In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.
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Today you should know that Oklahomans who paid an average premium of $75 per month for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, with federal tax credits reducing premiums by 73 percent on average. Tulsa health officials said they were concerned about low vaccination rates, which are threatening a comeback of preventable diseases like pertussis and measles. This Land Press shared the story of Standpipe Hill north of downtown Tulsa, an abandoned neighborhood that played a role in the 1921 Tulsa race riot.
The race for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has turned negative, with candidates debating who is most liked by the Sierra Club. With no Democratic or Independent candidates running for the seat, the race will be decided in the Republican primary. Governor Fallin is facing two challengers in the Republican primary, both of whom support legalizing marijuana. The campaign manager for Superintendent Janet Barresi accused rival Joy Hofmeister of breaking the law by sending campaign-related emails to school district administrators on their work accounts. The Barresi campaign also alleged that Hofmeister had illegal collusion with dark money groups supporting her campaign. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater is looking into this allegation and similar complaints against US Senate candidate TW Shannon. The Oklahoma Gazette reported on how education issues are factoring into this year’s elections.
The Oklahoma City Council tabled proposed home day care regulations that some home day cares said would put them out of business. While the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 17 hate groups in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Gazette discussed groups in the state that are fighting bigotry and discrimination. Tulsa Union Public Schools Superintendent said the school has no intention of changing its Redskins mascot, despite the U.S. Patent Office denying the Washington Redskins a patent for the name because it is disparaging to Native Americans. Three environmental groups Tuesday sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the government did not go far enough when it designated the lesser prairie chicken as “threatened” rather than “endangered.”
Rep. Mark McCullough suggested that a multi-million dollar project to build a unified computer system for Oklahoma courts may need to be scrapped after court officials terminated a contract with the company that was tasked with doing it. Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Colbert cited the state transferring money away from the project to cover general operations as the reason for ending the contract. The Number of the Day is the average monthly tax credit for Oklahomans who purchased insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. In today’s Policy Note, the Prison Policy Initiative reviews world incarceration rates if every U.S. state were a country.
In The News
Oklahomans paid $75 a month for health insurance after tax credits
Oklahomans who used tax credits to buy health insurance through the federal marketplace paid an average premium of $75 per month, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal health insurance marketplace was created through the Affordable Care Act, the federal health reform law passed in March 2010. About 79 percent of Oklahomans who selected plans through the marketplace used tax credits. Overall, Oklahomans paid below the national average, which was $82 among states with federally facilitated marketplaces.
Low Vaccination Rate Concerns Tulsa Health Officials
Vaccine-preventable diseases are making a comeback in the U.S., and that has Tulsa health officials encouraging people to catch up on immunizations. Two out of every five pertussis cases in Oklahoma last year were in Tulsa County. Tulsa Health Department immunization program manager Becky Grubb said not nearly enough people are up-to-date. Along with pertussis, measles is a vaccine-preventable disease making a comeback.
Steps to Nowhere
Just north of downtown Tulsa there is a vast empty area, about a half-mile long by a third of a mile wide. This wasteland is punctuated only by the Salvation Army’s compound on the south end and a 1970s-vintage elementary school at the north end. The Oklahoma State University-Tulsa campus borders it on the east. Superimposed on the empty, green space is a grid of seldom-used streets, each one paralleled by a pair of buckled or overgrown sidewalks, interrupted periodically by the stub of a driveway. The observer notes that this place is north of downtown and remembers that it was north of downtown in 1921 that a white mob invaded, looted, and burned an African-American neighborhood to the ground.
GOP Corporation Commission candidates debate who is most liked by Sierra Club
With less than a week before the Republican primary, the race for a post on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has turned negative, with accusations of bank bailouts and who is the most liked by an environmental group among the subjects of competing ads. Running for a position on the three-member commission are former House Speaker Todd Hiett, 46, and term-limited Sen. Cliff Branan, 52. They will replace Patrice Douglas, who is running in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District. No Democrats or independents filed for the post, so the winner of the June 24 primary will take office in January.
Oklahoma Governor’s Republican primary challengers both support legalizing marijuana
Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who has never lost an election during a 25-year political career in Oklahoma, will face two lesser-known opponents in next week’s GOP primary who have made their support for legalization of marijuana an issue in the campaign. While it is an unusual issue to highlight in such a conservative state, criminal defense attorney Chad Moody — known around Oklahoma City as “The Drug Lawyer” — and computer network operator Dax Ewbank, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Guthrie, both said they support the full legalization of cannabis. The issue arises as two separate signature gathering efforts are underway in Oklahoma to get marijuana questions on the ballot — one to legalize the medicinal use of the drug and another authorizing its complete legalization.
