthiest Black Neighborhood: In 1921, Tulsa had the wealthiest black neighborhood in the country. On Sundays, women wore satin dresses and diamonds, while men wore silk shirts and gold chains. In Greenwood, writes historian James S. Hirsch,“Teachers lived in brick homes furnished with Louis XIV dining room sets, fine china, and Steinway pianos.” They called it Black Wall Street [Timeline].
Gov. Mary Fallin Taps Tulsan James Williamson as Secretary of State: Gov. Mary Fallin has tapped James Williamson of Tulsa as secretary of state, she said Thursday. Williamson has served as Fallin’s general counsel. He will continue to provide legal and policy advice as he did in the role of the governor’s general counsel, a post to which he was appointed in March 2017. Williamson succeeds Dave Lopez, who resigned as secretary of state in March to pursue personal and business endeavors [Tulsa World].
AG Refines Language for School Building Fund Vote: A measure that would free up restricted school funding made it to the ballot, but there is some work left to do before voters see it. Oklahoma law places several limits on the property tax revenue that goes to school districts. A portion of it has to go to the districts’ building fund, which pays for construction and maintenance. State Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, introduced a resolution to place a question on the ballot that would let voters decide whether that particular restriction should be lifted [Journal Record].
How Long a Jail Stay Lasts for Low-Level Charges Depends on the County: For Oklahomans accused of low-level crimes like possessing small amounts of drugs or public intoxication, getting out of jail free while the case is pending often depends less on the nature of the charge than on what county they are arrested in. Court data shows that counties have widely varying rates of pretrial release of misdemeanor defendants without requiring cash bail [Oklahoma Watch].
Meeting Violations Push Back Accountability Commission: A state commission’s technical mistake could lead to contracted auditing firms losing at least a month of time to investigate a quarter of the state’s top agencies. The Agency Performance and Accountability Commission comprises private-sector leaders who are responsible for contracting performance reviews of the state’s top 20 highest-appropriated agencies on four-year cycles. In its meetings so far, commission members elected a vice chairman and chairman, and they completed a request for proposals for the first year of audits. Those actions have been voided because members enacted them during meetings that were not compliant with the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act [Journal Record].
Progress Is Being Made, but There’s Still a Long Way to Go in Reforming Occupational Licensing in Oklahoma: We’ve been talking a lot about occupational licensing lately and that’s because it’s a big deal for economic opportunity. Requiring a state license to practice certain occupations began with good intentions – to protect the public from the harm that can come from someone practicing a profession in an unsafe or incompetent manner. But today nearly 30 percent of the American workforce needs a license to do their job, and those licenses do not always have a clear connection to public health and safety [OKPolicy].
Some Questions Remain About Opioid Laws Going into Effect This Year: Several new laws intended to combat opioid addiction in Oklahoma go live Nov. 1, but there are some things to clear up before then. Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Director John Scully said he’s not sure about the new law requiring pain management clinic owners to register with his agency [Public Radio Tulsa].
SD 36: Trump Allies, #OklaEd Friends and a Tax Commission Attorney: Sen. Bill Brown (R-Broken Arrow) will be leaving the Oklahoma Senate owing to term limits. Now an open seat, Republican-leaning Senate District 36 has attracted six candidates: four Republicans and two Democrats. The primary will be held June 26. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in their respective primary, SD 36 voters will participate in a runoff-primary election between the top two vote-getters Aug. 28 [NonDoc].
Hamilton: More Voices Needed in Public Square: Friday is the registration deadline to be eligible to vote in the June 26 primary that not only will help determine the state’s next governor and the Legislature’s makeup, but also whether Oklahoma will legalize medical marijuana. Sadly, too many Sooners in recent years have failed to take their civic duty seriously. In 2014, for example, only 32 percent of eligible voters turned out for an election that gave Gov. Mary Fallin a second term and strengthened lopsided Republican statehouse majorities [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record].
