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In The News
Oklahoma Health Agency Restores Child Abuse Prevention Fund: Oklahoma health officials say they are restoring funding for mandated child abuse prevention programs. The state Department of Health says it will restore $2 million for contracts for the Office of Child Abuse Prevention for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Former agency leaders cut funding for the current fiscal year after announcing a budget shortfall. State auditors and investigators later said money was available, but that funds had been moved into areas that made it appear unavailable [AP News].
Oklahoma Revenue Collections Top Estimate by 20 Percent: State finance officials say collections to Oklahoma’s main operating fund exceeded the monthly estimate by nearly 20 percent, a jump attributed largely to continued economic recovery. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported Tuesday that collections to the General Revenue Fund in May totaled nearly $500 million, about $82 million more than expected. OMES Director Denise Northrup says lower-than-expected corporate and personal income tax refunds are partially responsible for the spike [KOCO].
The Effort to Overturn Funding for Teacher Pay-Raises Explained: The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday over the legality of a petition to overturn new state taxes. The petition, which is being circulated by an anti-tax group called Oklahoma Tax Payers Unite, seeks to overturn HB1010xx, a $430 million tax package lawmakers passed this year. The legislation raises taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, imposes a new tax on cigarettes and little cigars and increases oil and gas taxes from 2 percent to 5 percent [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Here’s What we know – and don’t know – about the revenue bill veto challenge [OKPolicy].
Study: Medicaid Work Requirements Could Increase Cost to Taxpayers: The state’s plan to cut off health insurance to poor Oklahomans who don’t work could harm families and increase costs for taxpayers, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis. If the state is allowed to implement a work requirement on Medicaid participants, Oklahoma’s insurance coverage will worsen, triggering an uptick in the overall uninsured rate, said Judy Solomon, a senior fellow with the non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C [Enid News & Eagle]. A new analysis says there are problems with Medicaid work requirements in states like Oklahoma that didn’t expand the program. [Public Radio Tulsa].
‘Race riot is a euphemism’: Teachers learn why Tulsa Race Massacre is more accurate term: As the centennial of the Tulsa Race Riot approaches, some are now calling it the Tulsa Race Massacre. That new description for the two-day event in 1921, which left at least 37 Tulsans — most of whom were black — confirmed dead, and destroyed what was known as Black Wall Street, was on display at a four-day Tulsa Public Schools seminar for more than 50 teachers this week. The program is titled “Tulsa Race Massacre Institute” and is aimed at helping teachers learn about the city’s darkest days and how to teach it. That name reflects the growing opinion that the nearly 100-year-old event has been incorrectly named [Tulsa World].
OK PolicyCast Episode 31: Elizabeth Nichols on Medical Cannabis and SQ 788: For this episode, we spoke with Elizabeth Nichols, an attorney who has worked extensively with the emerging cannabis industry in Oklahoma and nearby states. With Oklahomans voting in just two weeks on State Question 788 to legalize medical cannabis, Nichols shared her perspective on how the medical cannabis industry is developing in other states, what she sees as the best models for implementing medical cannabis in Oklahoma, and what she expects from the SQ 788 vote on June 26 [OKPolicy]. Oklahoma 2018 State Questions and Elections [OKPolicy].
Tulsa County DA candidates express views on medicinal marijuana state question: With two weeks left until the primary elections, two Republican candidates for Tulsa County District Attorney expressed concerns on Tuesday about the possible risks to public safety if voters approve the legalization of medical marijuana through State Question 788. Speaking to a packed room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in south Tulsa, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said he was opposed to the passage of the proposition because of his belief that oftentimes “marijuana is the entry point into the criminal justice system” [Tulsa World].
Oklahoma NPR Stations Collaborate on Election Journalism Focused on People: Oklahoma voters will pick their primary candidates on June 26 and weigh in on a state question about legalizing medical marijuana. The political heat will build through the summer with high-profile endorsements, big-money ad blitzes and campaign promises. And while a lot of political journalism starts with politicians, reporters at NPR member stations in Oklahoma are working together to change the conversation. The goal of the Oklahoma Engaged project: Build our 2018 election coverage by focusing on people [KGOU].
Supreme Court Upholds Oklahoma’s Method of Removing Names from Voter Rolls: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws in Ohio and other states, including Oklahoma, that remove names from their voter rolls do not violate federal law. Ohio law allows the state to send address confirmation notices to voters who have not engaged in voter activity for two years. If a voter returns the notice through prepaid mail, or responds online, the information is updated. If the notice is ignored and the voter fails to update a registration over the next four years, the registration is canceled [KFOR].
Five Republicans, One Democrat Seek House District 71 Seat in Central Tulsa: Five Republicans and one Democrat are vying to fill the open seat in Tulsa’s House District 71, with incumbent Katie Henke choosing not to run for re-election.The field for the Republican primary June 26 is comprised of Beverly Atteberry, 50; Cheryl Baber, 53; Ben Croff, 38; Mark Kosinski, 55; Eric McCray, 37. Denise Brewer is a Democrat who is running unopposed and will be on the general election ballot in November [Tulsa World].
