In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.
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Today you should know that between 600 and 1,200 children who fled Central American countries are expected to arrive in Fort Sill by the weekend. An estimated 300 to 600 federal workers who will care for them will live in the surrounding community. The effort is projected to bring $1.2 million to the Lawton economy within the first 30 days. An Oklahoma County judge has set a hearing date in a lawsuit challenging Gov. Fallin’s refusal to turn over documents requested under the Open Records Act. Citing executive privilege, Fallin’s office has has withheld about 100 pages of documents related to her decisions to allow the federal government to operate Oklahoma’s health insurance exchange and to refuse federal funds to expand health coverage to low-income Oklahomans.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is pursuing another lawsuit against the EPA over carbon emission regulations, even though he’s already lost multiple previous lawsuits. A proposal by the Tulsa County Sheriff to charge cities for holding their inmates before charges are filed has been delayed by 90 days in order to give a task force enough time to complete a cost study. State health officials will travel to Washington DC in late June for training in a new suicide prevention model. Spirit AeroSystems is expected to announce the sale of at least part of its Tulsa plant soon, according to union representatives. The Tulsa World wrote that water rate hikes will be painful, but necessary because Tulsa’s water treatment and distribution systems need to be overhauled.
A federal program is providing low-income seniors in Oklahoma $50 debit cards to be used at local farmer’s markets. The Red Cross is releasing a Spanish-language disaster preparedness app to help families prepare for severe weather. Tulsa city councilors are discussing building an organization that would raise funds for Tulsa arts organizations to protect against city budget cuts. A new report from the US Drought Monitor finds that drought conditions are improving in Oklahoma; 17 percent of the state remains in ‘exceptional drought’, down from 21 percent one week ago.
The Number of the Day is the number of outpatient visits to VA facilities in Oklahoma in 2009. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News reports on why affordable health care is crucial for women recently released from prison to rebuild their lives.
In The News
Immigrant children expected to arrive at Fort Sill by the weekend
With details still scarce about a humanitarian mission that will bring hundreds of immigrant children to Fort Sill temporarily, the community is preparing for an influx of federal workers who will care for the children. An estimated 600 to 1,200 children are expected to arrive by bus at Fort Sill by the weekend after being caught at the U.S. border while fleeing Central American countries. Workers will try to reunite the children with their families or find them a sponsor. To handle the more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border since October, the government said it will open short-term shelters at Fort Sill and in California and Texas. Federal employees will be brought to Lawton at a ratio of one to every two children — meaning at least 300 workers — and possibly 600 — are expected to flood the community in the coming days, filling hotels and rental houses, city officials say. While the children will be housed on fort grounds, the workers will not.
Oklahoma judge sets hearing in Fallin records case
An Oklahoma County judge has scheduled a hearing in a lawsuit that challenges Gov. Mary Fallin’s refusal to turn over some documents requested under the state’s Open Records Act. District Judge Barbara Swinton will hear arguments from attorneys in the case Thursday in a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of The Lost Ogle, a satirical news and entertainment website. The Lost Ogle joined with several news organizations, including The Associated Press, in a request for documents from Fallin’s office related to decisions to reject a state health insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. Fallin’s office released thousands of pages of material but withheld 31 documents consisting of 100 pages, citing executive privilege.
Court Losses Won’t Deter Attorney General Scott Pruitt In His Fight With The EPA
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed new rules to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — predictably — blasted the plan as another example of federal overreach in the Obama Administration’s war on fossil fuels. And the same day the EPA announced its CO2 emission goal, Pruitt was already making a case for litigation over it. “The EPA can’t force utility companies to actually incorporate emission control measures unless they’re achievable through technology,” Pruitt tells StateImpact. “And here, there really isn’t any demonstrated technology that will see a reduction of 30 percent.”
Jail Proposal Put Off for 90 Days
A proposal by the Tulsa County Sheriff to charge cities for holding their inmates before charges are filed is on hold. The Tulsa County jail board approved a request by the City of Tulsa to extend its agreement with the sheriff’s office by 90 days, which should give enough time for a task force to complete a cost study started in April. Undersheriff Tim Albin says the extension will be given to all local municipalities they work with. “The fair thing to do with the other municipalities is also stay that deal,” Albin said. “We’ve got a meeting proposed July 1 to sit down with the area chiefs and their representatives to talk about some of the logistics and some of the things involved in this.” The task force found ways to lower the daily cost of housing an inmate from $63 to $50. The reimbursement rate cities pay the jail is $45. Albin says the extra time will be used to sort things out.
Mental health officials to study new suicide prevention model
State mental health officials will travel to Washington, D.C., in late June to learn about a new suicide prevention model. Ann Jenkins, a crisis services program officer with Family & Children’s Services, and two members of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will represent Oklahoma at the Zero Suicide Academy. Representatives from 16 states will participate in the event, June 26-27. “It’s very exciting. We don’t get this much cooperation on preventing anything else, but with suicide, it’s preventing a death,” Jenkins said. The academy is part of the federal government’s push to lower suicide rates across the country. The idea behind the Zero Suicide model is that agencies statewide work in a cooperative manner while treating suicide as a disease and not just a symptom of depression or anxiety.
