In The Know: Public defender system needs money; growth of chicken farms examined; raising the minimum wage…

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

Public defender system needs more money, observers say: Oklahoma’s state-appointed attorneys are seeing massive caseloads as their budgets decrease, and some observers said criminal justice reformers should place more focus on that portion of the judicial process. The Oklahoma Indigent Defense System’s caseload has more than doubled since 2007, according to the agency’s most recent annual report. Its state appropriations break down to less than $300 per case, which can include murder trials. [Journal Record]

State, Cherokee Nation announce plans to study growth of chicken farms in northeastern Oklahoma: The state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation announced Wednesday that the state and tribe plan to form a coordinating council to evaluate the expansion of poultry farms in northeastern Oklahoma. The Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth will examine the expansion of poultry production and its impact on rural communities and citizens in the region, according to a media release issued by Gov. Mary Fallin’s office. [The Frontier]

Citizen Petition: Oklahoma’s best chance to raise the minimum wage: Workers shouldn’t have to struggle to survive on the minimum wage. Since the founding of Oklahoma, our state constitution has allowed for citizens to bring issues to a vote of the people through a signature-gathering process. The success of citizen petitions in recent years suggests that bringing a state minimum wage raise directly to the ballot has a better chance of passing in Oklahoma than through the state Legislature. [OK Policy]

Investigator at Oklahoma Health Department disciplined for affair with supervisor who emailed fake threats to herself: The state Health Department has reprimanded an investigator for “an inappropriate relationship” with his supervisor and forced him to take a sharp pay cut, The Oklahoman has learned. Matt Terry, 38, of Guthrie went from making $72,750 a year to $65,000. [NewsOK]

OMMA swamped with applications: Oklahoma residents looking to invest in the state’s upcoming medical marijuana industry are anxiously awaiting the passage of business regulations. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has received nearly 1,300 business licenses as of Sept. 5. Those applications include 452 for dispensary, 662 for cultivation and 184 for processing. [Public Radio Tulsa] Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Working Group took a deep dive Wednesday into testing. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma State Department of Education releases FAQ concerning medical marijuana in public schools: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has released frequently asked questions this week stating public school boards must decide whether they will prohibit select medical marijuana products on their property.  The OSDE issued the nonbinding FAQ on Tuesday after receiving a number of questions about how State Question 788 relates to public schools, according to a statement from State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. [Tulsa World]

Prosperity Policy: Doing good and doing well: One of America’s most successful businessmen grew up in the mountains of eastern Turkey with herds of sheep and goats, making yogurt and cheese. Now, Hamdi Ulukaya is the founder and chief executive of Chobani, the top-selling brand of Greek yogurt in the United States. Ulukaya’s story exemplifies how the American Dream has become a reality for generations of enterprising immigrants. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

Turner Turnpike expansion project west of Tulsa is months ahead of schedule: Expansion of the Turner Turnpike between Sapulpa and Bristow is anticipated to be done by early next summer — months ahead of the initially announced estimated completion date. The 22-mile, $300 million project involves expanding the turnpike from four lanes to six and adding lighting between west Tulsa and Bristow. When the project began in August 2017, officials estimated it would be complete in spring of 2020. Favorable weather has helped the project. [Tulsa World]

Farm groups renew efforts in wastewater pipeline lawsuit: The Oklahoma Farm Bureau isn’t backing down from a legal fight, even though the state Supreme Court denied the group’s request to join a lawsuit. The farm bureau agreed with the oil trade group that the county commissioners went too far in restricting temporary pipelines for wastewater, but disagreed with the reasoning OKOGA argued in its filing. The dispute has been simmering for months. Kingfisher County commissioners banned permits for temporary pipelines to transport toxic, salty wastewater along ditches and in the rights of way. [Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma Department of Labor gearing up for fair with ride inspections: The Oklahoma Department of Labor has been busy inspecting rides ahead of the fair opening on Thursday. Each year, the Oklahoma Department of Labor must inspect each fair ride before they open for fairgoers. Oklahoma is one of 30 states that requires these inspections. Throughout the entirety of the fair, the Department of Labor stays on site to monitor the rides. [KFOR]

State regulators could cut the cord with True Wireless: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is seeking documents from a phone company that provides subsidized phones to low income individuals. Many of the violations have to do with verifying the eligibility of participants in the federal Lifeline program, which provides free or discounted phones for people who meet certain income requirements, are members of a Native American tribe, and participates in other federal programs like food stamps, Social Security disability, Medicaid or Section 8 housing. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma City experiences increase in unsheltered homelessness: Each night, hundreds of people sleep under bridges, on city streets and in homeless encampments throughout Oklahoma City. Although unsheltered homelessness, also called street homelessness, isn’t a new phenomenon in Oklahoma City, a recent report suggests it’s on the rise. [NewsOK ????]

Dorman: Journalists fight for those without money or power: It is important to have people in your life who will motivate you at a young age to achieve beyond what others might feel is possible. Having someone who believes in you can make a world of difference in life. I am fortunate that I have had many like that who have encouraged me to go above and beyond what even I felt was my greatest potential. [Joe Dorman / Journal Record]

Tulsa World editorial: Bringing down Oklahoma STD rates is social, moral imperative: Sexually transmitted diseases continue to harm residents of Oklahoma, and Tulsa’s infection rates continue to climb. The Oklahoma Department of Health says the latest STD numbers are “alarming,” but there may be some good news in the statistics. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Tulsa World editorial: Oklahoma needs more work in keeping people out of nursing homes: Oklahoma needs to do more to provide health services to aging and disabled people in their homes and to improve conditions for people who have no alternative to nursing home care. It’s clear from a recently released AARP Public Policy Institute report that the state needs to take a close look at how it provides services to those in, and on the cusp of, nursing home care. [Tulsa World]

Abuse reporting law is about doing the right thing: While passing a farm east of Meeker this summer, someone noticed a boy on the property who appeared to need help. The passerby took the initiative to call the Department of Human Services hotline, and by doing so may have saved his life. The youth was severely malnourished. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Former State Rep. Frank Davis dies at age 82: Former state Rep. Frank Davis died on Sunday, Sept. 9. Davis served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1978-2004 and then practiced law in Guthrie. Davis was also minority leader from 1982-86. “While serving with Frank Davis in the Oklahoma House, I came to respect his integrity and his honesty,” Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. [FOX25]

US House of Representatives moves to protect Oklahoma Native-owned land: Legislation that would eliminate blood requirements for Native landholders seeking to hold onto ancestral land passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday. The legislation, sponsored by the state’s four House members, amends the Stigler Act of 1947, which required current members of the Five Tribes prove they had “one-half or more of Indian blood” to retain tax exempt status for land their family had owned since the early 1900s. [OU Daily]

Quote of the Day

“If you have a serious mental illness and I go to you under the bridge, and I say, ‘Listen, if you’ll get control of those voices in your head for 90 days, I’ll provide you shelter.’ It’s just not going to happen while you’re living under a bridge.”

-Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, speaking about why it’s more effective to provide housing for the homeless before trying to help them cope with any other issues they have [NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Overall funded ratio of Oklahoma’s public pension systems in 2016. The national average is 66%

[Pew Charitable Trusts]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Balancing work and learning: Implications for low-income students: It has gotten increasingly harder for students to work their way through college, especially for low-income students who face steep challenges when combining work and learning. Students from higher-income families tend to benefit as they work fewer hours in jobs directly related to their fields of study. Low-income working college students often work longer hours, and as a result, are less likely than their higher-income peers to get good grades and attain bachelor’s degrees or any credential at all. [Georgetown Center of Education and the Workforce]

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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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