In The Know: Criminal case against Oklahoma schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, four others dropped

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

Criminal case against Oklahoma schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, four others dropped: State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister declared Tuesday “a joyful day” after a criminal case against her and four other defendants was dismissed. “I knew I was innocent and that I had conducted myself appropriately, and I am happy that this day has come,” she said at a news conference where she smiled throughout. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater on Tuesday dropped the felony case against all the defendants “pending further investigation.” [NewsOK] Questions linger on dismissal of charges in Hofmeister campaign case [Oklahoma Watch]. Joy Hofmeister says she was ‘absolutely confident’ of her actions, never contemplated resigning [Tulsa World].

Teachers Wanted: The effect of low salaries and budget cuts on Washington County public schools: Kristy Bryan teaches math at Copan High School. She could earn more money teaching just 10 miles away in Kansas. Bryan has taught at Copan High School since 2012, and waits for Oklahoma lawmakers to make common education a priority. Bryan said the wait — the state of Oklahoma hasn’t approved a pay raise for teachers since 2008 — can be demoralizing, but she focuses on her job — educating Oklahoma’s future [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]. Oklahoma schools are increasingly dependent on unqualified teachers [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Central Oklahoma earthquake leaves hundreds in the dark: An earthquake registering a 4.2 magnitude in central Oklahoma disrupted electric power to hundreds of customers. The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported the 4.4-magnitude tremor was detected at 9:56 p.m. Wednesday about 4 miles (6 kilometers) east-northeast of Edmond, Oklahoma — about 15 miles (25 kilometers) northeast of Oklahoma City. The USGS later revised the earthquake down to a magnitude 4.2 [Fox News].

Oklahoma Health Care Authority could lose as much as $120 million in funding: Officials with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority are watching how two issues will play out that could affect nearly $120 million in their current budget. The authority’s fiscal year 2018 budget includes $70 million from funding that would be generated from the new cigarette fee approved by the Legislature earlier this year. The constitutionality of the fee will be decided by the state Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments Aug. 8. The $1.50 a pack fee is slated to take effect Aug. 24. Uncertainty also exists about $49 million in funding through the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program [Tulsa World]. The state budget is sitting on shaky constitutional foundations [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Do no harm: After seven years of obsessive effort, the Republican Party’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, came to a crashing defeat last week in a series of Senate votes that failed to gain a majority. There are many explanations for the repeal effort’s failure, from divisions within the Republican Party to the Senate’s obscure rules to the unhelpful interventions of a distracted and unpopular president. But the ultimate obstacle Republicans faced is that every one of their proposals – whether straight repeal, repeal and replace, skinny repeal or something else – would have stripped away hard-won health care benefits and caused harm to tens of millions of Americans [Journal Record].

WIC services end in rural Oklahoma county: A western Oklahoma county has lost its access to nutrition services for young children and pregnant women. In Washita County, the Cordell Memorial Hospital is contracted to administer the Women, Infant and Children program, or WIC. Hospital administrators announced Monday that it could no longer provide the special supplemental nutrition program. The program is funded with federal money and usually administered by county health departments [NewOK]. 

Oklahoma insurers face continued uncertainty in wake of Senate health care vote: Individual health insurance premiums are likely to take another sharp jump in 2019, the state’s top regulators said Friday, and might have done so even if a reform bill had not failed in the U.S. Senate Thursday night. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said he was “disappointed” the so-called skinny Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace bill failed because he believed passage would have brought Congress closer to an ultimate solution to problems caused by the ACA [Tulsa World]. Attempts to repeal Affordable Care Act put Oklahoma patients in jeopardy [OK Policy].

Agencies collaborate to reduce jail population through mental health services: A two-day workshop for Tulsa-area agencies that deal with mental health started Tuesday with the goal of keeping nonviolent offenders from cycling in and out of jail. Michelle Robinette, mental health coordinator at the Tulsa Jail, said the facility — arguably the largest mental-health service provider in the region — often ends up being one of the “silos” that the workshop is aiming to crack open. The term silo refers to a government system, process or department that operates in isolation from others [Tulsa World].

Retailers gear up for sales tax-free weekend in Oklahoma City: If you are looking for a good deal on some new threads for school, you’ll find them this weekend at both brick-and-mortar retailers and online as Oklahoma prepares to waive sales tax collections this weekend for an 11th year. But those good deals aren’t just limited to clothes and shoes. Retailers selling everything from antiques to beauty products will be offering deep discounts as well, seeking to tap into what’s proven to be a nice late-summer surge of shoppers [NewsOK]. Sales tax holidays are good for consumers, good for businesses, good for the economy, and good for Oklahoma, right? Actually, no [OK Policy].

