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
New Census data shows that Oklahoma fell further behind the U.S. on poverty and uninsured rate for second consecutive year: Oklahoma lags behind the nation in our efforts to help families get ahead. New data from the Census Bureau shows that poverty in Oklahoma is still above the national average. In 2017, nearly 1 in 6 Oklahomans (15.8 percent) were living with income below the poverty line ($24,600 for a family of four) before taxes. [OK Policy]
Oklahoma climbed to third-heaviest state in 2017: Oklahoma jumped to the third-heaviest state in 2017, from the already unenviable position of eighth, according to the Trust for America’s Health’s new report on obesity. The obesity rate increased to 36.5 percent, making Oklahoma one of seven states where more than 35 percent of adults have obesity. Only West Virginia and Mississippi had higher obesity rates. [NewsOK]
Legislators seek alternatives to school suspensions: Some of Oklahoma’s top mental health and juvenile justice officials are helping lawmakers as they call for the state to reconsider its use of out-of-school suspension, especially among young students. There has been a push in the Legislature to require schools to consider alternatives to suspension or to mandate an appeals process for children who get suspended. [Journal Record]
Can Oklahoma learn from Louisiana’s criminal justice reform? Every day, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh sits at his desk and tries to make a severely overcrowded, understaffed prison system work. This year, Oklahoma became the nation’s top incarcerator — a title that formerly belonged to Louisiana. But officials in the Bayou State said it reduced its prison population by 7.6 percent in less than a year by passing a sweeping package of reforms. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
Hamilton: A colossal waste of tax dollars: The status quo is never easily broken. Just ask proponents of criminal justice reform. So far, former House Speaker Kris Steele, the ACLU and others approach a decade as champions of Smart on Crime initiatives aimed at fixing Oklahoma’s broken penal system. Unfortunately, their best efforts slam repeatedly into an all-but-impenetrable wall of resistance erected by politicians, prosecutors, law enforcement and private industry that thrive on a burgeoning inmate population. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]
House Democrats want special session on Oklahoma’s medical marijuana: Democrats in the group examining medical marijuana policy have called on legislative leaders to bring the rest of the lawmakers back to Oklahoma City. The three House Democrats on the committee said Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program needs legislative action to set labeling and testing guidelines. [NewsOK]
Edmondson talks tax issues with Oklahoma municipal leaders: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson backed a proposal Thursday to allow property tax levies for municipal police and fire services and said the state should scrutinize some of the services currently exempt from the sales tax. [NewsOK] Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt also said Wednesday that he would back legislation allowing cities and towns to levy a property tax to help finance their public safety obligations. [NewsOK 🔒]
Cities and counties want a piece of casino revenue: At Thursday’s Oklahoma Municipal League conference, as a presentation about tribal compacts came to an end, there was a question from the audience. West Siloam Springs Mayor Elaine Carr raised her hand and asked if the compact negotiations are open meetings. Presenter Chris Benge, who is Gov. Mary Fallin’s secretary of Native American affairs, said he didn’t know the rules on those meetings. But Carr was more interested in how cities and towns could be included in the compacts. [Journal Record 🔒]
In One Minute: The Attorney General’s race: Oklahoma Watch, in conjunction with the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, is rolling out a video series to promote voter engagement during the 2018 general-election campaign. Today: a one-minute look at the race for attorney general. [Oklahoma Watch] Find more key information about Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions here [OK Policy].
