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 races for governor and state superintendent have drawn 7 candidates each. A 20-year-old is running for House District 91 in Oklahoma City, becoming the youngest candidate ever to run for the Oklahoma House. He is one of 6 candidates who filed to run for the open seat being vacated by term-limited Rep. Mike Reynolds.
State lawmakers are considering tinkering with the way Supreme Court justices and appellate court judges are selected. The current system of a Judicial Nominating Commission chosen by the governor and the State Bar Association was created after a bribery scandal rocked Oklahoma’s Supreme Court 50 years ago. Lawmakers have proposed taking power to elect commission members away from the Bar Association and giving it to legislative leadership.
Oklahoma Republican Representative Doug Cox spoke to Rolling Stone about why he thinks his party has failed on women’s issues. On the OK Policy Blog, former House Speaker Steve Lewis compared his memories of the 1990 rally for education with what he saw at the recent rally on March 31. Don Millican, the Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. CFO and an OK Policy board member, wrote in the Tulsa World that Oklahoma is flying blind without any long-range fiscal planning for state budgets.
A new Web-based platform to which state health care providers can connect to share medical records of patients and provide better transitional care is scheduled to go live April 22. The city of Tulsa will avoid laying off employees this fiscal year, but a fund set aside for future natural disasters may be needed to balance the upcoming budget. Accidents in state construction areas are up by 170 percent since 2004, with 17 people killed in work zone fatalities in 2013.
Races for state superintendent, governor draw most candidates with 7 filing for each
Reading too much from who and how many candidates file for office is always a danger, but it is interesting to note that of all state offices, none attracted a larger or better qualified field than state superintendent of public instruction. Seven candidates, including incumbent Janet Barresi, filed for state superintendent last week. Seven people also filed for governor, but it’s hard to argue that more than two of them incumbent Mary Fallin and state Rep. Joe Dorman have anything approaching the experience and background normally associated with that job. All seven superintendent candidates — four Democrats, three Republicans — have relevant experience and education.
20-year-old becomes youngest candidate for Okla. House
David Monlux is unlike most candidates for office. Monlux isn’t wasting much time getting to work on his campaign. A campaign that will accept no contributions, and be run solely by Monlux , starting by knocking on every single door in his district. “I feel that when you go to a candidate, people should deal directly with me. That’s why I’m going to do all the door knocking myself,” Munlox said. For all his plans, Monlux is only 20 years old. When he filed for office this week, he was initially turned away, told he must be 21 years old to file. Monlux won’t be 21 until November, weeks after the election. He had to get a special ruling by the Oklahoma Attorney General— it made him the youngest person to file for office for the Oklahoma legislature.
For the first time since a bribery scandal rocked Oklahoma’s Supreme Court 50 years ago, state lawmakers are considering tinkering with the way Supreme Court justices and appellate court judges are selected. Legislation pending in the state House would alter the method for choosing some members of the 15-member Judicial Nominating Commission, which nominates candidates to be selected by the governor to fill vacancies in the state’s highest courts. Six members of the commission are attorneys and the rest are non-lawyers. Currently, the six attorneys are elected to seats on the commission by members of the Oklahoma Bar Association. But a measure passed by the House Rules Committee would allow the speaker of the state House to appoint three of the attorneys and the president pro tem of the Senate to appoint three.
Meet the Republican Who Thinks His Party Has Failed on Women’s Issues
As red states continue to rack up laws that restrict access to abortion, basic contraception and preventive care, it can seem that Republicans have put the needs of women second to toeing the Tea Party line. Oklahoma, for example, has continuously pushed through such legislation. But there’s a surprising voice in that state: Republican State Representative Doug Cox, an MD who has continued to practice during his 10 years in office. “This bill is prejudiced,” Cox said earlier this month, during a committee hearing for a bill that would make it harder for women under 17 to get the morning after pill.
Education rallies, then and now (Guest Post: Steve Lewis)
I don’t know how much was accomplished by the education rally at the Capitol last week, but I hope it was a success. From inside the Capitol, I stood at the window a few times to look outside and walk down memory lane. I was there in 1990 when the teachers came to the Capitol to demonstrate for HB 1017. Several people asked me how this rally for education compared to the 1017 march. Truthfully, they were quite different because the circumstances were different.
Flying in the fog without instruments. Target practice with a blindfold. Running a business without a long-range cash forecast. Planning to retire without a long-range personal financial plan. All bad ideas. So is running a state government and making tax-rate and tax-credit decisions without a robust long-range multi-year budget forecast. But that is precisely what Oklahoma is doing. I’m no policy wonk. I’m an accountant. But it doesn’t take a policy genius to figure out that making decisions about future state revenues without decent projections of future costs is a very unwise move, particularly because it would be a political impossibility to reverse those decisions, once made.
Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association is focus of ethics query
The state Ethics Commission is investigating the association that regulates high school athletics, The Oklahoman has learned. Commissioners voted unanimously March 14 to investigate the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association for alleged violations of lobbying disclosure rules. The maximum penalty for a willful violation of those rules is a $50,000 fine. Commissioners acted after The Oklahoman reported March 9 that the OSSAA has provided free football and basketball playoff tickets to legislators for years. The OSSAA has not reported those gifts to the Ethics Commission, records show. Such an association is supposed to have its lobbyists report every six months any “thing of value” given to a state official costing more than $10. The OSSAA has used lobbyists since 2011.
