In The Know: Oklahoma optometry petition to appear on Nov. 6 ballot

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In The News

Oklahoma Optometry Petition to Appear on Nov. 6 Ballot: Gov. Mary Fallin has authorized a state question that would allow eye doctors to practice inside Oklahoma retail establishments to appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Fallin signed an election proclamation Monday after officials certified that supporters had met procedural requirements and collected enough signatures to qualify for a statewide ballot initiative [AP News].

More Uncertified Teachers to Greet Students This Year: Students going back to Oklahoma schools in August will be greeted by a record number of teachers who haven’t finished their own education yet, state Department of Education officials said. In the 2017-2018 school year, a total of 1,875 applications for emergency certification were granted to Oklahoma public schools to compensate for a shortage of teachers. It’s too early to tell how many requests will be granted by the end of the 2018-2019 school year, but the trend doesn’t look good, Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said [Journal Record].

Tax hikes for teachers is major issue in legislative runoffs: When teachers began their walkout in early April, state Rep. Bobby Cleveland told a local television station that they should be in their classrooms instead of at the Capitol. Two weeks later, as candidate filing overlapped with the walkout, Cleveland drew four primary opponents, all with some connection to teachers. Cleveland is one of 10 House incumbents, all Republicans, forced into a runoff after the June 26 primaries. Seven of the incumbents now fighting for their political lives opposed the tax package, House Bill 1010xx, approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin to fund teacher pay hikes [The Oklahoman].

Open to the Public: Medical Marijuana Working Group Set for First Meeting at Capitol on Wednesday: A bipartisan, bicameral working group assigned to implement State Question 788 in a way it says will “conform to the will of the voters” will hold its first public meeting at the state Capitol on Wednesday. The group will meet at 2 p.m. in Room 535, a large Senate conference room, on the fifth floor of the Capitol building [Tulsa World]. As health officials continue their struggle to write those rules without legal issues, this week they will begin dispensing medical marijuana application materials to residents [Journal Record]. It is highly unlikely that two additional marijuana state questions will make the Nov. 6 general election ballot, Oklahoma Secretary of State James Williamson said Monday [Tulsa World].

Legalizing Medical Marijuana Doesn’t Change Its Status in Prisons: For Oklahoma inmates, the state’s legalization of medical marijuana will not translate into access in the state prison system. Marijuana of any type will still be contraband behind bars, mirroring the path other states have taken by partially or fully legalizing marijuana but not allowing it in prisons [Oklahoma Watch].

State expects to deposit historic amount in Rainy Day Fund: The state expects to deposit a record estimated $370 million in its Rainy Day Fund, according to information provided Office of Management and Enterprise Services. “While the state is seeing the benefits of economic recovery, having a large deposit this year is not an indication of next year’s revenue picture, said Shelley Zumwalt, a spokeswoman for OMES. “This deposit reflects a single year’s revenue estimate and actual collections and is not necessarily predictive of the state’s economic health going forward.” In the last four fiscal years, the state made no deposit to its Rainy Day Fund, according to the agency. [Tulsa World]

(Capitol Update) Senate Loses a Talented and Experienced Workhorse with Resignation of AJ Griffin: It will be a different legislature in 2019 for those interested in children and Oklahoma’s solutions to behavioral health issues without the presence of Sen. A.J. Griffin. From day one when she came to the Senate, A.J. brought with her a wealth of experience in and passion for working with kids. A.J. had been Executive Director of the Youth Services agency in Logan County [Steve Lewis / OKPolicy].

Oklahoma Election Board to Improve Voting Security: The state Election Board is already well-positioned against cyberattacks in the upcoming general elections, but improvements are being planned just the same, officials said. Oklahoma has received $5.2 million from the federal Help America Vote Act since it was passed in 2002 to improve its voting system security, board spokesman Bryan Dean said. The agency has held most of the money because Oklahoma didn’t have the same pressing security concerns other states experienced, he said, until buying new equipment in 2012 [Journal Record].

PAC Donations Lift Steve Russell over Democratic Challengers in Fundraising: Buoyed by political action committees, U.S. Rep. Steve Russell continues to lead two Democratic opponents in fundraising as the three campaigns enter the center of summer. The Republican incumbent raised $81,536 in the brief three-and-a-half-week fundraising period between June 7 and June 30. PACs for Chesapeake Energy, Cox Enterprises, Farmers Insurance, Koch Industries, Raytheon, the National Rifle Association, Boeing, Union Pacific and UPS all chipped in, among others [NewsOK].

Interim Study to Scrutinize Teacher Health Insurance Costs: As Oklahoma educators’ health insurance costs surge, one lawmaker wants to look into how to stymie the growth. Two members requested House interim studies to look into lowering the costs of teachers’ health insurance. State Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, has requested an interim study on the topic. Those studies allow legislative committees to delve more deeply into issues than they can during a regular session [Journal Record]. See the full list of House interim studies here and Senate interim studies here.

