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.
Today you should know that Joy Hofmeister has won the Republican nomination for state superintendent with 58 percent of the vote. Incumbent Janet Barresi came in third behind Hofmeister and Brian Kelly. With no candidate receiving 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, it will go to a runoff between Peggs Superintendent John Cox and Oklahoma City charter school founder Freda Deskin. Congressman James Lankford won the Republican nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn.
In state legislative races, a woman whose 9-year-old son died in the Moore tornado lost a bid to unseat state Representative Mark McBride. Rep. Kay Floyd, the state’s first openly gay female lawmaker, easily won the Democratic primary for the state Senate seat being vacated by Al McAffrey, the first openly gay male Oklahoma lawmaker.
Gov. Mary Fallin said that she is optimistic the state will be allowed to continue the Insure Oklahoma program for at least another year. OK Policy has discussed how Insure Oklahoma can be a long-term solution for Oklahoma to expand health coverage to low-income citizens. State Rep. Mike Reynolds says that state legislators must conduct a special session in order to pass a new state budget in light of Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s opinion that the current budget includes an unconstitutional diversion of money from the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship trust fund.
The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans employed in education or health services, nearly 13 percent of all workers in the state. In today’s Policy Note, Pacific Standard examines how a growing number of American kids in the child welfare system are being adopted out to other countries. At least one private agency in Pennsylvania is helping Oklahoma child welfare services place children in Europe.
In The News
Joy Hofmeister of Tulsa beats incumbent Janet Barresi for state superintendent
After a contentious Republican primary campaign, Joy Hofmeister of Tulsa bested incumbent Janet Barresi and fellow challenger Brian Kelly on Tuesday to win the party’s nomination for Oklahoma superintendent of public instruction. In a surprising twist, Hofmeister was the outright winner to avoid a runoff. Barresi finished third. In the Democratic primary, Peggs Superintendent John Cox and Oklahoma City charter school founder and operator Freda Deskin garnered the top two vote totals, eliminating Jack Herron and Ivan Holmes. Hofmeister said she was humbled by Tuesday’s surprising outcome. “This has been a grass-roots effort like I have never seen,” Hofmeister said at an Oklahoma City watch party. “We were outspent 4 to 1, and I know this is about the kids.”
U.S. Rep. James Lankford has won the Republican nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Lankford had 57.3 percent of the vote, easily beating state Rep. T.W. Shannon, who had 34.4 percent. The other five candidates in the race combined for less than 10 percent of the vote, led by Randy Brogdon’s 4.8 percent. Lankford will face the Democratic nominee. With nearly 99 percent of the votes, state Rep. Connie Johnson had 43.7 percent and appeared headed for an August runoff with Jim Rogers, who had 35.4 percent.
Woman whose son died in Moore tornado loses bid to unseat incumbent in state House
A woman whose 9-year-old son died in the Moore tornado lost a bid Tuesday to unseat a Republican incumbent in the state House of Representatives. With all precincts reporting, Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, had 2,235 votes, or 82 percent, to 495 votes, or 18 percent, for Danni Legg, who has been backing an effort to fund school storm shelters. Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, the state’s first openly gay female lawmaker, easily won the Democratic primary for the state Senate seat being vacated by Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, the first openly gay male Oklahoma lawmaker.
Gov. Mary Fallin expects Insure Oklahoma to continue
Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday that she is optimistic the state will be allowed to continue the Insure Oklahoma program for at least another year. “I don’t have confirmation totally of this,” Fallin told the Tulsa Regional Chamber, “but I have good word we may get another one-year extension of Insure Oklahoma.” The state-supported program subsidizes health insurance for low-income workers and small businesses that otherwise would not be able to afford it. It was to be eliminated under terms of the Affordable Care Act, but the federal government allowed it to remain in place after Oklahoma declined the expanded Medicaid program.
Lawmaker Calls for Special Session to Fix State Budget
State Rep. Mike Reynolds says that state legislators must conduct a special session in order to pass a new state budget in light of Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s opinion that the current budget is unconstitutional. Reynolds said it is critical that the special session be held before the new fiscal year begins on July 1, 2014. In Pruitt’s opinion, Section 144 of Senate Bill 2127 violated the state Constitution “because it is a substantive law provision that alters the State Board of Equalization’s constitutional and statutory certification obligations,” and the obligation of the director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services to transfer into the OHLAP trust fund “the full amount of funds certified by the Board of Equalization” at its December meeting.
Feds Target Oil And Gas Industry For Underpaying Workers
In states with the most oil and gas drilling, including Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, the U.S. Department of Labor has won back pay for over 4,000 energy industry workers in just the past year. It totaled $6.7 million dollars, accounting for a third of all such settlements by all types of industries nationwide. “We were hearing that workers were being misclassified as independent contractors, that they were being paid straight-time for their hours over 40 in a workweek. And we were hearing this consistently throughout the Southwest Region,” said Cynthia Watson, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Regional Administrator in Dallas. Watson said companies were shorting their workers, sometimes thousands of dollars each.
