In The Know: Close state superintendent race turns contentious

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Want to know more about what’s on the ballot Nov. 4? Check out OK Policy’s 2014 Oklahoma Elections page, with information on voting times, state questions, judicial elections, and more.

The rhetoric has grown more contentious in the race for state superintendent, which polls show remains very close on the eve of the election. The okeducationtruths blog argued that both candidates will be an effective advocate for funding and common sense when it comes to school regulations. Brett Dickerson wrote that there may be a power struggle between the governor’s office and state superintendent after the election. The state of education funding and whether to accept federal funds for health care have been key issues in the campaign for governor. With 53 Republicans in both chambers of the state Legislature running unopposed, Republicans’ super-majority control is unlikely to change in this election. New voter registration statistics for Oklahoma show Democrats still outnumber Republicans, but the gap is narrowing. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis discussed why covering the uninsured is not a hard problem if we only have the political will to do it. A recent OK Policy issue brief found that the Medicaid expansion’s track record in other states shows it’s a good deal for Oklahoma. 

The deaths of 17 developmentally disabled people transferring or already transferred out of two large state-run institutions are raising questions about whether the closing of the centers put residents’ health at risk. Former caretakers at the facility said they believed the private-care providers residents had been transferred to were too inexperienced. NewsOK examined how home builders are seeking to make homes more accessible for seniors to remain in. Oklahoma’s large number of earthquakes is overwhelming the Oklahoma Geological Survey’s attempts to make timely recommendations about oil and gas wastewater disposal wells that are likely to be triggering them.

Laws that expand gun rights, help combat domestic violence, create new abortion restrictions and expand the punishment for human trafficking are among about 250 new Oklahoma laws that went into effect Saturday. The Tulsa World examined how a fight over funding the Tulsa County Jail could lead to tax increases, service cuts, and costly litigation. Wayne Greene wrote that Oklahoma’s lottery has been a modest success at boosting education funding. The OK Policy Blog previously explained why the lottery hasn’t solved all of Oklahoma’s education funding struggles. Oklahoma’s gross revenue collections during September grew by more than 8 percent compared to the prior year, with every major state tax growing except for the corporate income tax. Although Oklahoma’s unemployment rate remains stable, the total labor force has shrunk by 38,410 over the last 12 months.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans received aid purchasing food from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Journalist’s Resource summarizes the state of research into the environmental impact of fracking.

In The News

Close state superintendent race turns contentious

The race for state superintendent has been the 2014 election cycle’s one to watch. Peggs Superintendent John Cox emerged the victor from a crowded Democratic primary field, and on the Republican ticket, Joy Hofmeister, the owner and operator of two Kumon Math and Reading Centers in Tulsa, knocked out incumbent Janet Barresi. With so much money expended during the primaries and runoff, Cox and Hofmeister campaigned quietly for months. The rhetoric has picked up and grown contentious in the last few weeks.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

A Time for Unity

I like both candidates for state superintendent – one more than the other. I also have concerns with each, though nothing that I would consider a deal breaker. If my choice doesn’t win Tuesday, I can cheerfully support the candidate who does. What I can’t support is the divisions that have surfaced recently among educators and education voters during the last few weeks. What Cox and Hofmeister have done this fall – traveling the state and making numerous appearances together – is incredible. Governor Fallin only debated Joe Dorman once. Some candidates for statewide office have avoided their opponents completely. There are differences, and they are significant.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Why we will need to defend the office of state superintendent

After the election on November 4th, will we then need to defend the independently-elected position of Superintendent of Public Instruction? No matter who wins the race to fill it, the answer is most likely, yes. There has always been a natural tension between the Governor, the Legislature and the independently-elected positions that clearly fall in the executive branch of Oklahoma government. The framers of the Oklahoma Constitution structured government so that the people of the whole state would not only vote for the Governor, but those who would fill critical intersections of the executive branch such as the state superintendent of schools, the attorney general, members of the the Corporation Commission and other positions in the executive branch.

Read more from Brett Dickerson.

Governor’s race tops ticket in statewide election

Education and health care have been key issues in the campaign for governor, which tops the ticket in a statewide election Tuesday that also includes U.S. Senate and House races as well as state legislative contests .Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, 59, the first woman to be elected Oklahoma governor, says Oklahoma’s comeback from the depths of a recession in her first term qualifies her for a second and final four-year stretch as the state’s top executive. Her Democratic opponent, state Rep. Joe Dorman, 44, of Rush Springs, complains that the state doesn’t provide sufficient resources for schools.

Read more from NewsOK.

Republicans likely to hang on to super majority in state Legislature

Oklahoma Democrats are out-numbered in the state Senate 3 to 1 and slightly more than 2 to 1 in the House. That’s not likely to change after Tuesday’s general election. There are 53 Republicans in both chambers of the state Legislature running unopposed, compared to 21 Democrats. Keith Gaddie, chairman of the University of Oklahoma political science department, said the Republican super-majority is not in danger, offering that perhaps at most each house will only see a two or three seat change.

Read more from NewsOK.

Dems still outnumber Republicans in OK

New voting statistics for Oklahoma show registered Democrats still outnumber registered Republicans, but the gap is narrowing and local Republican leaders said they are confident their candidates will fare well on Tuesday in the General Election. Statewide, Republicans still trail Democrats by 2,897 votes, State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said Saturday.

