In The Know: Pardon and Parole Board grants swift parole under new law; Agency reforms signed, board members up in air; Transparency requirements for virtual charters advance

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.

New from OK Policy

Prosperity Policy: Let’s not save ourselves into the poorhouse: Oklahomans look to our state government to fund critical investments in schools, roads, public safety, and safety net supports that contribute to our shared prosperity. Yet for nearly a decade, budget shortfalls and revenue failures forced repeated cuts to critical services that caused grave harm to our families, businesses, and communities. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

In The News

Pardon and Parole Board grants swift parole under new law: With a mandate to help reduce the state prison population, the reconfigured Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday swiftly granted parole to dozens of prison inmates. The five-member board, three of whom were recently appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, unanimously paroled all but a handful of 73 nonviolent offenders listed on the state’s new administrative parole docket. [NewsOK] “What administrative parole is designed to do is to take the process and make it more efficient,” explained Damion Shade, the criminal justice policy analyst for OK Policy. [FOX25]

Agency reforms signed, board members up in air: With a few strokes of his pen, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed bills today reforming the oversight of five key state agencies. Stitt will now be able to hire and fire the directors of those agencies, and his signatures also functionally terminated the service of 40 Oklahomans previously appointed to those agencies’ boards and commissions. [NonDoc] “We are transforming the state government for the people of Oklahoma,” House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said at a signing ceremony at the Capitol. [NewsOK]

New transparency reporting requirements for virtual charter schools advance to state Senate: One of the few surviving measures aimed at adding new restrictions on virtual charter schools sailed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday morning. House Bill 1395 by Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, received bipartisan support in a 95-0 vote. HB 1395 now moves to the Senate for consideration. [Tulsa World]

Senate passes bill to lift tax credit cap for private, public school programs: The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would increase the cap for tax credits for those who donate to public and private schools. Senate Bill 407, by Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, passed by a vote of 27-20 following lengthy debate over funding for public schools versus private schools. The measure would expand the annual cap to $20 million from $5 million on tax credits available through the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Scholarship Fund. [Tulsa World] We found that increasing the scholarship tax credit hurts public schools and benefits affluent Oklahomans.

Legislation would reduce burden of occupational licensing: Bills making progress at the Oklahoma Legislature reflect work of a new state commission formed to, among other goals, make it easier and less expensive for people to get licenses to earn livings in certain occupations. [Journal Record 🔒] Limiting restrictions on occupational licenses for those with prior felony offenses is one of our 2019 policy priorities.

‘Local option’ Medicaid expansion OK’d by Oklahoma House of Representatives: “Local option” Medicaid expansion would be possible under legislation passed by the state House of Representatives on Wednesday. House Bill 1750, by Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, has cruised along with little notice and attracted only three opposing votes on Wednesday, but that may change as its provisions become more widely known. [Tulsa World

House approves bill to give former teachers a bonus to head back to Oklahoma classrooms: A bill that gives former teachers an incentive to head back to the classroom has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Bill 2645 allows public school districts to offer a one-time incentive bonus payment to certified teachers who return to the profession within the school district. [KFOR] Oklahoma school district helping emergency-certified teachers prepare for requirement exams. [KFOR]

Legislation to regulate step therapy unanimously passes House: A bill that seeks to limit the insurance practice known as step therapy passed off the House floor with a vote of 94 to 0. A companion bill, Senate Bill 509 authored by state Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, passed the Senate with a vote of 43-0. [Journal Record 🔒]

House approves measure to protect mineral rights owners from governmental takings, sends to Senate: Oklahoma’s House of Representatives sent along a proposed law to the Senate this week that could allow mineral rights owners to sue municipalities or other jurisdictions enacting permitting requirements for oil and gas operations when those prevent them from developing their assets. [NewsOK]

Bill would authorize, require Oklahoma election board to periodically check voters’ U.S. citizenship status: In what Rep. Sean Roberts described as an attempt to restore faith in the electoral process, the Republican lawmaker from Hominy has proposed a bill that would authorize and require the state to periodically check the citizenship status of all registered voters in Oklahoma. [The Frontier]

