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In The News

State Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Tax Increase Petition Monday: The Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday regarding a petition to House Bill 1010XX. The bill raises some taxes to fund teacher pay increases and was passed just before the teacher walkout. The new tax revenue from cigarettes, fuel and oil and gas would fund House Bill 1023XX, which allows for teacher pay raises in the first place [News9]. A live stream of the oral arguments will be aired on oscn.net beginning at 2 pm.

TPS Searching for More Than 300 Teachers, and That Number Could Grow: Tulsa Public Schools needs 339 teachers for next year and is still waiting to hear from half of its teachers about whether they will be back. TPS said Friday that it has received contracts from 1,303 of its nearly 3,000 certified and apprentice staff — a number that includes mostly teachers but extends to employees such as counselors and librarians, among others [Tulsa World].

To improve public safety and insurance rates, allow undocumented Oklahomans to drive legally: Although immigration is mainly a federal policy issue, many states recognize that undocumented immigrants will continue to live, work, go to school, and drive here, and that there are benefits to ensuring that undocumented immigrants who are contributing positively can obey state laws. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented residents to obtain a driver’s license or equivalent. This growing list of states includes progressive strongholds such as California, but also conservative states like Utah [OKPolicy].

Medical Marijuana Would Bring Steep Tax, Unknown Amount for Schools: Patients in Oklahoma will pay one of the highest tax rates for medical marijuana among the 30 states that currently offer it if State Question 788 is approved by voters this month, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis. That’s because the Oklahoma Tax Commission has determined purchases will be subject to the 7 percent tax in the proposal – an excise tax – plus regular state and local sales taxes. That would push buyers’ total taxes to about 16 percent or more [Oklahoma Watch]. Making medical marijuana available is the compassionate thing to do, supporters said Saturday during a rally at Andrews Park to support State Question 788 [Norman Transcript]. Read what supporters and opponents of SQ 788 are saying about Oklahoma’s medical marijuana legalization initiative [OKPolicy].

Capitol Insider: All About Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana State Question: In this episode of Capitol Insider, StateImpact health reporter Jackie Fortier joins KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley to discuss State Question 788, which would legalize medical marijuana if it passes on June 26. The three go over the groups campaigning for and against this measure, and whether regulators are prepared for voters to legalize medical marijuana, as recent polling suggests they will [KGOU]. Oklahoma Residents Grapple with Faith, Legalizing Medical Marijuana [Washington Post]. Trump hints at supporting pro-medical marijuana bill [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Ethics Commission Raises Fees to Stay in Operation: Amid worries about running out of money, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission agreed Friday to charge political candidates, lobbyists, PACs and others more. The Ethics Commission voted 5-0 to raise its registration fees from $150 to $250. The change goes into effect July 1. Commissioners acted after they learned the watchdog agency actually could run out of money next fiscal year [NewsOK].

Lamb All in for Energy Industry, While Gubernatorial Rivals Offer Varying Levels of Support: Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, whose gubernatorial campaign is backed by some of Oklahoma’s top oil and gas company leaders, assured those attending an energy forum on Wednesday that he would be a staunch defender of the industry on tax and regulatory matters. Republican gubernatorial candidates Mick Cornett, Kevin Stitt and Gary Jones offered varying degrees of support for industry positions, though none sounded as determined as Lamb to win the room at the Petroleum Club [NewsOK].

Amid Contentious Campaign, GOP Primary Attorney General Debate Set: Candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Oklahoma attorney general will face off for a debate Saturday, June 23, at the Tower Theatre in Oklahoma City. The primary election is set for Tuesday, June 26. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, he or she will face Oklahoma City Democrat Mark Myles — a public defender who has also served as a Logan County prosecutor — in the Nov. 6 general election. Otherwise, a GOP runoff election would be held Aug. 28 [NonDoc].

Educators Face Challenges on Campaign Trail: The June 26 primary legislative ballot is filled with candidates like Johns — current and former educators who believe lawmakers continue to underfund public education. Candidates are angry about inadequate school funding, soaring class sizes and aging textbooks. “It’s more than have run in the past, but it just goes to show teachers really want to make things better, and they’re willing to stick their neck out and run for office because they believe in helping Oklahomans,” said Alicia Priest, president of Oklahoma Education Association [Woodward News].

Education, Broken Legislature Hot Topics Among House District 36 Hopefuls: Campaigning for a fifth two-year term, incumbent Sean Roberts has drawn four Republican challengers in a primary race for House District 36. Trying to unseat Roberts are Paul Ganzel, 49, of Hominy; Jordan Lauffer, 34, of Skiatook; Jared Lemmons, 28, of Pawhuska; and Louise Redcorn, 59, of Pawhuska [Tulsa World].

Quick 5: House District 15 Candidates Share Opinions on Education, Business Growth: One in a series featuring candidates who are competing during the 2018 election cycle. This article focuses on Jeremy Warren and Randy Randleman, Republican candidates for House District 15, who will face off in the primary June 26 [Muskogee Phoenix].

Teachers Union Threat Centers on Pay Dispute: Oklahoma’s largest teachers union is threatening legal action against Western Heights Public Schools for docking the pay of employees who participated in the statewide walkout. The district penalized teachers and support staff who defied a school board directive to return to the classroom after Day 1 of the walkout, which began April 2 and closed some schools for up to 10 days [NewsOK].

Court to Unseal Some Documents in Officer Case: An Oklahoma appeals court has ordered some documents unsealed in the case of a former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of rape. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruling Friday comes after ex-officer Daniel Holtzclaw’s attorneys asked that the documents be unsealed. The order would unseal redacted versions of the motion to unseal the documents, the state’s response and Holtzclaw’s attorneys’ response to the state reply. Also to be unsealed would be Holtzclaw’s attorneys’ objection to a lower court finding of fact and conclusions of law [Public Radio Tulsa].

