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.
In The Know is taking a break on Monday. It will return on Tuesday, August 29th.
Today In The News
Oklahoma officials say no agreement on tax hike despite earlier rumors: Finger pointing returned to the state Capitol Thursday as House Democratic leader Scott Inman strongly denied an online media report that the governor and House Democrats were close to reaching an agreement to raise $1 billion in taxes to resolve the state’s budget problems. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said such a deal would have no chance of obtaining approval in the Republican-dominated House. “It would appear to me that somebody within the House Republican leadership probably leaked this plan as a way to try to torpedo or sabotage the current budget negotiations,” Inman said at a news conference [NewsOK]. With the doomsday clock ticking, how might the state’s budget emergency be solved? [OK Policy]
Oklahoma has more than 1,400 emergency certified teachers now: Less than a month into a new school year, Oklahoma has already set a new record for the number of emergency certified teachers in public school classrooms. The state Board of Education approved 574 new emergency certificate requests at its Thursday meeting, bringing the total for this year to 1,429. The board approved 1,160 emergency certificates all of last year. “Even if they perhaps have certification in another field … they are walking in the door without the training or experience to be able to meet the needs of kids on Day One,” said state schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister [NewsOK].
Oklahoma inmates sue Gov. Fallin, parole board over unsafe conditions: A group of Oklahoma inmates filed a lawsuit against Gov. Mary Fallin in federal court on Thursday. The lawsuit alleges unfair parole hearings and corruption among top Oklahoma lawmakers. According to recent data, Oklahoma incarcerates women at a higher rate than any other state in the country. Also, there are more African-American men behind bars in Oklahoma per capita than anywhere else in the United States. According to the plaintiffs, Oklahoma prisons are the most dangerous in the country [KFOR]. Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster [OK Policy].
Counselor: Case management cuts will hurt children in need: Oklahoma’s mental health officials have moved to decrease access to emergency services linking patients to medical care and social supports in response to an agency’s most recent budget constraint. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services offers several programs that Medicaid covers, including case management. Contracted counselors step in during tough times for patients to connect them to help. If a child who is receiving mental health services is poorly nourished, a case manager might help the family find a food pantry [Journal Record]. Amid budget deadlock, here’s a reminder of what’s at stake [OK Policy].
Higher education funding cuts continue to drive up tuition and threaten college access: Another national report is calling attention to Oklahoma’s drastic cuts to funding for colleges and universities in recent years. At a time when a college education has never been more critical for individual prosperity and state economic development, funding decisions by Oklahoma lawmakers continue to make college less affordable and accessible. In the decade since the Great Recession, Oklahoma has cut per pupil higher education funding by over one-third (34.0 percent) once adjusted for inflation, according to a national survey released this week by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a DC-based think tank [OK Policy].
Things could get interesting: Ever since the legislative session ended with a thud last spring, the perpetual political parlor game has focused on the future of House Speaker Charles McCall. Can he survive as leader of a splintered supermajority? Is he better positioned inside his caucus than it appears from the outside? What can he do, if anything, to solidify his speakership? Interesting, yes. Important, no doubt. But all the intrigue on the Capitol’s west side has obscured a fascinating development on the east: a changing of the Senate guard [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].
Programs to support independent living are in short supply, experts say: Gail Dunsky was born with cerebral palsy, which affected her motor control and ability to speak clearly. As a child, she was institutionalized, suffered abuse and was often treated as mentally incapacitated, even though she wasn’t. Somehow, Dunsky managed to rise up and do the impossible, even when friends and family doubted her. Dunsky attended college, earning a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in human relations from the University of Oklahoma, lived independently in an apartment much of her life, advocated in Washington, D.C., for the Americans with Disabilities Act and faithfully attended St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church [Norman Transcript].
Murphy ruling completely changes the face of justice in this part of Oklahoma: Here’s a rough estimate of the potential impact of a recent 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Oklahoma criminal courts don’t have jurisdiction over cases involving American Indians within the Creek Nation. According to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, 361 prisoners convicted in seven counties wholly inside the Creek Nation identify themselves as Native Americans. Another 331 self-identified Native American prisoners come from Tulsa County, which is mostly inside the Creek Nation [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World].
