In The Know: Oklahoma not enforcing penalties on companies that violate Workers’ Compensation law

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 not enforcing penalties on companies that violate Workers’ Compensation law: The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission has only rarely enforced penalties against businesses that fail to carry workers’ compensation insurance since the commission took over those duties from the state Labor Department in 2014. Records reveal the commission has sent out 68 enforcement notices proposing fines of nearly $10.8 million since February 2014. However, the commission has collected only $534,422 in penalties, with most of that coming through consent agreements or agreed orders [NewsOK].

With many uninsured, state pushes small program for working poor: The social media blitz started in late July. The radio and TV spots showed up in mid-August, along with six billboards placed along key interstate highways. A sleeker website will be unveiled soon. The message: Insure Oklahoma is still open for business, and ready to grow. The $450,000 marketing campaign comes after five years of steady shrinkage in the 10-year-old, tax-supported health insurance program for Oklahoma’s working poor [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma leaders brace for another steep budget shortfall: With oil prices hovering below $50 per barrel and an income tax cut scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, Oklahoma’s already bleak budget outlook for the upcoming fiscal year is likely to take a turn for the worse. A little more than two months into the current budget year, the state’s top finance official already is meeting with legislative budget leaders and urging agency directors to start looking now for ways to save money [Journal Record]. Here’s why Oklahoma is seeing chronic and deepening budget shortfalls in good economic years as well as bad [OK Policy].

Federal initiative is part of what brings hope to southeast Oklahoma: Last January, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was designated by President Barack Obama as one of five Promise Zones, an anti-poverty initiative that provides resources such as grants and tax incentives to help improve conditions in persistently high poverty communities. Since the Promise Zone initiative started, the Choctaw Nation and its community partners have secured $60 million in grant funding [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmakers look at consolidating law enforcement: Facing the prospect of another budget shortfall next year, Oklahoma lawmakers are looking for ways to make state law enforcement agencies more efficient by consolidating services and resources to better control costs. Republican Rep. Mike Christian, a retired Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper from Oklahoma City, plans to lead a legislative study to explore cost-efficient ways for state law enforcement agencies to share materials, equipment and other assets [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City police began testing body cameras: OKC Police Chief Bill Citty characterized the decision as a “huge step” forward for the department. Oklahoma City is conducting a 30-day “wear test” of three systems. Once a preferred system is chosen, a 100-camera pilot project will begin, lasting a year [NewsOK].

Should law enforcement be able to take citizens’ property without filing charges?: An interesting tug-of-war has developed between Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, author of SB 838 changing Oklahoma’s asset forfeiture law and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The heat this issue could generate is aptly demonstrated by the difficulty in even having a hearing for the interim study [OK Policy].

Oklahoma ready for criminal justice, public safety reforms: Last month, something very strange happened. The same week that House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, called for extensive reforms of the federal criminal justice system, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison (a facility right here in El Reno, Oklahoma) to highlight the need for similar solutions [Jonathan Small and Jenna Moll / Tulsa World].

Fallin in preliminary stages of tapping new Labor Commissioner: Fallin appointed Stacy Bonner, deputy commissioner, as acting commissioner. Spokesman Alex Weintz said Fallin will take her time choosing Costello’s successor [Tulsa World]. Cathy Costello, the widow of slain Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, requested that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin appoint her to serve the remainder of her husband’s term [CapitolBeatOK].

Labor unions see less membership, understanding in Oklahoma: The state motto of Oklahoma is Labor Omnia Vincit, or “labor conquers all.” But while the history of organized labor in Oklahoma is one of political strength, “labor issues” in Oklahoma mostly sit stagnated in a national and local political climate that is not particularly friendly to the labor movement’s causes. Furthermore, public confusion abounds regarding exactly who does what on labor regulation [NonDoc].

Scott Pruitt will see you in court: Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general sues the federal government — and even other states — every chance he can get. Will his legal battles change the future of American politics? [Governing]

State taking ‘baby steps’ in stemming quake activity: A 3.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Cushing on Tuesday morning, according to the United States Geological Survey. Cushing is home to the world’s largest crude oil storage facility and is often called the “Pipeline Crossroads of America.” One day earlier, Cushing was hit by a 3.0 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter for that quake was less than one mile from the site of the tank farms at Cushing [NonDoc].

Andrew Rice on being a progressive state senator in a deeply red state: I was born in Oklahoma City in 1973. As a white heterosexual, affluent, male born in a red state at the beginning a massive expansion of American wealth it is a miracle I ended up a liberal Democrat [Yes and Yes].

Some voters don’t have poll to go to on election day: When the Drummond school district holds its bond election Tuesday, only three people in nearby Kingfisher County will be eligible to vote. But if those voters show up to the polls on election day, they’ll be out of luck. District officials closed a few voting precincts where only a few residents are registered to vote. Those voters still will be allowed to cast a ballot, but they’ll need to do so by mail or by voting early at their county courthouses [NewsOK].

For Oklahoma educators, connecting on Twitter is #trending: During the last week of the school year, while the rest of the school may have been counting down the days until summer vacation, Kimberly Blodgett posted in her classroom: “Five days until I miss you.” The fifth-grade teacher at Little Axe Elementary got the heartfelt idea after stumbling across a Twitter phenomenon that is uniting educators from across the state [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Without health care, you really don’t have anything. If you’re sick all the time, you can’t have jobs. We’ve seen a lot of dental problems because there has not been dental, and if you have a big toothache, you’re not going to be able to go to work. You’re not going to be able to apply for a job with half your teeth missing.”

-Angie Batton, a clinic nurse in southeast Oklahoma, which has some of highest preventable disease rates and lowest levels of access to care in the state (Source)

Number of the Day

35 percent

Decrease in number of small businesses participating in Insure Oklahoma over the last five years, from 5,632 to 3,639.

Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority via Oklahoma Watch

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Chart Book: Accomplishments of the Safety Net: Today’s safety net both keeps tens of millions of Americans out of poverty and has positive longer-term impacts on children, helping them do better (and go farther) in school and work and earn more as adults. Still, poverty remains high and many families face serious hardship. The following charts illustrate that [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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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