In The Know: Oklahoma transportation official concerned about earthquake damage to bridges

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by April 9th, 2014 Posted in ,

In The KnowIn 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 a flurry of earthquakes in Oklahoma has prompted state transportation officials to get expert advice on what it might be doing to roadways and bridges. A new poll finds that almost two-thirds of Oklahoma voters support eliminating tax breaks for horizontal drilling in order to provide more funding for highways, education, and other state needs. For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma state Capitol has made a list of the most endangered historic places in the state.

An in-depth investigation by ThinkProgress uncovered a campaign against the homeless in Shawnee. The federal government has announced $6.6 million in grants to renew support for 55 homeless housing and service programs in Oklahoma. A bill that has passed the House and is heading for the full Senate could require a vote of the people on any zoning regulation — the type of land-use decisions now made on a weekly basis by city councils. Budget cuts set to end night time bus service in Tulsa are costing some riders their only form of transportation.

NewsOn6 reported on how schools are preparing for the multiple high-stakes tests set to begin this week. The House Education Committee approved reforms to grant new options for promotion to the fourth grade for students who fail a third-grade language arts test. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush accompanied Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on a tour of an Oklahoma City charter school. Rob Miller discussed a rural Oklahoma district that was gaining recognition and improving student test scores through innovative use of technology, but changes in the school report card formula dropped their grade to an ‘F’.

 Rep. David Derby, chairman of the House Public Health Committee, has refused to hear a bill that would require doctors to check their patients’ drug histories before writing narcotic prescriptions. Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel is complaining about the state Department of Correction’s moves to shift state inmates out of county jails. Oklahoma VA hospitals have paid out more than $200 million in wrongful death settlements over the past decade. State Senator Connie Johnson has become the first Democrat to enter the race for Tom Coburn’s soon to be vacant U.S. Senate seat.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma voters in a recent poll who opposed providing tax breaks to oil and gas companies for using horizontal drilling. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News discusses a new report showing that US prisons and jails hold 10 times more people with serious mental illness than do state hospitals.

In The News

Earthquake damage?: Oklahoma Transportation official concerned about bridges

Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Mike Patterson told the Transportation Commission that a flurry of earthquakes in central Oklahoma in recent months has prompted the agency to get advice from experts in the field. “We don’t know what it’s doing to our roadways and, specifically, we don’t know what it’s doing to our bridges,” Patterson said Monday. “In the last week, Oklahoma — not the United States, but Oklahoma — has experienced 11 percent of all earthquakes in the world,” he said.

Read more from NewsOK.

New Poll: Voters favor end to drilling tax break

A new poll finds that Oklahoma voters strongly support eliminating tax breaks for horizontal drilling in order to provide more funding for education, public safety, highways, and other state needs. Nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) oppose providing tax breaks to oil and gas companies that use the horizontal drilling process, while less than a third support the tax break (28 percent) after hearing short arguments in favor of and against them. Ending the horizontal drilling tax break is a popular idea across party lines, with a majority of Democrats (73 percent), independents (75 percent), and Republicans (51 percent) all opposed to the tax break.

Read more from the OK Policy blog.

Oklahoma State Capitol Makes Endangered Historic Places List

For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma state Capitol has made a list of the most endangered historic places in the state. The nonprofit organization Preservation Oklahoma released its annual list of Oklahoma’s most endangered places on Tuesday. The list recognizes historic sites across Oklahoma at risk of demolition or deterioration and raises awareness about the need to preserve them.

Read more from News9.

Welcome To Shawnee, Oklahoma: The Worst City In America To Be Homeless

As anyone from Oklahoma knows, winters can be downright Hobbesian: nasty, brutish, and short. And so it was on February 20 of last year, as Gary Roy was readying for sleep by the railroad tracks in a small city called Shawnee, that local news ran dire headlines: “Oklahoma Bracing For Second Wave Of Winter Weather.” Temperatures dropped below freezing. Snow started falling and it didn’t stop. By the next day, six inches had blanketed the area. No one will know if Roy had final words, because no one was there when he took his last breath.

Read more from ThinkProgress.

HUD Announces $6.6 Million in Grants to Oklahoma

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan has announced $6.6 million in grants to renew support for 55 homeless housing and service programs in Oklahoma. The grants announced Tuesday support programs that include street outreach, client assessment and direct housing assistance to individuals and families with children who are homeless. The grants also support job training; health care; mental health counseling; substance abuse treatment; and child care.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Oklahoma cities fear losing authority to keep neighborhoods livable

Imagine a strip club opening next to a parochial school, or a metal shredder next door to your house. Those are the kinds of outcomes cities prevent with land-use regulations — known as zoning laws — that keep factories in industrial neighborhoods and adult businesses away from churches and schools. Cities are concerned their authority to regulate land use could be short-circuited by the state Legislature, where a bill purporting to protect private property rights from federal or international intrusion could have negative consequences for urban neighborhoods. Calling the measure vague and broadly written, state Sen. David Holt said House Bill 2807 could require a vote of the people on any zoning regulation — the type of land-use decisions now made on a weekly basis by the city council.

Read more from NewsOK.

