In The Know: Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage ruled unconstitutional

In The KnowIn 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.

A federal appeals court struck down Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, though the ban remains pending an expected appeal of the decision. You can read the full decision here. Governor Fallin released a statement condemning the decision. A new poll by Rasmussen finds the Oklahoma governor’s race between Mary Fallin and Joe Dorman is within the margin of error. Dorman said Oklahoma should accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid program to cover low-income Oklahomans. The Tulsa World shared the colorful history of runoff elections in Oklahoma.

Speaking at the annual Oklahoma PTA conference, Gov. Fallin seemed to back off her position for relying on one high-stakes reading test to determine whether a third-grader should move on to fourth grade. Hundreds of Oklahoma City students are participating in a summer reading academy to try to pass the reading test before a new school year begins. The tiny Panola School District may close its doors after 102 years due to a budget shortfall. A Tulsa World op-ed discusses how Tulsa Community College is getting national recognition for a program that provides free tuition and fees for all Tulsa County students who graduate high school with at least a 2.0 grade point average.  The University of Oklahoma College of Education is offering a new program to forgive student debt for graduates who stay in Oklahoma and enter high-need teaching areas.

The Tulsa World reported that the state Workers Compensation Commission repeatedly discussed budget decisions in meetings that the public was not allowed to attend, a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act. Upcoming community meetings in Tulsa and Oklahoma will make a case for extending foster care to age 21. The Oklahoman editorial board argued that Oklahoma still has a long way to go on corrections reform. The Tulsa County Jail and Sheriff Stanley Glanz are facing multiple lawsuits alleging extreme neglect, abuse, and needless death of inmates.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has seen a significant increase in the number of applicants, which department officials attribute to a pay increase and reduced education requirements approved this legislative session. The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs is cutting funding for Community Intervention Centers by about $610,000, which law enforcement officials said will take police officers off the streets to take care of juveniles in custody.

A consumer survey found Oklahomans have a better view of the economy than neighboring states Arkansas and Missouri, but all three states trail the national average. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 4.5% in June and is down a whole percentage point from this time last year. The 2014 Farm Bill is contributing $26.4 million in federal funds to assess and rehabilitate dams in Oklahoma. A study examining oil and gas wastewater wells in Oklahoma found that certain wells may be able to trigger earthquakes as far away as 21 miles. About 300 residents of Boise City in the Oklahoma Panhandle came to a town meeting to discuss a dozen members of a fundamentalist Mormon group settling in the town.

The Number of the Day is the number of beginning farmers in Oklahoma in 2012, down about 26 percent from 2002. In today’s Policy Note, Al Jazeera America looks at the growing criminalization of homelessness in American cities.

In The News

Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, federal appeals court rules

Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriages moved closer to being lifted Friday. A federal appeals court struck down the ban as unconstitutional, bringing measured celebrations within Tulsa’s LGBT community and strong words from Gov. Mary Fallin. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law for everyone. “States may not, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, prohibit same-sex marriages,” the judges wrote. The court stayed its opinion, putting it on hold pending an expected challenge.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

You can read the decision here.

See also: Gov. Fallin Says Gay Marriage Ruling Tramples States’ Rights from KGOU.

Mary Fallin In A Close Contest With Joe Dorman For Reelection

A new poll by Rasmussen on the Oklahoma governor’s race shows within the margin of error. Likely voters support for Gov. Fallin at 45 percent and opponent State Rep. Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs) at 40 percent. Seven percent favor some other candidate, while eight percent are undecided. The poll results show nearly half of Oklahomans disapprove of Fallin’s job performance and almost one in three Oklahomans view her very unfavorably. An earlier poll by Sooner Poll for the Tulsa World showed Fallin’s favorability with Oklahoma voters dipped to 52 percent in early June, a 19-point drop from her high of 73 percent in September.

Read more from KGOU.

Dorman says he’d accept federal funds to expand Medicaid

Oklahoma should accept federal dollars to expand its Medicaid program, which will allow the program to serve more poor Oklahomans, gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman said Friday. “Medicaid expansion covers the cost for the working poor to get insurance,” he said. “Those people who are working minimum-wage jobs at a convenience store or another area of the business sector. Medicaid expansion will help them afford their insurance.” Dorman, a former lawmaker who reached his term limit at the end of the 2014 session, talked about Medicaid expansion and other topics during a legislative luncheon at the Pontotoc Technology Center.

Read more from The Ada News.

