All articles by Gene Perry

Indiscriminate DNA testing could put innocent Oklahomans in prison

by | September 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (0)
Photo by John Goode used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by John Goode used under a Creative Commons license.

For several years, Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing) has proposed legislation to require taking DNA samples from everyone who has been arrested in Oklahoma (more recent attempts scaled it back to those arrested and held over for trial). These samples would be checked against a large database to see if the DNA shows up in crime scenes nationwide. 

The bill has never garnered enough votes to pass, though Rep. Denney is continuing to push — this year she’s holding an interim study to build support for the idea. Meanwhile, a recent Journal Record column by law professor Andrew Spiropoulos attempts to back her up.

continue reading Indiscriminate DNA testing could put innocent Oklahomans in prison

In The Know: Despite good grades, suburban districts unhappy with A-F report card

by and | September 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Despite scoring high marks on the most recent A-F grades for schools, officials with the Edmond, Moore and Norman districts say the grades don’t paint a complete picture of their schools because they are based on state-mandated standardized test scores and little else. The okeducationtruths blog pointed out that the grades are once again strongly correlated with poverty levels in schools. The latest episode of the OK PolicyCast discusses new Census data that shows what’s happening with poverty in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate increased slightly in August

Attendees at the 20th annual Zarrow Mental Health Symposium discussed how law enforcement officers and society as a whole can learn how to effectively respond to mentally illness. You can follow tweets from the conference using the hashtag #AllThingsPrevention. An Oklahoma County district judge ruled that a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol can stay. The Tulsa World discussed three separate cases this summer of Oklahoma law enforcement officers being arrested for serial sexual assaults while on duty. The OK Policy Blog discussed how a new domestic violence lethality assessment being used by law enforcement could save lives.

Oklahoma district attorneys are speaking in frustration over what they say is a severe underfunding of their offices in the face of “staggering” caseloads. A group of residents living south of two Cleveland County prisons must continue their search for drinkable water after the Oklahoma Corrections Department said it lacked the authority to partner with them to build a new well system. NewsOK is running a series on small towns in Oklahoma. NewsOK also examined the troubles of prominent Oklahoma Republican political consulting firm A.H. Strategies, which is facing a criminal investigation and has lost its three most high-profile races this year.

Tulsa World editor Julie Delcour wrote that Oklahoma’s refusal to adopt new federal ID requirements is about to become real, when Oklahomans can’t board a plane using their driver’s license. The Environmental Protection Agency and state officials are commemorate the completion of major cleanup efforts in nine communities near the Tar Creek Superfund site. While more than 300,000 people congregated in New York City for the world’s biggest march about climate change, about 150 Tulsans marched in support. Continental Resources has unveiled a new oil formation in south-central Oklahoma that its CEO says will elevate the state as an oil producer.

The Number of the Day is the poverty rate for women in Oklahoma, which is 1.5 percentage points higher than the state as a whole. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post shares what some of the millions of Americans who have enrolled in Medicaid under that Affordable Care Act think of the program.

continue reading In The Know: Despite good grades, suburban districts unhappy with A-F report card

OK PolicyCast: Episode 8

by | September 19th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

radio micYou can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

This week we discuss new Census data that shows what’s happening with poverty in Oklahoma; controversy over special needs students and newly released A-F grades for schools; how Oklahoma’s doing on the health of our people and the health of our democracy; & more…

Download the podcast here or play it in your browser:

In The Know: New A-F school grades released; ‘F’ grades skyrocket following testing changes

by | September 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

The number of schools deemed failing by the Oklahoma State Department of Education soared from 163 to 200 after the state Board of Education voted to certify the 2014 A-F school grade cards. The Peckham School District in northern Oklahoma has gone from an A district to an F in two years, which the superintendents attributes to the district enrolling many special needs transfers. A heavily-Hispanic Oklahoma City Elementary School has begun a new dual-language program, teaching simultaneously in English and Spanish. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why Oklahoma needs bilingual education in schools to close gaps for English Language Learners.

