In The Know: State legislators back Veterans Affairs in audit controversy; prosecutors ask for medical marijuana law changes…

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

State legislators back Veterans Affairs, demand documents from auditor’s office: Some of the top legislators overseeing the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs sided with the agency Wednesday, criticizing a recent state audit and asking auditors to turn over documents to them in two days. The auditor’s office received a letter Wednesday signed by six representatives and five senators. The letter accused auditors of bias in an audit released Aug. 1 that concluded “a culture of fear and intimidation” exists at Veterans Affairs. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma prosecutors ask medical marijuana working group for several law changes: Law enforcement officials took their turn before Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Working Group on Wednesday, including the head of the agency supporting Oklahoma prosecutors. District Attorneys Council President Brian Hermanson said the language voters approved with State Question 788 is missing what prosecutors consider an important piece to deter abuse. [Public Radio Tulsa] Tulsa Police have specific concerns about medical marijuana, chief among them home-growing regulations. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health Department asks judge not to block implementation of new pot rules: The state Health Department warned a judge Tuesday that the public will be harmed if it is blocked from implementing key rules on medical marijuana. In a legal brief, the agency listed eight potential dangers to the public interest if the rules aren’t enforced. Those dangers included the sale of “food and drug products that are diseased, contaminated, filthy, putrid or decomposed,” according to the brief. [NewsOK] An emergency injunction sought for Oklahoma’s most recently passed medical marijuana regulations would hamper implementation of State Question 788, state officials argue. [Tulsa Word] Law enforcement officials testified before the Legislature’s joint working group on medical marijuana Wednesday but they might have raised more questions than they answered. [Journal Record]

Prosperity Policy: Second-class citizens: D’Marria Monday knew exactly what she wanted for her birthday. On Aug. 2, D’Marria, a Tulsa resident who serves as a client advocate for the legal defense organization Still She Rises, went to the Election Board and registered to vote. “It was the highlight of my year,” she told me. For nearly fifteen years, D’Marria has been ineligible to vote as the result of a felony conviction she received on a first-time, non-violent drug offense in Texas. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

Reconsider the runoff: There were many surprising outcomes of the Oklahoma primary election in June. Some incumbents lost long-held seats, others came very close. We saw record turnout and even passed a medical marijuana state question. We also saw an unusually high number of primary races that failed to produce an outright winner and that will be decided in a runoff election later this month. [OK Policy]

Seven votes separated SD 30 candidates ahead of runoff: Former Sen. David Holt was elected mayor of Oklahoma City in February and assumed office in April. As such, constituents in Senate District 30, which represents western Oklahoma City and parts of the Warr Acres-Bethany area, get to choose his successor. First up, however, Republican voters in SD 30 must decide their party’s nominee in a runoff election. In the June 26 Republican primary, a mere seven votes separated John Symcox and Lori Callahan, with Callahan barely holding the edge. [NonDoc]

‘Times have changed’ at the Capitol: Meet Larry Ferguson, a legislator from a different era: A photo of Larry Ferguson sitting on a folding chair at a desk made of two cardboard boxes in a state Capitol hallway was published in the May 22, 1985, editions of the Tulsa World. The Republican had just beaten eight opponents in a special election to fill the seat of a Democrat who had died. Ferguson would go on to serve nearly 20 years in the Oklahoma Legislature, including eight years as the minority leader. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma looks into having DNA of suspects checked at county level: Despite a law passed two years ago that mandates DNA testing of felony suspects who are arrested, Oklahoma has not yet fully implemented the plan because of a lack of funding. The tests are meant to compare genetic markers with samples gleaned from evidence in a federal database, so that the unknown perpetrator of a crime in one jurisdiction or state can be discovered if they are arrested and booked by law enforcement elsewhere. [NewsOK ????] Indiscriminate DNA testing could put innocent Oklahomans in prison [OK Policy].

Aging Oklahomans probably not talking about whether they can drive safely: With Oklahoma’s population getting older, it might be time to talk to an older driver you know about whether they can continue to be on the road safely. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research says 83 percent of older drivers have never had that conversation with a family member or doctor. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister: ‘Oklahoma schools are in a much better place’:It was a school year that saw nearly 2,000 emergency certified teachers, along with growing class sizes and outdated books and equipment. Oklahoma was in a crisis that boiled over to the historic teacher walkout. “What we saw occur was something that can only be measured in the empowerment that those who support public education now feel,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. [KTUL]

OKC school board approve pay increases: Oklahoma City Public Schools has approved labor agreements with hundreds of teachers and other employees that include state-funded pay raises. The school board ratified the agreements for approximately 4,410 employees Monday night. While step increases determined by education and years of experience are expected to appear on paychecks Wednesday, the legislative raises will not, Superintendent Sean McDaniel told eligible employees Tuesday. “We are working to finalize the implementation plan for these pay increases no later than Sept. 15, 2018,” McDaniel said. [NewsOK ????]

