Skip to Content

All articles by Ryan Gentzler

Accepting our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate means believing that Oklahomans are the worst people

by | June 19th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (1)

We knew the day would come when Oklahoma surpassed Louisiana as the highest-incarcerating state in the highest-incarcerating country in the world. After Louisiana’s legislature passed a sweeping criminal justice reform package in 2017, Oklahoma Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said that he “expect[s] Oklahoma’s incarceration rate to eventually be the country’s highest.”

As it turns out, Oklahoma has had the highest incarceration rate in the world since the end of 2016; we just didn’t know it because federal statistics are released on a year-long lag. This bitter milestone should be an occasion to reflect on what this says about our state and our current justice reform debates. We must begin to ask opponents of reform why Oklahoma deserves to maintain the highest incarceration rate in the world, and what that says about their view of our fellow citizens.

continue reading Accepting our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate means believing that Oklahomans are the worst people

On immigration rhetoric, consider the facts

by | June 13th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Immigration | Comments (1)

Undocumented Oklahomans are woven into the fabric of our communities in countless ways. Many have lived here for decades as they raise U.S.-born children, and they often work difficult, labor-intensive jobs that few legal residents will take. As the race to replace Governor Fallin heats up, it’s disappointing – if unsurprising – that dubious claims about the effects of undocumented immigration have appeared in candidates’ platforms. 

While the value of undocumented immigrants to our state can’t be measured merely by their economic costs and benefits, it’s important to set the record straight: by any fair estimate, undocumented Oklahomans contribute a great deal to our economy and state tax base, and they would contribute even more if granted legal status. Voters should recognize that Oklahoma is much better off when our communities unite to reject appeals that minimize the contributions of our neighbors.

continue reading On immigration rhetoric, consider the facts

Investments in justice reform are a good start, but savings are a long ways away

by | May 24th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (4)

Criminal justice reform advocates should be encouraged – though not overjoyed – at the progress made on justice reform in Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session. Even in their amended forms, new laws that open up our broken parole process, reduce sentences for many nonviolent crimes, and recalibrate our supervision practices will significantly slow growth in our prison population.

At her press conference to sign those measures, Gov. Fallin also announced that the FY 2019 budget includes funding critical to making justice reform work, including an additional $11 million to the Department of Corrections, $5 million to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and $1.1 million for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, among several other appropriations.

continue reading Investments in justice reform are a good start, but savings are a long ways away

In The Know: Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants

by | May 9th, 2018 | 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

Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants: Nancy Novosad has spent the last 27 years surrounded by students in Yukon classrooms, but she’s not a teacher. She alternates between helping the teacher and helping the students. Novosad wipes noses, applies bandages, plans arts and crafts activities, opens milk cartons, leads story time, and packs and unpacks backpacks. She also passes out papers, explains assignments, takes students to the restroom and reinforces lessons taught by Elizabeth Wilson, a pre-K teacher at Ranchwood Elementary School [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma State Department of Health pursues ‘reset’ after financial scandal: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is pursuing a “relationship reset” with other state agencies as it moves forward from a financial mismanagement scandal, according to its interim leader. Interim commissioner Tom Bates told the Board of Health at its Tuesday morning meeting that department leadership was reconsidering how it works with other agencies, including the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) [NewsOK].

New Medicaid work requirement bill criticized as “cruel”: Opponents of a bill implementing work requirements for Medicaid claim the measure will do more harm than good. House Bill 2932, authored by Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa and Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin on Monday. The measure aligns Medicaid work and job training requirements with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which involves working, participation in a work program or a combination of both 20 hours a week [KFOR].

continue reading In The Know: Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants

In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs work requirement bill for some Medicaid recipients

by | May 8th, 2018 | 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

Gov. Fallin signs work requirement bill for some Medicaid recipients: Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Monday controversial legislation that could lead to work or training requirements for some Medicaid recipients. House Bill 2932, by Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, instructs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority — administrator of the state’s Medicaid program — to seek a federal waiver allowing the same requirements for food stamp eligibility to be applied to Medicaid recipients [Tulsa World]. Most Medicaid-eligible adults who can work already do, and ​most of the rest have barriers to employment ​that ​a work requirement won’t fix [OK Policy].

