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 an independent autopsy on Clayton Lockett, who died in a botched execution April 29, shows those performing the lethal injection failed to set a properly functioning intravenous line. In a speech to Oklahoma publishers and editors, Gov. Mary Fallin touted her efforts to bring openness and transparency to state government even as a judge considered whether to order her to release 31 documents she has withheld related to 2011 health care decisions. Buses of children began arriving early Friday at Fort Sill as city officials and immigration advocates braced for the arrival of as many as 1,200 unaccompanied minors who fled violence and poverty in Central American countries.
The Number of the Day is the amount spent on food purchases from Oklahoma grocers by the 889,137 Oklahomans receiving SNAP benefits in FY 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Think Progress shares 4 unexpected benefits for states that agree to expand Medicaid.
In The News
Botched lethal injection in Oklahoma: Independent autopsy finds IV was not set properly
An independent autopsy on Clayton Lockett, who died in a botched execution April 29, shows those performing the lethal injection failed to set a properly functioning intravenous line in his groin. Forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Cohen found that Lockett’s veins were in good shape for taking an intravenous line. According to a timeline of the execution released by the state Corrections Department, a single IV was placed in a femoral vein in Lockett’s groin after no other viable veins could be found. Protocol normally calls for two IVs, one in each arm, to administer the lethal drugs.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin touts transparency record while waiting for court to rule on withheld documents
In a speech to Oklahoma publishers and editors Friday, Gov. Mary Fallin touted her efforts to bring openness and transparency to state government even as a judge considered whether to order her to release 31 documents she has withheld involving a 2011 decision involving Obamacare. District Judge Barbara Swinton is expected to rule Monday on documents Fallin withheld from a massive public records release to media outlets seeking information into why she rejected a $54 million federal grant that would have paid for the creation of an online exchange, or marketplace, in Oklahoma for purchasing private health insurance.
Unaccompanied immigrant children begin their arrival at Fort Sill
Buses of children began arriving in the early morning hours Friday at Fort Sill as city officials and immigration advocates braced for the arrival of as many as 1,200 immigrant minors. One bus arrived shortly before 8 a.m. The white passenger bus with “Coach USA” emblazoned on the side pulled through the fort’s entry gates. Fort Sill is expected to house 600 to 1,200 immigrant minors as the children go through the various stages of the deportation process. The children were caught at the U.S. border while fleeing Central American countries, and workers will try to reunite the children with their families or find them a sponsor.
New Health Report Shows Oklahoma Ranks 44th In The Nation
The 2014 State of the State’s Health Report released by the Oklahoma State Board of Health shows Oklahoma ranks 44th in overall health status of its residents compared to other states in the nation. Unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors such as low physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption, along with a high prevalence of smoking and obesity, contribute to most of the state’s leading causes of death. Significant health disparities among many of the state’s population also contribute to Oklahoma’s health status.
Ineffective, misguided, a step in the wrong direction — all ways to describe the Oklahoma Legislature’s tax reform efforts during the 2014 legislative session. Instead of addressing our state’s most pressing needs, our state’s leaders instead chose at best to ignore, at worst exacerbate, them. The two most notable tax reform “achievements” heralded by legislators from the 2014 Legislature were the passage of an additional reduction in the state income tax, and an expansion of a horizontal tax break for drilling. It is certainly doubtful though, that either of these two actions deserves to be labeled an achievement.
Another legislative assault on Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program
Oklahoma’s Promise has helped thousands of students attain college degrees. For many of these lower- and middle-income students, higher education would have been out of reach without this taxpayer-funded scholarship program. So why would lawmakers mess with one of the best things they’ve ever done for younger Oklahomans? Last week, the Oklahoma Policy Institute noted that budgeting sleight-of-hand could leave the program without enough money to meet obligations in the coming academic year. The institute questioned whether the budget move, which involved diverting about $8 million from the program, is even legal.
Blue Mound is the highest point on Frank Robson’s Craig County cattle ranch and was once, he says, one of the highest points in the Cherokee Nation. Robson, who runs a commercial real estate business in Claremore, hopes to build a home and retire on Blue Mound. Currently, the land overlooks acres of pasture and a small corn crop. Normally there’s wheat, too, but last fall it was too wet to plant at Double R Ranch. On a nice day, Oologah Lake is visible 15 or 20 miles away. It’s possible 495-foot wind turbines could soon be part of that view, something Robson is fighting to prevent.
Primary elections for everything from local nonpartisan offices to governor and members of Congress will be held June 24. All Republicans in the state will vote for the party’s nominees for governor, state superintendent, both U.S. Senate seats and Corporation Commission. The Corporation Commission primary will decide the winner of that seat, as there are no Democratic or independent candidates. All Democrats in the state will vote for the party’s nominee in one U.S. Senate race and state superintendent.
