In The Know: Insurance Commissioner to review earthquake insurance premium hikes

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

Insurance Commissioner to review earthquake insurance premium hikes: Earthquake insurance used to be dirt cheap in Oklahoma. Now, in the wake of hundreds of recent earthquakes, premiums and rates are on the rise, so the state insurance commissioner decided to hit the “pause button.” Last month, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak called the market noncompetitive. It was more than just a statement — it allowed him and the Insurance Commission, by state statute, to review some of the rising earthquake insurance rates before they were enacted instead of them just going into effect [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma sees drop in quakes as wastewater injection volume declines: Oklahoma is on pace for fewer earthquakes than the prior year for the first time since 2012 — but an area in northwest Oklahoma remains seismically strong and a concern to scientists. The state’s red dirt began to sporadically tremble in 2009 like a popcorn bag just placed into a microwave. The ground rumbling soon took off in earnest, quickly shooting up until perhaps cresting a year ago. And the dip itself in 2012 was a solitary outlier during the several-year climb [Tulsa World].

Laws on drug possession among topics for Oklahoma studies: A ballot proposal to make possession of small amounts of drugs in Oklahoma a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in jail would make Oklahoma’s drug laws among the most liberal in the country, according to a state lawmaker who has requested an interim study on the plan. State Rep. Scott Biggs, an ex-prosecutor, disputes the idea that Oklahoma’s drug laws are too harsh. He requested an interim study to compare Oklahoma’s drug laws to those in other states [KOCO]. Oklahoma’s drug possession laws are among the harshest in the nation [OK Policy].

‘Irish Mob’ leaders accused of trafficking meth, heroin in Oklahoma prisons: Despite being locked away in one of the state’s most secure correctional facilities, high-ranking members of the “Irish Mob” prison gang are accused of running a drug- trafficking organization using contraband cellphones. A 48-page affidavit unsealed Thursday in federal court details the gang’s drug-trafficking enterprise through a series of excerpts from telephone conversations, text messages and testimony from “cooperating witnesses.” In all, 19 men and women with varying levels of involvement in the drug ring were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute methamphetamine and heroin [NewsOK]. Budget cuts and understaffing have severely compromised Oklahoma’s ability to keep order in prisons [OK Policy].

OKC Urban League president: Planting the seeds for tomorrow’s achievements: While the economy is getting stronger, the African-American community continues to lag in jobs, wages and opportunity. Here in Oklahoma, African-American unemployment is almost 12 percent, double the average for whites — and black job seekers stay unemployed longer and have a harder time trying to find new work than other groups. This is especially true in high-tech, high-wage jobs that are the foundation of tomorrow’s economy [Valerie Thompson / NewsOK].

‘When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality seems like oppression.’: There’s not much news out of the Capitol this week, so I thought I’d reflect on the traumatic national week we had. I recently saw a posting on Facebook that keeps coming back to me. It’s not among the ones you might think I’d be talking about. It’s not the picture of Alton Sterling lying on the ground dead with a bloody chest. It’s not the one of Philando Castile dying before my eyes and the eyes of his 4-year old daughter. It’s not the one of Dallas Police officers ducking behind buildings trying to figure out where the bullets are coming from. Horrible as all of those are, I’ve seen plenty of those kinds of pictures before [OK Policy].

Sen. James Lankford calls for Americans of different races to share a meal on ‘Solution Sunday’: Sen. James Lankford challenged Americans on Thursday to advance racial relations by inviting someone from a different race over for a meal. “If we’re going to have a conversation about race, maybe the conversation should start with each of our families at our dinner tables,” the Oklahoma City Republican said in remarks on the Senate floor. In the week since two black men were killed by white police officers in high-profile shootings and five Dallas police officers were killed by a black man, Lankford has been asking people whether they’ve ever hosted someone from another race for dinner, he said [Tulsa World].

Former Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz pleads guilty to one misdemeanor charge, no contest to another: Nearly one year after a grand jury began its investigation, former Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz on Friday pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge and no contest to another linked to his indictment last fall. Glanz, 73, pleaded guilty to willful violation of the law and no contest to refusal to perform official duty. During a brief afternoon hearing, Tulsa County Presiding Judge Rebecca Nightingale accepted the plea agreement, which calls for a one-year suspended sentence [Tulsa World].

