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Let's Pod This
48 minutes | Oct 16, 2021
A blank sheet of paper
We discuss the quarterly polling data from Amber Integrated (mentioned last episode), the state threatening to sue the feds, and how the contract signing event with Canoo was a bit of a publicity stunt.Links discussed: Polling from last week that we said we’d cover Can the Governor spell Constitution? Governor Stitt’s AG tells business to ignore the federal vaccine mandate Oklahoma Tea Party is at war with the OKGOP leadershipIs this Canoo taking on water? Frontier has some information on the states deal with electric vehicle manufacturer CanooNew General Counsel for the Governor’s office: Trevor Pemberton Everyone has their Christmas decorations out - Target, Amazon…and the city of Enid
52 minutes | Oct 10, 2021
Hofmeister bets on blue
Joy Hofmeister enters the the race for Governor...as a Democrat! Also some other stuff happened, but that's most of what we discuss. Links discussed in episode: First, the public affairs software company Quorum recently released a report summarizing information about state legislatures during 2021. Some interesting takeaways:In general, the larger a state's population, the more bills their legislature filed. No correlation to the number of bills enacted, though.Oklahoma’s 149 state legislators filed 3,057 bills, of which 582 were enacted. That averages out to 20.5 bills filed and 3.9 bills enacted per legislator, which is the 11th highest rate in the country. Health and Education were far & and away the most popular topics for bills nationwide. Oklahoma state Senator Mary Boren is the most active Oklahoma legislator on social media with 3,600 posts on Twitter & FB this year. Advocacy group “Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action” filed two initiative petitions this week. One would basically fully legalize recreational marijuana for anyone age 21 or older, including growing, buying, transporting, preparing and consuming it. The measure would double the excise tax on marijuana sales, from 7% to 15%. It would also allow anyone serving time for a marijuana-related conviction to request that conviction be dismissed. (Which seems like it violates the single subject rule.) The second initiative would eliminate the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which is a part of the state dept of health, and create a standalone state agency called the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission, which would also have a seat in the Governor’s cabinet. It would also remove the cap on the number of cannabis-related business licenses and allow for home delivery of marijuana products. (Again, seems like a violation of the single subject rule.) Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax sent a letter to lawmakers debunking allegations of election hacking by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell
57 minutes | Oct 1, 2021
Race for US Senate heats up
Bailey's back! Also, US Senator James Lankford now has three opponents - two conservative Republicans and a newcomer Democrat. We discuss the dynamics of that race, down-ballot races, and the racial disparity in police shooting (a data point for which Oklahoma ranks #1 in the nation). Links mentioned: Oklahoma has highest rate of people killed by police
23 minutes | Sep 24, 2021
Show Us the Maps
More than six weeks since the 2020 Census data was released, but the Oklahoma legislature has yet to release any maps. What's up with that? Also—a breaking news announcement happened during recording! Outline & LinksState Fair is underway! And tonight: Ginuwine!Oklahoma passes 10,000 Covid deathsStitt’s removal of two OHCA board members over the Labor Day weekend has ruffled the feathers of some lawmakers from both parties. His ability to do that, of course, stems from the legislature’s decision in 2019 to grant the Governor broader authority over state agencies. According to The Oklahoman, Representatives Marcus McEntire & Mark McBride expressed some reservations or regrets about how it happened. Rep. Monroe Nichols has pre-filed legislation to change the Governor’s role with the OHCA board specifically by requiring the governor to appoint to the board at least one licensed physician, two Medicaid recipients and several people who have experience in health care fields. The Governor would be able to pick appointees only from a set of three candidates nominated by the board, appointees would have set term limits and the governor would not be able to remove them without cause. Oklahoma County Sherrifs will now be equipped with body cameras and they released their policy for them.Special session begins Nov 15th!
