Happy Monday from OPUBCO HQ, where we’re supposed to get temperatures into the the 70s today. Could spring finally be here?
Here’s what you might have missed over the weekend from our team and elsewhere:
–Watchdog reporter Michael Baker covered the plea arrangement of a state trooper accused of kicking a handcuffed female suspect who allegedly spit on his pants. Barry Jacob Rowland, 33, pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor assault and battery charge. He also agreed to give up his law enforcement certification.
Special District Judge Cynthia Pickering sentenced Rowland to one year of unsupervised probation, a fine and court costs of $796 and required him to resign from the highway patrol and CLEET by Thursday. Rowland has been a trooper since May 2006 and on paid leave since the incident.
After the hearing, [Okmulgee County District Attorney] Giulioli praised highway patrol trooper Ronnie Sites, for reporting the incident.
“It took a tremendous amount of courage for him to report this incident,” Giulioli said. “Had he not done so, I don’t think it would ever had been brought to light.”
–In other law enforcement news, Randy Ellis has a story today about alleged sexual harassment by the police chief in Fairview:
Less than two months after reaching a $40,000 settlement in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against him, Fairview Police Chief Robert Banks is under investigation for alleged improper conduct in a class he was teaching for the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET).
–The Oklahoma Public Employees Association has gotten a sweetheart deal under state law to get access to the home addresses of more than 40,000 state employees so they can send out recruitment mailings. The lawmaker who secured that favor, Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, was later named OPEA’s “Legislator of the Year” for 2009.
–Speaking of Rep. Terrill, he’s returning at least $5,000 in campaign contributions for his 2010 re-election campaign after it was discovered he has not yet set up a campaign committee for 2010 at the state Ethics Commission.
–Federal health care reform has been signed into law, but that hasn’t stopped the debate. Chris Casteel in our Washington bureau looked into how the bill might affect Oklahoma’s Medicaid program.
There are nearly 600,000 Oklahomans on Medicare, the government insurance program for seniors. So, if Medicaid expands to cover more than 1 million people and Medicare enrollment stays near the current level, about half of the people in the state will be in one of the two programs.
The [Oklahoma] health care authority is estimating that the Medicaid expansion under the new law will reduce the rate of uninsured people in the state from about 17 percent to around 11 percent. The law’s subsidies to individuals and small businesses to buy private insurance are expected to reduce that rate further.
At one time or another in the last fiscal year, the Oklahoma Medicaid program, SoonerCare, had 825,000 participants. This month, there are about 680,000 Oklahomans on Medicaid and an estimated 51,000 children whose parents have no other insurance who could be, but aren’t, enrolled.
When the new eligibility guidelines begin in January 2014, there will be 265,000 newly qualified Oklahomans, according to the health care authority.
–Political pundits are wondering how Tea Party backers will use their newfound power to influence this year’s midterm elections. The New York Times talked to some of the Tea Party organizers about their motivations:
The fact that many of them joined the Tea Party after losing their jobs raises questions of whether the movement can survive an improvement in the economy, with people trading protest signs for paychecks.
But for now, some are even putting their savings into work that they argue is more important than a job — planning candidate forums and get-out-the-vote operations, researching arguments about the constitutional limits on Congress and using Facebook to attract recruits.
“Even if I wanted to stop, I just can’t,” said Diana Reimer, 67, who has become a star of the effort by FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group, to fight the health care overhaul. “I’m on a mission, and time is not on my side.”
–The Wall Street Journal has a heart-wrenching story about the fallout from a mass-shooting at an immigrant center in Binghamton, N.Y. At issue is how much the victims and victims’ families should be compensated.
The process of distributing funds in Binghamton began when the local social-services director asked area charities, social service groups and lawyers to form a committee to oversee the task.
Among the questions they considered:
Who deserves more money: Survivors traumatized by the event, or the orphans of two slain parents?
How should they value the wounds suffered by a man who tried in vain to protect his wife by wrapping his arms around her?
Should a family with 11 children receive more than one where the breadwinner lost his job?
And what about the relatives of the dead? Should they be consulted, or would their woeful accounts inappropriately sway the committee?