In The Know: Oklahoma opioid commission unveils recommendations

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 opioid commission unveils recommendations: After more than six months of work, the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse laid out 31 recommendations for the Legislature, state agencies and local law enforcement on Tuesday afternoon. Whether the report will prove to be anything more than interesting reading remains to be seen, however. Lawmakers will face a difficult budget situation when they return in February, even if better-than-expected revenues narrow the $600 million projected gap, and already have heard demands to build more prisons and raise teacher salaries [NewsOK].

Step Up Oklahoma plan receives endorsement from nonprofit advocacy group: The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits announced Monday that it has added its name to the growing list of organizations endorsing Step Up Oklahoma’s plan to resolve the state budget impasse. Meanwhile, a group of small independent oil and gas producers added its tentative endorsement to a modified Step Up Oklahoma plan after coming out in opposition to the original plan [NewsOK]. The plan also received endorsements from nursing home, business and child advocacy groups [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmakers can accept limitless hotel stays and travel subsidies from special interest groups: In July, at least 10 Oklahoma legislators accepted scholarships valued at as much as $440 to attend a two-day conference at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino sponsored by a trade group representing high-interest installment loan companies. The Independent Finance Institute of Oklahoma, which hosted the meeting, has the same mailing address as the Texas-based money lender Western Shamrock Corp., according to its website [The Frontier].

Oklahoma lawmakers should note teacher pay survey: The Step Up Oklahoma plan put forward by business and civic leaders to help address the state’s budget problems includes support for $5,000 pay raises for public school teachers. New polling of former Oklahoma teachers underscores how significant such a move could be [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]. Low pay drives Oklahoma teachers away from the classroom [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

New protections for payday loan borrowers are under attack: Last fall, we told you about new rules issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that would protect payday loan customers from some of the most abusive practices in that industry. These new rules, scheduled to be enforced in mid-2019, offer basic and common sense protections for consumers, like requiring that lenders verify customers can afford to repay the loans before making them and that they gain authorization before drawing payment from a borrower’s bank account after two unsuccessful attempts [OK Policy].

Voter Registration Numbers Show Republican Gains: Already one of the most conservative states in the nation, Oklahoma continues to grow redder. The state Election Board’s recent annual count of registered voters on Jan. 15 found that Republicans made up 46.8 percent of registered voters, compared with 38.2 percent for Democrats and 14.8 percent for independents. For Republicans, the total represented a one-percentage-point increase from the same date last year [Oklahoma Watch].

Bills filed to address opioid crisis: A commission on curtailing the opioid crisis announced recommendations for the Legislature on Tuesday, but lawmakers have already filed several bills on the issue. Bill filing deadline was Jan. 18, so most of the bills lawmakers will tackle this legislative session have already been submitted. Members can change the text within bills during the committee process. That is common for so-called shell bills, which contain vague boilerplate language that is intended to hold a bill’s place until the real policy pitch is updated [Journal Record].

Regular “checkups” help Oklahoma Corporation Commission: At the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), we have seen first-hand the effectiveness of being proactive when it comes to the millions of dollars that flow through this agency as it works to protect the public interest and foster economic development in its regulation of the energy, transportation and utility sectors. In 2013, we asked the state auditor and inspector to embed auditors within the agency to not only take an initial look at our processes, but to stay here and continue to work to help us improve [Commissioner Dana Murphy / NewsOK].

Court: Oil company can be sued when worker injured or killed: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that oil and natural gas companies can be sued when a worker is killed or injured on the job. The state’s highest court struck down a state workers’ compensation law that exempted oil and gas well operators and owners from lawsuits, including one filed by a worker who was fatally burned in 2014 at an Oklahoma County oil well site operated by Stephens Production Co. [NewsOK].

Broken Arrow Sen. Nathan Dahm blames rogue game wardens for bill that would give “Almighty God” ownership of Oklahoma’s wildlife: Legislation filed by Sen. Nathan Dahm would make Oklahoma’s wildlife the property of “Almighty God” instead of the state. The measure has been criticized by some as a waste of time and money. But Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, said the measure is in part in response to some game wardens who made broad statements about their authority and jurisdiction [Tulsa World].

State Lawmakers Proposing ‘Strange’ Bills: With just a couple of weeks to go before the state legislative session, you’d think lawmakers would be focused 100-percent on permanent solutions to our ongoing budget issues. But that’s not the case. The Oklahoma Legislature has filed 1,953 bills for the 2018 session. And while many of them deal with the budget, some seem, well, frankly, silly [News On 6].

Quote of the Day

“The Center supports this important coming together of business and civic leaders to endorse a multipronged approach to fixing our budget. For too long, Oklahomans and the nonprofits that improve our communities have been challenged because of the budget woes that resulted in stagnant funding and cuts affecting various charities.”

– Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits President Marnie Taylor, adding her group’s endorsement for the Step Up Oklahoma plan to raise revenue for the state budget (Source)

Number of the Day


Approximate number of Oklahoma children who speak a language other than English at home, 12% of all children in 2016


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

‘Safety Net’ Hospitals Face Federal Budget Cuts: A double whammy of federal budget cuts might force many hospitals, particularly those that serve poor or rural communities, to scale back services or even shut their doors. The $3.6 billion in cuts this year — $2 billion from a program that sends federal dollars to hospitals that serve a high percentage of Medicaid or uninsured patients, and $1.6 billion from a drug discount program — will have the greatest effect on so-called safety net hospitals that provide medical care for all comers, no matter their ability to pay [Pew Trusts].

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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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