School Districts Work Within Their Budgets to Address Safety: This fall, the 25,000 students attending Moore Public Schools will get new identification badges that grant access to school buildings. The new security measure was made possible by $420,000 in private donations, according to Clayton Ramick, Executive Director of the Moore School’s Foundation. “After Parkland it just clicked with this community that we needed to step up,” Ramick said [KGOU]. Ardmore City Schools’ extensive security camera system is just one tool in the ever-changing conversation about school security, privacy and defense. [The Daily Ardmoreite]

New Hurdle Uncorked in Liquor Law Revisions: There are concerns among the state’s liquor and wine distributors about their back stock come Oct. 1. On that date, liquor and wine manufacturers will – for the first time in state history – be able to name an exclusive distributor of their product in Oklahoma. For example, Jack Daniel’s could allow the fictional Bob’s Distribution to be the only place that sells its products to liquor stores [Journal Record]. The unintended consequence of SQ 792 could be a rise in alcohol prices, official says [KOCO].

Casinos Provide Jobs, Financial Growth for Smaller Towns: Within a 30-mile radius of this northeastern Oklahoma city, there are 14 casinos. While the attached hotel-room and gaming dollars do not go back into the city’s general fund, the gaming entities’ presence is a boon to the area. The city’s tourism director, Amanda Davis, said her department doesn’t have to spend money on telling people that the Miami area has a lot of casinos [Journal Record]. Wiley Harwell said the state needs more money to help treat people with a gambling addiction. Oklahoma’s casino revenue is third in the nation, and one of his biggest challenges is awareness of gambling-addiction help resources [Journal Record].

Cherokee Nation Bringing in More Jobs with Hospital, Casino: Two new major tribal projects under construction in Tahlequah are already bringing in more economic development and diversifying the town’s industries, said Cindy Morris, president of the Tahlequah Area Chamber. The Cherokee Nation’s multimillion-dollar expansion of its W.W. Hastings Medical Center has spurred local officials to branch out into new sectors, aside from just river-and-lake-based tourism [Journal Record]. 

Choctaw Nation Drives Development in SE Oklahoma: The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s financial benefits to southeast Oklahoma will continue to grow, with gaming fueling much of the income. The tribe had a $1.9 billion impact for the state of Oklahoma in 2016, according to the latest available figure tribal officials reported. Gaming at the tribe’s eight casinos made up a large part of that. Division of Commerce Interim Senior Executive Officer John Elliott said the tribe paid the state more than $22 million in exclusivity fees [Journal Record].

Tulsa’s Summer City Council Elections Could Lead to a Tidal Wave of Change: The City Council is about to get a face-lift. Three incumbent councilors — Anna America, Phil Lakin and Jeannie Cue — face no opposition, leaving six of Tulsa’s nine council district seats up for election on Aug. 28. Three of those races are to fill seats being vacated. It would surprise no one if the election cycle — which ends with a Nov. 6 runoff, if necessary — comes to a close with as many as five new councilors having been elected [Tulsa World].

Meth Lab Busts down to Almost Zero, Authorities Say: ‘They’re Just Not Cooking It in Oklahoma Anymore’: Tulsa had a record-breaking 431 meth labs seized in 2011. Police and fire officials were responding to meth lab fires in hotels, apartment complexes and cars. So far in 2018, Tulsa officers have found one. But the sharp decrease in labs doesn’t mean meth isn’t still in demand. The Tulsa Police Department’s Special Investigation Division seized 80 pounds in 2016 and 155 pounds in 2017. The department is “on track for 360 pounds” in 2018, said Tulsa Police Capt. Mark Wollmershauser [Tulsa World].

Food Bank Helps Provide Food to More Than 80 Percent of TPS Kids Who Face Food Insecurity: Just in Tulsa Public Schools, more than 80 percent of kids face food insecurity. According to Hunger Free Oklahoma, of the 75 largest school districts in the country, TPS has the 30th highest free/reduced qualifying meal rate percentage. The district does everything in their power to help, even partnering with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma [KTUL]. Oklahoma school meals programs bring new strategies to fight child hunger [OKPolicy].

Oklahoma City Hopes New Recycling Program Cuts Landfill Waste: Oklahoma City produced close to 300,000 tons of trash last fiscal year, or about 940 pounds for each of the city’s 638,000 residents. That’s roughly four times the weight of the Devon Tower, and 10 percent more trash than the city produced just five years ago. As Oklahoma City’s population increases, so does the amount of waste generated, said Jennifer McClintock, utilities department spokesperson. That, in turn, shortens the life spans of the landfills the city has contracted with to take all that garbage [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“We have a lot of students who get their main nutrition from the meals at school, and so these bags are designed to kind of be a supplement to get them through the weekend. The teachers will take these bags and put them into their backpacks over recess so nobody is embarrassed, and they are able to take that food and get it to their houses.”

-Kane Powell, volunteer operations manager at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, which is partnering with Tulsa Public Schools where about 80 percent of students face food insecurity [KTUL]

Number of the Day


Share of all state income taken home by the wealthiest 1% of households in Oklahoma, 2015.

[Economic Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

“Free College:” Here to Stay? The experience in these six states highlights the role a range of design elements can play in retaining political support. Some programs retain significant political support but have an inequitable structure that sends a disproportionate amount of aid to wealthy families, yet other programs retain high levels of political support while limiting their dollars to low- and middle-income families and avoiding a regressive program design. Particularly given the political diversity of these six states, the programs analyzed here provide some lessons for future federal and state affordability proposals [The Century Foundation].

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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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