In The Know: Medical marijuana petition falls short

In The KnowIn 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.

A group circulating a petition to put a medical marijuana state question on the ballot did not collect enough signatures to do so. Organizers say they will try again next summer. While collecting signatures, the group registered an estimated 40,000 people to vote. A report from the American Cancer Society said that Oklahoma is lagging in the fight against cancer. The report cited a lack of palliative care programs, a below-average cigarette excise tax rate, and a failure to expand eligibility in the state Medicaid program. You can read the full report here.

A post on the OK Policy Blog examined the data to see if Medicaid recipients overuse the ER as much as commonly thought. Writing in the Journal Record, M. Scott Carter argued that lawmakers overutilize tax incentives without instituting measures to measure and judge their impact. Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman and incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin will face each other in a debate on Oct. 2 at OSU.

The state Corrections Department is considering decommissioning the use of towers at its facilities to save costs, but corrections officers say that removing personnel from the towers would put staff on the ground in jeopardy. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board warned of the costs of an aging prison population. A rally held on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday in response to the police shooting death of unarmed Missouri teen Michael Brown warned that such incidents could happen anywhere. An Oklahoma City police officer has been arrested for allegedly raping at least seven women while on patrol. All of the victims were African-American women.

A criminal investigation into state schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister’s campaign is underway. The investigation is looking for evidence of public corruption, campaign contribution violations and illegal collusion with political candidates. A top Tulsa Public Schools administrator who worked for the district for a year has been found to lack the necessary credentials to perform her duties.  An editorial in the Tulsa World chastised Tulsa County officials for giving themselves a raise to the highest salary allowed by law when many Tulsans, including correctional officers and teachers, are struggling to get by.

A state multicounty grand jury investigation concluded an 18-month investigation yesterday without handing down any indictments. The grand jury was investigation multiple allegations of wrongdoing in Rogers County. July traffic at Tulsa International Airport was up 11.8 percent compared to this time last year. Local officials attribute the growth to a strong local economy and success in recruiting new events into the city. StateImpact explained that upriver states have a significant impact on Oklahoma’s scenic river protection policy because pollution standards in other states determine water quality in Oklahoma’s rivers.

AAA is predicting a 2 percent boost in Labor Day travel compared to last year, slightly above the projected national average. AAA credits increased consumer optimism. The first human case of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in Oklahoma was confirmed yesterday. The Number of the Day is the value of goods and services that can be purchased for $100 in Oklahoma, compared to the national average. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times explains how the gender wage gap most significantly disadvantages mothers in low-wage jobs who need to take time off to care for children.

In The News

Petition to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma falls far short on signatures

A group circulating a petition to put a medical marijuana state question on the ballot fell significantly short of the number of signatures it would take to do so. Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge said Thursday that Oklahomans for Health, which circulated the initiative petition, turned in 75,384 signatures of registered voters. The group would have had to submit 155,216 signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

American Cancer Society report says Oklahoma lags behind in combating cancer, providing care

Oklahoma is lagging behind in the fight against cancer, a report released Thursday from a cancer advocacy group shows. A report released Thursday from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network outlined where each state succeeds and fails at preventing cancer and implementing policies that will better serve cancer patients. Overall, Oklahoma did not perform well in the report, cited for its below-average cigarette excise tax rate; a lack of a 100 percent smoke-free state law; a lack of physical education time requirements in schools; limited— if any— state tanning laws; and not allocating more money to cancer screening programs, among other things.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: How does your state measure up? from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Are Medicaid patients overusing the ER?

