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All articles by Ryan Gentzler

In The Know: Supermajority requirement for tax increases could get reconsideration by voters, Oklahoma legislators say

by | December 13th, 2017 | 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.

Tickets for the 2018 State Budget Summit are on sale now! Early bird pricing is available through January 12th. Click here for the full program or, to purchase tickets, click here.

Correction: A headline included in yesterday’s ITK about a data breach at the Department of Human Services mistakenly indicated that the breach occurred at the Department of Health. We regret the error.

Today In The News

Supermajority requirement for tax increases could get reconsideration by voters, Oklahoma legislators say: A legislative supermajority requirement for tax increases is the reason lawmakers must return for a second special session, Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat said Tuesday. Treat, R-Oklahoma City, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, D-Norman, and House Minority Leader Elect Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, spoke at a public affairs forum sponsored by the Oklahoma State Chamber at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City [Tulsa World]. Sen. Treat: ‘State Question 640 is the reason we’re in special session’ [NonDoc]. It’s time to revisit State Question 640 [Rep. Marcus McEntire / OK Policy].

Latest TPS pre-K study finds higher math scores, fewer students held back by seventh grade: Georgetown University’s latest research on Tulsa’s pre-kindergarten program found higher scores on state math tests and a 26 percent reduction in students being held back by seventh grade. In an article released Tuesday in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the researchers offer the first bits of evidence that longer-term effects of the Tulsa pre-K program, while more modest than the significant advantages shown in kindergarten readiness, do not disappear by the time children hit middle school [Tulsa World].

Rape Victims at the Capitol: When pain & politics collide: Rep. Carol Bush trudged through the Capitol on the final day of the Oklahoma legislative session in May, trying to process the last-minute crisis that had threatened to derail one of her bills. “That Friday at 5 o’clock I walked out with 10 of my colleagues,” said Bush, R-Tulsa. “There were no hugs good-bye or ‘have a nice summer.’ It was, ‘Oh My God. I just want to go home. Don’t talk to me. Don’t touch me.’” [The Frontier]

continue reading In The Know: Supermajority requirement for tax increases could get reconsideration by voters, Oklahoma legislators say

In The Know: How rape stays hidden in Oklahoma

by | December 12th, 2017 | 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

Shadow Land: How rape stays hidden in Oklahoma: Linda Terrell was raped 30 years ago and it forever defined her life. You don’t really need to know her name. She could be anyone. Male or Female. A 5-year-old child. A 54-year-old adult. She could live in a three-bedroom brick house or an apartment in Boise City or McAlester. Guymon or Idabel. Tulsa or Oklahoma City. Or in your home. Most sexual assault survivors live in the shadows of justice as Terrell did for nearly 30 years, waiting for her rapist to be caught [The Frontier].

Legislature starts Department of Health investigation: A House of Representatives committee began an investigation Monday, when it hosted two of the state’s top executive officials to testify about financial scandal within the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Several lawmakers and other officials have criticized managers within the department for its crisis, which was discovered on a statewide level less than two months ago and has already triggered hundreds of layoffs [Journal Record].

Nobody wants to go back for a second special session. Here’s why it’s still necessary: In light of the failure of the first special session, few lawmakers are excited about a sequel. So why even bother with a second special session? Why not just wait until February and pick things back up in regular session? There are three main factors that argue for tackling the budget in a second special session [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: How rape stays hidden in Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s urban justice systems are set for big changes. But who will fix rural jails?

by | December 7th, 2017 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (0)

While Oklahoma’s overcrowded prisons get most of the attention, nearly all of the important decisions on a criminal case have been made long before a person enters prison. Local law enforcement is responsible for arresting people who break the law and deciding who goes to jail, who receives a citation, and who gets a warning. Local District Attorneys decide who gets charged and how serious those charges are. Local judges and jail officials decide who gets released and who stays in jail as a person waits for their case to be resolved.

Fortunately in the last few years, stakeholders in both Oklahoma County and Tulsa County have begun large-scale projects to study the challenges facing their justice systems and to propose changes aimed at reducing jail populations and making court processes more efficient. The efforts, largely funded and spearheaded by philanthropists in each city, are broad, ambitious, and likely to have deep and positive impacts on the way justice is done in Oklahoma’s two urban counties.

While these efforts should be celebrated, they also raise important questions. Are the issues with our two urban justice systems, as identified by researchers (detailed below), also present in suburban and rural counties? If so, who will champion local justice reform there? As our urban counties embark on their justice reform efforts, Oklahomans must demand that these issues are also addressed for the majority of citizens who live outside Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. 

continue reading Oklahoma’s urban justice systems are set for big changes. But who will fix rural jails?