Teachers Find Public Support as Campaign for Higher Pay Goes to Voters: After shutting down schools and shaking up politics in six states, teachers are looking to the ballot box in their campaign for better pay and increased school funding. And their demands are meeting with widespread public support. A survey conducted in early May for The New York Times by the online polling firm SurveyMonkey found that nearly three in four adults — 71 percent — considered teacher pay too low, while just 6 percent felt it was too high. And two-thirds said they supported increasing the salaries of public-school teachers even if it meant raising taxes [New York Times].
Rivka Galchen Takes You Inside the Oklahoma Teachers’ Walkout and Inside Red-State, Anti-Tax Politics: Watching teachers walk out this spring has startled America in these discouraging times, but nowhere was it as moving as in Oklahoma. The teachers walked out, and, grateful that teachers had figured out a way to expose desperate conditions in the schools, school superintendents and school boards—the management—shut down school for two weeks and walked with their teachers in gratitude. At the statehouse itself the protestors walked into a brick wall [Common Dreams].
Resisting Trump in a bright red state: EDMOND, Oklahoma — Vicki Toombs was watching the returns on election night 2016 when her phone buzzed — a text from her 22-year-old son Beau in Chicago. Beau, who is gay, was afraid that the new administration would end the Affordable Care Act and with it the insurance he and his friends used to pay for the drugs that protected them from HIV and AIDS. “I just felt the bottom drop out of my world,” said Toombs, 61 [PBS].
Teachers get extra training to work at a revamped Emerson, the state’s first public Montessori school: It’s only a matter of months before 295 Emerson Elementary students enter the school’s new digs, and their teachers still have weeks of training to do before the students enter the new Montessori school. The renovated elementary school just north of downtown will be the first public Montessori school in the state when it opens for the fall semester. The school, at 909 N. Boston Ave., represents a blending of public and private dollars [Tulsa World].
Prison Program That Teaches Women to Train Unwanted Dogs Upgrades After Years of Delays: A new dog-training facility opened this week at Oklahoma’s largest women-only prison. Corrections officials and women enrolled in the Guardian Angels program at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McCloud have waited four years for upgrades to the facility, which now has a designated building, a new kennel and exercise area with obstacles — and a new grooming area and a walking path [StateImpact Oklahoma].
Unveiling of Tulsa Homelessness Mural Closes Mental Health Awareness Month: A mural of a homeless veteran now looms over a Tulsa Arts District alley. The grizzled man depicted on the side of 11 E Matthew B. Brady Street pushes against the wind a shopping cart filled with items representing causes of his homelessness, including mental illness, addiction and childhood trauma [Public Radio Tulsa].
Five Years After Tornado, Moore Is Rethinking How It Prepares for Disasters: Marvin Haworth walks through a house frame that’s under construction in the Seiter Farms development in Moore, Oklahoma. “You see these hurricane clips right there? You see one at every rafter in the house. They’re all tied to the wall, so that rafter cannot be pulled loose from the wall,” Haworth says as he points toward the connection between the frame’s walls and roof [Public Radio Tulsa].
Quote of the Day
“We want this to stop, and the only way that it will stop is if there are specific, tangible, measurable reforms and policy that make officers accountable when there is misconduct and provide officers proper training to prevent misconduct. We don’t believe that the city recommendations that they have started to implement deal with the core of the issue, which is officer accountability and better training.”
-Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon Simmons, one of more than 50 activists, community leaders and elected officials who released a joint letter demanding that the city act immediately to address racial disparities in police practices [Tulsa World].
Number of the Day
Number of business establishments in the 73013 Zip Code in Edmond, the most of any Zip Code in Oklahoma
States’ Complex Medicaid Waivers Will Create Costly Bureaucracy and Harm Eligible Beneficiaries: Numerous states have proposed or are considering Medicaid demonstration projects, or “section 1115 waivers,” that would take coverage away from people who don’t meet work requirements, pay premiums, or renew their coverage on time, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently approved unprecedented barriers to coverage in several states. Rather than further the objectives of Medicaid as federal law requires, these proposals undermine Medicaid’s goals by making it harder for people to stay covered and thereby reducing access to care. These proposals will have additional — and likely unintended — adverse effects due to their complexity, which poses major implementation challenges for states and major challenges for eligible individuals seeking to maintain their coverage [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].
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