Oklahoma state superintendent candidates outline what they would do first if elected
Candidates for state superintendent laid out their short-term plans and initial policy goals in a Tulsa World questionnaire. Six of seven candidates responded to questions about a series of hot topics, and their responses will be used in a series of stories leading up to the June 24 primary election. The candidates were asked to name five things they would endeavor to accomplish during their first 90 days in office and their top three policy goals for common education for the first legislative session after the general election.
Buddy Wood always has been a Democrat. Always. Just not now. Like most voters in Beckham County, a rural plain that straddles Interstate 40 on the Texas line, Wood registered with the Democratic Party when it came time to vote. It’s a family tradition going back to when his father was in politics. But as 2014’s election cycle approached, the Elk City superintendent wrestled with a decision that has crossed many educators’ minds this year. He checked the box to become one of Oklahoma’s newest Republicans. Wood is one of dozens of superintendents who have become Republican in advance of the June 24 primary between incumbent Janet Barresi, Joy Hofmeister and Brian Kelly.
Oklahoma Inspectors Provide Blueprint For Safer Schools
Emergency managers are calling a new inspection program to keep school children safe during a tornado a game changer. Officials learned a lot from the deadly tornados that struck the Oklahoma City Area a year ago, and now a plan is in place to beef up school shelter plans across the state. It’s a first for Tulsa schools. Architects and engineers started bright and early Saturday morning at Eliot Elementary in Brookside. Parts of the school campus are more than 85 years old, and administrators want to make sure students are safe when a tornado hits.
An oversized pair of red scissors gleamed in the sunlight as their blades cut through the barrier that severed Lexington and Purcell for four months. Members of both communities gathered on the James C. Nance bridge to celebrate its re-opening Friday afternoon. Once the ribbon was cut, city officials and community members revved their engines, eager to cross the newly-repaired bridge for the first time. Rusty Canoy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lexington, opened the ribbon-cutting ceremony with a prayer and thanks to those who have contributed to bridge repairs through funds, labor and community support.
Tulsa native Brian Woodard wants fatherhood taken seriously and joined a local movement to inspire that. The 31-year-old, married father of three is giving his time to African-American boys living with single moms. This isn’t easy considering his children are 4, 2 and 6 months, and he works full time. “I want to help out,” Woodard said. “There is not enough black males in leadership in north Tulsa. North Tulsa has been good for my family, and I want to give back.” Woodard participates in the MVP Fatherhood Initiative launched by Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons about two years ago.
Cherokee Nation garden project seeks to teach nutrition in Oklahoma
The Cherokee Nation is hoping a tribal gardening project will harvest a bountiful crop of healthy eating habits for young Oklahomans. More than 3,300 children in five counties in northeast Oklahoma are growing vegetables as part of the Cherokee Nation’s Learn to Grow garden project. “The project focuses on teaching and practicing a higher level of nutrition for the children,” said Lisa Evans, project coordinator. The program is a combined effort between the tribe’s Child Care Resource and Referral office and Healthy Nations.
Possibility of more West Nile cases in Oklahoma have experts worried
Since Oklahoma’s first case was confirmed 12 years ago, areas in the state have posted some of the highest rates of West Nile Virus in the nation. But with predictions of hotter, drier summers due to the effects of climate change, some health officials worry the virus could become even more widespread in Oklahoma and elsewhere. The virus, spread to humans through mosquito bites, first appeared in Oklahoma in 2002. Since then, there have been 585 confirmed cases of West Nile in the state, including 43 deaths.
“Overall, Oklahoma has the fourth highest rate of death from all causes in the nation, 23 percent higher than the national rate. Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that while Oklahoma’s mortality rate dropped five percent over the past 20 years, the U.S. mortality rate dropped 20 percent. So, Oklahoma is not keeping up with the rest of the nation.”
Four Unexpected Benefits For States That Agree To Expand Medicaid
In the months since Obamacare’s open enrollment period first began, an estimated six million additional people have gained public health insurance. That’s largely thanks to the health law’s expansion of the Medicaid program, which gives states generous federal funds to extend health care to more of their low-income residents. But not every state has agreed to accept the optional expansion. This week, Virginia became the latest state to reject Medicaid expansion after the GOP won control of the Senate. The decision to resist Medicaid expansion obviously has serious consequences for the low-income Americans who can’t access insurance, and that’s why activists have branded the fight over expansion as a “moral issue.” But there are additional impacts outside of health care, too.