In The Know: Oklahoma County DA charges OKC police officer with second-degree murder

by | December 6th, 2017 | 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 County DA charges OKC police officer with second-degree murder: An Oklahoma City police officer was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder, accused of unjustly shooting a suicidal person last month. Keith Patrick Sweeney, 32, is charged in Oklahoma County District Court. District Attorney David Prater filed the charge himself Tuesday morning. Sgt. Sweeney fatally shot Dustin Pigeon, 29, early Nov. 15 after the victim called 911 threatening suicide, police reported [NewsOK]. Building trust with communities can create a safer environment for both law enforcement agencies and citizens [OK Policy].

Oklahoma opponents of federal income tax bills plan state Capitol rally: Some Oklahomans were not happy with the income tax overhaul narrowly approved by the U.S. Senate last Friday night. How many and how angry may be clearer after a 1 p.m. Saturday rally at the state Capitol. Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford were lambasted on Twitter for voting in favor of the GOP-backed bill. Lankford, especially, became the target of stinging and sometimes profane criticism, most of which appeared to come from actual people living in Oklahoma and not bots or professional trolls [Tulsa World]. How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan [OK Policy].

House committee to hold first meeting in Dept. of Health investigation Monday: The House Special Investigation Committee plans to meet Monday to begin discussions on apparent mismanagement at the Oklahoma Department of Health. The committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 11 with the former director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services Preston Doerflinger, acting director of the Department of Health, Denise Northrup, acting director of the OMES, and Chris Benge, chief of staff for Governor Mary Fallin [KOKH].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma County DA charges OKC police officer with second-degree murder

In The Know: Legislature in limbo as Fallin delays calling second special session

by | December 5th, 2017 | 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

Legislature in limbo as Fallin delays calling second special session: Lawmakers and their families are living in a state of limbo as Gov. Mary Fallin continues to delay calling a second special session. Family trips have been postponed or are on the chopping block and outside jobs are stalled as Oklahomans wait on Fallin to announce when she’d like lawmakers to return to the Capitol to hash out a new budget agreement. “Honestly, it’s frustrating,” said state Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon. “It makes it very difficult planning-wise. We’re hopeful that the dates for special session get called with a plan in place this time.” [CNHI] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Q&A: Tax bill impacts on health law coverage and Medicare: The tax overhaul Republicans are pushing toward final votes in Congress could undermine the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance markets and add to the financial squeeze on Medicare over time. Lawmakers will meet this week to resolve differences between the House- and Senate-passed bills in hopes of getting a finished product to President Donald Trump’s desk around Christmas. Also in play are the tax deduction for people with high medical expenses, and a tax credit for drug companies that develop treatments for serious diseases affecting relatively few patients [AP]. How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan [OK Policy].

House Speaker blaming Medicaid provider cuts on Gov. Fallin’s budget veto: An Oklahoma lawmaker is calling out Gov. Mary Fallin, blaming her for recent Medicaid provider cuts. On Friday, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority voted to reduce reimbursement rates for its providers. The board passed a 6% reduction for medical care and 1% for nursing facilities Friday [KFOR].

Inside a judge’s rehab: Unpaid work at a local Coca-Cola plant: Retired Oklahoma Judge Thomas Landrith is hailed as a hero of criminal justice reform. He started the first rural drug court in the nation and has reaped awards for sending defendants to treatment rather than prison. Most judges in the state model their drug courts after his. But Landrith also is involved in a more sinister byproduct of criminal justice reform [Reveal].

Oklahoma City halfway house contract canceled after inmate death: The Oklahoma Department of Correction has ended its contract with the operator of an Oklahoma City halfway house after officials say lax oversight led to an inmate’s death. Department Director Joe Allbaugh said Monday that Catalyst Behavioral Services did not “conduct necessary functions effectively,” including allowing inmates to come and go without accountability. Allbaugh says inmate Justin Sullivan left the facility Nov. 11 and was not noticed missing until after Ardmore police found his and a woman’s burned bodies in a charred vehicle [AP].

Despite Objections, Oklahoma Schools Use ‘Seclusion Rooms’ to Isolate Students: A controversial practice of shutting children alone in small closet-like rooms to control their behavior has led Oklahoma parents to withdraw their children from school, seek police intervention and take legal action. School officials give the rooms benign-sounding names like “blue room,” “cool-down room” or “de-escalation room” and say they’re intended to provide a healthy temporary separation. But many parents and child advocates say the practice is like being locked in a closet, and some liken it to solitary confinement in prison [Oklahoma Watch].

OKC school board votes to keep existing calendar: Oklahoma City Public Schools, at the request of its leader, will reprise a committee to study the district’s calendar in an effort to find a model that maximizes student learning and teacher retention. School board members debated the pros and cons of the continuous calendar — which includes an early August start date and two-week breaks in October and March — before voting 7-1 to keep it for the 2018-19 school year and reinstate the district’s calendar committee in the spring [NewsOK].

