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 the lethal injections in Oklahoma’s botched execution Tuesday night were not administered by a medical doctor because American doctor and nurse associations all prohibit their members from assisting in executions. The New York Times described the events of the execution as state-sponsored horror in Oklahoma. A major study of U.S. death row inmates estimates that at least 4.1% are innocent, and more than 200 innocent prisoners still in the system may never be recognized.
A county jail in east Oklahoma where an inmate escaped twice has been cited 10 times in 3 years for having not having enough jailers and a broken surveillance camera. At a community forum sponsored by Oklahoma Watch, teachers spoke about the struggles they face in coping with some of the lowest salaries in the nation and increasing demands of the classroom. State Superintendent Janet Barresi is again urging state lawmakers to approve a $6.5 million supplemental appropriation to fully fund health insurance costs for schools. In the Journal Record, David Blatt wrote that it is time to get serious about reforming out-of-control tax breaks in Oklahoma.
The OK Policy Blog discussed a bill just passed by the state legislature that seeks to deny unemployment insurance for many newly jobless workers, even if they’re laid off through no fault of their own. The House voted 86-3 to override Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto of a bill that seeks to speed up purchases of federally regulated firearms like silencers and short-barreled rifles. Two national groups based in Oklahoma City are building a multistate coalition to look into the connection between earthquakes and injection wells used by the oil and natural gas industry.
Environmental and design work is underway on a new bridge to connect Lexington and Purcell. The communities have been in a major crisis since transportation officials ordered the current bridge closed on Jan. 31, after dozens of cracks were found. The president of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences wrote that rural Oklahoma will bear the brunt of a severe doctor shortage in Oklahoma. The St. John Health System told all of its doctors that prescriptions for contraceptives must not contain the St. John name or logo. Oklahoma has the 49th worst health system in the nation, a system that overall fails to provide access to care and prevent disease among the state’s adults and children, according to a report released Wednesday.
Filmmakers from the Oprah Winfrey Network collected dozens of stories from Tulsa residents for an upcoming film on the Tulsa Race Riot. The inaugural MVP: Fatherhood Weekend in Tulsa is seeking to get more men involved in the lives of their children and train more men as mentors. The event was founded by OK Policy legislative liaison Damario Solomon-Simmons. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in a report analyzing health system performance.
In The News
Why there weren’t any doctors to prevent Oklahoma’s botched execution
A botched execution in Oklahoma on Tuesday night left a death row inmate writhing, clenching his teeth, and calling out in apparent pain. Clayton Lockett ended up dying of a massive heart attack more than 40 minutes after he received what was supposed to be a lethal injection of drugs to kill him quickly and painlessly. It’s not yet clear exactly what went wrong, but there’s some evidence that the needle was inserted incorrectly. How is that possible? Because it probably wasn’t done by a medical professional familiar with doing injections.
State-sponsored horror in Oklahoma
At 6:36 p.m. on Tuesday in McAlester, Okla., Clayton Lockett started kicking his leg, then twitching, then writhing and moaning in agony, and everyone watching knew something had gone terribly wrong. This horrific scene — the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment — should never have happened. The Oklahoma Supreme Court tried to stop it last week, concerned that the state refused to reveal the origin of the deadly cocktail. But several lawmakers threatened to impeach the justices, and Gov. Mary Fallin blindly ignored the warning signs and ordered the execution to proceed.
Inspection Report Shows Problems At Haskell County Jail
Records show red flags at the jail where an Oklahoma inmate escaped last week, which led to a five-day manhunt. An inspection report shows the problems, including one that says the jail didn’t have enough staff to handle the inmates coming in. Investigators looked all over Haskell County for Edward Branch, while he hid from the law for nearly a week. “In the five days that he was gone, he ate turtles, walnuts, and drank creek and pond water,” said Haskell County Sheriff Brian Hale. It was Branch’s second escape from the same jail. The sheriff said Branch climbed behind the pipes in the wall inside his cell and got out.
Teachers Speak Out at Oklahoma Watch-Out Forum
Teacher pay and school accountability were among the biggest topics discussed during a community forum Wednesday evening tackling issues facing Oklahoma public-school teachers. A panel of educators, joined by others teachers and representatives from education and public-policy groups in the audience, talked about the challenges they see in schools and classrooms on a daily basis. The forum at a downtown Tulsa restaurant was sponsored by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit journalism organization. Several dozen attended, including leaders such as Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard. Teachers spoke in sometimes emotional and insistent tones about the struggles they face in coping with some of the lowest salaries in the nation and dealing with the increasing demands of the classroom.
Barresi again asks lawmakers for $6.5 million in supplemental aid
State Superintendent Janet Barresi is again urging state lawmakers to approve a $6.5 million supplemental budget appropriation for the state Education Department to cover health insurance costs for schools this fiscal year. “For every month that the Legislature does not fund this obligation, Oklahoma school districts are forced to shift critically needed dollars from classrooms and other essential services,” she said in a written statement. The state is obligated to fund the FBA, which provides funding to districts to cover the cost of insuring eligible certified and support personnel, Barresi said.
Time to get serious
Anyone who follows the Oklahoma Legislature knows state Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, is a man of passionate beliefs. To name a few: Seniors are overtaxed; Oklahoma public television is worth protecting; and there are far too many school districts. No issue stirs his passion more, however, than the need to reform Oklahoma’s tax code by doing away with wasteful tax giveaways. “The truth of the matter is the Legislature out here is responsible to the lobbyists and special interests, not the taxpayers,” he said last year, about lawmakers approving various new tax breaks. “It’s sinful, and I just hate it.”