TPS trails state averages in second year of more rigorous state testing: Tulsa Public Schools’ performance on state testing continued to trail the statewide averages in every grade and subject in 2018. The district’s 80 schools showed uneven performance in the second year of more rigorous state testing. Some of the district’s highest-performing schools saw marked declines in their proficiency rates, while some lower-performing schools saw large percentage increases in the number of students who were proficient. [Tulsa World] A Tulsa World analysis of just-released results for the 2018 Oklahoma School Testing Program shows most local schools’ results reflect the state’s downward trend in the second year of higher academic standards. [Tulsa World]

First public Montessori school in Oklahoma is poised to open:When Superintendent Deborah Gist and other administrators toured the building Tuesday, they were positively giddy. It’s not often that Tulsa Public Schools opens a new, or at least newish, school. The school has existed for more than 100 years, but this school year it will have renovated facilities and a whole new method of instruction. Montessori uses a largely self-paced, individualized learning model that uses hands-on activities to build real-world skills and concentration. [Tulsa World]

Aerospace company plans to bring operations, jobs to Oklahoma City area: The state of Oklahoma is entering into a partnership with Valkyrie Systems Aerospace, with plans for manufacturing facilities, flight operations and training to take place in Oklahoma City. Valkyrie was recently awarded a 21st Century Quality Jobs Program incentive contract that will create 352 new high-paying local jobs within the next five years. [NewsOK]

Flat sales tax collections continue to create challenge for city of Tulsa: Continuing a decades-long trend, the city’s general fund sales tax collections over the past three years have remained relatively flat, according to figures provided by the city’s Fiscal Office. In fiscal year 2016, sales tax revenue dedicated to the general fund was $151.6 million, followed by a dip to $148.2 million in FY 2017 and an uptick to $151.4 million in FY 2018, which ended June 30. Why should the public care? Tulsa, like every other Oklahoma municipality, relies heavily on sales tax collections to fund its day-to-day operations. It is one of the few available funding sources cities have for operations, often leaving them to scramble to cover day-to-day costs. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma City observing 60th anniversary of sit-in: Oklahoma City is observing the 60th anniversary of a youth sit-in that local historians say deserves more recognition in the collective memory of the national civil rights moment. Oklahoma History Center staffer Bruce Fisher said the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council’s peaceful protest at a Katz Drug Store counter on Aug. 19, 1958, preceded a 1960 sit-in at a Woolworth department store in Greensboro, North Carolina, which many highlight as the start of the movement. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Mourning the violence of its past, Oklahoma City is moving forward:My visit began and ended at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a work of public art that surprised me by being quite unlike Ron Arad’s World Trade Center Memorial or Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial in its mission to go beyond the framing of a traumatic event—the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building—to promote a community’s continuing goals and aspirations. Whether the memorial’s admirable communal spirit would extend to the rest of what I came here to see is another question.Although the memorial was a natural first stop, I’d come to the city for a different reason: I wanted to talk with local educators and with staff members of Generation Citizen’s Oklahoma City chapter about their program to, as they put it, “empower young people to become engaged and active citizens.”  [The Nation]

Oklahoma Supreme Court chooses not to view commissions case: A six-year-old lawsuit between the Delaware County Commissioners and its insurance company concerning payment in a multi-million civil settlement ended on Monday, Aug. 13. After meeting in executive session for eight minutes with the county’s attorney, they learned the Oklahoma Supreme Court voted not to view the case. In the 2011 settlement, 15 former female county inmates claimed they were sexually assaulted. They received settlements ranging from $67,500 to $3.3 million. The insurance group agreed to pay $1 million for the one large claim, rather than $1 million for each single occurrence, prompting the county to file a breach of contract and bad faith claim lawsuit. [Pawhuska Journal-Capital]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma schools are in a much better place. But we are still not where we need to be. We won’t be until we have teachers in every classroom and have students with the resources they need in every school. I think no single stroke of a governor’s pen can reverse the eroded funding to public education that’s occurred over the last decade.”

-State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister

Number of the Day


Percentage of all Oklahoma businesses with paid employees that are minority-owned (2016).

[U.S. Census Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Kentucky’s economic realities pose a challenge for work requirements: In three maps of the state, we show how residents seeking work in certain geographical areas are more likely to face limited employment opportunities. In a figure, we show that black and Hispanic residents and those with limited educational attainment may also face greater challenges in Kentucky’s labor market. If people face challenges in finding stable work, work requirements might not facilitate work but instead penalize people for the absence of opportunity. [Urban Institute]

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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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