Oklahoma legislators reject ethical rules restricting when they can become lobbyists: Oklahoma legislators have declared that what they do once they leave state service is none of a watchdog agency’s business. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission in February voted unanimously to bar legislators and other elected state officials from becoming lobbyists during their first two years out of office [NewsOK].

It shouldn’t be this hard to get something done to fund basic services: For the first time in 28 years legislators were able to pass a tax increase. It has taken that long to overcome the 75 percent threshold of SQ 640 that was the backlash from the ruinous economic downturn in the 1980s. But think for a minute about what it took to get that done. It should not take the threat of thirty to forty thousand teachers leaving their classrooms and literally occupying the Capitol for weeks to get something done. Now, the backlash, led by Tom Coburn, has already begun [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs work requirement bill for some Medicaid recipients

In The Know: Group Seeks to Overturn Oklahoma Tax Hikes for Teacher Raise

by | May 2nd, 2018 | 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

Group Seeks to Overturn Oklahoma Tax Hikes for Teacher Raise: An anti-tax group filed paperwork on Tuesday seeking a public vote on whether to overturn a package of tax increases approved by the Legislature this year to pay for teacher pay raises and fund public schools. The group Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, which includes former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, now has until July 18 to gather about 41,000 signatures needed to place the question on the ballot. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith of Tulsa, who co-founded the group with GOP political consultant Brooke McGowan, said the Legislature should have looked for waste and fraud within state government instead of seeking more money from taxpayers [AP]. Revenues bill is a good start and lawmakers can do more [OK Policy].

Chairman of Oklahoma Ethics Commission accuses legislators of retaliation: The chairman of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission is accusing legislators of retaliating against the watchdog agency by illegally cutting its budget. “I am appalled,” the chairman, John C. Hawkins, wrote in an email sent Sunday to state senators and House members. “The retaliation on a state agency by cutting their budget for doing their job is unconscionable.” The Ethics Commission may sue [NewsOK].

Oklahoma House passes stipend for pensioners, turns down cost of living adjustment: Most pensioners in the state’s retirement systems would get a one-time stipend of at least $350 under a measure sent to Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Bill 1340, by Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond, authorizes stipends of, in most cases, 2 percent but with an absolute minimum of $350 except for volunteer firefighters, who would get $100 [Tulsa World].

continue reading In The Know: Group Seeks to Overturn Oklahoma Tax Hikes for Teacher Raise

In The Know: Governor signs budget bill

by | May 1st, 2018 | 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

Governor signs budget bill: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a $7.6 billion spending bill, signalling to lawmakers they can adjourn session nearly a month before it’s scheduled to end. Legislative leaders have said that once work on the budget was done, they could send lawmakers home for the rest of the year. The legislative session is annually scheduled to run between February and the end of May [NewsOK].

New budget marks a return of line-item appropriations: When Republicans took full control of the legislature, both House and Senate, they began a process of dismantling the use of line items in state appropriations measures. The policy took full root in 2010 when Republican governor Mary Fallin was elected. The new legislative majority felt it was not their place to dictate to the executive department, particularity through line-item budgeting, how to spend the appropriated dollars. They also accused Democrats of using line items to promote favored programs over others. In sum the mantra was to give the executive agencies flexibility in the use of funds in the name of efficiency [OK Policy].

