In The Know: Republicans lead rise in voter registrations as Friday deadline nears

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

Republicans Lead Rise in Voter Registrations as Friday Deadline to Vote in Primaries Nears: Friday is the deadline to register to vote in the June 26 primary elections. Those elections will include Republican, Democratic and Libertarian party primaries for federal, state and county offices, and a statewide vote on State Question 788, which would legalize marijuana use for medical purposes [Tulsa World]. What we know about Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative elections [OKPolicy].

Poll Workers Can Be Tough to Find: Oklahoma officials say it’s becoming harder to find people willing to work at polling sites on Election Day, but they think there are sufficient numbers to staff the June 26 statewide primary. “Not enough young people are stepping up, like their parents and grandparents did,” said Bryan Dean, spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board [NewsOK].

Q&A with Allen L. Hutson: Medical Marijuana Legalization Poses Unique Questions for Employers: The impact State Question 788 will have on the way employers handle drug testing and possession of illegal drugs in the workplace will be minimal. Employers are still permitted to drug test employees pursuant to state and federal law and terminate employees for possession of illegal drugs on company property. State Question 788, however, will have a major impact on how employers handle a positive test for marijuana [NewsOK]. Fact Sheet: Medical marijuana legalization initiative [OKPolicy].

Prosperity Policy: We’ve Come a Long Way: Facebook memories recently reminded me of the dramatic newspaper headline from 2012: “Fallin: No tax cut this session.” Earlier that year, Gov. Fallin had unveiled a plan, developed with anti-tax crusader Arthur Laffer, to slash the top income tax rate by 30 percent immediately and repeal Oklahoma’s personal income tax entirely within a decade. While other states were considering similar plans, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page joyfully proclaimed that “it is Oklahoma that may have the best chance in the near term at income-tax abolition” [David Blatt/Journal Record].

(Capitol Update) How Well the Legislature Can Function for the People Depends on New and Returning Leaders: Senator Greg Treat, R-OKC, the upcoming Senate President Pro Tempore, announced last week the appointment of Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, as the new Majority Floor Leader and Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, as the new Senate Appropriations Chair. Senator David, now running for her final term in the Senate, just finished an exhausting 2-year stint as Appropriations Chair [OKPolicy].

Former Drug Agent, Businessman Seek GOP Nod in Senate District 24: Thanks to Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore) terming out of the Oklahoma Legislature, Senate District 24 is an open seat that Republicans would like to keep. While this #HotRace will have no Democratic primary, the Republican ticket features two candidates, including the former director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs [NonDoc]. More from the #HotRace series [NonDoc].

Most Oklahoma Counties Show Improvement in Employment: Most Oklahoma counties showed an improved employment rate in April. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission released a report Wednesday showing the April 2018 unemployment rates for all 77 Oklahoma counties. Rates ranged from 2 percent in Blaine County up to 6.7 percent in McIntosh County [NewsOK].

In Bid for More Control, OETA Threatens to Reject Its Foundation: The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority has leveled an ultimatum at its nonprofit fundraiser: Sign a new agreement or risk a breakup. In a resolution adopted Wednesday, OETA’s board of directors told the OETA Foundation to accept a new set of rules for their relationship, many of which give more control to the broadcaster. If the foundation doesn’t comply, the authority said it could trigger a provision that would separate the two [NewsOK].

Wind Catcher Line Draws Opposition in Bixby as Project Gains Corporate Support: As they await a decision from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, planners behind a wind power project that would be the largest in the country this week heard complaints from concerned residents but also gained statewide industry support. Public Service Company of Oklahoma on Wednesday announced four other energy companies had signed on with settlement agreements to join Walmart and the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers, which signaled their support in late April [Tulsa World].

Tulsa Race Riot survivor, 103, to help kick off new NPR podcast series: A 103-year-old survivor of the Tulsa Race Riot will be featured on the debut episode of a new NPR podcast series that launches Thursday. Dr. Olivia Hooker, who was 6 years old at the time of the 1921 riot, tells her story as part of “Last Witness,” a new series from NPR and Radio Diaries. The series is billed as “featuring interviews with the only surviving witnesses to major historical events” [Tulsa World].

