In The Know: Will State’s Makeover of Developmental Disabilities Wait List Be Fair to Families?

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.

Today In The News

Will State’s Makeover of Developmental Disabilities Wait List Be Fair to Families? As the number of people waiting for developmental disabilities services has reached an all-time high, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is considering abandoning the first-come, first-served approach to the developmental disabilities services waiting list. Instead, it would prioritize the list according to need, meaning families who have waited for help for years could be moved back in line while others are shifted to the front. But how that system would work, and whether it would be fair and effective, is unclear [Oklahoma Watch].

Attempts to repeal Affordable Care Act put Oklahoma patients in jeopardy: Being raised in small town, rural Oklahoma comes with its benefits. Among those benefits are the close friendships, supports and cohesiveness of knowing everyone; however, many communities face extreme poverty and lack access to basic medical care, not to mention specialty care for the diverse needs and populations that reside in the rural landscapes of Oklahoma. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted to help ensure that Americans are able to access affordable health care, regardless of their residence or income status [OK Policy]. Oklahoma’s senators voted Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon for two repeals of the Affordable Care Act that failed to garner enough votes for passage [NewsOK]. The current push toward a “skinny repeal” is a Trojan horse for broader repeal and deep Medicaid cuts [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

Tobacco use by mental health patients: ‘This is a priority concern’: Much has changed since the 1970s, when Nancy Reed started working with Oklahomans in search of mental health services. In those days, it seemed cigarettes and mental health treatment went hand-in-hand. Smoke breaks were frequent, and cigarettes were offered to nearly all who were seeking mental health treatment. “You were an outcast if you didn’t smoke,” said Reed, who started smoking while working at an in-patient treatment facility. She quit smoking seven years ago [NonDoc].

Oklahoma’s fired state testing company trying to get back in the game: When the Oklahoma State Board of Education takes up the state’s new five-year testing contract on Thursday, a familiar player — albeit under a new name — will be among the contenders. Data Recognition Corp., American Institutes for Research and the state’s current test vendor Measured Progress, responded to the state’s request for proposals. What’s not self-explanatory from that list of bidders is that DRC’s newly acquired assessment division is CTB, which was fired as Oklahoma’s test vendor in 2014 [Tulsa World].

Charter School Group Sues State Education Board Over Funding: A pro-charter school group has filed a lawsuit in hopes of increasing charter schools’ share of state and local education funding. The state Board of Education plans to discuss the lawsuit at its regular meeting on Thursday. That portion of the meeting will be closed to the public because board members will be discussing pending litigation. In the lawsuit, filed July 7 in Oklahoma County District Court, the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association accuses the state Board of Education of inequitably funding charter schools based on the per-student amount schools receive [Oklahoma Watch].

ECU to phase out instructional programs in Ardmore: East Central University said Wednesday it is phasing out its instructional programs at the University Center of Southern Oklahoma in Ardmore because of the state budget crisis. The university issued the following press release: The ending of the programs are not immediate as current ECU students, including those who have already enrolled in the program for the 2017 fall semester, will have the opportunity to complete the pursuit of their degrees. No new students will be accepted for the programs after the fall 2017 semester [The Ada News]. Oklahoma already led the nation in cuts to K-12 education. Now we lead in cuts to higher ed, too [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: The blame game: This month, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced it would be reducing nutrition and personal care services for frail seniors and people with development disabilities, freezing the child care subsidy program for low-income parents, and reducing payments to families with adopted or foster children. Several days later, two Republican House leaders – Speaker Charles McCall and Majority Leader Mike Sanders – issued press releases attacking DHS Director Ed Lake for the cuts [David Blatt / Journal Record]. In the dispute between Republican leaders over DHS funding, here are the facts [OK Policy].

Extras on Excise: The Future of Oklahoma’s New Smoking Cessation Fee Is Hazy As Industry Actors File Suit: The Oklahoma Legislature passed S.B. 845, also known as the Smoking Cessation and Prevention Act of 2017, during its legislative session this year. The bill imposes a new smoking cessation fee on cigarette wholesalers of $1.50 per pack of 20 cigarettes, scheduled to take effect on Aug. 25, 2017. This fee will be in addition to the existing cigarette tax of $1.03 per pack of 20 cigarettes [Bloomberg BNA]. Two lawmakers said Wednesday they believe the Oklahoma Supreme Court will strike down revenue-raising measures passed by the state Legislature during this year’s session [NewsOK]. Do lawmakers have a Plan B if the court throws out their budget? [OK Policy]

PSO, sister utility team up on $4.5 billion Oklahoma wind farm, transmission project: Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and a sister electric utility will team up on a $4.5 billion project to take renewable energy from the nation’s largest wind farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle to their customers in four states, the utilities announced Wednesday. The Wind Catcher Energy Connection project will involve 800 GE wind turbines at an under-construction Invenergy wind farm straddling Cimarron and Texas counties in the Oklahoma Panhandle [NewsOK].