Program Provides Tax-Advantaged Savings Accounts for Oklahomans with Disabilities: State Treasurer Ken Miller announced the launch of the state’s Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings program, Oklahoma STABLE, which provides tax-advantaged savings accounts for eligible Oklahomans with disabilities. “For too long, Oklahomans with disabilities have been denied easy access to savings and investment opportunities. Today, that all ends,” Miller said in a news release [Muskogee Phoenix]. New Oklahoma STABLE accounts will make it easier for Oklahomans with disabilities to save for the future [Amy Smith/OKPolicy].

Bill Passage Could Help Protect Vulnerable Adults: The Oklahoma Legislature has passed a bill establishing the Commission on the Prevention of Abuse of Elderly and Vulnerable Adults. House Bill 3328 bill was signed into law last month by Gov. Mary Fallin. Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, the bill’s author, said it is time Oklahoma begins looking into abuse and scams elderly adults face [Duncan Banner].

Free Meals During Summer Are Underused by Students: The free meals can lead to a reduction in behavioral issues and increased academic performance when kids are back in school, said Chris Bernard, executive director for Hunger Free Oklahoma. Young kids eat nutritious meals, parents save money, schools have students ready to learn when they come back to classrooms in the fall. But although participation is on a general uptick, Oklahoma has some of the worst participation rates in the country [NewsOK]. Why is Oklahoma worst in the nation for feeding hungry kids in summer? [OKPolicy]

Ray Potts: Early Learning, Aftercare Programs Are Crucial: I’ve been blessed in my career to have been a proud member of the business community and a proud member of the education community. Both perspectives led me to the same conclusion: Quality early childhood programs lay the foundation for future success in school, career and life [Ray Potts/NewsOK].

A Survivor District: Broken Arrow Works to Make Sure Tragedy Doesn’t Happen Again: Broken Arrow Public Schools doesn’t plan to build a memorial to Jaymeson West, the Pride of Broken Arrow band member who died by suicide in September. Instead, the district is taking a different approach. With the community still reeling from the tragedy that struck this fall, the school district wants to do all it can to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. So district administrators and teachers have spent much of the past week learning how to do just that: prevent suicides [Tulsa World]. Mental Health Association Oklahoma to host suicide-prevention class in aftermath of Anthony Bourdain’s death [Tulsa World]. In Oklahoma, many of the counties with the highest suicide rates were concentrated in the state’s southeastern corner, although some counties with high suicide rates also were scattered in other parts of the state [NewsOK].

State of Oklahoma: Infant Mortality Rate Is One of Nation’s Worst: In 2015, 383 babies in Oklahoma died in their first year of life. Oklahoma ranks 47th in the country for infant deaths, with 7.7 of every 1,000 babies born alive dying before their first birthdays. The odds are even worse for black and American Indian babies. The state’s maternal health outcomes also are below the national average. For every 100,000 births, 23.4 women die during pregnancy or in the year afterward, placing Oklahoma 32nd in the country [NewsOK].

Strong Month Caps Strong Year for Oklahoma City Sales Tax Revenue: Sales tax results for June capped a strong year for Oklahoma City’s finances and the metro economy. The city’s sales tax revenue was up 16.6 percent over June 2017. Based on economic activity the last two weeks of April and first two weeks of May, Friday’s figures wrap up the fiscal year and set the table for a strong start to 2018-19. Sales tax is Oklahoma City’s single-largest revenue source [NewsOK].

Armed with SpaghettiOs: PD’s Homeless Outreach Unit Busier Than Ever: If it’s a weekday, it’s likely Sgt. Bobby Prater and Sgt. Felix Valadez are driving throughout Oklahoma City with some SpaghettiOs, beans and rice, and water in their patrol car. The two officers constitute the Oklahoma City Police Department’s homeless outreach unit. The department formed the team years ago, but as downtown continues to grow, the city gets more expensive to live in, and homeless shelters shift their focus, the unit has gotten busier [Journal Record].

Amazon Coming to Tulsa: Amazon announced plans late Friday to open its second Oklahoma fulfillment center in Tulsa, which will create 1,500 full-time jobs with opportunities for employees to engage with robotics technology. The company recently announced an upcoming fulfillment center in South Oklahoma City. Amazon currently operates a sortation center in Oklahoma City, where it employs hundreds of associates [Public Radio Tulsa].

Quote of the Day

“We know how serious the issue of suicide is and how prevalent it is becoming across the country. It is important for us to be proactive to empower our teachers and staff with the best training we can as opposed to pretending this isn’t a problem our students and families struggle with.”

– Charlie Hannema, Broken Arrow Public Schools spokesman, speaking on a district initiative that aims to help administrators and teachers learn how to prevent suicides [Tulsa World].

Number of the Day

1,079

Number of people held in prisons and jails in Oklahoma per 100,000 residents, the highest incarceration rate in the world.

[Prison Policy Initiative]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Income Inequality Is Changing How We Think, Live, and Die: But the argument isn’t that everyone should be the same, or be equally successful. The argument is that democratic societies have got to negotiate these trade-offs and find the right balance between free markets and a progressive taxation system or a safety net that helps to even out the winners and losers in a way that preserves equality of opportunity but doesn’t allow society to become destabilized by inequalities. I’m not a policy person, so I don’t have the answers. But we have enough data to know that this is something we ought to do if we want to keep our societies stable and healthy [Vox].

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