Holt Promises ‘Bold Plan’ to Improve Schools: Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, who is one month into his first term, wants education to be a central part of his political platform and he expects to have an action plan in place in the next year or two. In Oklahoma, cities do not have control or authority over public school districts. However, Holt said he wants to be involved in local education, especially the Oklahoma City Public Schools district, where his two children attend [NewsOK].

Board Work Session Gives New Supt, Members Look at OKCPS Health: The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education work session Tuesday was packed with presentations to bring board members up to date and to brief newly-hired Superintendent Sean McDaniel. These are notes taken as the meeting progressed [Free Press OKC].

Oklahomans’ run in national spelling bee ends: Wednesday marked the end of the road for four Oklahoma students participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Shawn Terrado of Elgin, the Central Oklahoma Spelling Bee champion, spelled the word “parasiticide” correctly, but did not score high enough on a preliminary computer test to reach Thursday’s final day. Two others — Meena Sheshadri of Norman and Caled Albirini of Edmond — were eliminated from the competition after incorrectly spelling their words on stage [NewsOK].

University of Oklahoma College of Law Places 5th in American Bar Association Championship: The University of Oklahoma College of Law placed fifth out of 156 law schools in a new American Bar Association ranking of schools that best prepare their students for law practice. Topping the list is Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida. The ABA’s inaugural Competitions Championship looked at how the law schools fared in each of its four annual practical skills competitions to determine which school did the best overall [NewsOK].

DHS questions oversight panel’s wisdom, wants extra 60 days to relocate vulnerable children at Laura Dester center: The Department of Human Services questions an oversight panel’s wisdom in requesting a judge essentially shutter the Laura Dester Children’s Center despite the state agency asking for only an extra 60 days past an “arbitrary deadline” to ensure safe relocations of the remaining kids. Citing abuse and neglect of special needs foster children, an oversight panel on May 24 asked a federal judge to order DHS to relocate all remaining children from Laura Dester by June 30 [Tulsa World].

Gatesway Says State Budget Cuts Caused Its Financial Woes. Documents Show the Problems Run Far Deeper: The Gatesway Foundation, a Broken Arrow nonprofit that has helped intellectually disabled adults for more than five decades, announced this week a sell-off of some of its “real estate assets,” blaming state budget cuts for the difficult financial reality it now faces. But a closer look at the foundation through internal emails and financial documents obtained by The Frontier shows the problems there run far deeper [The Frontier]. After 50 years with the Gatesway Foundation, Lester Carter had his services terminated when he was found to be ‘most unprofitable’ [The Frontier].

‘His new tip jar’: Scott Pruitt’s defense fund draws ethics complaint over private donors: A group representing government environmental employees filed a federal ethics complaint on Wednesday contending that Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is violating conflict of interest laws by seeking private contributions to a legal defense fund set up to defend him against ethics complaints [Inside Climate News].

Quote of the Day

“During this time, the very same politicians who claimed that you could eliminate the income tax without raising other taxes or cutting services have lost faith in the supposedly magical powers of tax cuts. They have come to accept that one-sided fiscal policies have contributed to a growing structural budget deficit and an unsustainable reliance on non-recurring revenues.”

-OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt, discussing how Oklahoma Republican lawmakers’ approach to tax policy has changed over the last six years. [Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Percentage of jobs in Oklahoma that are low-wage (median annual pay below poverty threshold for a family of four).

[Prosperity Now Scorecard]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Which Poor People Shouldn’t Have to Work for Aid: Policies that exempt high-unemployment places, but not people who face other obstacles to work, selectively acknowledge barriers for only some of the poor. In effect, they suggest that unemployment is a systemic problem in struggling rural communities — but that in poor urban neighborhoods, it’s a matter of individual decisions. Geography may seem a simple way to identify who faces barriers to work, but it’s also a crude one. The lines that policymakers draw risk embedding regional and racial biases about who counts as “left behind” [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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