‘One of the Major Public Health Issues of Our Time’
The latest statistics suggest that 5 percent of Oklahomans over the age of 11 will abuse prescription painkillers this year. Several hundred of them will wind up dying of accidental overdoses.A few lucky ones will wind up in Hal Vorse’s addiction clinic. Vorse, a former pediatrician, has dedicated the second half of his medical career to helping people wean themselves off highly addictive opiate painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone so they can go back to leading productive lives. Vorse, 71, also serves as medical director of several residential treatment centers for drug and alcohol abusers in central Oklahoma, and presents addiction medicine seminars for students at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Oklahoma same-sex marriage case to be argued in Denver this week
The legal fight over Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage moves to a critical stage Thursday before a federal appeals court that will determine whether a U.S. district judge in Tulsa correctly found the ban unconstitutional. The Oklahoma case officially pits the Tulsa County court clerk against two lesbian couples who live in the county. But the outcome will affect all same-sex couples seeking to marry in Oklahoma and in the five other states within the appeals court’s jurisdiction. Three judges on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are scheduled to hear oral arguments from both sides on Thursday in a Denver courtroom.
Advocates of people with disabilities will rally at Oklahoma Capitol
Advocates of people with disabilities will rally at the state Capitol on Thursday for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day. People with disabilities, their loved ones and advocates will gather on the south steps at the Capitol beginning at 10 a.m. in an effort to heighten awareness about developmental disabilities and encourage additional funding to serve people on a waiting list for state- or Medicaid-funded services. Wanda Felty is a parent of a child with a developmental disability. She coordinates the Developmental Disabilities Services Waiting List, which contains the names of nearly 7,000 disabled Oklahomans currently seeking services from the Department of Human Services. Some have been waiting as long as eight years, she said. Last year, Gov. Mary Fallin approved $1 million to help address the waiting list.
A lesson from jail: Teacher goes into Tulsa Jail to help young prisoners get an education
As she sits down to begin work one morning, Sherri Knight ignores a naked man who’s stepping into a shower less than 20 feet away. The running water doesn’t quite drown out the TV, blaring ESPN at full volume on the other side of Pod J-9. Nearly 100 inmates live in this section of the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in downtown Tulsa, where Knight is the only full-time public school teacher. During the day, the cells remain unlocked, letting the inmates roam around in their ubiquitous orange scrubs and plastic sandals. Knight opens a math workbook and scoots her chair closer to a 19-year-old high school student, who looks rather academic with his vintage-style black frame glasses. He leans in close to hear Knight. “Do you know what absolute value means?” she asks.
Quapaw Tribe leads cleanup of federal hazardous waste site
The Quapaw Tribe has become the first Native American tribe in the country to lead the cleanup of a federal hazardous waste site, managing the effort to clear mining waste from an area where a Catholic church and boarding school for tribal members once stood. Leftover mine waste once enveloped an aging structure on the site, a constant reminder of the decades of mining that ravaged land the tribe had been forced to move to in the 1800s. The site in this rural Oklahoma town also includes burial sites dating back to late that century. “It means a lot to us because it’s our land. We want to make beneficial use out of the property, and we’re going to be here after it’s cleaned up,” Quapaw Tribe Chairman John Berrey said. “It’s our home that we’re cleaning up, and we’re going to stay here after it’s cleaned.”
IT landscape changing for sharing Oklahoma patient medical records
A new Web-based platform to which state health care providers can connect to share medical records of patients and provide better transitional care is scheduled to go live April 22 with the business of most Oklahoma City-based hospitals and their affiliates statewide. Meanwhile, Tulsa-based MyHealth Access Network reports it soon will complete a transfer of assets from Tahlequah-based Secure Medical Records Transfer Network (SMRTNet), which MyHealth has managed since late 2012 and to which the Oklahoma City hospitals are connected.
City of Tulsa avoids layoffs, may use disaster fund to balance next budget
The city of Tulsa will avoid laying off employees as it limps through the last two months of this fiscal year, but a fund set aside for future natural disasters may be needed to balance the upcoming budget, city officials say. The city is facing a shortfall of up to $10 million by the end of its budget year June 30. The deficit was created by a revenue miscalculation that created a $3.2 million hole to start the year and continued sluggish sales tax growth. Last month, City Manager Jim Twombly said layoffs were a “strong possibility” due to the budget gap. But savings from a citywide hiring freeze will apparently allow the city to avoid such measures.
Accidents in state construction areas are up by 170 percent since 2004. Fatalities have increased 183 percent during the same time period. Injury accidents are up 130 percent. Those are some of the ominous numbers state transportation officials offered up earlier this month as part of a campaign to bring attention to National Work Zone Awareness Week, which officially ended Friday. For Lisa Henderson, work zone safety is a personal issue. Her husband, Ira Henderson, was killed in 2011 when he was struck by a vehicle while working with ODOT crews on U.S. 75 near Ramona.
“One voice is a but a whisper, but many is a roar. We are encouraging self-advocates, family members and those who support people with developmental disabilities to band together for the cause. We are encouraging people to call and invite their legislators to attend and speak at our rally.”
- Wanda Felty, coordinator of the Developmental Disabilities Services Waiting List, which has nearly 7,000 disabled Oklahomans seeking services from the Department of Human Services. Some have been waiting as long as eight years (source: http://bit.ly/1igSeLP).
Number of the Day
Number of candidates for the Oklahoma House and Senate who are running unopposed in 2014, out of 126 races.
Demographic transformations are dramas in slow motion. America is in the midst of two right now. Our population is becoming majority non-white at the same time a record share is going gray. Each of these shifts would by itself be the defining demographic story of its era. The fact that both are unfolding simultaneously has generated big generation gaps that will put stress on our politics, families, pocketbooks, entitlement programs and social cohesion. The Pew Research Center tracks these transformations with public opinion surveys and demographic and economic analyses. Our new book, The Next America, draws on this research to paint a data-rich portrait of the many ways our nation is changing and the challenges we face in the decades ahead.