In The Know: Advocates back proposed pay hike for state employees

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.

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Today In The News

Advocates back proposed pay hike for state employees: When Carrie Croy first began working for the Department of Corrections 14 years ago, she never thought she’d have to take on a second job just to pay the bills. After all, Croy said Thursday, she was a military veteran, had a bachelor’s degree and planned to advance her career with more education. “I now hold two master’s degrees and still have two jobs,” said Croy, who works as a probation and parole officer for the state and also for her apartment complex [NewsOK]. Oklahoma House gives some staff pay raises amid budget crisis [FOX25].

Edmondson wants gross production tax raised to 7 percent: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson praised business leaders for recognizing the state has a “revenue problem” but said he would raise taxes on oil and gas production higher than proposed by the Step Up Oklahoma coalition. “I think what they have done is commendable,” Edmondson said of the revenue and reform package unveiled last week by the group of business and civic leaders [NewsOK].

Proposed raid on school land fund not legal, official says: Three legislators’ plan to take money from the corpus of the state’s $2.4 billion school land trust fund to pay for teachers’ raises would literally take an act of Congress — and a state constitutional amendment — the official in charge of the trust said Thursday. “We’re not against salary increases for teachers,” said Commissioners of the Land Office Secretary Harry Birdwell. “But this is not a source that can do this. You’d have to change the (state) constitution and the Oklahoma Enabling Act.” [Tulsa World] Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy].

A warning to lawmakers who don’t support education: Tulsa’s new chamber chair wants to replace you: BOK Financial CEO Steve Bradshaw on Thursday urged area business and community leaders to demand the state increase funding for teacher pay and public education. The effort, he said, should include the recruitment of new candidates and the replacement of legislators who do not see education funding as a critical priority. “We should absolutely have a zero-tolerance stance when it comes to those unwilling to have the courage to seek sustaining solutions for public education,” he said [Tulsa World]. Aggressive political work for education and nonstop flights are on the new chamber chairman’s to-do list [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World].

Thousands of bills filed before deadline: One of Oklahoma’s wildest frenzies is almost over for the year. Bill filing deadline hit on Thursday afternoon. The state’s 149 lawmakers and their chambers’ staff attorneys submitted thousands of pieces of legislation before 4 o’clock. Although some bills come through a little earlier, the bulk of the year’s bills were submitted then. Lobbyists and advocates will spend Friday and likely the weekend collecting preliminary information to begin strategizing or preparing their clients to do so [Journal Record].

Special, regular sessions likely to overlap: One of Oklahoma’s top legislative officials said it’s likely the special session will continue into February, overlapping with the regular session. After Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed much of the budget that came out of the first special session, she called a second that began in December. In her statements on the veto, she said that Oklahoma needs new revenue, and it’s unlikely lawmakers will pass any new taxes in an election year [Journal Record]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Okla. Mental Health Dept. Asking For Millions In 2018 Budget: The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is asking the legislature for tens of millions of dollars more that the agency budgeted last year. The agency director says the state has to spend money to save money. This is the time of year when state agencies begin presenting their budgets to lawmakers. It’s also the time when lawmakers are bracing for budget shortfalls [NewsOn6].

How Increasing The Minimum Wage Could Lead To Healthier Babies: Jacob is just a few hours old when registered nurse Amy Burnett begins one of the simplest measurements to tell if a newborn is healthy — their weight. “You want to make sure that they are naked, they have no diaper, and you bring him to the scale,” she says as she removes his tiny Pampers. She gently picks him up, confidently balancing his body on her forearm like a football. Her purple gloved fingers encircle his neck as she hits a button on the scale, which beeps loudly, zeroing it out [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Oklahoma ​should avoid the temptation to pass new Medicaid​ restrictions​: Recently the Trump Administration opened the door to serious new restrictions on Medicaid by announcing they would allow and encourage states to impose ​employment and other “community engagement” requirements on working-age adults. Ten states have already submitted requests to do so, although just one state, Kentucky, has been approved so far. Oklahoma lawmakers might be tempted to follow suit. They shouldn’t be [OK Policy]. Making Medicaid a Tool for Moral Education May Let Some Die [The New York Times].