Bill provides tax break for Oklahoma foster parents: Senate Bill 893 will give foster parents a tax break of $5,000 if they worked with a child-placing agency and cared for a child at least 6 months. DHS’ goal is to recruit more than 900 new approved foster homes, but a problem they run into is finding homes for teenagers, large sibling groups, and children with health or special needs. [KJRH]

Proposed Oklahoma law could mandate children in the back seat to wear seat belt: Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that doesn’t mandate kids be buckled up while in the back seat. But a proposed law being considered by the legislature right now could change that. [News9]

Freshman lawmaker advances port-backed bills: Two bills intended to address infrastructure and maintenance needs along the inland navigation system passed Tuesday with unanimous support in the House of Representatives. [The Ada News]

With lawsuit pending, Stitt nominee for Veterans Secretary withdraws nomination: The head of an international consulting firm that is being sued by more than a dozen veterans has withdrawn his nomination from Gov. Kevin Stitt to be Oklahoma’s next secretary of veterans affairs and the military. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma Corporation Commission backs electric cooperative in dispute over a large power agreement: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Tuesday short-circuited ONEOK’s hopes to have Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. supply power to a pump station near Binger on a pipeline it is building. [NewsOK 🔒] Todd Hiett has been picked to be the new chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. [OK Energy Today]

As pay raise proposal dies, outgoing councilman says he is charting a new course: Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid plans a move to outsider populism after eight largely frustrating years trying to effect change from the inside. At his next-to-last regular meeting Tuesday, Shadid proposed three amendments to the city’s charter — essentially its constitution — including one to triple salaries for the mayor and council members. [NewsOK]

Sales tax collections decline for the first time in nearly two years: Oklahoma City sales tax revenue declined 2 percent this month, an abrupt reversal after nearly two years of growth in a primary indicator of local economic activity. The decline after 22 consecutive months of growth was a surprise to city budget officials, who were expecting moderate growth. [NewsOK]

Member of Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus criticizes selection of Eric Stevenson to Board of Regents: A member of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus criticized Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s recent selection of Eric Stevenson to the OU Board of Regents. [OU Daily]

Tulsa City Council approves public hearings on Tulsa Equality Indicators: After months of discussion, city councilors voted Wednesday evening to proceed with public hearings on Tulsa’s Equality Indicators, a report measuring racial disparities in the city. Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper has pushed for hearings focused on racial disparities in arrests and police use of force the report identifies. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Sheriff to report on jail mental health pods: Almost two years ago, Tulsa County launched a special program with hospital level treatment for inmates with severe mental illness. How’s it going? Sheriff Vic Regalado says so far, so good….but there is still a way to go to reach the goal of fewer mentally ill behind bars. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Opioid manufacturers turn to state’s top court in effort to delay trial: Complaining that they are at risk of “trial by ambush,” a group of 13 opioid manufacturers filed documents with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday seeking to delay the May 28 start date for their Cleveland County District Court trial. [NewsOK 🔒]

Quote of the Day

“They’re back in their communities and many have skill set that could get them good jobs, (so) this would just give them more of a chance. Those who can get good jobs and housing have much less of a chance of going back to prison.”

– Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-OKC), on her bill (HB 2134) to reduce barriers to occupational licenses for people with prior criminal convictions [Source: Journal Record]

Number of the Day

825,583

Number of participants in Oklahoma’s SNAP (food stamps) program in FY 2018

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

To fund mental health care, states and cities raise taxes: Loopholes in the ACA and other federal laws allowed some plans to limit or exclude mental and behavioral health coverage. Oversight and enforcement of the mandates have been inconsistent. And, of course, millions of Americans remain without health coverage. So some state and local governments have begun taking matters into their own hands, enacting tax increases to fund mental health services. [Governing]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. Born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, she immigrated to Oklahoma with her family at a young age and obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University as a Clara Luper Scholar. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked as an Inbound and Digital Marketing Specialist for an OKC based firm. She is an alumnus of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a Board Member for Dream Action Oklahoma, a community organization dedicated to advocating and empowering immigrant youth in the state.

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