In the debate over Medicaid, a frequently heard claim is that Medicaid recipients overuse emergency rooms for non-emergency care, and that we need to address this problem if we are to contain Medicaid spending. This past session, the Legislature approved HB 2906, which directs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, to conduct a study of current and potential ways to reduce trips to the emergency department. Earlier in session, legislation passed the House that would have limited Medicaid coverage to six emergency room visits per year. However, Health Care Authority data seems to dispel the idea that ER overuse by Medicaid members is as pervasive or as serious a problem as many assume.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Love of incentives blinds lawmakers

The debate has continued for several years. Even as the Oklahoma Legislature struggled to backfill budget holes, adequately fund state agencies and create the pro-business type of environment called for by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, it was hampered by the simple fact that so much of the state’s tax revenue is spoken for before the budget is even written. Part of that reason, state Rep. David Dank said, is our love affair with tax incentives.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Gubernatorial Debate Scheduled For October 2

OETA and the Oklahoma League of Women Voters in partnership with Oklahoma State University will be the host site for a state gubernatorial debate between Republican incumbent Mary Fallin and Democratic challenger Joe Dorman on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. The one-hour debate will be held at the OSU Student Union Theater in Stillwater. Both Fallin and Dorman are graduates of Oklahoma State University. OETA will air the debate live across the state and stream online at, with viewers encouraged to join the conversation on their social media platforms by using the hashtag #okvotes14.

Read more from KGOU.

Oklahoma Corrections Department considers decommissioning prison towers

The classic image of correctional officers manning prison towers with rifles in hand may soon vanish from Oklahoma. The state Corrections Department is considering decommissioning the use of towers at its facilities, according to an internal memo provided to The Oklahoman. In an Aug. 13 memo sent to the wardens of the six state prisons that have operational towers, division managers David Parker and Greg Williams requested staff at each facility evaluate the necessity of the towers and whether or not they could be closed immediately without complications.

Read more from NewsOK.

Attention Oklahoma lawmakers: Aging prisoners come with a high cost

Oklahoma lawmakers through the years have burnished their tough-on-crime bona fides through legislation that helps ensure offenders get locked away for a long time. Most sessions of the Legislature are light on corrections reform measures; instead, bills that create new punishments, or expand punishments for existing crimes, are the norm. There are near-term consequences for this approach.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

Oklahoma rally speakers say police killing in Ferguson, Mo., could happen anywhere

A crowd gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Thursday for a rally in response to the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Each time someone shouted “Hands up,” the arms of black, white, Hispanic and American Indian men and women, young and old, rose into the air. The crowd responded: “Don’t shoot!” — a mantra repeated throughout the event. Some of those at the rally had family or friends die at the hands of police; others attended to protest a justice system they say treats minorities unfairly.

Read more from NewsOK.

OCPD Officer Arrested For Alleged Rape, Sexual Battery

An Oklahoma City police officer, accused of committing sex crimes while on duty, was arrested Thursday in northwest Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City police officer, Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, was arrested at 3 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot of Gold’s Gym near Memorial and Penn. He has been charged with rape in the first degree, rape by instrumentation, three counts of forcible sodomy, two counts of sexual battery and two counts indecent exposure.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Criminal investigation is underway into possible public corruption, campaign violations

Investigators are poring over prominent political consultant Chad Alexander’s emails and text messages looking for evidence of public corruption, campaign contribution violations and illegal collusion with political candidates. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater confirmed Thursday a criminal investigation is underway. Prater’s chief investigator in July told a judge there is “direct evidence” in the text messages of possible collusion involving the campaign of state schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister.

Read more from NewsOK.

TPS administrator paid over $100,000 lacked certification in Oklahoma

A top executive at Tulsa Public Schools never obtained a certificate from the Oklahoma State Department of Education but performed duties for a year that by law only certified individuals can perform. Tracee Frazier-Branch, who is listed among the executive staff members on the TPS website as the instructional leadership director in charge of McLain Junior High and High School and seven of its feeder pattern schools, was hired June 24, 2013. But officials at the state Department of Education say Frazier-Branch failed to provide proof that she has earned a master’s degree.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: TPS administrator’s hiring was result of ‘leadership drain’ in the district from the Tulsa World.

