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 a Tulsa World investigation found that the state has conducted autopsies on less than half of the inmates executed in Oklahoma since 1990 and in many cases does not perform tests that could show whether inmates were awake and paralyzed as painful drugs flowed into their veins. The Tulsa World reported that a 2011 law that cloaks Oklahoma’s execution procedures in secrecy and nearly sparked a constitutional crisis sailed through the state Legislature with no debate and little opposition.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority will consider $252 million in Medicaid cutbacks at its board meeting on Thursday, including new limits on patient services, higher copays and smaller reimbursements to doctors and other medical providers. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed what could be the impact of these cuts. The Tulsa Initiative Blog discussed how Oklahoma has put itself in the control group in a test of expanding health coverage through Medicaid, which may prove to be expensive for the citizens who cannot afford health care and the hospitals who face unpaid bills without federal funding to mitigate the loss. The Tulsa World called for the Legislature to eliminate a loophole in Oklahoma’s Open Records Act that a judge ruled allows Governor Fallin to shield records relating to her decisions to reject federal funding for Medicaid expansion.
With voters headed to the polls today, KGOU shared four Oklahoma primary races to watch. Republican domination of the Legislature is expected to continue after this election cycle. The badvoter.org website, which allows anyone to look up whether individual Oklahomans are voting, is stirring mixed feelings among Oklahomans. Fivethirtyeight and NPR provided rundowns of the U.S. Senate primary race between James Lankford and TW Shannon, who are trying to distinguish themselves in style if not substance. Republican congressional candidates Shane Jett and Daryl Robertson have not filed financial disclosure reports even though they have met the campaign spending threshold. Candidates running for state offices in Oklahoma have raised more than $900,000 in last-minute contributions over the past two weeks.
Ten city attorneys have written a letter to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz stating that he has no authority to decide which inmates are housed in the Tulsa Jail and at what cost. Amid a lengthy losing streak in his fight against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt reached a small, symbolic victory in a Supreme Court ruling on regulation of greenhouse gases. The decision will not affect major new greenhouse gas regulations for power plants that the agency proposed earlier this month. The University of Oklahoma is planning a $12 million project to build tornado shelters on its Norman campus.
The Oklahoma Conference of Churches is recruiting pro-bono legal services, clinicians, and counselors to aid immigrant children being housed at Fort Sill. Northeastern State University has received a five-year grant of $735,000 aimed at improving child welfare services in the Cherokee Nation. The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahoma youth that participated in 4-H programs in 2012. In today’s Policy Note, the New Republic discusses how the absence of guaranteed paid family leave in the United States is preventing us from seeing working men as fathers.
In The News
State fails to autopsy most executed inmates
The state has conducted autopsies on less than half of the inmates executed in Oklahoma since 1990 and, in many cases, does not perform tests that could show whether inmates were awake and paralyzed as painful drugs flowed into their veins, a Tulsa World investigation has found. Because state records are inconsistent and blood is sometimes drawn long after inmates die, it is difficult to say how many inmates were conscious when they received potassium chloride, the third drug in Oklahoma’s lethal injection process. Medical experts, judges and attorneys for the state agree that potassium chloride is excruciatingly painful if given to a conscious person.
State’s execution secrecy law passed quietly
A law that cloaks executions in secrecy and sparked a constitutional crisis in Oklahoma sailed through the state Legislature with scant debate. When he introduced House Bill 1991 in 2011, then-Rep. Dan Sullivan described his legislation this way: “It changes the provisions as it relates to carrying out the death penalty. This is a request bill from the Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s Office.” “It doesn’t change who can witness the deal, does it?” one lawmaker asked. Sullivan, R-Tulsa, replied that the bill “doesn’t really change that.” Without further debate, House lawmakers passed the bill 94-0. In the Senate, where debates are not videotaped, the measure received three no votes.
Oklahoma Health Authority Weighs $252 Million in Medicaid Cuts
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority will consider $252 million in Medicaid cutbacks at its board meeting on Thursday, including new limits on patient services, higher copays and smaller reimbursements to doctors and other medical providers. The cutbacks, described in a draft agenda for the board’s 1 p.m. meeting (see below), were devised by leaders of the Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in response to standstill state funding and reduced federal support.
See also: Medicaid on the chopping block from the OK Policy blog.
Medicaid expansion is put to the test and Oklahoma is in the control group
When researchers test a new medicine or even a new program design, they often devise a study comparing results between a treatment group and a control group. People in the control group receive no treatment, and forgo any benefits if it is proven to work and avoid any side effects if proven harmful. A trial is going on regarding healthcare in this country, and right now Oklahoma has put itself in the control group. In this case, being in the control group may not be in our state’s best interest. However, it will provide useful comparisons between our state and states that chose to expand Medicaid.
