In The Know: New Oklahoma Senate leadership members announced

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

New Oklahoma Senate Leadership Members Announced: Oklahoma Senate leadership posts for 2019 were announced today by incoming Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC). Sen. Kim David (R-Wagoner) will serve as Senate majority floor leader, and Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) will serve as chairman of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee. David said there could be a need for bipartisan agreement to reach the infamous 76-vote threshold for revenue-raising measures if Thompson can successfully craft a “tax reform” plan that all three GOP senators said is long overdue [NonDoc]. 

NPS still plans raises, though petition’s success could alter plans: Norman Public Schools is still planning its budget to include teacher raises, though a referendum petition could put a stop to that. Like many districts across the state, NPS is watching the efforts of Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! closely, as the group is working to get signatures for a ballot measure asking voters to repeal the funding for teacher raises, House Bill 1010XX [Norman Transcript].

Lawmakers Now Playing Waiting Game: In the fight over the state’s planned teacher raises, the guns are mostly silent as both sides await decisions from the attorney general’s office and the Oklahoma Supreme Court. State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, visited Capitol Hill on Friday, and said it looked “like a ghost town.” But there was a development Tuesday between the partisans in the field. KWTV Channel 9 in Oklahoma City reported that education advocates were targeting businesses for boycott after finding them on a list of petition sites posted online by Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite [Tahlequah Daily Press].

What We Know – and Don’t Know – About the Revenue Bill Veto Challenge: A group called Oklahoma Citizens Unite has launched a veto referendum petition drive that, if successful, would subject HB 1010xx to a vote of the people to approve or reject the new law. This post addresses key questions related to the veto referendum effort, including several for which the answers are uncertain. We will provide updates in light of new information and developments [OKPolicy]. Veto referendum petition causing controversy [KFOR].

New OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel Will Face Tough Decisions: On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Public School Board hired Sean McDaniel as superintendent. His tenure as Aurora Lora’s successor will begin officially on July 1. Lora resigned Jan. 30. During the interim, Rebecca Kaye has served as acting superintendent. Despite his qualifications, some have concerns that McDaniel holds little experience in urban education, having led Mustang Public Schools, a district that is one-quarter the size of OKCPS, for the past six years [NonDoc].

Oklahoma City public school secretary says she was fired while on maternity leave: Stephanie Gonzalez is working to keep up with her 9-week-old twins, Serena and Ricky Junior. She was expecting to be back at work by now but said the Oklahoma City school district gave away her job while she was on leave. “It’s horrible. I cry all the time,” Gonzalez said. “I was like I don’t know what to do.” Gonzalez was a financial secretary at Emerson Alternative School in downtown Oklahoma City but had to go on bed rest late last year [KFOR]. Too many Oklahoma parents face an impossible choice – continue to work full-time and miss precious opportunities to bond with a new child, or leave work and put their finances and career at risk [OK Policy].

Altus students worried about school shootings ask Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate what he would do: Jessica Robinson and students in her advanced placement government class have talked a lot about school shootings and guns. “I think it affects them every day,” Robinson said Tuesday. “They’re looking for answers to it. I think they know that” there are no easy ones. “The things we’re doing are not working,” said Kristin Valerio, a junior in the class. Robinson’s class on Tuesday heard from Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, a Republican running for governor [NewsOK].

Tulsa City Council gives police authority to remove homeless people living under state highway overpasses: The City Council voted 8-0 Thursday night to change an ordinance to give police the authority to remove people residing under state highway underpasses — a proposal that just last month several social service agencies suggested would effectively criminalize homelessness. Rhene Ritter, program coordinator for A Way Home for Tulsa, told councilors the city had taken a step forward by meeting with social service agencies to assure them that they would be involved whenever the city must move an individual from a state highway underpass [Tulsa World]. Tulsa has better options than punitive responses to truancy and homelessness [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Undecided on SQ 788: For as long as I’ve been a voter in Oklahoma, I’ve almost always had a clear opinion on any state question on the ballot. But the more I study State Question 788, the marijuana initiative that voters will decide on June 26, the more I find myself genuinely undecided. Under SQ 788, Oklahoma residents can apply to the Department of Health for a medical marijuana user license [David Blatt/Journal Record]. Health department preparing plan in case voters approve medical marijuana measure [KFOR]. State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OKPolicy].

