In The Know: School funding State Question on Nov. ballot; 5 things we know about 2018 elections…

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

Gov. Mary Fallin Puts School Funding State Question on the Nov. 6 Ballot: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday put on the Nov. 6 ballot a state question that asks voters whether schools could use property tax revenue for operational costs such as teacher pay. State Question 801 would give local school boards the option of using existing property tax funds to cover costs in the classroom, such as teacher pay and textbooks, without raising taxes. Property tax revenue is primarily used for building funds [Tulsa World]. There are good reasons why Oklahoma has reserved building funds for repairs and maintenance [OKPolicy].

Five Things We Know About Oklahoma’s 2018 Legislative Elections – Pre-Runoff Update: Based on the unusually high numbers of open seats, candidates filing for office,  and challenges to incumbents, it already looked as if 2018 could be a landmark year in Oklahoma politics. Now, following what was an historic primary election in June, we know for certain that this is one of the most interesting and unexpected election years in Oklahoma in a long time. As we approach the runoff elections on August 28th, here are five things we know [OKPolicy].

Prosperity Policy: Avoid the Wrong Lessons from Health Board Fiasco: It looks like the State Board of Health has another chance to get it right on medical marijuana. Last month the board, against the recommendations of its own staff, voted 5-4 to adopt several last-minute rules on medical marijuana that flagrantly contradicted the language of State Question 788 approved by the voters in June. Amid massive public outcry, the attorney general quickly issued an advisory opinion identifying where the board had overstepped its authority [David Blatt / Journal Record].

OU Pulls Back on Touted National Merit Scholars Program: For decades, the University of Oklahoma has been recruiting and heavily investing in National Merit Scholars — academically advanced students who score in the top 1 percent on a standardized test. Former President David Boren was the biggest champion of the university’s feat of enrolling more National Merit Scholars than any other college, giving them tuition waivers and stipends for technology, housing and studying abroad. Now that program is being scaled back. [Oklahoma Watch]

Hofmeister vs. Murphy: Gop Superintendent Debate Set: Oklahoma State Superintendent for Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister will debate her GOP runoff opponent, Linda Murphy, 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24. NonDoc, Let’s Fix This, Generation Citizen and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy are partners for the debate, which will be held at City Presbyterian Church, 829 N.W. 13th St. in Oklahoma City [NonDoc].

Corporation Commission-Related Research Shows Oklahoma’s Agency Is Responsible for a Lot: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s responsibilities are significantly broader than those that similar agencies in other states have, independent research shows. The National Academy of Public Administration presented that observation and others on Wednesday to members of the Second Century Corporation Commission task force, led by Michael Teague, Oklahoma’s secretary of energy and environment [NewsOK].

Governor Announces New Emergency Managment Director: Governor Mary Fallin today announced she is appointing Michelann Ooten to serve as director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM). Ooten, the agency’s deputy director, will replace Albert Ashwood, the nation’s longest-tenured state director, who is retiring Aug. 31 [Moore American]

Audit Reveals ‘Culture of Fear and Intimidation’ at the VA: State Auditor Gary Jones released a special audit of the Dept of Veterans affairs Wednesday. The report details “a culture of fear and intimidation” stemming from the agency’s top management that ultimately worsens care for veterans. “We were amazed at how fearful the employees were to even discuss items with us,” Jones said [KGOU].

Doctors Share Opioid Concerns, Association Says: Responding to news Oklahoma City might sue doctors over the opioid epidemic, the leading organization for Oklahoma physicians said Wednesday it shares the goal of reducing opioid abuse. The Oklahoma City Council voted Tuesday to seek damages for healthcare outlays, lost work time and other costs incurred by the city because of the addiction crisis [NewsOK].

More than 280 apply for medical marijuana czar: Hundreds of Oklahomans want to be the first director of the state’s newly created medical marijuana division [Enid News & Eagle].  During the second meeting of a bipartisan legislative working group, lawmakers and marijuana advocates spent four hours Wednesday discussing the next steps for medical cannabis regulations, including the potential creation of an independent state agency that would have oversight and regulatory control of the marijuana industry [Tulsa World]. The city of Tulsa has established an internal working group to examine the possible implications for local government of Oklahoma’s new medical marijuana law [Tulsa World].

