In The Know: State Attorney General dismisses death-row inmates’ concerns

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.

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The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office said Thursday that death-row inmates’ concerns about the risk of cruel and unusual pain and suffering during executions by lethal injection are unfounded. A group of 21 death-row inmates had filed the lawsuit following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in late April. An editorial in The Oklahoman argues that although the state Supreme Court has upheld a bill repealing Common Core in Oklahoma, the bill itself is nonetheless flawed because it grants state lawmakers the authority to write new educational standards. State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi has expressed concern that the two-year time frame given to develop new educational standards might not be enough.

A guest post on the OK Policy blog warns against the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Oklahoma, a secretive organization that connects corporate lobbyists with state lawmakers. The state Workers’ Compensation Commission approved its budget on Thursday, which includes the termination of 16 employees. The teen birth rate in Tulsa dropped by 20 percent between 2012 and 2013, outstripping the state’s overall drop of 9 percent. Advocates credit the evidence-based, comprehensive sex education available in Tulsa County. KGOU explained why a coalition of 18 Oklahoma counties planning to build a pipeline to pump water from southeastern Oklahoma fell apart. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has announced forthcoming in-depth water studies in three of Oklahoma’s most water-challenged regions to address potential supply issues.

A Senate panel has approved funding for all seven AWACS planes at Tinker Air Force Base. The Department of Defense had previously planned to retire the planes to save money. A task force dedicated to figuring out funding for dams on the Arkansas River has suggested creating a trust fund for the dams supported by sales or property taxes. Officials say that badly-needed repairs on the state Capitol building could begin by the end of the year. A new federal earthquake map places parts of Oklahoma in the top-two hazard zones. State agriculture officials say the ongoing drought, a late spring freeze and late spring rains have produced the worst wheat crop in nearly half a century.

The Number of the Day is the percentage decline in Oklahoma’s teen birth rate between 2012 and 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg View examines the concept of participatory budgeting, in which citizens have a hand in allocating resources.

In The News

Oklahoma responds to inmates’ execution lawsuit

Death-row inmates’ concerns about the risk of cruel and unusual pain and suffering because of lethal injection are unfounded, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office said Thursday in its response to a federal lawsuit. A group of 21 death-row prisoners filed the lawsuit in June, claiming that Oklahoma is experimenting on “captive and unwilling human subjects” and challenging the state’s execution protocols. The lawsuit stems from the botched lethal injection of murderer Clayton Lockett on April 29.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Lethal lessons: State’s execution procedures fall short, World review finds from the Tulsa World.

High court ruling means academic standards in Oklahoma could suffer

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of House Bill 3399, which grants politicians the power to rewrite academic standards for public schools. Even so, just because a law is constitutional doesn’t make it a good idea. This legislation clearly involved unprecedented legislative intrusion into standards development. There were legitimate separation-of-powers concerns. Now state officials will move ahead developing new academic standards. Unfortunately, the provisions of House Bill 3399 could easily make that process a train wreck that drags out for years and negatively affects thousands of Oklahoma students.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma schools Superintendent Barresi worries there’s not enough time to develop academic standards to replace Common Core

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said Thursday two years might not be enough time to develop rigorous new academic standards for math and English. “It sounds like it’s a long time,” Barresi said. “We’re really worried we may not have enough time.” The state Education Department has outlined a two-year plan to develop standards to replace the Common Core standards repealed by the Oklahoma legislature. “If you’re going to do these well … if you’re going to do your research … it’s going to take time,” she said. “I think we can get it all done, but we have to jump into it. We’ve got to get going right away.” Barresi will ask the state Board of Education on Wednesday to approve the framework for developing the standards.

Read more from NewsOK.

Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma (Guest Post: J.C. Moore)

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a great influence on our state politics, but many Oklahomans have heard little about the organization. On the surface, ALEC is an organization made up of corporations and state-level elected officials which meets three times a year to write “model legislation” for states. Officials can then take the model legislation back to their state for consideration. That sounds like a good process, except that what goes on under the surface of ALEC is kept secret.

Read more from the OK Policy blog.

Workers Compensation Commssion Adopts Budget and Explains Employee Terminations

The Workers’ Compensation Commission approved its first full fiscal year budget Thursday totaling $4.5 million. Executive Director Rick Farmer walked the three commissioners through the income and expenditure sides of the ledger during the commission meeting. The commission was appropriated $2.750 million by the Legislature but that amount was reduced to $2.746 million when the Office of Management and Enterprise Services implemented a 0.12 percent across-the-board cut.

Read more from KGOU.

