In The Know: Skilled workers lagging; new jail trust role in reform; opioid trial begins…

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.

New from OK Policy

Meet OK Policy: Operations & Development Associate Kourtni Cain: From humble beginnings in 2008, we now have a staff of 19, including talented individuals who focus on a wide range of policy issues, intensive data analysis, outreach, communications, events and operations, and more. To give you a better idea of who we are and what we all do, we are running an OK Policy Blog series highlighting our staffers. For this edition, here’s Operations & Development Associate Kourtni Cain. [OK Policy]

HB 1269 makes SQ 780 retroactive but leaves drug issues unresolved: In 2016, Oklahoma voters made simple drug possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony. By voting yes to State Question 780, Oklahomans expressed a clear desire to prioritize treatment over incarceration for those struggling with addiction. These changes raised significant public policy and moral questions. [Damion Shade / Enid News & Eagle]


In The News

Report: Oklahoma’s supply of skilled workers lagging badly: The future of Oklahoma’s workforce is in trouble unless policymakers take a more active role in developing industry-driven partnerships, according to the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development. The group on Friday released its report highlighting a critical need to improve the state’s supply of professional talent in high-demand, high-growth jobs over the next 10 years. [Journal Record]

New jail trust could play role in criminal justice reform: Although he helped design the jail trust, the Oklahoma County sheriff still has concerns about the new legal structure that will manage its finances and facilities, spokesman Mark Myers said on behalf of P.D. Taylor. However, Taylor and county commissioners, who approved the trust document Wednesday, seem to be in agreement that the trust could have a significant effect on justice reform in central Oklahoma. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma opioid trial begins Tuesday: The state of Oklahoma’s civil lawsuit against two groups of opioid companies begins Tuesday in downtown Norman. The trial is expected to take several months as Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office argues the companies are financially liable for their contributions to the state’s opioid crisis to the tune of billions of dollars. [Norman Transcript] Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s suit alleges Johnson & Johnson, the nation’s largest drugmaker, helped ignite a public health crisis that has killed thousands of state residents. [KOSU]

Oklahoma could be test on who will pay — and how much states are willing to accept — for opioid crisis: Oklahoma’s upcoming trial against drugmakers could prove to be an important test on who will pay for the opioid crisis and how much money states are willing to accept. The trial, which is set to start Tuesday, will be closely watched. And not only because it will be nationally televised. [The Frontier]

Teva Pharmaceuticals agrees to $85 million settlement with Oklahoma in opioid case: An Israel-based pharmaceutical company has agreed to an $85 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma over its alleged role in fueling the opioid crisis. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter had accused Teva Pharmaceuticals of creating a public nuisance through its production and marketing of opioids. [NPR]

‘Incredible efforts’ chipping away at Oklahoma’s opioid crisis: The war against opioid addiction is being waged on many fronts in Oklahoma, including research labs, recovery centers, the Legislature and individual families. [The Oklahoman] The University of Oklahoma on Sunday announced plans to expand its addiction research, training and treatment programs to become what will be called the National Research Center for Addiction Care. [The Oklahoman] To target hotspots and shut down criminal drug dealers, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics has rolled out a new app to track overdoses in real time. [FOX25

Legislature takes no action on Medicaid expansion: Oklahoma’s Legislature adjourned last week without taking action on expanding health coverage to 100,000 uninsured, low-income residents. Gov. Kevin Stitt may be partly responsible. In the first legislative session of his first term, he could only accomplish so much and tackling Medicaid expansion or other coverage for uninsured Oklahomans didn’t make the shortlist. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma governor signs first budget bill: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an $8.1 billion budget into law Friday that includes most of the major legislative priorities he sought in his first year in office. Stitt clinched two major wins with the Fiscal Year 2020 budget that grants teacher pay raises and socks away $200 million in savings. [The Oklahoman] Stitt says education funding is among the biggest accomplishments of the legislative session. [Journal Record] Part of the state’s $8.1 billion appropriated budget signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday includes a more than $25 million increase to higher education, totaling $802 million. [The Oklahoman]

Probe ‘unable to substantiate’ accusations against state House members of inappropriate behavior: An independent investigator hired by the Oklahoma House of Representatives could not substantiate claims that two male House members behaved inappropriately toward a female colleague two years ago, according to a statement released late Thursday. [Tulsa World]

