In The Know: Health Department’s recovery ‘tainted,’ CFO says in resignation

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

Health Department’s recovery ‘tainted,’ CFO says in resignation: Oklahoma State Department of Health Chief Financial Officer Michael Romero has resigned, citing conflicts of interest with the new management’s handling of state and federal investigations. In his resignation letter, Romero said he drafted a memo on Wednesday to interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger highlighting possible issues with implementing corrective actions in the wake of the agency’s public finance scandal [NewsOK].

Educators Say Legislation On Spending Flexibility Could Increase School Inequality: Oklahoma lawmakers have butted heads for years over how to increase funding for education, but one recurring idea has been to give schools more flexibility in spending the money they already have. A new bill filed by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, is the most recent attempt to do this. Senate Bill 887 would allow schools to spend the money in their building fund on anything they want including books, classroom supplies, and teacher salaries [Oklahoma Watch]. Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy].

‘I wasn’t supposed to be here’: Allison Ikley-Freeman sworn into state Senate seat: Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman was still a little amazed that she was taking the oath of office Thursday to join the Oklahoma Legislature. “I wasn’t supposed to be here,” the 26-year-old Tulsa Democrat said. “You look at who typically becomes a senator and it was definitely not me.” Ikley-Freeman said she grew up in poverty that stretched for at least three generations [Tulsa World].

Bill could limit definition of ‘medical marijuana’: Whether medical marijuana becomes legal in Oklahoma is now up to voters, with a ballot question during this year’s primary elections. Gov. Mary Fallin recently announced the addition of State Question 788 to the June 26 ballots. Voters will be asked to approve or reject the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, with no specific qualifying conditions for prescription [Tahlequah Daily Press]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

Senate bill to allow business owners to refuse service based on religious beliefs: Senate Bill 1250 allows business owners to refuse service based on deeply held religious beliefs. With specific language about homosexuality, many think it is specifically targeting same sex marriages. “Oklahomans should have every expectation that their government will not discriminate against them for their sincerely held religious beliefs through a loss of their job or business,” said the bill’s author, Josh Brecheen, in a statement to News 4 [KFOR]

Minister has message for some lawmakers: ‘Stop obsessing over bathrooms and weddings’: An Oklahoma City minister had a message for some lawmakers on Thursday. “Stop obsessing over bathrooms and weddings,” said the Rev. Lori Walke, one of the ministers at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ. Walke spoke during a press conference called by Freedom Oklahoma to discuss bills targeting the LGBT community and those that attempt to protect it by providing protections against discrimination [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma higher education budget cuts negatively affect Summer Academies: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education on Thursday voted to cut funding in half for the 2018 Summer Academies and were told the program won’t be offered at all in 2019 without an increase in state appropriations. The regents approved $315,462 in grants to the colleges and universities that will offer 25 academies on 17 campuses to middle and high school students this summer. Course topics include forensics, robotics and ecology [NewsOK].

Lamb tops in fundraising for 2018 Oklahoma governor’s race: The latest campaign finance reports show Republican Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has raised more than $3.1 million to lead all of the GOP candidates for Oklahoma governor in fundraising totals. But a Tulsa businessman and political newcomer actually amassed the most in the final quarter of 2017. Contribution reports released Thursday show Kevin Stitt of Tulsa raised nearly $300,000 from individuals and then loaned his campaign an equal amount for a total of $627,000 for the quarter [KJRH].

Hern leads 1st District fundraising in congressional race: Tulsa businessman Kevin Hern continues to lead fundraising efforts in the 1st District congressional race to succeed Republican Jim Bridenstine, according to year-end reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission. All 1st District candidates to this point are Republicans. Hern, who previously put $500,000 of his own money into his campaign, took in more than $90,000 during the fourth quarter of 2017 from a donor list that included several familiar names, and has about $376,000 on hand [Tulsa World].

For some law enforcement agencies, audit of untested rape kits a daunting task: In her office on the third floor of the Police-Courts Building in downtown Tulsa, Sgt. Jillian Phippen has spent hours sifting through records and databases trying to find information on untested rape kits. It’s a complicated process, made more difficult by the Tulsa Police Department’s antiquated record-keeping system. First, she has to find a receipt number for the rape kit [The Frontier].

OU Medicine takes over hospital management: The newly formed OU Medicine Inc. took over management of the University of Oklahoma’s hospital system from HCA Healthcare on Thursday. The changeover took place immediately after midnight, Chief Executive Charles Spicer said. Although many knew about the impending move for months, university and hospital officials were not ready to formally announce it until every facet of operations – from email to insurance coverage – had been thoroughly tested to present a seamless transition [Journal Record].

Health Officials Say 92 Flu Deaths in Oklahoma This Season: Oklahoma health officials say this season’s death toll from influenza has reached 92 and that about 2,500 people have been hospitalized with flu-related symptoms. The Oklahoma Department of Health said Thursday that illness is widespread and that flu-related deaths have been recorded in all regions of the state [AP].

Oklahoma quakes tied to how deep wastewater is injected: A new study finds that a major trigger of man-made earthquakes rattling Oklahoma is how deep — not just how much — fracking wastewater is injected into the ground. Scientists analyzed more than 10,000 wastewater injection wells where 96 billion gallons of fluid — leftover from hydraulic fracturing — are pumped yearly. The amount of wastewater injected and the depth are key to understanding the quake outbreak since 2009, they reported in Thursday’s journal Science [AP].

Center for Employment Opportunities helps put 200-250 people recently released from prison on a path to employment each year: When Korey Keaton was assigned GPS monitoring after being released from prison for drug possession, he knew he needed help finding a job. While he had come out of prison before and found jobs, keeping employment and staying out of trouble was another issue [Oklahoma Gazette].

Self-sufficiency at forefront of Tribal-Reentry Program: Fawna Wolfe leans into her husband, Daniel, as people speak. The two are gathered, along with about eight others, at a meeting in a nondescript building off a road in Pottawatomie County. The duo listens as peers recount their path to sobriety and how they stay clean in a world teeming with vices [NonDoc].

Quote of the Day

“There are a lot of different reasons why I am not supposed to be here. A poor kid from rural Osage County isn’t quite supposed to make it to a Senate seat. And then the district — definitely I wasn’t supposed to make it here as a Democrat. I definitely wasn’t supposed to make it here as a gay person, being the first elected official from Tulsa County to be openly gay.”

– Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, who was sworn into office on Thursday (Source)

Number of the Day


How much Oklahoma’s average teacher salaries would need to increase to match the state’s average cost-of-living

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Ignoring rural areas won’t solve America’s mass incarceration problem: A little known fact imperils our nation’s collective efforts to end mass incarceration: Major cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are no longer bearing the heaviest burden. Instead, thousands of smaller cities and towns are now grappling with the nation’s highest incarceration rates. But the reform movement has not reacted to changing incarceration trends. In most small cities and towns, public officials are not running on reform platforms, and investment by foundations and national advocates is thin or absent. If attention and resources are not urgently shifted to overlooked places, progress to reduce unnecessary incarceration in big cities will be totally eroded by deepening problems in the rest of the country [USA Today].

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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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