Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.

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Steven Buck
Provided / Oklahoma Watch

Under current state law, the new executive director of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs appears ineligible to hold the job.

Also, the new Oklahoma Department of Corrections interim director appears ineligible to become the permanent director.

In an effort to smooth the issues, the Legislature is considering a Senate bill that would reduce the work experience requirements for both positions. That would move Steven Buck closer to qualifying by law for the job he was appointed to in January – executive director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

Nico Gomez, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced Tuesday its plans to cut reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers by 25 percent as a result of the state’s budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.

The cuts, which must first go through a series of public hearings over the next 60 days, would affect all provider types, including hospitals, physicians, pharmacy, durable medical equipment suppliers and nursing facilities, according to a news release from the Health Care Authority.

young girl in handcuffs, juvenile justice, corrections
houstondwiPhotos mp / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When they gathered at the State Capitol last week, criminal justice experts seemingly had reason to celebrate: From 2001 to 2013, the number of Oklahoma juvenile offenders ordered by courts into the state's secure detention centers dropped by 56 percent, slightly more than the national rate.

But no one at a March 15 meeting of juvenile justice officials, judges, prosecutors and legislators was trumpeting progress.

Some of the reasons:

Kris Steele, former Oklahoma House speaker and now director of The Education and Employment Ministry, and other community leaders are backing two proposed ballot initiatives intended to address prison overcrowding.
Michael Williams / Oklahoma Watch

An advocacy group, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, is seeking more than 65,000 signatures by early June to put two measures before voters on November’s ballot.

Should the group garner enough signatures, the ballot would include State Questions 780 and 781, both seeking to address prison overcrowding and community mental health and to reduce sentences for future offenders convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes.

Real estate developer Grant Humphreys wants to stop operating Carlton Landing Academy, located on the shores of Lake Eufaula, as a private school and re-open it as a public charter school.
Leilani Ott / Oklahoma Watch

Editor’s Note: Carlton Landing is an underwriter of KGOU. This story was produced by our content partner Oklahoma Watch. Both newsrooms at KGOU and Oklahoma Watch are editorially independent from KGOU’s fundraising.

A proposed charter school in a lakeside resort community would mark the state's first expansion of public charters into rural areas under a new law allowing for their presence statewide, school officials say.

oil well tools in a pickup truck bed
OakleyOriginals / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders have agreed to tap $78.5 million, or about a fifth, of the state's "Rainy Day Fund" to partially offset current-year cuts to budgets for common education and corrections.

That news was welcomed by state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and interim Corrections Department Director Joe Allbaugh, who said it would help their agencies avoid some drastic cutbacks that would affect essential services.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a "Get Out the Caucus" rally at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has out-raised the five remaining Republican presidential candidates combined as Oklahoma heads into Tuesday’s primary election, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

While Clinton has a solid fundraising lead in individual contributions, the ones on the Republican side were spread out among 15 candidates who raised any money; most have dropped out.

More than half of Oklahoma’s incarcerated juvenile offenders are held in facilities that don’t comply with federal policies for preventing sexual assault, an Oklahoma Watch investigation found.

Those rape-prevention standards are required in all Oklahoma adult prisons and halfway houses as well as in more than a dozen county jails.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Night after night, state Sen. Josh Breechen of Coalgate has stayed up until midnight, answering impassioned emails and calls from parents worried about schools being consolidated.

Sen. John Ford of Bartlesville says more people are stopping him in Walmart and at church and Rotary Club meetings to unload their viewpoints on the issue.

money
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

The National Rifle Association is exempt from the sales tax in Oklahoma. The American Civil Liberties Union is not.

Organizations promoting the preservation of wild ducks and turkeys get a sales tax break. Groups promoting different wildlife, or the welfare of dogs and cats, do not.

Oklahoma chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution have a specific sales tax exemption. The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma does not.

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