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In The Know: Oklahoma’s child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress

by | November 21st, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma’s child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress: In a mixed report, three out-of-state experts retained to monitor reforms of Oklahoma’s child welfare system found that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has made “substantial and sustained progress” in 27 of 31 performance areas related to the welfare of children in state care. Casting a gloomy shadow over what otherwise might be viewed as a positive report was a finding that the state continued to perform poorly in what most people would consider the most important category of all — protecting the safety of children in state care [NewsOK].

‘We have criminalized being mentally ill’: Capt. Reese Lane saw an opportunity to do some good in the world. The Payne County jail administrator looked at one inmate’s charges recently and determined, “This is a mental health issue. She is not a criminal. She needs help.” The inmate, a 40-year-old mother of five, had been in and out of the Stillwater jail numerous times. In just one week during the summer of 2007, she called the police and fire department 26 times. Lane was familiar with the woman’s mental health and substance abuse history. He went to the Payne County district attorney and asked to drop the woman’s charges. Next, they filed an emergency order to keep the woman in custody for her own safety, rather than for criminal charges [NewsOK].

Violent Incidents Raise Questions About Officer Training for Dealing with Mentally Ill: For the mentally ill and emotionally troubled, encounters with law enforcement officers and incarceration in jails pose a risk of death. A spike in fatalities in Oklahoma jails this year and several confrontations between police and the mentally ill since 2014 have raised questions about whether officers and jailers are sufficiently trained to deal with people with mental health problems. Training data indicates it is a special concern in rural areas [Oklahoma Watch].

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The Weekly Wonk: Our 2015 Poverty Profile, six election takeaways, back on the hook, and more

by | November 20th, 2016 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week, we released our 2015 Poverty Profile, where Policy Analyst Carly Putnam and Policy Director Gene Perry break down Census Bureau poverty data for Oklahoma. Executive Director David Blatt shared six takeaways from last Tuesday’s elections. Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed the Constitutional amendment requiring supermajorities in both Legislative houses to pass revenue-raising measures. 

Outreach and Operations Associate Tyler Parette explained how credit scoring is linked to auto insurance premiums. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis argued that the success of SQ 780, which reformed penalties for some drug and minor property crimes, points Oklahoma to a better response to drug addiction

OK Policy in the News

Oklahoma Watch spoke to Perry about what a Trump presidency could mean for Oklahoma. A Nondoc discussion of the future of education funding quoted an OK Policy blog post. The Tulsa World noted that OK Policy was one of 55 organizations recently honored as inclusive workplaces by Mosaic, the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s diversity business council. 

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The success of SQ 780 points Oklahoma to a better response to drug addiction (Capitol Updates)

by | November 18th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Criminal Justice | Comments (0)

handcuffs and keySteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Of the four state questions that passed last Tuesday, the one that will yield the most direct and positive impact on the lives of real people, including many young people, is State Question 780. SQ 780 changes to misdemeanors the penalties for simple possession of controlled substances and low level property crimes. Most misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail and a fine. All the alternatives such as deferred or suspended sentences, including treatment, restitution and community service, are available with misdemeanor charges.

So many of the challenges we face today have been around for years, and our policymakers in both the executive and legislative branches have just not been able to agree upon and implement solutions. When substance use became popular among many people, we chose to criminalize the behavior as the best way to control it. We’re not the first generation to try prohibition. One problem with prohibition is that it makes the illegal activity extremely profitable as a business for those willing to violate the law. Legislatures, law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and corrections officials deal with the affront by doubling down on penalties all the way up to life in prison.