52 minutes | Sep 19, 2021
The Wild, Wild Western Heights
There's been considerable trouble in the Western Heights school district over the last couple of years...and "trouble" doesn't begin to describe it. Thanks to strong journalism by the folks at NonDoc and others, we were able to put together a pretty comprehensive timeline for you, which we'll detail in this episode (it is included below with links to all the stories). Remember: local elections matter.Timeline for Western HeightsIn October 2019, 15 employees resigned, ranging from bus drivers to the assistant superintendent, citing ongoing issues of mismanagement at all levels of the district.Two weeks later, still in October 2019, parents in the district requested an investigation into the district for these issues, and specifically wanted an investigation into Superintendent Mannix Barnes, his $220,000 per year salary, and the fact that the chair of the WH school board, Robert Everman, is his former employee when they worked at a casino. (Which is obviously directly useful knowledge for running a school district, right?)Before we go on, you’ve got to hear about the compensation package superintendent Mannix Barnes had at the time. And, again, remember that he had no experience as a superintendent when he was hired by the district just a couple of years ago. Barnes’ contract with Western Heights included:A $220,000 base salary with a $75,000 retention bonus effective June 15, 2022;20 days of unpaid leave for outside activities;Reasonable time off and pay for professional growth and community involvement;25 semester credit hours annually to further education;Membership for community organizations including the Chamber of Commerce;40 vacation days per year;20 sick days per year;20 personal business leave days per year.We’ll do the math for you: that’s a minimum of 100 days of paid leave. The district only has 167 instructional days. Anyway, in April 2020, the WH district got into hot water with the state board of education when the district unilaterally decided to suspend the free meal program during the pandemic, despite the fact that 90% of the distinct’s students qualify. The superintendent said some pretty inflammatory things about state superintendent Joy Hofmeister and OKC Mayor David Holt, including using the phrase “I double dare those two to come down here” and threatened to sue the state board.Nearly a year later in March of this year, the state board of education expressed “utmost concern” about the operation of Western Heights Public Schools and threatened to end their accreditation, mentioning multiple issues, including:failure to provide in-person instruction since March 2020;a decision in the spring of 2020 not to provide nutritional services to students;an audit report showing violations of state law, including the use of 2018 bond proceeds meant for contracting and repairing facilities to pay off debt instead;a board member consuming alcohol during a public meeting;a 23 percent drop in student enrollment, from 3,365 to 2,597 in the past year, and a loss of more than 100 staff members in the past two years;disharmony in the school environment and community.In April the state board placed the district on probation and giving them 90 days to remedy the situation or face being annexed by the state board. As you might have guessed, the district didn’t comply and instead they filed suit against the state board, So, in June the state board suspended the certificate of the superintendent, Mannix Barnes, and ordered the Western Heights district board to suspend him. The state also requested an investigative audit of the district. At the next meeting in July, the state board approved a motion to amend the terms of the district probation to include “full state intervention” - basically to take over the administration of the district - for one year, to be reviewed every 90 days, with the option to engage with law enforcement as necessary to effectuate the intervention. That happened on Monday, July 12. Later that night, a parent found about 15 bags of shredded financial documents in a dumpster behind the administration building. The next day, Tuesday July 13, the state board appointed Monty Guthrie to serve as interim superintendent for the western heights district. The next day, Wednesday July 14th, news broke about the bags of shredded documents.The district board president, Robert Everman - who, if you remember, is buddies with the recently ousted superintendent Mannix Barnes, did not like this so he scheduled another board meeting for two days later, Thursday, July 15th, at which the district board appointed their own assistant superintendent as their interim superintendent, which was in direct opposition to what the state told them not to do. The district’s attorney, as you might imagine, argued that the state does not have the authority to appoint an interim superintendent. Friday, July 16th, the state auditor and the state dept of education arrived on site to do initial site assessment for the audit. That was one hell of a week.On August 6th News9 reported on emails between state-appointed superintendent