Tulsa County Sheriff Faces Lawsuit For Mentally Ill Man’s Death: The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office faces a civil lawsuit over the shooting death of a mentally ill man. The estate of Joshua Barre wrote a letter to the sheriff’s office to notify them the suit is coming. It claims the department didn’t follow its legal duty to take Barre into custody on multiple occasions after receiving a warrant to bring him in for a behavioral health evaluation. It says deputies knew he was not taking his medication and posed a risk to himself and others, but still did not take appropriate actions to take him into custody on at least three occasions [NewsOn6].
Judge tosses Oklahoma liquor stores’ challenge to wine in grocery stores: A federal judge has dismissed liquor stores owners’ legal challenge to a new law that will allow Oklahoma grocery stores to sell wine in 2018. The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, a trade group representing liquor store owners, filed the lawsuit challenging the new law in December. Oklahoma voters in November approved State Question 792, which will allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell wine and cold, full-strength beer beginning in October 2018. The measure passed with 65 percent of the vote [NewsOK].
Court Unseals Documents in Ex-Cop’s Sexual Assault Case: Unsealed documents in the case of a former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of rape show a secret hearing was held to determine whether personnel records that could help his appeal should be released. Oklahoma’s Court of Criminal Appeals ordered several documents unsealed Thursday in the case of ex-officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who was sentenced to 263 years in prison after being convicted of preying on black women he encountered on duty. The unsealed paperwork comes days after an Associated Press story about the closed nature of the proceedings [AP].
Alternative energy: Residential solar power systems rising in Oklahoma: Residential solar panels are the Oklahoma energy sector’s version of Bigfoot: slowly gaining a larger following among urban dwellers but still elusive. According to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national solar energy advocacy organization, residential solar photovoltaic system installations were up 20 percent in 2016 from the previous year. Closer to home, however, the numbers are smaller. AEP-PSO spokesman Ed Bettinger said about 150 residential and small-business customers participate in a net metering arrangement with the energy company, with most in the Tulsa metro [Tulsa Legal and Business News].
As More Oklahoma Schools Give Students Computers, Experts Say Teacher Training Is Key: This year, two of Oklahoma’s largest school districts are embarking on an expensive technological experiment: They’re giving students their own laptops to use in class — and take home. Rich Anderson is in charge of making sure Edmond Public School’s laptop program rolls out smoothly. “In my mind, I’m calling it ‘C-day’,” he says. That’s “C-Day” for Chromebook Day. The day when every 8th, 9th, and 10th grader gets their own [StateImpact Oklahoma].
Hunting a Killer: Sex, Drugs and the Return of Syphilis: For months, health officials in this socially conservative state capital have been staggered by a fast-spreading outbreak of a disease that, for nearly two decades, was considered all but extinguished. Syphilis, the deadly sexually transmitted infection that can lead to blindness, paralysis and dementia, is returning here and around the country, another consequence of the heroin and methamphetamine epidemics, as users trade sex for drugs. To locate possible patients and draw their blood for testing, Oklahoma’s syphilis detectives have been knocking on doors in dilapidated apartment complexes and dingy motels, driving down lonely rural roads and interviewing prison inmates [The New York Times].
Quote of the Day
“I don’t like it, but what’s our option? We’ve got to have someone in our classrooms.”
– Goodwell Public Schools Board member Roger Edenborough, on news that Oklahoma has approved more than 1,400 emergency teaching certifications so far this year, well above last year’s total of 1,160 (Source)
Number of the Day
Percentage of Oklahoma business filing transactions processed online in 2016, up from 33% in 2014
Source: OK State Stat
A Foundation, Not a Net: Safety net. Safety net. Safety net. It is apparently the only metaphor there is to describe the welfare state, at least in American political discourse. Every liberal politician, think tank, and pundit seems to never tire of the euphemism, even as it so readily avails itself to the equally obnoxious conservative metaphor of the welfare hammock. Despite its popularity, the safety net metaphor has always struck me as confused at best and as indicative of bad welfare politics at worst. The message of the safety net is that we all need protection when we fall, which of course is true. But the role of a good welfare state is not just to protect against fluke catastrophes, and most welfare benefits are not even used for that purpose [Jacobin].
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.