In The Know: Budget chair gives hope for new prison borrowing

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

Budget chair gives hope for new prison borrowing: A legislative budget leader gave the clearest indicator yet that the state Senate might be willing to approve a bond package to build new prisons. At a Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee hearing Tuesday, Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said he’s not seen much of an appetite in the House or Senate to adopt a bond measure that could total more than $800 million [NewsOK]. Oklahoma can avoid all prison growth over the next 10 years by passing the Justice Reform Task Force proposals [OK Policy].

New Plan Emerges To Avert Oklahoma Teacher Walkout: A new plan that could give teachers a raise and avert a walkout is being discussed behind closed doors at the Capitol. It incorporates parts of other failed plans to develop a plan that seems to work for Republicans and Democrats [News 9]. 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling could break teacher pay logjam, House Democrats say: Oklahoma House Democrats signaled Tuesday they intended to use a state Supreme Court ruling as leverage to lift gross production taxes on new oil and gas wells. Democrats and most Republicans seem to agree the state needs additional revenue to increase teacher and state employee pay and boost funding for school operations, but disagree on where the money should come from. House Democrats have opposed most revenue-raising measures that do not raise the new-well rate to at least 5 percent [Tulsa World]. 2018 Policy Priority: End oil and gas tax breaks [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Walkout Facebook Page Gaining Momentum: There are now 13 days until a possible teacher walkout. In early March, the movement grew from some rumblings on social media about plans to shut down schools across the state. That, was partially in thanks to the Oklahoma Walkout Facebook page. The page was created by Stillwater Jr. High Teacher Alberto Morejon and now is nearing 70,000 members [News 9]. Teachers at some Arizona schools plan to walk out Wednesday [AP].

Teachers from Tulsa, other districts lobby at Capitol for pay raise: Teachers from Tulsa and other districts on Tuesday lobbied lawmakers at the Capitol. They are seeking increased funding for schools and a $10,000 teacher pay raise phased in over three years. Teachers have said they will walk out of class on April 2 if the funding isn’t approved [Tulsa World].

Educational group creates budget plan to fund teacher pay raises, education funding increases: With less than two weeks until a potential teacher walkout, a group of educators are putting forth their own budget plan to fund an increase in education funding and teacher pay raises. The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) has sought a $10,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers over three years, a $5,000 pay raise for support professionals over three years, a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, and the restoration of funding for education and core government services [KFOR].

State superintendent seeks OSBI criminal investigation into grade-tampering allegations in Chickasha: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has requested assistance from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in her agency’s examination of alleged grade tampering at Chickasha Public Schools. The Oklahoma State Department of Education has been investigating allegations of misconduct, including potential fraud and tampering with student grades and attendance records, at Chickasha Public Schools, according to a news release [Tulsa World].

Time for Legislature to act on rural health care: For the third year in a row, I’m writing to sound the alarm about the state of health care access in rural Oklahoma. In an op-ed distributed statewide two years ago, I wrote that I’d been trying to recruit a physician to Cordell Memorial Hospital for 18 months and had been unsuccessful, despite offering an incredibly generous compensation package. Last year I wrote another op-ed, and the position was still unfilled [Landon Hise / Journal Record]. Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals [OK Policy].

Employment credit checks are putting jobs out of reach for Oklahomans: When applying for a job, you might scan your social media profiles and hide or delete any off-putting posts that an employer could see. But what if they look at your credit report? You can’t hide the credit card payment you missed several years ago. Though credit reports were originally designed to help banks determine interest rates on loans, nearly half of all American companies now use credit checks as an employment vetting tool [OK Policy].

No simple solution to Oklahoma shelter concerns: The Department of Human Services plans to close its Tulsa shelter in November as part of a continued effort to end shelter placements. Three experts overseeing Oklahoma’s child welfare reforms say closure needs to happen ASAP. Is a middle ground possible? [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Racial Profiling Complaints Persist, But Few or None Confirmed by Authorities: John Whitfield was just a mile or two away from his home in northeast Oklahoma City when he noticed police lights in his rear-view mirror during a spring night in 2016. Whitfield, who is black, said he didn’t think he was speeding or had committed any other traffic infraction. He said he had gone to the store because he was out of soap [Oklahoma Watch].

The Legislature wants to allow craps and roulette into Oklahoma casinos; OK, but don’t bet on funding state government with them: The state Senate has approved a measure to allow tribal casinos to use ball and dice games, which would bring roulette, craps and other popular forms of gambling to the state. The state House has previously passed a similar proposal. The strongest selling point for the idea is the money it promises to raise for the state. Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, the author of Senate Bill 1195, says it will mean $22 million in state revenue next year and $49 million in following years [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

OCC delays vote on oil, gas fee hikes: A proposed fee increase for the oil and gas industry has been put on hold for a week longer. Three different oil and gas industry groups argued on Tuesday about proposed fee increases and whether regulatory staff’s recommendations were enough to support the higher workload that accompanies more drilling activity. But after four hours of discussion and public comment from the audience and from regulators, the agency commissioners delayed voting on proposed fee changes [Journal Record].

Multiple state questions could be on November ballot: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ensured at least two state questions will go through the signature process this year, and several more could be on the ballot by November. On Monday, the court authorized a group pushing for a ballot initiative raising oil and gas taxes to begin that process. Another group is working to put a new law on the ballot that would allow optometrists to operate in retail settings. Lawmakers are working on several resolutions of their own that would allow residents to authorize constitutional changes [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“Everybody’s got a plan, but nobody’s got any movement on any of the plans.”

– Rep. Mark McBride, the Assistant Majority Floor Leader, on the lack of consensus on a revenue package to provide a teacher pay raise (Source)

Number of the Day


Change in the rate of nationally-tracked crimes from 2008 to 2016 in Oklahoma

Source: Pew Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Perverse Power of the Prosecutor: One of the more important shifts in criminal justice reform over the past five or so years has been a growing awareness of just how powerful and influential prosecutors truly are. Perhaps startled to find themselves under such attention after decades of little to no scrutiny, prosecutors are now pushing back. One common rebuttal prosecutors make is that they don’t actually have that much power [Democracy Journal].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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