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In The Know: Election Results Show Women Lost Ground in Serving in Office

by | November 18th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Election Results Show Women Lost Ground in Serving in Office: Women, already underrepresented in the state Legislature, will hold fewer seats in 2017 despite a surge in the number of female candidates. Those results, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s failed bid for the White House, have disheartened many women in Oklahoma. Now, at least in the Legislature, women from both parties intend to form a women’s caucus. When the Legislature reconvenes in 2017, there will be 19 women among the state’s 149 elected representatives — or just under 13 percent. Election results show a net loss of three seats; in 2016, 22 women held seats in the Legislature [Oklahoma Watch]. Here’s where women are winning political office in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

‘Innocent misadventure’: Botched 43-minute Oklahoma execution not cruel and inhumane, appeals court rules: The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma disturbed witnesses and stirred the nation: A convicted murderer, deemed unconscious, began twitching and convulsing on the gurney, only able to raise his head. After 43 minutes of apparent anguish, the man died of a heart attack. Lockett’s bungled execution led Oklahoma to reconsider its lethal-injection protocols, and spurred Lockett’s brother to file suit — alleging torture and human medical experimentation, among other claims. In a decision filed Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld the 2015 decision to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that the lethal-injection process did not qualify as cruel and inhumane [Washington Post].

Oklahoma Board of Corrections to request $1.65 billion: The Oklahoma Board of Corrections has voted to request nearly $1.65 billion for the Department of Corrections next fiscal year — an increase of $1.16 billion over its request for the current year. The department received just less than $485 million for the current year as the Legislature struggled to fill a $1.3 billion budget hole. Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said in a news release Thursday that the “aggressive request” is needed to repair critical problems and invest in the department’s long-term future [Associated Press].

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In Oklahoma, avoiding credit card debt can hike your insurance premiums

by | November 17th, 2016 | Posted in Financial Security | Comments (2)

On October 18 at the Oklahoma Capitol, Stillwater resident Jack Bays spoke to a conference room filled with legislators, lobbyists, and insurance professionals. It was his first time in front of a legislative committee, and quite possibly his first time in the Capitol, but he spoke with confidence as he proudly declared his status as a Vietnam veteran. Mr. Bays told the crowd that he was not a man in a suit, paid to be in the room to push an agenda. He said he was at the podium as a last resort. He described seeing his auto insurance rate increase every year even though his driving record remained clean. For a long time he didn’t know why, until he discovered that insurance companies were hiking his rates due to his credit score — which was low because he had no credit cards and no debt.

At this interim study, the Oklahoma Legislature took the first step in addressing this issue. Legislators heard testimony from Jack Bays as well as experts in the insurance industry and leading advocates for consumer protection. Chuck Bell from Consumers Union highlighted key issues that were uncovered in a recent study performed by Consumer Reports using over 2 billion quotes from 700 companies in all 50 states. This research found that in Oklahoma, good drivers with bad credit were paying up to 30 percent more than bad drivers with good credit.

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In The Know: Teacher pay raise on the minds of new and returning lawmakers

by | November 17th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Teacher pay raise on the minds of new and returning lawmakers: A teacher pay raise was on the minds of many of the new and recently re-elected lawmakers who were sworn into office Wednesday, the 109th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Reif administered the oath of office first in the House Chamber and then in the Senate Chamber as family members and friends looked on. The ceremonies attracted standing room only crowds in both galleries [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma legislators take oath of office: Members of the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives took their oath of office on Wednesday, promising to uphold the Constitution and not take any illegal compensation. Then they spent hours publicly introducing spouses, children, parents and others. Many prefaced their remarks by thanking God for the honor of being allowed to serve in the Legislature [NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin wants to push for more criminal justice reform: Gov. Mary Fallin said she interprets the votes on State Questions 780 and 781 as a mandate to press for further criminal justice reform in the upcoming legislative session. The two state questions reclassified numerous drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and provided for substance abuse and mental health treatment for offenders. Each passed handily on Tuesday [Tulsa World]. Here’s what to expect in the next round of criminal justice reform [OK Policy].

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New factsheet shares the data on what poverty really looks like in Oklahoma

by | November 16th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (2)

poverty-profileYou may not be surprised to learn that, despite some progress in lowering the poverty rate the past three years, more than 600,000 Oklahomans lived in poverty in 2015. But did you know that two in five Oklahomans in poverty had been employed in the past year? Or that nearly two in three Oklahomans in poverty are white? These, and other takeaways, are summarized in our 2015 Poverty Profile, a two-page fact sheet examining the state’s poverty statistics from multiple angles. 

