In The Know: Public comments needed for Medicaid proposal; political pendulum swings in OKC district…

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

As Oklahoma implements Medicaid work requirements, public asked to chime in: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority will hold several public meetings hoping to hear from people who might be affected by a proposed change in Medicaid work requirements. While the requirements are only expected to affect a few thousand people who meet certain criteria, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority will hear from people across the state. [NewsOK] To learn more about the impact of this Medicaid proposal on low-income families and how you can submit a public comment, visit our advocacy alert page. [OK Policy]

Political pendulum swings in former conservative stronghold that launched a Republican governor: If Fallin has changed since she first entered politics, so has the district where she started her political career. It’s still a conservative district, but it is no longer reliably Republican. And according to a statewide survey conducted by Oklahoma public radio stations for the Oklahoma Engaged project, Oklahoma City and the surrounding counties comprise the only region in the state that views the Democratic party in a positive light. [KOSU]

Nearly two dozen cases involved in ‘commutation campaign’ advance to second stage of consideration: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted Monday to advance a group of nearly two dozen people who are being assisted by a commutation campaign to a second stage of review. Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a bipartisan coalition of community leaders, is working to help 48 people seek a sentence reduction. Most are in prison for offenses that no longer carry long prison terms under recent reforms approved by voters and legislators. [NewsOK]

After Okla. historic pay raise, morale is up—but teacher shortage persists: This spring, Oklahoma teachers walked out of their classrooms for nine days, protesting low salaries, crumbling classrooms, and cuts to school spending. They walked out despite the state legislature passing an average $6,100 pay raise—the largest in state history, although it fell short of teachers’ demands. Now, four months later, teacher morale across the state has improved, but there have been no immediate effects on Oklahoma’s teacher shortage, according to a new survey from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. [Education Week]

How do we prepare Oklahoma students for workforce demands for STEM skills? At current course and speed, the U.S. is expected to need at least a million more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers over the next decade than the current pipeline will produce. Focusing just on Oklahoma, recent statistics show that in our state, from 2010 to 2016, there were already an average of 15 STEM-related jobs advertised online for every unemployed STEM worker. [Scott Meacham / NewsOK]

Oklahoma school shuts down for 2 days after parents threaten transgender 7th grader on Facebook: A school district in southern Oklahoma was forced to shut down for two days after parents used a Facebook group to threaten violence against a transgender seventh-grade student. Superintendent Rick Beene closed Achille Public Schools on Monday and Tuesday after parents posted claims on a Facebook group “Achille ISD Parents Group” that the student, who identifies as a girl, was looking over the stalls in the girls’ bathroom. The post set off reactions from other adults who referred to the 7th grade student as “this thing” and “half baked maggot.” [Time]

Governors: We need bipartisan criminal justice reform to improve lives and our workforce: In our political climate, it is often far too difficult for leaders from different parties to find common ground. We are governors of states in different geographic regions of the United States, representing both political parties. However, we are very much in agreement on the critical need for criminal justice reform. [Matt Bevin, John Bel Edwards, Mary Fallin and Ralph Northam / USA Today]

Tulsa lawmaker wants to clarify when felons can vote: Rep. Regina Goodwin says state law about when convicted felons can vote is confusing and needs to be changed. But prior efforts by Goodwin, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, to clarify the current language have failed to secure passage in the Legislature. The House Public Safety Committee, chaired by Cleveland, heard an interim study on the matter on Tuesday. [Tulsa World] To encourage reintegration, restore voting rights for people with felonies. [OKPolicy]

Poetic Justice helps Oklahoma’s women prisoners through writing: For years, Sarah Garland says she felt dirty and ashamed for some of the things she did in her life. An inmate at a women’s prison in Oklahoma, Garland says poetry has helped her overcome her inner demons. “I was trying to get involved in anything that would help me stay focused and on the right path,” the 23-year-old said of joining Poetic Justice, a nonprofit organization that teaches poetry and writing workshops to female inmates in Oklahoma’s prisons and jails. [NonDoc]

