In The Know: Oklahoma No. 47 in health rankings; lack of OB/GYNs, delivery hospitals; holding back early-grade students…

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

Statement: Bipartisan Farm Bill passage is a win for Oklahoma families: OK Policy applauds the U.S. Congress on their passage of the Farm Bill this week. The final version of the Farm Bill reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program and this Farm Bill, a solid, bipartisan compromise, rejects the previously proposed harmful cuts to SNAP that would have taken food assistance away from more than one million households. [OK Policy]

In The News

Oklahoma falls to No. 47 in health rankings: Oklahoma was already ranked poorly for overall health, but it slipped significantly over the past year. The United Health Foundation released its annual report, America’s Health Rankings, this week. The Sooner State came in at 47th, dropping from 43rd just the year before. It took first place for the largest rank decline. “The state’s drop in rank was driven mostly by changes in health behaviors in the past year, including an 11 percent increase in the prevalence of obesity and 14 percent increase in the physical inactivity rate,” the report states. [Journal Record]

Half of Oklahoma counties have no OB/GYNs, delivery hospitals: For women in more than half of Oklahoma counties, pregnancy means preparing for at least one long drive, and putting their trust in a doctor they may never have met in person. The March of Dimes reports 41 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are what it calls “maternity deserts,” meaning they lack a hospital performing deliveries or an obstetrics provider. Most of the counties are rural, and women who live there are more likely to live in poverty than the statewide average. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma nearly tops nation in holding back early-grade students: As a first grader, Tricia Willyard’s son struggled to read. The educators at his school recommended he repeat first grade — something Willyard, herself an educator in a nearby district, at first opposed. She knew what the research said about retention — that there can be long-term detrimental effects — and she felt like his school hadn’t yet done enough to help him. [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma Watch’s story on student retention in kindergarten through third grade relies mostly on data from the Civil Rights Data Collection, a division of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. [Oklahoma Watch]

Ethics Commission considers rules creating new category of lobbyist, requiring disclosures: The Oklahoma Ethics Commission is considering newly-proposed rules that would require individuals and groups who buy advertisements or run public campaigns intended to influence votes on legislation to disclose their donors and spending. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt reappoints 2 Fallin picks: Oklahoma Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt’s latest cabinet-level appointments are the first holdovers from the outgoing administration. The Republican on Friday reappointed Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson as adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard and Rusty Rhoades as commissioner of public safety. Both are pending state Senate approval. [KFOR]

Smalley elected Majority Caucus Chair: Sen. Jason Smalley was tapped by his colleagues for one of the Senate’s highest leadership roles recently when he was elected Majority Caucus Chairman. The Stroud Republican began serving his second term last month and previously served two years in the House. [Shawnee News-Star]

Dems will push Medicaid expansion — at Capitol or ballot box: House Democrats plan to push for Medicaid expansion in 2019, inviting Republicans to help craft their own plan or risk a statewide vote in a few years, a step several other conservative states have taken. “I think there may be a willingness to negotiate, especially since I think it’s likely there will be an effort to get it on the ballot,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman. “But my preference is to get it done legislatively, and I think Republicans would also prefer that.” [NewsOK ????]

Sharp files bill to use district and local funds for superintendent pay: Following public outcry about school funding and concern over high administrative salaries, Sen. Ron Sharp filed legislation Friday to make superintendent salaries a completely local decision. Senate Bill 60 would require superintendent salaries and fringe benefits to be paid with only district (ad valorem dollars) and dedicated local funds. [Shawnee News-Star]

Norman urges legislature to ratify Equal Rights Amendment: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.” Those are words you won’t find in the U.S. Constitution. Despite passing the U.S. Senate in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment failed to gain the approval of the requisite 38 states within a 10-year window. On Tuesday, the Norman City Council, led by a female majority and female mayor, unanimously approved a resolution expressing Norman’s support for the amendment and calling on the state legislature to finally ratify it. [Norman Transcript]

New alcohol licenses generate new money for state agencies: Senate Bill 383, which overhauled the state’s alcohol laws, also outlined where some of the license money would go. The 198-section bill is now codified in Oklahoma’s state law after voters approved it in November 2016. Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission Executive Director A. Keith Burt gave an update on the disbursement of funds during the ABLE Commission’s monthly meeting on Friday. [Journal Record ????]

