In The Know: State Senate Announces 2018 Interim Study List

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 Senate Announces 2018 Interim Study List: Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore-designate Greg Treat, R-Edmond, has released a list of approved 2018 interim studies. A total of 43 requests were approved. Treat requested an interim study on the development of a legislative budget office that would provide additional data and resources to state lawmakers. Interim studies provide senators another opportunity outside the legislative session to take an in-depth look and hear from subject-matter experts on a particular issue [Ada News]. Treat will sponsor an interim study that looks into creating a centralized budgeting office under the Legislative Services Bureau [Journal Record]. See the full list of interim studies here.

OK Policy Welcomes Three New Staffers: Starting this week, Rebecca Fine has joined Oklahoma Policy Institute as an education policy analyst. Also starting this week, Damion Shade has joined OK Policy as a criminal justice policy analyst. Another recent addition to OK Policy is Operations and Development Associate Andrea McNeil. “We’re grateful to all of the supporters who appreciate the work of this organization and have invested in us to do even more,” said David Blatt, OK Policy’s Executive Director. “You can expect great things from these new staffers and the whole OK Policy team in the year ahead” [OKPolicy].

Oklahoma AG Says Health Board Will Hold Special Meeting to Walk Back Medical Marijuana Rules: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said Thursday he’s received word the state board of health will hold a special meeting to follow his advice on medical marijuana rules. That will include undoing controversial, last-minute changes that attracted two lawsuits [Public Radio Tulsa]. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks since Oklahomans voted “yes” for medical marijuana. Here are 8 notable moments since the polls closed [NewsOK].  This summer’s state government blockbuster is a 21st-century descendant of the Theater of the Absurd [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

13 Lawmakers Named to Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Working Group:Oklahoma House and Senate leaders have announced the members of a bipartisan legislative working group charged with helping to implement State Question 788 in a “manner that conforms to the will of the voters.” The group’s origins started with dissatisfaction over the State Board of Health’s amendments to emergency medical marijuana rules approved last week [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma state leaders share thoughts on 13-member marijuana panel [KXII].

Pushing Marijuana Rule, Board of Pharmacy Director Offered Attorney a Job: The same weekend Julie Ezell told colleagues she had received “threatening emails” about medical marijuana rules, the former Oklahoma State Department of Health general counsel was offered a job by Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy director Chelsea Church that included the “guarantee” of a pay raise if “you get me a pharmacist in dispensary.”Church discussed the job with Ezell late Saturday, July 7, as Ezell prepared the OSDH’s final draft of rules for release the next day [NonDoc].

For members of state agencies and boards, financial disclosure is a thing of the past: For the public, finding out whether members of state agency governing bodies might have a financial conflict of interest is a lot more difficult than it was a few years ago, thanks to Ethics Commission rules that now exempt board and commission members from having to file financial disclosure documents [The Frontier].

Oklahoma Could Execute Potentially Innocent Prisoners with Nitrogen Gas: Oklahoma has a notorious reputation for its frequent use of the death penalty and for the excruciating and drawn-out deaths that numerous executions have resulted in there, leading to a suspension of the practice since October 2015. Oklahoma was the first jurisdiction in the world to adopt lethal injection as a form of execution [Truthout].

Next Governor Will Wrestle with Death Penalty Protocol: Oklahoma’s next governor will inherit a difficult discussion about the future of the death penalty that has been ongoing not only here but across the country. After a botched execution that made news around the world in 2014, a court ordered Oklahoma to look into its own mistakes and revamp its protocol, preventing all executions until after that is concluded. A commission highlighted several issues in the existing protocol and the secretive culture among public officials that exacerbated those issues [Journal Record]. 

GOP Gubernatorial Hopefuls Cornett, Stitt Talk State Supreme Court, Taxes Supporting Teacher Raises: Republican gubernatorial hopeful Kevin Stitt on Thursday said he would appoint pro-life and pro-business justices to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. His opponent, Mick Cornett, would appoint justices who have conservative values. Cornett and Stitt spoke Thursday at the Muskogee County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at the Muskogee Civic Center [Tulsa World].

In Conservative Oklahoma, a Republican Raises Taxes — and Many Voters Like It: Helen Swope considers herself a traditional Republican, skittish about paying higher taxes for what can seem like the ever-growing role of government. But after Oklahoma City spent hundreds of millions of dollars building new parks, bicycle trails, elite recreational facilities and a soon-to-be-completed streetcar network, Swope thinks maybe the state government can learn something from the city’s former four-term mayor, Mick Cornett, a leading Republican candidate for governor [Washington Post].