Tulsa DA, a devout Catholic, expresses support for death penalty despite Pope Francis’ change to doctrine: Despite an announcement from The Vatican that the death penalty is “unacceptable in all cases,” Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, a devout Catholic, told The Frontier he intended to continue seeking capital punishments “when appropriate.” Kunzweiler’s opponents in the DA race — Republican Ben Fu and Democrat Jenny Proehl-Day — also told The Frontier they would utilize the death penalty when necessary. [The Frontier]

Injunction sought by medical marijuana proponents would delay SQ 788 implementation, AG says: An emergency injunction sought for Oklahoma’s most recently passed medical marijuana regulations would hamper implementation of State Question 788, state officials argue. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office argued that in a response filed Tuesday to a lawsuit that challenged the state Department of Health’s authority over medical marijuana and challenged the rules signed by Governor Mary Fallin on Aug. 6. [Tulsa World]

Proposed Oklahoma medical marijuana bill would protect employees, change tax rules: An advocacy group for patients who want to use medical marijuana unveiled a model bill over the weekend, offering a simplified alternative to a trade group’s plan. Neither bill can get off the ground, however, until the Legislature returns in February or Gov. Mary Fallin decides to call a special session. Fallin hasn’t signaled that she intends to bring lawmakers back to the Capitol. [NewsOK ????] The 12-member Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Food Safety Standards Board spent much of its first meeting hearing from the head of an out-of-state cannabis industry nonprofit about how to develop proper product quality and safety standards. [Tulsa World]

Aging boomers, Medicaid rates put pressure on nursing home funding: The Oklahoma Legislature gave nursing homes a welcomed reprieve this year, but an industry group said another crisis lies on the horizon. The state’s aging population is increasing demand for long-term care centers, which are already struggling to make ends meet. Nursing home administrators have faced a slew of potential cuts since last year. [Journal Record ????]

OKC sets sales tax record amid economic upswing: Oklahoma City received a record $40.2 million in sales tax revenue this month, benefiting from the upswing in the local economy. The August revenue distances the city further from recent budgets that led to staff cuts and reduced spending, the Oklahoman reported. August is the 16th straight month of positive sales tax growth, said city budget director Doug Dowler. He said the trend shows the city’s recovery “from the regional recession that occurred from mid-2015 through early 2017 is continuing.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Rose State professor: My migration on immigration: When I ran for the Oklahoma State Senate in 2010, one of the big issues in the campaign was illegal immigration. My opponent in the run-off that year (who is now awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a federal child sex-trafficking charge), was pushing for stronger state legislation that would have enacted more severe penalties on undocumented workers and anyone who employed them. It was during this run-off that my own views regarding immigration began to change. [James Davenport / NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“The very least we can do is change the language that is so confusing.”

-Rep. Regina Goodwin, who is trying again to clarify Oklahoma’s law that says people with felonies are eligible to vote again after completing their full sentence, including any probation or parole. Previous attempts to rewrite the language have not passed the Legislature. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma households with a broadband internet subscription, 9th lowest in the U.S.

[U.S. Census American Community Survey]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Should we treat crime as something to be cured rather than punished? “The idea that’s wrong is that these people are ‘bad’ and we know what to do with them, which is punish them,” says Slutkin. “That’s fundamentally a misunderstanding of the human. Behaviour is formed by modeling and copying. When you’re [looking through] a health lens, you don’t blame. You try to understand, and you aim for solutions.” He spent the next few years trying to gather funding for a pilot project that would use the same steps against violence as the WHO takes to control outbreaks of cholera, TB or HIV. It would have three main prongs: interrupt transmission, prevent future spread, and change group norms. In 2000, it launched in the West Garfield Park neighbourhood of Chicago. Within the first year, there was a 67% drop in homicides. More funding came, more neighbourhoods were piloted. Everywhere it launched, homicides dropped by at least 40%. The approach began to be replicated in other cities. [The Guardian]

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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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