In The Know: Campaign dark money; underfunded prison staff; medical marijuana draft bill…

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.

In The News

Dark money groups spend tens of thousands of dollars leading up to Oklahoma runoff races: Dark money groups with ties to Oklahoma business interests are injecting tens of thousands of dollars into key state legislative races leading up to the August 28 runoff election. While political action committees must disclose their donors, dark money groups, which include social welfare groups, trade associations and unions do not. [The Frontier] Both men seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general have put a considerable amount of money into the race. [Tulsa World]

DOC director: Oklahoma needs to invest in prison staffing: In “Will ‘hero’ emerge on prison reform?” (Our Views, Aug. 14), The Oklahoman quoted a Texas politician asking who Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform hero would be. “Who would lead this and get it done?” the politician asked. I ask whom among our legislators does not want safer communities? Who does not want inmates, most of whom will be released, to be productive citizens? [Joe M. Allbaugh / NewsOK] The Oklahoma town of Taft is facing safety issues as the area’s minimum-security men’s prison has seen several inmates escape. [AP News]

Pro-cannabis groups agree on draft bill: Oklahoma’s somewhat disparate marijuana advocacy groups have agreed on proposed legislation to fill gaps in State Question 788. The proposed 202-page bill is largely based on model legislation drafted by New Health Solutions Oklahoma, a group representing more than 90 businesses interested in the medical marijuana industry. [NewsOK] The cannabis community in Oklahoma has grown significantly in the two years since a group of activists successfully petitioned to put medical marijuana on a ballot. [Tulsa World

First of two Green the Vote petitions falls short: An initiative petition seeking to put medical marijuana in the Oklahoma Constitution fell short on signatures, according to Secretary of State James Williamson. The State Question 796 campaign managed to collect 95,176 signatures, well short of the 123,725 needed for it to appear on a future ballot. [NewsOK] The leader of a Tulsa activist group seeking to make medical and recreational marijuana a constitutional state question on the statewide ballot announced his resignation Sunday. [Tulsa World]

Political operatives think negative ads work, so we’re likely to see more of them: From the scurrilous (and, in retrospect, sometimes weird) charges exchanged by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in the early days of the union, to whisper campaigns about the ethnicity of Abraham Lincoln and Warren Harding, to today’s grainy images, voice-of-doom narration and often out-of-context quotations, negative campaigning has been a part of American politics. [Tulsa World] The negative turn in the Republican race for governor has raised concerns within the state GOP that the feud between Mick Cornett and Kevin Stitt will give Democrats an edge when the general election campaign begins. [NewsOK ????]

Is Kevin Hern’s financial advantage turning Republican CD 1 runoff in his direction? A rhubarb over conflicting polls on the Republican 1st Congressional District runoff election has highlighted a central element of the race: Can Kevin Hern’s huge financial advantage overcome Tim Harris’ five- to 10-percentage-point lead coming out of the June 26 primary? Hern’s total campaign expenditures through Aug. 8, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed Thursday, were approaching $1.9 million. [Tulsa World]

Democratic runoff opponents think CD 2 can be competitive again: Jason Nichols and Clay Padgett think Democratic congressional candidates still have a chance in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, and are wearing out the roads between Madill and Miami to prove it. Padgett and Nichols are the finalists in an Aug. 28 runoff to take on Republican incumbent Markwayne Mullin — plus Libertarian Richard Costaldo and independent John Foremanin — in the Nov. 6 general election. [Tulsa World]

Ginnie Graham: Oklahoma voters to decide on whether governor should choose a running mate: Only two living Oklahomans have served as both governor and lieutenant governor. They may be from different parties, but they agree on at least one thing: The two top elected positions should run as a team on the same ticket. Oklahoma voters will decide on Nov. 6 whether to change the state Constitution to require the governor and lieutenant governor run together. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Republican runoff opponents differ on evolving role of state labor commissioner: The Republican candidates in the Aug. 28 runoff election for state labor commissioner agree the job has changed somewhat over the years, but have different ideas about what it should become. State Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, foregoing a sixth and final term in the House of Representatives to seek statewide office, sees the Department of Labor as an agency devoted to workplace safety, workforce development and public safety through the agency’s inspections and licensing divisions. [Tulsa World]

State candidates share platforms at Noble public forum: Two run-off candidates for the Oklahoma State Senate’s District 16 and State Representative District 20 elections participated in a town hall forum Saturday at Noble High School. Together these districts encompass the residents of Norman, Noble, Goldsby, Lexington, Newcastle, Pauls Valley, Purcell, Slaughterville, Wanette and Wayne. [Norman Transcript]