Read more from the Duncan Banner.

Covering the uninsured is not a hard problem

The House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Public Health and Social Services, chaired by Rep. Doug Cox (R-Grove), an emergency room physician, took up three interim studies this week on the topic of trying to find a way to provide healthcare for Oklahoma’s 665,000 uninsured. Over 17% of our population is uninsured which means over 1 in 6 people.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: Medicaid Expansion’s Track Record Shows It’s a Good Deal for Oklahoma from OK Policy.

Deaths of Disabled People Prompt Call for More Scrutiny

The deaths of 17 developmentally disabled people transferring or already transferred out of two large state-run institutions are raising questions about whether the closing of the centers put residents’ health at risk. The deaths occurred after the state decided in November 2012 to shutter the facilities in Enid and Pauls Valley over the objections of some of the residents’ guardians and parents.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: Former Caretakers Concerned About Deaths from Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma builders taking to aging-in-place, universal design

Aging-in-place is on the move in central Oklahoma. The Baby Boomer-inspired approach to home remodeling, and its new-construction counterpart universal design, are moving into the mainstream of remodeling and building. Make that aging Boomers. Some 10,000 per day file for retirement benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. With retirement, but often before, come physical changes and limitations that make it hard to keep living at home — if the space wasn’t designed for aging owners or occupants, or it can’t be adapted.

Read more from NewsOK.

Hearing on Disposal Well Rules Exposes Gaps in State’s Earthquake Response

Oklahoma’s earthquake surge is unrelenting. The shaking is rattling residents and cracking the foundations of homes. The quakes have also strained state agencies, which are struggling to keep up with the ongoing swarm while simultaneously developing a longer-term plan to analyze and address factors that might be triggering the earthquakes. More than 400 magnitude-3.0 or greater earthquakes have shaken Oklahoma this year — four times as many as last year, and a new state record.

Read more from StateImpact.

About 250 new Oklahoma laws go into effect Saturday

Laws that expand gun rights, help combat domestic violence, create new abortion restrictions and expand the punishment for human trafficking are scheduled to go into effect Saturday. They are among about 250 laws approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin this year that begin Nov. 1. Others, including budget-related measures that direct state agencies’ expenditures, took effect earlier.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tulsa jail dispute will affect your taxes or services

At the end of the day, the dispute between the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County over their jail agreement comes down to this: money. Millions and millions of dollars of public money. So for residents of the city of Tulsa — indeed, for all Tulsa County residents — the outcome of the current contract negotiations will have a concrete effect on their lives. If the city ends up having to pay more to hold its inmates in the Tulsa Jail, city officials say, other city services, such as parks and Working in Neighborhoods or the Performing Arts Center, could be cut. If the county doesn’t get the money it needs to operate the jail, county officials maintain, jail operations will suffer. That could lead to inmate lawsuits, costly litigation and an increase in property taxes to fund settlements.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Ten years after the lottery vote, a modest success

Like a lot of Oklahoma, I’ve been playing the lottery every once in a while for nearly 10 years. Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the passage of State Questions 705 and 706, which legalized the state lottery and set up a mechanism for distributing its earnings to state education projects. I recognize that the odds of becoming a lottery gazillionaire are overwhelmingly low, and I frankly am not all that intrigued at the prospect of being a lottery thousandaire.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Why didn’t the lottery solve Oklahoma’s education funding problems? from the OK Policy Blog.

All State Revenue Sources Increase Over 12 Months Except Corporate Taxes

In a report from the Office of the State Treasurer, revenue collections during September grew by more than 8 percent over receipts from the same month of the prior year, the highest monthly growth rate since April of last year. State Treasurer Ken Miller announced the revenue increases today as he released the September Gross Receipts to the Treasury report during a State Capitol news conference.

Read more from KGOU.

Oklahoma Unemployment Rate Remains Stable But Labor Force Shrinks

In a report from the Office of the State Treasurer, Oklahoma’s preliminary, seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was listed at 4.7 percent in September by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The rate is unchanged from the prior month but down by nine-tenths of one percentage point from the prior year. Compared to September 2013, the number of those listed as jobless dropped by 17,880 people, while statewide employment decreased by 20,520 jobs. The labor force shrank by 38,410 over the 12-month period.

Read more from KGOU.

Quote of the Day

“I don’t know about the individual circumstances, and I’m not trying to politicize this, but if it had been 17 foster children, people would be outraged. I certainly hope Attorney General Pruitt will agree to look into the situation and report his general findings.”

– State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, speaking about the recent deaths of 17 adults with developmental disabilities who had recently been transferred out of large, state-run institutions into smaller, private facilities. (Source:

Number of the Day


Oklahomans who received aid purchasing food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2013

Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The environmental costs and benefits of fracking: The state of research

On July 30, 2014, the United States did something that had been legally prohibited for nearly 40 years: It exported domestically produced crude oil. While minor exports had occurred through the years and the July shipment involved some technical sleight-of-hand (the product was classified as lightly refined “condensates”), it was one of the first significant oil shipments since Congress banned exports in the wake of the 1974 oil embargo. Respecting the law up to now has been easy, given America’s declining domestic oil production and thirst for imported oil — in 2006, the country imported 3.7 billion barrels. What changed between then and now all comes down to one word: fracking, the popular name for hydraulic fracturing.

Read more from Journalist’s Resource.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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