The full Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on October 14 in attorney Jerry Fent’s constitutional challenge to cutting income tax rates. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how Fent’s legal challenge could dramatically change the politics of tax cuts in Oklahoma. KJRH reported that Oklahoma is paying 75 percent of ad revenue from blue highway signs to a private contractor, a far higher percentage than other states contracting with the company. The economy in Oklahoma’s two largest metropolitan areas outpaced national growth in 2013. David Blatt’s Journal Record column shared the story of a conservative businessman who has become a champion of increasing the minimum wage.

The Tahlequah Daily Press wrote that comments by state Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) are advancing unfounded hatred and suspicion against Muslims. State prison officials are seeking to dismiss a federal lawsuit that argues journalists should have an unobstructed view of Oklahoma’s executions. Oklahoma Watch reported that the witness brought in by state Rep. Mike Christian to make a case for executing prisoners using nitrogen gas is not a doctor, but he was involved with Rep. Christian’s 2010 campaign for state House. Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel suggested in a public meeting Monday that the county might consider hanging people in the city square as a means of reducing crime.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma pregnant women who receive first trimester prenatal care. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress shows that the share of national income going to corporate after-tax profits has reached an all-time high.

continue reading In The Know: New A-F school grades released; ‘F’ grades skyrocket following testing changes

In The Know: Percentage of Oklahomans without health insurance falls for 3rd year

by and | September 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

New data from the U.S. Census shows the number and percentage of Oklahomans without health insurance has declined for the third year in a row. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained how to understand the new health insurance coverage estimates. The second annual open enrollment period begins Nov. 15 for the Affordable Care Act’s online health insurance marketplace. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak participated in a Q&A about the marketplace. A respiratory illness that has been causing some children in the region to go to intensive care has been confirmed in Oklahoma.

On the OK Policy Blog, we examined signs of weakening political participation and representation in Oklahoma. State election officials are encouraging Oklahomans to vote by mail to avoid lines at polling places in November. The Together Oklahoma coalition is launching a statewide “Together Tuesdays” tour with public discussion forums on how to get more engaged in Oklahoma’s political process. The first Together Tuesday forum will be September 23 in Enid. Tahlequah High School math teacher Jason Scott Proctor has been named Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Attorney Jerry Fent has filed a formal objection to a law to repair the state Capitol, likely triggering an Oklahoma Supreme Court review of the measure. Fent claims that since the law is specific to only one building, it is a “special law” that must be published in a newspaper for four consecutive weeks before the measure is considered. Officials from a group representing Oklahoma Muslims said they will “seek protection” following state Rep. John Bennett’s comments at a town meeting that the Islamic faith “is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.” A mystery substance found in an Okmulgee County river has prompted an investigation by multiple agencies. NewsOK examined efforts being made by oil and gas drillers in Oklahoma to reduce their water usage

Specific allegations of sexual assault by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper were detailed for the first time in documents released by the Creek County District Attorney’s Office. A Tulsa County Sheriff’s deputy is in custody for sexual assault after he admitted to exposing himself and inappropriately touching a woman during a 911 call investigation, as well as engaging in sexual-type activity with about six women during traffic stops. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has cleared the way for an Owasso police officer who was fired in 2011 for excessive use-of-force to return to work. A private autopsy on a man who died following a confrontation with police in front of the Moore Warren Theatre found that he died from asphyxia, contradicting findings by the state medical examiner that he died of a heart condition.

The Number of the Day is the number of the Oklahoma children whose parents lacked secure employment in 2012, 30 percent of all kids in the state. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports on how a new approach to teaching history being promoted by Bill Gates is entering hundreds of high schools across the country.

continue reading In The Know: Percentage of Oklahomans without health insurance falls for 3rd year

In The Know: Attorney withdraws lawsuit against oil and gas tax changes

by and | September 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Attorney Jerry Fent asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to dismiss his lawsuit challenging oil and gas production tax changes. Fent said he would have no comment on why he filed for dismissal. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how Fent’s lawsuits could dramatically change tax politics in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog discussed a new report from Governor Fallin’s office that lays out a path forward for criminal justice reform. State Sen. David Holt called for lawmakers to do something to address Oklahoma’s low voter turnout. OK Policy previously made the case for finding alternatives to very low turnout runoff elections.

