Dark money: A dark money group involved in ousting several Republicans in the 2018 legislative primaries has agreed to pay the state $45,000 in fines and fees for refusing to comply with state ethics laws.
Essentially a drop box set up for political operatives to avoid disclosure of donors, the Conservative Alliance conceded in a settlement with the Ethics Commission that it spent more than $150,000 on independent expenditures in 2018 without filing the required reports.
The Tulsa World reported at the time that the Conservative Alliance, in fact, may have spent $750,000 to replace state representatives who voted against tax increases to offset revenue shortfalls and give the state’s public school teachers a pay raise.
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A record eight Republican incumbents lost primaries that year.
Contributions to the PAC passed through a 501c (4) organization so that the donors were never revealed. The agreement announced Friday requires the delinquent reports to be filed, but because of the PAC’s structure they are unlikely to identify the actual donors.
Workforce: Changes in the way Oklahoma administers federal workforce development money may be coming after a task force appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt and chaired by Oklahoma State Chamber President Chad Warmington delivered its final report last week.
It recommended numerous changes, including creation of a “public-private” coordinating board to direct recruitment and training. The report says Oklahoma had 36,000 more job postings than people looking for jobs in 2021, with most of the vacancies in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas.
Among those on the task force was Jeff Stava, chief operating officer of the Tulsa Community Foundation and chief program officer of the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
Rx Rx: Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready said Caremark, the prescription benefit manager for CVS, has promised to resume 90-day mail order service for most customers this summer.
“I am encouraged by the recent change of course and focus of Caremark to develop a plan with their employer groups that will resolve the current issues facing many Oklahomans,” Mulready said in a press release. “We have met with their leadership, and I am committed to making sure this plan becomes a reality.
Staying eligible: With as many as 270,000 Oklahomans expected to lose Medicaid coverage as COVID-19’s emergency eligibility ends, the Cherokee Nation says it’s doing what it can to keep as many of its 3,000 citizens on the trim list enrolled in SoonerCare.
“It’s critical that our citizens have health coverage for their families and bridge any gap for necessary specialty medical care or emergencies that should arise outside our health system,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
Medicaid did not drop enrollees during the pandemic, regardless of changes in their eligibility. It is now dropping those whose household incomes now exceed the standard limits or who no longer qualify for other reasons.
Hoskin said Cherokee Nation staff will be contacting Cherokee citizens slated for disenrollment to see if they do, in fact, still qualify.
“The Cherokee Nation … has spent years working to get Native families enrolled, and we must ensure these families have that continued coverage during the coming months,” Hoskin said.
Signed: Among legislation recently signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt was a bill by an unusual pairing of authors, state Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
House Bill 2041 is a justice-reform measure that allows local law enforcement officers to issue verbal warnings for outstanding misdemeanor warrants rather than drag the offenders to jail. The warnings must include instructions on how to clear up the warrant and be documented for the record.
Also signed into law:
HB 1445, by Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, which requires school districts to post details of their bond proposals online at least 30 days before the bond election.
HB 1962, by Rep. Carl Newton, R-Woodward, which creates a new category of driver’s license for those 14-16 who live or work on farms.
Moving day: The first inmates arrived at the Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton, which is replacing the North Fork Correctional Center in Sayre in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections system.
The DOC will operate Great Plains under a lease from GEO, the private company that owns the facility and until recently operated it, primarily as a federal medium-security prison.
The department did not renew its contract with North Fork owner CoreCivic after several problems at that facility.
They seem OK: State Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, had some fun with being named the Oklahoma Education Association’s Legislator of the Year days after State Superintendent Ryan Walters called the OEA a “terrorist organization.”
“I must report that I received an award from a terrorist organization,” Young said. “Well, at least from an organization that was designated as a terrorist organization by a duly elected state official. I have not seen any notices from the FBI, CIA, OSBI or the state troopers.
The OEA, Young said, “seemed like a very warm and good bunch of upstanding Oklahomans.”
Game: The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s much-loved TikTok account has so far survived Gov. Kevin Stitt’s ban, Government Technology reports.
The department not only oversees game, but it has game when it comes to social media. Its lighthearted, engaging accounts on Twitter, TikTok and Facebook have greatly expanded the department’s reach.
For instance, an April 10 tweet — “If this gets 1M likes our boss will let us name her baby ‘Armadillo’” — has 143,000 likes and has been retweeted 14,300 times. The department’s TikTok account has more than 235,000 followers.
So when Stitt ordered all state-owned devices off TikTok, the Wildlife Department was able to get an exception by promising to use a separate phone paid for by a sponsor and completely cut off from state systems.
“The principle we leaned on the most is just do no harm to people or wildlife, keep that priority first, and then interact in an equitable way to attract people who maybe aren’t your typical hunters and anglers,” social media specialist Sarah Southerland told Government Technology.
Meetings and events: Scholarship winner Divinety Johnson will be the featured speaker at the Creek County Democratic Party meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at La Margarita, 1215 New Sapulpa Road, Sapulpa.
State Rep. Amanda Swope, D-Tulsa, will be the featured speaker at the Tulsa County Democratic Party social gathering at 6 p.m. May 30 at the Schusterman-Benson Library, 3333 E. 32nd Place.
— Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World