In The Know: Agencies helping people with disabilities see ‘drastic’ state aid cuts

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.

Today In The News

Agencies helping people with disabilities struggle adjusting to ‘drastic’ state aid cuts: Agencies serving individuals with disabilities are trying to insulate clients from the effects of statewide budget cuts. Their ability to do so is limited, agency leaders said, as it would be unfair to make their clients live with fewer services, and their employees are already underpaid. Gatesway, which provides residential and employment opportunities for nearly 400 individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, saw a 3.5 percent cut in state aid, which equals about $525,000 [Tulsa World].

Q&A with Kris Steele: Purpose of Criminal Justice Propositions: An advocacy group, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, is seeking more than 65,000 signatures by early June to put two measures before voters on November’s ballot. Should the group garner enough signatures, the ballot would include State Questions 780 and 781, both seeking to address prison overcrowding and community mental health and to reduce sentences for future offenders convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes [Oklahoma Watch]. Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform is one piece of a range of criminal justice reform efforts that are bearing fruit this year [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Tick-tick-tick: The top question for legislators this session is what they are going to do about the massive $1.3 billion budget deficit the state faces. Seven weeks into session, we seem further than ever from an answer. Approaches that Gov. Mary Fallin and the Senate Finance Committee laid out to address the crisis have not gained much traction. The governor, in her State of the State speech, insisted that the shortfall could not be filled simply by cutting budgets and scrounging together one-time revenues [David Blatt / Journal Record]. 

Sand Springs school district asks state Supreme Court to rule on motor vehicle tax distribution: The Sand Springs school district filed a petition Tuesday asking the state Supreme Court to weigh in on a fight over how motor-vehicle tax revenue is distributed to schools. Gary Watts, chief financial officer and general counsel for Sand Springs Public Schools, said earlier this month that his district had lost $184,000 in motor-vehicle taxes so far and could lose more depending on collections during the final months of the fiscal year [Tulsa World].

What happens when Oklahomans can’t legally drive to work or school: If a problem related to mass incarceration can be found anywhere, it’s probably especially bad in Oklahoma. This state is second only to Louisiana in overall incarceration rates (1,310 per 100,000 people). The vast majority of these imprisoned Oklahomans will eventually be released back to the streets, and that means it is especially important for our state to ensure those leaving prison are able to reenter society [OK Policy].

Oil industry downturn puts brakes on Oklahoma trucking industry: Low oil prices are taking a toll on Oklahoma trucking companies. Dugan Truck Line is a “less than truckload” overnight transportation carrier that hauls freight to oil suppliers. Terry Hicks, terminal manager for Dugan Truck Line, said the company is not hauling half the freight it was this time last year [KOCO].

Bill would require AG to track money spent defending anti-abortion law: Three sentences tucked into an anti-abortion bill could shine a light on how the attorney general’s office works. The language, added to Senate Bill 1552 by state Sen. John Sparks, would require the attorney general to report how much the state spends defending the bill, which would strip medical licenses away from doctors who perform abortions. If the bill becomes law, Sparks said, it’s likely to be challenged as unconstitutional and could join about three dozen other laws struck down by state or federal courts in the past decade [Journal Record].

Chief Judge Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals: Don’t change judicial nominating process: Judges 2:10 relates that after the death of Joshua, “there arose another generation … who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel.” We again have a generation that does not know the work of those leaders in Oklahoma who have gone before us to create a judicial selection system for Oklahoma appellate judges that has become a model throughout the U.S [Chief Judge Jerry Goodman / Tulsa World]. Oklahoma is one of 39 states where voters have a role in selecting judges [OK Policy].

Hugo water operator to pay $1 million over violations: The operator of Hugo’s water treatment plant will pay nearly $1 million to help small Oklahoma communities upgrade water treatment facilities as part of a settlement of drinking water violations that left thousands of local residents with unsafe water for months, state officials announced on Wednesday. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said it reached the largest water-quality related settlement in the agency’s 25-year history with London-based Severn Trent Environmental Services, Inc [NewsOK].

Kingfisher County Named Oklahoma’s Healthiest in New Report: A new report finds that Kingfisher County is the healthiest county in Oklahoma, while Jefferson County is considered the state’s unhealthiest. The report was released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute [KGOU]. The full report is available here.

David Walters: Partisan ideology takes its toll on budget: Watching the demise of Oklahoma’s state-government services (public education, health care, corrections, infrastructure funding and mental health, to name a few) is similar to watching a car accident or the Donald Trump campaign: You are horrified, but you can’t take your eyes off of it. Thoughtful Oklahomans want to know how this happened. Thankfully, our Republican state leaders have a ready answer: That unfortunate and periodic crash in energy prices is once again ravaging our state. Nevermind why they were unprepared for massive and historic budget cuts [Gov. David Walters / NonDoc].

Turnpike opponents criticize proposal: About 150 people rallied outside the state Capitol on Wednesday, protesting plans to build a turnpike in east Oklahoma County that they say would lower property values, harm their rural way of life and kill vegetation and wildlife. Some of the property needed for the highway right of way could be obtained through eminent domain, in which payment is made to a landowner to convert private property for public use [NewsOK].

For decades, some TPD officers seeking promotions paid superiors to retire early: For several decades, some Tulsa police officers have paid superiors thousands of dollars to retire early so the officer can fill their jobs before the department’s annual promotion list expires, an investigation by The Frontier and NewsOn6 has found. Officers must complete a written and verbal test to compete for higher ranks and their names are placed on a promotion list in the order of how they scored on those tests [The Frontier & NewsOn6]. 

Study evaluates condition of animals in Oklahoma, sets goals for more humane state: Oklahoma may rank average in its treatment of animals, but a new study lays the groundwork for the state to be among the most humane when it comes to treatment of pets, livestock, wildlife and other animals. The 200-plus page Oklahoma Animal Study, released Wednesday, assesses the situation for each type of creature and makes recommendations that state agencies and other animal-care entities could take to make Oklahoma “the safest and most humane place to be an animal” by 2032 [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“We can’t strike. What are we going to do, wheel our clients to the Capitol doors and walk away? I don’t even know how to fight this. We have no recourse.”

– Mary Ogle, Executive Director of A New Leaf, an agency that provides residential and employment services for 239 clients with disabilities. A 3 percent cut in state aid to A New Leaf means $160,000 less per year (Source)

Number of the Day


Total state prison population in Oklahoma in 2014

Source: OK State Stats

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Disparity in the Life Spans of the Rich and the Poor is Growing: Experts have long known that rich people generally live longer than poor people. But a growing body of evidence shows a more disturbing pattern: Despite big advances in medicine, technology and education, the  longevity gap between high-income and low-income Americans has been widening sharply. The poor are losing ground not only in income, but also in years of life, the most basic measure of well-being [The New York Times].

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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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