In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin sets vote for medical marijuana ballot measure

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

Gov. Mary Fallin sets vote for medical marijuana ballot measure: Oklahoma voters will get to decide on June 26 whether or not to legalize medical marijuana. Gov. Mary Fallin’s announcement Thursday came on the same day U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked an Obama-era policy that was deferential to states’ permissive marijuana laws. Oklahoma’s vote will come during the primary election. Fallin’s other option would have been to set it during the November general election [Tulsa World]. Medical marijuana vote date good news for proponents [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

An Oilman Who Helped Write Energy Industry Tax Breaks Is Leading An Effort To Remove Them: Mickey Thompson has a manila envelope tucked under his arm as he walks towards the Oklahoma Capitol. If the paperwork doesn’t start a fight, it almost certainly will add fuel to one. Inside the envelope is the handiwork of about 10 people over a couple of months that could clear a path for Oklahoma voters to do something most lawmakers won’t consider: Enact broad tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund public education [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Tax breaks for the oil and gas industry will continue to cost Oklahoma close to $400 million this year and next [OK Policy].

Health Department files suit against House of Representatives: The political investigation into financial trouble at the Oklahoma State Department of Health has resulted in the state of Oklahoma functionally suing its own House of Representatives. Late Wednesday, the OSDH filed a “cause of action” to modify a subpoena issued by the House Special Investigation Committee that requires testimony and document provision from the agency’s chief financial officer, Mike Romero. Chairman Josh Cockroft (R-Wanette) subpoenaed Romero on Tuesday, Jan. 2, to appear before the House committee at 9:30 a.m. today [NonDoc].

House committee plans to expand probe beyond state Health Department: A state lawmaker tapped with leading a special investigation into the beleaguered state Health Department said Thursday his committee plans to expand its probe to other agencies. House Special Investigation Committee chair Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, said he couldn’t yet release the names of the other agencies. But committee member and state Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, said he’s heard Office of Management and Enterprise Services and Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department may be among those agencies [CNHI].

Oklahoma’s budget outlook is improving, but major challenges remain: For the first time in four years, lawmakers may begin the 2018 session with more money to appropriate than the year before. This is undeniably good news, coming after multiple sessions when lawmakers started the year with shortfalls ranging from $180 million to over $1 billion. At the same time, the anticipated revenue growth is modest, and by the time this year’s budget is finalized, next year’s projected surplus may turn into a deficit [OK Policy]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Oklahoma’s yearly financial report a dense read but shows state’s problems: Each year, the state of Oklahoma produces a book called the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. It is not a best-seller. Technically, it couldn’t be a best-seller because it isn’t for sale. It’s free on the Office of Management and Enterprise Services website. But, even at that price, it doesn’t have many takers. Which is a shame, because more Oklahomans should read the CAFR, as it is known, or attempt to. Its 200-plus pages delve deeply into the details of the state’s finances [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

Schulz appoints new committee chairmen: A few state Senate committees will see new chairmen this session, after the members who were filling the roles either resigned or moved to other committees. Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz appointed new chairmen to the committees on energy and transportation and the committee on business, commerce and tourism. The appropriations subcommittee on select agencies also got a new leader. Former Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, resigned in September, a few hours after being booked into county jail for a sexual battery charge [Journal Record].

Foreign-Language Courses Plummet in Oklahoma. What About Other States? In just a decade, a fourth of Oklahoma’s high schools eliminated their world language courses, the investigative reporting site Oklahoma Watch reports in a fascinating new story. Overall, a third of high schools lack a course in even one foreign language. It’s a compelling piece of education data made bleaker by the fact that the decline in foreign language in Oklahoma probably has parallels in other states. But for now, we simply don’t know, because as my colleague Corey Mitchell reported recently, the United States doesn’t have a very good grasp of the current state of K-12 foreign language instruction [Education Week]. Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy].

Native American identity absent from urban Oklahoma schools: Most of Oklahoma’s nearly 130,000 Native American students attend school in small towns, often in communities where their tribe’s history is woven into the town’s patchwork. But for the 20 percent of Native students who attend a school in the state’s two largest metro areas, cultural connections can be harder to find, especially when it comes to a specific identity. …The state Department of Education counts more than 1,100 American Indian students in the Oklahoma City school district [AP].

Legal issues persist with Freedmen descendants: The Cherokee Nation’s internal struggle involving the Cherokee Freedmen lawsuit continues to wend its way through tribal court, after a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of Freedmen descendants in August, saying they have a right to tribal citizenship. In December, Tribal Councilors David Walkingstick, Harley Buzzard and several citizens filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus, asking the tribe’s Supreme Court to order the Attorney General’s Office to appeal the ruling [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Deadline approaching for DACA remedy: In early September, President Trump announced he was rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), and he gave Congress six months to come up with a solution. With the deadline just two months away, no clear fix has emerged. This has DACA recipients and groups that support them nervous, understandably so [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

2018 for the kids: A children’s agenda in the new year: For those who are involved in politics and policy at the Oklahoma State Capitol, 2017 felt like the year that would never end. Special legislative sessions, elusive budget deals and an early start to political campaigning gave 2017 an endless Groundhog Day vibe that made it seem like 2018 existed only in the distant future. Nevertheless, the New Year is here. It may surprise the public to learn that the bill-filing deadline for the 2018 legislative session was Dec. 8 [Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman / NonDoc].

The new director of Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth sees unique opportunities for the agency: Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, a state agency whose mission is to improve services to children, has largely gone unnoticed by the general public in recent years. That’s not to say that the agency hasn’t continued to serve as a watchdog group monitoring the state’s various welfare programs, but its new director Annette Jacobi wants to bring visibility to the agency and the issues facing children and youth in the years to come [Oklahoma Gazette].

Three more flu deaths reported in state, total now 13 for season: Three more flu deaths have been reported in the state as of Tuesday, bringing the total to 13 so far this flu season, state health officials said. The deaths include nine of people age 65 and older and four of people age 50-64, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. A breakdown of the deaths by county has not been released this year “due to HIPPA and privacy concerns,” the health department said [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Well, we are obviously circumventing the legislative process. We don’t have a lot of faith in the legislative process, and I think it’s fair to say most Oklahomans would agree with that.”

– Mickey Thompson, former director of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and founder and director of Restore Oklahoma Now, a nonprofit created to draft a ballot initiative that could restore oil and gas gross production taxes to 7 percent, with most of the new revenues earmarked for education (Source)

Number of the Day


Per capita income in Oklahoma in 2016

Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The ‘forgotten’ part of special education that could lead to better outcomes for students: Kate Lord didn’t have a plan when she graduated from Brunswick High School in 2014. For two years, she was unemployed. Eventually, her father was able to use his connections at Bowdoin College to get her a job working in a kitchen. For 20 hours a week, she lines muffin pans and preps dessert trays. At this time, the bakery job suffices. Kate is a hard worker and a pleasure to be around, her supervisor said. But she has no interest in the food industry. Her father believes she could do a lot more, and wishes her high school had done more to help her visualize her future and then take steps to reach her goals. Kate has autism and borderline intellectual functioning, meaning her IQ is slightly below what is considered average. She struggles with decision-making and executive function, which are the skills that allow people to organize information and respond to it. But her father, Rich Lord, and disability experts say there’s no reason she can’t find a more fulfilling career at which she can excel [The Hechinger Report].

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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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