In The Know: Donald Trump picks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead EPA

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

Donald Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Ally of Fossil Fuel Industry, to Lead E.P.A.: President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a transition official said, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change. Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda [New York Times].

Oil and gas lobbyist, Secretary of State seek AG’s job: Local attorney Anthony “AJ” Ferate is one of at least two people who applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy. Ferate is the regulatory affairs vice president for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, a position he took in 2014. Secretary of State Mike Hunter also applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy, according to sources familiar with the matter. Gov. Mary Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt would not confirm how many people had applied. The governor’s office has a policy that it does not release names of applicants, McNutt said. Ferate applied for the job with the condition that he would only seek to fill the unexpired term, if appointed, according to documents obtained by The Journal Record [Journal Record].

Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations: Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews. The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations [Reuters]. Rep. Mullin said his ‘privatization’ of Indian land comments were distorted by the media [OK Energy Today].

Oil and gas laws pose problems for city residents: Lindsey and Gary Ball were just days away from being able to enjoy late spring Oklahoma weather beside their recently installed backyard swimming pool when the rumbling sound started just beyond their fence. The couple assumed the noise was temporary. However, the loud screeches soon intensified and hinted at oil and gas activity near their quiet, sprawling far western Oklahoma City neighborhood. Soon, the din from the round-the-clock drill site near the intersection of SW 29th Street and Cimarron Road rattled windows and neighbors, leaving some sleep-deprived. “You couldn’t carry on a conversation in your own backyard,” Gary Ball said [OK Gazette].

The biggest threat to low-income families in generation: Next year’s Congress has plans to make fundamental changes to the cornerstones of America’s safety net – Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). The plan by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Price would gut the basic promise of Medicaid and SNAP – that all Americans who are eligible and apply for benefits are guaranteed to receive them. Instead, these programs would be converted to block grants, under which states would get fixed pots of federal money and sweeping flexibility to restrict eligibility, cut benefits and redirect funding to pet projects [Journal Record].

Oil and gas tax revenue climbs amid lower sales, income receipts: Tax collections from oil and natural gas production continue to increase even as sales and income tax receipts remain in the doldrums of the 2-year energy industry decline, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Wednesday. “It would appear our anchor industry is making slow but steady improvement, while the spillover effect of the long energy price downturn on income and consumer spending is ongoing,” Miller said. “My hope is that we will begin to see overall improvement with renewed oil field activity following OPEC’s plans to cut production levels and bring supply more in line with demand.” Total gross receipts for November are 4.3 percent below last year’s collections and extend the state’s revenue contraction to 21 months [NewsOK].

Lawmaker wants armed officers in private schools: An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to slash the costs of obtaining and renewing handgun permits, place armed police officers in private schools and allow the governor and top elected officials to carry guns. Republican state Sen. Josh Brecheen has drafted four bills that would expand gun rights in the state. But some lawmakers say there are far more pressing issues when the Legislature meets on Feb. 6, including how to manage a massive budget shortfall estimated to exceed $300 million. Brecheen said his proposals are necessary to counter what he believes is a constant threat of terrorism carried out by the Islamic State and other groups. Brecheen also said having armed officers in private schools could deter would-be mass shooters [Associated Press].

Oklahoma senator hoping to do away with high school history assessment test: A state senator and former history teacher wants to cut a history assessment test to save the state money. Math, science and English are federally mandated tests, but history is not. Now, some lawmakers want to do away with it. “I taught U.S. history for years at Owasso High School, and I saw first-hand how the test doesn’t do anything positive for the school, the students or the parent,” said Senator J.J. Dossett. Dossett believes mandated tests cost money the state can’t afford [KFOR].

Some Oklahoma school staff’s entire paychecks go to health care: Some Oklahoma school staff members are getting paychecks for hundreds of dollars, but they are not even making it into the bank. Those people’s entire paychecks are going to pay for healthcare. They are having to pay their districts to stay employed. We’re talking about paraprofessionals in the classroom who help the children, the people who drive them to school and feed them while they’re there [KOCO].

Federal ‘Cures Act’ could help bring needed change to Oklahoma’s mental health system, leaders say: The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed in a bipartisan vote a bill that could make a significant impact on Oklahoma’s mental health system, leaders say. The 21st Century Cures Act includes a range of reforms that, if implemented, will help divert people with serious mental illnesses away from the criminal justice system and, instead, into treatment. Mike Brose, chief empowerment officer at Mental Health Association Oklahoma, said he hopes that Oklahoma leaders see this moment as a time to step up and make changes on a state level, as well [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Block grant proposals are a threat to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Oklahomans, especially low-income children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. They would end America’s basic guarantee of access to health care and food for all families and replace it with an inadequate fund vulnerable to the whims of politicians.”

-OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt, writing about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposals to radically transform Medicaid and SNAP benefits into fixed pools of money for states instead of entitlements for families (Source).

Number of the Day


Percentage of people fatally shot by police in Oklahoma in 2016 who were confirmed to be exhibiting signs of mental illness.

Source: Washington Post

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How repealing Obamacare would punish the working class: The number of people without health insurance could more than double under Republican plans to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, reaching nearly 59 million — or more than one in four Americans, according to a new analysis published Wednesday. The figures illustrate the challenges for newly empowered Republicans who, having won the presidential election after pledging to ease the financial burdens on the American working class, must work out the details of how they will deliver on their promises. About four in five of those who would become uninsured following repeal do not have a college degree, the report, from the Health Policy Center at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, projects. Two-thirds live in a household with at least one person working full time [Wonkblog / Washington Post].

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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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