In The Know: Budget Uncertainty Leaves Seniors and Oklahomans With Disabilities In Limbo

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

Budget Uncertainty Leaves Seniors and Oklahomans With Disabilities In Limbo: After her divorce, Lori Taylor wanted a home all her own. She moved back to Oklahoma to be near her aging parents, but she had a problem. For years her personal caregiver had been her now ex-husband. “I have cerebral palsy and that’s brain damage that I incurred at birth, and it affects my motor skills. I’m confined to an electric wheelchair. I can stand but I can’t walk, I have very limited use of my arms,” Taylor says, sitting in the living room of her Norman apartment [StateImpact Oklahoma]. The doomsday scenario has already begun — but it can be stopped [OK Policy].

Auditor Gary Jones: Health employees blew whistle months ago: An employee of the Oklahoma State Department of Health came forward about financial mismanagement in July, Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said Thursday. The would-be whistle-blower had already spoken to the auditor’s office as part of an annual financial report. Part of the audit process includes a fraud risk interview, where the people involved confirm that the report would contain no fraudulent information or anything else that would compromise the audit’s integrity [NewsOK].

SQ 640 has made Oklahoma ungovernable: In March 1992, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 640. It passed by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, but with nothing else on the ballot that day, there was very low turnout. The total number of voters was less than one-third (32 percent) of registered voters in the state, and it was less than half (48 percent) of the number of voters who would turn out later that year for the Presidential election. For example, President Bill Clinton, who received just 34 percent of the vote in Oklahoma in 1992, still had nearly 100,000 more votes than State Question 640 [OK Policy]. Someone pinch us to make sure we’re not dreaming [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World].

Call me: Lawmakers still waiting for topics for second special session: The Oklahoma Legislature is slated to begin its second special session on Monday, but lawmakers still aren’t sure what they will be allowed to discuss. Gov. Mary Fallin’s office announced on Dec. 7 she plans to begin the special session Dec. 18. She still has yet to file the executive order authorizing the session. That order also tells them the issues they’re allowed to address. Legislators can file bills only if they pertain to those matters, or as some say, fit the call. Michael McNutt, the governor’s spokesman, said Thursday that it was unlikely the call would come out that day [Journal Record]. Lawmakers, lobbyists and other onlookers have expressed growing anxiety over the uncertainty [NonDoc]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Fund vital services without raiding TSET: Who will blink first? That is the question when state lawmakers return for a second special session Monday. Publicly, at least, there appears little movement on a grand bargain that not only would balance the current state budget, but also put Oklahoma government on a sustainable long-term fiscal course. House leadership is bowed up on one side of the rotunda. Gov. Mary Fallin is bowed up on the other [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]. Don’t touch Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund [OK Policy].

Legislation looks for local control concerning charter schools: It’s time to give local school boards and taxpayers the final say over whether charter schools should be allowed to open in their districts, one state senator said this week. State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, said he’s filed legislation to reverse a 2015 law allowing Oklahoma State Board of Education to overrule decisions made by locally elected school boards when it is time to approve creation of new charter schools. “We were told that the legislation would give the local school boards complete autonomy,” Sharp said [CNHI].

New study presents recommendations to reverse ‘massive’ growth at Tulsa Jail: The “need is urgent” for city and county leaders to reform Tulsa’s pretrial justice system to stem the growing jail population, according to a Tulsa County criminal justice reform study released Thursday. Findings and recommendations from the study, which was performed by the Vera Institute of Justice, were presented to the Tulsa Board of County Commissioners during its weekly management conference. The 54-page report examines the factors propelling jail growth and what can be done to safely reduce the number of incarcerations [Tulsa World]. The full report is available here. Oklahoma’s urban justice systems are set for big changes. But who will fix rural jails? [OK Policy]

Two former Oklahoma County jailers charged with assault related to inmate death: Two former Oklahoma County jailers have been charged with assault after an investigation into the death of an inmate who was repeatedly shot by pepper balls. Colton Ray, 26, and Brian Harrison, 33, were charged Thursday with felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. At the time of the April incident, both were assigned to a special reaction team in the jail, records show [NewsOK].