Teen birth rate drops by 20 percent in Tulsa County

Tulsa County’s teen birth rate fell 20 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to statistics released recently by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. That far outpaced the rate statewide, where the rate fell 9 percent, according to the department. Kim Schutz, executive director of the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said programs such as evidence-based, comprehensive sex education at schools have helped teenagers in Tulsa County get the messages needed to prevent pregnancy, she said. “It comes down to teens making better decisions,” she said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Why The OKC Coalition To Pump Water From Southeast Oklahoma Fell Apart

Oklahoma City has been pumping water out of southeast Oklahoma along the Atoka pipeline for 50 years. But in the future, the aging pipeline won’t be able to carry enough water to meet the growing needs of Oklahoma City, let alone the rest of central Oklahoma,so the plan is to build another one right next to the existing one. 17 central Oklahoma communities formed a partnership with Oklahoma City to build a new 100-mile pipeline to get the water, but that water coalition has crumbled.

Read more from KGOU.

Studies announced to prevent water shortages in Oklahoma

In-depth water studies will be performed in three of Oklahoma’s most water-challenged regions to evaluate strategies for avoiding future water shortages, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board announced Thursday. “These focused studies will be critical to addressing potential water supply challenges not just for water users who are at the greatest risk of shortages in coming decades, but also for the state as a whole,” said J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

Read more from NewsOK.

Senate panel OKs funding for AWACS planes at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma

A Senate committee on Thursday approved funding for all of the AWACS planes currently at Tinker Air Force Base, virtually assuring that the current complement of command-and-control aircraft will survive another year. Now, both the House and Senate spending bills for the Department of Defense protect all 27 planes stationed at Tinker and used by active duty and reserve units. The Defense Department had proposed saving money by retiring seven of the planes and eliminating the reserve unit’s role. Since both the House and Senate committees that oversee defense spending agree on the AWACS, the issue is effectively decided for the fiscal year that begins in October.

Read more from NewsOK.

Task Force Thinking Trust for Dam Funding

A task force continues to figure out how to pay for dams that would put water in the Arkansas River. Members support a trust funded by sales or property taxes. Tulsa City Councilor Phil Lakin said operating and maintaining low-water dams needs consistent funding. “It’s tons easier to contribute $100,000 a year for 30 years rather than trying to find $3 million in a budget 30 years from now to replace the gates or paint or replace parts of the dam or do anything else,” Lakin said.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Officials outline plan to repair Oklahoma state Capitol building

Sunday marks 100 years since officials broke ground on the state Capitol, with the state’s second governor, Democrat Lee Cruce, doing the honors. Between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., he stuck a pick in the ground at the southwest corner of the property, said Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma Historical Society executive director. “Thousands of people came that day,” Blackburn said. State officials on Thursday outlined plans to fix the structure’s crumbling exterior limestone, outdated plumbing, and mechanical and electrical systems, and improve other aspects of the infrastructure. “It’s ready for another 100 years of service,” said Duane Mass, Capitol architect.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

New Federal Earthquake Map Puts Oklahoma In Top Two Hazard Zone

A new federal earthquake map dials up the shaking hazard just a bit for about half of the United States and lowers it for nearly a quarter of the nation. The U.S. Geologic Survey updated Thursday its national seismic hazard maps for the first time since 2008, taking into account research from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the Japanese coast and the surprise 2011 Virginia temblor. Most of the changes are slight. Project chief Mark Petersen said parts of Washington, Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and Tennessee moved into the top two hazard zones.

Read more from KGOU.

Oklahoma Wheat Crop Worst in Nearly Half Century

Oklahoma agriculture officials say ongoing drought during the start of spring followed by a late freeze and untimely late spring rains produced the worst wheat crop in nearly a half century. Oklahoma Wheat Commission director Mike Schulte says the current projection is for about 51 million bushels of wheat in the state — the lowest total since 43 million bushels were harvested in 1957. Schulte says the harvest is considered 97 percent complete as of Monday but says he knows of no farmers still trying to collect the crop. Cassidy Grain elevator co-owner Mike Cassidy in Frederick says the harvest that began in early June virtually ended before it started. Cassidy says most of the wheat that was cut this year was set aside for use as seed next year.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Quote of the Day

“Thanks to HB 3399, politicians can now not only reject English and math standards, but personally rewrite them. Careful analysis and review is unlikely at that point. Now, lawmakers who sometimes don’t bother to read the bills they vote on may soon write standards that determine how – or if – Oklahoma children will be taught to read and do arithmetic. That’s cause for alarm, not a reason to celebrate.”

– The Oklahoman Editorial Board, on the law that revokes Common Core standards in Oklahoma (Source:

Number of the Day

9 percent

Percentage decline in Oklahoma’s teen birth rate from 2012 to 2013

Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health via the Tulsa World.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Help a City, Write Its Budget

More than half of humanity now lives in cities; that number will rise to two-thirds by 2050, up from just 30 percent in 1950. Given the grave challenges facing the world’s booming urban areas — including global warming, economic dislocation, and crumbling basic infrastructure, among other torments — tomorrow’s mayors will need to take bold steps to ensure their constituents live in dignity and safety. One of the greatest obstacles to those steps is public distrust of government. For the past 20 years, Brazilian city governments have been experimenting with a way to counter that distrust: participatory budgeting, in which citizens have a hand in allocating resources.

Read more from Bloomberg View.

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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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