In The Know: Legislators waffle at chamber breakfast

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

Legislators waffle at chamber breakfast: Days before the legislative session is set to begin, four of the state’s top lawmakers shared their positions on Oklahoma’s most pressing issues. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber held its annual legislative breakfast on Wednesday. Organizers hosted Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, House Speaker Charles McCall and House Minority Leader Steve Kouplen. A moderator asked each member questions about topics bound to crop up during the legislative session, which begins Monday [Journal Record]. Step Up Oklahoma plan adds to the consensus that new revenues are essential [OK Policy].

As legislative session nears, Oklahoma eyes work requirements, other changes to Medicaid program: Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said she is supporting legislation that would implement work requirements as a condition for non-disabled adults to receive benefits from SoonerCare, the Medicaid state and federally-funded health care coverage program for low-income people. And several other bills that have been introduced for the upcoming legislative session would, if passed, make additional changes to the state’s Medicaid program and the state agency that oversees it, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority [The Frontier]. Oklahoma ​should avoid the temptation to pass new Medicaid​ restrictions​ [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Unfinished business: When lawmakers return to the Capitol next week, it won’t just be the first month of the 2018 session. In many ways they will be returning for the 13th month of the 2017 session, with last year’s unfinished business dominating this year’s agenda. The first order of business will be to complete the 2017 budget [David Blatt / Journal Record]. We have identified the following issues as our top 2018 policy priorities [OK Policy].

Evergreens still bloom at the Capitol: With all of the attention given the state’s finances, one might think they are the sole subject on legislators’ minds as 2018’s regular session, and a concurrent special session, convene on Monday. One would be wrong. Many a long-lived evergreen still flourishes at the Capitol, reborn in dozens of new pieces of legislation that, for the most part, have little chance of becoming law, but succeed in keeping issues alive [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s Top Auditor Calls on Lawmakers to Change Agency Review System: State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones says one of the most effective ways for Oklahoma to tackle financial mismanagement is to set up a joint accountability system. Jones said it would embed his auditors within state agencies to assist internal auditors, a practice pitched to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in the past and met with interest there. Lawmakers have considered proposals in the past, but those measures have stalled [KWGS].

Consumer protection agency’s new direction is bad news for Oklahomans: The 2008 mortgage crisis proved that American families needed someone on their side to protect them from big banks and shady financial practices. That’s why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, was created — to protect ordinary American consumers from unfair, abusive, and deceptive practices in the financial industry, including predatory lenders. The CFPB has been has been quite active — and effective — during its relatively short history [Courtney Cullison / Tulsa World]. New protections for payday loan borrowers are under attack [OK Policy].

Task force sends recommendation for Oklahoma higher education: Dozens of recommendations by the state’s task force on the future of higher education were adopted formally Wednesday in the group’s final meeting. The report will be presented Thursday to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The regents are expected to approve the report, which includes recommendations ranging from fully funding concurrent enrollment to developing a statewide outreach strategy for helping military students earn a degree [NewsOK].

Scholarship Fund Tells Private Schools to Revise Discrimination Policies: At least 60 private schools receiving tax-credit scholarships have been given three months to comply with a state law that prohibits discriminating against applicants based on disability. The Opportunity Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit that last year collected $5.1 million in donations to help pay students’ tuition at private schools across the state, says schools that don’t comply will be removed from the program [Oklahoma Watch].

Hofmeister outlines long-range plans for education: Oklahoma State Department of Education is rolling out details of its eight-year plan known as Oklahoma Edge. Some details were covered in an address Tuesday by Oklahoma Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister at Northwest Oklahoma Alliance luncheon and quarterly meeting held at Woodward Conference Center. “It is the first time in a long, long time that we have had a long-term vision and a goal with very detailed steps,” Hofmeister said [CNHI]. Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy].

Tumult at school leads Gist to send letter to Edison parents addressing concerns: Tulsa Public Schools’ chief executive sought to ease concerns over the climate at Edison Preparatory School in a letter she sent to parents Wednesday. In the letter, Superintendent Deborah Gist addressed concerns with teacher turnover, state funding cuts and student discipline, which were issues voiced by teachers, parents and students at an Edison PTSA meeting last week. The meeting, and Gist’s subsequent letter, came during a tumultuous time at one of TPS’s highest-performing schools [Tulsa World].

Secret surveillance orders by Oklahoma law enforcement are increasing, and proposed law would expand their use: It wasn’t the most daring set of crimes, but it was annoying to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the state’s turnpike authority. Rolling down northeastern Oklahoma turnpikes, thieves would stop at the toll collection machines, break them, take the money and drive away. The string of burglaries lasted at least two years and numbered at least 13 [The Frontier].

OK Policy announces new staff and expanded leadership team: We’re excited to announce the addition of Sabine Brown and Jessica Vazquez to the Oklahoma Policy Institute staff. Sabine joins as our new Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator and as our primary staff person coordinating the grassroots Together Oklahoma coalition. …Jessica Vazquez has joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate [OK Policy].

Muscogee (Creek) Nation to open new hospitals in Okemah, Eufaula: Residents in Okemah soon will have full access to a new Muscogee (Creek) Nation hospital in the city. Eufaula residents will have the same later this year as the tribe expands its efforts to bring health care to rural Oklahoma. The new Muscogee (Creek) Nation Community Hospital in Okemah is an 110,000-square-foot, $55 million facility designed to operate as a community emergency room and as a tribal health clinic [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Corporation Commission allows Public Service Co. of Oklahoma to recover costs in rate case decision: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Wednesday authorized the Public Service Co. of Oklahoma to increase the base rate its customers pay for power, but it remained unclear late in the day on how much it’s going up. In its case filed in mid-2017, PSO had sought to increase the rate by $156 million, or 11 percent, so it could recover more than $625 million in costs for electrical upgrades it had made since its last rate case and boost its profit [NewsOK].

Restoration of state Capitol on schedule as renovated west entrance reopens: In another step toward restoration of the state Capitol, the building’s recently renovated west public entrance was reopened Wednesday. The action is part of a $245 million Capitol overhaul being paid for with bonds approved by the Legislature. The building has electrical, structural and plumbing problems that need to be corrected. The new corridor is much wider and more aesthetically pleasing than the old entrance [Tulsa World].

Goats eat way into more municipal groundskeeping plans: The 20 new employees at Midwest City’s water resources and recovery center are much easier to work with than humans and machinery, said Chris Thomas, the center’s chief operator and goat manager. The animals have proven so able at removing unwanted weeds that the city intends to expand its herd again this spring to deal with overgrowth at railroad rights of way, Thomas said. “Give them a handful of feed and they’ll love you. They’ll do anything you want,” he said [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“It is my intent to see those move as quickly as possible.”

– Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall on previously stymied criminal justice reform legislation (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of workers earning minimum wage or less in Oklahoma who are women (2016)

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Kentucky’s New Idea for Medicaid Access: Pass Health Literacy Course: If you’re on Medicaid in Kentucky and are kicked off the rolls for failing to meet the state’s new work requirements, Kentucky will be offering a novel way to reactivate your medical coverage: a health or financial literacy course you must pass.The precise content of the courses is not yet worked out but may include instruction on household budgeting, opening a checking account, weight management and chronic disease management, said Kristi Putnam, a manager with Kentucky Health, the new state Medicaid program that includes work requirements. She said quizzes would be included that people must pass to complete the course [The New York Times].

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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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