Oklahoma mental health providers protest proposed Medicaid changes
Melissa Holt and her fellow “mental health militia” members stood on a curb Monday, complete with signs and petitions. Holt and a group of about 10 other mental health providers and advocates, donning “Mental Health Militia” T-shirts, started their protest at noon Monday outside a children’s behavioral conference, which was hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The group spent the next five hours protesting a proposed Medicaid policy change that would change which Oklahomans were eligible for psychosocial rehabilitation services, which Holt said includes helping teach people life skills that complement the talk therapy they receive from counselors.
Inmates rioted inside the Lincoln County Jail, trying to break out of their enclosed section early Monday. Sheriff Charlie Dougherty said the riot involved 28 inmates, but only a handful caused most of the problem. The Lincoln County Jail staff had to call 911 for help in the middle of the night. Inmates were bashing the glass inside a section of the jail just before 3 a.m. Over 30 officers swarmed the jail within a matter of minutes. The sheriff said the riot is a first for his jail. During a shakedown, jail staff found homemade tattoo equipment in jail pod that holds Department of Corrections inmates. The staff confiscated the equipment and put the inmate who was hiding it in isolation. The other inmates got mad.
University of Oklahoma Board of Regents approve increase in tuition and fees for next school year
The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents has approved a nearly 5 percent tuition and fees increase for the next school year. Under the plan approved Monday, the per-credit-hour rate will increase to $137.60 for in-state residents and $425.80 for out-of-state residents. The regents also approved tuition increases of 5.64 percent for Cameron University and 7 percent for Rogers State University. The Norman Transcript reports that the regents also approved $8 million in raises for school employees. OU President David Boren says the staff raises will mainly benefit employees who make less than $50,000 per year.
Inter-Faith Community Focuses On Emotional Well-Being Of Fort Sill Children
Members of Tulsa’s Metropolitan Ministry held a community meeting Tuesday to talk about how Green Country can help with the hundreds of immigrant children being housed in Oklahoma. They said Tulsans are impacted by what’s happening at Fort Sill. The governor called the housing of illegal immigrant children in Oklahoma an immigration crisis. Tulsa’s Metropolitan Ministry said it’s a humanitarian issue. Tuesday’s meeting focused on the safety of the immigrant children. “This is not a border security issue, these children are surrendering at the border to get out of harm’s way,” said Drew Diamond with the Jewish Federation of Tulsa.
Lunch money will no longer be needed when students begin to go through the lunch line at Ardmore City Schools cafeteria next August. The school district has been accepted into the Community Eligibility Provision program through the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The program allows cafeteria staff to dish out nutritious meals to all students at no charge for both breakfast and lunch. This is the first year school districts were able to apply for the Community Eligibility Provision, which was established in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010. The act strives to ensure that students from low-income families and those who live in high-poverty neighborhoods have access to healthy meals at school.
Oklahoma City tries to rein in dog pack at Capitol
A pack of reddish-brown dogs have been having the time of their lives at Oklahoma’s Capitol building. They’ve had the run of the grounds, rooting for rabbits and bounding over grassy lawns, for at least three weeks. The problem is, the pooches have gone on the attack — for people. Two visitors suffered dog bites at the northeast Oklahoma City Capitol building in recent weeks. Others report being chased. Animal welfare workers laid traps to capture the dogs. Three were caught since the bite incidents, said Sheridan Lowery, a field supervisor with the city’s animal welfare division.
“This is not a border security issue. These children are surrendering at the border to get out of harm’s way.”
- Drew Diamond, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Tulsa. Diamond and other members of Tulsa’s faith communities gathered Tuesday to discuss humanitarian needs of the immigrant children being held at Fort Sill (Source: http://bit.ly/1nBIDiN)
Number of the Day
Number of Oklahomans employed in education or health services, nearly 13 percent of all workers in the state.
America’s Unseen Export: Children, Most of Them Black
“Just as the U.S. looks to China and other countries, Canadians look to the United States,” says Jane Turner of Adopt Illinois, a private adoption agency. Adopt Illinois is one of 26 agencies in the U.S. accredited by the State Department to handle adoptions involving an American-born child and foreign parents. This practice, known as outgoing adoption, is raising important questions not only about entrenched attitudes toward race and adoption, but the rights of our youngest citizens. Since the 1990s, the U.S. has allowed an untold number of healthy infants to be exported to other countries in private adoptions. Exact figures are not available because, astonishing as it seems, neither our federal nor state governments document the number of adoptions of this kind. Estimating where American children are going and in what numbers requires gathering information from more than a dozen sources.