In The Know: For second year, state corrections board requests more than $1 billion in state funding

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

For second year, state corrections board requests more than $1 billion in state funding: The Oklahoma Board of Corrections on Tuesday approved a budget request of more than $1.5 billion to fund employee pay raises, two new prisons and a host of other improvements at state prison facilities. Approval of the department’s requested fiscal year 2019 budget, which is more than a billion dollars higher than the $485 million appropriated by the Legislature for this fiscal year, comes as Gov. Mary Fallin’s office prepares to call a second special Legislative session to fill this fiscal year’s budget hole [The Frontier]. Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster [OK Policy].

‘Lagging uncertainty’ wreaking havoc with health care: The Oklahoma Legislature’s failure to pass a long-term, sustainable budget is making it difficult for doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, medical advocates say. Without a legislative plan to fund Medicaid, health care providers are now bracing for the latest round of proposed reimbursement rate reductions slated to take effect Jan. 1. The state’s Health Care Authority, which runs the Medicaid program, is eyeing 6 percent cuts to what it pays physicians and hospitals. Nursing homes face 1 percent cuts [CNHI].

‘Sometimes you’ve got to be a little extreme’: Grimes teachers get school supplies thanks to ‘panhandling’ colleague: A Tulsa woman known as the “Panhandling Teacher” donated $3,000 in school supplies to her colleagues at Grimes Elementary School on Tuesday, a small part of the money she has raised since her cause went viral on social media. Last July, third-grade Grimes teacher Teresa Danks stood on 193rd East Avenue with a sign that read: “Teacher Needs School Supplies, Anything Helps.” The response was immediate and positive [Tulsa World]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy]. 

Tax break to wealthy Oklahomans won’t be challenged: A state commission has voted to continue a tax break that cost the state $465 million in five years, can’t be shown to be helping the Oklahoma economy and overwhelmingly benefits the rich. The Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission was created with the responsibility for making sure the state’s tax incentives are working for the state. But when the commission met recently, it wasn’t willing to approve its own consultant’s recommendation to do something about the state capital gains tax exemption [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World]. Lawmakers should heed the advice of the experts and act quickly to repeal this expensive and inefficient tax break [OK Policy].

Watchdog Sues State Officials To Force Release Of Tar Creek Corruption Probe: A watchdog group is suing two state officials to force them to hand over documents related to corruption allegations at the Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma. Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability requested documents related to a 2011 investigation of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Trust, a public trust set up with government money to buy contaminated properties and relocate residents near the abandoned lead and zinc mine [StateImpact Oklahoma].

How special are special sessions for the Oklahoma Legislature? As the Church Lady might say, “Well, hasn’t this been special?” With the passing of one desultory “extraordinary session” of the 56th Oklahoma Legislature and the prospect of another looming, the citizenry is becoming more familiar than it would probably like with the peculiar legislative procedure commonly known as the special session. There have been 86 legislative days in 2017, more than usual for recent years, but nowhere near the 160-day first regular session of the First Legislature, which after all had to write an entire set of laws for the new state [Tulsa World]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

OK sheriffs’ arrangement worthy of second look: As lawmakers who favor criminal justice reform look for ways to improve Oklahoma’s system, they should review a program that’s enriching one group while further burdening those trying to get back on their feet after serving time. The Oklahoman’s Nolan Clay reported Sunday on how the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association has made more than $4 million for its part in collecting overdue fines, court costs and fees in criminal cases [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]. Tens of thousands of Oklahomans enter the justice system each year and come out with thousands of dollars in legal financial obligations [OK Policy].

DOC wants more privacy for the agency, private contractors: Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials started drafts on legislation they plan to request during the 2018 session, some of which would grant more privacy to agency officials as well as companies that build and administer private prisons. One bill would create some leeway for the agency within the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act, and the other within Oklahoma Open Records Act [Journal Record].

TPS forced to cope with speech language pathologist shortage: Tulsa Public Schools has been grappling with the flight of teachers seeking higher wages for years. The district is now also seeing the attrition rates climb for a small, specialized group of workers integral to its operations: speech language pathologists. TPS had 40 speech-language pathologists, or SLP positions, last school year, according to an employee database from 2016-17 school year. Twelve pathologists who appear in that database don’t appear in a 2017-18 database [Tulsa World].

