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 an Oklahoma County judge upheld Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to withhold documents requested under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act, but the judge said she must release a log identifying which documents she is withholding. Fallin has withheld 31 documents consisting of 100 pages related to her decisions to reject a state health insurance exchange and to not expand Medicaid coverage to low-income Oklahomans. The ACLU of Oklahoma, which provided legal support for plaintiffs in the lawsuit, released a statement on the ruling.
Behind in some polls, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi has loaned her re-election campaign more that $900,000 in the last month, bringing the total loans to her campaign to $1.2 million. Education writer John Thompson discussed the growing education advocacy efforts of VOICE, a coalition of congregations and nonprofits that recently held a forum for superintendent candidates. The OK Policy Blog provided a rundown of major bills affecting Oklahoma’s criminal justice system this year and discussed how lawmakers have done almost nothing to stop an emerging crisis in state prisons.
Lawton police have turned down a request by federal officials to provide security for immigrant children living at Fort Sill. Oklahoma City attorney David Slane wrote an op-ed arguing for comprehensive immigration reform to give easier pathways to immigrants seeking a better life in the United States. NewsOK reported on an effort by Oklahoma’s Red Dirt music community to build support for accepting federal funds to expand health coverage. The OK Policy Blog previously shared a music video made for this effort. An Edmond Sun op-ed discussed how doctors can meet the legitimate pain medication needs of patients while staying in compliance with the law.
A multi-county grand jury will investigate the Scientology-based rehab center Narconon, where three people died in 2011 and 2012. A state audit of Rogers County has discovered millions in misused funds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncollected property taxes. The Tulsa World argued that a proposed increase in Broken Arrow’s hotel tax is unlikely to affect travelers’ decisions of where they get a hotel. Oklahoma’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is up to $3.48 per gallon, the highest price since September 2013.
KOCO reported on how summer meal programs in Oklahoma schools are meeting a dire need for children without enough to eat at home. KFOR shared a Q&A on earthquake insurance for homeowners. A new report on the best and worst states for knowledge jobs and technological innovation ranked Oklahoma 48th in the nation. The Number of the Day is the median hourly wage for Oklahoma workers in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Arkansas Times shared stories of how accepting federal funds to expand health care coverage in the state is already changing lives.
In The News
Judge rules Fallin can withhold documents
An Oklahoma County judge has upheld Gov. Mary Fallin’s legal right to withhold documents requested by news organizations under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act. District Judge Barbara Swinton handed down the ruling Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit on behalf of the satirical news website The Lost Ogle was joined with several news organizations, including The Associated Press, in a request for documents related to Fallin’s decisions to reject a state health insurance exchange and to not expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of low-income and uninsured Oklahomans. Fallin’s office released more than 51,000 pages of emails and other correspondence, but withheld 31 documents consisting of 100 pages of materials that her lawyer, Steve Mullins, determined to be part of “executive and deliberative process privileges.”
Oklahoma state schools superintendent loans campaign almost $1 million in last month
Behind in some polls, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi has loaned her re-election campaign $909,848 in the last month, her latest campaign report shows. She already had loaned her campaign $350,000 last year — for a total of $1,259,848 in self-funding. As of June 9, she had only $222,155 in outside support. The Oklahoma City Republican called the loans necessary to counter those who want to undermine her efforts to improve the lives of children.
Oklahoma City Families and Teachers Find Their VOICE
Until recently, I thought of VOICE as a handful of liberal Christians, spitting into the hot Oklahoma City wind. Similarly, I never expected a grassroots coalition of parents from across the state to stand up to the bubble-in testing mania. I realized last Sunday that VOICE has also become a force to be reckoned with. The coalition of congregations, nonprofits, and schools conducted a very professional study of education issues and reached the conclusion that high-stakes testing is severely damaging our schools.
What lawmakers didn’t do to end the crisis in our prisons
For years, observers have warned of an emerging crisis in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. With state prisons and county jails packed full and staffing levels falling to the worst in the whole nation, Oklahoma has put the safety of both prisoners and correctional officers at risk. Our options to prevent a tragedy were to reduce incarceration and ease pressure on the system or to spend what is necessary to ensure safety. For years, lawmakers did neither, and the tragedies we’ve been warned about are now piling up.
Lawton Police: Feds Want Cops To Secure Fort Sill Immigrant Children
Federal officials are requesting local police officers to provide security for immigrant children living at Fort Sill, according to the Lawton Police Department. Health and Human Services (HHS) requested the assistance. The federal government will not allow police officers to carry their weapons on the post, according to Akard. The request for local police is raising questions over issues the federal government might face in securing its own post. Lawton police said Monday it denied the HHS request. Akard said the Lawton Police Department does not have jurisdiction at Fort Sill.
Seeking a better life
In reality, too many Americans cast blame on immigrants for wanting a better life. Opponents of immigration reform want to shut down our borders while keeping out the so-called undesirables. It’s no wonder that the U.S. has so many illegals or undocumented residents because our national leaders make it difficult to become a legal resident with the immigration bureaucracy and the volumes of required paperwork. It takes too much time and money – two elements most impoverished people in Mexico and Central America don’t have.
Oklahoma musicians make a ‘Stand’ for health care
Ten years ago this month, John Cooper, Brad Piccolo and Ben Han were recovering from broken bones, cracked vertebrae and heart problems, injuries suffered when the helicopter they were riding in struck a power line and crashed upside down in the Cimarron River near Cushing. They were lucky to survive. The pilot and front passenger didn’t. The core members of the Payne County band the Red Dirt Rangers, Cooper, Piccolo and Han are self-employed musicians and didn’t have insurance at the time. And once they recovered from the accident, pre-existing conditions caused by the wreck hindered the trio from getting medical coverage.