Out of work and out of luck in Oklahoma
Some Oklahomans who work full-time and lose their job unexpectedly are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance (UI). Created in 1935, the program provides workers with limited replacement income to help them survive while they look for another job. A bill just passed by the state legislature will likely exclude many newly jobless workers who would otherwise have been eligible for UI benefits. This post explains how the state’s unemployment program operates now, and how the new law could leave too many workers out in the cold.
Oklahoma House votes 86-3 to override governor’s veto on gun bill
The state House on Wednesday voted 86-3 to override Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto of a firearms bill.Wednesday’s vote is the first time either legislative chamber has mustered enough votes to override a veto during Fallin’s administration, the governor’s press secretary said. House Bill 2461 will go to the state Senate where a two-thirds vote would be required to complete the veto override. The bill initially passed the Senate by a vote of 46-0 on April 22. Wednesday’s House vote came one day after Fallin vetoed 15 House bills, including this one, while criticizing the House for failing to act on important issues, such as Capitol repairs, while passing flawed bills and bills that are irrelevant to most Oklahomans.
Multistate coalition gathers to study earthquakes and injection wells
Two national groups based in Oklahoma City are building a multistate coalition to look into the possible connection between earthquakes and injection wells used by the oil and natural gas industry. Regulators and geological surveys from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and Ohio gathered in Oklahoma City for part of two days last month to share expertise and studies related to their unexplained increase in seismic activity, said Gerry Baker, associate executive director of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.
Design work is underway to replace Purcell-Lexington bridge
State transportation officials aren’t waiting on completion of multimillion-dollar repairs to the Purcell-Lexington bridge before beginning work to replace it. Environmental and design work on a new bridge are underway already, said Casey Shell, chief engineer for the state Transportation Department. Residents of Lexington and Purcell have been forced to endure a major crisis since transportation officials ordered the bridge closed on Jan. 31 after a rehabilitation project went awry, causing dozens of cracks to form around welded areas on the 76-year-old bridge. What was once a short trip between the two communities now requires a 45-minute detour.
Oklahoma State University provost: Rural Oklahoma will bear the brunt of doctor shortage
Oklahoma faces a severe physician shortage. Rural Oklahoma will bear the brunt of the shortage, especially among primary care physicians. The state would have to add 1,361 primary care physicians immediately just to reach the national average. Adding to the problem is the fact that one in four rural Oklahoma physicians is over 60 years old and will soon be retiring. As the Affordable Care Act takes effect, the shortage will elevate to a critical level. The Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences has the mission of providing primary care physicians to the medically underserved of the state, particularly in rural Oklahoma. A major goal is to attract new medical students by convincing outstanding rural Oklahoma high school students to consider a career in medicine.
Doctors told not to use St. John name or logo on birth control prescriptions
A recent memo from a St. John Health System vice president to all departments states that written or electronic prescriptions for contraceptives must not contain the St. John name or logo. A St. John physician who asked not to be identified said the memo means many doctors won’t be able to prescribe birth control because they don’t have prescription pads without a company name or logo. The physician expressed shock at the memo. “It amazes me that in today’s world — in 2014 — we’re still having this conversation,” the physician said.
Nonprofit health policy group ranks Oklahoma’s health system among worst in nation
Oklahoma has one of the worst health systems in the nation, a system that overall fails to provide access to care and prevent disease among the state’s adults and children, according to a report released Wednesday. And if Oklahoma were to improve its health system and implement strategies that brought it among the rankings of the best-performing states, thousands of residents could see better health and potentially longer lives, according to The Commonwealth Fund’s report.
Oprah Winfrey Network team opens mike for 1921 Race Riot stories
Everybody had a story. People brought them in and laid them out for the writing and research team of a proposed mini-series based on Tulsa’s 1921 race riot. Stories passed down like family heirlooms, delicate and yet durable, possessions of intense pride and incalculable value to their owners. The Oprah Winfrey Network team heard dozens of these stories over the course of two days. On Wednesday evening, they heard them during what amounted to an “open mike” at Tulsa Community College’s Philips Auditorium downtown. “People are interested in what happened here, but whatever reason the true story has not been told,” said Richard McCondichie, whose mother, Eldoris McCondichie, was 9 years old at the time of the riot. He sounded a recurring theme not only in Wednesday’s session but whenever and wherever the nearly 93-year-old conflagration is discussed: A lot of people still don’t feel their stories have really been heard.
MVP: Fatherhood Weekend highlights men as parents, mentors
Maybe it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when more than 550 people packed into a church last year to talk about fatherhood and single parents. After all, about 40 percent of births in Oklahoma are to unmarried mothers. That inaugural MVP: Fatherhood Weekend was to serve two goals: Get more men involved in the lives of their children and train more men as mentors, said founder Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons. The service capped a weekend filled with honest discussions about children and absent fathers.
Quote of the Day
“It makes me sick to my stomach. We must value and respect our teachers. My teacher shouldn’t have to be at Olive Garden when he should be home with his family.”
– Hawthorne Elementary School Principal Estella Bitson, describing running into one of her school’s teachers at an Olive Garden, where he worked a second job to make ends meet (Source: http://bit.ly/1pSrW8h).
Number of the Day
Oklahoma’s ranking out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in a report analyzing health system performance.
Source: The Commonwealth Fund
U.S. Death Row Study: At least 4% of defendants scheduled to die are innocent
At least 4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the US in the modern era are innocent, according to the first major study to attempt to calculate how often states get it wrong in their wielding of the ultimate punishment. A team of legal experts and statisticians from Michigan and Pennsylvania used the latest statistical techniques to produce a peer-reviewed estimate of the “dark figure” that lies behind the death penalty – how many of the more than 8,000 men and women who have been put on death row since the 1970s were falsely convicted. The team arrived at a deliberately conservative figure that lays bare the extent of possible miscarriages of justice, suggesting that the innocence of more than 200 prisoners still in the system may never be recognised.
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