In The Know: Oklahoma census lacks state funding, state retirees seeking COLA, and more

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

Oklahoma Policy announces new northeast Oklahoma field organizer: The Oklahoma Policy Institute has hired D’Marria Monday, a Tulsa community advocate and social entrepreneur, to grow its Together Oklahoma chapters in northeast Oklahoma, including the Tulsa metro area. [OK Policy] Read more about D’Marria.

In The News

Oklahoma census to take place without state funding: Officials say Oklahoma is poised to have a successful 2020 Census count even though state funding has not been put toward preparations. Oklahoma is one of a handful of states that have not dedicated financial resources toward the census, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states, like California, have made tens of millions available for efforts to count each resident. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: an accurate Census count in the state is vital for Oklahoma to secure its share of federal funding, have fair voting representation, and more. 

State retirees demand COLA as legislators set to receive pay raises: As Oklahoma legislators are set to get 35 percent pay  percent raises next year, state retirees are quietly fuming. Retired state employees haven’t seen a cost-of-living adjustment in their pensions since 2008 and legislative efforts to boost their pensions last year were postponed to study how the state’s retirement systems would be affected. [The Oklahoman]

Surprise medical bills hit many Oklahomans: A recent study by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that one in five emergency room visits in Oklahoma resulted in at least one out-of-network charge for patients with employer-sponsored health plans. That rate was among the 10 highest in the country. And despite several failed legislative attempts in recent years, Oklahoma is now one of 25 states without laws protecting patients against out-of-network surprise bills. [Oklahoma Watch]

Audio: Capitol Insider: Medicaid expansion gets ‘amazing’ number of signatures: The campaign to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma enters a new phase, and a court hearing on Wednesday could halt the state’s latest gun law. KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss these developments and more during this episode of Capitol Insider. [KGOU] Check out OK Policy’s resources regarding SQ 802.

Women on average make less in governor’s office: Oklahoma’s governor pays his male employees about 25 percent more than his female staffers, according to an analysis of recent state salary data. Records show Gov. Kevin Stitt, meanwhile, is also paying his staff an average salary of $11,840 more than his predecessor Mary Fallin was paying her employees at the same point during their gubernatorial terms. [CNHI] OK Policy: If equal pay were a reality in Oklahoma, the poverty rate for working women in the state would be reduced almost by half and their earnings would increase by about $5.4 billion a year.

Party figures discuss school budget request: Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is hoping to see more dollars for common education in fiscal year 2021, as the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a budget request of $3.29 billion during a monthly meeting Thursday. [Tahlequah Daily Press] OK Policy analysis shows that progress has been made recently on restoring funding for essential services like education, but it will be a long rebuilding project to full budget recovery.

Former governor Brad Henry says current tribal gaming compact dispute ultimately ‘won’t be good’ for Oklahoma: Former Gov. Brad Henry on Friday said he is concerned that a dispute between the tribes and Gov. Kevin Stitt concerning gaming compacts could wind up in court. Gov. Kevin Stitt is currently seeking higher rates, which range from 4 percent to 10 percent. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and tribal leaders on Monday are expected to discuss the compacts at a meeting in Shawnee. [Tulsa World]

From increasing speed limits to naming a state astronomical object, more than 300 new Oklahoma laws take effect Friday: More than 300 new laws are set to take effect in Oklahoma on Nov. 1. While the most controversial of the 324 may be a measure allowing people to carry a weapon without a permit or training, others deal with everything from increasing some speed limits to establishing an official state astronomical object. [Tulsa World] Permitless carry law to take effect on Friday. [The Oklahoman]

All state prisons off lockdown: All state prisons are off lockdown, the Department of Corrections announced Friday. The agency had locked down all prisons statewide on Sept. 15 after gang fights broke out at six prisons in a 24-hour period, injuring several dozen inmates and killing one. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa World editorial: Oklahoma can’t engineer a pay raise for people working with prison inmates. Maybe part of the problem is we have too many inmates: Some 432 state Corrections Department workers who work directly with inmates didn’t get a pay raise this year, despite legislation meant to do just that. But we also see a deeper problem at work that underlies many other issues that recur in the corrections department. Put plainly, Oklahoma’s prison system is not sustainable. [Tulsa World] OK Policy analysis has shown that Oklahoma’s incarceration rate leads the world, which should prompt a serious evaluation of the state’s criminal justice system. 