The Oklahoman Editorial Board: Bold changes needed on justice reform: Criminal justice reform in Oklahoma, which seemingly has been studied to death in the past several years, is going to get yet another look, this time by a task force created by Gov. Kevin Stitt. This is a wheel that never stops spinning. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

Tulsa World Editorial Board: The 2019 Oklahoma Legislature was good, but it could have been a lot better: The 2019 Oklahoma Legislature goes in the book as a success, if not the success it could have been. Let’s review some of the good that was done this year: • The state budget for public schools went over the $3 billion mark for the first time in state history… [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

State education board begins new era with new members: Kurt Bollenbach of Kingfisher had to think twice before agreeing to join the state Board of Education. “Whenever I was asked, I, in all reality, didn’t want to say yes,” he recalled Thursday after being sworn in by state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. [The Oklahoman]

TSET Board extends contract to bring additional physicians to rural areas of Oklahoma: The TSET Board of Directors has voted to extend a contract with the Physician Manpower Training Commission to recruit and retain physicians in rural Oklahoma for an additional five years. The new agreement with the Physician Manpower Training Commission will allow an additional 42 physicians to be placed in rural and medically underserved areas.  [Miami News-Record]

Oklahoma Department of Health expands measles investigation: The Tulsa Health Department and Oklahoma State Department of Health are partnering to investigate a confirmed case of measles in Okmulgee County. The Oklahoma State Department of Health says on May 15 a person was confirmed to have the measles when they returned to Oklahoma after traveling to various domestic and international destinations. [FOX25]

Stitt tours El Reno, speaks with president: As a child slept on a mattress nearby on the gym floor, Gov. Kevin Stitt said his tour of El Reno Monday morning allowed him to see how destructive Saturday’s tornado had been. “There’s nothing like when your boots are on the ground and you can see that devastation in person,” Stitt said. “I know we’ve got people fighting for their lives right now at OU Medical Center.” [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready on Monday encouraged Oklahomans affected by flooding and other natural disasters to document their losses. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma City district may take over Seeworth Academy: Oklahoma City Public Schools is expected to assume the day-to-day operations of Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy, a charter school for at-risk students, after findings of “gross neglect and noncompliance” by the state Department of Education. [The Oklahoman]

OSBI gets Jones Day report, Stitt wants OU regents to do ‘the right thing’: Gov. Kevin Stitt has instructed the University of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents “to move forward with just doing the right thing” in regard to the investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against former OU President David Boren. “I think they are taking it very seriously,” Stitt said Friday after a bill signing event. [NonDoc] OU released the Jones Day report to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in May after getting a state grand jury subpoena, sources said. [The Oklahoman]

University of Oklahoma stripped of ‘US News’ ranking for supplying false information: U.S. News & World Report has stripped the University of Oklahoma of its ranking, citing incorrect information provided about alumni giving. The university told U.S. News that it has been supplying incorrect data since 1999. [Inside Higher Ed]

Congressman makes case for expanded broadband service in his district: Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin says his congressional district in eastern Oklahoma is the only one in the nation where broadband is available to less than half the population. In a recent newsletter to his constituents, the Republican 2nd District Representative said more should be done. [OK Energy Today]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma is statistically at the epicenter of our national addiction crisis, but we can also be its point of departure. With medical leadership, training and investment, this crisis can be part of our history rather than a debilitating and devastating impact on our future.”

-Interim OU President Joseph Harroz Jr., speaking about plans to create the National Research Center for Addiction Care [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


How much higher median annual earnings were for Oklahomans who completed some college or earned an associate degree compared to those with only a high school degree (2016).

[Source: State Chamber Research Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How to change policy without politicians: Because of direct-democracy aficionados like Couch, Arkansas politics in the past two decades, and especially recently, has started to look like it did 100 years ago. At the end of the 19th century, the Populist movement swept through the state. Voters organized to rip power away from a corrupt legislature and put it into their own hands. The dynamics in 2019 are somewhat different—special interests from in and out of state often influence what initiatives are written and why—but the overall effect is similar. Through ballot initiatives, Arkansas’ voters are supporting policies they may never have been able to get through the legislature. [The Atlantic]

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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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