In The Know: CEO Nico Gomez to resign from Oklahoma Health Care Authority

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

CEO Nico Gomez to resign from Oklahoma Health Care Authority: Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez announced his impending resignation Monday afternoon in a press release. The release notes his final day will be Sept. 30. Gomez assumed the CEO’s position from Mike Fogarty, who retired in 2013. He had previously served as the agency’s legislative liaison, and in the past three years he worked closely with legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin’s office to navigate the state’s tight budget situation [NonDoc].

The New Scourge of Meth: The methamphetamine scourge is spreading again in Oklahoma, with fatal overdoses from the drug spiking last year, according to numbers from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Meth was a factor in 265 deaths in 2015, or nearly a third of all fatal overdoses. The total represented a 157 percent increase since 2010, when 103 deaths were attributed solely or partly to meth [Oklahoma Watch].

Medical marijuana petition unlikely to make November ballot: A petition to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma is unlikely to go before voters in November because advocates say they will challenge the attorney general’s rewording of the ballot title — a legal process certain to push the measure beyond the general election. But state officials say it’ll be delayed because supporters of State Question 788 didn’t submit the required 65,987 voter signatures to qualify with enough buffer time for legal challenges and for the state’s Election Board to print and send ballots to counties, military members and overseas voters [Associated Press]. SQ 792 will be the only alcohol question on November ballot after a competing measure that would phase in strong beer and wine sales at grocery stores missed its signature gathering deadline [NewsOK]. Read about the State Questions that will be on the ballot [OK Policy].

New federal education law could change how we fund high-poverty schools: When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in December, Congress changed the language to a key requirement of Title I, the federal program that is the primary source of federal funds for public schools. Title I funding goes to schools that include a large number or high percentage of “disadvantaged” students, meaning students in low-income families, foster homes, or who have been abused or neglected [OK Policy]. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has been traveling the state talking about ESSA and asking for input from Oklahomans [NewsOn6]. You can take a 17-question survey on how the state should measure student progress, accountability, and how the state can help low-performing schools and teacher certification, here.

Schools want quick resolution in lawsuit against Tax Commission: A group of school districts is trying to expedite a ruling against the Oklahoma Tax Commission that would change how motor vehicle taxes are apportioned. In a filing for summary judgment, attorney Robert Nance wrote that both parties agree on the facts. What’s left to dispute, he wrote, is whether OTC is acting outside the law. Gary Watts, an attorney for Sand Springs Public Schools who is helping with the case, said the OTC is still distributing motor vehicle taxes incorrectly [Journal Record].

Educate Oklahoma: Education Budget Crisis: A recent News On 6 Poll shows our public schools have plenty of room for improvement. We asked Oklahomans what grade they would give Oklahoma schools. More people handed out Fs than As, but overall, Oklahomans give our schools a C+ grade. Nearly 87 percent of people we surveyed believe funding is key to raising the grade. However, Oklahoma schools took a beating this year with massive cuts in state funding [NewsOn6]. Oklahoma has cut state general education funding more than any other state since 2008, and is one of only 12 to cut this year [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

State Super Worries about 4-Day School Weeks: Oklahoma State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is voicing concern over school districts holding four-day school weeks. The districts took the action to avoid laying off teachers during drastic state budget cuts. Hofmeister worries that students will be impacted by the longer days and then more days away from the classroom. 150 school districts, nearly 1/3 of the districts in the state, have converted to the four-day week to save money [Associated Press].

Oklahoma City School Board approves alternative to suspension program: A short-lived support program for students facing suspension is being resurrected by Oklahoma City Public Schools at a reduced cost. School board members voted unanimously Monday night to pay Seeworth Academy $250,000 to provide academic instruction and counseling services to district students facing suspensions of 10 days or less [NewsOK]. Oklahoma needs to rethink school suspensions [OK Policy].

Oklahoma City Council considers passing resolution to oppose SQ 777 on agriculture: The Oklahoma City Council will consider passing a resolution urging residents to oppose State Question 777, a measure on the November ballot that would make it harder to pass new laws regulating agriculture in the state. Pete White, Oklahoma City Ward 4 councilman, said he is asking the city council to pass the resolution because he believes SQ 777 would limit the city’s ability to pass ordinances restricting livestock in the city limits. White said he also is concerned about what effect the measure will have of the city’s water quality in the future [NewsOK].

Rep. Morrissette endorses special legislative session on budget: At least one Oklahoma lawmaker is in favor of a special legislative session. The governor has been in discussions with Republican legislative leaders about a special session to consider a pay raise for school teachers, and to decide what to do with $140.8 million in “surplus” state revenue from budget cutbacks imposed earlier this year that were deeper than necessary [KSWO].

State audit of tourism department reveals shoddy record-keeping, retaliation concerns: Tourism is big business in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department runs all of the state parks, travel campaigns and the film and music office on a $70 million a year budget. For months, the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector’s Office has been going over operations at the agency [KFOR].

Oklahoma Lawmaker To Receive Public Health Innovator Award: Oklahoma’s commissioner of health plans to present the state’s Public Health Innovator Award to a state lawmaker who is also a physician. Rep. Doug Cox of Grove will receive the award on Wednesday at the Oklahoma Turning Point Conference and Policy Day in Norman. Oklahoma’s health commissioner, Dr. Terry Cline, said Monday he will present the award to Cox for his continued efforts to create a better state of health in Oklahoma [NewsOn6].

Quote of the Day

“I know it’s easier for parents to talk to a local school leader and a local legislator at the capitol. It’s impossible to talk to people in Washington, D.C., and see a difference be made.”

-Ryan Owens, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration co-executive director, on the new federal law that gives more education policy and decision-making back to state and local control (Source)

Number of the Day


Total number of girls in Oklahoma public schools who reported being bullied or harassed based on their gender in 2011-2012.. There were 845 boys reporting for the same reason.

Source: Civil Rights Data Collection

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

I’m a Judge and I Think Criminal Court Is Horrifying: I left that day with my faith in the legal system — to which I have loyally devoted my entire career — shaken. Maybe every judge should take the time to go on a holiday to criminal court. While we all may not be able to agree on what justice looks like, surely we can agree on what injustice looks like. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it [The Marshall Project].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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