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.

In The News

2018 Rankings Peg Oklahoma as Seventh-Worst State for Health Care: Oklahoma comes in 45th in a new set of 2018 state health care rankings. While WalletHub considered measures of cost, access and outcomes, a big part of Oklahoma’s poor ranking is the adult uninsured rate. Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Carly Putnam said with nearly one in four adults not having health insurance, they’re visiting emergency rooms to get care for conditions exacerbated by not being able to visit a primary care physician [Public Radio Tulsa].

SNAP Error Rates Went up Last Year, but It Wasn’t Due to Fraud: For many years, anti-hunger advocates have pointed to the low error rates of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as evidence of its efficiency and effectiveness. And that is true – SNAP does have a very low rate of improper payments and it is an effective program that helps millions of American families, including thousands of Oklahomans, put food on the table [OKPolicy].

Prosperity Policy: Boom Not Making It to Paychecks: Recent months have brought much good economic news as the expansion that began in 2010 under the Obama administration continues under President Trump. Gross domestic product rose by 4.1 percent in the last quarter, its fastest growth since 2014. The official unemployment rate fell in July to 3.9 percent … Yet while the economic boom has led to more people finding jobs, the benefits of a robust economy are still not being felt in workers’ paychecks [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Pharmacy Board Appoints New Interim Director After Probe: Two weeks after ousting a director who is under investigation for bribery, the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy appointed a fill-in on Wednesday. The board named Ardmore pharmacist Dorothy Gourley the agency’s interim director. She will replace Chelsea Church, who was ousted after the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced it was investigating her following bribery allegations [Journal Record].

Health Commissioner Pushes for Special Session and Stricter Marijuana Regulation Through Legislation: Interim Health Commissioner Tom Bates told a group of lawmakers Wednesday a special legislative session is needed to fix gaps in the state’s new medical marijuana rules. Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed new, stripped down medical marijuana rules to replace ones that included controversial, last-minute restrictions [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Eight state residents, prospective medical marijuana patients and business operators are seeking a court’s intervention to stop medical marijuana regulations signed by the governor on Monday [Tulsa World]. 

Health Officials Tap Bailout Funds to Pay for Marijuana Plan: State lawmakers got a deeper look Wednesday into how the Oklahoma Department of Health is implementing medical marijuana policy and how it is paying to do so. When voters passed State Question 788, they gave the Health Department power to regulate the medical marijuana industry. However, the Department of Health has been mired in scandal for the better part of a year, and one financial debacle led the Legislature to give the agency a $30 million bailout that was later found unnecessary [OKPolicy].

Green the Vote submits unknown number of signatures in marijuana ballot efforts: Marijuana supporters submitted an unknown number of petition signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office on Wednesday afternoon in an effort to get two state questions on the ballot. The filing comes a day after news broke that Green the Vote had dramatically inflated the number of signatures collected for the two state questions in an effort to increase momentum. Isaac Caviness of Haskell serves as president of Green the Vote, which collected the signatures. He was asked Wednesday how many the organization ultimately had collected. “I have no idea,” Caviness said. [Tulsa World]

Congressman and school official discuss need for immigration fixes: A congressman and a local public school official both took part in a Wednesday forum on immigration, each representing ends of the spectrum on an issue that remains a political quagmire. “A lot of kids are coming to schools with a large amount of trauma and anxiety because they are worried they aren’t going to see their parents again,” said Rebecca Kaye, chief of staff for Oklahoma City Public Schools, speaking to the fears some students have that their parents may be deported. [NewsOK]

Execution Protocol Misses Deadline with No Planned Date to Resume: Despite promises to have a new execution protocol drafted by July, officials said this week that implementation remains unfinished with no planned date for executions to resume. Officials with the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Corrections, meanwhile, now say there is no estimated completion date for the state’s new nitrogen hypoxia protocol [Norman Transcript].

Myles Deering, Oklahoma’s Veterans Affairs Secretary, Blames Politics, ‘Gripers and Complainers’ for Audit: Retired Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma’s secretary of Veterans Affairs, says an audit released last week was the latest attempt to undermine his business-minded reforms of the state agency. “It’s a big political deal and it makes me sick but, you know, I have to do my job, regardless,” he said in an interview Tuesday [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Will Hold Driver License Vendor Accountable, Commissioner Says: Oklahoma will re-examine its contract with the vendor that manages the state’s driver license system after back-to-back outages frustrated customers. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Rusty Rhoades said the first problems about a week ago happened when storms caused a power outage while Idemia Identity and Security USA, the company that manages driver license systems, began daily server maintenance [NewsOK].

How to Search All Political Ads on Facebook: Have you ever wondered how to search all political ads on Facebook to examine the messaging that campaigns and third-party electioneering organizations are using? In an effort to offer more transparency about how its enormously influential platform is being used to affect American elections, Facebook launched www.Facebook.com/PoliticalContentAds in May [NonDoc].

City of Tulsa Gets a Hand as It Looks to Help Unbanked, Underbanked Residents: The City of Tulsa has received a grant to help with plans to close Tulsa’s racial wealth gap. The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund awarded Tulsa $20,000 toward that work … “The city is convening banking institutions, companies in the area, nonprofits … and acting as a leader to set the goal. What’s the goal for our city? What do we want for Tulsans in the financial literacy and empowerment space?” said Chief Resilience Officer DeVon Douglass [Public Radio Tulsa].

‘Monumental’ visit by top Corps of Engineers official puts Tulsa’s aging levee system in spotlight: Whenever strong rains pound the 20-mile system of levees that runs from Sand Springs to west Tulsa, Todd Kilpatrick has trouble sleeping. Kilpatrick, the Tulsa County District 12 levee commissioner, understands the devastation that flooding could inflict if the levees were to fail: The system protects more than 10,000 people and $2 billion of property. A years-long effort to modernize the levees advanced a step Wednesday when R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, traveled to Tulsa to survey the system. [Tulsa World]

USDA Loans Intended to Improve Southern Oklahoma’s Electricity Distribution System: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division has made a $16.32 million loan to the Red River Valley Rural Electric Association to build 30 miles of new electrical distribution line and to upgrade 57 additional miles more. The association serves about 8,000 members and delivers power to them at about 16,000 mostly rural locations across its service area, which covers parts of Love, Marshall and Bryan counties in southern Oklahoma [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“The average life expectancy in Oklahoma is the fourth-lowest in the country … and then when it comes to heart disease, cancer, stroke, heart disease incidence, they all tend to be a little bit higher in Oklahoma. I don’t think it helps that Oklahoma has the second-highest uninsured rate for adults in the country.”

-WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez, speaking about their new report that ranks Oklahoma 45th in the country for its health care system [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day

26.6%

Percentage of Oklahoma prison inmates who were incarcerated in private prisons in 2016.

[The Sentencing Project]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

‘I Don’t Feel That I’m Any Safer’: Juror Speaks out Against 40-Year Sentence for Drug Dealer He Helped Convict: He said he felt compelled to speak out after the judge who sentenced Turner, T.S. Ellis III, called the  unishment “excessive” and “wrong” at a June sentencing hearing. If he can’t change the sentence, “why do we have a judge?” St. Louis asked. “Let’s put that in his hands . . . but instead you heard the judge say his hands are tied, and that doesn’t seem right to me.” Mandatory minimums have long been controversial. While some say the punishments ensure consistent sentences for serious crimes and give prosecutors necessary leverage to get criminals to cooperate, others — even judges — say they often result in unduly harsh prison terms [Washington Post].

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.