In 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
Mental health in jails: ‘Is this the best we can do?‘ Tests found Kathleen Collier-Melchior, 53, with blood-alcohol levels nearly three times the legal limit. She told Midwest City jail staff she was going to hurt herself. A crisis intervention officer was called in to evaluate her. Officers removed her clothes and slipped her into a suit meant to protect mentally fragile people from using their clothes against themselves [NewsOK]. Despite warnings, little has been done to ease prison and jail overcrowding [OK Policy].
Statewide student proficiency rates plummet in first year of higher academic standards: As predicted, student proficiency rates in Oklahoma public schools plummeted on the first state tests aligned to new academic standards. For example, just 22.97 percent of eighth-graders are now considered proficient or better in math and 34.53 percent proficient in English/language arts. At the fourth-grade level, 37.01 percent of students are proficient in English/language arts and 40.5 percent in math [Tulsa World]. Accurate test results a step in the right direction for Oklahoma [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].
Oklahoma Senate panel studies payments between advanced nurses, doctors: The Oklahoma Senate’s only member who is a doctor said Tuesday he will consider writing a law that ends payments that some nurses make to doctors for prescription supervision. State Sen. Ervin Yen might introduce legislation next year to address complaints from advanced practice nurses, who are fighting to reverse Oklahoma’s requirement that doctors supervise those nurses’ prescription authority [NewsOK].
Prosperity Policy: Mission: not impossible: Earlier this year, I visited Israel as part of an interfaith group of Oklahomans. While there we received a discouraging briefing on the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. “The two-state solution has become impossible,” the expert explained. “The one-state solution is also impossible. And the status quo? It’s impossible, too.” As Oklahoma enters the third week of special session, a solution to the budget deadlock can seem as unattainable as settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Oklahoma voters want comprehensive revenue deal in special session [OK Policy].
Oklahoma going down the drain very efficiently: Oklahoma’s state bird is the scissor-tailed flycatcher, our state flower is the Oklahoma rose and, it seems, our state word is “efficiency.” In fact, efficiency seems to be all that many elected officials are talking about. Constantly we have heard our leaders say, “state agencies need to trim the fat” and “we need to find efficiencies.” So that’s what we’ve done [Rep. Eric Proctor / Tulsa World].
Experts: No magic pill for voter engagement: Oklahoma officials are looking for ways to get more people to the polls, but they said amping up convenience probably won’t do it. The state’s voting turnout hasn’t been good for years. The 2014 gubernatorial election had one of the worst turnouts in recent Oklahoma history, said Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax. Only about 40 percent of registered voters chose to exercise their right that day [Journal Record]. Who are these non-voters, why aren’t they voting, and what can we do about it? [OK Policy]
Oklahoma County judge finds anti-abortion law unconstitutional for the second times: An Oklahoma County judge on Friday threw out a law restricting medication abortions for the second time, again finding it unconstitutional. The law would have required physicians to administer abortion-inducing drugs in accordance with a protocol established in 2000. District Judge Patricia Parrish struck down House Bill 2684, finding it unconstitutional because it creates an undue burden on a woman’s access to abortion [NewsOK].
Internet sales cut into Oklahoma City’s tax revenue, finance director says: Online sales tax that goes uncollected costs Oklahoma City an estimated $10 million to $15 million in lost revenue each year, Craig Freeman, the city’s finance director, told the city council Tuesday. Freeman said the impact on the budget is significant and will increase as internet retailing grows, particularly among younger customers for whom “electronic forms of purchases are becoming the norm.” [NewsOK]
Infrastructure cost, supply, laws cloud potential for water sales: Selling one of the state’s most abundant natural resources might be more difficult than it sounds. Since before he took office, state Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, has been working to get more people on board with selling the state’s water. His pitch goes something like this: Oklahoma is incredibly blessed with oil and gas reserves, with wind and with water. We’re already capitalizing on three of the four. Why not water? [Journal Record]
Report: State worker pay below average: Salaries for Oklahoma’s state employees averaged 25 percent less than their counterparts in the private market, according to a study released by the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services. In its 2016 Annual Compensation Report, the agency’s Human Capital Management Division released findings of its analysis of state agency salaries and benefits compared with the competitive labor market [Journal Record].
Oklahoma has 188,000 kids on CHIP: Thanks to a congressional fight, a federal health insurance program for children is in limbo, and nearly nine million could be affected. Though the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program is authorized through 2019, fiscal 2018 funding is caught in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the program has been unfunded since Oct. 1 [Tahlequah Daily Press].
Medicare open enrollment period a chance to ‘fine-tune’ coverage: Medicare’s annual open enrollment period is not exactly the holiday season, but it occurs at roughly the same time each year and can sometimes result in a pleasant surprise. Open enrollment, from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 every year, is generally the only time Oklahoma’s 650,000 Medicare recipients can fine-tune their coverage to better fit their circumstances. And that can mean savings [Tulsa World].
Oklahoma joins 36 other states in asking credit agencies to suspend fees: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has joined 36 other state attorneys general in asking credit reporting agencies Experian and TransUnion to stop charging fees to people freezing their credit in the wake of the Equifax data breach. The group notes that the reporting agencies now charge to both activate and lift freezes, which it says is unnecessary and unfair [Tulsa World].
Oil producers float their own ideas to clean up Bird Creek at EPA hearing: Pump it out, flush it and then see what happens: That’s how to get to the bottom of the Bird Creek mystery saline spill, according to presentations from oil producers Wednesday at a Environmental Protection Agency public hearing in Tulsa. Three producers who were told by the EPA to shut down seven well sites cited conclusions by their own experts, and the EPA’s data, in saying they believe the spill on the Chapman Ranch in Osage County was a one-time event as opposed to an ongoing issue, as asserted by the federal agency [Tulsa World].
Did Scott Pruitt just declare war on renewables? Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt may have declared an end to the “war on coal” earlier this week, but what some consider Pruitt’s own war on alternative energy seems to be just getting started. Largely unnoticed amid the noise surrounding Pruitt’s expected move to excise the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan from EPA regulations was his suggestion that he’d like to take down wind and solar power a notch or two [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].
Lankford looks for a community conversation in Tulsa Thursday night: U.S. Sen. James Lankford will hold a two-hour town hall-style community conversation from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the historic Big 10 Ballroom, 1624 East Apache St. The first half of the evening will feature entertainment from A Pocket Full of Hope, a nonprofit arts group serving north Tulsa children [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].
Quote of the Day
“Even assuming that the Midwest City jail officials did everything they were legally required to do here, I think we need to take a long hard look at ourselves as a society and say ‘Is this the best we can do?’ I don’t think it is. We can do better and we should do better.”
– ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel, following the suicide of an inmate. Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes estimates that 85 percent of the jail’s inmates have a substance abuse or mental health issue (Source)
Number of the Day
Percentage of Oklahomans eligible for SNAP participating in the program in 2014
Study Supports Bills to Give the Poor and Childless Bigger Tax Breaks: Four years ago, New York City officials and a group of social scientists launched an experiment based on a simple question: Would a couple thousand dollars a year in extra tax breaks help low-income, childless adults find work and increase their earnings? Early results suggest the answer is yes, which could boost proposals in Congress and states to expand the tax credit for low-income workers. A three-year pilot project in New York City offered up to $2,000 in annual tax credits to adults who either have no children or aren’t the primary caretaker of their children and make no more than $30,000 a year [Governing].
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.