Smoking rates among pregnant women see decline in Oklahoma: Smoking rates among pregnant women in Oklahoma have declined, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Data shows a 33.5-percent decline in smoking among pregnant women since 2009. There’s also been a 10-percent drop in infant deaths. [FOX25]
Ginnie Graham: Oklahomans are more sad than people living in other states, ranking shows: The image of Oklahomans as happy people is just a facade, according to a recent report. Compared to other states, Oklahoma is No. 46 in happiness. Oklahoma tanked in emotional and physical well-being: “A bit of a surprise simply because it ranks so far below the adjoining states (No. 47).” [Ginne Graham / Tulsa World]
Tulsa World editorial: Higher education gives high school students a head start on college, but the Legislature is short-changing the schools: The number of high school students attending state colleges has nearly doubled in the past 11 years. Led by Tulsa Community College, state colleges and universities are increasingly giving high school students a free head start on their higher educations through concurrent enrollment. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]
Oklahoma lawmakers’ interim study on virtual charter performance is inconclusive: How are Oklahoma’s four virtual charter schools performing? State lawmakers found out in an interim study Thursday it’s hard to say. Experts told Oklahoma lawmakers for the most part, the largest virtual charter school, Epic, is outperforming public schools in state testing, while its third-largest, Oklahoma Connections Academy, is comparable in English Language arts. Sen. Ron Sharp, however, took issue with how their calculations, which compared very different proportions of students. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Fallin touts state’s advancements on drones at forum in Broken Arrow: In a ballroom Thursday morning at the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, scores of folks started their day with breakfast tacos and coffee. Afterward, they got a big taste of emerging technology — drones. [Tulsa World]
Wind farm fight may ‘drastically affect’ Oklahoma policy: What do you get by pursuing an economic development project that involves two Oklahoma counties, three school districts, a school bond, a municipal trust, a wind farm and an international energy conglomerate partially owned by the sovereign nation of France? Lawsuits, of course. [NonDoc]
Mapped: Concentrated animal feeding operations in Oklahoma: CAFOs, which are sometimes referred to as “factory farms,” are a concern for environmental groups because the amount of waste produced that can affect water and soil quality, and they have also come under fire by animal welfare organizations for treatment of animals. [The Frontier]
Eyewitness to the desolation of ‘Black Wall Street’: On Wednesday afternoon, I traveled to the charming but unassuming neighborhood of Juniper Hill in White Plains to speak with a living legend too few people know about. Her name is Olivia J. Hooker, and she is a sharp and glorious 103 years old. Not only was she the first African-American women to join the Coast Guard, not only was she a psychology professor and activist, but she is one of the last known survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. [Charles M. Blow / Washington Post]
OU weather team sets up radar truck Thursday near Hurricane Florence: As Hurricane Florence approached the coast of North Carolina on Thursday morning, a team of meteorologists from the University of Oklahoma watched from an inland bridge as rain picked up and clouds circulated overhead. The truck, called SMART Radar, or Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radar, was not only gathering data for research to be studied later, but was also providing current information to the National Weather Service and other federal agencies. [NewsOK]
Joe Exotic says he was framed: Speaking from a Florida jail cell, Joe Exotic said he was framed in an alleged murder-for hire scheme. “I’ve been set up and I have four cell phones full of screenshots and text messages to prove it when I get back to Oklahoma,” he said. The Frontier spoke with the zookeeper and former Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate via a collect video call from a jail cell in the Florida Panhandle, where he is being held without bond. [The Frontier]
Tulsa attorney’s nomination to federal judge post held up in debate over Kavanaugh: Tulsa attorney John O’Connor’s nomination to be a federal judge in Oklahoma once again was held over Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee’s action covered a number of nominations and was not linked to a “not qualified” rating O’Connor received from the American Bar Association last month. [Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
“We have successful examples of how to fight poverty in this country. But in recent years we have mostly seen attacks on these programs instead of efforts to build on their success.”
-OK Policy analyst Courtney Cullison, speaking about new Census data that shows Oklahoma fell further behind the nation on poverty and uninsured rates in 2017 [OK Policy]
Number of the Day
Deposit to Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund at the end of FY 2018, which brings the balance to just over $450 million.
More evidence that Medicaid expansion improves health, supports employment: Health coverage under Ohio’s Medicaid expansion continues to improve the physical and mental health, financial well-being, and ability to work of low-income Ohioans, according to a new report from the state’s Medicaid agency based on a survey of beneficiaries and analysis of enrollment data. These findings are similar to what the state found in its previous survey in 2016 and further refute the Trump Administration’s rationale letting states take coverage away from people who don’t meet a work requirement — that it will encourage work and make people healthier. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
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