In The Know: Fallin announces deal on criminal justice reform

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

Fallin announces deal on criminal justice reform: Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders have reached an agreement with prosecutors to pass criminal justice reform measures that have been on hold since last year. The bills will be modified from their current versions, however. Fallin said the group had reached a “conceptual” agreement for how the amended bills would look, but final language was not available Monday [NewsOK]. Quick advancement expected on criminal justice bills [Journal Record]. Bill Watch: Will 2018 be the year Oklahoma finally gets serious about criminal justice reform? [OK Policy]

Oklahoma teachers might follow West Virginia in strike, walk outs: Public schools in West Virginia remained closed today for the eighth instructional day and teachers in Oklahoma might be the next to walk out statewide, officials said. Echoing West Virginia teachers grievances for more pay and more staff, Oklahoma teachers and a newly formed group “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time Is Now!” are calling for the state’s 41,000 teachers to walk off the job as soon as April 2, the group’s leader said [Reuters]. Teachers striking back at Oklahoma legislature [KOKH]. Flashback 1990: Oklahoma Teachers, Students Rally For Money At Capitol [News On 6]. 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy]

Tulsa Public Schools board signals support for measured approach to teacher walkout; others pushing ahead with idea of total work stoppage: Tulsa Public Schools leaders signaled their support of a potential teacher walkout for higher pay and more school funding Monday but indicated they hope it doesn’t come to that point. The school district said in a written statement, “We are joining school districts from across the state to work with the leadership of the Oklahoma Education Association to advocate for a proposal to restore funding to education and increase teacher salaries.” [Tulsa World] The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education passed a resolution supporting a teacher walkout [Oklahoma City Free Press].



Fallin inks final 2 pieces of Oklahoma’s 2018 budget plan: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed the final two bills of the 2018 state budget, finishing up a state funding plan that led to two separate special sessions and ultimately reduced spending for all state agencies. Fallin on Monday signed one bill to restore $19.8 million in education funding that was determined to have been supplanted with lottery revenue. Another measure provides $31.7 million this year and $110 million next fiscal year to restore lost federal funding for the state’s two medical schools [AP]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OK Policy].

Behind State’s Rescue of Medical Schools: Higher Payments to Doctors: A dispute between Oklahoma and federal agencies over relatively high payments for hundreds of doctors who treat Medicaid patients is a key reason state taxpayers are on the hook for $140 million in emergency funds for the state’s two medical schools, records obtained by Oklahoma Watch show. The need to prop up the medical schools blew a hole in the state budget for next fiscal year [Oklahoma Watch].

Incumbent Charles McCall faces opposition in House speaker vote Wednesday: The 2018 legislative session is barely a month old, and lawmakers are already about to cast their first ballots for 2019 leadership. House Republicans are scheduled to pick a speaker-designate on Wednesday, with the Senate choosing a president pro tem next. The speaker contest is particularly interesting because ongoing strife over the state’s revenue and budget problems has created a challenge to incumbent Speaker Charles McCall [Tulsa World].

Lucas is right on nixing food box idea: Third District Congressman Frank Lucas reaffirmed last week what many familiar with the federal food assistance programs already know. The Trump administration’s proposal to replace the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, with “food boxes” is ridiculous. Lucas, a former Agriculture Committee chairman and an influential House member on a panel overseeing the nation’s food relief programs, said the idea “doesn’t make sense.” [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Former Tulsa mayor wants gross production tax to fund government, teacher pay raises: Former Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. believes the oil and gas industry should help fund teacher pay raises and the state government. As president of Keener Gas & Oil Company, Bartlett says his family has been in the oil and gas business for more than 100 years. In a video posted to YouTube by the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance, Bartlett encourages lawmakers to equalize the gross production tax so all companies pay the same price [KTUL]. We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities [OK Policy].