Humphreys: No plans to resign from OU Regents: Embattled former Mayor Kirk Humphreys told The Oklahoman on Thursday he has no plans to resign as Vice Chairman of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents or from any other boards. “I intend to continue on all of the boards on which I currently serve,” Humphreys said in a text message. Humphreys, a businessman, also is chairman of the John Rex Charter Elementary School board and serves on the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. board of directors [NewsOK].

Governor Mary Fallin happy Oklahoma no longer one of the five least healthy states, encourages more improvements: Governor Mary Fallin released a statement saying she is glad Oklahoma has improved its health rankings from last year, while also encouraging residents of the state to keep improving. Governor Fallin released a statement, applauding the efforts by state health officials and Oklahoma’s citizens in making Oklahoma a healthier state, according to the results of a national study. Oklahoma moved up three spots in the annual America’s Health Rankings report compiled by United Health Foundation [KFOR]. The full report is available here

Economists see growth and development in local outlook: The national economy is humming right along and locally things are starting to stabilize following the recent collapse in oil prices. That was the take away from the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s State of the Economy on Thursday where local economists and industry experts discussed current trends and their local impact. “It doesn’t get much better than it is right now,” said Jim Huntzinger, executive vice president and chief investment officer with BOK Financial, during his keynote presentation on the national economy [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City schools gear up for massive technology upgrades: District leaders and edtech evangelists at Oklahoma City Public Schools are barreling toward a big year in 2018. Ever since Oklahoma voters approved a bond issue in November 2016 that allotted more than $52 million to technology purchases and upgrades for the district, OKCPS’s IT staff has been gearing up, according to Eric Hileman, the district IT director. …With the bond, the district has enough funding to build a 100-gigabyte core network, which aligns with standards and guidelines established by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), of which Hileman is an emeritus board member [EdScoop].

Neighbors aspires to give voters an option for mayor: Taylor Neighbors says Oklahoma City’s next mayor needs to lead the city toward a future in which it competes globally and benchmarks its progress against the world’s best cities. Oklahoma City needs to “be right behind New York City and San Francisco when it comes to innovation and be the dominant power in middle America,” she said. The 21-year-old University of Oklahoma student is one of three candidates who filed for the Feb. 13 mayoral primary [NewsOK].

Positive Tomorrows to reduce barriers with new walls: Positive Tomorrows’ president and principal, Susan Agel, has spent the last eight years trying to get more students into the school. And she’s finally out of room. “If I tried to add more children in here, I’d have a revolt,” she said. “We’re still turning children away.” The school teaches homeless students from kindergarten through fifth grade. The students have families but they don’t have a permanent home. The school measures 8,000 square feet and is at capacity with 74 children [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“If they cut that ADvantage [waiver] program, it’s not hyperbole to say that people are truly going to die, in their own homes.” 

– Oklahoman Lori Taylor, who has cerebral palsy and relies on the ADvantage waiver for in-home support services. She’s one of more than 22,000 Oklahomans whose care is at risk due to DHS budget cuts (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools in 2017, up by more than 1,000 from the previous year

Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Protecting Students and Taxpayers: Why the Trump Administration Should Heed History of Bipartisan Efforts: Traditionally, federal support for students to attend college was bipartisan. While providing federal student aid through landmark programs like the GI Bill of Rights, the Pell Grant, and student loans, both Republican and Democratic Administrations and Congresses enacted laws and crafted regulations (or rules) to protect taxpayer investments in higher education from predatory postsecondary schools (colleges and universities). That included curbing abuses and fraud, and holding poor performing career education programs at schools accountable — including by barring such schools from participating in student aid programs. Policymakers have pursued accountability efforts because: (1) federal student aid should benefit students, and thus, not be available to institutions that engage in abusive practices, and (2) the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer funds are not wasted [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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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