In 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
Teacher pay draws thousands to Capitol, but they leave empty-handed: Several thousand educators and their supporters descended on the Oklahoma state Capitol on Monday to advocate for $5,000 teacher raises. Most left empty-handed about 4:45 p.m. as it became apparent the House would fall short of the votes needed to fund the raises. Brenna Magette, an eighth-grade science teacher in Oologah-Talala, said she was disappointed that the very lawmakers who told her in earlier, one-on-one conversations that they had a better deal for teachers in the works never said so during debate on the House floor [Tulsa World]. Public education advocates descended on the Capitol to lobby for teacher pay raises [Tulsa World].
Lawmakers must continue their work until a substantial revenue plan gets the votes: Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt released the following statement on the apparent failure of the HB 1033XX revenue bill: Today, lawmakers on both sides of the debate agreed about one thing: Oklahoma desperately needs to increase revenues to pay for a teacher raise and save Oklahoma’s core services. With so much that we agree on, it will be a historic tragedy if Oklahoma lawmakers cannot reach a solution [OK Policy].
Step Down: Revenue bill short again in Oklahoma House: The primary revenue bill included in the Step Up Oklahoma plan appears to have failed to receive 76 votes in the House of Representatives today, the second time in fewer than 100 days that a major revenue bill has fallen short. The vote is sitting at 63-35 with two members — Rep. Chuck Hoskin (D-Vinita) and Rep. Carl Newton (R-Cherokee) — not having voted. Earlier in the day, Newton’s legislative assistant said he was in the hospital awaiting surgery [NonDoc].
Bill Watch: Ways to help Oklahoma families build wealth this legislative session: Last session, working families saw little in the way of help from the Legislature. As the budget crisis continued, core services suffered further cuts and teachers and state employees did not see the raises that many legislators promised would be a priority. Too many Oklahomans are still struggling with financial instability, but there are opportunities for the legislature to make some strides this session. We identified several goals related to economic opportunity and security in OK Policy’s 2018 legislative policy priorities [OK Policy].
Senate District 27: General election cheat sheet: Back in September, former Sen. Bryce Marlatt resigned from his Senate District 27 seat following charges of sexual battery against an Uber driver. A crowded field of six Republican contenders and one Democrat stepped up with hopes to take his place in the conservative panhandle district. With 33.19 percent of the vote, current House District 61 Rep. Casey Murdock (R-Felt) emerged victorious in a special December primary [NonDoc].
Your Guide To The Oklahoma City Mayoral Primary: The primary election for mayor of Oklahoma City will be held on Feb. 13. Candidates David Holt, Taylor Neighbors and Randall Smith are on the ballot. All Oklahoma City voters registered by Jan.19 are eligible to vote. Some city residents are assigned a postal address, school district or zip code outside of Oklahoma City, but are still eligible to vote for mayor [KGOU].
GOP senators introduce version of White House immigration framework: A group of Republican senators on Sunday night released a version of President Donald Trump’s immigration proposal ahead of a floor debate on immigration this week. The proposal is expected to be one of several amendments the Senate will consider this week as it debates immigration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has used a bill unrelated to immigration as the starting point for the debate, which will allow senators to offer proposals that can compete for 60 votes to advance [CNN].
Oklahoma pulling up red carpet offered to wind industry: As Oklahoma sought to diversify its oil-and-gas powered economy in the early 2000s, policymakers rolled out the red carpet for the burgeoning wind industry, offering generous state tax incentives and access to windy, inexpensive tracts of land. The industry exploded from virtually nothing in 2002 to 7,495 megawatts of capacity last year, ranking it No. 2 nationally in installed wind capacity behind neighboring Texas to the south. More than 3,700 giant turbines now dot vast swathes of central and western Oklahoma’s rural landscape [AP]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].
Only a Handful of Prison Inmates Get Treatment for Deadly Disease: Inmates in Oklahoma prisons must have advanced liver disease before becoming eligible for treatment of hepatitis C, a potentially deadly and growing disease. The situation in prisons pits the enormous cost of treatment against the public health gains of curing one of the populations most at risk for the viral infection. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections reports that more than 2,700 inmates have hepatitis C [Oklahoma Watch].
