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.
In The News
Board recommends clemency for 22 drug possession offenders: Nearly two dozen offenders were recommended for clemency Wednesday, the first wave of hopefuls for early release from lengthy felony prison sentences for simple drug possession two years after voters approved turning that crime into a misdemeanor. State Question 780 isn’t retroactive, so Project Commutation sought deserving prisoners who were considered ideal candidates to have their sentences drastically shortened in line with the sentencing reform measure. [Tulsa World] On the most recent OKPolicyCast, we spoke with Colleen McCarty about the efforts of Project Commutation.
How Oklahoma voted: Precinct-level interactive maps: Republicans continued their dominance of Oklahoma government Tuesday by winning all nine statewide offices on the ballot and four of the five congressional seats. These interactive maps show county- and precinct-level results in four top statewide offices, all five congressional races and the five state questions. [Oklahoma Watch] In Tulsa County, about 65 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. [News On 6]
16 Oklahoma educators elected to office on Tuesday: Oklahoma teachers, fired up over last spring’s state budget battle and massive teacher walkout, put dozens of candidates on the ballot for Tuesday’s midterm election. The Oklahoma Education Association said that 16 members of its education caucus — current or former educators, administrators and support staff — were elected to the state House and Senate. [CNN] Midterms test the durability of the teacher uprising. [Washington Post] More teachers in state legislature than ever before, OEA says. [New On 6]
Teachers looking to hold Stitt accountable: Back in April, teachers were heard leaving the walkout at the State Capitol saying “we will remember in November,” and as the numbers from yesterday’s midterms play out, it looks like they did. Of the 29 legislative members that voted against the teacher pay raise, only 5 won their seats back on Tuesday. [KFOR]
Oklahoma governor-elect begins transition, seeks mix of experience on his team: Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt said Wednesday that Oklahomans should expect substantial change in the way state government operates, how the budget is crafted and the role a governor plays in directing state agencies. [NewsOK 🔒]
Statement: New elected leaders must take a hard look at what keeps Oklahoma from being a ‘top ten state’: In this year’s elections, one message was clear: Oklahoma voters want a change from the policies of the past eight years that have resulted in severe cuts to our schools, health care, and other critical services and that have failed time and again to create broadly shared prosperity. [OK Policy]
Prosperity Policy: Some election takeaways: Just looking at the headlines, the results of Tuesday’s elections suggest not much has changed in Oklahoma. Led by Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt, Republicans swept all statewide offices for a third consecutive election. Republicans also preserved their supermajorities in both chambers, picking up a net of four additional seats in the House while losing one in the Senate. [David Blatt / Journal Record]
Republican supermajority grows in Oklahoma House: The Oklahoma House of Representatives will have an even larger Republican supermajority next year, but Democrats said that new blood will do them some good and that some of their losses highlighted work left to do. Voters ousted three House incumbents on Tuesday, all of whom were Democrats. [Journal Record] GOP dominance amplifies rural-urban divide. [McAlester News-Capital] Oklahoma Democrats pick up urban seats, but lose rural lawmakers. [NewsOK]
Dem leader lost to Republican who didn’t spend money on campaign: Logan Phillips sat inside Mamadou’s Restaurant south of Tulsa watching election returns Tuesday, fully expecting he would lose his race against Democratic state Rep. Steve Kouplen.He was shocked to see he won by 344 votes.The Tulsa Community College assistant professor hadn’t run a traditional campaign against the leader of House Democrats. It was hardly a campaign at all. [NewsOK]
Lawmakers prepare to file veteran-related legislation: As lawmakers prepare for bill filing season, members on the veterans affairs committees are working with that community to nail down which issues they plan to tackle during next year’s session. Lawmakers with military experience tend to serve on those committees, and in 2017, several of them announced a bicameral veterans caucus, so members of the House and Senate can deliberate together. One of the creators of that caucus, state Rep. Josh West, is also the House Veterans and Military Affairs vice chairman. [Journal Record 🔒]
DOJ funding comes in to help TPD tackle rape kit backlog: Tulsa Police can soon start working on its backlog of untested rape kits. A $1.5 million Department of Justice grant awarded in September is now coming in, and city officials are working on adding it to the department’s budget. TPD will be able to test around 750 kits as a result. Special Victims Unit Sgt. Jillian Phippen said they have roughly 3,000 kits in storage, most of which have not been sent through DNA analysis for a reason. [Public Radio Tulsa]
OICA Fall Forum highlighted cooperative social programs: Public education may be an extreme case, but it illustrates the difficulties in creating cooperative social programs. Our early education, K-12th grade public education, career tech, university, nutrition, housing, health, mental health and rehabilitation services are mostly stuck in separate silos. In late October, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy’s Fall Forum at the State Capitol suggested numerous ways that breaking down silos could promote holistic social, health and educational improvement.[John Thompson / NonDoc]
$68 million to help 12000 Oklahoma students GEAR UP for college: Three federal grants to boost success beyond high school will target 12,000 pupils in 46 schools across the state, including every sixth- and seventh-grader in the Oklahoma City Public Schools. The University of Oklahoma K20 Center announced Wednesday it was awarded GEAR UP grants totaling $68 million to work with three cohorts of middle-schoolers — one urban, one rural and one suburban. [NewsOK]
Oklahoma DEQ notifies Norman elementary school of lead, copper exceedance in classroom sink: The Oklahoma Department of Environment Quality notified a Norman elementary school of a lead and copper exceedance in one classroom sink. Five samples were taken during a routine sampling event with only one exceeding the action level at Washington Elementary. [KFOR]
City councilor defends complicated legacy of early Tulsan Tate Brady, despite his being a ‘Ku Klux Klanner’: An interim Tulsa city councilor on Wednesday argued against changing a downtown street name, saying that although the street’s former namesake was a “Ku Klux Klanner,” he also did “many many other good things.” O’Brien’s defense of Brady’s legacy is oddly timed as the street no longer actually bears his name. It was changed in 2013 to be named after M.B. Brady, a Civil War photographer with no ties to Tulsa. [The Frontier]
Economist says oil slump was harder on Oklahoma than realized: An economist has offered a new take on how much an oil price slump from mid-2014 through 2016 hurt Oklahoma. “What we would suggest is that the real net decline in tax revenue is not $1.5 billion, but it’s more like $2.25 billion. Instead of about a 15 percent decline in total revenue, it’s really about a 25 percent decline in revenue,” said RegionTrack President Mark Snead. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Joe Exotic calls new charges of wildlife trafficking, tiger slayings a ‘witch hunt’: Joe Exotic used his roadside exotic animal park to illegally sell lions and tigers and allegedly shot and killed five tigers when he needed to free up cage space at the zoo, according to a new indictment filed Wednesday in federal court. It’s illegal to hunt, kill or sell lions and tigers in the United States under the Endangered Species Act. [The Frontier]
Quote of the Day
“Twenty-two of 23 of the people that we helped with applications were mothers in prison serving decades had they not gone through this process. The impact beyond the incarceration on their families is just enormous.”
-Corbin Brewster, Tulsa County chief public defender, speaking about efforts to commute the sentences of Oklahomans serving a decade or more of prison time for crimes that are now misdemeanors after the passage for SQ 780 [Source: Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Amount Oklahoma spent on private prisons and contracts in 2017.
[Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections]
(Podcast) Who gets a Green Card? When the US decides whether or not to grant an immigrant a green card, they look at many factors. That includes if they heavily rely on certain government programs to get by. But proposed changes at the federal level means this whole system is about to change. Professor Tiffany Joseph explains these changes and what they mean for immigrants in America. [Scholars Strategy Network]
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