In The Know: Bipartisan criminal justice reform; OK could push families off Medicaid; state expects $612.4 million more to spend…

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

(Capitol Update) Legislative leadership for next session is coming into focus: With the appointment of House leadership by Speaker Charles McCall last week, the picture of legislative leadership for next session is coming into focus. The Senate had already announced its leadership appointments about a week ago. It came as no surprise that Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols(R-OKC) and Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) will remain in their current positions. Both are good at what they do and helped lead the House through the turbulent sessions of the past two years. They’ll work with newly appointed Senate Majority Leader Kim David and Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson next session. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Funding education for incarcerated Oklahomans could pay off by large: Oklahoma has made encouraging progress on justice reform in recent years. Reforms passed in 2016 and 2018 will slow prison population growth and spur investments in rehabilitation. While these are important steps in the right direction, criminal justice reform should also look to bring more rehabilitative programs to those still in prison. [Anna Rouw / OK Policy]

In The News

Criminal justice reform ‘a very bipartisan issue’: Both Republicans and Democrats have identified criminal justice reform as an area for bipartisan cooperation next legislative session, an indication that momentum from voter-approved reforms continues as Oklahoma deals with a nation-leading incarceration rate. A bipartisan bill to make sentencing reform measures approved by voters in 2016 retroactive is expected to get a lot of attention during the 2019 session. [NewsOK ????] We previously wrote about why making recent justice reforms retroactive is smart policy and a moral necessity.

Critics: New Medicaid requirements could cause loss of coverage: Oklahoma Medicaid officials have wrapped up months of public hearings, comment periods and policy drafts in their effort to implement work and volunteer requirements for adult enrollees. Top Republicans have pushed for a waiver that would allow the state to require non-disabled adults to work, study or volunteer at least 20 hours per week to qualify for the program, which uses state and federal money to offer health coverage. [Journal Record] This proposal creates a Catch-22 for parents: if they work the hours needed to stay on SoonerCare, they’ll earn too much to qualify for SoonerCare.

State expects to have $612.4 million more to spend in next fiscal year, according to preliminary reports: The state will have an extra $612 million to spend in fiscal year 2020, according to a preliminary report by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The state Board of Equalization will meet Wednesday to certify the estimate of how much money will be available for state appropriations. [Tulsa World]

KC Fed: Oklahoma poised to continue economic expansion in 2019: Oklahoma’s economy saw continued expansion in 2018 with increased employment, an unemployment rate below the national average and rising wages. The state also appears poised to continue its economic expansion in 2019, according to a report from the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve of Kansas City. [Tulsa World]

How Closely Will Stitt, New Legislature Scrutinize State Agencies? Stung by their lack of financial details during the recent state Health Department scandal, legislative leaders are ramping up efforts to increase scrutiny of agency finances and processes. They likely will be helped by incoming Gov. Kevin Stitt, who promised to run the state like a business and campaigned on a platform of financial transparency and accountability. [Oklahoma Watch]

Rogers returns to Capitol to sell Stitt’s agenda: Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt’s chief salesman at the state Capitol will be Michael Rogers, a former representative from Broken Arrow who plans to rely more on interpersonal skills than strong-arm politics to push Stitt’s agenda. Stitt has nominated Rogers for secretary of state, a position that requires Senate confirmation. [NewsOK]

Senator pushes bill to eliminate state pregnancy program that covers undocumented women: Saying women who are in the country illegally should not be covered by a state pregnancy program, Sen. Paul Scott is pushing forward with a bill that would result in the loss of $91 million in federal dollars. Scott’s Senate Bill 40 would eliminate the Soon-to-be-Sooner Program, which provides pregnancy and maternity services for low-income Oklahoma women, including those who are not legal residents. [Tulsa World]

DHS offering heating bill assistance to low-income families: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) is accepting applications online for a program designed to help low-income families with winter heating bills. DHS administers the federally-funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). [Enid News & Eagle]

State commission takes aim at housing tax breaks, incentive for inventors: About 10 years ago, Ardmore homebuilder Lance Windel was told of an opportunity: If he would build his single-family houses in a more energy efficient manner, he could receive $4,000 per house in tax breaks from the state. Windel was skeptical but he made the switch and it paid off. He lowered his tax burden and homebuyers appreciated the energy efficiency. After the tax credit expired in 2016, he continued to build houses in an energy efficient manner. As part of its third-annual report to lawmakers, the state’s Incentive Evaluation Commission has recommended the Legislature repeal the tax break. [NewsOK ????]

