In The Know: Oklahoma tobacco agency creates new job with $250K salary

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 tobacco agency creates new job with $250K salary: Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust has created the position of chief executive officer and has offered the job to someone who has not yet been identified. The trust’s board of directors offered the job to the candidate Tuesday, The Oklahoman reports. The position carries a salary of $250,000 a year. Julie Bisbee, a spokeswoman for the agency, said that the person’s identity will not be released publicly unless that person agrees to take the position. The current executive director will continue to serve in a leadership role within the agency [Associated Press].

Payday lenders balk at proposed rules: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed new rules on what the agency refers to as payday debt traps could force people who need short-term loans to seek out painful alternatives. Advance America Senior Vice President Jamie Fulmer said the new rules would reduce access to credit for millions of American consumers who need small, short-term loans. DeVon Douglass, an analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute think tank, said Fulmer’s concerns are exaggerated [Journal Record]. Predatory payday lending often traps consumers in cycles of debt [OK Policy].

Moody’s gives Oklahoma negative marks for higher ed funding: Oklahoma is getting negative marks for drawing down reserves and slashing funding to higher education in its recently passed $6.8 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, one of the nation’s top credit rating agencies said on Monday. Moody’s Investors Service did give the state positive marks in its Credit Outlook for shielding its K-12 school districts from deeper cuts than many districts had expected. Moody’s said the budget approved by the Legislature in the final week of the session is credit negative for drawing down reserves to its lowest level in more than 20 years by one calculation that measures available revenue in the state’s cash-flow reserve account and Rainy Day Fund [Journal Record]. Cutting funding to higher education may be the greatest threat to Oklahoma’s economy [OK Policy].

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M announces layoffs, other cuts: Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College has announced budget cuts that include layoffs and the elimination of one degree program and two certificate programs, plus a proposed tuition increase. The Miami News-Record reports that NEO President Jeff Hale said Monday the cuts are due to the college receiving nearly $1.5 million less in state funding than last year [Associated Press].

Oklahoma could fall below Mississippi in teacher pay: Oklahoma could soon be losing its Mississippi safety net. That state, along with South Dakota, approved half-cent sales taxes to raise salaries of teachers in their states — by thousands of dollars. Oklahoma has been able to point to Mississippi, in many areas, and say, “Thank God for Mississippi.” Now the shoe could be on the other foot. In fact, South Dakota, a conservative state, also trailed Oklahoma in teacher pay [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Oklahoma Is Siphoning Money From Schools and Pouring It Into an Anti-Abortion Curriculum: Oklahoma’s schools are among the worst in the country, but at least state politicians are tackling that problem head-on with a law outlining an important new curriculum. With the help of a measure signed last week by Republican Governor Mary Fallin, educators will be newly prepared to convey the lesson “that abortion kills a living human being.” The law, HB 2797, which goes into effect Nov. 1, requires both the state’s Department of Health and its Department of Education to work toward “the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society” [Slate].

Department of Corrections Slow To Address Private Prison Contract Breaches, Records Show: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections uses three private prisons, run by two companies, to help ease overcrowding. There are contracts in place to ensure the facilities abide by state rules, but the state doesn’t always take options available to it when private facilities fail to live up to their obligations. Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, Okla., is miles away from any major highway. The road quickly turns from pavement to gravel once you reach the far side of the prison [KGOU].

Amid Controversy, Public Safety Officials Put Temporary Hold on Using Prepaid Card Readers: Amid international controversy, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has put a temporary hold on using prepaid card readers to seize or freeze suspected drug-trade funds loaded on to prepaid cards. DPS Capt. Paul Timmons said late Monday that use of the vehicle-mounted devices was being put on temporary hold until DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson can attend training on the card reader to get a better understanding of the device. Timmons said he does not know when the training will occur. [Oklahoma Watch]. Unlikely allies have joined to call for reform of Oklahoma’s civil asset forfeiture laws [OK Policy].

Seventh Oklahoma death row inmate now eligible for execution date: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the final appeal on Monday of Oklahoma death row inmate Scott Eizember, whose 2003 crime spree resulted in the deaths of an elderly couple. Since Eizember has exhausted his appeals, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt would normally ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set an execution date [NewsOK].

Living on a prayer: Rural health care impacted before state budget woes: Fairview Regional Medical Center CEO Roger Knak walks into the center’s waiting room, seeing a patient he knows. He waves and says “hi” before passing through the automatic doors into the June heat. The center is one of Oklahoma’s rural hospitals that continues to struggle in changing times. Fairview Regional Medical Center is living on a prayer, Knak said. The center budgeted a net income of negative $657,296 and a total net loss of $339,836 for the fiscal year ending 2017 [Enid News]. Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals [OK Policy].

Food deserts are a big reason behind Oklahomans’ poor health: Earlier this year, Walmart announced the nationwide closure of 154 stores, causing concerns over how people will have access to groceries. Of the 154 nationwide closures, 6 stores have shut down in Oklahoma. In two cities where closures occurred, Luther and Okemah, residents now face the reality of living in a food desert. These recent shutdowns echo a similar closure of a Walmart store in Tulsa in April 2015, which created a food desert spanning most of north Tulsa [OK Policy]. Several pilot programs are testing ways to combat food deserts in Tulsa [Public Radio Tulsa].

Oklahoma is an outlier on use of foster care: It’s well known that Oklahoma has often fallen short in protecting vulnerable children. In some high-profile cases, children who clearly should have been removed from a residence were not, and the end result was the child’s tragic death. Yet despite those cases, another statistic suggests Oklahoma officials may be too quick to remove children from their homes. The ratio of Oklahoma children placed in foster care is 11 out of every 1,000. Only West Virginia has a higher rate [Oklahoman Editorial Board].

Wastewater and Earthquake Forum to be held at State Capitol: A state legislator who is running for an Oklahoma Corporation Commission seat and the Ponca Nation Council will hold an Oil and Gas Industry Forum Tuesday exploring a way to reduce wastewater injection and the number of earthquakes in the state. The forum will be held at the State Capitol and focus on the efforts of Fairmont Brine Processing, a company that uses evaporation and crystallization to recycle wastewater [OK Energy Today].

Quote of the Day

“When payday loans and high-cost installment loans don’t exist in a state anymore, people turn to other resources such as family members and churches and credit unions, or they learn to budget differently. It’s not this false dichotomy that the industry and their lobbyists have created, that without payday loans they’ll go to loan sharks and die. That hyperbolic rhetoric is just not true.”

– DeVon Douglass, Policy Analyst at Oklahoma Policy Institute, on new rules proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that are intended to stop debt traps created by payday loans (Source)

Number of the Day


How many fewer jobs there were in Oklahoma in April 2016 compared to April 2015

Source: Kansas City Federal Reserve

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Putting Money Directly in the Pockets of Low-Income Families Appears More Effective than Preschool or Head Start in Improving School Achievement, Brookings’ Whitehurst Finds: Empirical comparisons of the impact on school achievement of boosting family income vs. providing free pre-K for four-year-olds, summarized in this paper, suggest that supporting family income is a more cost effective expenditure. A policy midpoint between more money for families vs. more money for pre-K is more money for families to spend on their young children. All these policy options should be on the table and subject to test as the nation moves towards increased attention to and investment in the early years [Brookings].

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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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