In The Know: Oklahoma special session ends; regular session continues next week

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 Special Session Ends; Regular 2018 Legislative Session Continues Next Week: A special session of the Oklahoma Legislature that produced a historic tax bill ended Thursday afternoon when the House adjourned sine die from what was technically an extension of the 2017 legislative term. The Senate adjourned the special session sine die on Tuesday. The House and Senate will continue with the regular 2018 session next week, with the first item on the agenda said to be a new tax on renewable energy generation [Tulsa World]. Hamilton: Legislative session from hell might end early [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record]. Everything you should know about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OKPolicy].

Wind Debate Anything but Calm: Despite a guarantee that the state House of Representatives would hear a bill to change tax credits for wind power, the measure never appeared on the floor Thursday, and lawmakers said they are switching gears. Top-ranking House Republicans held a press conference on Wednesday to address concerns and potential misinformation about the fiscal 2019 budget [Journal Record]. Wind tax reform pitched despite litigation threat [The Ada News].

Budget Agreement Near?: A key budget negotiator in the Oklahoma House says lawmakers are nearing a final agreement on a spending plan and are hoping to adjourn this year’s legislative session three weeks early. House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Wallace said Wednesday he expects to finalize a deal this week with the Senate and governor’s office on a $7.6 billion budget that includes slight funding increases for most state agencies. He said larger spending increases are targeted for the departments of corrections, human services, and mental health and substance abuse services [Tulsa Public Radio].

Only seven inmates have so far been let out of prison under DOC ‘supervised release’ plan: Late last September, as Oklahoma’s prison population continued to swell and lawmakers bickered about reforms, Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh announced at DOC’s monthly board meeting a major decision. Soon, Allbaugh said, DOC would begin releasing certain nonviolent prisoners who were near the end of their sentence. The offenders would remain under supervision, but would not be housed in a state prison [The Frontier].

Oklahoma Officials Endorse Nitrogen Executions as ‘Humane,’ but Some Medical Experts Aren’t Sure: Oklahoma wants to go where no state has gone before: Executing death row inmates with nitrogen gas. Officials say nitrogen will bring quick, painless deaths, but the research is slim — and it has never been used in U.S. executions. State Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, is a cardiac anesthesiologist who signed his name to the bill that made nitrogen hypoxia a legal execution method in 2015. He says the inmates would die from “lack of oxygen,” not exposure to nitrogen [State Impact].

State Auditor Returns to Investigation of Health Department Finances: The Oklahoma State Auditor is re-joining a special audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Gary Jones says he has determined that any possible conflict he has on the audit has been resolved with the departure of former interim director Preston Doerflinger. In December, Jones said he was taking an “ethical stance” and stepped aside after engaging in a war of words with Doerflinger [Tulsa World].

Health Department Layoffs Could Undermine Disaster Preparedness: Oklahoma is better prepared for health emergencies than it was five years ago, but the state epidemiologist worries recent layoffs could undermine some of that work. The National Health Security Preparedness Index, compiled by researchers at the University of Kentucky, ranks states on a 10-point scale based on how well they’ve planned for a public health disaster. Oklahoma scored 6.9 out of 10 on the index, which is within the margin of error for the nationwide average of 7.1 [NewsOK].

Diabetes Self-Management Training Reimbursement Bill Signed: Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Pat Ownbey thanked their colleagues and Gov. Fallin Friday for their support of legislation to help diabetics get reimbursed for life-saving training and education. The legislators are authors of Senate Bill 972, which will direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to examine the feasibility of submitting a state plan amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to enable the Oklahoma Medicaid Program to reimburse providers for diabetes self-management training [The Ada News].

Physician: Tobacco Company Racketerring — Oklahoma’s Story: Over the next several months, the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center will release a series of reports summarizing internal tobacco industry documents that tell the story — in the words of tobacco company executives and their lobbyists — of a highly successful 50-year campaign to influence Oklahoma laws.  Tobacco companies wrote or helped write many of Oklahoma’s tobacco-related laws still in effect today [D. Robert McCaffree, M.D./NewsOK].

Surprise Candidates Challenge Hofmeister in Superintendent’s Race: The education advocacy that fueled the teacher walkout also led to a surge of candidates filing for office, including a few surprises in the race for state superintendent. Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of instruction, drew four opponents. Hofmeister, 53, will face two Republican challengers in the June primary: Linda Murphy, of Edmond, and Will Farrell, of Tulsa. Also running for state superintendent are Democrat John Cox and independent Larry Huff [Oklahoma Watch].

Frustration, Motivation Seen in Oklahoma Election Filings: There are numerous storylines from the candidate filings for Oklahoma’s 2018 elections, although one stands out: People are fired up. The sheer number of filings underscores this point. All told, 794 people originally filed last week for state and federal offices, the largest number since at least 2000. The total also was roughly 200 more than state Election Board officials anticipated [The Oklahoman Editorial Board/NewsOK].

Oklahoma City Bombing Has New Meaning for Younger Generations: Elected officials and citizens gathered to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. April 19 marks the anniversary of the deadly bombing of the Murrah Federal Buildings that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. Following a bagpipe procession, the city’s newly elected mayor David Holt spoke about the importance of teaching younger generations about the deadly attack [KGOU].

Gloria Tso: I Left Oklahoma for a Better Education, but Now I Find Inspiration from My Teachers Back Home: One of my teachers once told me that I would have to leave home and go far out into the real world to make change happen. At the time, what this meant was unclear; the only message I gathered was to go as far away from home as possible. Upon graduating from Bartlesville High School in 2015, I attended Columbia University and, aside from a few trips home to visit friends and family, haven’t looked back [Gloria Tso/Tulsa World].

UCO Receives Approval for Edmond’s First LGBTQ Pride Festival: The city’s first LGBTQ Edmond Pride event will be Oct. 20 in Hafer Park and include a day full of activities. On Wednesday, the Edmond Special Events Committee approved the Edmond Pride event. The Student Alliance for Equality from the University of Central Oklahoma will host the all-day event that will include entertainment and vendors from across the state [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma has the highest rate of diabetes among neighboring states except Arkansas. We must do all we can to educate the public and ensure they have access to proper training and education to control their diabetes. Everyone deserves to be healthy and have a good quality of life.”

– Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore), thanking his colleagues and Gov. Fallin for their support of legislation to help diabetics get covered by Medicaid for life-saving training and education [Source].

Number of the Day


Opioid prescriptions per 100 people written by Oklahoma providers in 2015. The U.S. average was 70 per 100 people

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Republicans Lead Medicaid Expansion Push in 2 Holdout States: After five years of failed attempts to expand Medicaid, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill last week to do just that. It may come as a surprise that the bill was sponsored by a Republican. Republicans have historically opposed making more low-income people eligible for the government health insurance program. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s signature legislation, the federal government pays 90 to 100 percent of the costs for any state that expands. But Republican-led states have been slow to expand Medicaid, and nearly 20 of them still have not [Governing].

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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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