Muskogee Phoenix Editorial: Hepatitis C treatment must be funded: Systemwide treatment of Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmates who have hepatitis C must be made a policy priority for the state — it’s an expense that will only become costlier as time passes. [Muskogee Phoenix] Review OK policy’s analysis of pending problems with Hepatitis C in Oklahoma’s correctional system. 

Oklahoma County sheriff seeks new location for offices: In another sign he is serious about no longer operating the jail, Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor is planning to move his own offices to another location. Last week, he told the jail trust that it needs to take over day-to-day operations of the jail Jan. 1. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County DA accused of improperly investigating leader of criminal justice reform effort: A former investigator for Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater alleges the prosecutor improperly went after the leader of the state’s criminal justice reform movement. [Tulsa World]

New juvenile justice center expected to open in December: The Tulsa County Family Center for Juvenile Justice — like the Juvenile Bureau it is replacing — will be home to two distinct but related enterprises: the Tulsa County Juvenile Court and the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, which provides state-mandated services for the court. [Tulsa World]

Pre-registration law changes for teenagers: Oklahoma teenagers can pre-register to vote six months before their 18th birthday after a new law goes into effect on Friday. The new law will allow citizens to pre-register when they turn 17.5 regardless of when the election occurs as long as they will turn 18 on or before election day. [The Oklahoman]

Commissioners plan to add Muskogee county to list of opioid litigants: Muskogee County commissioners plan to join elected officials representing dozens of Oklahoma counties and municipalities who have filed lawsuits against companies alleged by lawyers to be responsible for a national opioid epidemic. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Living Longer: State exploring ways to provide care for aging population: Oklahoma, along with the rest of the nation, is graying, and the state needs to consider new strategies for keeping people out of nursing homes and living healthier and for longer in their own homes. [Journal Record 🔒]

Unaccountable: Three more Oklahoma midwives admit to administering drugs: When the Oklahoma Attorney General charged Debra Disch with a felony in September for practicing medicine without a license, she became the first and only non-nurse midwife in the state to face legal ramifications for performing what many consider key functions of that job. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma mother discovers her son’s death two years earlier might have been preventable. [The Oklahoman]

Judge allows some additional discovery in “Innocent Man” case, but denies request to depose alternate suspect: A judge ruled Friday that attorneys for one of the defendants profiled in the John Grisham book and Netflix documentary “The Innocent Man” may search for more documents in the case, but cannot depose the victim’s former husband or an alternate suspect. [The Frontier]

Utilities working to comply with new compensation requirements they must follow to buy surplus power from solar, wind system owners: Many Oklahomans who want to use solar panels (or small wind turbines) to help generate power they can use in their homes and small businesses are about to have a little more light to work with. [The Oklahoman]

MAPS 4 supporters use proven strategies and new ones to promote sales tax extension: The campaign to sell MAPS 4 in Oklahoma City has kicked off with a trusted brand and a coalition of public officials and organizations who have embraced some aspect of the $1 billion package. Organizers have reached into the various communities that stand to benefit from the 16 projects, building support ahead of the Dec. 10 vote to extend the penny sales tax that has been in place for over 25 years. [The Oklahoman]

Carter Center to observe Muscogee (Creek) chief revote: Brett Lacy, associate director of the Carter Center’s Democracy Program, confirmed Friday that the Atlanta-based organization will be accepting an invitation to monitor the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s primary election next Saturday and general election on Dec. 14. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Every dollar the legislature is willing to allocate to its constitutional obligation to fund public education is one step closer to reversing the regressive trend that has kept Oklahoma at the bottom nationwide when it comes to public education.”

-Nancy Garber with the Cherokee County Democrats speaking about the state education department’s FY2021 budget request. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Number of the Day

0.7

Unemployed Oklahomans for every job opening in June 2019. Ten years ago there were 3.9 unemployed for every opening.

[Source: Pew Charitable Trusts]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

When medical debt collectors decide who gets arrested: Welcome to Coffeyville, Kansas, where the judge has no law degree, debt collectors get a cut of the bail, and Americans are watching their lives — and liberty — disappear in the pursuit of medical debt collection. [ProPublica]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University as a Clara Luper Scholar. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked as an Inbound and Digital Marketing Specialist for an OKC based firm. She is an alumnus of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a Board Member for Dream Action Oklahoma.

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