In The Know: A path to fewer cancer deaths; justice reforms left on the table; the trap of fees, fines…

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

Expanding health coverage could mean fewer cancer deaths in Oklahoma: Cancer has touched almost every family in the United States — nearly one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Despite the many advances in cancer treatment, Oklahoma is falling behind. While the national cancer death rate has steadily decreased, Oklahoma has one of the highest rates in the country, and it has been increasing over the past 10 years. [OK Policy]

How we measure poverty matters — and a proposed change would make it worse: The Trump Administration has recently proposed a plan to adjust the way we measure poverty, but these changes would not make the measure more accurate. Instead, this change would make the poverty measure less accurate and result in hundreds of thousands of Americans losing access to the safety net programs that help them weather hard times and move out of poverty. [OK Policy]

Today is the LAST DAY to apply for the Summer Policy Institute: The Institute is open to any undergraduate or graduate student at an Oklahoma college or university, or graduate from an Oklahoma high school, who has completed a minimum of 24 hours of college credit or has graduated in December 2018 or later. The deadline to apply is today, Friday, May 31st at midnight. Click here to learn more and apply today.

In The News

Legislators leave criminal justice reform bills on the table as prison population grows: Multiple polls show the majority of Oklahoma voters support criminal justice reforms. Survey data commissioned by Oklahoma Public Radio stations for the Oklahoma Engaged Project also suggest a majority of voters believe the state’s sentencing laws need to be reworked. Oklahoma is now the number one incarcerator in the country, but only one bill targeting prison population control reached the governor’s desk this session. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Stitt signs 514 bills, vetoes 16 in first session: Gov. Kevin Stitt has cleared his desk of legislation sent to him by state lawmakers. Stitt on Wednesday finished acting on the remaining bills lawmakers advanced before the Legislature adjourned last week. In his first legislative session, Stitt received 535 bills and acted on all but two of the measures. Of the two bills that became law without Stitt’s action, one would have appropriated $2 million to the Indigent Defense System but was contingent upon passage of a bail reform bill that failed in the final days of the legislative session. In effect, no money will be appropriated. [The Oklahoman]

State, J&J argue over whether company tried to influence or educate Oklahoma doctors: Attorney Brad Beckworth quizzed Johnson & Johnson corporate representative Kimberly Deem-Eshleman repeatedly about internal J&J documents that outlined sales strategies, feedback from drug experts, and the company’s code of business conduct. [Norman Transcript] A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary received a stern warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 for using promotional materials that contained “false or misleading claims” about the effectiveness and abuse potential of its Duragesic opioid patch. [The Oklahoman]

Johnson & Johnson stands trial for the opioid crisis: “Oversupply and people will die.” That evocative line was at the heart of the opening argument laid out in a courtroom in Oklahoma on May 28th. Mike Hunter, the state’s attorney-general, accused Johnson & Johnson (j&j), a pharmaceutical giant, of misleading doctors and patients about the dangers of opioids, prescription medicines used to treat severe pain. [The Economist]

Audio: Opioid trial begins, 2019 legislative session ends & Governor signs bills: This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU’s Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about the opioid trial starting in Norman which has grabbed national and international attention and state lawmakers end the 2019 legislative session a week earlier than required by the Constitution. [KOSU]

Point of View: Oklahoma should address the trap of fees, fines: Courts cannot incarcerate people based solely on inability to pay court-imposed fines. The U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma Constitution prohibit jailing a person without first determining whether their failure to pay is willful. Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 8 requires that judges address people’s inability to pay when they assess and enforce court-imposed fines. Unfortunately, many Oklahoma courts incarcerate people without ever inquiring about their ability to pay. [Tianna Mays and Phylicia H. Hill / The Oklahoman] Our report from 2017 details how excessive fees have locked Oklahomans into the criminal justice system without boosting state revenue.