Effort forming to oppose SQ 788 on medical marijuana: A coalition of health care professionals, law enforcement groups, faith leaders and others is forming to oppose State Question 788, which would establish one of the nation’s most progressive medical marijuana statutes in Oklahoma. “It was packed,” said lobbyist and political consultant Pat Hall of a preliminary meeting at the Oklahoma State Medical Association [NonDoc]. Read our fact sheet on SQ 788 [OK Policy]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

Oklahoma addictions – OBN numbers tell the story: Top Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics experts gave an overview of the state’s drug problems to a large turnout on Thursday, March 1, during the “Current Oklahoma Drug Threats” public forum at the Coleman Ballroom. Miami Chief of Police Thomas Anderson, and lead Miami Narcotics Investigator Mark Byfield, Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd, and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer McAffrey were all in attendance and acknowledged by Scully for their tireless work and cooperative efforts with the OBN [Miami News Record].

Oklahoma audit finds nearly 7K untested rape kits: Many Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have yet to comply with an executive order compelling them to audit their untested rape kits, 10 months after it was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin. The 144 agencies that haven’t complied missed both an initial December deadline and a February extension set by Fallin, The Oklahoman reported. Fallin signed an executive order in April creating a task force to determine the number of untested sexual assault forensic evidence kits in the state [AP].

Group rallies in Oklahoma City in support of DACA solution: Immigrant youth, allies and supporters held a rally Monday at SkyDance Bridge in Oklahoma City to share stories of Oklahomans who have been affected by Congress’ inaction on a solution for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and immigrant youth [NewsOK].

Initiative overhaul could eliminate citizen-led petitions, critics say: Frustrated citizen advocates and voters have long turned to such measures to shape Oklahoma policy. They’ve used it to stop lawmakers from raising taxes without obtaining a three-fourths support from the Legislature, and, more recently, to force criminal justice reform. Experts say it’s already a difficult benchmark for many initiatives to meet. But now observers say an Oklahoma lawmaker wants to make that right nearly impossible [CNHI].

Oklahoma Commission on School Security to Reformulate: The Oklahoma Commission on School Security, formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, will reformulate after commission members gathered at the Oklahoma City National Memorial to review the commission’s recommendations to enhance security at Oklahoma schools [Bartlesville Radio].

Bill to relocate Talihina Veterans Center passes Oklahoma House: Legislation authorizing the relocation of the Talihina Veterans Center squeezed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday afternoon and headed to the Senate, which passed a similar measure last year. The move was bitterly opposed by Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, in whose district the center is located, but was backed by several veterans in the House who say the aging Talihina center is not viable in the long term [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“From what we’ve heard, this appears to be a proposal that grows the prison population, albeit by a lesser amount than other prosecutor proposals. Until we see specifics, we’ll be encouraging our leaders to keep pushing for the full task force plan that safely prevents prison growth and puts Oklahoma on a more stable path going forward.”

– Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Chairman Kris Steele, reacting to an announcement that Gov. Fallin, legislative leaders, and District Attorneys had agreed upon changes to a package of criminal justice reform bills (Source)

Number of the Day


Increase in opioid overdose deaths in Oklahoma in the 12-month period ending in July 2017 compared to the previous 12 months.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Making SNAP Work Requirements Harsher Will Not Improve Outcomes for Low-Income People: Imposing harsher work rules would do little to move long-term unemployed participants into the workforce, could harm those who are working but need SNAP’s benefits to make ends meet, and would cut off critical food assistance to unemployed people, putting children at greater risk of food insecurity. While the national unemployment rate is low, the labor market continues to feature a large number of jobs that provide low wages, no benefits, unpredictable hours, and high rates of turnover that leave workers with periods of joblessness [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: Fallin announces deal on criminal justice reform

  1. Good on Speaker Steele for not immediately buying anything endorsed by DAs who would see their power, position, and prestige harmed by significant crim just reform which would do more to reduce crime and victimization than the hyper-incarcerative policies they’ve insisted on in the past which have just coincidentally kept DAs the major player in state criminal justice.

    In the meantime, regarding the efforts to head off marijuana reform in OK, maybe the state Chamber of Commerce should be made aware of this story:

    In Colorado, Legal Pot Increases Housing Values

    [DA heads exploding all over the state . . . .]

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