Indian education officials meet with school leaders in Oklahoma: Long accused of under serving thousands of Native American students, the federal agency that oversees 183 Indian schools across the country — including five in Oklahoma — is working to establish a new direction. Officials with the Bureau of Indian Education held a town hall Tuesday at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko to present a draft of a new strategic plan, inviting feedback from educators and tribal leaders [NewsOK].

12 States Launch New Legal Challenge To California Egg Law: A dozen states want the U.S. Supreme Court to block a California law requiring any eggs sold there to come from hens that have space to stretch out in their cages. The Missouri attorney general says a lawsuit will be filed Monday alleging California’s law has cost consumers nationwide up to $350 million annually because of higher egg prices since it took effect in 2015. The lawsuit claims California’s requirements violate the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and are pre-empted by federal law [AP].

Quote of the Day

“We send them into school, and we trust these other adults have been trained to deal with these problems … and they do these outrageous things and we don’t know.”

– Jennifer Ashford, a mother who in 2010 sued the Edmond Public Schools district over their practice of shutting students alone in small closet-like rooms to control their behavior (Source)

Number of the Day

45%

Percentage of school-age children in the Idabel Public Schools district living in poverty, the highest percentage of all districts in Oklahoma.

Source: OK Policy analysis of U.S. Census data

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Bronx Charity Founder Wants to Pay Bail for Poor Defendants Nationwide: In the last 10 years, a small charity called the Bronx Freedom Fund has donated bail money to thousands of poor New Yorkers charged with crimes, freeing them from jail and helping them avoid the dispiriting delays of backlogged local courts as they wait to go on trial. Now, after a decade in operation, the founder of the Freedom Fund is set to announce a new and unprecedented effort: the nation’s first fund designed to post bail for more than 150,000 indigent defendants being jailed across the country [New York Times].

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In The Know: Oklahoma again No. 1 in the nation for funding cuts to common education

by | November 30th, 2017 | 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 again No. 1 in the nation for funding cuts to common education: Oklahoma’s state funding cuts to common education once again lead the nation, as has been the case for the good part of the past decade. The state leads in inflation-adjusted cuts to state common education funding per student since 2008 for the fourth straight year, according to a comparison from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities works at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income individuals and families [Tulsa World]. Read the full report [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

James Lankford is on board with the Republican tax cut bill despite debt concerns: U.S. Sen. James Lankford said Wednesday he will support a Republican tax cut plan despite prior misgivings about its effect on the national debt. Lankford’s office said he was persuaded to back the bill after receiving assurances that a backstop provision will be put in place to lessen or prevent increases to the debt [NewsOK]. How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan [OK Policy].

Oklahoma health insurance sign-ups increase, but why? Oklahomans are signing up for health insurance through the exchange faster than they did last year, though it remains to be seen if more people are seeking coverage overall. As of Nov. 25, Oklahomans had signed up for 43,253 plans through the exchange, according to a weekly enrollment snapshot from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Last year, Oklahoma recorded 31,803 plans selected by the Nov. 26, 2016, enrollment snapshot [NewsOK].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma again No. 1 in the nation for funding cuts to common education

In The Know: Lawmakers debate future of 25-year-old tax law

by | November 28th, 2017 | 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

Lawmakers debate future of 25-year-old tax law: As lawmakers continue to struggle to find enough consensus to raise new revenue, a growing number of legislators say it might be time to ask voters to consider overhauling a law passed a quarter century ago. State Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, is among the lawmakers who believes it’s time for Oklahomans to consider modernizing the 25-year-old law requiring the approval of three-quarters of lawmakers to raise new taxes. The measure also prohibits lawmakers from raising taxes in the final week of session [CNHI]. It’s time to revisit State Question 640 [Rep. Marcus McEntire / OK Policy]. What supporters of SQ 640 didn’t foresee [OK Policy].

The Red-State Revolt Spreads to Oklahoma: Republicans have a vise grip on power in Oklahoma, and they are in no imminent danger of losing it. In a state that gave 65 percent of its vote to Donald Trump a year ago, the GOP controls pretty much everything: the governorship and every statewide office, both U.S. Senate seats, all five House seats. The state legislature is almost laughably one-sided; Republicans have super-majorities of more than 70 percent of the seats in each chamber. But in the last four months, voters have repudiated those Republicans running in Oklahoma at the polls [The Atlantic].

