In The Know: Teacher pay struggles; health insurance enrollment lags; making SQ 780 retroactive…

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

Tulsa World analysis: Some school districts still struggling to keep up in competitive hiring market after statewide teacher pay raises: Chelsea Archie never considered the pay when she signed her first contract to become a teacher at Broken Arrow Public Schools five years ago. But after she and her husband started a family and began to feel the strain on their two teaching incomes, she did a little homework and was shocked by what she found. [Tulsa World] Another teacher pay raise, adjustments to the school funding formula and streamlining student data are all policy proposals Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt has made as part of a pledge to make Oklahoma a top 10 state in education. [NewsOK ????

Oklahoma health insurance enrollment behind last year: About 4,500 fewer Oklahomans have signed up to buy health insurance through the exchange than did at this time last year, raising concerns that more will go without insurance in 2019. Open enrollment runs through Dec. 15. [NewsOK] Health insurance costs took a big jump last year, and it’s hitting Oklahoma families in the pocketbook. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Some Oklahoma lawmakers want to make State Question 780 retroactive: When granting commutations to 21 nonviolent offenders Wednesday, Gov. Mary Fallin said there are still about 1,000 people in Oklahoma prisons for low-level drug offenses who wouldn’t be there today if State Question 780 had been in place. [NewsOK ????] Earlier this year, we discussed why making SQ 780 retroactive is smart policy – and a moral necessity.

Maps: The 2019 Legislature: There will be plenty of new faces when Oklahoma’s 57th Legislature convenes in 2019. Fifty-six newly elected lawmakers will make up the freshman class of the 101-member House. The 48-seat Senate, meanwhile, will welcome 10 first-term lawmakers. Republicans will continue to hold large majorities in both chambers, with GOP legislators outnumbering Democrats 77-24 in the House and 39-9 in the Senate. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tulsa-area lawmakers draw large crowd of education leaders, community members at forum in Jenks: Area lawmakers say public education funding is still chief among the concerns of many constituents ahead of the upcoming legislative session. At a Friday forum hosted by Jenks Public Schools, state Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow, and state Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, said the most common question they’ve been receiving from parents and educators is what can be done to raise funding to reduce class sizes driven up by a decade of state funding reductions and growing student enrollment. [Tulsa World] On the OK Policy blog, we previously discussed why how funding class size reductions would build on the progress made last spring and likely improve education outcomes in Oklahoma.

Moderate Republicans aren’t dead. They’re hiding in plain sight: Moderate Republicans, always prone to pessimism, had ample reason for despair after Tuesday’s House election results. Yet the picture looks considerably more favorable for moderates below the level of national politics. And even in deep-red states, such as Kansas and Oklahoma, there are indications that moderation may be the political wave of the future. [Geoffrey Kabaservice /Washington Post]

Oklahoma’s future rests in the hands of two very different oil billionaires: George Kaiser, a 76-year-old Oklahoma banker and oilman giving away almost his entire $10.5 billion fortune, wants higher taxes on his own industry. … Harold Hamm, founder of Oklahoma City oil-and-gas giant Continental Resources Inc., has fought to keep things as they are: lean budgets, lax environmental regulations and low fossil-fuel levies. [Bloomberg]

Norman well-represented in Oklahoma House, Senate leadership positions: As the Oklahoma legislature prepares for the upcoming spring session, leadership positions for parties in both the House and Senate have been set; Norman is well-represented. Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, was elected to serve as the majority whip for the State Republican Caucus in 2019 and 2020. Democrats had previously announced that Norman’s Emily Virgin will serve as the House minority leader in 2019. [Norman Transcript]

Lawmaker urges voters to participate in ‘lesser’ elections: Oklahoma’s new legislators have been sworn in, and lawmakers are looking toward the next legislative session, which begins Feb. 4, 2019. Speaking recently, State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, said turnout in Oklahoma for the state races and federal midterms was monumental. It is two years until the presidential elections, but Pemberton expressed his wish to see more voters show up for local elections, pointing to typical turnouts of 10-20 percent. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Lawmaker serious about bill deeming ribeye as Oklahoma’s state steak: It’s not enough that Oklahoma’s official state meal features a chicken-fried steak. State Sen. W. Casey Murdock said he wants to draw more attention to the beef industry by designating the ribeye as Oklahoma’s official steak cut. [Journal Record]

Wayne Greene: My take on what happens when you fill the Capitol with a bunch of freshmen legislators: When he was running for governor, Kevin Stitt said that we can’t expect different results in state government if we keep hiring the same people. We’re going to have a chance to give that proposition the acid test real soon. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]

