In The Know: Special session may not be needed for medical marijuana regulations

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

Special session may not be needed for medical marijuana regulations, House majority leader says: A special session to deal with regulating medical marijuana under the terms of State Question 788 appears a diminishing prospect as legislative leaders say they’re content to let the state Department of Health do the work [Tulsa World]. The head of Oklahoma’s health agency said Wednesday there’s a framework in place to get the medical marijuana industry rolling in the state soon, despite concerns from Gov. Mary Fallin that a statewide vote “opens the door” for recreational use [AP News]. Oklahoma’s new medical marijuana law is expected to bring in some new tax revenue, although it’s too early to put an exact figure on how much [News on 6].

The expressed will of the people in SQ 788 must not go up in smoke during the rule-making process: The state Capitol is hard at work on rules to implement the medical marijuana law approved by voters on Tuesday. The state Health Department has drawn up 61 pages of proposed rules, and Gov. Mary Fallin is said to be considering a special session of the Legislature to consider new laws. The state needs to be very careful moving forward on this effort. Regulation must not be used to undo the clearly expressed intent of a strong majority of Oklahoma voters [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Oklahomans Must Choose Between Their Guns and Medical Marijuana: Guns or medical marijuana? Thousands of Oklahomans will be forced to choose between the two to avoid committing a felony, federal officials say. And unless something changes, medical marijuana users also will be prohibited from obtaining state handgun permits, said Rick Adams, Oklahoma’s incoming director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Oklahomans voted to approve state-sanctioned medical marijuana Tuesday, but marijuana use continues to be illegal under federal laws that concern both possession and gun ownership [NewsOK]. Q&A with Charlie Plumb: Possession, use of marijuana at work still prohibited, regardless of Tuesday’s vote [NewsOK].

Point of View: We Need to Do Better for Oklahoma Children: Oklahoma can be a hard place to be a kid. This conclusion is hard to escape with the release of the new Kids Count Data Book, the annual report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that measures child well-being in four key areas — health, education, economic well-being, and family and community. The report ranks Oklahoma 44th out of the 50 states for child well-being. In three out of four areas, Oklahoma ranks in the bottom 10. In Oklahoma, we’re simply not doing what it takes to give all kids what they need to thrive. Hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma children live in poverty [Gene Perry / NewsOK].

Oklahoma Nears the Bottom of Rankings for Kids’ Well-Being: Oklahoma children are facing an uphill climb. The state ranks 44th for kids’ well-being in the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT report. Besides ranking 44th overall, Oklahoma is in the bottom 15 for every category considered: 36th for economic security, 40th in health, 44th in family and community, and 46th in health. Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman said the state was climbing, then took a nosedive [Public Radio Tulsa]. The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains — health, education, economic well-being, and family and community — as an assessment of child well-being [OKPolicy].

One Hurdle to Helping Oklahoma’s Kids: Not Knowing How Many There Are: It could be tough to improve conditions for many young Oklahomans because there may be thousands more than we think. Researchers estimate 93,000 Oklahomans younger than 5 years old live in hard-to-count Census tracts. That means they’re being undercounted or not counted at all. “That’s really important, to get that accurate count, because billions of dollars in federal funding is at stake, based on the numbers that they bring up there,” said Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Gene Perry [Public Radio Tulsa].

Wave of Teachers Surges Ahead in Oklahoma Legislative Races: Oklahoma’s teachers aiming to make their mark on elected office took a major step forward with Tuesday’s primary, in which more than half the teachers who were running advanced to the next phase of this year’s electoral contests. An Education Week analysis of the 67 teachers running for office this year found that 35 survived Tuesday’s primary, some of them advancing to a runoff in August and others headed straight to the general election in November [Education Week]. The Oklahoma Educators Associations told News 4 that 115 educators ran for office [KFOR].

Will Abortion Factor in Gubernatorial Race with Possible Court Shift?: With Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announcing his retirement, the issue of abortion was thrown into the spotlight as president Donald Trump has said he will appoint justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that upheld a woman’s right to abortion. Even if Trump’s nominee dramatically swings the Supreme Court to a pro-life bent, overturning Roe v. Wade is far from certain and it would depend on what type of case the court considered [NewsOK].

James Cooper to Seek Ward 2 Seat on Oklahoma City Council: James Cooper, a public school teacher and transit authority trustee, said Thursday he would run for the Ward 2 seat on the Oklahoma City Council. Cooper, 36, lives in the Paseo District. He ran for the seat and lost in 2015, when Ed Shadid won his second term with 59.1 percent of the vote in the primary. Shadid, who was first elected in 2011, has said he will not seek a third term in 2019 [NewsOK].

