In case your sole source for Oklahoma political news is this newspaper or you haven’t bothered to keep up with the subject since Thanksgiving, here is a brief list of what you missed.
1. On December 15, Oklahoma Watch reported that documents released by the state Department of Health included a summary of alleged deceptions within the agency such as fraudulent budget reports to state finance officials and omissions in reporting the agency’s financial position to the legislature and the State Board of Health.
2. On the same day the Oklahoma Watch also reported the state could lose $115 million in Medicaid funds for teaching hospitals. This happened because the state spent Medicaid dollars on training doctors for well over a decade apparently without approval. OU and OSU’s medical schools and associated teaching hospitals may also need an emergency injection of about $30 million from the legislature this fiscal year because of the dispute with the federal government over a Medicaid waiver
3. On December 19, Attorney General Mike Hunter announced that the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will partner with his office to investigate issues relating to the use of federal funds at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
4. Also on December 19, the Office of Governor Mary Fallin sent this vague email, “Today, a coalition of state leaders met with elected leadership from the Senate and the House as well as the governor’s office to start a dialogue regarding our state budget. The coalition brought several proposals and policy reforms to close the budget deficit and started a process of finding a package that could receive approval.”
5. On December 20, The Oklahoma Senate approved $17.7 million in funding for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to prevent provider rate cuts. The Senate also approved $26.5 million in additional funding for the Department of Human Services.
6. Also on December 20, the Office of Governor Mary Fallin sent an optimistic email stating that estimate submitted to the Board of Equalization shows some predicted revenue growth for the 2019 fiscal year. Her email said the growth would not be enough, in and of itself, to accomplish her goals before leaving office. However, Fallin also said, “I believe we still have a great opportunity to accomplish something historic. We are operating in a very volatile political environment nationally as well as in our own state. It would be an incredible statement to the public that Republicans and Democrats can work together to solve problems.”
7. On January 3, Governor Mary Fallin announced Secretary of State Dave Lopez will also serve on her executive Cabinet as secretary of education and workforce development. Lopez will begin his new duties effective immediately. His appointment still must be confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate. “Dave Lopez is a hard-working, energetic Cabinet member whose expertise has been very beneficial to my administration,” said Fallin. “I am asking him to take on the added task of developing and refining policies that will give students, including adult students, the skills they need to find and keep jobs in our state.” As secretary of state, Lopez serves as a senior adviser to the governor on policy, economic and legislative issues. He previously served as the governor’s secretary of commerce from 2011 until 2013.