In The Know: Oklahoma selling bonds to expand prisons; new lawsuit over death in prison; education leaders see few benefits in SQ 801…

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

‘It is shameful’: Corrections director says overcrowding means selling bonds to expand prison: The Board of Corrections took the initial steps to add capacity to the state prison system on Thursday.Meeting at the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester, the board began the process of selling up to $116.5 million in bonds.Department of Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh said in a phone interview that whether new prisons would be built or existing facilities would be expanded has not been determined. It could be a combination of both, he said. [Tulsa World]

Lawsuit by Amber Hilberling’s estate accuses DOC of not taking ‘any reasonable steps’ to prevent her death in prison: The estate of Amber Hilberling filed a lawsuit this summer alleging that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections did not do enough to prevent the woman’s death in prison. The lawsuit was filed in Oklahoma County District Court by Rhonda Whitlock, a special administrator for Hilberling’s estate, on July 20. It accuses the DOC of exposing the inmate at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud to “individual and cumulative conditions of confinement that substantially increased the risk of harm to her.” [Tulsa World]

Education leaders see few benefits in ballot measure to give schools more financial flexibility: Oklahoma education leaders say a state question designed to give districts more spending flexibility will do little to improve public schools’ financial difficulties. State Question 801 would allow school leaders to spend money in their building fund — currently restricted for things like construction projects, maintenance and repairs, utilities, and custodians’ salaries — in new ways. [KGOU] Find background information, arguments against and in favor of, and ballot language on our SQ 801 fact sheet. [OK Policy]

Two House districts to feature four candidates in November: A handful of the year’s nearly 100 legislative races drew candidates from more than two political parties, but only two races will feature four candidates. An overwhelming majority of residents will see only two names under the legislative races this year, one for the Republican candidate and another for the Democratic contender. Others might see an independent or Libertarian. But House Districts 68 and 95, which cover Midwest City and west Tulsa respectively, are some of the first to see four. [Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma Democrats flee party for GOP by the thousands: More than 18,000 of Oklahoma’s 2 million voters changed their affiliations this month, and about half of those were Democrats becoming Republicans. Oklahoma has what’s known as a blackout period during election years. Voters aren’t allowed to change their party affiliation during primary season but that regulation changes before the general election. This year’s blackout ended Aug. 31 and, by mid-September, more than 10,000 Democrats filed for a change. [Journal Record]

Group says employers could face lawsuits without changes to Oklahoma’s medical marijuana law: Oklahoma employers are at risk of being dragged into court and face as-yet-unidentified penalties unless changes are made to the state’s medical marijuana law, a business advocacy group told lawmakers Wednesday. Officials with the State Chamber of Oklahoma said the Legislature should define a new course of legal action in employer-employee medical marijuana cases. State Question 788 prevents an employer from discriminating against someone who has a license for medical marijuana use, but Warmington said the law doesn’t spell out what happens when someone violates it. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma climbs to No. 2 in nation in percentage of population without health insurance: Oklahoma climbed to No. 2 in nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance coverage, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates. An estimated 14.2 percent of the state population did not have health insurance in 2017, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. [Tulsa World] New Census data shows that Oklahoma fell further behind the U.S. on poverty and uninsured rate for second consecutive year [OK Policy]

Little help for Oklahoma diabetics as cost of insulin soars: Chris Pickering has gone without car insurance, canceled family vacations, worked overtime and sold off personal belongings in order to afford insulin. “We’re all held captive by the cost, because without it, we don’t live,” he said. Pickering, a father of four, has Type 1 diabetes. The price of the of the human insulin analog he needs to survive has gone up more than 500 percent over the past 15 years. [The Frontier]

State to seek federal grant for pilot program to improve Oklahoma veterans’ health care: Gov. Mary Fallin on announced Thursday that the state will seek $250 million in federal funds to improve health care for veterans. The funds from the federally funded Veterans Choice Program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would be used for a three-year pilot program. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma veterans speak out about proposed VA plan. [News9]

Oklahoma DHS offering parent benefits to help foster families: Certified Oklahoma foster families have been mailed Exclusive Benefit cards entitling their households to membership discounts at more than a dozen businesses around the state. These membership cards are non-transferable and must only be used by the foster parent to whom they were issued and whose signature appears on the back of the card. From clothing and accessories, to dance classes and construction services, these businesses are acknowledging that it truly does take a village to raise a child. [Guthrie News Leader]

‘Diversity is strength’: School, community leaders welcome New Tulsans Initiative for growing immigrant population: Tulsa officials want the city’s immigrants to be better-educated, have more economic opportunities, be more engaged in the city’s government and have more trust in law enforcement so Tulsa can reach its full potential as a world-class city.Mayor G.T. Bynum’s office on Thursday morning announced its goals for the New Tulsans Initiative — 26 milestones that the administration hopes to accomplish by 2020 and help make the city formerly known as the Oil Capital of The World one of the most inclusive cities in America. [Tulsa World]

Ginnie Graham: Oklahoma has heard all the education excuses to justify cuts and low priority: Last week, reporter Katie Reilly of Time magazine used government and think-tank data to show that the 3.2 million full-time public school teachers are “experiencing some of the worst stagnation of any profession,” earning on average in inflation-adjust dollars less than they did before the 2008 Great Recession. Two of 13 teachers profiled are from Oklahoma. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Virtual charters need legislative cost-benefit analysis: In 2017, Oklahoma’s four virtual charter schools had an average daily membership of nearly 12,000 students, but there is no way of knowing how many students actually attended those schools for how many days. Even as the state imposed dramatic cuts in the budgets for brick-and-mortar schools, funding for Epic Charter Schools alone passed $60 million in state dollars. Epic had more than 20,000 students at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. [John Thompson / NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“It is shameful what is going on. For some reason, I guess, everybody thinks we are supposed to have a magic wand in the closet somewhere and grow that tree that grows money. I haven’t figured it out yet.”

-Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, speaking about the overcrowding and deteriorating facilities in Oklahoma prisons. The Board of Corrections has begun the process of selling up to $116.5 million in bonds to expand prison capacity. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Barrels of crude oil produced per day in Oklahoma in 2017, up from 425,000 barrels per day in 2016.

[U.S. Energy Information Administration]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid expansion finds grass-roots support in conservative Utah: In this conservative state, which has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate in more than a half-century, a grass-roots campaign to expand Medicaid is building considerable momentum as Election Day approaches. If it wins approval here, it could happen almost anywhere. On Nov. 6, Utah voters will consider a ballot measure that would expand Medicaid to cover up to 150,000 more people under the Affordable Care Act. Two other conservative states, Idaho and Nebraska, will also vote that day on Medicaid expansion proposals. [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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