Biggest Oklahoma teachers union hires new executive director: Oklahoma’s largest teachers union has hired a new executive director who believes the organization can build momentum following a year of education activism and work closely with a changing state Capitol. “Gov.-elect (Kevin) Stitt campaigned on a promise to make Oklahoma the most attractive state in the region for teachers, and we can help him keep that promise,” said James Keith, who will become executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association in January. [NewsOK]

Laura Dester to reopen as state’s first treatment center for foster kids with mental health needs: For 19 years, the Robert M. Greer Center in Enid has cultivated a low recidivism rate for re-integrating into society adults who have both intellectual disabilities and severe behavioral challenges. That approach now will be similarly applied at the Laura Dester Children’s Center in Tulsa to juveniles in foster care who have “co-occurring disorders.” [Tulsa World]

Editorial Board: Ending Soon-To-Be-Sooners program would be a terrible decision: Every year, Oklahoma legislators file at least a handful of bills that are a waste of time. These useless pieces of legislation are most often buried in committees and rarely see the light of day but provide useful insight into the priorities of some of the men and women we’ve sent to the Capitol. One such bill this year was just proposed by Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan. Senate Bill 40 would eliminate the Soon-To-Be-Sooners program, which provides pregnancy and maternity services to low-income women in the state of Oklahoma. [Editorial Board / Norman Transcript]

Bisbee: Setting the record straight on TSET: In his recent “Free Market Friday” column, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs director Jonathan Small made several inaccurate or misleading statements about the way the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust invests funds supporting the health of Oklahomans. He misrepresented several items and I felt compelled to offer some clarifications. [Julie Bisbee / Journal Record]

‘I have the highest hope for them’: Social service agencies work to ensure women with commuted sentences succeed: Inadvertently scrawled on a white envelope containing her daughter’s graduation announcement were the words “discharge to probation.” No legal pathway for probation existed for Johnna Davidson and that also would have been an odd way to deliver the news. [Tulsa World]

Mabel Bassett Correctional Center: Inmates raise funds for area schools: This week and next, Mabel Bassett Correctional Center (MBCC) officers are delivering a message to area school districts from the inmates — that though they may not have easy access to a lot of resources, they are willing to do what they can to help; and they are putting their money where their mouths are. [Shawnee News-Star]

Grim appointed secretary of health for Chickasaw Nation: The Chickasaw Nation has appointed an accomplished health care administrator, medical professional and leader to the role of secretary of health. Dr. Charles Grim will officially become secretary in mid-January, bringing with him decades of proven experience in Indian health services, including an appointment from President George W. Bush as the director of the Indian Health Service from 2002 to 2007. [Ada News]

Quote of the Day

“I would not be at all surprised to see (Medicaid expansion) on the ballot in the near future. There’s always been a bit of a gulf when it comes to the popularity of Medicaid expansion within the Legislature and its popularity with state residents. Even when the Affordable Care Act was polling badly, the Medicaid expansion part polled pretty well.”

-Carly Putnam, Policy Director at the Oklahoma Policy Institute [Source: NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Share of insured Oklahomans enrolled in an HMO in 2016, the 6th-lowest rate nationwide. The US average was 31.6 percent

[Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

This city’s overdose deaths have plunged. Can others learn from it? ‘[Medicaid expansion is] the basis — the basis — for everything we’ve built regarding treatment,’ Ms. Whaley said in an interview at City Hall. ‘If you’re a state that does not have Medicaid expansion, you can’t build a system for addressing this disease.’ [New York Times]

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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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