Three good ideas from We the People Oklahoma: Three proposals for local law enforcement changes put forward by the grassroots group We the People Oklahoma on Wednesday are certainly not radical. One of them makes complete sense and the other two are largely on target also. The three proposals are: • All Tulsa Police Department and Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office policies should be online and accessible to the public. • All law enforcement officers involved in shootings should have a blood test and a psychiatric evaluation immediately. • All versions of law enforcement reports that are revised should be accessible [Tulsa World].

The problem with our state budget isn’t that anyone’s piece of the pie is too small; it’s the pie that’s the problem: We have a lot of sympathy for Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson, who is trying to figure out how to keep the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on the roads in the face of an inadequate state budget. Thompson says he faces the potential for layoffs, furlough or other dramatic moves because the Legislature only appropriated $83 million to public safety for the fiscal year that started July 1. The agency’s payroll is $128 million a year [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

At ‘A’-Rated KIPP School in OKC, Students Who Leave Are Rarely Replaced: A little-known trend in KIPP Reach’s school enrollment casts a new light on its achievement record – a record likely to be praised when the charter school’s expansion proposal comes before the Oklahoma City school board Monday. The KIPP school receives high marks on the state school report cards — an A+ on its latest — and many of its students go on to high-performing and competitive high schools. But enrollment data provided by the state Office of Educational Quality and Accountability shows KIPP’s student population dwindles significantly in the upper grades. That means year after year, students who leave the school are rarely replaced [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma becomes a battleground over ‘right to farm’ measure: Paul Muegge convened an eclectic group of neighbors of his small farm in Tonkawa this week to talk about the “dangerous precedent” that could be set if Oklahomans pass a “right to farm” ballot measure this fall. Among 20 people who showed up were a city manager, retired school teachers and the owner of a meat market. They listened as Muegge, 79, who grows hay and alfalfa, and raises cattle, explained his worry the measure will stop the community from speaking up about activities that threaten the environment. A week earlier, Oklahoma Farm Bureau convened its own meeting, targeting nearly 200 younger, more urban Oklahomans at a popular brewery in Oklahoma City. The group, however, was urging people to support the ballot measure [Enid News & Eagle]. The rise of industrial agriculture has coincided with the number of agricultural jobs in Oklahoma declining by 77 percent since 1990 [OK Policy].

Oklahoma energy companies work toward emerging from bankruptcy: Oil prices are up from February’s 12-year lows, and some local companies are increasing drilling activity. But the two-year oil price downturn continues to weigh on the state’s biggest industry as companies try to shed debt and return to profitability. At least nine Oklahoma energy companies filed for bankruptcy protection between September 2015 and May 2016 after finding themselves unable to make interest payments and deal with shrinking credit lines [NewsOK].

Fire damage to GRDA plant could hit $200 million: Damage from a July 1 fire at the Grand River Dam Authority’s main generating facility in Chouteau could reach $200 million, officials with the state-owned utility said Thursday. GRDA spokesman Justin Alberty said the total cost of the fire is expected to be $85 million to $200 million, depending largely on the cost to rebuild the larger of the two coal-fired units affected. Alberty said it appears insurance will cover most of the damage, and GRDA has not had to purchase power on the open market to replace the lost capacity [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Boards of education have cut teachers’ jobs and shortened the school week to four days. Thousands of Oklahomans in need of mental health treatment are ending up in jails and prisons because they can’t get the help they need. Those prisons are dangerously full and dangerously understaffed. Across the board, essential state services are being cut because the state Legislature failed to meet its obligations to the taxpayers. Maybe [Public Safety Commissioner Michael] Thompson should take a page out of the school system’s playbook and only patrol highways six days a week. Or maybe the Legislature should come up with a more realistic state revenue structure.”

-Tulsa World Editorial Board (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma adults who reported using pain medications recreationally from 2013-2014, the highest percentage in the US (tied with Colorado).

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Billions We’re Wasting in Our Jails: Few areas of local government spending present better opportunities for dramatic savings than those that surround pretrial detention. Cities and counties are wasting more than $3 billion a year, and often inducing crime and job loss, by holding the wrong people while they await trial. The problem: Only 10 percent of jurisdictions use risk data analytics when deciding which defendants should be detained. As a result, dangerous people are out in our communities, while many who could be safely in the community are behind bars [Governing].

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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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