In The Know: Why we rank low for health; bail reform still alive; more Stitt vetoes…

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

Investments in prison job training will lower the cost of Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis: Stable employment is the single biggest factor in determining whether Oklahomans released from prison are likely to re-offend. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate for justice-involved Oklahomans is five times higher than the statewide average. Workforce training in prisons is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve public safety. The past ten years of budget cuts and disinvestment from prisons and rehabilitation programs mean that this mechanism for lowering crime has been critically underfunded. [OK Policy]

In The News

Poor health: OHA president links state’s low ranking to lack of insurance: When it comes to the health of its people, Oklahoma is not well-positioned to become a top 10 state, a goal promoted by Gov. Kevin Stitt. In fact, Oklahoma has lost ground to other states, its overall health ranking dropping from 43rd to 47th since 2017, according to Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association. [Journal Record ????] A ballot initiative to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma was filed on April 19, meaning if the initiative follows the correct steps, voters could see it on the 2020 ballot as State Question 802. [Duncan Banner]

Oklahoma governor appoints 5 to Board of Corrections: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has named five appointees to the Oklahoma Board of Corrections. Stitt on Tuesday announced the appointments of retired corrections department deputy director Reginald Hines, psychologist Dr. Kathryn LaFortune, mortgage company chief information officer Steven Harpe, construction company owner Rodney Thornton and former small business owner Betty Gesell. [AP News]

Bail reform bill still alive in Legislature: A criminal justice reform measure aimed at changing the bail process continues to roll through the Legislature. Senate Bill 252 by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, is aimed at addressing criticisms of the current bail system that it unnecessarily jails impoverished individuals for low-level crimes pending trial because they can’t afford bail. [Tulsa World] An Open Justice Oklahoma report found that bail reform could save Oklahoma counties and communities millions.

Stitt vetoes bills on hunting, #oklaed, public workers: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed three bills Monday night and a four Tuesday evening. His actions halt legislative efforts to authorize hunting guides on public land, to create a state definition for “instructional expenditure” by schools, to allow a process for certifying local police and fire unions, and to increase benefits for lower-salary state workers. [NonDoc]

Stitt signs campus free speech bill: Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities will be prohibited from creating “free-speech zones” under a new law. A bill Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law Monday essentially doubles down on free speech rights already guaranteed to college students under the First Amendment. [NewsOK]

Governor signs bill protecting undercover officers: Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed legislation into law that protects the confidentiality of undercover law officers. Senate Bill 679 was authored by Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, and Rep. Chris Kannady, R- Oklahoma City. [FOX25]

Stitt forgoes loan repayments in first quarter: Gov. Kevin Stitt raised more than $105,000 in the first three months of 2019 but didn’t use donor money to repay any of the nearly $5 million he loaned his campaign. Stitt’s campaign collected $84,000 from individuals and $21,250 from special interest groups, according to a report filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. He finished the quarter with $262,496 in his campaign account. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma Supreme Court rules restricting drug-induced abortions is unconstitutional: Oklahoma’s Supreme Court on Tuesday scrapped a state law that restricts access to drug-induced abortions, according to The Associated Press. The 2014 measure, signed by then-Gov. Mary Fallin (R), outlawed “off-label” use of mifepristone, or RU-486, an abortifacient medication, making Oklahoma the only state with such a restriction on the books. [The Hill]

Small-business growth program made more accessible with change in Oklahoma law: Officials with the Tulsa Regional Chamber are hopeful that a reworked version of a small-business growth tool will spur more participation in the program. House Bill 2536, by Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, is an expansion of the Small Employer Quality Jobs program to help bolster an underused program. [Tulsa World]

Change to Oklahoma’s new alcohol laws runs into opposition: SB 608 would require the top 25 wine and spirits brands to offer their products to all wholesalers. State Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, and state Sen. Kim David, R-Tulsa, co-authored the amendment that replaced other language in an earlier version of SB 608. [Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma passes bill outlawing misleading meat labeling: A bill has recently been signed into law in Oklahoma that will prohibit deceptive or misleading labeling of meat products, and in essence prevents cell cultured or plant based products from using meat terms. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 392 on April 26 after it had passed overwhelming in both the state House (93-0) and Senate (47-1). [Ag Professional]

‘They’ve tried to silence me’: Wildlife commissioner’s appointment rescinded under Senate pressure: Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Danny Robbins was only mildly surprised when Gov. Kevin Stitt rescinded his nomination for a second term, but he was scathingly angry. [Tulsa World]

How does Oklahoma average teacher pay compare to surrounding states? Statewide pay raises lifted Oklahoma’s average teacher salary from its longtime ranking of 49th in the nation to 34th overall, according to a new state-by-state comparison. The National Education Association’s annual Rankings and Estimates found that Oklahoma’s average salary, including all state-paid benefits such as retirement and health care premiums, rose 13.2% from $46,300 in 2017-18 to $52,412 in the current academic year. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma leading the way in training Native American doctors: Fewer than one-half percent of U.S. doctors are Native American, but efforts are underway in Oklahoma to enroll more Native Americans in medical school and to bring more physicians to Indian Country. The Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences will open the nation’s first college of medicine on tribal land in 2020 through a partnership with the Cherokee Nation. [NewsOK]

Comanche County ranks first in the state for specific STD/STI cases: Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are on the rise in southwest Oklahoma. Comanche County ranked first in both gonorrhea and chlamydia cases. The state of Oklahoma ranked sixteenth in chlamydia and sixth in gonorrhea, according to the most recent reports for the U.S. [KSWO]

With MAPS 3 waning, OKC budget drops: Oklahoma City’s proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year is $1.55 billion, a slight and expected decrease, as the MAPS 3 sales tax fund is drawn down. The budget includes funding for streetcar service seven days per week, making Sunday service permanent. It makes permanent a $110,000 increase in funding for the Homeless Alliance. [NewsOK]

Gist proposes reorganization plan for Tulsa Public Schools staff: Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist is proposing a reorganization that may result in dozens of job changes at the district. The plan would mean four fewer district positions, but 12 more school support positions and 20 additional positions embedded in schools. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“Increasing access to health care for hard-working Oklahomans is good for our district, our hospitals, our health clinics and our state. Being a business person like Governor Stitt, I see the 900% return available to us on the tax dollars we pay to the federal government and I want to bring those dollars back to Oklahoma.”

-Rep. Marcus McEntire (R- Duncan), on why he is advocating for a plan to expand health coverage in Oklahoma [Source: Duncan Banner]

Number of the Day


Number of municipal governments in Oklahoma (2017).

[Source: 2017 Census of Governments]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

I’m embarrassed by my prenatal depression. Here’s why I talk about it anyway: Though both of my children were born healthy and hearty, and have no lasting issues, I still feel embarrassed by what I went through, as if needing psychiatric help during pregnancy is a black mark on my maternal report card. But today is World Maternal Mental Health Day, so it makes sense to talk frankly about what I experienced. As many as one in five women will experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders; including prenatal and postpartum anxiety, and depression and psychosis. About 8 percent of American women take antidepressants during pregnancy. [New York Times]

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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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