Oklahoma runoff elections have colorful history

On Aug. 26, a smattering of Oklahomans will vote in 18 runoff elections. The only statewide offices involved are the Democratic nominations for U.S. Senate and state superintendent. Locally, Republicans will elect a state representative from House District 69 and a Tulsa County district attorney. In an era of high-dollar campaigning and reluctant candidates, runoffs have become almost a relic, a reminder of a more rambunctious political process. But back in the days of the long ballot and even longer lists of candidates, runoff elections were a regular fixture.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Gov. Mary Fallin softens stance on third-grade reading test at state PTA conference

Gov. Mary Fallin said Friday that relying on one test to determine whether a third-grader should move on to fourth grade is not the right way to ensure kids can read. Speaking at the annual Oklahoma PTA conference, she seemed to back off her previous stance that the high-stakes test was necessary. “If we can get to a system where we are measuring a student throughout the progress of their education versus one test — one high-stakes test — we are better serving the children,” Fallin said. However, she did not say that the end-of-the-year reading test should not be used as a determining factor in retention.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma’s third-graders read up for second chance to enter fourth grade

The third-graders in Ashley Schlusler’s classroom at Willow Brook Elementary School are pretty good readers. It’s understanding what they read that’s causing problems and elevating anxiety as another high-stakes test draws near. “These kids, even though they can read the words, they don’t have the background knowledge and the vocabulary to understand what they read all the time,” Schlusler said. Hundreds of students participating in a summer reading academy sponsored by Oklahoma City Public Schools are running out of time to improve their skills and could be held back when school starts Aug. 4.

Read more from NewsOK.

Panola Public Schools district has big financial woes, hopes to be open for 2014 classes in August

The tiny Panola School District has served the community for 102 years. However, it’s not clear whether the district will be able to open its doors for the fall semester next month after Panola Schools finished last school year with a budget shortfall. Now, the possibility that the district might not be allowed to hold classes is sparking fear in Panola because people there are afraid losing the school could spell the end of the community. At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, Panola Public Schools discovered it had a budget shortfall of approximately $150,000.

Read more from KJRH.

A bold investment in Oklahoma’s higher education needs

A group of Tulsa Community College supporters and scores of friends and family of Dr. Tom McKeon recently gathered at a congratulatory dinner to celebrate McKeon’s retirement as president of Tulsa Community College. An achievement mentioned in speech after speech was the unparalleled success of Tulsa Achieves, a nationally recognized program that provides up to 100 percent of the cost of tuition and fees for Tulsa County students who graduate from high school and enroll in classes at TCC the fall after graduation. The program has proven so successful that is it being replicated in communities across the country and it has spawned new efforts in Tulsa to expand access to college.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

University of Oklahoma offers debt forgiveness to keep teachers in state

An innovative program at the University of Oklahoma is fighting to keep the best and brightest new teachers in Oklahoma. “We lose a lot of people to other states immediately upon graduation,” Education Dean Gregg Garn said. Graduates from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education are recruited heavily by surrounding states that offer better pay for beginning teachers, Garn said. That higher salary is critical if the new teacher is struggling to pay off student loans, OU officials said. The college’s new Debt Forgiveness Program will help lift that burden from OU’s teaching graduates by paying up to $20,000 of debt.

Read more from NewsOK.

Records show workers comp commission discussed budget in secret sessions

Since it began operating in November, the state Workers Compensation Commission has discussed its budget and funding issues in at least four executive sessions, made budget decisions in executive session and held at least one “informational meeting” with a quorum but no public notice, a Tulsa World investigation has found. Meanwhile, the commission has so far refused a World Open Records Act request for the names of 16 employees fired last week and what the state offered to pay them in a “voluntary buyout” if they agreed not to sue. Few of the commission’s executive sessions appeared to adhere to the spirit if not the letter of the Open Meeting Act — which allows discussion of personnel actions only when they involve specific employees — or to attorney general opinions on the same issue.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Community meetings in OKC and Tulsa will look at extending foster care to age 21

Young people who age out of foster care face significant challenges transitioning to adulthood on their own. More than 40 percent of young adults who leave foster care become homeless or are in an unstable living situation at least once by age 23. Many have been homeless multiple times. The Oklahoma Department of Human Service’s Road to Independence Network is hosting community meetings in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to explore addressing the problem by extending the foster care age in Oklahoma from 18 to 21. Dr. Mark Courtney of the University of Chicago will speak at the meeting in favor of the extension.

Read more from the OK Policy blog.

Oklahoma still has a long way to go on corrections reform

Oklahoma got a nod last week from former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in an op-ed about the need for federal prison reform. Gingrich and co-author Pat Nolan included Oklahoma among a group of states that have adopted corrections reforms similar to those in Texas and South Carolina. It’s always nice to see the Sooner State cited in a positive vein, but Gingrich and Nolan (director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform) were being kind by including us. Oklahoma has implemented corrections reform in recent years, but it pales in comparison to what’s gone on in Texas or South Carolina.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tulsa Jail faces inmate lawsuits: Officials dispute claims of needless death and abuse

Is the Tulsa Jail a black hole with systemic health-care deficiencies leading to needless death and suffering, or merely the recent target of lawsuits trying to capitalize on unavoidable deaths and injuries? Those are some of the questions being hashed out in a series of lawsuits filed in recent years on behalf of former jail detainees. Tulsa Jail officials maintain that the facility is a top-notch jail, where deaths may occur, but not due to lack of attention by staff. Lawsuits filed in court claim otherwise, pointing to graphic and sometimes horrific examples of death and suffering endured by detainees in recent years.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol sees increase in applications, credits passage of state bills

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has seen a significant increase in the number of applicants, which department officials attribute to the passage of two bills during the 2014 legislative session. One bill, in particular, has given both active and would-be troopers a boost of confidence. Senate Bill 232 gave a pay increase to troopers, something that hasn’t happened since 2007. Another, Senate Bill 1372, removed language from the statute requiring applicants to have a college degree and instead allows the patrol to hire troopers with at least 32 credit hours and an honorable discharge from the military. Those applicants can also count each year of military service as 10 credit hours.