The Tulsa World looked at what’s behind numbers ranking Oklahoma the third-highest in the nation for the rate of women murdered by men. Leaders of the Family Safety Center wrote a Tulsa World op-ed on what’s needed to stop the cycle of violence in domestic abuse. The arrest of NFL star Adrian Peterson has ignited debate in Oklahoma over when discipline becomes child abuse.

Recently released crime statistics show a large spike in the number of reported rapes in Oklahoma over the last two years. Law enforcement officials attributed the increase to a broadened definition of rape and efforts to reduce the stigma attached to reporting sexual assaults. An Oklahoma Highway Patrolman arrested on allegations of sexually assaulting women while on duty turned his dashboard camera and microphone off six times this year during traffic stops.

The Oklahoma City Council voted unanimously to deregulate fare-setting and require toughened background checks for drivers of both taxis and and new rideshare services Uber and Lyft. They are also considering whether a physical exam should be required before drivers get behind the wheel. The Tulsa school board worked on refining the superintendent’s job description Monday in preparation for opening the position to applicants in early October.

Volunteers working out of Goldsby are helping veterans to navigate the VA health care system. Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences is hoping to recruit more Native American high school and college students into the medicine and science fields. Oklahoma authorities say rainy weather and a cooler summer have been good for wildlife population growth, especially for skunks.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma women killed by men in 2012 whose killer was someone they knew. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains why immigrants aren’t stealing American jobs.

continue reading In The Know: Attorney withdraws lawsuit against oil and gas tax changes

Has Governor Fallin turned a corner on criminal justice reform?

by | September 15th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (1)
House Speaker Steele shakes Gov. Fallin's hand upon signing of HB 3052. Photo by CapitolBeatOK.

House Speaker Steele shakes Gov. Fallin’s hand upon signing of HB 3052. Photo by CapitolBeatOK.

Two years ago, hopes were high that Oklahoma was finally taking a different approach to criminal justice, away from policies that had given us some of the highest levels of incarceration in the world without doing much to reduce crime and recidivism. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, spearheaded by former Speaker of the House Kris Steele, made recommendations to enhance public safety, strengthen post-release supervisions and treatment for addiction and mental health problems, and contain prison costs.

The effort culminated in HB 3052, a bill that left much undone but could have been an important first step towards a smart on crime state. Unfortunately, implementation of those reforms fell apart after Speaker Steele was term-limited out of the Legislature, and Governor Fallin’s office refused to cooperate with the oversight group he had set up.

Without a champion in the Legislature or Governor’s office, hopes have dimmed that we will see meaningful changes to reduce incarceration. However, a recent development may signal that Governor Fallin is becoming more supportive of reform. A new report made at the request of the Governor’s office lays strong recommendations for a path forward on this issue.

continue reading Has Governor Fallin turned a corner on criminal justice reform?

In The Know: State lawmakers to consider execution by gas

by and | September 15th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Oklahoma would become the first state to execute condemned inmates using nitrogen gas under a proposal that will be presented next week to a legislative committee. The Tulsa World reported that room where Oklahoma has conducted executions since 1992 is so dimly lit that executioners are provided a flashlight to see, and if something goes wrong, the executioners stick colored pencils through holes in the drug room wall to communicate with the doctor. Travelers holding an Oklahoma driver’s license may need a second form of identification to board a commercial airliner by 2016, because the state is refusing to comply with an act of Congress to make these licenses more secure.

On the latest OK PolicyCast, we discuss a new event series aimed at growing citizen involvement across Oklahoma. Though the minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour for most Oklahomans, several tribal nations in the state are taking the lead to boost their minimum wage. A national report has given Oklahoma’s nursing homes a failing grade, ranking them third worst in the nation. You can read the full report here. A state constitutional amendment has protected tobacco settlement funds in Oklahoma, while other states signed away the funds to private investors for up front cash.

