In The Know: OKC shows nation’s largest unemployment increase over year

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.

Election day is Tuesday, November 8th! Before you vote, make sure you’re informed: read our State Questions Guide for information on the seven questions on the ballot, check out the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters and several other groups, and use the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool to confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and view sample ballots.

Today In The News

OKC shows nation’s largest unemployment increase over year: Oklahoma City had the largest increase in unemployment over the year among large metropolitan areas in the United States, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Labor Department. Unemployment in the Oklahoma City metro area grew by 1.2 percentage points over the year, according to Labor Department numbers. In September, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate crept up three-tenths of a percentage point to 4.7 percent [NewsOK].

City, school leaders discuss Vision Tulsa’s $10 million for teachers: Vision Tulsa’s $10 million project to improve teacher recruitment and retention got more definition Tuesday with a proposal to tackle those issues through special-training efforts over seven years. Superintendents from Tulsa Public Schools, Jenks Public Schools and Union Public Schools made the pitch to a group of Tulsa City Councilors and city staff, proposing a new-teacher induction program and professional-development opportunities for all teachers [Tulsa World].

Consultants to State: Repeal Incentives for Movies, Access Roads: Consultants hired by the state have recommended repealing financial incentives for movies made in Oklahoma and industrial access roads, but suggested retaining, or at most modifying, most of the tax breaks up for review this year. The recommendations by the PFM Group of Philadelphia will be presented Friday to the state’s new business incentive commission and discussed at a Nov. 10 public hearing at the Capitol. The tax break panel intends to forward the proposals, along with any suggested changes, to Gov. Mary Fallin and state lawmakers by December for possible legislative action in 2017 [Oklahoma Watch]. Tax incentive reform efforts could be strengthened with automatic sunset provisions [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: A better approach: Do Oklahomans with substance abuse issues need to serve time in prison, or do they need treatment for their addiction? That’s the decision Oklahomans will make next week when we vote on State Questions 780 and 781. If passed, SQ 780 changes the classification of simple drug possession from felony to misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. This change applies to drug possession only, not distribution or trafficking, which would remain a felony [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Students, legislators discuss direction for Oklahoma education: A Union High School senior on Wednesday told a group of state legislators that he is afraid he won’t want to raise his future children in Oklahoma if the state doesn’t provide incentives to attract and keep well-equipped teachers. Surrounded by his student peers at an education forum, Wade Witcher told the four lawmakers that he is grateful for the education he has had at Union Public Schools but is concerned that his kids won’t have the same quality of teachers if he raises them in this state [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma County commissioners put off decision on sheriff: An Oklahoma County commissioner on Wednesday said Sheriff John Whetsel should be suspended from office over financial wrongdoing found during a special investigative audit. The sheriff violated his oath of office, Commissioner Brian Maughan said. The three county commissioners cannot suspend Whetsel themselves. They can ask a judge to immediately suspend Whetsel, with pay, from office pending the outcome of an ouster trial [NewsOK].

Bond fee practices underscore need for reform in Oklahoma: During the 2016 legislative session, state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, introduced a common-sense bill requiring local authorities to use competitive procedures in deciding which financial advisers, attorneys and underwriters to use when crafting bond issues. The state’s bond adviser, Jim Joseph, recounts what happened. “School board firms and school officials lobbied against it, and the bill was killed, even though it didn’t even require that the low bid be accepted,” Joseph said [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

OCC: More changes coming for wastewater disposal wells: State regulators announced Wednesday they will soon make more changes to wastewater disposal wells, after a moderate earthquakes rattled the ground near Pawnee. A magnitude 4.5 temblor struck about 11:27 p.m. Tuesday. Scientists have linked oil and gas wastewater disposal in some parts of Oklahoma to earthquake swarms. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission staff is working with the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff to determine the latest changes that will be recommended for disposal wells near Pawnee Tuesday [Journal Record].

Forum on Earthquakes and Oilfield Wastewater Recycling to be Held Wednesday at State Capitol: Oklahoma State Rep. Richard Morrissette will host a forum on Wednesday morning to hear from Oklahomans who have experienced property damage from earthquakes and discuss oilfield wastewater recycling. The meeting will be held at the State Capitol in Room 432-B at 11:00 a.m. The Oklahoma City legislator is highly critical of the pace with which state regulators have acted in order to halt further seismic activities as well as Oklahoma’s acceptance of saltwater from neighboring states for disposal purposes [OK Energy Today].

Oklahoma Lawmaker Writes ‘Firing Squad’ On Clinton Post: A Republican state lawmaker from Oklahoma is walking back his remarks after he posted a news story on Facebook critical of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and added the comment, “2 words … firing squad.” State Rep. John Bennett, of Sallisaw, told The Associated Press that he posted the comment late Tuesday along with a link to a December 2015 article about Clinton’s response to the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi [Associated Press].

Funding highlights Oklahoma battlegrounds districts: Candidates for Oklahoma House and Senate in Tuesday’s general election have raised over $8 million and one of the state’s most expensive campaign battlefields is House District 87, a northwest Oklahoma City seat where the Republican and Democratic candidates have raised a combined $240,000. While currently in Republican control, the seat is one of a few that Democrats are hopeful can be flipped in Oklahoma City’s transitioning urban communities [NewsOK].

Current OSU student, former SGA president competing for Oklahoma Legislature: An Oklahoma State University graduate and a current student found 22 is the perfect time to run for the state House of Representatives. The former president of the OSU Student Government Association and a secondary education senior are running against each other to represent House District 29. Depew native Kyle Hilbert, who graduated from OSU in May 2016, is the Republican candidate campaigning against Democrat Macy Gleason, of Mannford [O’Colly].

Promise Zone projects awarded $1.75 million: U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams on Wednesday announced $14.4 million in investments to boost economic activity, including $1.75 million for two projects in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology was awarded $1 million and the Choctaw Nation received $750,000. The 22 awards will provide funding in 17 communities to stimulate economic growth and opportunity in distressed areas by aligning federal government partners with local leaders to deliver economic development planning and support to the Obama administration’s Promise Zone Initiative [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“What I hear from community members, who are the ones that are investing in this work, is they want what’s going to work. They want to support efforts that are going to make a difference for our community and for our children. What is really strong about the recommendation we’ve made to the council, is that it is one that has really strong national research behind it.”

-Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist, on a proposal aimed at improving teacher retention that will provide $1.4 million per year for professional development for teachers (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of out of state students who completed teaching preparation programs in Oklahoma from 2009–10 to 2013–14 but did not go on to work in Oklahoma schools.

Source: American Institutes for Research

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Scarcity Of Mental Health Care Means Patients — Especially Kids — Land In ER: On any given day, pediatrician Lindsay Irvin estimates a quarter of her patients need psychiatric help. She sees teens who say they are suicidal, and elementary school children who suffer chest pains stemming from bullying anxiety. Though she does her best, she doesn’t consider herself qualified to treat them at the level they need at her practice in San Antonio. She doesn’t have the training, she said, to figure which medications are best suited to treat their various mental health conditions. And she doesn’t have time. She’s juggling stomach ailments, vaccinations and ear aches [Kaiser Health News].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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