Should Tulsa County officials get a pay raise? No.

Tulsa County’s elected officials voted to raise their own annual salaries by $2,103 on Monday. The county’s sheriff, treasurer, assessor, clerk, court clerk and three commissioners will earn $104,498 — the most allowed by law — if the budget board recommendation is approved by the commissioners. County Commissioner John Smaligo cast the only vote against the proposal. “I believe we should focus our resources on those earning the least at Tulsa County and not on those earning the most,” Smaligo said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

State multicounty grand jury issues no Rogers County indictments

No public official from Rogers County was indicted as a result of a state multicounty grand jury investigation that ended an 18-month session on Thursday. In October, Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced that the grand jury would investigate multiple allegations of wrongdoing by public officials and others in Rogers County. The probe included topics in a rejected grand jury petition containing the signatures of nearly 7,000 verified Rogers County voters, as well as issues raised by Janice Steidley, district attorney for Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Tulsa airport sees biggest gain in a decade

Passenger traffic at Tulsa International Airport wasn’t just up in July, it was one of the biggest increases the airport has experienced in recent years. The year-over-year increase in passengers was up 11.8 percent compared to the same time last year. Airport officials said the growth was one of the best for the decade, at least for months without significant weather impacts. The total number of July passengers was 280,068.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Other States Have Outsized Influence in Oklahoma’s Scenic River Protection Policy

Bob Deitrick checks the snaps on his bright orange life vest, crouches and checks all the gear one last time. The Owasso father’s son and his two friends are behind him, impatiently paddling in circles. Even amid a swarm of splashing, screaming boys, Deitrick drifts away when he’s on the water. “It’s peaceful, relaxing.” But the present tranquility of the Upper Illinois — and most of the state’s scenic rivers — springs from a turbulent history that was fueled by water pollution in other states.

Read more from StateImpact.

AAA Predicts 2% Boost In Labor Day Travel

AAA estimates 408,000 Oklahomans will travel over Labor Day this year, a two percent jump from the 400,300 who traveled last year and the most since Labor Day, 2008. Nationwide, AAA predicts 34.7 million will travel over the long holiday weekend, up 1.3 percent. “This year, Americans say they’re more optimistic about their financial situation,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Consumer spending continues to outpace disposable income, indicating that a lot of us are feeling comfortable using our credit cards to take one last summer vacation this year.”

Read more from KGOU.

First West Nile virus case of year reported in Tulsa County

The first human case of the West Nile virus to be reported in Tulsa County this season has been confirmed by the Tulsa Health Department, it announced on Thursday. This marks just the second case statewide this year — a case in Major County was confirmed in the past month. “July through October is the peak time for exposure, so there could be more cases,” said Luisa Krug, epidemiologist with the Tulsa County Health Department.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

“Most of my officers feel (corrections officials) are willing to sacrifice the officer’s safety to save a little bit of money.”

– Sean Wallace, head of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, discussing a memo issued by the Corrections Department recommending closing prison towers in six state prisons. The towers are typically manned by a correctional officer with a rifle and provide surveillance and support for correctional staff (Source:

Number of the Day


The value of goods and services that can be purchased for $100 in Oklahoma, compared to the national average

Source: Tax Foundation.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How a Part-Time Pay Penalty Hits Working Mothers

Women get paid less than men in almost all jobs, but when women in low-wage jobs need to take time off work to care for children, they are at an even greater disadvantage. If all employees got paid the same hourly amount (assuming they’re equally productive on the job), it would go a long way toward closing the gender pay gap, according to Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist who has analyzed income data across occupations, including a new set of unpublished data on hourly workers that she prepared for the White House Summit on Working Families in June. Instead, she has found, people in professions like law and finance get paid disproportionately more when they work extra-long hours. At the other end of the spectrum, people in low-wage jobs do not benefit much from working more, but get paid disproportionately less per hour when they work fewer than 40 hours a week.

Read more from 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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