In The Know: Oklahoma City school district threatens to sue Legislature

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

Oklahoma City school district threatens to sue Legislature: Oklahoma City Public Schools is threatening legal action against the state Legislature for failing its “constitutional” and “moral” responsibilities to educate children, district leaders said Thursday. The school board is expected to decide Monday night whether to begin interviewing law firms for the purpose of suing the Legislature, specifically, the speaker of the house and the senate president pro tem [NewsOK]. Analysis: What to Watch in Potential School Funding Lawsuit [Oklahoma Watch]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Cherokee Nation Says Opioid Lawsuit Belongs in Tribal Court: The Cherokee Nation is urging a federal judge to allow a tribal lawsuit against distributors and retailers of opioid medications to be litigated in the tribe’s own court. Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree has filed written arguments with U.S. District Judge Terence Kern in a lawsuit that alleges the companies have contributed to “an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse” among the tribe’s citizens [AP].

House minority leader says GOP has no plan to deal with state’s budget crisis: House Minority Leader Scott Inman on Thursday said the Republican majority has no plan going into a possible special session. Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday said lawmakers must return in special session to deal with a $215 million shortfall after the Oklahoma Supreme Court said lawmakers did not follow the legal procedure for passing a $1.50 a pack smoking cessation fee [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers must go back to special session and finish the job of funding core services [OK Policy].

A simple state budget fix for the Legislature: Crafting an entire state budget is undoubtedly a complex process. Fixing the mess the Oklahoma Legislature created this spring is not. You might think otherwise, given leadership’s handwringing in the week since the state Supreme Court’s cigarette tax ruling blew the 2017-18 spending blueprint $215 million out of balance. Here’s the reality: All it would take is one legislative action to more-than-plug the hole and set state government on a smarter, more sustainable fiscal course [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

New working groups seek to create good policy, save money: A few dozen lawmakers spent Thursday afternoon holed up in a Capitol boardroom, chatting about how higher visitation rates are proven to lower recidivism and trying to nail down how many prisoners have been paroled in Oklahoma in the past few years. They surrounded a table and held folders full of fact sheets, scholarly articles and state documents. They asked one another questions and casually discussed policy ideas [Journal Record].

Millions in forfeited assets awarded to Oklahoma agencies who assisted in 2015 raid: Several Oklahoma law enforcement agencies received millions of dollars in forfeited assets collected during a 2015 raid. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says his office was allocated $2 million in assets forfeited during the 2015 raid of several Mr. Coolz shops in Oklahoma City. In March 2015, 18 search warrants were served across four Oklahoma counties in connection to the raid [FOX25].

Tulsa Housing Authority to purge public housing waiting list to clear way for new system: The Tulsa Housing Authority announced Thursday it is going to close and purge its public housing waiting list in order to implement a new site-based system. The waiting list will be closed starting Friday. Those on the list will be notified that if they are not housed by the end of September they will have to reapply for public housing in the new system [Tulsa World].

Three Tulsa school board members publicly support changing name of Lee Elementary School: At least three Tulsa school board members say they are in favor of renaming Lee Elementary School, leaving the board more than halfway to the majority needed to make a change. The Tulsa World polled all seven board members at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon. Three declined to comment, and another said the board needs to evaluate a potential name change carefully [Tulsa World].

Confederate names of ‘failing’ OKCPS schools to be examined: Should Oklahoma City Public Schools change the names of four low-performing elementary schools named after men who fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War? That’s the question OKCPS Superintendent Aurora Lora will be asking the district board at its Sept. 5 meeting [NonDoc].

Tulsa County taking steps to move holding facility to make room for new city jail: Officials are working through the many logistics of finding a place to hold inmates in the Tulsa County Courthouse within a 30-day deadline imposed by the city. But one day after the deadline to vacate a city-owned facility was announced, County Commissioner Ron Peters thinks the county will meet it [Tulsa World].

Creek Nation fights to keep Kialegee leader off tribal council ballot: Creek Nation officials are desperate to stop one of their members from running in an upcoming tribal election because of his involvement in another tribe. Jeremiah Hobia stayed poised and silent Thursday while the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s Office of the Attorney General called for his disenrollment in tribal court [Tulsa World].

Mental Exam Sought for Man Accused of Oklahoma Bomb Plot: An attorney for a man accused of attempting to detonate what he believed was an explosives-laden van outside an Oklahoma City bank wants a hearing to determine whether he is competent to be tried on a federal charge. The request was filed Thursday, one day after the family of 23-year-old Jerry Drake Varnell released a statement saying Varnell is a paranoid schizophrenic who has experienced “schizophrenic delusional episodes.” [AP]

Herbicide lawsuit cultivates concerns for state soybean farmers: Oklahoma soybean farmers are no closer to resolving concerns over the herbicide Dicamba damaging their crops than they were last year. “There are just too many factors to sort to conclusively determine losses are due to Dicamba,” Guthrie farmer Rick Reimer said. Dicamba is an herbicide designed by the agribusiness giant Monsanto to selectively eliminate weeds in fields planted with specially engineered soy and other crops [Journal Record].

Judge greenlights testimony from former state seismologist in earthquake lawsuit: A state judge has given the green light for Oklahoma’s former premier seismologist to testify in a pair of lawsuits filed against oil and gas companies alleging wastewater injection wells caused earthquakes resulting in injuries to people and damaged property. Attorneys for plaintiffs in the cases sought to depose former Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland to testify about whether the November 2011 earthquakes centered near Prague were caused by injection wells operated by New Dominion LLC, as well as whether Holland was pressured by oil company executives not to link the earthquakes to wastewater injection wells [The Frontier].

Oklahoma And Other States Planning to Enjoy Solar Eclipse From The ‘Cheap Seats’: A temporary mass migration that could reach into the millions is expected as people across the United States relocate to catch a prime view of the country’s first coast-to-coast total eclipse in nearly a century. The vast majority of the country, including Oklahoma, isn’t in the path of “totality.” [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Quote of the Day

“They can fix the ill-conceived revenue measures that have been struck down or will be struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. They can raise revenue. They can make our children a priority and fund education properly. Then and only then will our efforts cease.”

– Oklahoma City Public Schools board member Mark Mann, at a press conference on Thursday announcing the district’s threat to sue the state Legislature over education funding (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma households that have a savings account, 2015

Source: Prosperity Now

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Danger From Low-Skilled Immigrants: Not Having Them: Let’s just say it plainly: The United States needs more low-skilled immigrants.You might consider, for starters, the enormous demand for low-skilled workers, which could well go unmet as the baby boom generation ages out of the labor force, eroding the labor supply. Eight of the 15 occupations expected to experience the fastest growth between 2014 and 2024 — personal care and home health aides, food preparation workers, janitors and the like — require no schooling at all.“Ten years from now, there are going to be lots of older people with relatively few low-skilled workers to change their bedpans,” said David Card, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. “That is going to be a huge problem.” [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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