In The Know: Special legislative session costing $30k per day

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Oklahoma Legislature began a special session on lawsuit reform yesterday, and Republicans introduced new rules placing limits on amendments and floor discussions. NewsOK listed some of the major bills being considered in the special session. The Tulsa World featured op-eds by Governor Mary Fallin and by Senator Sean Burrage debating the purpose of the special session.

NewsOK told the story of an Oklahoman whose negligence case against a hospital was thrown out under the tort reform law before it was ruled unconstitutional. Some statehouse observers blame the increased number of laws being found unconstitutional on a lack of institutional knowledge due to term limits. 

The OK Policy Blog looked at how the private prison industry has attempted to influence public policy through lobbying and campaign contributions. The number of the Oklahomans incarcerated in private prisons has grown 13 percent this year and 29 percent since 2008.

Doctors for America is hosting a poetry reading in Oklahoma City to spread awareness about new health care options under the Affordable Care Act. Wind power generation is growing across Oklahoma and the nation, but transmission lines have not caught up. The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahoma farms that are fully-owned by their operator. In today’s Policy Note, an important new study shows how poverty taxes the brain.

In The News

Oklahoma special legislative session gets underway at a cost of $30k per day

The Oklahoma Legislature began a special session on lawsuit reform Tuesday, acting quickly to streamline proceedings that are costing taxpayers $30,000 a day. Republicans introduced new rules placing limits on amendments and floor discussions. They quickly beat back Democratic attempts to expand the focus beyond resurrecting civil justice changes thrown out in June by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Those changes, backed by business interests, are intended to limit consumer lawsuits.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Some of the major bills being considered from NewsOK; Gov. Mary Fallin: Lawsuit reform must be addressed now from the Tulsa World; Sen. Sean Burrage: Bad politics trumps good public policy in special session from the Tulsa World

Oklahoman who suffered from hospital negligence had lawsuit thrown out by tort reform

Former nurse Teresa Nelson is paying close attention to the Oklahoma Legislature’s attempt this week to resurrect a tort reform law overturned by the state Supreme Court. Nelson, 62, of Durant, entered a hospital in Hugo five years ago with a severe case of pneumonia. She was so weak she was unable to move or change positions and soon developed an ulcer on her tailbone. “I was absolutely too weak to turn, and they wouldn’t reposition me, and it ended up growing to five centimeters,” she said. It grew so big the wound exposed bone. When Nelson brought a negligence lawsuit against the hospital in 2010, the case was derailed by an Oklahoma law requiring plaintiffs to prove the merits of medical malpractice cases with a third-party expert.

Read more from NewsOK.

Are term limits causing more unconstitutional legislation?

Some statehouse observers blame the increased number of laws being found unconstitutional on a lack of institutional knowledge due to legislative term limits. Courts have recently tossed laws that put restrictions on abortions and lawsuits, assessed special fees and banned the use of Sharia law in state courts, to name a few. Other laws are currently being challenged, including one that allowed for private funds to pay for placing a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol, another that provided funding for a new state Medical Examiner’s Office in Edmond and another that paired a tax cut with funding for repairs to the crumbling state Capitol.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Punishment & Profits: The private prison money trail

From 2002 through 2009, the number of Americans incarcerated in private prisons grew by 37 percent. Over those same years, the amount of money contributed to politicians by the private prison industry increased 165 percent. But direct contributions from the private prison industry to political campaigns is only one of a myriad of ways that these companies can influence the legislative process. From 2003 to 2011, leading private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group hired a combined 271 lobbyists to move their agenda forward in 32 states, including Oklahoma.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Private prison population keeps growing

With overcrowding in Oklahoma’s prison system, the number of inmates shifted to private prisons in the state has grown from 5,132 at the beginning of 2013 to more than 5,800 at the end of August. That represents a 13 percent increase this year and a 29 percent increase since July 2008, when about 4,500 state inmates were housed in private prisons. Because the state prison system is at near-capacity and is expected to keep growing, state officials say more inmates could end up in private prisons in coming years. Several interim legislative studies this fall will examine the issue.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Poetry event to raise awareness about new health care options

On Sunday, Sept. 22, the “Good Medicine Poetry” event will feature Oklahoma’s own renowned performance poet Lauren Zuniga as part of the Doctors for America Coverage is Good Medicine Campaign. The event will be held at the Paramount OKC Theater, 701 W. Sheridan, in Oklahoma City, from 3:30 – 5 p.m. Katherine Scheirman, M.D., Doctors for America Oklahoma State Director and event co-sponsor said, “I am holding a poetry reading at the Paramount, featuring Lauren Zuniga, to raise awareness of the historic opportunity the people of Oklahoma will have to get affordable, high quality health insurance starting Oct. 1. “However, nearly 78 percent of people who will be eligible for this benefit do not know it. That is why it is so important to me, as a doctor, to spread the word about the new marketplace, where buying health insurance will be a more pleasant experience than it is currently.”

Read more from the City Sentinel.

Wind power generation growing, but transmission lags

Transmission lines are chasing the rapid growth of wind generation across the nation, but it may be a while before they catch up. Billions of dollars in transmission lines will have to be built before the nation’s wind resources, which are concentrated in the center of the country, can be fully exploited by large population centers to the east and west. In the meantime, regulators, generators and utilities have to deal with transmission congestion and wind curtailments, the temporary shutting down of generation to maintain system balance and reliability.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

I feel like I got railroaded. I feel like I was cast aside because I didn’t know anything.

-Teresa Nelson, a 62-year-old former nurse whose lawsuit against a hospital was tossed out due to Oklahoma’s tort reform law before it was deemed unconstitutional. Too weak to move, she was never repositioned in her hospital bed until an ulcer grew so big that it exposed bone (Source:

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahoma farms that are fully-owned by their operator, rather than part-owned or rented, 66 percent of the state’s farms vs. 69 percent nationally

Source: USDA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The high cost of not having enough

Last week I wrote about an important new study, published in the journal Science, that found that poverty itself – coping with the ever-present state of not having enough to live on – taxes the brain to the point where the poor move through life as if experiencing the equivalent of a missed night of sleep. Living in poverty requires so many mental puzzles and trade-offs that the rest of us never confront: Should I pay for groceries or gas? If I take a second job, who will collect my child from school? What’s worse: the steep price of a payday loan, or the late fee that will come from missing another utility bill? All of these questions suck up so much mental bandwidth that the poor are left with little cognitive capacity to succeed in tasks that seem wholly unrelated to money.

Read more from Atlantic Cities.

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


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

Leave a Reply

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