Monty Guthrie and distinct-appointed superintendent Kim Race, in which Race tells Guthrie that the district’s attorney said they don’t have any space for him to work. News9 also reported on the facilities issues - leaks, mold, non-working air conditioning, etc. Only 2 of the district’s 24 buses passed inspection. Clearly, things were not good.A week later, on August 12th, Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Timmons ruled that Western Heights Public Schools must cede authority to the State Board of Education to oversee day-to-day operations of the district. THAT SAME DAY the district approved a $20,000 retainer for legal representation for former superintendent Mannix Barnes!On August 26th the state board voted unanimously to request the resignation of Western Heights district board chair Robert Everman. State board member Trent Smith said “[Robert Everman] is a scorn on your school district and a cancer in your midst, and he needs to be removed as soon as possible. I only regret that we can’t do more today.” I hate to break it to you, but Everman did not step down. In fact, just last week he made headlines again in yet another bizarre manner. State-appointed superintendent Monty Guthrie created & posted a meeting agenda for the Sept 10th district board meeting. Everman, still the board chair, also posted his own, competing agenda for the meeting. While they were similar in content, the items were in a different order, which was very confusing for members of the public who were in attendance. Also, as a reminder, back in July the state board took over the district and in August a court ruled in favor of the state. Despite that, the district board continues to do their own thing. Two other things worthy of mention. First, virtually every decision made by the western heights board has been a 4-1 vote; the lone dissenting vote is the newest member of the board, Brianna Flatley, who was elected in April.Second, according to NonDoc’s reporting, the relationship between former superintendent Mannix Barnes and district board chair Robert Everman goes back decades, and these two guys have been involved in a LOT of weird political & financial shenanigans. The attorney for the state board of education described the relationship between Barnes & Everyman as “an incestuous culture that’s ripe for the demise of an organization.”
54 minutes | Sep 3, 2021
Legal Expert & Labor Commissioner
We discuss the far-reaching implications of Texas' new abortion law with attorney Melanie Rughani and then catch up on the latest developments from the OK Dept of Labor with Commissioner Leslie Osborn.
50 minutes | Aug 28, 2021
Honestly, a bit of a ramble
We accidentally took last week off and getting back into the swing of things amidst a pandemic means we wax poetic about where we're been and where we're headed next. Everything is terrible; please keep going.
63 minutes | Aug 14, 2021
School's in session for students...and candidates?
Oklahoma schools started their year without the ability to mandate masks, and as Covid predictably spreads through staff and students, some districts are finding ways around the law so that they can mitigate the pandemic's spread. Also, Sara Jane Rose and Alyssa Fisher from Sally's List join the pod to discuss how they're preparing progressive female candidates for the 2022 election cycle.
66 minutes | Aug 6, 2021
Undeclared Emergency (with Julia Kirt)
Despite mounting pressure from voters, especially parents, Governor Stitt continues to refuse to issue a "state of emergency" declaration, a decision that has negative consequences for Oklahoma's ability to respond to the pandemic far beyond mask mandates in school. We're joined by state Senator Julia Kirt (D-SD30) to discuss that and more.Newly appointed attorney General John O’Connor has filed a formal petition with SCOTUS asking them to overturn their McGirt ruling. Good luck with that, General. Cherokee Nation chief Chuck Hoskin Jr issued a statement, saying “With today’s ruling in Bosse v Oklahoma, they have made it clear that this was never about protecting victims or stopping crime, but simply advancing an anti-indian political agenda.”OKGOP chairman John Bennett issues a truly terrible statement equating vaccination records with the Star of David patches the Nazis forced the Jews to wear during the Holocaust...and then he doubled down on it the next day, AND THEN HE tripled-down. At the same time, the head of OK2A, the second amendment association, issued a statement equating vaccine mandates to rape. Covid updateSooner Survey Interview with Julia Kirt Democrat’s letter to Governor Stitt requesting special session to allow mask mandatesBelated session recapInterim studies - plenty to talk about there in terms of value, process and all the potential we leave on the table for robust public participation.“The Fault Lines of America” report
44 minutes | Jul 31, 2021
The third school year with Covid (with Amanda Ewing)
As we prepare to enter the third school year affected by Covid, we're joined by OEA's Amanda Ewing to discuss what's on the mind of teachers and how the government could (or should) respond.