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In The Know: SQ 779 impacted higher education’s historic budget cut

by | November 16th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

SQ 779 impacted higher education’s historic budget: State Question 779 — the failed penny sales tax for education — contributed to the historic cut in state funding higher education suffered this fiscal year, lawmakers said Tuesday. The state appropriation to higher education was cut nearly 16 percent, or $153 million, from the previous year. State Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, said the “disproportionately unfair cut” was the result of two things — the $1.3 billion budget shortfall and the state question to fund education [NewsOK]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 779 here.

State’s October general revenue 10.8 percent below estimate: State general revenue receipts continued their downward spiral in October, missing projections by 10.8 percent and coming in 5.8 percent below the same month a year ago. Receipts to the general revenue fund — the state’s primary operating fund — have been declining unabated for nearly two years. State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said he was slightly encouraged that general revenue for the first four months of the fiscal year is only 1.8 percent below projections, which is within the 5 percent cushion built into state budgets [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma House of Representatives chooses leadership: The Oklahoma House of Representatives has selected its leadership for the 56th Legislature. The house affirmed Tuesday that Rep. Charles McCall was their choice for House Speaker-elect. McCall was elected by the caucus in May as the House Speaker-designate. The caucus also selected Rep. Harold Wright as Speaker Pro Tempore-elect. Rep. David Brumbaugh will serve as Caucus Chairman for a second term. Rep. Elise Hall will serve as Vice Caucus Chairwoman and Rep. Katie Henke will serve as Caucus Secretary [Fox 25].

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In The Know: State lawmaker proposes a $10,000 teacher pay raise

by | November 15th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

State lawmaker proposes a $10,000 teacher pay raise: A state lawmaker says he will introduce a measure next session to provide for a $10,000 teacher pay raise. Voters on Tuesday defeated State Question 779, which would have increased the sales tax by 1 percent to pay for a $5,000 teacher pay raise and fund common education, higher education and CareerTech. State Question 779 was brought to a vote through the ballot initiative process and championed by University of Oklahoma President David Boren [Tulsa World].

OK Group Pressuring Legislature To ‘Pass A Plan’ To Improve Education Funding: Last week, voters turned down a proposed hike in the state sales tax that would have provided for teacher pay raises. Now the campaign again is shifting back to pressuring the state legislature. “Pass a Plan” is the education advocacy group Stand For Children’s new campaign. The public is asked to sign a digital open letter to government leaders demanding they pass a plan to get Oklahoma education funding back on track [NewsOn6].

Tulsa Public Schools report reveals racial, economic disparities in student discipline, attendance: As Tulsa Public Schools leaders work to reduce racial, social and cultural disparities in factors that can determine a student’s success, the district released a snapshot of data last week that Superintendent Deborah Gist said shows “why we feel so urgent about this need.” Click here! “We have very significant discrepancies, and those break across a number of different lines, but it includes differences based on race and other social and cultural factors,” Gist said at the Nov. 7 school board meeting [Tulsa World].

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Six takeaways from Tuesday’s vote

by | November 14th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (2)

I-votedWhile most of the attention in Oklahoma last week focused on the geological earthquake that shook the state and the political earthquake that shook the nation, the state election results got less detailed coverage. Here are a few of our important takeaways from the vote:

Turnout was up

A total of 1,451,056 Oklahomans cast ballots for President, according to data provided by the State Election Board. That’s 132,000 more than the Presidential votes cast in 2012 (1,332,872), a 9.9 percent increase, but almost identical to the numbers in 2008 (1,462,661) and 2004 (1,463,758). Oklahoma saw a big increase in early voting: over 152,000 people took advantage of in-person early voting, compared to a previous high of 114,000 in 2008. The turnout rate of registered voters was 67.3 percent, also up from 2012. We won’t have numbers on the turnout rate for eligible voters — which includes those who are not registered to vote – until the Census Bureau releases data from its voter survey, but it should be up slightly from the 52.4 percent of eligible voters who voted in 2012.

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