Read more from NewsOK.

Office of Juvenile Affairs Cuts Funds to Community Intervention Centers

Community intervention centers were the hot topic during the Friday meeting of Office of Juvenile Affairs Board of Directors. A meeting was able to be held Friday, unlike in June which failed due to a lack of a quorum. Suspicions had run high that the lack of a quorum was a tactical move to keep the ample audience from voicing concern at the budget cut for community intervention centers (CICs). Board member Richard Rice, the missing board member who audience and other board members spent an hour waiting on for last month’s meeting, publicly apologized Friday saying he “simply could not get out of the courtroom.”

Read more from KGOU.

Arvest survey: Oklahomans’ economic sentiment better than neighbors’

Oklahoma consumers have a higher view of the economy than those in the neighboring states of Arkansas and Missouri, according to a newly released Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey. University of Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Learning Laboratory and the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas conducted the survey for this inaugural report, which is being released Thursday. The report is based on 1,200 phone surveys in May and June. Oklahoma’s consumer sentiment index was 76.4 compared to 67.4 for Arkansas and 68.6 for Missouri. All three states, however, trailed the national consumer sentiment index of 82.5 as reported by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan in June.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma Unemployment Rate Down To 4.5% In June

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 4.5% in June from 4.6% in May, according to a press release from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The report issued Friday indicates over the year, Oklahoma’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate improved by a whole percentage point, dropping from 5.5% in June of 2013. The report shows that in June 2014, 1,793,570 people were in the labor force population, with 1,712,400 employed and 81,170 unemployed.

Read more from KGOU.

Oklahoma dams to be rehabilitated under 2014 Farm Bill

Stan Mullins remembers floods in the late 1950s that threatened people, property and crops and left his family’s farm underwater. That was before local officials in this part of north-central Oklahoma built flood-control structures with assistance from a Natural Resources Conservation Service program to protect against such disasters. Federal and state officials gathered Friday at one such structure, a dam on Perry Lake, to announce $262 million in funding under the 2014 Farm Bill to rehabilitate or assess the condition of hundreds of dams across the nation, including $26.4 million for Oklahoma projects.

Read more from NewsOK.

Scientists study earthquake-injection well link

Certain high-pressure, high-volume injection wells may be able to trigger earthquakes as far away as 21 miles. That’s the key finding of a new report from Katie Keranen, a geophysicist at Cornell University, and colleagues. The recently published paper examined about 89 injection wells within 31 miles of Jones, a small Oklahoma town that has been rocked by more than 2,500 earthquakes since 2008. The cluster is part of a trend that has shaken and stirred most of Oklahoma during the same period. The state, in fact, has passed California in quake activity.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Religious fundamentalists settle in the Oklahoma Panhandle

About 300 people crowded into the banquet hall at the county fairgrounds in this Panhandle town, anxious to talk about the small group of strangers who had moved into their midst. Men in boots, baseball caps and cowboy hats milled about, while women fanned themselves against the early July heat. About 18 months ago, a small group of religious fundamentalists settled in Boise City. Others followed. Soon, the group, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, began buying property in town and competing for local construction jobs and other work. Today, about a dozen members, several of whom are brothers, live in Boise City. The group’s arrival prompted fear among some townsfolk.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

“We found that our average education major will be paid $31,000 a year when they graduate to teach. They will leave with an average debt of at least $21,000. Now how long is it going to take them to pay off those debts?”

-University of Oklahoma President David Boren, on a new program being offered by the university to forgive student debt for graduates who stay in Oklahoma and enter high-need teaching areas (Source:

Number of the Day


Number of beginning farmers in Oklahoma in 2012, down from 26,880 in 2002.

Source: USDA Census of Agriculture, via Farmland Information Center.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The growing criminalization of homelessness

As the number of homeless people in America’s major cities has increased, so have ordinances criminalizing homelessness and pushing homeless families and individuals into the criminal justice system. Criminalization has become a tactic with which politicians have reconfigured cities to serve wealthier citizens and tourists, at the considerable expense of the poor. These politicians are rarely challenged, and developers, businesses and city officials have partnered with police and private security forces to “cleanse” urban spaces by any means necessary.

Read more from Al Jazeera America.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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