In The Know: State pension systems consider cost of living adjustments, legal challenges filed against redistricting petition, and more

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

Pension leaders: Oklahoma’s pension systems can withstand retiree COLA: Some leaders of Oklahoma’s pension systems think the systems can withstand paying a cost-of-living adjustment to state retirees next year. State retirees have gone 11 years without a cost-of-living adjustment in their pension checks, but that could change after executive directors of five state pension systems gave state legislators a positive financial outlook in a Friday hearing. [The Oklahoman]

Opponents of redistricting petition file legal challenges: Opponents of an initiative petition seeking to implement nonpartisan redistricting in Oklahoma are asking the state’s highest court to block the measure from moving forward. Two legal challenges filed Friday with the state Supreme Court allege the petition is flawed and violates Oklahomans’ First Amendment right to participate in the political process. [The Oklahoman]

Party officials differ on block grants, Medicaid: With Oklahomans hoping to see improvements in the state’s health care system, Gov. Kevin Stitt indicated during a recent radio interview that the solution might come in the form of a block grant, rather than through Medicaid expansion, which is set for a vote of the people in 2020. [Tahlequah Daily Press] OK Policy recently examined Medicaid block grant proposals, noting that they threaten access to health care and rests on shaky legal ground. 

Rural schools face challenges, but teacher pay hikes likely helped: Teacher pay raises in 2018 and 2019 likely helped address some of the critical educational needs facing rural schools raised in a new report by a national education group. But other funding and academic issues remain, a rural schools organization leader says. In the latest Why Rural Matters report, released Thursday, Oklahoma was ranked in the top 5 states where rural students are not receiving sufficient educational resources by the Rural School and Community Trust, an advocacy nonprofit.   [Oklahoma Watch] Here’s how much local school districts are paying teachers after implementing the latest state-mandated raise. [Tulsa World] OK Policy analysis shows that progress has been made recently on restoring funding for essential services like education, but it will be a long rebuilding project to full budget recovery.

Oklahoma judge shaves $107 million off opioid decision against Johnson & Johnson: In a judgment filed Friday, state District Judge Thad Balkman revised an earlier ruling against Johnson & Johnson and told the drugmaker to make a one-time payment of $465 million — not the $572 million he had originally ordered. The roughly $107 million shaved off the August judgment appears to correct a math error that Balkman has acknowledged making. [StateImpact Oklahoma] While $465 million is a lot of money, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter had asked for more than $17 billion to combat the nuisance over a period of at least 20 years. With only a one-year abatement plan ordered by Balkman, state lawmakers, attorneys and public health experts seem to have more questions than answers about what comes next. NonDoc]

Editorial: Stuffing stuff into the Oklahoma Constitution: Compared to its counterparts in most other states, the Oklahoma Constitution stands as a robust document. Its size, scope and guidelines are considered either over-reaching and cumbersome or populist and protective, depending on which side of an issue one might be. [Tres Savage / NonDoc]

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s approval to be required under new refugee resettlement order: Oklahoma’s governor and mayors will soon be required to approve the resettlement of refugees across the state, a new requirement from the Trump administration that potentially adds another layer of politics to immigration policy. [The Frontier]

Tulsa lawmakers plan to push for student loan borrower’s bill of rights: Democratic Reps. Melissa Provenzano and John Waldron see Oklahoma’s $13.5 billion share of student loan debt as a problem, especially as average balances approach $30,000 and delinquencies and defaults rise year after year. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Talks on tribal gaming compacts and rates stalemated over question of renewal: As the calendar counts down to Jan. 1, Gov. Kevin Stitt and tribes with gaming compacts appear far from resolving their disagreement over renewal of the compacts and rates paid by the tribes. [Tulsa World]

(Audio) Capitol Insider: Stitt pushes for public support of compact changes: As he continues to push for renegotiation of the state of Oklahoma’s gaming compacts with tribal nations, Gov. Kevin Stitt is asking for public support. At a press conference on Thursday, Stitt asked Oklahomans to stand with him on the issue to get a “good deal” done for Oklahoma. [KGOU]

Oklahoma bike riders hope new laws effective Nov. 1 make streets safer: On the cycling front, bike riders hope two state laws that went into effect Nov. 1 will help reduce the number of accidents and deaths. [The Oklahoman]

Program helps women transition to life after prison: Programs like Women in Transition play a critical role with helping people navigate the many hurdles they face when re-integrating into society from prison. In a state that incarcerates more women per capita than any other and has for years, the need is great. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma film rebate: Hollywood bailout or valuable tool?: Industry experts point to a 35 percent rebate on money spent in Oklahoma on filmmaking as critical to luring productions from California or Georgia. However, opponents contend that the rebate is nothing more than a “Hollywood bailout” that doesn’t lead to sustained employment or economic gain. [KOCO]

Marijuana Authority: Dispensary locations are secret: Medical marijuana dispensaries have popped up across Oklahoma over the past year, but lawyers for the state have decided the dispensaries’ addresses are “private business information” and should not be released to the public. [Oklahoma Watch

Oklahomans with DACA fight to protect the program: Even with their immigration status in question, undocumented Oklahomans are speaking out for the federal program allowing them to stay in the U.S. Rallies in the state and Washington, D.C., shone a light on immigrants who have made Oklahoma their home, in part with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. [The Oklahoman]

Court upholds class action status for earthquake lawsuit: The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals has upheld the class action designation of a lawsuit against an oil company over damage caused by earthquakes near Prague in November 2011, including one of magnitude 5.7. The lawsuit alleges saltwater disposal wells led to the earthquakes. [AP News]

‘Love thy neighbor’ still holds, but life next to a poultry farm has raised ire and led to a lawsuit: The conflict between the neighbors is a microcosm of broader concerns across Delaware County. Last year, it grew into the state’s largest center for poultry production, with an increase in new and expanded poultry farms. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“My hope is to show that our state retirement systems have improved dramatically over the past decade, and we are now in a position to give our retirees the COLA they deserve and have been promised.”

-Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, discussing efforts to give cost-of-living adjustments to state retirees [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of American Indian and Alaskan Native students in Oklahoma public schools

[Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

National Congress of American Indians releases new report featuring a landscape analysis on the availability of education about Native Americans in K-12 schools: Almost 90 percent of states surveyed said they have current efforts underway to improve the quality of and access to Native American curriculum; and A majority of the states surveyed indicated that Native American education is included in their content standards, but far fewer states require Native American education curriculum to be taught in public schools. [NCAI]

Note: November is Native American Heritage Month. We recognize and celebrate the history, cultures, and contributions of American Indian and Alaska Native people in the state and across the country.

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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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