In 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
Oklahoma ScissorTales: A new prison tracking tool: Policymakers and others interested in Oklahoma’s nation-leading incarceration rate have a new online diagnostic tool at their disposal. The group Open Justice Oklahoma has announced its “Oklahoma DOC Tracker.” It will provide weekly population counts as provided by the state Department of Corrections, break down how many people are under probation and parole supervision, how many are being held in county jails, and include a map showing how facilities holding state inmates compare to their rated capacity. [The Oklahoman]
In The News
Stitt outlaws state agency lobbyist hiring with executive order: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday issued an executive order barring state agencies from hiring outside lobbyists as long as he remains in office. Stitt first addressed lobbying in state government in January, when he filed an executive order requiring all state agencies to submit a list of every lobbyist they hired and the terms of their contract. [The Oklahoman]
Pardon and Parole Board appoints new executive director: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has appointed Steve Bickley as the agency’s new executive director. The five-member board voted unanimously during a special meeting this week to hire Bickley effective immediately. “We couldn’t have found a better choice,” Board Chairman Robert Gilliland said during a phone interview Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]
District Attorneys use twin groups to push criminal justice policies: The DA Council and the DA Association enjoy an unusual relationship that breaks with the pattern of other locally elected political or law enforcement groups in Oklahoma. Unlike with sheriffs, judges or county commissioners, district attorneys administer both their local offices and a state agency of their own, as well as operate a nonprofit that can lobby the Legislature. [Oklahoma Watch]
Cigarette sales down 25% in Oklahoma, tax revenue up: One year after an additional $1-per-pack tax was applied to cigarettes, sales of the product have dropped 25% in Oklahoma while state revenues from the tax have increased by $133.3 million. The measure doubled the tax, increasing it from $1.03 to $2.03 per 20-pack effective July 1, 2018. In fiscal 2019, sales fell by 59.6 million packs but revenue from the tax increased to $336.6 million from $232.6 million in fiscal 2018. [Journal Record]
State lawmakers request studies into virtual schools: Interest and scrutiny into virtual charter schools is increasing among Oklahoma lawmakers as online instruction rapidly grows across the state. Members of the Oklahoma House have filed multiple requests for interim studies to examine the challenges and effectiveness of virtual schools. [The Oklahoman] Virtual charter schools face will new financial transparency requirements and other regulations soon.
State train law may not stop blockages: A highly touted state law supposed to stop trains from blocking intersections may not actually alleviate headaches for frustrated motorists. While the law, which went into effect July 1, is designed to stop trains from blocking railroad crossings for more than 10 minutes, some note its many exemptions still could allow trains to legally clog intersections for 20 minutes or longer. [CHNI News]
Oklahoma to get new license plates, logo, slogan through rebranding effort: Oklahoma is “better than OK” and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell wants everyone to know. Oklahoma’s second-in-command is leading the charge to craft a cohesive brand for Oklahoma that includes a new state logo, slogan and selfie-worthy “Welcome to Oklahoma” signs on major state highways. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma Medicaid Office: Update address or lose benefits: Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency is warning its SoonerCare members to keep current their address on file with the agency or risk losing their health care benefits. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority sent out a public reminder Wednesday of the new rule that was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt last week. [Public Radio Tulsa] OK Policy previously expressed concern that this policy will result in eligible individuals losing health coverage.
Tulsa World editorial: Oklahoma emergency certifications remain too high: Emergency teaching certifications continue to reach historic highs even after two statewide teacher salary hikes. Not to make a pun, but there’s a lesson here: It took years of underfunding education to produce these types of embarrassing benchmarks; it will take years to rebuild. [Tulsa World] What’s That? Emergency Certification
Day 8: Breaking the cycle: What the leading voices for change say Oklahoma needs to reduce chronic childhood traumas: Oklahoma has the highest percentage of children who suffer multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which studies have linked to a wide range of health problems and social ills. And to address those high ACE scores, Bush helped create the state Legislature’s Task Force on Trauma-Informed Care, which is one year into its three-year study that will lead to making recommendations to the Legislature. [Tulsa World] Fair economic policies can reduce parental stress and reduce childhood trauma.
Oklahoma Council releases 5-year plan to end homelessness: In Oklahoma, almost 4,000 people were officially counted as experiencing homelessness last year. Service providers ranging from shelters and mental health groups to the Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs each have a specific need they are trying to meet for that population, whether it be housing, substance abuse treatment or children’s programming. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Supreme Court could change its approach to Indian land case, experts say: The U.S. Supreme Court, which has failed to reach a decision in a closely watched Indian land case out of Oklahoma, likely deadlocked and may try a different approach in its next term, according to Indian law experts. It is also possible that Justice Neil Gorsuch may reconsider his recusal in the case and participate when the court begins its next term in October, the experts said. [The Oklahoman]
Quote of the Day
“This is a crisis. All of us have known or have a family member who struggles with mental illness, abuse or drug addiction. These are the things we have to change in our state if we want to give our children hope. I am living proof that there is hope and a future for everyone.”
– Oklahoma’s First Lady Sarah Stitt speaking about the impact of growing up with a parent experiencing mental illness [Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Percent of Oklahoma seniors who have not seen a dentist in over a year
[Source: Families USA]
Better schools won’t fix America: For all the genuine flaws of the American education system, the nation still has many high-achieving public-school districts. Nearly all of them are united by a thriving community of economically secure middle-class families with sufficient political power to demand great schools, the time and resources to participate in those schools, and the tax money to amply fund them. In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it. [The Atlantic]
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.