The president of the Oklahoma NAACP wants the U.S. attorney general to open a hate crimes and civil rights investigation into alleged sexual assaults on black women by an Oklahoma City police officer. Buzzfeed reported on how investigators finally caught the police officer, who is alleged to have targeted women who were unlikely to report the crime. Time Magazine shared an essay by an advocate working for marriage equality for same-sex couples in Oklahoma. New Journal Record columnist Arnold Hamilton wrote that Oklahoma’s Republican leaders need to better crack down on hate speech coming from elected officials in their party.

The parents of a woman killed in 2011 are proposing a new law to protect Oklahoma workers from termination or demotion if they attend court hearings in support of their loved ones. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is giving $3.5 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 16 Oklahoma health centers to expand primary care services. An NSU undergraduate and former foster student is advocating for a new foster recruitment model that ensures kids can stay in the same school. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission held a meeting to discuss how they will implement a new utility tariff for users of rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed what the new small solar and wind energy tariff could mean. 

Representative Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, said Oklahoma does not have enough inspectors to ensure oil and gas wastewater disposal wells are not contaminating drinking water supplies. The Number of the Day is Canadian County’s ranking out of 3,135 U.S. counties in a New York Times analysis of the least and most difficult places to live in the country, the best ranking of any Oklahoma county. In today’s Policy Note, CityLab discusses a new push to improve road safety by turning four lanes into three.

continue reading In The Know: State lawmakers to consider execution by gas

OK PolicyCast: Episode 7

by | September 12th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

radio micIn this week’s OK PolicyCast, we talk about a new event series aimed at growing citizen involvement across Oklahoma. We also discuss controversy over militarized police in Oklahoma, and a private firm that has been training police officers to seize cash from drivers at highway stops, even though they have not been charged with a crime.

We also talk about a push to increase the tipped minimum wage for Oklahoma service workers, a new study on wage theft, and how rising court fees are feeding Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis, as well as what the City of Tulsa is doing to prepare for climate change and attract millenials.

You can download the podcast here or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

by | September 11th, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Chesapeake Energy will face trial in Michigan on charges of felony racketeering and using false pretenses related to its land-leasing practices, a state judge has ruled. State Rep. Steve Vaughn (R-Ponca City) said he was considering new rules governing oil and gas wastewater disposal wells due to concerns about water pollution caused by the wells. A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that a Texas insurance executive promised to pay former Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher’s legal bills in exchange for Fisher’s “non-cooperation” with a state investigation into his business activities. The lawsuit also alleges that the executive spent ten of thousands to support current Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s election bid.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column shared the latest evidence that Obamacare is working to expand health coverage and slow the growth of health care costs. Two Norman high schools ranked in the top 1 percent in a list by Newsweek of the best high schools in America. The Oklahoma School Security Institute and Homeland Security have launched an emergency tip line, hoping it will prevent school shootings before they happen. A Tulsa non-profit is launching an effort to connect foster families with children attending particular Tulsa schools. MSNBC reported on the growing trend of hiking court fees in Oklahoma and other states to make up for state budget cuts, resulting in those who can’t afford to pay being sent to jail. On the OK Policy Blog, Camille Landry shared stories from the numerous Oklahomans struggling with hunger.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke about race and inequality at a University of Tulsa event for students and faculty. Sotomayor also visited Booker T. Washington High School and will talk to law students at Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma Thursday and Friday. Several more religious and social justice groups denounced anti-Muslim comments made by a state legislator, but Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, said he is standing by his statement that people should be wary of those who say they are “Muslim American.” 

The Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce’s OneVoice consortium, which includes about 60 chambers of commerce, local governments and public and private institutions, released its legislative priorities for 2014. Top priorities include preserving and expanding education funding and preserving and expanding Insure Oklahoma to cover the uninsured. You can see the full OneVoice agenda here. Oklahomans concerned about the placement of wind farms and how a new state law on rooftop solar panels will work can attend two meetings Thursday at the Corporation Commission in Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking for the well-being of girls in the state by a Girl Scouts of America report. In today’s Policy Note, CNN reports on how the campaign for paid sick leave for all workers is picking up steam in cities and states throughout the country. Oklahoma is one of a few states that have banned local governments from requiring paid sick leave.

continue reading In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

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