Mass. Gets a Thumbs-Down on Negotiating Medicaid Prices, but Oklahoma Wins on ‘Value’ Rebates: In a pair of decisions Wednesday, top health officials offered the first clear signals of just how far they will let state Medicaid agencies go when it comes to negotiating discounts for prescription drugs. The administration declined to approve a bolder proposal from Massachusetts to use a formulary to exclude some drugs from Medicaid coverage, a common negotiating tactic for commercial plans. At the same time, it approved a separate idea from Oklahoma to let the state’s Medicaid program negotiate extra rebates if a given drug isn’t as effective as expected [STAT].

Department of Education Looking over Hundreds of Emergency Teaching Certificates: Districts across the state say they are doing everything they can to recruit teachers, but officials say that they still are having to approve emergency certifications. Last year, the Oklahoma State Department of Education approved a record number of emergency certifications in order to have enough teachers at schools across the state. As another way to keep teachers in the classroom, the Oklahoma Education Association began pushing lawmakers to approve a pay raise [KFOR].

OSBE Restores $5,000 Bonus: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday voted to restore a $5,000 bonus for nationally certified speech-language pathologists, audiologists and school psychologists after revenue for the annual incentive was cut for the last two years. The bonus, which is dependent on state budget leaders’ approval of a $3.65 million transfer from the flexible benefit allowance, will benefit approximately 730 specialists. The bonus will go into effect for the 2018-2019 school year [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Public College, University Presidents Say Employees Need Pay Raise: Low pay for faculty and staff was cited by several presidents of the state’s 25 public colleges and universities as they presented their fiscal year 2019 budgets Wednesday to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Many said increases in tuition and fees included in their budgets will be used to improve the situation. The regents will vote Thursday on the proposed budgets. The last time employees of Oklahoma City Community College received a raise was 11 years ago, President Jerry Steward said [NewsOK].

Latest Metro Jobs Data Shows Continued Economic Growth in Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s economy continues to grow, data released on Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission showed. In year-over-year comparisons for May, unemployment percentages were down in each of the Sooner State’s four major metropolitan areas, with all but one showing they had added jobs during that time. Unemployment percentages also were lower in a year-to-year comparison throughout Oklahoma’s rural areas, with drops recorded in 75 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties [NewsOK].

Tulsa Homicide Rate down Significantly from Last Year’s Record: Halfway through the year, Tulsa homicides are less than half what they were at the same time during 2017’s record year. Officer Jeanne MacKenzie says rates are also much better than in 2016, the previous record year. She says there have been 19 murders in Tulsa so far this year, compared to 46 during the same time frame last year, and 31 in 2016 [Public Radio Tulsa].

Oklahoman on Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee List: President Trump said Wednesday he intends to nominate a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy from a list of names he first compiled during his 2016 campaign. He told reporters he had recently added five more names to the list. The list includes 37-year old Patrick Wyrick, who was appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2017 [Public Radio Tulsa].

Bridenstine Defends President’s Space Force Proposal–Says US Is Vulnerable in Space: Former Oklahoma Congressman-turned-NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine’s support of President Trump’s proposed “Space Force” gets more attention. Not only did he support the idea publicly in a meeting this week, but in an interview with the news website Axios the space force is necessary because it’s where the U.S. is strategically vulnerable [OK Energy Today].

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma should stop the push to deny health care to parents if they don’t work a certain number of hours each week and complete strict reporting requirements. Whole families suffer when a parent loses health care — and when that parent is struggling with mental illness or a chronic disease, it can cascade into deep poverty or losing kids to foster care.”

-Oklahoma Policy Institute Director of Strategy and Communications Gene Perry, in an op-ed in The Oklahoman [NewsOK].

Number of the Day


Number of executions in Oklahoma since 1976, the third most in the country behind Texas and Virginia.

[Marshall Project]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How the Opioid Crisis Is Depressing America’s Labor Force: It’s been a decade since the financial crisis drove up the unemployment rate in the U.S. and forced people in the prime of their careers to give up looking for work. Even today, as employers add jobs at a furious pace, the workforce participation rate still hasn’t recovered. And now researchers think they know one reason why: the opioid crisis. People who are prescribed opioids are more likely to get addicted, and those who are addicted are less likely to participate in the economy by looking for jobs [NPR].

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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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