Tulsa World editorial: The Legislature says it’s OK to post a picture of your ballot on Facebook … not that the legal ban was stopping anyone from doing just that: One day before legislators adjourned for the year, they passed House Bill 1259, allowing Oklahoma voters to take voting booth selfies of their marked election ballots. All those Facebook pics people were posting to show they did their part to support a favorite candidate or issue were, technically, illegal in Oklahoma. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Troubled charter school’s board to meet Friday: A special board meeting to address the future of Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy amid findings of “gross neglect and noncompliance” has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, The Oklahoman has learned. The meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, was canceled, said Sherry Kishore, the school’s interim superintendent. [The Oklahoman]

‘Heading in the right direction’: Oklahoma has challenges in mental health; experts weigh in at forum: The state of mental health in Oklahoma was the subject of the Tulsa World’s latest Let’s Talk community forum on Thursday. The event, held in the University of Tulsa Student Union’s Great Hall, featured a panel of experts and special guests discussing topics related to the mental health outlook in Oklahoma, including progress, reform, funding and current trends. [Tulsa World]

3 additional measles cases confirmed in Oklahoma: Three additional cases of measles have been confirmed in Okmulgee County, according to the state Health Department. All three cases are in people who had close contact with the first case, which was announced May 15. The four cases are the only reports of measles in Oklahoma in 2019. [Tulsa World]

Public officials prepare flood survivors for recovery; survivors confront officials about water release: Residents confronted and inquired of government officials about the area flooding disaster at a meeting where officials were preparing survivors for the recovery ahead. [Tulsa World] When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed local officials gathered in the Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday morning that it would begin reducing the flow of water into the Arkansas River from Keystone Dam, the room filled with applause. It didn’t last long. [Tulsa World] Individuals, business owners and local governments affected by flooding and other severe weather in the state will have to wait a while longer before learning whether the federal government will provide financial assistance. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Race Massacre: 1921 Tulsa newspapers fueled racism, and one story is cited for sparking Greenwood’s burning: There are many lessons from Tulsa’s 1921 race massacre. One of them, often overlooked, is that words matter. Walter White, the intrepid NAACP investigator of that era, wrote that the injudicious use of one word, “assault,” in the May 31, 1921, Tulsa Tribune was in large part responsible for the conflagration that consumed the hopes and dreams and the very lives of black Tulsans that same evening and night and the morning of June 1, 1921. [Tulsa World]

Panelists discusses achieving reconciliation through civic engagement: Starting with a historic sit-in protest at a segregated drug store in Oklahoma City 60 years ago, Ayanna Najuma has spent a lifetime fighting for equity and equality. Najuma was 7 when she and a dozen other students refused to leave Katz Drug Store until employees served them in 1958, inspiring a wave of nonviolent and successful sit-ins throughout the city. [Tulsa World]

High-stakes election set for Cherokee Nation: The Cherokee Nation election has drawn support from several prominent Democratic leaders, as well as backing from outside Oklahoma. The race is being watched by the Tulsa Regional Chamber, which sees the tribe as a valuable economic development partner. [Journal Record]

Tribal leaders in U.S. and abroad to gather in Norman: Business, civic and tribal leaders from Canada, New Zealand and the U.S. will meet in Norman next week for a biannual tribal-trade conference. Monday will mark the fourth time that the International Inter-tribal Trade and Investment Organization has come to the University of Oklahoma College of Law for its event. [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 8 requires that judges address people’s inability to pay when they assess and enforce court-imposed fines. Unfortunately, many Oklahoma courts incarcerate people without ever inquiring about their ability to pay. When judges fail to meaningfully inquire into a person’s ability to pay, poor Oklahomans suffer devastating consequences.”

-Tianna Mays and Phylicia Hill, attorneys with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The percentage decline in licensed child care facilities in Oklahoma since 2009

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Baby steps toward guaranteed incomes and racial justice: One mother paid off her student loan debt so that she could re-enroll in community college. She’s starting school in August in hopes of becoming a phlebotomist. When another mother, a server at Cracker Barrel, fell ill, she called in sick for the first time in her life because she could now afford to lose a day of pay. [New York Times]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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