In The Know: Governor announces nearly $900M in turnpike projects

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

Governor announces nearly $900 million in new turnpike construction projects: A new turnpike would link Interstate 40 east of Tinker Air Force Base to the Turner Turnpike near Luther as part of nearly $900 million in improvement plans unveiled by state officials Thursday. The so-called northeast Oklahoma County Loop would stretch 21 miles and would reduce the driving time from Tulsa to the Oklahoma City metro area, while alleviating congestion. That project is one of six major turnpike projects estimated to cost  $892 million [NewsOK]. You can download an information packet on the projects here [Oklahoma Turnpike Authority]. Tulsa officials expressed doubts about the proposal to take over construction of the Gilcrease Expressway from the city [The Frontier].

Huge disparities in discipline of Oklahoma’s minority special education students: Oklahoma’s special education students who are minorities are being expelled, suspended or referred to police at rates of up to four times that of white students with disabilities, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of federal discipline data. The racial disparities raise questions about whether Oklahoma schools are exacerbating the learning challenges that hundreds of their most vulnerable students already face [Oklahoma Watch].

Schools prepare for impact of state budget cuts: School districts are bracing for more cuts following Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order Monday demanding that state offices prepare written plans to reduce nonessential expenses by 10 percent for the remainder of the budget year and for the following budget cycle, which begins July 1, 2016. The Legislature and courts are exempted. Education leaders say the austerity will certainly affect how much money flows to local schools [Claremore Daily Progress].

Jonathan Small to become Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs president: Small, now an executive vice president at the conservative think tank, will take over for departing President Michael Carnuccio on Jan. 1. Small said the organization will continue work on modifying corrections and civil asset forfeiture laws, along with fiscal policies such as phasing out the personal income tax [Journal Record].

U.S. oil hub in Oklahoma on alert as national security officials warn of potential for damaging earthquakes: Oklahoma’s boom in man-made earthquakes has become a national security threat. It’s easy to understand why. The ground is shaking near Cushing, Oklahoma, home to the largest commercial crude oil storage center in North America, where big money is made storing and moving crude. The massive oil hub is connected to dozens of pipelines and lined with hundreds of airplane hangar-sized tanks currently holding an estimated 54 million barrels of oil [State Impact Oklahoma].

State earthquake monitor has two staff openings: Jeremy Boak is looking for a rock scientist who’s willing to put in long hours to help solve the state’s ongoing earthquake situation. The Oklahoma Geological Survey will soon have no seismologist on staff; its director, Boak, is grooming new workers to keep the temblor data flowing to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. That means the big-picture research on earthquake activity will be on hold for a while, he said [Journal Record].

Facing the state’s mental health crisis: How many wake-up calls do Oklahoma lawmakers need? It’s not a rhetorical question or the setup for a punch line. It’s a serious query in the wake of a trio of deadly incidents that spotlight policymakers’ inability to help solve the state’s mental health crisis. What we also know – with certainty – is that policymakers long have turned a blind eye to mental illness, afflicting more than one in four Oklahoma adults – the nation’s second-highest rate [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Oklahoma State Penitentiary warden retires as state investigation into executions continues: Public Information Officer Alex Gerszewski told the Tulsa World that Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell, the first female warden of the facility, is using her accrued leave time and will no longer be reporting to work. DOC officials appeared not to know for more than three hours whether Trammell had resigned or retired. Trammell filed paperwork with the state announcing her intent to retire on Tuesday, and her retirement takes effect March 1 [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“I have had conversations with Homeland Security. They’re concerned about the tanks mostly.”

-Daniel McNamara, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, speaking about concerns that man-made earthquakes at Oklahoma’s oil storage hub in Cushing have become a national security threat (Source).

Number of the Day


Food insecurity rate in McCurtain County (2013), the highest among all counties in Oklahoma.

Source: Feeding America

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What prisons can learn from schools: It is “the civil rights issue of our time,” and it rouses activists on the left. Intended to be “colorblind,” the “great equalizer,” it fails most often wherever there is poverty.But conservatives, too, now call it a priority. Massive public spending isn’t working, they say; “alternatives” will be nimbler. All of this is recently true of criminal justice. But long before that, it was the story of the education reform movement [The Marshall Project].

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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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