In The Know: House, Senate vote to ‘stop the bleeding,’ but gap remains

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

House, Senate vote to ‘stop the bleeding,’ but gap remains: The Oklahoma House advanced several funding measures Monday for the state’s three major health care agencies, but the money won’t be enough to fill the $215 million shortfall that triggered a special session. A funding gap will remain, but the money is reportedly enough to keep the agencies afloat until April 21, well after lawmakers return in February for regular session. The bills now move on to the Senate. They can be heard as early as Wednesday [NewsOK]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

State Health Department Head, Deputy Resign Amid Questions Over Agency Finances: The top official and a senior deputy at the Oklahoma State Department of Health have resigned amid findings that the agency overspent and mismanaged finances for years. In an emergency meeting Monday night, the Oklahoma State Board of Health accepted the resignations of Health Commissioner Terry Cline and Senior Deputy Commissioner Julie Cox-Kain, effective immediately. The department is grappling with an unexplained $10 million cash crunch, recently implementing furloughs and program cuts and announcing layoffs [Oklahoma Watch].

Thousands fear impact of looming DHS cuts: There is no prejudice when it comes to the number of Oklahomans who would be directly impacted by cuts at the Department of Human Services. As state lawmakers met for yet another day of debate Monday, they were met with watchful eyes. Estelle Chappell currently receives assistance through the Daily Living Center. “At the Daily Living Center we have different activities and we go to different places and do things,” said Chappell. “And we’re in touch with somebody else in the same shape we’re in.” But all of that could cease to exist if a budget deal isn’t reached. And it will impact everyone, young and old [KOKH].

State Health Department To Begin Furloughing Workers: Budget issues mean the Oklahoma State Department of Health will begin furloughing workers this week. The furloughs affect both county and central office employees. The Department also announced last week it will also be eliminating approximately 250 positions due to a lack of funding [News On 6].

Rural hospitals sue Blue Cross: A Tulsa judge has intervened in a contract dispute between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma and several rural hospitals. The four hospitals requested the temporary restraining order after the insurance company told them it would slash provider reimbursement rates. One of the hospitals previously told The Oklahoman the rates would be cut by 30 percent for all services, except for those delivered in the emergency room. BCBS, which holds the greatest share of Oklahoma’s insurance market, has not publicly confirmed the rate proposals [NewsOK].

Court puts new DUI law on ice: For the fifth time this year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will consider a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a bill that the Legislature passed during the regular session. Senate Bill 643 created several new policies that apply to residents arrested for and charged with driving under the influence, including provisions that allow the state to punish people who take court-mandated blood alcohol testers off of their cars. It allowed residents to take impaired driver accountability classes to regain driving privileges. It also allowed law enforcement officials to immediately destroy a driver’s license after an arrest and punished people who refuse to take blood alcohol level tests [Journal Record].

U.S. Justice Department told its request to inspect Oklahoma County jail has been denied: The U.S. Justice Department has been told its request to inspect the troubled Oklahoma County jail is being denied “at this time.” Oklahoma County commissioners voted unanimously this month to deny the inspection request, despite the risk that refusal could lead to a costly federal lawsuit. “I feel like we’ve done everything that we could do within our power,” said Brian Maughan, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners [NewsOK].

Advocates hope for budget fix to save drug court: Drug court was a lifesaver for Broadway House director David Lowden. He has no doubt in his mind the intensive program played a substantial role in his rehabilitation from a life of drug abuse onto working in the rehabilitation center on 2nd Avenue housing 27 men on the road to sober living. The threat of losing such a resource for those suffering with addiction does not sit well with Lowden [Daily Ardmoreite].

What’s being done to lower Oklahoma’s high rate of female incarceration? For more than 25 years, Oklahoma has had the highest female incarceration rate in the nation. The vast majority of women going to prison in this state are serving time for non-violent, drug-related crimes. While other conservative states like Texas and Georgia have reduced sentences for those offenses, Oklahoma’s female prison population is projected to continue to grow at an alarming rate. This troubling trend costs taxpayers and tears families apart [KOKH]. Let down and locked up: Why Oklahoma’s female incarceration is so high [Reveal].

‘The comments were depressing,’ Teacher survey says bad behavior rising inside Oklahoma City classrooms: If you read the latest Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers survey, you may have seen comments like “I do not at all feel supported or valued by district staff.” Another teacher wrote “I will be leaving the classroom at the end of this year, not due to abysmal pay or shameful state funding, but because I am not supported, valued, or respected.” Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City AFT, said the comments were from Oklahoma City public school teachers [KFOR].

Oklahoma family says deported father was tricked by ICE agents: A father of six was deported to Mexico, but his family said he was tricked by ICE agents into thinking he was safe. Luis Plaza Moreno, an undocumented immigrant working in restaurants in the U.S. since 2002, was detained and deported suddenly, without warning Saturday. His wife and children, the youngest struggling with autism, were left behind [KFOR].

Quote of the Day

“I thought that the scariest things that would happen to Henry were his congenital heart diagnosis and a brain injury. But it turns out the most frightening thing in Henry’s life is the state government.”

– Erin Taylor, whose son Henry was born with a complex congenital heart condition, on the potential impacts of cuts to DHS (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma prison inmates held in private prisons as of October 2017

Source: Department of Corrections

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Fight to Fix America’s Broken Bail System: Last May, Houston police pulled over Maranda Lynn ODonnell. The 22-year-old had driven through a toll plaza without paying. When officers ran the tags on her car, they found she was driving with a suspended license, didn’t carry car insurance and had already racked up $1,487.25 in unpaid tolls. The officers arrested her. During her intake at jail, a pretrial services agent interviewed her and recommended she be released on a “personal bond,” which doesn’t require any upfront payments. Nonetheless, the next day a hearing officer set her bail at $2,500 [Governing].

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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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