In The Know: Straight-party ballots; first female Secretary of Ag; increasing provider rates…

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

Registration now open for OK Policy’s State Budget Summit featuring William Julius Wilson: Last year Oklahoma made major progress in putting its financial affairs on the right track, but we still have a long road to travel to reverse years of cuts to public services. As Oklahoma’s 2019 legislative session approaches, now is the time to put forward a vision of what broad-based prosperity that benefits all Oklahomans looks like. OK Policy’s 6th Annual State Budget Summit will bring together Oklahomans with an interest in state policy issues to gain a clearer sense of our challenges and how they can be resolved. [OK Policy]

In The News

Oklahoma an outlier with straight-party ballots: A state Senator wants to eliminate straight-party voting in Oklahoma, which is just one of nine states to allow the practice. Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, has filed Senate Bill 51 ahead of the 2019 legislative session that would require Oklahomans to vote on each race, rather than simply check a box for all Republicans or all Democrats. [NewsOK]

Arthur would be state’s first female secretary of agriculture: Blayne Arthur, a cattle rancher from Stillwater and the executive director of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation, has been nominated by Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt to serve as the state’s secretary of agriculture, which would make her the first woman to hold the post. [NewsOK]

OHCA seeks budget increase to restore provider rates: Oklahoma Medicaid officials are trying to reverse nearly a decade of provider rate cuts.State agency officials in all departments are working on their budget requests, which detail any appropriation hikes they argue are appropriate. The state’s Medicaid agency request includes a net $44 million increase to, among other things, reinstate pre-recession provider rates. [Journal Record]

Residents concerned about future of Prague hospital: Residents are concerned the Prague hospital could be closing after the mayor said it’s behind on its lease payments and employees were not paid on time. Loretta Woolley said the hospital has been important to her. She said she recently took her aunt there after she suffered a heart attack. [FOX25]

Dark clouds approaching state budget: Next week, Oklahoma lawmakers get their first glimpse of revenue available for spending on the 2019-20 budget.Will it be yet another meager year, the result of prior legislatures doling out too many politically pleasing but fiscally unwise income tax cuts and corporate incentives? Or will the state’s proverbial stocking finally be filled? [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Low prices cast shadow over oil and gas summit: Osage Minerals Council Chairman Everett Waller is optimistic that more prosperous times are in store for oil and gas operations across his tribe’s mineral estate. During his closing remarks Thursday afternoon at the Osage Minerals Council’s annual Oil and Gas Summit, Waller reminded petroleum producers and mineral estate shareholders that low oil prices are not necessarily permanent. [Journal Record]

Defending proposed bill, senator says program for low-income pregnant women shouldn’t benefit undocumented immigrants: state senator who filed a bill this week that would eliminate a Medicaid program for low-income pregnant women defended the proposal, saying the program shouldn’t provide benefits to undocumented mothers. [The Frontier]

Working for sobriety: Recovery program took some clients’ disability pay: Former clients of the Firstep work recovery program in Oklahoma City say it kept or attempted to take a portion of their disability benefits from workers’ compensation insurance after they were injured on the job — a practice that could violate state law, a joint investigation by The Frontier and StateImpact Oklahoma found. [The Frontier] You can also listen to this story on StateImpact Oklahoma

New survey results will help guide five-year plan to end homelessness in Oklahoma: The results are in from a survey intended to help guide a new five-year plan to end homelessness in Oklahoma. More than 650 nonprofits, state employees and concerned citizens responded to the wide-ranging survey from the Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness. GICH Chair Ed Long said 80 percent of them said a lack of funding is holding up progress in their communities or the state. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma prison data should drive further reforms: Oklahoma lawmakers and the public have shown a willingness in recent years to support criminal justice reforms. A slight decline in the state’s inmate population should serve to continue these efforts. The inmate count — the tally of those held in state and private prisons or awaiting transfer from county jails — fell below 28,000 recently, for the first time since early 2015. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Tulsa World editorial: Time to expand prison alternatives statewide: Oklahoma has enough data proving the value in bringing to scale prison alternative programs now largely operating in only metro areas.Earlier this week, Tulsa World reporter Samantha Vicent featured the 10th anniversary of the Veterans Treatment Court held in Tulsa County District Court.The 18-month voluntary program designed for nonviolent offenders who are veterans has a 90 percent success rate. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Compromise Farm Bill sent to president preserves food stamp benefits for estimated 97,000 Oklahomans: A compromise Farm Bill sent to the president late Wednesday will not affect the one in seven Oklahomans receiving food stamps. A previous House version backed by many Republicans applied work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits an additional 10 years up to age 59 and to parents of kids 6 or older. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Numbers show the shining successes of public schools … and the failure of inadequate funding: Good news! Oklahoma’s high school graduating class of 2018 has a record number of students scoring 30 or better on the ACT test. There’s a lot of super-bright Oklahoma kids who are ready to take on the world. Here’s the bad news: Some 7,119 Oklahoma public school graduates enrolled in at least one remedial class at state colleges or universities in the fall semester of 2016, according to another regents report. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]

OKC’s top-cop cleared of ethics complaint: Oklahoma City’s police chief has been cleared in an ethics investigation that began after four deputy chiefs accused him of retaliating against them for seeking overtime pay. Oklahoma City Auditor Jim Williamson wrote in a letter Wednesday that the allegations against Police Chief Bill Citty “were unsubstantiated.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Minority recruiting a challenge for Oklahoma City police: Most of the Oklahoma City Police Department is staffed by white officers, and officials say they want a better representation of the city they serve. “Obviously, we would love to match the demographics of the city. That’s the goal,” said Capt. Bo Mathews, spokesman for the department. [NewsOK] Striving for a more diverse police force. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Tulsa City Council takes up proposal to let certain professionals certify their own building plans: Tulsa City Council has taken up a proposal to let developers get building permits faster by certifying their own plans. Mayor G.T. Bynum first talked about self-certification in 2017, saying it will spur development. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“You’re very much dependent on the state to be able to maintain a livelihood. If we’re going to grow an economy, health care and education – we’ve just got to get it right.”

-Dr. Dwight Sublett, incoming president of Oklahoma’s Academy of Pediatrics, speaking about the importance of increasing Medicaid provider reimbursement rates to continue health services in rural Oklahoma [Source: Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Percentage of school districts in Oklahoma that do not offer Fine Arts classes.

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Education]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

For the poor, Obamacare can reduce late rent payments: Health insurance helps people avoid huge out-of-pocket medical costs. And preventative care helps people avoid lost wages from missing work, a big part of the benefit for low-income households. But health insurance also helps prevent the cascade of financial damage that unpaid medical bills can inflict, by preserving credit scores. [City Labs]

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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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