Capitol Updates

 This week's Capitol Updates newsletter:


June 18, 2018

The June 26 primary elections are coming on quickly now. A lot of candidates, both new political entries and incumbents are starting to feel the pressure. In most campaigns the early months are consumed by planning, making contacts with potential supporters and the all-important fundraising. This is especially true for non-incumbents. They are generally not public figures yet and don't have as much access to campaign funds as those already in office.

Early on there's not much time to think about whether you'll win or lose. You just keep your head down and plow ahead. But now, with only a few days left it begins to sink in that this will soon be over. There is an unavoidable answer coming on a day certain, June 26th. Either the candidate will fulfill his dream of serving in public office or he'll return to whatever he was doing before-or perhaps begin to find a different dream. For incumbents, it's a day of reckoning. Most did in office what they thought was right and what they thought their constituents wanted them to do. They'll find out suddenly and publicly if voters approve. Elections can be cruel. The best people don't always win, and sometimes good people get turned out. It's why most people would never consider putting their name on a ballot.

Beyond the individual candidate races this primary election has a fascinating - and some would say important - ballot question, SQ 788. It's the initiative petition that would legalize medical marijuana. Opponents say it's written too broadly and would permit recreational use of marijuana because it doesn't limit use to specified illnesses or conditions. Proponents say that's unnecessary and medically unwise because the proposal requires getting permission for medical use from a qualified physician. They say the doctor's professional judgment should be limited by medical knowledge, not legislation.

I think SQ 788 results will be a close. Earlier polling showed strong support, but Chamber and business groups have raised $453,000 to spend on a final push to defeat the proposal. Those types of campaigns often work, and opponents say the "no" campaign has already had its effect on polling. It's dangerous to predict elections, but I'd guess the measure will squeak by. People paint with a broad brush in these types of elections. Beyond helping people with medical issues, the thing folks do know - and what I think is motivating much of the "yes" vote - is that they are tired of seeing young people being arrested and jailed for possession of marijuana. The "drug war" has produced mass incarceration while at the same time leaving people who become addicted with inadequate or no treatment. I'd bet at least a slight majority want to try something different, and they're not too worried whether it's worded exactly right. If I'm wrong, it will be a slight majority the other direction.

Health Department to restore funding for child abuse prevention contracts

Tyler Talley, eCapitol

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) plans to restore $2 million in funding to its Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP) by way of new contracts for the coming fiscal year.
Funding for the program was cut in October by former agency leadership to account for what was then perceived as a budget gap. The agency also eliminated 25 contracts with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC).
Due to said cuts, nine contracts with partner organizations involved in the Parents as Teachers (PAT) home visitation program were terminated in fiscal year 2018. It has since come to light that the agency was never insolvent and funds had instead been mismanaged.
The restored funding will account for up to 10 contracts to be awarded following a review of Requests for Proposals (RFP) that must be submitted as part of the FY2019 budget process as state law requires interested parties to submit new proposals for funding.
"OCAP contracts are just one part of our overall effort to prevent child abuse," OSDH's Interim Director for Family Support and Prevention Service Beth Martin said in a release. "A continuum of services including the Parents as Teachers program, allows us to reach families that might otherwise fall through the cracks."
The agency currently offers families assistance in specific areas via its Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) grant which in turn supports its three home visiting models: PAT; Children First and SafeCare Augmented.
Funding provides the agency opportunities to assist families statewide who may not meet the eligibility requirements for other assistance models.
"I am pleased that we are able to restore the OCAP to its previous level of funding," Interim OSDH Commissioner Tom Bates said via press release. "We must focus on delivering core public health services and fulfill mandates required by the legislature. This is an important piece of our statewide effort in child abuse prevention."

DOC reports Oklahoma State Reformatory without water

Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

Department of Corrections maintenance crews were working Monday to locate and repair the cause of a water outage that began Sunday night at Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite, according to the agency.
The 110-year-old facility's water tower was discovered empty Sunday after a large water line break was repaired south of the facility Saturday. As the tower's water level dropped, so did water pressure inside the prison, causing every toilet to flush until the tower was empty.
OSR's 1,028 inmates have had access to drinking water through two 1,000-gallon water buffaloes facility staff has provided. Inmates were issued one-gallon jugs to fill with drinking water and take back to their cells, according to Matthew Elliot, Department of Corrections public information officer.
Each housing unit has a 33-gallon trash can full of water accompanied by buckets inmates can use to flush toilets, he said. The facility's kitchen has running water, and food production has not been impacted, according to Elliot.
Some showers are operational at the facility, so inmates on work crews and food service can clean up. Staff is locating portable showers to use possibly tomorrow as the outage is likely to continue, he said.
Staff who live on the facility's grounds also have no running water.
Crews worked overnight Sunday to determine the cause of the problem. Work was continuing throughout the morning Monday.
The incident comes after lawmakers approved and Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill authorizing a $116.5 million bond issue for maintenance at department facilities. SB1590, by Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, Sen. Kimberly David, R-Porter, Rep. Dennis Ray Casey, R-Morrison, and Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue $116.5 million in bonds for the Department of Corrections to finance maintenance, repairs, equipment, and improvements of existing correctional facilities.
Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, presented the bill in the Senate, and Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, carried it in the House. Both lawmakers stressed the bond money would be used to upgrade and repair existing facilities, not for the construction of new prisons.
Included on that list of projects is $1.1 million to replace the reformatory's water tower.

Have a good week. Give me a call at 918.671.6860 if I can be of help in any way.