In 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: Lesson learned: Last week Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislative leaders announced an agreement on the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Thanks to a robust economy and last year’s decisions to raise taxes, they finally had a large surplus to work with, after a decade of shortfalls and cuts. [David Blatt / Journal Record]
In The News
SB 252 bail reform bill fails in Oklahoma House: The Oklahoma House of Representatives failed SB 252 this afternoon after days worth of strong lobbying against the bail reform measure by law enforcement professionals and bail bonds companies. The final vote, 45-49, underscored the split nature of House members on the proposal. [NonDoc] Senate Bill 252, one of five criminal justice reform measures considered by the Oklahoma Legislature this session, would have reestablished ground rules for judges to consider in setting bail conditions for crime suspects. [Journal Record] Bail reform could have saved counties and communities millions.
Oklahoma County Commissioners establish jail trust in unanimous vote: The Oklahoma County Jail will be controlled by a jail trust in the future. One commissioner speculated that the trust will start meeting in the fall. The decision for the trust was made by a unanimous vote of Oklahoma County Commissioners Brian Maughan, Kevin Calvey, and Carrie Blumert. [Free Press OKC] The commissioners said they hope the trust will provide more oversight, transparency and accountability to jail functions and funding with more community and stakeholder engagement. [The Oklahoman]
Budget does not include money for treatment and mental health programs mandated by voters: An $8.1-billion budget plan on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk does not include any money for a fund approved by Oklahoma voters to provide more substance abuse and mental health services. Stitt had initially called for $10 million in appropriations for the voter-mandated County Community Safety Investment Fund as part of his 2020 budget proposal. [The Frontier]
Lawmakers reject ethics rules: For the second year in a row, Oklahoma legislators have told a watchdog agency it can’t control what they do once they leave office. The state House voted 65-29 Wednesday to reject restrictions on when legislators and other elected officials can become lobbyists once they leave state service. The state Senate rejected the rules 35-8 last week. [The Oklahoman]
State employee pay raise bill heads to governor: The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would provide tiered pay raises for about 34,000 state employees. House Bill 2771 heads to Gov. Kevin Stitt after it passed the Senate by a vote of 42-0. It is part of the budget agreement announced earlier this month. The measure would provide a pay increase of $1,500 for those earning $40,000 a year or less. [Tulsa World]
Bill to curb 4-day school weeks sent to Oklahoma governor: The Oklahoma House gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a bill that would make it harder for school districts to operate on four-day weeks. The House passed legislation setting a minimum number of days schools have to be in session, making it harder for schools to operate on four-day weeks — a cost savings and teacher recruitment measure many small and rural school districts have implemented in recent years. [The Oklahoman]
Senate gives final OK to Oklahoma workers’ comp overhaul: The state Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill that overhauls Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system, including increasing the benefits paid to injured workers. The Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday for the bill that resulted from months of negotiations among lawmakers, attorneys, injured workers and business leaders. [AP News]
Bill to improve nursing home care passes Senate, House: A bill that would provide financial incentives to nursing homes that improve the quality of care for residents is headed to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk. The Senate and House on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 280, by Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer. [Tulsa World]
Senate sends train-stoppage bill to governor for consideration: A bill that would authorize local law operators to cite train owners or operators for blocking a road-rail intersection for longer than 10 minutes without good reason is headed down the tracks to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk. [The Oklahoman]
New law promotes competition among Oklahoma pharmacies: Small-town pharmacies will have more ability to compete with big companies like CVS Caremark and OptumRx as a result of a new law in Oklahoma, the Patient’s Right to Pharmacy Choice Act. Gov. Kevin Stitt, who earlier this legislative session vetoed an almost identical measure, signed House Bill 2632 on Tuesday. [Journal Record]
Corporation Commission OKs reimbursements for phone companies: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved funding requests totaling $869,000 from two independent telephone companies Wednesday, overturning a previous vote that was contested by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. [Journal Record 🔒]
Former head of Oklahoma Real Estate Commission had absenteeism issues: The former executive director of the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission was paid but failed to show up for work an average of 11 days a month, resulting in her being overpaid by at least $42,000 in salary and benefits over a 14-month span, according to a state audit released Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]
Mark McCullough: I helped kill the Earned Income Tax Credit, and it’s time to bring it back: The economic downturn of 2015 hit the 2016 Oklahoma budget hard. We faced hundreds of millions in revenue shortfalls. Those of us in the Legislature at the time, and particularly those of us on the budget team, faced some very difficult choices. [Mark McCullough / Tulsa World]
Moratorium passed to fight ‘food desert’ in northeast Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma City City Council passed a 180-day moratorium to combat what some council members have called a ‘food desert’ in the city’s northeast side. Journal Record reporter Molly Fleming discusses the city’s next step in making fresh meat and produce more accessible to the area’s residents. [KGOU]
Resurgent infectious diseases topic of public forum: The rise in measles outbreaks and other infectious diseases took center stage Tuesday night in a public forum hosted by Oklahoma Watch. There have been more than 800 reported cases of measles nationally in 2019 in 23 states, including one in Oklahoma. [NonDoc] Watch a live-stream video of the forum here.
Students in recovery graduate from Mission Academy, Oklahoma’s only recovery high school: On Thursday, May 23rd, five teens will receive their high school diploma. These are teens in recovery from substance abuse and addiction graduating from Oklahoma’s only recovery high school, Mission Academy. [City Sentinel]
Community engagement considered key element of search for race massacre burial sites: The people searching for burial sites from Tulsa’s 1921 race massacre can’t guarantee what they will or won’t find. But they can guarantee an honest, open effort. “City Councilor (Vanessa) Hall-Harper has wanted very much for the public to be involved going forward,” said former state Sen. Maxine Horner, chairwoman of the 17-member Public Oversight Committee. [Tulsa World]
Don’t bank on it: Oklahoma bankers urge Congress to pass marijuana bill: The banking industry is weary of Congress’ battles of partisanship and morality over the legalization of cannabis as excuses to ignore the quickening increase of unbanked money in local communities, Oklahoma bankers said Wednesday. [Journal Record 🔒]
Quote of the Day
“Oklahoma’s current bail policies cost counties millions and detain citizens who have been convicted of nothing for weeks before trial just because they can’t afford bail. Bail should not be a punishment tool. We can do better than jailing our citizens just for being poor.”
-Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform executive director Kris Steele [Journal Record]
Number of the Day
Oklahoma’s ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s best states to live in report. The state’s worst score (47th) was for health care access and affordability.
[Source: US News & World Report]
Criminal justice reform done right: The change in policy was fueled by a 2013 jail population analysis that showed that many nonviolent defendants – more than 1,500 on a given day — were in custody for no other reason than they were unable to make $2,500, or in some cases as little as $500, in cash bail. The racial disparities were stark. Black defendants had longer stays awaiting trial or bail, and were disproportionately represented in jail populations. And the inability to make bail prompted many defendants to plead guilty in order to return to their community as fast as possible, thus affecting their employability and reputation. [Governing]
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