Oklahoma House Member: Occupational Licensing Bill a Winner for State: It can take an amateur hairdresser 1,500 hours over nine months to get a cosmetology license in Oklahoma. It takes only 252 hours to become an EMT. Why the disparity? Because of Oklahoma’s often-burdensome, inconsistent occupational licensing laws. But this is changing [Rep. Mark Lepak/NewsOK]. Occupational licensing is a growing barrier to Oklahomans who seek a decent job [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick Faces Flak over Ties to Devon Energy, His Residency and Sotomayor’s Rebuke: Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick faced questions Wednesday about his ties to Devon Energy, his residency and a harsh rebuke he received at the U.S. Supreme Court three years ago. Wyrick, 37, has been nominated by President Donald Trump for a federal judgeship in Oklahoma City, which requires approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee and full Senate. Only two committee members attended Wednesday’s nomination hearing [Tulsa World].

Some Would Eliminate State’s Other High Court: As Oklahomans continue contemplating changes to the judicial system, some would-be reformers are eyeing the Court of Criminal Appeals. Oklahoma is one of two states that have a different final arbiter for civil cases than they do for criminal ones. Civil cases can go up through the Court of Civil Appeals and then onto the Oklahoma Supreme Court. However, criminal cases can be appealed only up until the Court of Criminal Appeals. Critics said that has created some confusion over jurisdiction, particularly in death penalty lawsuits [Journal Record].

Lawsuit Accuses Juvenile Detention Center of Neglect, Letting 16-Year-Old Die: The estate of a 16-year-old boy who committed suicide in a Muskogee juvenile detention center has filed a lawsuit against multiple government agencies and employees arguing the boy’s life could have “easily” been saved if staff had done their jobs [StateImpact Oklahoma]. 

Earthquake Lawsuit Refiled in Federal Court: Two earthquake-related lawsuits against oil and gas operators are moving forward in state and federal courts. Plaintiff’s attorney Scott Poynter got one class certified and filed another case seeking class-action status. Oil and gas attorney Terry Stowers, who is not connected to the cases, said Poynter has to prove wastewater disposal activity more than likely triggered seismic activity, less than the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt [Journal Record].

TSET Ups Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline Budget Ahead of Cigarette Tax Hike: The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is preparing for the July 1 cigarette tax increase by budgeting more for the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline. The helpline offers free resources to Oklahomans who want to quit smoking, including coaching and a two-week supply of nicotine replacement patches, gum or lozenges [Public Radio Tulsa].

Bixby Tops Area Cities in Population Growth, While Tulsa Shrank, According to U.S. Census Bureau: While other Oklahoma cities saw slowed population growth or even lost residents last year, Bixby bucked the trend with an increase not seen in 15 years. The population in the south Tulsa County city increased by 1,113 during the period of July 1, 2016, to July 1, 2017, bringing its total number of residents to 26,724, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Some other suburban cities and towns experienced growth, while Tulsa’s population dipped 0.4 percent [Tulsa World]. 

Group Hopes to Reduce Teen Pregnancy Rates in Oklahoma: More than 4,000 babies are born to Oklahoma teens every year, according to numbers from the state health department. May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. FOX 25 talked with the teen pregnancy prevention supervisor at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department about the work being done to address the issue [FOX25].

Police Pension Board Chairman Steps down over Nude-Photo Emails: The state police pension board chairman stepped down Wednesday in the wake of the disclosure that he sent and received photos of nude women on government email accounts. W.B. Smith, 74, will remain a trustee on the state board that oversees the $2.5 billion police pension fund. “I want to apologize to everybody for my mistakes,” Smith said at the start of the monthly board meeting [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“For now, we are in waiting mode. I have the impression that if the signatures are submitted, it will freeze everything. It would be a disaster if they decided the revenue and the raises are separate – that would mean we have to pay the raises without the revenue.”

-Rep. Matt Meredith, D-Tahlequah, speaking about the attempted veto petition to repeal revenue intended to fund teacher raises [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who have saving accounts

[Prosperity Now Scorecard]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

We really do have a solution to the opioid epidemic — and one state is showing it works: Studies show that the medications reduce the all-cause mortality rate among opioid addiction patients by half or more and do a far better job of keeping people in treatment than non-medication approaches. In France, the government expanded doctors’ ability to prescribe buprenorphine in 1995 to confront an opioid epidemic — and overdose deaths declined by 79 percent from 1995 to 1999 as the number of people in treatment went up, according to a 2004 study published in The American Journal on Addictions [Vox].

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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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