Attorney General Candidates Drummond, Hunter Trade Barbs over Opioid Lawsuit Contract: Attorney General Mike Hunter and Tulsa lawyer Gentner Drummond, one of two challengers to Hunter in the June 26 Republican primary, tussled again on Monday, this time over a contract between the state and outside counsel in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers [Tulsa World].
Oklahoma DHS Whistleblower Fired: One of the whistleblowers in a special News 9 investigation into DHS has been fired. Heidi Stingley was suspended two days after we aired her first interview then officially fired on Friday. According to Stingley’s discharge report, DHS says she took confidential documents and refused to return them. Stingley admits to taking the documents but says she did it to protect herself and fellow workers [News9]. Would problems at Health Department have come to light sooner if Oklahoma whistleblower law was stronger? [Steve Lewis/OKPolicy].
Prison’s Water Restored After Tower Is Drained by Leak: Repair crews on Tuesday restored water service to Oklahoma State Reformatory in southwestern Oklahoma. Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials said a leak in a local water line drained the prison’s water tower Sunday night. The leak drained multiple water towers near the town of Granite, including the prison’s. But state prison officials say malfunctioning pumps at a nearby water treatment plant added to the problem. Without the pumps it was difficult to refill the empty water towers [KGOU].
More States Say Religious Agencies Can Turn down Same-Sex Couples for Adoptions: Every year, the foster care system in the U.S. is home to nearly half a million kids. A debate is now brewing in state legislatures and Congress about the best way to get these kids in permanent homes and who has the right to take care of them. The new law says that if a religious organization turns away a parent because of a conflict in belief, the religious agency cannot be sued for discrimination. Republican State Senator Greg Treat is the bill’s author [KOSU].
Oklahoma Awaits Illinois River Pollution Guidelines: Oklahoma officials say pollution guidelines for cities and farms along the Illinois River are just weeks away. The Tulsa world reports that Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague predicts the multiparty agreement to implement water-quality models will be signed by the end of June [Public Radio Tulsa].
School for OKC’s Homeless Children Breaks Ground on Expansion: Positive Tomorrows, a metro elementary school for homeless children, is getting a new building thanks to help from the Oklahoma City community. The expansion is desperately needed. At the current 8,000 square-foot facility, Positive Tomorrows is turning away about 100 kids a year, but the new 36,000 square-foot facility will change all of that. The 2017-2018 school year was the most crowded yet since Positive Tomorrows became private in 2005, serving 149 children who do not have a place to call home [News9].
OKC District Seeking a New Identity: Oklahoma City Public Schools is in search of a new identity, and is moving forward with plans to “refresh” its brand, district officials said Monday night. The process is expected to take six months to complete and is tied to the renovation of 615 N Classen, where the district’s administrative offices will be relocated in late 2019 or early 2020, and a facilities assessment and demographic study that is underway. The district is also adding a new leader. Sean McDaniel officially becomes superintendent on July 1 [NewsOK].
Edmond Schools Changes Policy to Recruit Teachers: Edmond Public Schools is changing policy after losing out on teachers. Its school board voted to open its schools to the children of their teachers not living in the district. Every other major school district in the metro already provides the perk to its teachers. “I had to take a day off of work to attend anything they did,” said Edmond School Teacher Shelly Hale, whose kids attended school in Moore [News9].
Republic to Offer Recycling at Norman Apartments: Republic Services will soon expand its recycling services to multifamily units such as apartment complexes in Norman. Those housing types are the most difficult market among recycling customers who will need frequent education about how to get rid of waste correctly without adding more costs for the contractor, said municipal services manager Crystal Bennett [Journal Record].
Quote of the Day
“What people in the community and historians are trying to raise up is what happened in Tulsa is a deliberate, coordinated, systematic assault on a community that resulted in that community being completely destroyed, and there are estimates that as many as 300 people were killed. That is not a race riot. This was a massacre.”
-Karlos Hill, chair of the African American studies department at the University of Oklahoma, who is leading a “Tulsa Race Massacre Institute” to help Tulsa Public Schools teachers learn about the 1921 destruction of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street by a white mob and how to teach it to students [Tulsa World].
Number of the Day
Percent of babies born preterm in Oklahoma in 2016 (10th highest in the nation).
Non-Expansion States Can’t Fix “Catch-22” in Their Proposals to Take Medicaid Coverage Away From Parents Not Meeting Work Requirements: Non-expansion states generally do not offer Medicaid coverage to low-income adults without dependent children, and most of them cover only very low-income parents. Work requirements will almost certainly result in large coverage losses among these parents, with harmful consequences for their children’s health and well-being as well [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].
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