In The Know: DHS shifts to quarterly payments to aged, blind and disabled

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

‘It could be a disaster’: DHS shifts to quarterly payments to aged, blind and disabled: Each month, Gayla Tyler can pay her water bill because of a state supplemental check doled out to the aged, blind and disabled population. The monthly payment she gets from the Department of Human Services is about $36. “I get disability and it doesn’t cover (bills),” said Tyler, who lives in Bethany. “Every little bit helps.” DHS will hold the supplemental payments for April, May and June, then switch to a quarterly payment schedule in July. Agency officials blame the state’s revenue failure and a looming $1.3 billion budget shortfall [Journal Record].

Lawmaker Files Resolution of No Confidence in State Finance Secretary: A state representative has introduced a resolution for Oklahoma lawmakers to declare no confidence in Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger. Tahlequah Democrat Mike Brown’s resolution calls on Gov. Mary Fallin to immediately suspend Doerflinger and find a replacement. We The People Oklahoma is also asking for Doerflinger’s dismissal after two revenue failures and with a $1.3 billion shortfall next fiscal year [Public Radio Tulsa].

Story highlights need for Oklahoma to focus on mental health efforts: As Jaclyn Cosgrove reported Sunday, 57 percent of those in Department of Corrections custody — roughly 16,500 people — have a history of mental illness or exhibit current symptoms. This is to be expected when you consider that Oklahoma’s rates of mental health and substance abuse outpace most other states, while at the same time the state spends less per capita on its mental health system than most other states. Read all the recent editorials from The Oklahoman. Something has to give, and more often than not what results is a trip to jail or prison. Oklahoma now has — and has had, for several years — a prison population that far exceeds the system’s capacity. [Oklahoman Editorial Board].

Yes, non-profits can (and should) lobby: If you want to know how public policy is affecting regular people in Oklahoma, you ask someone who works for a non-profit organization. Unfortunately, many non-profits remain hesitant about sharing their expertise with lawmakers and the public. They may believe that their non-profit status prohibits them from engaging with the legislative process, or they may simply not know what the rules are so they are hesitant about entering a poorly understood legal grey area [OK Policy].

Ride to the Bottom: U.S. energy workers hit hard by company stock bets: Nearly 15 years since Enron’s collapse decimated the retirement accounts of its employees, hundreds of thousands of U.S. energy workers remain precariously exposed to big, concentrated bets on company stock in their 401(k) retirement plans. The slide in oil prices to their lowest levels in over a decade wiped out several billion dollars of retirement wealth in the energy sector in the past year. The losses may prove temporary for companies that successfully navigate the crisis, but tens of thousands of employees of struggling firms may see much of their nest eggs gone for good [Reuters].

Academic standards pass in both Senate, House: Two separate resolutions passed the state Senate and House Monday that approve the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. In the Senate, Senate Joint Resolution 75 was authored by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore. The original wording of the resolution disapproved of the new academic standards [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

Education, prison bailout sent to Fallin’s desk: More emergency funding appears to be on its way to Oklahoma schools and prisons, as the state House of Representatives on Monday gave final legislative approval on two measures that will withdraw $78.5 million from the emergency Rainy Day Fund to help the two agencies cope with budget losses this year. Education funding passes unanimously Senate Bill 1572, which passed both the House and Senate unanimously, will send $51 million to common education to help offset major losses at the school district level. The action comes following two revenue failures that caused across-the-board cuts to state agencies [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

Oklahoma City Public Schools Looking At Charter School Expansion: Oklahoma Public School board has voted to explore charter school expansion options. Now it’s encouraging parents, teachers and staff to get informed on the possible changes. OKC Schools Superintendent Rob Neu says there have been rumors and misinformation on how the expansion process will play out. He says starting as early as next week, OKCPS could announce the dates and times for community meetings so parents can give input in the process [News9].

Company that sued over county jail now a co-defendant over death at facility: The Oklahoma County jail and the health care provider that has sued county officials for breach of contract are now on the same side of a lawsuit related to a death at the facility. Warren Brinson Weeks Jr. filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in memory of his daughter, Haley Amy James, who died in October 2014. The defendants are Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., the three-person county board of commissioners, Sheriff John Whetsel and his department, and the Oklahoma City Police Department [Journal Record].

Retail Liquor Association’s petition faces legal challenge from grocers: The Oklahoma Grocers Association is fighting to keep the Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association’s initiative petition on wine in grocery stores off the November ballot. In court documents filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the grocers trade group says the language of the Retail Liquor Association’s initiative petition is “misleading” and “deceptive.” Under the Retail Liquor Association’s proposed state question, there would be a required distance of at least 2,500 feet between two outlets to sell spirits or wine, but existing stores would be grandfathered in under the proposal [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Supreme Court says anti-abortion petition is unconstitutional: An initiative petition calling for a statewide vote on whether to outlaw abortion is unconstitutional, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. In a two-page ruling, the state’s highest court said the decision runs afoul of a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving abortion-related statutes in Pennsylvania and that the state Supreme Court “is not free to impose its own view of the law.” The unanimous ruling says the petition is “facially unconstitutional” and that the state Supreme Court is duty bound by the United States and Oklahoma constitutions to ‘follow the mandate of the United States Supreme Court on matters of federal constitutional law” [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma absolutely is not doing justice for the thousands of men and women who suffer from mental illness but wind up behind bars, either in local jails or the state prison system, because the state lacks the sort of community-based treatment that can help keep them from being incarcerated.”

The Oklahoman Editorial Board (Source)

Number of the Day


Annual unemployment rate in Oklahoma in 2015 (OK ranked 11th in nation, national rate was 6.2%)

Source: United Health Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Houston Schools Ban Suspensions in Early Grades: Late last year, the Houston Independent School District looked poised to become the first big school system in Texas to ban suspensions for second-graders and younger. Community groups and child advocates supported the change, inspired by research suggesting that suspending students so young was not only ineffective, but perpetuated racial inequity in the school system. And the proposal came directly from school administrators, who had already planned out how they’d implement the change and train teachers in alternatives to suspension [Texas Observer].

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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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