Airbnb And Oklahoma City Reach Hotel Tax Deal: The city of OKC has reached an agreement with home sharing company Airbnb. Starting Sept. 1, Airbnb homeowners in Oklahoma City will have to start collecting a 5.5 percent sales tax from guests. Airbnb says in 2016 it had 11,000 guests in Oklahoma City. The city estimates the tax will bring in around $20,000 annually to start [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma City attorney continues assault on 2013 workers compensation ‘reform’ law: A lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeks to overturn a legislative cut in the amount of money injured workers receive while they are recovering. The suit, filed by Oklahoma City attorneys Bob Burke and Emily J. Biscone and her father, Joseph C. Biscone II, alleges the maximum temporary total disability benefit “is an arbitrary limit set by the Legislature that shifts the economic burden to the injured worker without a legitimate state interest.” Burke said it is a denial of due process or the unlawful taking of a property right [Tulsa World].

EPA will prioritize Midwest City site for cleanup: The Environmental Protection Agency said Monday it will prioritize cleanup of a contaminated site in Midwest City. Between 1990 and 2010, Eagle Industries inspected and repaired oxygen tanks and fire extinguishers for aircraft at a two-acre site southeast of Oklahoma City. The company has since closed. In 2003, a state inspection found trichloroethylene, or TCE, had been improperly dumped at the site, threatening ground water in the area [NewsOK].

Senator’s bill to legalize pot at federal level gets positive response from two Oklahomans: U.S. Sen. Cory Booker says keeping marijuana illegal is harming communities more than helping them, a philosophy that’s drawn a positive response from two Oklahomans involved in the push for medical cannabis. Booker, D-N.J., announced his plan for a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level in a Facebook Live video Tuesday. Booker’s legislation would move marijuana down on the schedule list of controlled substances, retroactively expunge criminal records for people who were convicted of use and possession of marijuana, and create an incentive pool for states to change their laws [Tulsa World]. Medical marijuana won’t fix Oklahoma’s budget problems [OK Policy].

Upcoming ‘Watch-Out’ Forum: The Elections Ahead: Oklahoma Watch will host a public forum in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Aug. 29, to discuss the issues, candidates and political trends surrounding the 2018 statewide and legislative elections. The featured panelists will be Anna Langthorn, the newly named chair of the state Democratic Party; Pam Pollard, the recently re-elected chair of the state Republican Party, and Bill Shapard, founder of [Oklahoma Watch].

Cathy Costello, widow of slain Oklahoma labor commissioner, to seek same post: The widow of slain Republican Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello says she intends to run for the office her husband held when he was stabbed to death at a fast food restaurant in August 2015. Cathy Costello said Wednesday she would seek the GOP nomination for the office that’s open in 2018. She touted her experience as a business entrepreneur and the knowledge she gained working with her husband while he was commissioner [KJRH].

Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Lamb leads in fundraising in governor’s race: Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb raised more than $2 million in his bid to become the state’s next governor, the most so far of the 13 candidates already in the 2018 race, their campaign reports show. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett reported raising $181,000. Lamb and Cornett are among six Republicans seeking the state’s top elected position [NewsOK].

Gov. Fallin’s Former Assistant Under Investigation: Another investigation into allegations of sexual harassment at the Oklahoma Capitol has been confirmed by authorities. This time, it’s the now former right-hand-man to the governor. Under investigation is Travis Brauer, 29, of Chickasha. Formerly the executive assistant to Gov. Mary Fallin, Brauer is now under scrutiny from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol for allegedly taking an “up-skirt” photo of a protester during a late-night budget meeting back in May [News9].

Quote of the Day

“As with any organization or business, if you’re trying to attract talent and you want to attract more people to a profession, there’s got to be an incentive there. At this point, I’m not so sure there’s a lot of incentives for young people, or people who are looking to change careers. I’m not sure there’s a big incentive to give them the education at this point.”

– Dewey Public Schools Superintendent Vince Vincent, on the difficulty attracting and retaining teachers (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of adolescent girls (age 13-17) in Oklahoma vaccinated against HPV, the 7th-lowest rate in the US

Source: America’s Health Rankings

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Nine Lessons About Criminal Justice Reform: Since November, a kind of fatalistic cloud has settled over the campaign to reform the federal criminal justice system. With a law-and-order president, a tough-on-crime attorney general, and a Congress that has become even more polarized than it was in former President Barack Obama’s time, most reform advocates say any serious fixes to the federal system are unlikely. Reformers have been consoling themselves by looking to the states. After all, most of law enforcement, most of criminal jurisprudence, and most incarceration takes place at the state or local level.“Reform” is one of those ambiguous words that mean different things to different people. I think of reform as something that aims to reduce the numbers of Americans who are removed from society and deprived of their freedom, and to do it without making us less safe [The Marshall Project].

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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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