Letter to the Editor: Legislature needs to review health risks in ease of having unvaccinated children: I have watched with increasing concern as more parents have begun to question the safety and validity of immunizations. Today’s parents are raising their children in the digital age, and they receive information in an entirely different way than their parents and grandparents did. [

After eight years as governor, Fallin says Oklahoma better now: When Mary Fallin leaves public office on Jan. 14, the eyes of history will turn to her legacy and the defining moments of a political career, some of it beset with fiscal turmoil, scandals within her agencies and an embarrassingly high incarceration rate. [NewsOK]

Governor-elect Stitt’s transition team coping with construction: Kevin Stitt is taking over the governor’s office in January, but it will be a while before he moves into it. The project intended to bring the Capitol building up to 21st-century standards has made its way to the second floor, where several offices including the governor’s will be remodeled in 2019. [Journal Record ????]

Pinnell wants to work with governor ‘as much as we can’: Oklahoma voters recently rejected the idea of a governor and lieutenant governor running on the same ticket, but Lt. Gov.-elect Matt Pinnell said he plans to show voters what that concept could look like. “I hope that the governor-elect and myself are going to show voters what it would have looked like if you had us on the same ticket, because I think we are going to try to operate that way, working together as much as we can,” he said. [NewsOK]

OSBI evaluates whether fired pharmacy board leader bribed attorney, deleted evidence amid marijuana rules controversy: Authorities investigating bribery allegations related to medical marijuana rules could also determine the validity of a new claim that the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy and its former director tampered with evidence in efforts to conceal misconduct. [Tulsa World]

$3.9 million plan hopes to curb obesity in rural Oklahoma: To reduce Oklahoma’s skyrocketing obesity rate, tens of thousands of families will need to change their daily eating habits. And officials admit that, realistically, it will take more than a five-year pilot program to make that happen. But Oklahoma State University has a $3.9 million plan to at least get started. [Tulsa World]

Norman looks to reduce marijuana penalties: Following in the footsteps of its northern neighbor, the City of Norman is considering removing the possibility of jail time for simple marijuana possession. Assistant City Attorney Rick Knighton said the revision was supposed to move forward with the city’s medical marijuana zoning restrictions. Despite passing on first reading, the zoning rules are now on hold as cities across the state wait to see what comes out of Tulsa County Court. [Norman Transcript]

Norman Mayor: I don’t plan to run again: One of the things that is really hard to understand, and is often a source of major frustration with our residents is how very long it takes the City to get things done. After the last 5.5 years on the council I share the frustration but now I understand it better. What has really impressed me is the willingness of so many to keep working on things despite difficulties until they get done. [Lynne Miller / Norman Transcript]

City of Tulsa working to implement text notifications for court fines: The City of Tulsa hopes to get a text-notification system off the ground next year that will remind people to pay municipal court fines. Working with Code for Tulsa, the city tried texting a pool of people put on payment plans once a month ahead of their deadline. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Cherokee Nation forms conservation district: The Cherokee Nation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the creation of a new conservation district that will help the Cherokee Nation manage natural resources, secure assistance for conservation projects and encourage conservation practices on tribally owned land. [Journal Record]

Foundation claims major donors are leaving because of OETA power grab: Major donors to public television in Oklahoma are withholding their support because of an increasingly bitter dispute between OETA and the OETA Foundation. The private foundation on Thursday made that disclosure in a petition asking an Oklahoma County judge to get involved in the dispute. [NewsOK ????

Quote of the Day

“I said, ‘This insurance won’t kick in until next year.’ She said, ‘Well, then I’m going to have a broken arm until next year, because I can’t afford it.’ That’s what I’m trying to avoid.”

-Andrea Chica-Rodriguez, a health insurance navigator at the Latino Community Development Agency, on why she is urging people to sign up for insurance on before the open enrollment deadline of Dec. 15. [Source: NewsOK]

Number of the Day


The percentage decrease of paroles in Oklahoma from 2008 to 2017.

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

America’s health-care system is making the opioid crisis worse: Most of the general public thinks you should go to rehab if you have opioid addiction,” says Adam Bisaga, a professor of psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Center. “But 70 percent of the success is giving [patients] the medication.” Adding things like housing and psychotherapy can bring the success rate up, but, Basiga adds, “the core of it is really medication.” He puts it this way: “If you have diabetes, you need insulin. Without insulin, you will perish.” Without easy access to Suboxone and other medications, people addicted to heroin continue to perish at a terrifying rate. [The Atlantic]

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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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