See also: Watch This: “Stand (Let Your Voice Be Heard)” from the OK Policy blog.
Pain management drugs need to be monitored
In recent years, much has been written about prescription drugs. Particularly pain medications, which are classified in law as “controlled dangerous substances,” are being used by recreational drug users and addicts. It has been reported that many people — especially young people — believe that drugs issued by pharmacies are safer than street drugs and that they are less likely to experience adverse effects by using them as a result. The controversy regarding such drugs has resulted in many physicians being reluctant to prescribe them to people in chronic pain. Those who advocate on their behalf now complain that their medical needs are not being adequately addressed as a result.
Oklahoma Multi-County Grand Jury To Investigate Narconon
The investigation widens into the Scientology based rehab center Narconon Arrowhead. Narconon’s flagship rehab center on Lake Eufaula has been under investigation ever since three people died at the facility during a nine month time period in 2011 and 2012. Sources tell News 9 the Oklahoma Multi-County Grand Jury will now also be investigating the facility. The multi-county grand jury will meet next week. What they are investigating is typically kept secret. However, a former Narconon executive tells News 9 he has been subpoenaed to testify.
New Rogers County Audit Shows Misused Funds, Uncollected Taxes
Millions in misused funds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncollected property taxes are just a few of the questionable practices the state auditor uncovered in Rogers County. It’s the third report the state auditor has released in just the past few months regarding spending in Rogers County. The first two were for 2011 and 2012; the most recent is for 2013. It shows the questionable spending didn’t improve, at least for one county commissioner. More than $4.2 million in FEMA money was spent, but on road projects state auditor, Gary Jones, said FEMA knew nothing about.
Broken Arrow hotel occupancy tax proposal raises questions
Some Broken Arrow hotel executives want voters to reject a proposed hotel occupancy tax increase in an Aug. 26 election. The tax opponents also complain that the tax increase will cost them business because guests will shop around and take their hotel business to Tulsa, where the hotel tax rate is 5 percent. We’re dubious about that. Hotel patrons make their decisions on a lot of factors — convenience, amenities, brand loyalty and rate come to mind. But only the most picayunish patron actually pays any attention to the tax rate, or is even aware of it until it’s time to check out. The chance that they would be aware that there’s a hotel with a tax that’s slightly lower just up the expressway seems far-fetched.
Oklahomans paying more at the pump than any time in nearly a year
AAA Oklahoma says the state’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is up to $3.48 per gallon, the highest price since September 2013. The automobile travel organization reported Tuesday the statewide average price jumped nearly 3 cents overnight, with some cities, including Tulsa, seeing even steeper climbs. AAA cited the ongoing conflict in Iraq as a driving factor in the price hike. Oklahoma’s average price is still nearly 20 cents lower than the national average of $3.66 per gallon.
Thousands of Oklahoma kids eat free school meals during summer
Serenity Young looked down at her plate. She was almost finished and still hungry. So she, stood up, covered her mother’s ear with her hand, and whispered her question. “Can I get seconds?” she asked. “Yes,” her mother said. “Finish your fruit and you can get seconds.” It’s lunchtime at Country Estates Elementary School in Midwest City and for mom Lora Young, a mother of three, the free meal here is a Godsend. “It’s great,” she said. “I work an overnight shift. So, it saves me time and money.” Young’s son is enrolled in summer school here, so he eats breakfast and lunch at the school. Young brings her twin 7-year-old daughters, Serenity and Destiny, for the free lunch, too.
Questions homeowners have about earthquake insurance
Do you have earthquake insurance? Our Insurance Commissioner John Doak said we should, but explained that earthquake coverage is different. Doak said, “Earthquake coverage is an endorsement. An endorsement is a specialty clause to an existing clause that adds or deletes coverage. Once you add this coverage it is subject to a percentage deductible which is different than a flat deductible” Doak says how the quake measures on the Richter Scale also matters. “It’s all subject to each insurance company. Specific language and those cutoffs may be at different levels.” Doak said previous impact may play a role as well. “They may have to assess if there is any damage to your foundation or to your home after the many issues we’ve had in this state.”
The Best And Worst States For The New Economy
Massachusetts, Delaware, California, Washington, and Maryland are the best states for the “new economy,” according to a study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a nonprofit think tank. Mississippi, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana are the worst. The new economy is, by ITIF’s definition, “marked by globalization, technological innovation and entrepreneurial development.” ITIF determined states’ success by using 25 indicators in five categories. These categories were knowledge jobs, globalization, economic dynamism, the digital economy, and innovation capacity. The study begins with a quote from Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”
Quote of the Day
“Historically, the economies of many of these states depended on natural resources, on tourism, or on mass-production manufacturing, and relied on low costs rather than innovative capacity to gain a competitive advantage. In the New Economy, however, innovative capacity (derived through universities, R&D investments, scientists and engineers, highly skilled workers, and entrepreneurial capabilities) is increasingly the driver of competitive success, while states only offering low costs are being undercut by cheaper producers abroad.”
-Researchers Robert D. Atkinson and Adams B. Nager, writing about the states that fared worst in their 2014 State New Economy Index. Oklahoma ranked 48th out of all 50 states (Source: http://bit.ly/1snTpjD)
Number of the Day
Median hourly wage for Oklahoma workers in 2013.
The faces of health care expansion in Arkansas
During a debate last year in the Arkansas General Assembly over the private option, Rep. Sue Scott (R-Rogers), who voted for the policy, explained, “When I look at the numbers, I see faces with those numbers.” It was a welcome reminder — the details of health care policy can be confusing (and the heated politics can be exhausting), but this is an issue with major stakes for people’s lives. People like Tamara Williams, and the other Arkansans profiled in this story. The private option uses Medicaid funds available via the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, or Obamacare as many call it) to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans.
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