Tulsa Jail’s mental health pod full, but ‘we’re punishing people instead of helping them’: She had seen her son in jail before. More times than she can remember, in fact, with arrests dating back to the 1990s. But she had always gone to a designated visiting area. This time, Marilyn Welton was taking a rare private tour of the Tulsa Jail’s new mental health pod when she saw her 48-year-old son locked inside a cell, with bare white walls, a stainless steel toilet and a slab for a bed [Tulsa World].

Gov. Mary Fallin urges law enforcement agencies to share information with sexual assault task force: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday urged law enforcement agencies that failed to meet a December deadline to look for untested rape kits in their possession and submit reports to the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence. An executive order from the governor in April 2017 set a Dec. 30, 2017, deadline for law enforcement agencies to audit their evidence rooms and submit their findings to the task force and the state Attorney General’s Office. The information is to include the number of untested evidence collection kits in their possession [Tulsa World].

State auditor asks court to force him to release Tar Creek audit: Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones has asked a court to order him to release an audit that the attorney general wants to keep confidential. In November, a watchdog group filed suit against Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Jones seeking the release of an audit concerning alleged unlawful contracting in the EPA’s Tar Creek Superfund site. The Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability filed suit in Oklahoma County District Court asking for the release of the investigatory audit done by Jones at the request of former Attorney General Scott Pruitt [Tulsa World].

Broadband benefits elude rural towns: Patrons in four rural communities are on long waiting lists for one of the hottest items at the city’s library: a wireless hot spot. The program is free for the libraries for the first year, as part of a research project Oklahoma State University agricultural economist Brian Whitacre is conducting. He’s trying to diminish the digital divide between rural and urban Oklahoma. But cost remains a consistent barrier to expanding broadband in sparsely populated areas [Journal Record].

Federal judge in OKC once deemed unqualified is approved by a Senate committee: A federal judge in Oklahoma City who faced questions about his work habits after being deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association was approved for a promotion by a Senate committee Thursday. Charles Goodwin, a federal magistrate judge, was nominated by President Donald Trump in July to be a federal district judge for Oklahoma’s western half. His nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 15-6 [NewsOK].

Trump’s Pick to Head NASA to Host Bill Nye ‘Science Guy’: President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead NASA has faced contentious Senate confirmation hearings over his past comments dismissing man-made causes for global warming, and now U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine is touting his relationship with Bill Nye “The Science Guy.” The Republican from Oklahoma announced Thursday that Nye will accompany him to Trump’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address. A U.S. Senate committee Thursday narrowly approved Bridenstine’s nomination, pushing him closer to a final vote [AP].

Oklahoma Health Officials Say 45 People Have Died From Flu: Oklahoma health officials say 45 people have died from the flu in the state this season, and about 1,400 people have been hospitalized. The Oklahoma Department of Health said Thursday all of the deaths and more than half of those hospitalized for flu since Sept. 1 are age 50 and over. Ten deaths have been recorded in Tulsa County, more than any other county [AP]. Go get your flu shot. Yes, you. Now [OK Policy].

Quote of the Day

“We should absolutely have a zero-tolerance stance when it comes to those unwilling to have the courage to seek sustaining solutions for public education.”

– BOK Financial CEO and Tulsa Regional Chamber Chairman Steve Bradshaw (Source)

Number of the Day

$162.6 million

Amount of marketing money spent by tobacco industry in Oklahoma in 2017

Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How The Gap Used an App to Give Workers More Control Over Their Schedules: Early results of an experiment at The Gap provide hope that there might be a remedy for one of the most controversial labor practices in retailing and other service industries, such as hospitality, health care, and call centers. That practice: schedules that require employees to work different shifts every week. Associates rarely have any control of their schedules, and often get only three days’ notice of next week’s schedule. These volatile and unpredictable schedules can wreak havoc with workers’ child-care arrangements, school classes, and other personal responsibilities. They can make it virtually impossible for part-timers to hold down multiple jobs, and widely fluctuating hours mean workers’ incomes also can fluctuate widely. But this situation could change. Since 2015, stable-scheduling legislation has been passed in four cities (San Francisco, Emeryville, Seattle, New York), one state (Oregon), and introduced in many others [Harvard Business Review].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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