In The Know: Legislature put $50.9 million worth of negative publicity on Oklahoma, says Tulsa Regional Chamber

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

Tulsa Regional Chamber: Legislature put $50.9 million worth of negative publicity on Oklahoma: The last two weeks of the recently completed legislative session earned Oklahoma $50.9 million worth of bad publicity, according to a report commissioned by the Tulsa Regional Chamber. And that’s just counting stories related to three issues: a “transgender bathroom” bill, education funding and the state budget. The estimate does not take into account other coverage, including a scathing Sunday New York Times editorial headlined “Oklahoma Makes the Poor Poorer.” “This is important because we’ve never been able to measure these impacts before,” said Nick Doctor, the Tulsa chamber’s senior vice president of government affairs and its primary staff liaison with lawmakers [Tulsa World].

Oklahomans will hold elected official accountable for ’embarrassing’ legislative session, minority leader predicts: The acrimonious legislative session will bode well for Democrats at the polls, House Minority Leader Scott Inman said Thursday. Inman, D-Del City, called the session, which ended last week, a national “embarrassment.” It included attempts to outlaw abortion, reductions to tax credits for the working poor and a call to impeach President Barack Obama over his administration’s guidance letter to schools saying transgender students can use the restroom of their choice [Tulsa World].

State’s reputation at whims of outliers: The Oklahoma Legislature made national and international headlines in 2016 – for all the wrong reasons. In an essay titled “Oh, Oklahoma,” The Economist lamented that lawmakers “spent May failing” a “good test of basic governance.” The New York Times editorialized that “Republicans controlling the Oklahoma Legislature cruelly targeted some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.” The Washington Post weighed in with a lengthy story detailing the legislative follies. And the U.K. Guardian asked, “Is Oklahoma trying to be America’s least progressive state?” [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

‘Behind Smoky Doors’: Last-minute bills breed public distrust: Each year, the Legislature appropriates a sum of money to the Department of Education in the General Appropriations bill for “programs and activities.” This line-item covers contributions to teachers’ retirement, early childhood education, alternative education, reading sufficiency, remedial programming, and more. This year, in a budget that was heralded for “holding education harmless,” the programs and activities budget was slashed by 30 percent. There was no press release announcing this cut, which will have serious consequences for public schools [OK Policy].

Family, frustration force some lawmakers not to seek another term: Citing reasons from missed ballgames to frustration with the legislative process, several lawmakers this year will forgo re-election bids. Another 30 will be ending their service due to 12-year legislative term limits. “I want to go home and be a dad,” said Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, who has been a House member since 2007. “This year was more difficult on my children. They were physically asking me not to come back. I am missing baseball games.” [Tulsa World] Macy Gleason, 21, and Kyle Hilbert, 22 went to OSU and are now running for office to represent the people of District 29 right after graduating [NewsOn6].

Good advice to totally real questions: It’s time for me to open the bag of mail and respond to the stack of reader inquiries that routinely flood my office. And this isn’t going to be one of those cheesy fake advice columns, either, in which the lazy writer makes up questions he wants to answer and invents silly pseudonyms such as Lonely in Las Vegas or Confused in Colorado to attach. If you didn’t know that about many so-called advice columns, I’m sorry I burst your bubble. But not Ann Landers. Ann Landers was legit  [Ted Streuli / Journal Record].

Report highlights Oklahoma’s problem with Rx drug abuse: Oklahoma leads the nation in abuse of prescription painkillers, according to recent federal data. The report, which was compiled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, shows Oklahoma had the highest percentage of individuals age 12 and older who reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons. The data, which was released in December, comes from the agency’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health [NewsOK].

Child care providers worry about income, kids after DHS cuts subsidies: Parents who apply for child care subsidies through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services will be denied until further notice due to an institutional freeze that took effect Wednesday. In 2015, more than 59,000 children received subsidized child care in the state, according to the DHS. This is the first time the department has suspended child care subsidies for low-income families [Journal Record]. The budget agreement brought more bad news to Oklahoma’s children, seniors, and people with disabilities [OK Policy].