Legislature should strike judge’s ‘deliberative process’ exemption to the Open Records Act
A state judge has created a new exemption to the state’s Open Records Act, and thus made Oklahoma government more opaque. Oklahoma County District Judge Barbara Swinton ruled last week that Gov. Mary Fallin was justified in refusing media requests for copies of internal governor’s office records concerning her decision to reject Affordable Care Act funding for Medicaid expansion. Swinton ruled the records were protected under a “deliberative process” exemption, meaning Fallin had the right to hear the thoughts of her employees without their fearing “public ridicule or criticism.” Of course, ridicule and criticism — i.e, public scrutiny — of powerful state officials and their staff is exactly what the Open Records Act was created to ensure.
Primary Preview: Four Oklahoma Races To Watch Tuesday
The retirement of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has had a ripple effect in Sooner State politics, reaching into the Fifth Congressional District, and all the way into the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and state legislative seats. KGOU gathered eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley, Watchdog.org Oklahoma bureau chief and CapitolBeakOK writer Patrick McGuigan, and SoonerPoll and Shapard Research President and CEO Bill Shapard to make sense of the several hotly contested races in both the GOP and Democratic primaries.
GOP likely to continue its dominance in Oklahoma’s Legislature
With overwhelming majorities in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Senate, Republican domination of the Legislature is expected to continue after this election cycle. Going into Tuesday’s primary, the Republican Party held a 72-29 advantage in the House and a 36-12 lead in the Senate. All of the House seats and about half of the Senate seats are in play this election. Eight of the Senate seats and 50 of the House seats are uncontested, meaning there is only one person seeking each of those positions. In the contested races, there are 18 legislative seats, four in the Senate and 14 in the House, that could be decided Tuesday since candidates of only one party filed for those offices. The Republican Party will retain 11 of those House seats and the Republicans will keep four of those Senate posts.
Website aiming to encourage voters stirs mixed feelings among Oklahomans
More than 1.7 million Oklahomans are registered to vote, but are they doing it? According to badvoter.org many Oklahomans are not voting, and they want that to change. David Glover said, “There’s a concept of social pressure, of social norms and shame, which I would like to call encouragement which I think people don’t realize no one knows how good or bad or frequent a voter you are.” The site shows Country singer Toby Keith hasn’t voted in a year and a half. According to the website, for national blogger and TV host Ree Drummond, it’s been more than 2,300 days. “What’s interesting is Nick Collison is an excellent role model. He’s registered in Oklahoma and votes in Oklahoma,” Glover said. “Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have not registered to vote in Oklahoma.”
A conservative showdown in Oklahoma
There’s another round of primaries Tuesday, and most of the attention will focus on Mississippi’s Republican Senate runoff (which we’ll look at in later story). But there are a number of other intriguing races, the most important of which is the Republican Senate primary in Oklahoma. Here’s what you should know about the face-off in the Sooner State. Seven candidates are vying to replace Sen. Tom Coburn, who is retiring two years before his term is up. However, only two candidates will probably get more than 10 percent of the vote: U.S. Rep. James Lankford and former Oklahoma House of Representatives speaker and current state Rep. T.W. Shannon. Both Lankford and Shannon are conservative. Still, that hasn’t stopped them from trying to distinguish themselves in style if not substance.
In Oklahoma Senate Race, A Choice Between Two Deep Shades Of Red
In Oklahoma, Republicans will vote Tuesday on a nominee to finish the term of current GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, who is retiring at year-end with two years left to spare. For the two front-runners, Rep. James Lankford and former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, immigration has suddenly become an issue in the race. The winner of the GOP primary will all but certainly become Oklahoma’s next U.S. senator — the state is among the reddest of red states, as red as the meat served at the Cattlemens’ Steakhouse. The place is a fixture in Oklahoma City’s old stockyards district, and legend has it a previous owner won the restaurant in a card game. Chatting with the lunchtime crowd, it is clear there is little regard for Washington or anyone in it. Lee Brown, a retired oil field worker, says the country is moving backward and puts the blame squarely on President Obama.