Corrections bills would add transparency exemptions: The Department of Corrections could be on its way to more privacy in contract negotiations and security planning. Department officials requested a few new breaks from state open meetings and records laws. They said that the exemptions could keep prisoners and workers safer and make contractors more competitive. State Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, introduced one of the two bills the department has requested. It went to committee on Monday morning [Journal Record].
Tackling Opioid Addiction in Indian Country: The opioid crisis has hit America hard. It has hit many tribal nations even harder. Per capita, Native American people are more likely than any other race to suffer from opioid addiction. In recent months, hundreds of cities, states and counties in the U.S. have sued pharmaceutical companies for their role in contributing to the opioid crisis, and in April, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma became the first federally recognized tribe in the U.S. to do so [Truth Dig].
Indian cultural center gains momentum: City Hall will close on deals this week to accept the property surrounding the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum for development, officials said. The first step Monday involved putting up $9 million to help finish the decade-old project while the state government contributes $25 million in bonds, Finance Director Craig Freeman said. On Tuesday, City Hall is scheduled to sign a contract with the Chickasaw Nation to move much of that land to the tribe’s ownership via AICCM Land Development LLC while agreeing that a related tribal foundation will raise $31 million in private donations [Journal Record].
Prior spousal assault allegations surface against Gov. Fallin cabinet member: Tulsa Police officers responding to a domestic violence call at Preston Doerflinger’s home in 2012 were told by his now ex-wife that Doerflinger choked her twice during an argument and abruptly ended a phone call with emergency dispatchers, according to records. Doerflinger, currently the interim director of the state’s embattled Health Department and one of Gov. Mary Fallin’s top aides, maintained a Tulsa residence after Fallin appointed him as the director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (formerly the Office of State Finance) in 2011 [The Frontier].
State auditor claims overspending on Tar Creek project: A controversial cleanup contract for the Tar Creek Superfund site in Ottawa County cost five times more than it should have, state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said Monday. LICRAT was the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Trust, which was set up to manage the relocation of residents in the contaminated site north of Miami. At Pruitt’s behest, when Pruitt was state attorney general, Jones’ office conducted an investigative audit of the trust and its handling of a specific contract to demolish and remove buildings [Tulsa World].
Still She Rises: Bringing a “Holistic Defense” Approach to Assisting the Mothers of North Tulsa: Women are the fastest-growing prison population group in the United States today — and the State of Oklahoma, tragically, puts women in prison at twice the national rate. On this edition of ST, we check in with the non-profit organization known as Still She Rises, a public defender office based here in our community that’s dedicated to representing North Tulsa mothers within the criminal justice system. Still She Rises, which began operations in Tulsa about a year ago, grew out of a similar group in NYC known as The Bronx Defenders. As our guests tell us, both Still She Rises and The Bronx Defenders employ a “holistic defense” strategy regarding how they assist their clients [Public Radio Tulsa].
Quote of the Day
“I don’t drive a nice car or have a fancy house, and I shop at thrift stores. I don’t need to live an extravagant life, but I’m just tired of living paycheck to paycheck.”
– Heidi Blackmon, a teacher from Tulsa who rallied in favor of new revenues for a teacher pay raise at the Capitol on Monday (Source)
Number of the Day
Percentage of Oklahoma household who live in “asset poverty,” meaning they do not have enough savings or property to cover three months of living expenses at the poverty level.
Source: Prosperity Now
The Decline of the Midwest’s Public Universities Threatens to Wreck Its Most Vibrant Economies: Four floors above a dull cinder-block lobby in a nondescript building at the Ohio State University, the doors of a slow-moving elevator open on an unexpectedly futuristic 10,000-square-foot laboratory bristling with technology. It’s a reveal reminiscent of a James Bond movie. In fact, the researchers who run this year-old, $750,000 lab at OSU’s Spine Research Institute resort often to Hollywood comparisons. Thin beams of blue light shoot from 36 of the same kind of infrared motion cameras used to create lifelike characters for films like Avatar [Atlantic].
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.