Republican Ross Ford sworn in to serve House District 76: Republican Ross Ford of Broken Arrow was sworn in Tuesday to represent House District 76. He will serve the unexpired term of David Brumbaugh, 56, a Broken Arrow Republican who died unexpectedly in April while the Legislature was in session. Ford defeated Democrat Chris VanLandingham in a Nov. 14 special election to take the seat. Ford, 57, said being elected was a big honor [Tulsa World].

University of Central Oklahoma ranked in Top 10 of Military Times Best: Colleges 2018: The University of Central Oklahoma has been recognized for its dedication to veterans for the third consecutive year, landing in the Top 10 of The Military Times’ list of best four-year colleges and universities for student veterans and active military. UCO jumped from No. 21 to No. 10 on The Military Times Best: Colleges 2018 list [NewsOK].

City teams with Gallup Poll to measure city’s vitality: Mayor G.T. Bynum and Gallup Inc. announced the creation of the Gallup-Tulsa CitiVoice Index on Tuesday. The initiative will measure 45 indicators of overall city vitality, according to a news release from the city. “The Gallup-Tulsa CitiVoice Index will measure the most important outcomes for city residents and provide local leaders with insights we can use in building the best city possible,” Bynum said [Tulsa World].

Court: Special licenses for sex offenders OK: A federal court has ruled that Oklahoma can include aggravated sex offender status on driver licenses. The 2007 state law allows for the note to be included on driver licenses in red letters three places on the license. Ray Carney, who was convicted of sexually abusing a child, filed the lawsuit. He is scheduled for release in 2018 and must register as a sex offender [NewsOK].

Sen. Lankford faces tax cut questions as he releases his annual ‘Federal Fumbles’ list: Sen. James Lankford’s Monday release of his annual ”Federal Fumbles” list of what he says is mismanaged and misguided spending turned into a quiz session about his position on tax cuts. During a streamed press conference, reporters repeatedly asked Lankford about the Senate’s evolving tax reform package and whether he will vote for it. “I would very much like to support it, but we have to get some things worked out,” Lankford said [Tulsa World]. As the Senate prepares to take up its version of a tax policy bill, with the potential of a vote by week’s end, Republicans look about eight votes short [FiveThirtyEight].  The Congressional tax plan would take Oklahoma’s budget mess national [OK Policy].

Oklahoma voters angry at status quo shock the establishment by electing liberal lesbian: Doc Lee talks and votes like a conservative red stater. The mechanical engineer, 41, a former Marine, has voted for GOP candidates in most elections. A year ago, he voted for Donald Trump “because I wanted an outsider.” But in a Nov. 14 special election here, he said he voted for Allison Ikley-Freeman, an unknown Democrat who was running for the vacant state Senate District 37 seat long held by Republicans – in a district that went for Trump by 40 points [Houston Chronicle].

Quote of the Day

“It sounds like a lot of money because it is a lot of money. The days of bailing wire and pliers are over. We have to fund this agency properly. This budget represents exactly what our needs are.”

– Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, after the state Board of Corrections voted to submit a budget request of $1.5 billion, roughly triple its current state appropriation (Source)

Number of the Day


Federal spending per capita on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Oklahoma in FY 2016

Source: Pew Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Kids with School Lunch Debt Still Face Lunch-Shaming, Despite Outrage: When New Mexico passed the first comprehensive law banning lunch shaming last April, the state made visible what anti-hunger advocates, school food professionals, and lower-income families have known for decades: Children with school-meal debt can be stigmatized in the cafeteria. If social media is any guide, the idea of singling out kids with unpaid balances—by making them do chores, denying them a meal, serving them a cold cheese sandwich, or stamping their arms or hands—has been met with almost universal disapproval. And while the recent coverage has lead to an apparent uptick in private philanthropy efforts to cover families’ meal debt—including one to honor Philando Castile’s legacy by paying off the lunch debt at his school—the question remains: Has the moral outrage by politicians, celebrities, and ordinary citizens done anything to meaningfully curb lunch shaming? [Civil Eats]

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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