In The Know: Oklahoma labor commissioner murdered in OKC

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.

Today In The News

Oklahoma labor commissioner stabbed to death in OKC: State Labor Commissioner Mark Costello was stabbed to death Sunday night at a northwest Oklahoma City restaurant in what sources say was an attempted reconciliation gone bad with his son. Costello’s son, Christian Costello, 26, was taken into police custody and was being questioned by detectives late Sunday [NewsOK].

Lawmakers debate funding sources for teacher pay raises: Facing tight budgets and demands from Oklahoma teachers for their first across-the-board pay increase in years, lawmakers are suggesting non-traditional funding sources, much to the displeasure of those now using these funds. Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, calls it “robbing Peter to pay Paul” [NewsOK].

OKC Public Schools proposes to offer PSAT test to more grades: The district paid for 2,800 sophomores and juniors to take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test in the spring. When the school board meets Aug. 31, it will consider a district recommendation to spend about $77,500 to expand this year’s offerings to include eighth- and ninth-graders [NewsOK].

Oklahoma State University opens Center for Sovereign Nations: The Center for Sovereign Nations grew quickly from the vision and support of both academic and tribal leaders, said Elizabeth Payne, director of the new center. It’s a place where native students can hold meetings, seek services and visit with friends, said Payne, who helped survey tribal leaders to learn how OSU could better serve them [NewsOK].

Lawmakers are not done asking agencies to do more with less: Last week’s Oklahoma Healthcare Authority (OHCA) planning retreat provided a wealth of thinking about how to work through the next few years. It seemed to be pretty much a consensus that problems are increasing and resources to deal with them are decreasing [OK Policy].

Struggling rural hospitals try to cope with deficiencies: Grady Memorial Hospital’s challenge to come up with the money to meet the federal government’s facility standards is a too-common occurrence for rural health care. The partial closure of Grady Memorial this week because of an inadequate air unit serving the operating room is potentially damaging enough to the local economy that Chickasha Mayor Hank Ross immediately called for an emergency public meeting to discuss financial rescue efforts [Journal Record]. Oklahoma’s continuing refusal of federal funds to cover the uninsured is having a particularly severe impact on rural hospitals [OK Policy]. Oklahoma is giving up about $2.3 million per day as long we refuse federal health care funds [Teresa Meinders Burkett / Tulsa World].

SNAP helps Oklahoma families in food deserts: It’s the day before many individuals and families, including Branch, receive their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly known as food stamps. The night before these benefits become available, families flock to grocery stores. Most of the shoppers time their trips to check out right at midnight. Sometimes, they say, the lines at Wal-Mart can be an hour long, an anomaly for any other day [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma energy sector shed 1,000 jobs last month: But gains in construction and other sectors helped maintain the state’s jobless rate at 4.5 percent, according to data released Friday by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The energy sector has lost 9,100 jobs from the recent high in November 2014 [NewsOK].

Plan to change Oklahoma’s seizure laws faces fierce fight: Oklahoma City Republican Sen. Kyle Loveless introduced a bill last session that would have required a criminal conviction before a person’s property can become subject to forfeiture. His bill also would have sent the proceeds to the state’s General Revenue Fund instead of allowing it to be used by the agency that seizes it. The plan is drawing fierce resistance form district attorneys and numerous law enforcement agencies, both of which are recipients of seized funds that can be used to help bolster their operations [Journal Record].

New medical marijuana petition filed for Oklahoma vote: Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana need 123,725 signatures for the question to be seen by voters. They will have 90 days after a final determination following a protest period to get the signatures. Oklahomans for Health circulated a petition last year that fell significantly short of the number of signatures needed [Tulsa World].

Couple files suit challenging Indian Child Welfare Act: An Oklahoma couple has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of portions of the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act. The couple specifically objects to provisions of the Oklahoma act that permit tribes to intervene in private, voluntary adoption cases involving Indian children [Tulsa World].

OG&E proposes new charge, billing structure for rooftop solar: Oklahoma Gas and Electric is proposing a new “demand charge” be levied on customers who install rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines. The suggested rate structure was filed with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which has to approve so-called “distributed generation” tariffs for OG&E and Public Service Co. by the end of the year [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“How much money are we talking about for Oklahoma? According to the Kaiser Commission, Oklahoma would receive $8.561 billion in federal funds over 10 years from expanding coverage. This means that we are giving up $2.3 million every single day that could be used to boost Oklahoma health-care providers and expand access to needed care for working families. Think of the economic stimulus that money would create.”

-Tulsa attorney Teresa Meinders Burkett, in an op-ed arguing for Oklahoma to stop refusing federal health care expansion funds (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of households in Oklahoma that are not served by a bank or any other financial institution.

Source: Corporation for Enterprise Development

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why the next Republican president won’t touch Obamacare: There’s always been much for Republicans to oppose in Obamacare. The law, at its core, raises taxes on the rich to give money to the poor. It adds layers and layers of regulation to the insurance industry. It creates a fundamental expectation that the federal government will make affordable insurance available for anyone who wants to purchase it. The problem for Republicans has always been that these aspects of Obamacare are popular [Vox].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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