Tribes pursue energy sovereignty: A natural disaster halfway around the world sent people rushing to the Blue Lake Rancheria, a small Native American tribe in Northern California. That helped tribal leaders develop a way to create their own microgrid so they weren’t reliant on the local utility, said sustainability director Jana Ganion. Pursuing renewable energy projects provides more than just an opportunity to lower electricity costs, said Forest County Potawatomi operations vice president Charles Opferman. It’s a chance to become energy-sovereign, he said [Journal Record].

Trying to make gains on occupational licensing reform: In far too many cases in Oklahoma and around the country, occupational licensing serves as a license to protect established industries from competition. Perhaps the work of a Federal Trade Commission task force will result in fewer such licenses and thus more jobs for Americans. The task force, led by acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhaussen, has a roundtable planned Thursday in Washington, D.C., to look at how state-specific licensing causes barriers for workers [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Lawmakers to review possibility of online notary services: Running down to the tag agency or bank to get a document notarized can be more burdensome than it seems, some legislators are arguing. They’re working to modernize Oklahoma’s notary regulations in an effort to streamline absentee voting and improve business opportunities. The process is simple, but it can be an inconvenience, especially for people who have limited access to transportation [Journal Record].

Federal program could help people buy or build houses in Moore: People who have low to moderate incomes and no recent history of violent crime or drug manufacturing might get help buying or building a house in a Moore neighborhood affected by the May 20, 2013 tornado. The $1 million, federally funded Down Payment Assistance Program was officially announced Wednesday, but people had already heard about it through social media. Jared Jakubowski, the city’s grants manager, said two applicants are in the process of applying for the federal aid, and five more “came in this morning.” [NewsOK]

Republican Former Lawmaker to Run for Governor of Oklahoma: Former state Rep. Dan Fisher plans to run for the Republican nomination for Oklahoma governor in 2018. Fisher is a Baptist minister in El Reno who served two terms in the Oklahoma House and told The Associated Press Wednesday that he’s a “strong, rock-ribbed conservative.” Fisher was known as a supporter of conservative issues and an opponent of abortion rights before leaving the Legislature in 2016 [AP].

Corporation Commissioner running for Lt. Governor: Republican Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy of Edmond says she’s running for lieutenant governor of Oklahoma in next year’s election. A member of the commission since 2009, Murphy is a former practicing geologist and administrative law judge who operated her own private law practice specializing in oil and gas issues [AP].

Oklahoma State, Ohio State prepare for trademark showdown over ‘OSU’: Let the battle of the OSUs begin. In February, Ohio State University filed for apparel rights to “OSU” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Columbus Dispatch, however, reports that Oklahoma State plans to file a notice of opposition to the request before the end of August. The acronym has been shared among Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Oregon State on a national basis, and the schools have congruent usage agreements, according to Oklahoma State spokesman Gary Shutt [USA Today].

Quote of the Day

“This is the largest single-site wind project in the United States. With a large-scale project at this site, we are tapping into one of the best wind resources in the country.”

– Venita McCellon-Allen, Southwestern Electric Power Co. president and chief operating officer, on a joint $4.5 billion renewable energy project in the Panhandle with PSO (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of National Institutes of Health funding in Oklahoma that flows to the Oklahoma City Innovation District, a hub for major research organizations like the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation and the University of Oklahoma

Source: Brookings Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Essential Role of Medicaid and Criminal Justice: This past month America’s first mental health court celebrated its 20th anniversary. The behind the scenes story, which led to the creation of Broward’s Mental Health Court, is a case-study of the need to preserve and expand Medicaid from a criminal justice perspective; and what happens when people in need of mental health and primary care are left behind. Aaron Wynn, a young man living in South Florida, was preparing to leave for college. According to his family, Aaron loved the ocean, his friends and playing sports. In the spring of 1989, he was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle [Huffington Post].

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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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