Governor’s orders fail to sway far-right legislators: When Gov. Mary Fallin announced a few executive orders that would enact some conservative financial policies, she said her intent was in part to bring some of the right-most lawmakers into the fold during her push for more revenue. However, some of the faction’s most vocal members said they still oppose tax hikes, and some called the orders insulting. When Fallin held a press conference to discuss the executive orders, she said that several people argued during the special legislative session that the state needed to look into promoting efficiency and cost-saving measures before raising taxes [Journal Record]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: Lawmakers debate future of 25-year-old tax law

New report examines reforms to rebuild trust between law enforcement and communities in Oklahoma

by | November 27th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (0)

Today, OK Policy released a report, “Strategies for Building Trust Between Law Enforcement and Communities in Oklahoma,” that details the challenges facing Oklahoma law enforcement and proposes a menu of reforms that have shown promise in addressing those challenges in jurisdictions across the country. By reforming policies regarding use-of-force and the treatment of race in policing, improving and broadening training procedures, and striving to hire officers that reflect the diversity of our communities, agencies can help to build trust with the communities they serve. Doing so improves the safety of officers and the public alike.

Tension between law enforcement and communities of color is not new or specific to our state, but statistics suggest that the problem could be more severe here compared to many other places. Much of the mistrust stems from a sense among minority groups of feeling unfairly targeted by the justice system as a whole, and police are the front line of that system. Oklahoma has one of the highest overall incarceration rates in the country, and the highest incarceration rate of black men in the country. Although protests over police-involved shootings have not erupted in Oklahoma at the same scale as in other parts of the country, we have much work to do to improve relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

continue reading New report examines reforms to rebuild trust between law enforcement and communities in Oklahoma

In The Know: DHS announces they will not have to cut programs for seniors and those with disabilities

by | November 22nd, 2017 | 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

DHS announces they will not have to cut programs for seniors and those with disabilities: The Department of Human Services says they will not have to cut programs next month after funding was approved for the agency. DHS had previously stated they would begin eliminating service programs for seniors and people with disabilities beginning Dec. 1 if they did not receive more funding. Lawmakers sent a budget package last week to Governor Mary Fallin, who vetoed a large portion but kept in take funding for several agencies. DHS Director Ed Lake says the agency will receive $26.9 million in short-term funding from the bill [Fox 25].

Fallin’s three executive orders seek efficiency in #oklaed, higher ed, ‘swag’: Gov. Mary Fallin issued three executive orders this afternoon aimed at promoting the efficient use of state funds and said she will provide a date next week for a second special session. The executive orders (embedded below) follow Fallin’s veto of a majority of HB 1019 on Friday night, hours after the House and Senate had each adjourned sine die. The bill was the Legislature’s revised general appropriations bill, and the portions she left in place provided funding for the beleaguered health care agencies that had been the focus of the year’s first special session [NonDoc].

Fallin’s exec orders could woo revenue stragglers: Gov. Mary Fallin signed executive orders Tuesday that could force consolidation of some K-12 public school and university administrations. She also signed an order that limits agencies from spending a total of $10 million per year on promotional items that aren’t part of their core missions. Her cost-cutting move, just days after vetoing most of the Legislature’s special session budget bill, could end up swaying some of the more conservative lawmakers who opposed raising revenue [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Another Budget Special Session Is Ahead

by | November 21st, 2017 | 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

Another Budget Special Session Is Ahead: Gov. Mary Fallin will ask the Oklahoma Legislature to return to the state Capitol for a special session to address the state’s ongoing budget shortfalls that have jeopardized funding for state services. Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt said Monday the governor is working to pin down potential dates and define the parameters of her special session call that will determine what kind of bills lawmakers can consider. The Republican governor caught legislative leaders from her own party off guard last week when she vetoed a bill that would have closed a $215 million hole in the budget through a combination of cuts to agency budgets and raids on state savings accounts [AP]. The vetoed budget was a squandered opportunity of massive proportions [OK Policy]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session, including an update after Gov. Fallin’s veto [OK Policy].

Fallin’s bold move to force a better state budget needs public help: Just when it looked like Oklahoma was doomed to more legislative negligence at the behest of big oil companies, Gov. Mary Fallin asserted her authority and insisted that things must change. On Friday, Fallin vetoed most of an unacceptable state budget, which lawmakers had thrown at her as they fled the state Capitol, falsely declaring their work done. It was a bold move, and the right one [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Thanksgiving and Gov. Fallin’s courage [Ted Streuli / Journal Record].

More fights expected during second special session: The Oklahoma Legislature will convene for a second special legislative session this year, and if Friday was any indication, the Senate will be a force to be reckoned with. The Senate was broken into two factions during its vote on the budget deal Friday: a group that wanted to kill the bill and keep trying for a better package, and a group that said the bill was terrible but had to pass. Friday’s debate highlighted an already visible divide between the two chambers. About 8 p.m. that night, hours after the Senate lamented, then passed House Bill 1019 by a vote of 29-14, Gov. Mary Fallin announced she had line-item vetoed almost all of it [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: Another Budget Special Session Is Ahead

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