Jett, Robertson haven’t filed financial disclosure reports
Two Republican congressional candidates in Oklahoma have not filed financial disclosure reports even though they have met the campaign spending threshold. Shane Jett, of Tecumseh, who is running for the 5th District seat being vacated by Rep. James Lankford, has not filed the required report. Nor has Daryl Robertson, who is challenging freshman Rep. Markwayne Mullin in the Republican primary in the 2nd District. The House Committee on Ethics handbook regarding financial disclosure reports says: “Individuals are required to file an FD statement once they ‘qualify’ as a candidate by raising or spending more than $5,000 in a campaign for election to the House of Representatives.”
Oklahoma political office candidates raise more than $900,000 in last-minute contributions
Candidates running for state offices in Oklahoma have raised more than $900,000 in the last two weeks in so-called last-minute contributions, their reports show. The primary election is Tuesday. Todd Hiett, who is seeking a seat on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, has raised the most in last-minute funds — $211,750. Hiett, a former House speaker, and his wife gave the campaign $150,000 of that total. His opponent for the seat, state Sen. Cliff Branan, has collected $42,055 in last-minute donations as of Monday night. Others getting a lot in last-minute donations include Gov. Mary Fallin, $42,604; state Senate candidate Kay Floyd, $34,400; and state Sen. AJ Griffin, $36,000.
Tulsa County city attorneys challenge sheriff’s jail ultimatum
Ten area city attorneys have put Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz on notice that they will not be dealing with him when it comes to which inmates are housed in the Tulsa Jail and at what cost. Glanz recently sent a letter to police chiefs in the county saying that as of July 1 he would not accept their prisoners who have not yet been formally charged into the Tulsa Jail unless their cities paid for them to be held until charges are filed. The deadline was later pushed back 90 days. But the city attorneys’ letter states that Glanz has no authority to define which prisoners can be kept in the jail or how much the county can charge to hold them.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt Gets Small, Symbolic Victory Against The EPA
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been on a lengthy losing streak of late in his fight against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t hear his challenge to the regional haze rule. Rulings over the cross-state pollution rule and mercury and air toxics standards didn’t go his way either. But chalk down today’s 5-4 SCOTUS decision as at least a partial win for Pruitt and adherents to the idea that the EPA is reaching beyond its authority to stifle the fossil fuel industry.
Oklahoma school plans to spend $12 million to build tornado shelters on campus
University of Oklahoma President David Boren says the planning phase for tornado shelters on the OU campus in Norman is nearing completion. The $12 million project is an expansion of campus storm shelters for students living in university housing. The OU Board of Regents last September approved – at Boren’s request – the hiring of MA Plus to help design a campus system of additional storm shelters.
Tulsa Lawmaker Praises Church Coalition Work on Fort Sill Immigrants
State Rep. Seneca Scott has praised the work of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches to aid immigrant families. At the request of bishops and other church leaders that comprise the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, the organization established a task force to determine how churches and faith groups can respond to the influx of unaccompanied children to Fort Sill. “We can all agree that as Christians, we have a duty to aid children when they are in a time of crisis,” said Scott, D-Tulsa. “I think the Oklahoma Conference of Churches is setting the standard for how we should respond in these situations. They are highly organized and very committed to doing what they can for these children and their families.”
Five -Year Grant Aimed At Improving Child Welfare In Cherokee Nation
Northeastern State University has received a five-year grant of $735,000 aimed at improving child welfare services in the Cherokee Nation. The university’s Department of Social Work will partner with the tribe to enhance and support child welfare services. The funding is from the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, which is a service of the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Northeastern State University is one of 11 universities nationwide to receive the funding. The funding also pays for eight internships for undergraduate students who are studying social work.
Quote of the Day
“If you have the data you can show one of two things. The prison system can show it does what we say it does and the folks were sufficiently anesthetized or we can show it doesn’t do what we say it does. Without the data, I don’t understand how anyone could come to the conclusion that it meets the constitutional test.”
– Frank Romanelli, professor and associate dean at the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy. An investigation from the Tulsa World reports that many executions have not followed protocol, but without autopsies or timely tests, it is impossible to determine if inmates died according to the manner intended by the execution protocol (Source: http://bit.ly/V7GOmd)
Number of the Day
Number of Oklahoma youth that participated in 4-H programs in 2012.
Why We Still Don’t See Working Men as Fathers
Today, the White House is convening a Summit on Working Families. While mothers will likely get much of the attention for their flood into the workplace and the barriers they still face, fathers will at least partially share the spotlight. The summit comes after a few smaller White House meetings, including one on working fathers specifically. But do we really see men at work as fathers, or potential fathers? Employers used to tell women that only men would get jobs or raises because they had to support families. Women, on the other hand, would just get married and pregnant and then quit. It’s illegal to say that out loud to an employee today, but that doesn’t mean the conception of women as bad bets has been eradicated.
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