53 minutes | Jul 16, 2021
They're teaching times tables, not Critical Race Theory
This week: A bogus witch hunt in public education. The Governor ended his McGirt panel due to protesters. Power struggle in Western Heights school district. A former Cherokee chief will be featured on the quarter.Episode outline:The State Board of Education adopted rules following passage of HB1775. Western Heights school district fired superintendent, appointed a new one, then SBE said no and appointed their own, THEN this week Western Heights said no to the state and again appointed their own.We mentioned in our last episode that Governor Stitt was going to hold a “community impact panel” this week about the McGirt ruling. Well, he did...but it did not go well for him.On a related note, the FBI anticipates 7500 new cases in federal court next year as a result of the McGirt ruling The board of Epic Charter Schools shared information about why they distanced themselves from the founders, and it’s kind of fascinating. Let’s end on a good note: the US Mint announced the designs for the new quarters featuring Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller that will be released next year.
35 minutes | Jul 9, 2021
Community Impact Theater
Update on the prison closure, Congressional redistricting, and the one year anniversary of the McGirt ruling. Full description with links: Last week we discussed the closure of the prison in Ft. Supply, and this week Senator Casey Murdock has asked Governor Stitt to delay closing the prison. Senator Murdock has raised concerns that closing the prison would cost the state money...which seems to be at odds with what DOC has indicated, since keeping open a half-empty prison is not exactly without cost.On Thursday this week the legislature held their first town hall meeting about congressional redistricting, it went about like you’d expect. Twenty-ish people, roughly 10 or 12 of whom gave public comment or asked questions. Video is available on the Senate website so you could go watch it, but also People Not Politicians was there and live-tweeted it, you can go back and read Today is the one-year anniversary of the famous McGirt ruling, so naturally, yesterday a court overturned a murder conviction due to the ruling. Despite the fear-mongering headlines, the guy isn’t getting out of prison, as he was also convicted of arson, desecrating a corpse and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, all of which are not affected by the McGirt ruling. ALSO the murder will be re-tried in federal court and a grand jury was already empaneled for that reason back in March. Also, next week the Governor is holding a “community impact forum” in Tulsa about the McGirt ruling and its implications. His guests will be the Tulsa County sheriff, several district attorneys (districts attorney?), and...none of the tribes. Tribal leaders say they weren’t invited; Tulsa County DA says they were. Three tribal AGs acknowledged they got an email about it that said “you and your chiefs” are invited and that a “formal invitation will follow,” but that was never received. The tribes, of course, feel this forum is political theater.
44 minutes | Jul 2, 2021
The trickle-down economics of closing a prison
The Oklahoma Dept of Corrections is closing a prison in Ft. Supply and, well, it's a complicated matter. We break down how it may affect the town and the state. Plus, Effie Rorke joins Scott and Andy to discuss her experience of variations in voting from state to state. A few notes:Prison being closed in NW Oklahoma has several implications...but it’s a mixed bag.Fewer incarcerated people saves the state money and, presumably, more people in the workforce. (~5000 fewer than 2 years ago) Except…The closure means fewer job opportunities for prison employees, and they generally live in an area of the state that has limited opportunities as it is. (142 jobs; population of the town where it’s located is only 350)DOC board is now advisory in nature, but DOC still falls under the Executive branch, and we all know how much Governor Stitt wants to run this state like a business. Well, DOC is a loss leader for the state to an exceptional degree, so if nothing else, closure of this facility makes good business sense. However, the legislative branch isn’t thrilled with it, especially those from that part of the state, like Senator Casey Murdock from Felt. So, this week lawmakers had a meeting about it. Discussion between Sen. Casey Murdock (R-Felt) and DOC Director Scott Crow:Murdock asked, “The day that you made this decision, when you went home that night. How much sleep did you lose?”“Sir, I lose sleep on nearly a daily basis because of the problems in the correctional system around the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “It’s not limited to one facility or community.”Also has negative impact on local hospital, which isn’t great Also discussed the historical value of the prison, which seems...weird, right?
