In The Know: Oklahomans protest funding cuts for disability services

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

Oklahomans protest funding cuts for disability services: Nearly 100 individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers filled the Sand Springs Children’s Home on Thursday to show displeasure and voice concerns about a 3.5 percent cut to state Medicaid waiver reimbursements for home- and community-based developmental disability and aging services. The cut equals $5.5 million less for the waiver payments on the state level for disability and aging services. Adding the loss of matching federal funds, the total reduction is $8.7 million [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma children kept out of class when their parents can’t afford school supplies: The cost of school supplies are at an all-time high – national estimates range from $50-$100 per child for school supplies only – studies indicate that the majority of Oklahomans and Americans are only one paycheck away from not being able to pay any of their bills. When you consider that the average family spent over $600 last year sending its kids back to school, it’s not difficult to imagine the harsh burden back-to-school costs place on financially struggling families [Stand for Children].

Frequent school transfers are disrupting education: For many children, next week will only be the first in a series of new schools. Student mobility rates for Tulsa Public Schools over the past decade have sometimes climbed over 40 percent overall. In some schools it has been almost 100 percent. These are children who may start the school year next week at one school, but by the end of the year — or by the time they take a standardized test — they will be at another. They may have been to more than one other school along the way [Marc Barcus / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmakers rack up $1.3M travel bill: The average legislator got about $8,700 in expense money, plus a salary of $38,400. The amounts claimed for expenses varied widely, according to an analysis by The Oklahoman of figures provided by the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services. Every legislator is entitled to 57 cents a mile for one round trip a week to and from the Capitol when the Legislature is meeting [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s new fiscal year begins with drop in tax receipts: Gross Receipts to the Treasury in July fell 5 percent below collections from the same month of the prior year. This is the third consecutive month and the fourth time in five months the year-over-year comparison has been negative, State Treasurer Ken Miller announced Wednesday [CapitolBeatOK].

Upcoming public forum on police and minority communities: Oklahoma Watch will sponsor a public forum on Aug. 25 about the relationship between police and minority communities, featuring Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty and Councilman John Pettis, Jr. The free public forum will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, at Kamp’s 1910 Café, located at 10 N.E. 10th Street in Oklahoma City [Oklahoma Watch].

Asking District Attorneys to fund themselves with fees, forfeitures creates systemic problems: With dwindling state funding, DAs are now expected to pay for their operations through probation fees and civil forfeiture of assets. As the DAs are beginning to point out, this is bad public policy. Making decisions on whether to file a charge, require probation or forfeit property should not be intermingled with whether the DA can keep his office running [OK Policy].

No movement yet on implementing mandatory minimum sentencing reform: Judges will soon be able to disregard mandatory minimum sentences in some criminal cases, but there seems to be no pressure to delay hearings or trials until after the new law’s effective date. The Justice Safety Valve Act takes effect Nov. 1. Its author, state Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, said she hasn’t heard about any defense attorneys using continuance motions in advance of her bill officially becoming law [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Department of Corrections adds 33 new officers: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has added 33 new correctional officers to its prison staff but still has fewer officers than it needs. The officers graduated from the Southeast Regional Academy at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Friday and will join about 1,500 other correctional officers at 17 state-run prison facilities. In spite of the additional officers, the agency will remain about 40 percent understaffed [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma state prisons have about 500 fewer corrections officers and more than 4,000 additional inmates compared to 2000 [OK Policy].

Confronting the toll of suicide: Oklahoma has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, ranking 13th among states and the District of Columbia in 2013, according to the latest state-level figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading the state’s suicide prevention effort is Savannah Kalman of the Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Oklahoma Watch spoke with Kalman about suicide prevalence and how prevention can make a difference [Oklahoma Watch].

Rainy spring not enough to stop aquifer declines in Oklahoma: Almost half of the water used by Oklahomans comes from aquifers, and four years of drought increased that reliance. This year’s record-setting rainfall filled up the state’s lakes, but recharging aquifers doesn’t happen so quickly. Despite the record rainfall since March, the readings show water levels here are steadily dropping [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Sen. Rick Brinkley stepping down amid embezzlement investigation: Brinkley’s resignation will leave about three years remaining in his four-year term. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has said it is looking into allegations that funds were misappropriated at the Better Business Bureau in Tulsa, where Brinkley worked for 15 years before he was fired in April [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“I’m scared of (these) budget cuts … that will affect so many people who have moved out of institutions. I’m afraid I’ll have to go back to an institution, and so will my friends. I don’t want to go backwards. I want to go forwards with good staff and agencies in place for support … so I can live on my own as a normal adult.”

Sue Shelton, an Oklahoman with a developmental disability who was among nearly 100 individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers protesting the state’s plan to cut Medicaid reimbursements for home- and community-based developmental disability and aging services (Source).

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma children enrolled in Soonercare (Medicaid) in fiscal year 2015.

Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Kansas Experiment: My uncle Gene is a state legislator in Topeka. This year, he and his fellow Republicans tried to do something pretty drastic with the state budget. And I got to watch the whole thing [New York Times Magazine]

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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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