State rule would disclose hidden backers of groups trying to affect legislation: The Oklahoma Ethics Commission is proposing to close a gap in state campaign finance laws that keeps certain funding and spending on efforts to influence legislation a secret. Although sources and amounts of money are typically required to be disclosed when groups seek to influence an election involving candidates or state questions, little must be revealed when a group tries to push or oppose state legislation. [Oklahoma Watch] Head of Oklahoma conservative think tank likens proposed lobbying rules to Jim Crow-era laws. [The Frontier]

OSSBA: Nearly 5,000 more teachers needed to reach average student-teacher ratio: The state’s school boards association says nearly 5,000 additional teachers are needed to match the average student-teacher ratio in the region. The Oklahoma State School Boards Association says the most recent increase in education funding has helped a little, but there is still work to be done. [KFOR] We previously wrote on how hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes would build on the progress made last spring and likely improve education outcomes in Oklahoma.  

Tulsans of the Year: After decades of a ‘steady drip, drip, drip of neglect,’ Oklahoma’s teachers fought back: School year after school year, decade after decade, they watched Oklahoma’s public education system weaken and crumble, as if made of old chalk. A seemingly endless number of decisions by the state Legislature forced underpaid teachers to do more with less as school districts’ budgets grew tighter. Those hurt most, according to educators, have been students. In 2018, Oklahoma’s teachers said enough. [Tulsa World]

A rural charter school splits an Oklahoma town: Within the walls of the Academy of Seminole, eight rented rooms in a community college library, it can be hard to see why the little school has kicked up so much dust in this former oil boomtown, population 7,300. On a recent Friday, businessman and school founder Paul Campbell addressed the students, just 29 freshmen and sophomores, to tell them what it’s like to run a business. [Hechinger Report]

Tulsa World editorial: And now the best hope for families impacted by an explosion of poultry barns in rural northeastern Oklahoma is the Legislature: Pulled in two different directions, the Oklahoma Board of Agriculture did nothing about the social and ecological problems created by an explosion of poultry operations in northeast Oklahoma. The board took no action Tuesday on a proposal to require new or expanding feeding operations to abide by setback requirements from people’s homes, schools, cities, highways and property lines. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Editorial Board: Inmates from Oklahoma prisons now have a chance to get on with their lives: Gov. Mary Fallin gave early Christmas presents to 21 prison inmates recently when she commuted their sentences. The inmates, most of them women convicted of drug crimes, had been in prison after being convicted of various nonviolent offenses. [Editorial Board / Ada News]

Muscogee (Creek) National Council votes to reinstate Free Press Act: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is another step closer to restoring the editorial independence of its media outlets. The Muscogee (Creek) National Council voted 9-6 Saturday morning to reinstate the tribe’s Free Press Act as previously written and re-seat the three-member editorial board that served as a firewall between the Mvskoke Media newsroom and government officials. [Journal Record]

OSU employees will have to wait on pay raises: Oklahoma State University faculty and staff will not be getting pay raises on the first day of 2019 after all. In a message to employees obtained by The Oklahoman, Joe Weaver, OSU’s senior vice president of administration and finance, said “changed financial conditions” would prevent the university from proceeding with a Jan. 1 raise for faculty and staff. Weaver said a nearly 2 percent drop in enrollment — about 400 fewer undergraduate, graduate, transfer and international students — cost the university about $5 million in tuition and fees. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“We want fewer people in prison, but we still have a problem of people coming out of prison and not having the opportunity to rebuild their lives.”

-Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, who has authored a bill that would create a pilot program to offer inmates post-release education and rehabilitation services. [Source: NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma Correctional Officers with less than 5 years experience.

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How incarcerated parents are losing their children forever: Mothers and fathers who have a child placed in foster care because they are incarcerated — but who have not been accused of child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or even drug or alcohol use — are more likely to have their parental rights terminated than those who physically or sexually assault their kids, according to a Marshall Project analysis of approximately 3 million child-welfare cases nationally. [The Marshall Project]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.