Criminal justice reform supporters deliver signatures to secretary of state: Advocates of criminal justice reform submitted signatures on Thursday to the secretary of state in an effort to get a pair of state questions before voters in November. Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a coalition of community leaders and organizations across the state, submitted more than 220,000 signatures, well above the 65,000 required to qualify for the ballot. State Question 780 would reclassify certain low-level offenses, such as drug possession and some property offenses of less than $1,000, as misdemeanors instead of felonies [Tulsa World].

State Reformatory inmates to move to leased private prison in July: Inmates from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite will begin moving to the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, which the Department of Corrections has leased from a private prison company, as soon as July 5, DOC Interim Director Joe Allbaugh told the Board of Corrections on Thursday. During the board’s monthly meeting, held at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita, Allbaugh said the DOC is expected to be housing 1,200 to 1,300 inmates at North Fork, which was closed in 2015, by the end of July. Inmates at 15 work centers across Oklahoma that are set to close will in turn be moved to the Oklahoma State Reformatory [Tulsa World]. 

Energy companies want federal earthquake lawsuit dismissed: Devon Energy Corp. is selling wastewater disposal wells that have come under voluntary directives to reduce volumes amid an increase in triggered earthquakes in Oklahoma, the company disclosed in response to a federal lawsuit. The energy company said all of its disposal wells into the deep Arbuckle formation were part of a previously announced $200 million deal to sell noncore assets in Oklahoma’s Mississippian formation. White Star Petroleum LLC, formerly American Energy-Woodford LLC, is the buyer [NewsOK].

Sierra Club, others appeal decision allowing OG&E scrubbers: Two groups are appealing the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s decision on a utility’s request to add pollution-scrubbing equipment to a coal-fired power plant. The appeal might not stop Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. from continuing its construction project. It could be months before the state’s appellate court addresses the case, Sierra Club attorney Kristin Henry said. The OCC decided April 28 that OG&E’s request to add air pollution reduction equipment to its Sooner Power Plant was reasonable [Journal Record].

Forecast Calls for La Niña, Increased Chance For Drought In Oklahoma: After one of the driest periods on record, 2015 was the wettest year ever in Oklahoma, and the rain still hasn’t let up. But scientists say climate conditions are aligning in a way that could bring drought back to the state. Mason Bolay doesn’t have a lot of time to talk about whether he’s prepared for the next drought. He needs to finish the daily work on his family’s farm outside Perry in north-central Oklahoma before the next thunderstorm moves in [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Tornado Town, USA: On the evening of May 3, 1999, a massive tornado tore through the Oklahoma City area. Known today as the Bridge Creek-Moore Tornado, it’s infamous for its size (a mile wide) and strength (wind speeds reached 300 miles per hour, on par with a Tokyo bullet train). It moved, as tornadoes so often do, from the southwest to the northeast, touching down in the rural plains before churning its way through the suburb of Moore and up to Midwest City, just east of downtown — which was where it pulverized my dad’s truck [FiveThirtyEight].

Quote of the Day

“When you’re talking about attracting employers and skilled talent, these things matter.”

– Brian Paschal, senior vice president for education and workforce at the Tulsa Regional Chamber, on findings that the last two weeks of the state legislative session earned the state $50.9 million in negative publicity (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of accountants and auditors working in Oklahoma as of May 2015

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Labels Like “Felon” Are An Unfair Life Sentence: The Obama administration has worked over several years to steer the country way from policies that deny tens of millions of people with criminal records jobs, housing, education, consumer credit, professional licenses and the other tools they need to forge viable, productive lives. The initiative has been driven by the Federal Interagency Reentry Council – a group of more than 20 government agencies – which has focused most closely on eliminating barriers to employment that have become pervasive since employers began using computer-based arrest and conviction records to screen job applications. Lately, the administration has also recognized that the vocabulary of incarceration – the permanently stigmatizing way we speak about people who have served time – presents a significant barrier to reintegration [Editorial Board / 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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