Despite pitfalls, more schools introduce self-paced learning: Is this the classroom of the future? Education experts embracing the concept of “personalized learning” think so. They see entire schools with large classes of students not tied to the lockstep of grade levels, advancing individually at their own pace. Once a student shows they’ve mastered a concept, they move on, independent of their classmates. Students have more control over when, where and how they learn. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tulsa World Editorial: Not surprising Oklahoma teacher shortage continues; going to take time to rebuild: It’s not a surprise that schools across Oklahoma are starting classes with nearly 500 vacancies and more than 1,200 emergency certifications. Legislative passage of a teacher pay raise this year did not solve the education crisis or end teacher shortages. It took a decade of missteps and miscalculations by lawmakers to get into this mess, and it’s going to take time — and money — to get out of it. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma goes back to school in the post-walkout world: Sonja Caddell squinted as she intensely scanned the table for anything that might be useful in her first-grade classroom. The fifth-year teacher was on the hunt for lesson plans related to early childhood literacy and books with simple stories that could introduce her students to new words. “It all starts with reading,” said Caddell, who was just a few weeks away from a new school year at F.D. Moon Academy, an elementary school in northeast Oklahoma City. [NewsOK ????]

‘I Don’t Feel Safe Living Here.’ After Threats From Parents, a Transgender Girl’s Family Is Moving. Again.: For the second time in less than two years, Brandy Rose is planning to move her family to a new town, saying she no longer feels safe in Achille, Oklahoma because of violent threats against her transgender daughter, Maddie. The Achille school district shut down for two days this week after adults in a parent Facebook group threatened the 12-year-old for using the girls’ bathroom at school. The incident renewed concerns that had driven the family from Sherman, Texas, where Maddie experienced “horrendous” school bullying after she transitioned. [Time]

Legal wrangling surrounds four rural Oklahoma hospitals: The way the plaintiffs in one lawsuit tell it, Health Acquisition Company promised a flat, well-trod road ahead, but instead led four rural hospitals in Oklahoma and several in other states off a financial cliff. Or, if you believe the allegations in a different lawsuit, Health Acquisition Company was doing its best for the rural hospitals, but longtime investors undermined that work for their own profit. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma convenes autonomous vehicle task force to inform future legislation: Oklahoma is a bit behind in setting policies for autonomous vehicles, according to the state’s top transportation official, but he says a new task force will help it catch up. Mike Patterson, the state Department of Transportation director since 2013, told StateScoop that the task force’s primary objective is to coordinate connected-vehicle transportation through the I-40 corridor [State Scoop]

Commission clarifies some elements of Oct. 1 alcohol law: When the laws change on Oct. 1, each wholesaler will be a designated seller for certain liquors or wines. That means that the wholesaler is the only place that is allowed to sell it to retailers in Oklahoma. But wholesalers will likely still have product that they need to sell, though another wholesaler will be the designated seller. [Journal Record ????] Beer distributors in the state have spent the last year trying to solve what they say is a public health concern. [Journal Record ????]

Letters from H Unit: What Oklahoma’s death row inmates think of nitrogen gas: One day this summer, Donnie Harris pressed a blue ink pen to white paper and wrote these two sentences: “Nobody knows for sure when, or how, their life will end. There is only one guarantee in life and that is, sooner or later, death will come to us all.” It’s true that Harris, who is 35, doesn’t know for sure when or how he will die. [NewsOK ????]

Quote of the Day

“The [Department of Corrections] has one electrician and one plumber for the entire system. That’s a problem when our oldest prison was built in 1908, and only eight of 24 facilities were built as prisons. The same goes for medical professionals and food service workers, too. Our front-line professionals have been neglected so much the state incurs great risk by continuing to pay them in pennies.”

-Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh [NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Share of rentals in the Oklahoma City metro area that were affordable to black households (costing less than 30% of their income), compared to 84.1% of rentals that were affordable to white households.

[Zillow Research]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Are innocent people pleading guilty? A new report says yes: NACDL even called out former US Attorney Preet Bharara (Southern District of New York) for acknowledging that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines were often severe for economic (white collar crimes), but then went on to propose harsh penalties for those who were involved in criminal charges where there were no actual losses (insider trading and mortgage fraud).  The fact is that prosecutors are winning cases because over 97% of defendants are pleading guilty.  Even those pleas are resulting in long prison terms. [Forbes]

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.

One thought on “In The Know: Campaign dark money; underfunded prison staff; medical marijuana draft bill…

  1. Is it possible to get a legislator to introduce a bill that basically says no more donations to political campaigns. None. Zero. Each candidate is to be given X amount of signs and each the exact amount of television time. We as a state can pay for the signs and television time. It would be worth the investment to keep big business from buying our democracy. Thank you Brenda Reffner

Leave a Reply

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