‘Sin Taxes’ Are No Salvation for State Government Budgets, New Study Finds: The questions have been asked, in various forms, practically since Oklahoma statehood. “What happened to the tobacco/liquor/horse racing/lottery/casino money?” “Wasn’t the liquor/horse racing/lottery/casino money supposed to fix that?” The problem with sin taxes, though, is that they’re not reliable sources of revenue. So says a study released Thursday by the Pew Charitable Trusts in association with the Rockefeller Institute of Government [Tulsa World]. Why the lottery didn’t solve Oklahoma’s education funding problems [OK Policy].

Report highlights wage gap between white and Hispanic workers: A new report from the Economic Policy Institute highlighting wage disparities between whites and Hispanics across the United States shows a wage gap that has remained steady since 2000. Local data show that the wage gap is even wider in Oklahoma, something local agencies are working to address [Tulsa World]. The Hispanic–white wage gap has remained wide and relatively steady [Economic Policy Institute].

Special Election Set After Trustee of Oklahoma Police Pension Fund Quits over Nude Photos: The state board that oversees the $2.5 billion police pension fund has scheduled a special election to replace a longtime trustee who quit after nude photos were discovered in his emails. W.B. Smith stepped down as board chairman in May after apologizing for mistakes but said he would stay on the board as a trustee. He changed his mind in June and stepped down from that position, too [NewsOK].

Bills Top $100,000 for Outside Legal Council in Oklahoma City Panhandling Ordinance Litigation: Oklahoma City has run up legal bills topping $100,000 for outside attorneys to help defend the anti-panhandling ordinance passed by the city council in 2015. A trial is set for September in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City in a lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU asserts the ordinance tramples free speech rights and deprives individuals of their liberty [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s ‘Panhandling Teacher’ Still Raising Money for School: An Oklahoma teacher who garnered national attention for the school funding crisis in the Sooner State is raising money for school supplies in an unusual way. Teresa Danks is a third grade teacher for Tulsa Public Schools. As a result of budget cuts over the past few years, Danks says that she now spends between $2,000 to $3,000 of her own money to purchase supplies for her students [KFOR].

State Department of Education Hosts “EngageOK” Conference in Duncan: Hundreds of teachers from across southwest Oklahoma gathered at Duncan High School on Wednesday for the State Department of Education’s fourth annual EngageOK Summer Education Conference. The conference which is broken down into sessions provides professional development to educators and updates school district leaders on the latest developments in the state legislature [KSWO].

Instead of Bashing Universal Pre-K, Build on Its Successes: In June, published a commentary by Greg Forster, a Friedman Fellow with EdChoice, that criticized Oklahoma’s universal pre-kindergarten (pre-k) program. It was excerpted from an Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs post from June 15. The first half of the editorial was rather wonky, but it eventually concluded, “Policymakers shouldn’t spend big money expanding pre-K when the benefits are so uncertain. They should also take pre-K off Oklahoma’s automatic-funding conveyor belt” [John Thompson / NonDoc].

Enid Man Develops App to Connect Military Families to Resources: Tony Weedn’s app helps active military service members and their families connect with one another and solve problems that are common to most military families. The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports the BaseConnect app is an invitation-only, military-only network that includes local business listings. He plans to include job openings for spouses, and ride-sharing and home-sharing features, among other things [KGOU].

Quote of the Day

“Our community is changing, and we have a large Hispanic/Latinx community throughout Tulsa and the nation. We need to change the conversation, and you won’t be a viable business or effective organization if you are ignoring the community that is outside your doors.”

-Marcia Bruno-Todd, program director with Leadership Tulsa, speaking about the significant wage gap for Hispanic households and lack of diversity in board membership and executive positions in the Tulsa area [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

$1.084 billion

Total spending on the justice system by state government in Oklahoma, FY 2015.

[Bureau of Justice Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The New Toll of American Student Debt in 3 Charts: “Parents are realizing they just can’t afford that more expensive college,” he said. “The shift from private to public is of concern mainly because it is a sign of financial pressure, a kind of canary in the coal mine.” More problematic is separate data that shows low- and middle-income students enrolling in associate degree and certificate programs instead of bachelor’s degree programs. That, Mr. Kantrowitz said, is “of greater concern because students who could benefit from a bachelor’s degree are scaling back their educational attainment for no reason other than college affordability” [New York Times].

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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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