In The Know: Tulsa jailers blocked nurse from giving dying inmate water

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Tulsa jailers blocked nurse from giving dying inmate water: Ten hours after Williams entered holding cell No. 10, an inmate wheeled a gurney across the deserted booking area, past the doors Williams traveled through earlier that day. Minutes later, jail staff emerged from the cell pushing Williams on the gurney, paralyzed from a broken neck. Williams died from complications of a broken neck and showed signs of dehydration, a medical examiner’s report states. A 12-minute video recorded during his last days alive depicts him lying on the floor of a cell while detention staff tossed trays of food at his feet and placed a cup of water out of reach. One juror wiped tears from her eyes as the jury watched Williams attempt to dip his fingers into the cup of water. [The Frontier]

Seven things to know about SQ 780, 781: For more than a decade, Oklahoma has seen some of the highest rates of residents going to prison, many of whom are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes. Since 1991, Oklahoma has had the highest female incarceration rate per capita in the United States. Oklahoma also has the second highest imprisonment rate in the country, 78 percent higher than the national average in 2015. Additionally, Oklahoma incarcerates more black people per capita than any other state in the country. And more than half of the offenders in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections population have either a history of mental illness or current symptoms. [NewsOK]

Major Oklahoma school funding source in danger of being exhausted: Years ago, lawmakers set up a dedicated school funding source that was meant to operate outside of the politically motivated appropriations process. But as Oklahoma’s economy continues to flounder, the usually consistent source of school money has shown it’s at risk, too. The 1017 Fund automatically receives money directly from sales and income taxes. Other money comes from specialty license plate fees, some gaming revenue and tobacco sales. There’s also a cash reserve for when times get tough, but this year’s drop in overall state revenue will wipe that out, budget officials said last week. [NewsOK]

Question of revenue for teacher raises looms over lawmakers: At a Tulsa high school, 60 students signed up to take an Advanced Placement history class, but the school could not afford a second teacher to handle the demand. It meant 20 smart, motivated students were left out. Even 40 students in a class makes for a crowded room. “We don’t have enough teachers,” said Shawna Mott-Wright, vice president the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. “That is not fair to those kids.” Adding to the unfairness is how the school may be dinged in a state grade card for not offering enough college preparatory courses. [Tulsa World]

The politics of revenue raising matters for health care and teachers: There are couple of big issues starting their trek through the legislative process, and the way they ultimately get handled will affect the state’s long-range structural challenges. The first challenge concerns raising the cigarette tax and dedicating the proceeds to health care agencies. The other tricky issue is teacher salaries. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma City School serves free “supper” after school: Cafeteria workers aren’t just “lunch ladies” anymore. These days kitchen staff at Capitol Hill High School in south Oklahoma City proudly prepare breakfast, lunch and now supper for their students. Student Manuel Hurtado has taken advantage of the free, after-school meal. He said he’ll stop by the cafeteria after the last bell rings, when he’s hungry. “It’s pretty good because sometimes after school, we’re hungry and we don’t have any access to food,” Hurtado said. “So we can come here.” [Fox 25] A new federal school meals program is helping high-poverty kids and schools. [OK Policy]

13,000 disabled Oklahomans brace for more cuts: Henry Weathers’ family members wouldn’t be keeping their fingers crossed for state funding if it weren’t for his heart surgeries. Before he was kindergarten-aged, he had gone under the knife time and again because of his heart condition. He even had to get a transplant. Complications during one of the operations deprived him of oxygen until he had damage in both hemispheres of his brain. His mother, Erin Taylor, soon got him on a waiting list for state help, which would pay for services such as medical treatment, vocational therapy, and incontinence support. Those would give him a shot at an independent, meaningful life. He’s now a seventh-grader and still waiting. [Journal Record]

Hofmeister Forms Legal Defense Fund: A legal defense fund has been formed for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who is charged with conspiring to evade campaign finance laws during her 2014 bid for office. The special-function committee, the “Joy Hofmeister Defense Fund,” which was approved Thursday by the state Ethics Commission, is the first of its kind to focus on raising funds for an elected official’s legal entanglements. Special-function committees are often used to collect donations for conferences and events, such as the Oklahoma Speaker’s Ball. [Oklahoma Watch]

Okla. AG’s office confirms Pruitt used private email for state business: A spokesman for the agency, Lincoln Ferguson, said that attorneys within the office conducted the search of Pruitt’s private, personal email account and did not find any documents that had not been captured in the search of official Oklahoma attorney general accounts. It is not illegal to use a private email account for state business, as long as those records are included in searches for public documents. However, the revelation is in direct conflict with Pruitt’s written and oral testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee during the confirmation process. Pruitt, who is now the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told lawmakers he had never used private email for state business. [Fox 25]

Polite but worried crowd greets Frank Lucas: U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, who spent an hour at his fourth of four town hall meetings before Congress reconvenes Monday, heard from constituents worried about their health insurance and other federal topics. Most expressed unease or fear about how President Donald Trump’s policies will affect them. Cheryl Drabek told Lucas about her family’s chronic medical issues. She’s worried they will die if the eventual replacement for the Affordable Care Act doesn’t also force coverage of pre-existing conditions. [NewsOK] A leaked report suggests millions could lose coverage under the GOP health proposal. [Vox]

Oklahoma Regulator Issues New Limits to Head-off Earthquakes As Oil Activity Ramps Up: Crude prices are on the rise, drilling activity is ramping up, and Oklahoma’s oil and gas regulator wants to limit the volume of wastewater energy companies pump into underground disposal wells, an activity scientists say is fueling the state’s earthquake boom. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Friday detailed the new restrictions, which add to those already in place in a 15,000 square-mile region that covers parts of central and northwestern Oklahoma. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Investigative Reporter Joins Oklahoma Watch: Mollie Bryant, formerly an investigative reporter in Mississippi and Texas, has joined Oklahoma Watch to cover state issues and government, working out of the State Capitol. Bryant comes to Oklahoma Watch after serving as the state investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where her work called attention to misuse of funds, criminal justice issues and systemic problems with the state’s campaign finance laws. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Sen. David Holt announces run for Oklahoma City mayor: State Sen. David Holt, Mayor Mick Cornett’s former chief of staff and author of a book on the Oklahoma City renaissance and the successful effort to land an NBA franchise, said Sunday he would seek to succeed Cornett as mayor. Cornett, the longest-serving mayor in Oklahoma City history, announced last week that he would not seek a fifth term in 2018. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that the time for action is now. It’s not a game. We need new revenue.”

-Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, speaking about a state general revenue and 1017 fund shortfall that will mean about $50 million in mid-year budget cuts for schools (Source).

Number of the Day


Percentage of women in Oklahoma prisons with an actively managed or serious mental illness, as of June 2016.

Source: Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

ACA Repeal Isn’t Just Bad Health Policy, It’s Also a Huge Tax Cut for the Wealthiest and Bad Tax Policy: As we’ve documented, Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without an immediate replacement, like the bill President Obama vetoed in 2016, would unravel states’ individual insurance markets and cause 32 million people to lose health coverage. But they would also funnel most of the savings from rolling back the ACA’s coverage expansions into immediate tax cuts, mostly for the rich. Repealing the ACA taxes would drain resources for a replacement — largely at the expense of low- and moderate-income families. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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