In The Know: Increased regulation may be easing Oklahoma earthquakes

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

Increased regulation may be easing Oklahoma earthquakes: While the earth continues to shudder more frequently than seven years ago beneath Oklahomans feet, the rate of earthquakes in the state in 2016 is down from last year. The state has been shaken by 448 magnitude-3.0 and greater quakes so far this year, down from the 558 it experienced in the same time frame in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Increased regulation on wastewater disposal related to oil and gas extraction could be one reason behind the decline, said Robert Williams, a geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey [USA Today].

Dispute over numbers complicates Oklahoma education funding debate: Within the larger dispute over education funding policy taking place in Oklahoma, sometimes the very numbers used as a baseline are up for debate. A conservative think tank has accused schools of sitting on piles of cash that could shore up recent budget cuts. But educators disagree with that accusation and blame it on a misinterpretation of school budgets [NewsOK]. The report is available here. Oklahoma leads the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Education Leaders Want Teacher Pay Raises, But Still Support $140M Surplus Lawsuit: Leaders of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration are supporting a legal challenge filed in the state Supreme Court this week by Oklahoma City attorney David Slane. The lawsuit accuses Gov. Mary Fallin of violating state law as she considers calling a special legislative session to figure out what to do with the $140 million surplus created by mid-year state budget cuts that were higher than necessary. Fallin has suggested using the money for teacher pay raises. But the lawsuit asserts she does not have the right to hold the money while she figures it out [KGOU]. After two revenue failures, Oklahoma ended the year with surplus. What? [OK Policy]

Yet another lawsuit keeps Texas from tapping into Oklahoma lakes, rivers for drinking water: Water utilities in Dallas-Fort Worth have lost again in court, even though they had nothing to do with the case. A 5-year-old lawsuit involving two Indian tribes and Oklahoma state water regulators has been settled. The Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes were asserting water rights on their land based on an 1830 treaty. And that potentially could have provided a new source of water for the thirsty, booming areas of North Texas [Dallas Morning News].

Oklahoma officials reveal details of historic water rights agreement: Oklahoma City would obtain the right to Sardis Lake water needed to meet future drinking water and economic development needs, while the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations would receive assurances that certain lake levels and stream flows would be preserved, under a complex water rights agreement announced Thursday. …The 88-page agreement is expected to resolve a lawsuit the tribes filed against the city and state five years ago [NewsOK].

Former Oklahoma Speaker Kris Steele makes case for state questions on criminal justice reform: Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele and three allies made their case for two criminal justice reform ballot questions Thursday evening at the University of Tulsa College of Law. Termed out after the 2012 session, Steele continued a personal crusade by leading a coalition pushing for changes in the way the justice system handles low-level criminals with substance abuse and mental health problems [Tulsa World].

AG complains about Oklahoma Supreme Court rewrite of state question ballot title: Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Thursday complained about the explanation the Supreme Court came up with for a state question involving drug laws, and he suggested replacing it with a new version of his own. The Supreme Court on Monday issued its own ballot descriptions — known as ballot titles — for State Questions 780 and 781. The attorney general asked justices to reconsider their version of the ballot title for SQ 780, saying it does not adequately explain to the public the effects of the dramatic changes to the drug laws being proposed [NewsOK].

Medical marijuana supporters turn in signatures, uncertain if they have enough: Supporters of efforts to legalize medical marijuana say they do not know if they have enough signatures to get it on the ballot. Supporters on Thursday carried boxes of signed petitions into the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office at the Capitol in hopes they hit the 65,987 signature count required to get it on the Nov. 8 ballot. “We are close,” said Jerri Stephens of Sapulpa. “We are real close.” Stephens helped deliver the signatures [Tulsa World].

Upcoming Event: Sleeping Giant author on how the ‘new working class’ is transforming America: There was a time when America’s working class was seen as the backbone of the economy with considerable political, economic, and moral authority. In recent decades, the working class has transformed as far more female and racially diverse workers have been employed by the restaurant, retail, health care, and other service industries. At the same time, this new working class has been marginalized, if not ignored, by politicians and pundits [OK Policy].

Students begin classes Monday at Oklahoma State, Langston: Greeted by the Cowboy Marching Band and banners proclaiming “Welcome Home,” thousands of Oklahoma State University students moved back to campus Thursday. “We’ve been working to get as many volunteers as possible to help students,” said Leon McClinton, director of residential life. “We’re hoping with our new model to connect with every student, especially the first-year students.” [NewsOK]

Millions needed to support Vision Tulsa’s public safety hires overlooked in planning: City officials gave city councilors details Thursday on millions of dollars the city eventually will need to support the hiring of additional police officers and firefighters with Vision Tulsa money. Adding more than 160 police officers and 65 firefighters to the public-safety ranks will require direct support from other city departments, including information technology, human resources, asset management and medical [Tulsa World].

Tulsa Fire Department concerned lack of manpower will affect amount of time it takes to fight fires: The Tulsa Fire Department is worried it won’t be able to make up for its lack of manpower like it has in the past. The department is allowed 675 people, and it’s built to function within ten above or below that number. Right now, the force has about 645 people. Tulsa Fire Department Public Information Officer Captain Stan May said the lack of manpower is starting to have negative effects on emergencies in the community, and within the department itself [KJRH].

Health insurance costs increasing for state employees, retirees: State employees and retirees on the state’s insurance plans are likely to see a rate increase next year. The Oklahoma Employees Insurance and Benefits Board approved increases in all of the plans it oversees, from 6 percent for one of three HMOs and nearly 16 percent for the Medicare-based high option plan offered through the state’s self-insured group. The rate increases are the highest in recent years. In one of the plans offered by the self-funded HealthChoice program, rates never grew beyond 5.5 percent since 2010 [Journal Record].

Black Vultures Are Protected By Treaty, But Eating the Profits of Oklahoma Ranchers: This is the centennial year of the Migratory Bird Treaty. The compact between the United States and Canada assures many birds can travel undisturbed, but the international agreement protects one species that’s a menace to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers. Frank Lawrence is sick of the black vultures he’s been dealing with his entire life as a rancher in southeast Oklahoma [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“We can talk about cost-of-living adjustments and debate average salaries, but when you are hemorrhaging teachers across state lines like we are, you have a problem. We would not have record numbers of emergency certification and teachers leaving the state if it wasn’t a real issue.”

– Tyler Bridges, assistant superintendent for Clinton Public Schools, an educator taking dispute with a report from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs alleging that public schools could use carry-over funding from the last fiscal year to restore cut programs and hire teachers [Source]

Number of the Day


Percentage of low-income Oklahomans who describe their oral health as poor, compared to 3% of high-income Oklahomans.

Source: American Dental Association

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How neighborhood inequality leads to higher crime rates: Income inequality is a topic of increasing interest as the share of total income held by the top 1 percent continues to grow in the US and the percentage of the population below the poverty line continues to rise. A substantial amount of research indicates income inequality leads to violent crime; as income gaps create social tension, this leads to a feeling of unfairness for the poor and they lash out with violence. However, there is less of a consensus when it comes to property crime [London School of Economics US Centre].

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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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