In The Know: Stitt names new commissioner of health, Many Oklahoma DHS employees to receive 13% pay raises, OK Attorney General warns against at-home rape kits

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.

New from OK Policy

Year-end revenue reports show the way to keep moving Oklahoma forward: Recent reports on revenue collected by the state for fiscal year 2019 show significant revenue growth for the year.  Thanks to tax increases adopted by the Legislature in previous legislative sessions and a strong economy, state revenue collections are growing at a solid pace, and we’ve begun reinvesting in state services. [OK Policy]

OK Policy Institute launches David Blatt Legacy Fund: To honor Oklahoma Policy Institute former executive director David Blatt’s years of commitment, the organization’s Board of Directors has established the David Blatt Legacy Fund. The fund will provide dedicated support for the organization’s policy work on budget and tax issues. [City Sentinel]

In The News

‘Special interests will howl’: Stitt names new commissioner of health: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced his appointment of Gary Cox as commissioner of health this afternoon. Cox will assume control of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, a state agency with a lengthy history of political scandal. [NonDoc] An attorney, Cox served most recently as executive director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Many Oklahoma DHS employees to receive 13% pay raises: More than half of the employees at Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services will receive 13% pay raises starting next month. Approximately 3,700, or 62%, of the agency’s employees will receive pay raises as a result of the agency eliminating 400 funded but unfilled positions. [The OklahomanSmaller state agencies were hit the hardest by a decade of budget cuts, and they’ve not yet recovered

Oklahoma Attorney General warns against at-home rape kits: Attorney General Mike Hunter on Thursday sent cease and desist letters to two companies marketing do-it-yourself rape kits and urged Oklahomans not to use the products, which he said have the potential to re-victimize sexual assault survivors. [The Oklahoman]

Permitless carry challenge collected 37,057 signatures, falls short of goal: A group seeking to suspend and potentially undo a new permitless carry law collected 37,057 signatures, more than 20,000 signatures short of the nearly 60,000 signatures required to put a referendum to a statewide vote. [The Oklahoman]

Investigations into Epic Charter Schools explained: Two recent search warrants filed in Oklahoma County show the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation believes Epic Charter Schools and its management company were set up with the intention of profiting from state tax dollars. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Five things to know about virtual school funding: Oklahoma lawmakers have 133 million reasons to examine virtual charter school funding. That is the number of state taxpayer dollars expected to flow to the state’s five statewide online schools for the current school year. [Oklahoma WatchVirtual charter schools generated a lot of discussion in the legislature this year.

An Oklahoma woman who got a 12-year prison sentence for $31 of pot was jailed again — for overdue court fees: The woman who became the poster child for the injustice of harsh drug sentences was recently jailed again — for overdue fees. Patricia Spottedcrow made headlines across the country in 2011 after she was sentenced to 12 years in prison for selling two baggies of marijuana worth $31 to a police informant. She was a 25-year-old single mother of four, and a first-time offender. [InsiderFailure to pay warrants are detrimental to rehabilitation and a waste of resources

Editorial: For The Children: Although many people are unaware of it, we have an important holiday next week. Constitution Day will fall on Sept. 17 and commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by 39 of our country’s founding fathers. [Joe Dorman / CNHI]

Oklahoma tribes, USDA leadership building partnerships: The 2019 “Nation to Nation” Tribal Consultation Meeting and Tours, hosted by the Oklahoma Tribal Conservation Advisory Council, the Quapaw Nation and the Oklahoma leadership for the agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was held Aug. 19-20 at the Downstream Casino Resort. [CNHI]

Quorum challenges hobble little known Okla County Court Services Board: Thursday’s meeting of the Court Services Board failed to meet quorum requirements, and the Mental Health Court Board, and Drug Court Boards handled no new business apart from receiving reports. [Free Press OKC]

Human Rights Watch report finding ‘evidence of racial bias’ prompts panelists to call for Tulsa police reform now, not later: Talking time is over. It’s time to act. Panelists discussing the Human Rights Watch investigation — “Policing, Poverty and Racial Inequality in Tulsa, Oklahoma” — touched on that idea Thursday night in north Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

How do we truly see our children? Racial bias and its role in juvenile justice: A section of the recent City of Tulsa Equality Indicators report showed a large disparity in youth arrests between minority and white children. [Tulsa StarBlack and Native youth are still arrested and incarcerated at much higher rates despite a historic drop in juvenile crime.

Innocence Project case: Tulsan released after pleading no contest to lesser charge in 2001 killing; recent DNA tests don’t tie him to crime scene: The first thing Willard O’Neal did when he walked out of the Tulsa County jail as a free man on Thursday afternoon was point to his mother, Elreno O’Neal, and tell the group of onlookers in the lobby that he wanted a hug from her. [Tulsa World]

They Don’t Feel The Way We Do: Racial bias in maternal health: According to a recent Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health study, black mothers “are monitored less, their concerns are often dismissed, and they tend to be sent home without adequate information about potentially concerning symptoms…. The risks jump at each stage of the labor, delivery, and postpartum process” for us. [Tulsa Star]

Gateway Ministries and the church that wasn’t: The head of a politically influential Tulsa-based group used the organization’s status as a church to obtain property tax exemptions for his family’s house to avoid thousands of dollars in property taxes, though the organization has not had a congregation or held religious services for more than five years, an investigation by The Frontier has found. [The Frontier]

DEA wants more marijuana grown in 2020 as research program sees ‘unprecedented’ interest: The Drug Enforcement Agency is proposing that 30% more marijuana be grown in 2020 as interest in federally supported research has reached “unprecedented” levels. [Tulsa World]

How Curious: What happened to all of the “horny toads?”: KGOU listener Gabe Denton remembers seeing horny toads all the time when he was growing up in Choctaw, but he hasn’t seen one in decades. Denton asked How Curious: What happened? [KGOU]

Quote of the Day

“If the data don’t support it, Gary Cox doesn’t do it. The fact is that health outcomes are based on determinants that we haven’t tracked in Oklahoma.”

– Scott Mitchell, a board member of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, the appointment of Gary Cox to lead the State Department of Health [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Average amount of their own money teachers spend on classroom supplies each year.

[Source: Economic Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

As overdoses soared, nearly 35 billion opioids — half of distributed pills — handled by 15 percent of pharmacies: Shearer Drug is among thousands of small, independent pharmacies — from Smith County Drug Center in Carthage, Tenn., to Zion Pharmacy in Kanab, Utah — that handled large volumes of hydrocodone and oxycodone from 2006 through 2012 and until now have largely avoided publicity for their roles in the epidemic. [Washington Post]

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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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