Changes To Tulsa Transit May Leave Nighttime Riders Stranded

It’s the end of the road for some Tulsa Transit programs. Night time bus service will hit a dead end in July and budget cuts are costing some riders their only form of transportation. Thousands of people ride the bus every day, and many, like Tulsa Transit regular Patricia Bowman, say cutting the routes will change their lives drastically. “I’ve been riding the bus since I was 13 years old,” Bowman said. “I honestly think they need to improve the bus services, not cut them.” She cannot drive because of a medical disability, so she relies on the bus. “By them cutting the money that we need to improve the bus and make the services better, that’s just going to cause more of an issue for us that ride the bus every day,” Bowman said.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Oklahoma Schools Prepare For Core Curriculum Tests

Oklahoma public schools are getting ready for their most important tests of the year. The tests will decide whether some students pass or fail, and measure how well teachers perform. At every Tulsa school, the testing starts Thursday for the Oklahoma core curriculum tests. It’s the day teachers and students have working towards all year. Every classroom at Grissom Elementary is focused on getting ready for the test. In Sallee Winton’s 3rd grade math class, students did problems and proved to the teacher they can do the work. It’s that instant feedback that helps Winton know her students are ready. “They’re learning strategies, test taking skills, and we’re going back over everything that we’ve done,” Winston said. They have to be ready soon because the state math tests begin this week. They’ll take math tests Thursday and Friday, and reading tests next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Read more from NewsOn6.

House committee passes third grade retention reform bill

Students who fail a third-grade reading test would be granted new options for promotion to the fourth grade under an amended bill approved late Monday by the Common Education Committee of the state House of Representatives. Students would be allowed to appeal to the local school board if they can obtain the backing of their parent or guardian, teacher, principal and teaching specialist, if the school has one, under an amendment successfully presented to the committee by state Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs. The students also would be eligible for promotion if they pass one of the screening tests leading up to the main reading test, under an amendment by state Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City.

Read more from NewsOK.

Jeb Bush joins Gov. Fallin at OKC charter school

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush accompanied Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on a tour April 8, 2014, at KIPP Reach College Preparatory in northeast Oklahoma City. KIPP, part of a highly successful chain of national charter schools. Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, is a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate. He told the gathering that education reform should be a “national priority.” Bush did not answer questions from reporters. He was scheduled to attend a fundraiser for Fallin on Tuesday night at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.

Read more from NewsOK.

‘Howe’ the A-F did this happen?

In part one of my series on Howe Public Schools, you were introduced to the innovative, paradigm-shifting leadership of Superintendent Scott Parks. Over the past fifteen years, Scott and his leadership team have brought creative solutions for the integration of technology to a small, rural district in southeastern Oklahoma. Through their efforts, they have been successful in tearing down the walls of rural isolation and poverty to expose the children of Howe to possibilities previously unimaginable. Speaking of things unimaginable, can you empathize with what Scott Parks must have felt while watching the state A-F roulette wheel spin through its ridiculous iterations last October, before finally plunking down as an “F”?

Read more from A View From the Edge.

Lawmaker blocks bill requiring doctors to check prescription drug monitoring system

A bill that would require doctors to check their patients’ drug histories before writing narcotic prescriptions was derailed Tuesday by a House committee chairman, but sponsors expressed hope they could keep the issue alive. The bill, requested by Gov. Mary Fallin, was designed to address a key contributor to Oklahoma’s prescription drug overdose crisis by deterring “doctor shopping” by patients who fill multiple prescriptions written by different physicians. Rep. David Derby, chairman of the House Public Health Committee, would not let the bill be heard Tuesday during his panel’s last scheduled meeting before a deadline for committee approval.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Moving Oklahoma Inmates To Save Money

A shift is underway within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. County inmates are now heading into D.O.C. custody, in an attempt to save the department several million dollars. Sheriffs fear it could bankrupt counties. In January, Robert Patton took over as Director for the Department of Corrections. Part of his job is not to create the budget, but work within it. But Patton’s latest budget decision has some county sheriffs on edge. “We’re asking staff to do a lot, but the long term benefits could be tremendous,” said Dept. of Corrections Director Robert Patton. Long term benefits, but a short term strain.

Read more from News9.

VA Pays Out $200 Million in Wrongful-Death Cases

A 23-year-old female veteran who had been raped in the Army is discharged from the psychiatric ward at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Muskogee without anyone notifying her family – despite a safety plan that required that her mother, sister and stepfather be informed of her regimen of care. She commits suicide. At the VA hospital in Oklahoma City, a veteran chokes to death on the contents of his stomach after he receives anesthesia for surgery. At the same hospital, another veteran dies of an infection less than one day after he is discharged following colon surgery. These are some of the deaths that resulted in more than $200 million in wrongful death case payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the decade after 9/11, according to VA data obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

First Democrat Announces Run For Senator Coburn’s Seat

The first Democrat to jump in the race for Tom Coburn’s soon to be vacant U.S. Senate seat came to Tulsa Tuesday to make her announcement. State Senator Connie Johnson said one of her main focuses will be better funding for schools. “When we are continuing to give tax cuts and were not funding these crucial services in schools, in hospitals and health care settings, then were pretty much cutting off our noses despite our faces,” Johnson said.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Quote of the Day

“We don’t know what it’s doing to our roadways and, specifically, we don’t know what it’s doing to our bridges. In the last week, Oklahoma —— not the United States, but Oklahoma —— has experienced 11 percent of all earthquakes in the world.”

- Oklahoma Department of Transportation Director Mike Patterson (Source: http://bit.ly/1oLWubf)

Number of the Day

64 percent

Percentage of Oklahoma voters in a recent poll who opposed providing tax breaks to oil and gas companies for using horizontal drilling.

Source: Global Strategy Group

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Report: Jails House 10 Times More Mentally Ill Than State Hospitals

In 44 states and the District of Columbia, at least one prison or jail holds more people with serious mental illnesses than the largest state psychiatric hospital, according to a report released Tuesday by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association. Across the country, an estimated 356,268 people with mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are in prisons and jails, compared to just 35,000 in state hospitals — a tenfold difference. That’s similar to the mental health system in 1830, before Dorothea Dix and other advocates pushed to shift people with mental illnesses out of the prisons and into hospital care instead, says Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist and lead author of the report.

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