In 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
Scandal-plagued EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigns: Scott Pruitt will no longer lead the Environmental Protection Agency, President Trump announced Thursday afternoon via Twitter. “I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt,” Trump tweeted. “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” Trump also wrote. The president also said that on Monday Andrew Wheeler will “assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA” [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Following Scott Pruitt’s resignation, Inhofe maintains support; others happy he stepped down [Tulsa World]. Does Scott Pruitt Have An Oklahoma Political Future? [Associated Press]
Medical Marijuana Groups Split on Special Session: From his position as House Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Jon Echols (R-OKC) has met with both factions of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana advocacy groups, which do not agree on how best to implement State Question 788 and have seen their interactions grow more tense since the vote June 26. Echols said this afternoon that all parties have good ideas, but he compared the groups to Oklahoma’s oft-disagreeing oil and gas associations, and he said he offers each the same biblical advice [NonDoc]. The state health board will take up medical marijuana regulations next week. However, it will be longer before the city of Tulsa gets its zoning codes redefined to include medical marijuana dispensaries [Public Radio Tulsa]. Voter approval of medical marijuana could boost activity in the industrial real estate market. [Journal Record]
Awakened by Walkout, Educators and Parents Organize to Elect Politicians That Support Their Vision for Public Schools: On the night of the primary elections, Ainsley Hoover was at a small watch party at the Chili’s restaurant in Enid. She had helped her friend, a fellow teacher, campaign for House District 41, and they were anxiously awaiting the results. Hoover, who was also tracking the vote totals for House District 40 with hopes the incumbent in that seat would lose, says she didn’t use to be political. When Hoover did vote, it was usually in the presidential election [StateImpact Oklahoma].
Will Red-State Protests Spark Electoral Change?: Growing up in a poor family in northeast Oklahoma, Scott Helton decided what he wanted to be while still in high school. “I had a slew of really, really, really good teachers that loved me and took care of me like I was their own kid,” said Helton, whose boyish face could still be mistaken for that of a student. He recalled one English teacher in particular who would stay late and talk to him. “That was the moment when I realized: ‘I want to do this—forever. I want to do for kids what she’s doing for me right now’” [The Nation].
From the teacher walkout to the ballot box, a 26-year-old hopes to ride momentum to historic win: Fresh off a Tuesday primary win, Jacobi Crowley — at the spry age of 26 — was heading to Fort Sill, a military base in his hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma, after accepting an invitation for a simulation tour of the post’s STEM education program. Crowley captured the Democratic nomination for Oklahoma state Senate District 32 on June 26 and if he wins the general election in November, he will be the youngest state senator in the Sooner state’s history, according to John Mahoney at the National Conference of State Legislatures. [ABC News]
Vote recount canceled in HD12 race; incumbent Rep. McDugle moves on to general election: A ballot recount in the Republican race for House of Representatives District 12 that was scheduled on Friday has been canceled. Nick Mahoney, who challenged Rep. Kevin McDugle for the post, requested the recount after losing the June 26 primary election by only five votes. At that time he also asked officials to look into voter irregularities at the polls. That, too, has been canceled. [Tulsa World]
New study: Children’s welfare falling in Oklahoma: In 2012, Oklahoma’s overall children’s welfare ranking was 40th in the nation. Two years ago, we were up to 37th. Last week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book announced Oklahoma has slipped down to 44th in children’s welfare. Not all of the news is bad: National and Oklahoma teen birth rates are at an all-time low. [NonDoc] New KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Oklahoma near the worst in the nation for child well-being. [OKPolicy]
Federal disaster relief funding to include $3 million for Tulsa’s aging levee system: Following a years-long effort to get help for Tulsa’s aging levee system, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe announced Thursday that $3 million to fund a feasibility study of one of the worst systems in the nation has been included in a plan for supplemental disaster relief. Inhofe stressed the significance of such a study, a critical first step in modernizing the levee system. [Tulsa World]
Fracking-Induced Earthquakes Generate Anxiety in the Public: A new Berkeley study shows that fracking-induced earthquakes can generate significant anxiety in the public. Since 2010, when fracking for natural gas and oil in Oklahoma began in earnest, there has been a concomitant increase in seismicity, with many earthquakes induced by wastewater injection from fracking and other drilling operations. The new study was published in the journal Environmental Epidemiology by Dr. Joan Casey and fellow researchers in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley [Forbes].
OKC to sue over opioids: Oklahoma City Hall plans to move ahead with legal action against the opioid industry, regardless of advice to the contrary from the state attorney general’s office. “We are the governing body of the city and we know what our residents’ needs are,” Councilman Ed Shadid said Thursday. “It’s going to take funds to clean up this mess, and I think we can be better stewards of that money than the state government.” [Journal Record]
FOI Oklahoma Names New Executive Director: Andy Moore has been named the new executive director of FOI Oklahoma, becoming only the second ever to hold the post, it was announced last week. Moore succeeds original executive director Kay Bickham, who earlier this year announced her retirement after nearly two decades. Moore, an Oklahoma City resident and founder of Let’s Fix This, a nonprofit that tries to spur Oklahomans to become more involved in government, was approved unanimously for the role at the last FOI Oklahoma meeting [Tulsa World].
Hamilton: Legislature defanging the people’s watchdog: All but lost in the recent drama of primary day was a remarkable event for all who care about fair, honest public policymaking and elections in Oklahoma. For on that day, the state Ethics Commission filed a lawsuit against lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin demanding the funding necessary to serve its constitutional role as the state’s watchdog agency. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]
Oklahoma Education Department Hears Plan, Pursues Grant to Boost School Safety: The Oklahoma State Department of Education is making moves to bolster school safety after state board members came away from a meeting dissatisfied with current plans. State law says schools must conduct four security drills a year to prepare for threats like an active shooter. Each must be at a different time of day and schools can’t hold more than two per semester, but there are no further requirements [Public Radio Tulsa].
Langston Hughes superintendent voted out after state investigation into grade-tampering allegations: Rodney Clark, the once-suspended superintendent of Langston Hughes Academy for Arts and Technology, no longer has a job. The charter school’s board of directors voted against renewing his $80,000 contract for the coming school year during a meeting Thursday, a week after the Oklahoma State Department of Education released its reports into grade-tampering allegations at Langston Hughes. Those reports allege a lack of institutional control at the school, discrepancies in the school’s attendance and suspension records, and students having multiple classes scheduled for the same time. [Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
“People didn’t become social workers to sit behind computers all day. I don’t believe we can do the best of our jobs with the cuts they’ve made.”
-Gail DeLashaw, a family-support worker with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, who can no longer do face-to-face meetings with families since she her case load has grown from 500 to 600 clients to 1,200 [The Nation]
Number of the Day
Share of uninsured Oklahomans identifying as white, non-Hispanic in 2016. People who are white and non-Hispanic made up 64 percent of Oklahoma’s population that year.
Implications of a Medicaid Work Requirement: National Estimates of Potential Coverage Losses: Overall, among the 23.5 million non-SSI, non-dual, nonelderly Medicaid adults, disenrollment ranges from 1.4 million to 4.0 million under the scenarios considered (Figure 1). Because the majority of Medicaid adults are already working or likely exempt from work requirements, they account for a large share of people losing coverage even if they may lose coverage at a lower rate than those who are not already working but subject to work requirements. Specifically, under all scenarios, most disenrollment would be among individuals who would remain eligible but lose coverage due to new administrative burdens or red tape versus those who would lose eligibility due to not meeting new work requirements [Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation].
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