Union exec: Spirit rumored to announce Tulsa site sale on July 2
The sale of at least part of Spirit AeroSystems’ plant in Tulsa may be imminent, if union allegations are correct. A union executive representing Spirit AeroSystems engineers is asking the Wichita, Kansas-based company if it plans to announce the sale of its non-Boeing contracts, which would bring some closure to the 10-month saga since plans were announced to sell facilities in Tulsa and McAlester.Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace Midwest Director Bob Brewer sent a letter to Spirit AeroSystems Wednesday asking for confirmation that Spirit would announce a sale of its non-Boeing work, much of which takes place at the the 2,800-employee Tulsa plant and the McAlester facility, on July 2 or 3. “Multiple SPEEA members have relayed information that Spirit will announce some variant of the above on July 2,” Brewer wrote to Spirit’s director of labor relations and workforce strategies, Jeff Clark.
Water rate hike difficult, necessary
The pending city budget for next year includes a proposal to increase utility rates. Water rates would go up 7 percent. Sewer rates would rise 9.75 percent. If the word “again” rang in your ears as you read that, it’s understandable. City utility rates have risen consistently in recent years — an average of 4.8 percent annually for water and 8.3 percent a year for sewage — and they will likely continue going up in the future. There’s a number of reasons associated with that, including that the city has stopped funding needed utility infrastructure improvements with traditional sources of capital funding — a move that has allowed more funding for streets, but it leaves an unaddressed issue for the city. We would oppose the utility rate hikes if we were not convinced of the absolute need.
Free money available for Oklahomans to buy farm-fresh produce
Tecumseh resident Janene Graber comes to the Pottawatomie County Farmers Market every week. “It gives you an old-timey feel of having everybody here and things that are made here and grown locally,” said Graber who uses money from the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program to purchase her weekly vegetables. SFMNP is a federal program utilized by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Those age 60 and older, whose income is around $21,000 a year are eligible to apply. Participants receive a card worth $50 to use during April and September of each year to spend at participating markets on locally-grown fruits, vegetables and herbs. This summer 10 farmers markets across the state are participating and 1,400 Oklahomans have enrolled, but there are hopes to grow the program if Oklahoma can show the federal government enthusiasm and support for the idea. “If each person who uses their benefits uses them fully, we can apply for more funding for the next year’s program and serve even more people,” said Katherine McRae with Oklahoma DHS Aging Services.
American Red Cross launches disaster preparedness smartphone apps for Spanish speakers
The American Red Cross is launching a series of Spanish-language smartphone apps that officials say will help keep families safe when natural disasters are on the way. The disaster preparedness apps will give Red Cross workers a new tool to reach Oklahoma’s growing Spanish-speaking community before, during and after natural disasters, said Ken Garcia, a spokesman for the Red Cross of Central and Western Oklahoma. Five of the six apps offer real-time information about disaster threats in their area, Garcia said. Those disaster-preparedness apps cover hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. As hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and floods approach, apps give users information on how to stay safe, he said. They also tell the user when the emergency has passed, he said. A sixth app gives the user access to first aid information, including instructions on how to perform manual CPR, he said.
City councilors pushing for arts fundraising organization
City councilors are planning to create a task force to focus on creating an organization that would raise and administer funds for Tulsa’s arts scene. The discussion began Thursday with councilors agreeing that something needed to be done to prevent arts programs from consistently being on the chopping block when budget cuts occur. Councilor Phil Lakin is leading the push for an organization, which has been discussed but never realized in recent years. Lakin said the organization would be for arts what the United Way is for social services. “I know it’s been floated several times, and with the way the city budget is going and the way the arts keep getting cut, maybe it’s time to reignite that conversation,” Lakin said. The general idea is to have a central organization that would be in charge of fundraising for the city’s arts programs as a supplement to funds provided through the city budget, he said.
Oklahoma Drought Conditions Lessen
A new report says drought conditions are improving in Oklahoma, though more than half of the state remains in extreme or exceptional drought. New data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 17 percent of Oklahoma is in exceptional drought — the most severe classification of drought. That’s down from 21 percent a week ago. The Drought Monitor says 53 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, primarily in the northern, central and western parts of the state. That’s down from 61 percent last week. About 8 percent of Oklahoma, all in the southeast, is experiencing no drought conditions.
Quote of the Day
“Sometimes ideological experiments bring unintended outcomes. I think Kansas is seeing that, and it serves as a reminder for the rest of us.”
– Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller, speaking about huge tax cuts in Kansas that have led to plunging revenue and a debt downgrade, while the state’s economic growth is not surpassing neighboring states that didn’t cut taxes (Source: http://bit.ly/1v9S79Y).
Number of the Day
Outpatient visits to VA facilities in Oklahoma during FY 2009.
Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs.
For Women Just Out Of Jail, Health Care Could Be Key To Better Life
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department is implementing a new city law allowing its staff to enroll inmates into health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi believes that making sure people have health coverage when they’re released will help prevent them from committing another crime and coming back. One inmate – Sophia – recently requested help signing up for health insurance. Sophia, who asked that her last name not be used, was caught driving a stolen car in January and sentenced to three months in the county jail. She says that was because she stopped getting treatment for her substance abuse and mental health problems when her health insurance expired.
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