Barresi manager accuses Hofmeister of breaking law with campaign emails to school administrators
The campaign manager for state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi alleged Wednesday that rival Joy Hofmeister broke the law by sending campaign-related emails to school district administrators on their work accounts. Hofmeister, of Tulsa, and Brian Kelly of Edmond are opposing Barresi in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Hofmeister said the allegations are “desperate attempts” by Barresi to “smear my reputation to distract voters from her failures.”
Oklahoma County District Attorney inquiry focuses on T.W. Shannon, Joy Hofmeister campaigns
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater confirmed Wednesday he is reviewing “for potential criminal conduct” complaints against the campaigns of T.W. Shannon, a U.S. Senate candidate, and Joy Hofmeister, a state schools superintendent candidate. The allegations are that there was improper collusion between the two Republican candidates’ campaigns and dark money groups supporting them, The Oklahoman learned. Candidates and such groups are supposed to act independently. Prater stopped short of calling his inquiry at this point an investigation.
The education factor in Oklahoma elections
As Joy Hofmeister discussed her views on high-stakes testing and the need for more school funding, Joe Dorman sat several feet away and politely clapped. As the Democratic candidate for Oklahoma governor in 2014, Dorman isn’t likely to be a vocal backer of Hofmeister, who is running for state superintendent of public instruction as a Republican. However, her ability to beat incumbent Janet Barresi in next week’s primary could be reason to celebrate for Dorman and his underdog campaign to become Oklahoma’s next governor.
Oklahoma City home day cares say proposed regulations could shut them down
Times are uncertain for day cares in Oklahoma City after the fight over new requirements took an unexpected turn. The city washed its hands of the controversial proposal in its regular council meeting Tuesday, tabling it for now. The rules were written to update the city code regulating all day cares, but home day care owners argued the rules would unfairly impact them. In Oklahoma City there are 337 home day cares registered with DHS. They have a total capacity of 3,250 children.
Hate groups threaten to splinter metro communities, but other groups fight bigotry and discrimination
Each year, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) locates hate groups on a nationwide map, pinpointing organizations dedicated to exploiting bigotry, racism and discrimination. Groups include the Ku Klux Klan, black separatists and even churches that preach intolerance toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. But for every organization of hate, there appear to be several more throughout the city and state that actively work to counter discrimination of all forms and educate the public on the damage these practices can cause.
National ‘Redskins’ mascot controversy shines spotlight on Tulsa school’s name
The Redskins mascot isn’t an issue within Union Public Schools or its community, but any pressure that is felt to change it has come from outside the school, Superintendent Kirt Hartzler said Wednesday. Hartzler, the top official in a district of nearly 16,000 students, was expecting media attention after the U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday that the Washington Redskins nickname is “disparaging of Native Americans” when used in the context of professional football. The Union district has faced criticism over the years from groups and individuals who want the school’s mascot changed from Redskins, saying it disparages Native Americans. But Hartzler said the school has no intention of changing it.
Environmental groups sue for stronger protections of lesser prairie chicken
Three environmental groups Tuesday sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the government did not go far enough this spring when it designated the lesser prairie chicken as “threatened” rather than “endangered.” The action comes less than two weeks after several oil and natural gas industry groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the designation is too strong. Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians filed their lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, saying the government “failed to adequately protect” the bird that is native to much of western Oklahoma.
Lawmaker questions termination of contract to digitize court records
Oklahoma court officials’ decision to terminate a contract on a much-delayed court computer project rankled a state legislator who suggested Wednesday the entire multimillion-dollar venture might need to be scrapped. Rep. Mark McCullough, the chairman of the House budget committee that oversees funding for the courts, said he was shocked to learn court officials ended its contract with the American Cadastre, or AMCAD, which was helping to build a unified computer system that linked courts from all 77 counties.
Quote of the Day
“What we’re finding is that the marketplace is working for Oklahomans. Consumers have more choices, and they’re paying less for their premiums. When there is choice and competition, everybody benefits.”
-U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, speaking about a report showing Affordable Care Act tax credits reduced average premiums for insurance bought on Healthcare.gov to $75 per month (Source: http://bit.ly/1vVwLNT)
Number of the Day
Average monthly tax credit for Oklahomans who purchased insurance on Healthcare.gov. The tax credits reduced average monthly premiums to $75.
States of Incarceration: The Global Context
Around the globe, governments respond to illegal activity and social unrest in many ways. Here in the United States, policymakers in the 1970s made the decision to start incarcerating Americans at globally unprecedented rates. The decades that followed have revealed that the growth in the U.S. prison population can be more closely attributed to ideological policy choices than actual crime rates. The record also shows that our country’s experiment with mass incarceration has not managed to significantly enhance public safety, but instead has consistently and disproportionately stunted the social and economic wellbeing of poor communities and communities of color for generations.
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