In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss the last minute effort to stop Oklahoma's permitless carry law from going into effect, the opioid ruling against Johnson & Johnson, and more.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, the group hoping to repeal Oklahoma's permitless carry gun law through the referendum petition process had to gather almost 60,000 signatures by the close of business on Thursday. Now, they only had a couple of weeks to get the needed signatures, which is a tall task.
Shawn Ashley: That's a very tall task, but shortly before they were scheduled to turn them in it appeared they had around 50,000 signatures with more coming in. This was a rather unusual situation because the proponents of the veto referendum did not decide until the middle of August to being collecting these signatures. That left them just a little over two weeks to do so. Normally a referendum like this an individual or group has 90 days from the end of the legislative session to collect the necessary signatures 5 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. But, as Representative Jason Lowe pointed out on Thursday, it was the result of the mass shootings in El Paso and then in Dayton Ohio that prompted proponents to decide to move forward even at this late hour.
Pryor: So they got a late start, and the leaders of the group say that they will look at other avenues to prevent the so-called constitutional carry law from taking effect Nov. 1 if necessary. What other options are there for them?
Ashley: Well, the easiest approach would be for Representative Lowe or other lawmakers to file a bill to be considered in the 2020 session that would simply repeal constitutional carry. They also could look at an initiative referendum to put new statutes on the books during the 2020 election cycle that perhaps return Oklahoma to a permit carry state or made other modifications to deal with some of the issues that they're concerned about by moving toward permitless carry. There are a number of options on the table that they could consider.
Pryor: But still a ways to go here...
Pryor: What's the latest from the health care working group?
Ashley: The health care working group held its third meeting. Much of the discussion was on so-called social determinants, these factors within society that lead people to poor health outcomes. Going back to the first meaning of of the health care working group, co-chair Greg McCortney pointed out that a lot of our problems seem to result from our own decisions-- our sedentary lifestyle, our poor eating habits, and our high rates of smoking in Oklahoma. This meeting they talked more in detail about some of those social determinants and what might could be done in order to address them. What one of the speakers pointed out is that these are issues that are not necessarily directly resolved by health insurance, but need to be addressed in other ways.
Pryor: Interim Commissioner of Health Tom Bates is resigning to take a position that will implement a new initiative for Kevin Stitt. The plan is to streamline ways Oklahomans deal with health and human services agencies. Are there any indications how that might work?
Ashley: Well, they're really just getting started on this project, and it's called the Front Porch Initiative.And we've heard ideas like this before to sort of bring together a "one stop shop" of access to various health and human services services. In the case of Interim Commissioner of Health Tom Bates, he has worked in both areas, having served as Interim Commissioner of Health for more than a year now and also having worked at the Department of Human Services and helping to implement the Pinnacle Plan. So he has sort of seen both sides of that coin.
Pryor Now that District Court Judge Thad Balkman has ruled for the state of Oklahoma in its lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. How is the state going to go about collecting the $572 million awarded to abate the opioid crisis?
Ashley Well, as we heard Attorney General Mike Hunter say they could easily write a check, but that doesn't seem to be likely. Instead, Johnson & Johnson has indicated that they plan to appeal this decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and that will take some time, just like the trial itself did. And then, even then, there may be the opportunities for other appeals.
Pryor Thanks Shawn.
Ashley You're very welcome.
Pryor: That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions e-mail us at email@example.com or contact us on Twitter at @kgounews. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net, on Apple podcasts and Spotify. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.