Oil and Gas Companies Spent Half a Million Dollars Trying to Defeat Medical Marijuana in Oklahoma: Oil and gas companies spent more than half a million dollars to defeat State Question 788, a statewide ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. Companies from Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas collectively contributed $590,100 to “SQ 788 is Not Medical,” a political action committee established to defeat the measure, state ethics records show [KGOU].

Recreational Marijuana Vote May Not Reach a Ballot Until 2020. This Is Why: It appears likely that there will be a vote of the people on whether to legalize recreational marijuana, but government officials have said chances for the question to be on the November ballot are low. Green the Vote, a Tulsa-based grassroots group, announced Sunday that it has gathered more than 130,000 signatures for State Question 797. The measure would place in the Oklahoma Constitution the right of adults 21 and older to use marijuana [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s Tax-Free Weekend Expected to Draw Big Crowds: Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, and ending at midnight Sunday, Oklahomans will be able to shop for many items with a temporary exemption from sales tax. The weekend is one of the busiest shopping events of the year for some retailers. “It’s second to Black Friday,” OKC Outlets General Manager Jeannette Smith said. “It’s very heavily trafficked, and right now our traffic is trending up so we are expecting more than last year” [NewsOK]. Rather than stimulating an overall increase in sales, studies have tended to find that sales tax holidays simply shift the timing of sales that would have happened anyway [OKPolicy].

June Jobless Rate Slightly Higher in State’s Metro Areas: Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate edged up in June, although it remains significantly lower than it was a year ago. The metro area unemployment rate in June rose to 3.7 percent from 3.6 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In June 2017, the metro area’s jobless rate was 4.3 percent. Tulsa’s unemployment rate also rose in June to 4 percent from 3.9 percent a month earlier. Tulsa’s jobless rate a year ago was 4.8 percent [NewsOK].

Julius Jones Hopes DNA Analysis Proves Innocence: Dale A. Baich, a federal public defender, says the wrong man was convicted of murder and sits on Oklahoma’s death row. Julius Darius Jones was charged and convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Howell. Jones was 19 at the time the shooting took place. Christopher O’Neal Jordan testified against Jones. Jordan was sentenced to prison for 30 years before he would be eligible for release. Jordan was released from prison after 15 years [Edmond Sun].

When Prisoners Escape, How Can a Town Without Police Stay Safe? When Frank Taylor moved to Taft from California six years ago, his friends asked how he could live in a town of about 300 people right next to two prisons. He laughed it off.  “I got two big pit bulls,” Taylor said. Taylor says the Oklahoma town is a place where he thought he could leave his doors unlocked. His home, near the center of town, is less than a mile from one of the prisons, Jess Dunn Correctional Center [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Trump Finally Picked a Science Adviser. He’s a Meteorologist. Named Kelvin: How hot is America right now? So hot that President Trump picked a science adviser named Kelvin. With heat waves and wildfires scorching the western US, meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, an expert on extreme weather, has been nominated to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. If confirmed by the Senate, Droegemeier would end the longest vacancy in the 42-year history of the post [Vox].

Attorney: Congress Must End Uncertainty for Dreamers: Oklahomans pride themselves on being in control of their own destiny, believing that with grit and hard work anything is possible. Indeed, the state constitution declares that, in addition to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all persons have the right to “the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry.” Likewise, the state motto, Labor omnia vincit, meaning labor conquers all things, reiterates the promise of opportunity for all willing to work for it [Elizabeth McCormick / NonDoc].

Quote of the Day

“Ensuring protection for Dreamers is the right thing to do in a state that was born out of the courage and toil of newcomers and continues to believe that Labor omnia vincit.”

-University of Tulsa associate dean Elizabeth McCormick, calling on Congress to create a path to full legal status for immigrants brought to the US as children [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma veterans with a disability connected to their military service, 27 percent of all veterans in the state.

[American Community Survey]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

One Month into Medicaid Work Requirement in Arkansas, Warning Lights are Already Flashing:Arkansas’s Department of Human Services released numbers on its work requirement to a select group of reporters and officials late last Friday, and we just saw them earlier this week. The numbers confirm reports of widespread confusion over the work requirement’s rollout and exacerbate our fears that red tape will eventually lead to significant coverage losses… The state has not dedicated any new resources to help these folks navigate the complex new system [Georgetown Universtiy Health Policy Institute].

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.