SB 888 to end wind tax credit refundability stalls: With lawmakers intending to adjourn the 2018 regular session Friday, the Oklahoma Senate attempted to send SB 888 to Gov. Mary Fallin today, but a vote on the adoption of House amendments failed to receive a majority of those voting. The controversial bill would have terminated the refundability of wind energy tax credits — meaning refunds given beyond the elimination of tax liability — beginning Jan. 1, 2019 [NonDoc].

continue reading In The Know: Governor signs budget bill

Juvenile life sentence bill would be a return to outdated thinking

by | May 1st, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (5)

Oklahoma’s parole system has been broken for years. In most states, parole is the most common form of release from prison; it allows a person to serve a portion of their sentence under community supervision to provide accountability while they readjust to society. But despite now having the highest incarceration rate in the country, at 990 inmates per 100,000 residents, we have among the lowest rates of people being supervised on parole. There were 6,218 people in prison for nonviolent offenses sitting in Oklahoma prisons who had passed their first parole date at the end of 2017.

Members of Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board are currently required to have experience in the criminal justice field, which has limited the board to mostly judges and law enforcement officers, who tend to have punitive attitudes. To begin to address this, SB 1221 was introduced to require that all Board members receive training on best practices for reforming criminal behavior and that two members have experience in mental health services, substance abuse services, or social work. 

After quietly passing the Senate, however, SB 1221 was amended on the House floor to include a process to allow juvenile offenders as young as 13 years old to be sentenced to life without parole. The thinking behind the amended SB 1221 is severely misguided, moving against a strong national current that has seen many states ban life without parole for juveniles.

continue reading Juvenile life sentence bill would be a return to outdated thinking

In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers OK criminal justice reform bills

by | April 25th, 2018 | 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

Oklahoma lawmakers OK criminal justice reform bills: Oklahoma lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to several bills that could alleviate the state’s burgeoning prison population, but the effects might not happen as soon as some advocates hope. The measures are part of a package deal negotiated by Capitol leaders including Gov. Mary Fallin and prosecutors, who have exerted political pressure on the criminal justice reform process [NewsOK]. Passing revised justice reform measures is necessary but not nearly enough [OK Policy].

State budget clears first hurdle: The state budget for fiscal 2019 passed its first hurdle with little trouble on Tuesday afternoon, weeks ahead of schedule. The Senate’s side of the Joint Committee on Budget and Appropriations considered the bill first. Senate Bill 1600 would appropriate about $7.6 billion for state agencies and for the first time in several years, no agencies face cuts. Instead, several would see increases in an attempt to compensate for past reductions [Journal Record].

Employees Hope Lawmakers Continue To Increase Funding For State Agencies: The teacher walkout may be over, but the fight for better funding has just begun for many state employees. Department of Human Services employees said they are optimistic about the future and hope the walkout continues to open doors for state employees. Becky Laipple has been working for DHS almost a decade [News 9].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers OK criminal justice reform bills

In The Know: Oklahoma FY 2019 budget bill revealed, praised, critiqued

by | April 24th, 2018 | 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 FY 2019 budget bill revealed, praised, critiqued: The Oklahoma Legislature is expected to hear its FY 2019 budget bill in joint appropriations committees Tuesday, putting the body on track to pass next year’s state budget roughly four weeks ahead of deadline. SB 1600 (embedded below) was released early Monday evening, hours after images of a working budget document had begun circulating the Capitol. “For the FY 19 appropriations for the agencies, there will be no cuts in this budget,” House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) said [NonDoc].

Wind Taxes Poised to Come Before Oklahoma Legislature: While how they’ll do it is still up in the air, Oklahoma lawmakers will take up bills affecting the wind industry before the session is over. Negotiations continue on a possible gross production tax on wind energy. The stalemate is between House Democrats, who want assurances that will be the last tax change for the industry, and Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat, who does not want that put into law [Public Radio Tulsa].

Group trying for 7-percent tax on oil, gas abandons state question: Restore Oklahoma Now, the group that planned to put a gross production tax increase on the statewide ballot in November, has ended its campaign. Instead, the group’s leaders said they will focus on other legislative campaigns and fighting against another campaign to veto the tax increase that lawmakers adopted in March [NewsOK].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma FY 2019 budget bill revealed, praised, critiqued

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 29