In The Know: Study examines state’s public employee system, Epic schools’ expenditures scrutinized, and more

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

Study bolsters case for civil service changes: A study commissioned by the State Chamber of Oklahoma Research Foundation offers support for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desire to change the civil service system that currently defines how most state employees are hired, paid and protected. The study, which examined how several other states have evaluated and made changes to civil service systems, concluded among other things that Oklahoma’s merit system of personnel administration lacks consistency in the way employees are classified across state agencies. [Journal Record????]

Epic Charter Schools shielding $50 million in taxpayer funds from public scrutiny: On top of a 10 percent cut of every dollar of revenue, Epic Charter Schools is paying its for-profit management company millions more in taxpayer dollars every year for school expenditures that are never audited and which Epic claims are shielded from public scrutiny. [Tulsa World]

Two Oklahoma tribes face opposition in requests to participate in lawsuit over gaming compacts: Five Oklahoma gaming tribes have asked a federal judge to reject requests by two other tribes to participate in their lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt. The two tribes facing opposition are the Kialegee Tribal Town headquartered in Wetumka and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians which is headquartered in Tahlequah. [Oklahoman]

Point of View: Time to set election date on Medicaid expansion: When it comes to Medicaid expansion, more than 300,000 Oklahomans just like me have raised our voices to be heard loud and clear — and it’s time for the governor to listen to those voices and set an election date for State Question 802. [Angie Giselbach / Oklahoman]

A year since opioid settlement, how close is OSU to spending any of the $200M for addiction support?: Set to receive a total of $197.5 million from the state’s $270 million settlement with opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, OSUCHS officials said they expect the final green light soon from the state attorney general that will allow the money to be used. Following that, hopefully this summer, they want to roll out their strategic plan and announce their statewide partnerships. [Tulsa World]

Attorney general dismisses lawsuit against three opioid distributors, but plans to refile later: In what is being described as a “strategic move,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter dismissed the state’s lawsuit against three large opioid distributors Friday, but said he plans to individually sue the companies later in state court. [Oklahoman] Dismissing the charges takes the case out of federal court, according to Hunter’s office. [Tulsa World]

Architect of TSET opposed to proposed changes to the tobacco money ‘lockbox’: The architect of the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust said he opposes efforts to change its funding structure. Drew Edmondson was attorney general when the state in 1998 reached an agreement with tobacco companies called the Master Settlement Agreement. [Tulsa World]

Political notebook: A lot of bills will be headed to the shredder at the state Capitol this week: Perhaps as many as half the 2,300 bills and joint resolutions filed for this year’s legislative session will be scrap paper by Thursday night. House bills must be advanced by a House committee and Senate bills must be advanced by a Senate committee to remain under consideration after the close of business Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Legislators discuss bills, talk Medicaid expansion: Stillwater’s legislative delegation, Rep. John Talley, R – Dist. 33, Rep. Trish Ranson, D – Dist. 34, and Sen. Tom Dugger, R – Stillwater, gathered for the monthly legislative forum hosted by the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce and updated constituents on what the legislature is working on. [CNHI / Stillwater News-Press]

Tulsa World editorial: HB 3214 would makes juvenile facilities the default placement for young prisoners: Children don’t belong in adult jails. House Bill 3214, which was approved by a House committee last week, would make juvenile detention centers the default place for holding children under age 17 and accused of crimes. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] An OK Policy report showed justice reinvestment offers a model to support vulnerable Oklahoma youth.

Legal challenge filed against permitless carry repeal petition: The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association on Friday filed a legal challenge to proposed State Question 809, which seeks to repeal the law that allows most Oklahomans to carry a firearm without training or a permit. [Oklahoman]

State representative backtracks on his own bill after ‘stop and frisk’ concerns: District 18 Representative David Smith, R-McAlester, said he authored House Bill 3359 with the intent to crack down on crime — but backed away from the bill after it raised “stop and frisk” concerns and passed with an amendment through the House Judiciary Committee this week. [CNHI / McAlester News-Capital]

Oklahoma town doesn’t have the nation’s lowest life expectancy after all: Digging into the original data from the CDC report, Cherokee Nation officials noticed several discrepancies. “The math was accurate,” said Dr. David Gahn, medical director for Cherokee Nation public health. “But the results were based on assumptions that did not hold true.” The National Center for Health Statistics has revised its estimates on life expectancy and will publish the results “in the next month or so,” a spokesman told the Tulsa World. [Tulsa World]

Talk of coronavirus common in Oklahoma doctor offices, pharmacies: Across the Sooner State, doctors and pharmacists are hearing from patients who are concerned about the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease that first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has infected some travelers from the Asian country’s mainland. [Oklahoman]

Judge raps Water Board for ignoring pollution concerns in granting injunction against poultry operation: A large Delaware County poultry operation could be shut down with its water-well permit revoked “at any time” as a district court judge granted a preliminary injunction in ruling against the state agency that issued the permit Friday. [Tulsa World]

‘Life changing for them’: Medical team helps those who live on the streets: The first patient of the afternoon takes a seat on a metal folding chair next to a box of donated food while Jacki Sauter puts a blood pressure cuff on his arm and Whitney Phillips, a physician assistant, asks questions about how he’s feeling. The last time they cared for him, they re-dressed the bandages on a stab wound he’d suffered while living on Tulsa’s streets. [Tulsa World]

OSBI to investigate Dove Charter Schools after recruitment mailers sent to children’s homes: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will open an investigation into Dove Charter Schools officials, who have been accused of illegally accessing and sharing confidential student information. [Oklahoman]

Governor makes announcements, updates during visit to Woodward: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt made a quick visit to Woodward on Friday. Bank of Western Oklahoma hosted a lunch at Waggs where Stitt announced that Jimmy Harrel, owner of the Bank of Western Oklahoma, has been named to join the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agriculture and Mechanical Colleges, which includes Oklahoma State University. [Woodward News] Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced also announced his new appointment to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, Tulsa accountant Anita Holloway. [NonDoc]

Cash bail assistance organization reps draw ire of district judges: Representatives of The Bail Project received some sharp pushback from two of Oklahoma County’s district judges and the DA’s office Thursday during the Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) meeting. [Free Press OKC]

Innocent Tulsans featured on ‘Live PD’ lament becoming entertainment fodder in name of police transparency: Maurice Morrison felt an anger rise inside him when he saw the cameras. Neither he nor his friend had committed any crimes, yet there they were, in a fast-food restaurant parking lot near Pine Street and Lewis Avenue, being broadcast live to a national television audience as suspects in an allegedly stolen vehicle. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We have Oklahomans who desperately need access to cancer treatments, heart medicine and other life-saving care, and we can’t keep looking the other way while hard-working folks slip through the cracks.”

– Angie Giselbach, speaking about the need for Medicaid expansion as outlined in SQ 802  [Angie Giselbach / Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The amount of fines and fees which were not collected between 2012 and 2018.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Small towns in much of the country are dangerously dependent on punitive fines and fees: Throughout the country, smaller cities and towns generate major dollars from different types of fines, sometimes accounting for more than half of their revenues. Some places are known for being speed traps. Others prop up their budgets using traffic cameras, parking citations or code enforcement violations. The states that stood out in the analysis were Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, plus New York. [Governing]

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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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