47 minutes | Jun 25, 2021
Paddle Your Own Canoo
Covid is up, tuition is up, TSET effectiveness is in question, Canoo incentives are secret, and we still don't have an Attorney General. Let's talk about it. COVID cases are increasing in Oklahoma and around the country. OK has roughly doubled the number of new diagnoses since the beginning of June. Likely due to Delta variant (as there is an outbreak in Missouri), but we can’t know for sure because Oklahoma is dead last for genomic sequencing, with just 0.19% of total cases sequenced. So, they’re working on that. Good news is, vaccinated folks are not contracting the virus. OK only at 37% vaccinated, though, so there’s a lot of people out there who are “eligible to get the virus”OU increases tuition (NonDoc) (avg of $248 per year for in-state, $671 per year out-of-state)Timing is just coincidental, but also not great given last week’s news about NonDoc suing OU to release two reports from Jones Day law firm, one of which has to do with misreporting or fabricating of fundraising data...which impacts the university budget, even if just a little.LOFT report questions the effectiveness of TSET and says some of its impact cannot be measured.OK is Top 10 for tobacco cessation spending...but despite that, we’re also still Top 10 for number of adults and youth who use tobaccoBut is part of the blame on lawmakers? They could increase the tax on tobacco products and e-cigarettes—in fact, TSET asked them to do it—but they haven’t.But remember, last year the legislature sent a state question to the ballot (SQ814) asking voters to give them [the legislature] more access to TSET funds. Voters rejected the measure...and now the legislature is coming after TSET again. If nothing else, this seems suspicious.Oklahoma chosen as site for new Canoo electric vehicle production facilityIncentives still secret, at least for now. Apparently agreements haven’t yet been signed, which means there’s still time for talks to break down?Tulsa World reports that former US Senator Don Nickles tipped off Oklahoma to the possibility of the deal Governor still mulling candidates for Attorney General. Names supposedly on the short list:Ryan Leonard, currently Stitt’s special counsel for Native American affairs, Tim Downing, Stitt’s counsel for Sec of State until Trump bumped him up to US Attorney, but he resigned once Biden took office (weird)Tricia Everest, formerly Stitt’s Sec of Public Safety, then chair of OK County jail trustGreg Mashburn & AJ Ferate, both attorneys with strong ties to OK GOP and big oiland of course there’s Gentner Drummond (ran in 2018, narrowly lost in primary to Hunter who was the incumbent)Legislature’s Congressional redistricting town halls start July 8th. 6 p.m. July 8 in Oklahoma City at the state Capitol, Room 5356 p.m. July 13 Virtual6 p.m. July 20 in Enid at the Autry Technology Center6 p.m. July 22 in Tulsa at the Tulsa Technology Center6 p.m. July 27 in McAlester at the Kiamichi Technology Center6 p.m. July 29 at Lawton City Hall6 p.m. August 3 Virtual
46 minutes | Jun 18, 2021
What Would ALEC Do?
Relatively slow week in Oklahoma political news, which leaves Scott and Andy to ponder the questions "What would ALEC do?" and "Do Oklahoma Republicans have any notable policy agenda items remaining?"
44 minutes | Jun 12, 2021
A Weather Report, but Make it Politics
It seemed like a quiet week for Oklahoma government, and yet, lawsuits were filed, transparency was reduced, and two pieces of legislation still hang in the balance.
50 minutes | Jun 5, 2021
There's No Relief Like Tax Relief
Budget analysts Paul Shinn & Emma Morris from OK Policy join the show to help us understand what actually went down with the state budget this session. Also, a bit of good news! More than 50,000 Oklahomans have enrolled in Medicaid since the expansion opened up on June 1st.
6 minutes | May 28, 2021
It's been a helluva week
We're taking a break for this week, but here are some important headlines we don't want you to miss and we'll be back next week to discuss them in more detail!
51 minutes | May 21, 2021
Money for Nothing (and Tax Cuts for Free)
It's the second-to-last week fo session AND our first in-person recording in over a year. Needless to say, we're excited about those things. About those things, at least, but we are much less excited about the tax cuts, special interest credits, and other bad bills that were passed into law this week.
60 minutes | May 14, 2021
Budget Breakthrough and Building Woes
The Oklahoma Association of Realtors share some insight into the real estate market and why building costs have skyrocketed so much, and also, it appears the legislature has agreed on a budget! Well, at least some members have agreed.
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