Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to produce in-depth and investigative journalism on public-policy and quality-of-life issues facing the state.

Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. Our goal is to promote and deepen public and private debate that makes a difference in the lives of Oklahomans.

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Vaccination has become a dirty word at the Oklahoma Capitol.

Public health policies that drew little attention for decades are now so politically toxic that few lawmakers want to take a recorded vote on the issue. And fewer still feel comfortable talking about updates to the state’s vaccination schedule or getting rid of certain vaccine exemptions. Even bills mandating vaccine information for adults are shot down as they wend their way through the legislative process.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Tulsa liquor wholesaler Bryan Hendershot had a lot of money on the line when the Senate voted 34-11 to pass Senate Bill 608 on Monday.

The legislation, which passed the House earlier by a single vote, seeks to roll back a narrow part of 2016’s voter-approved alcohol-sales reforms by allowing top wine and spirit brands to be sold by all distributors in the state, instead of allowing manufacturers to decide who can sell their wine and spirits.

Trevor Brown / Oklahoma Watch

It wasn’t publicized locally, but within the past few years teams of health officials at two Oklahoma health facilities took rapid actions to contain the spread of a fungal “superbug” that federal officials have declared a serious global health threat.

Only one patient at each facility was infected, and both patients recovered. But the incidents reflect the growing alarm among health officials over the deadly, multidrug-resistant Candida auris, or C. auris, which can kill 30 percent to 60 percent of those infected.

WHITNEY BRYEN / OKLAHOMA WATCH

Election officials are gearing up to remove tens of thousands of Oklahomans from the state’s voter rolls – a controversial practice voting-rights advocates say can lead to disenfranchised voters.

Oklahoma is one of seven states that allow election officials to remove names from the state’s voter registration list if they haven’t voted in several election cycles and don’t respond to address confirmation mailings.

That process, which is done every two years in Oklahoma, will begin this April.

Tulsa Public Schools

At all elementary and middle schools and some high schools in the Houston Independent School District — 220 in all — every student begins the day with a free breakfast right in the classroom.

The result: fewer absences and discipline problems and an increase in math scores, according to the district’s former superintendent Terry Grier.

FBI Traces Racist Messages to Tulsa, Norman

Feb 7, 2017

Federal agents investigating racist messages sent shortly after the 2016 presidential election interviewed three men who graduated from Tulsa-area high schools in recent years, obtaining search warrants for the home and phone of one of them, federal court records show.

Online retail giant Amazon will start collecting sales tax from Oklahoma customers in March – a move that will send tens of millions of dollars to state and local governments.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday confirmed the arrangement, first reported by Oklahoma Watch the day before, and said collections will begin on March 1. State, city, town and county governments will receive their first extra revenues as early as May. With the change, Oklahoma will become the 40th state where the Seattle-based e-commerce company collects and remits sales and use taxes.

Betsy DeVos, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, has given millions in campaign contributions to politicians across the country.

Some of that fiscal muscle trickled into Oklahoma during the last election cycle through a pro-school-choice “Super PAC” that, notably, opposed so-called “teachers’ caucus” candidates in many instances. (The caucus arose out of many educators’ frustration over what they view as low education funding levels and teacher pay.)

A recent federal court ruling could open a new wave of redistricting challenges across the country. And that includes Oklahoma, where Republicans now control 78.5 percent of the statehouse seats – a 10 percentage-point increase since the GOP-controlled Legislature redrew legislative boundaries five years ago.

David Bitton

Oklahoma is one of 25 states requiring three years of math for graduation, according to the Education Commission of the States.

Eighteen states require four; the others require two, have graduation requirements set by local school boards or have proficiency-based graduation.

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