In The Know: Criminal justice reform report to be released, felony reclassification proposal, and more

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) Flat state budget ahead? It’s not that simple: Last week, the Oklahoma State Board of Equalization held its first meeting for the purpose of certifying how much money the legislature will have to appropriate for the budget year beginning July 1, 2020, when it convenes in February. The current economy on the current tax rates has produced what amounts to a level budget going forward next year. The net increase available is $9.1 million, or an increase of 1.1 percent. But with state finance it is never that simple. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

(Capitol Update) Harsh sentences aren’t always required to achieve justice: Last week, it was reported that a 55-year old tag agent in southeastern Oklahoma pleaded guilty in Oklahoma County District Court to embezzling $629,000 in tax receipts. She received the money but failed to forward it to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The theft, which occurred beginning in 2015, was discovered by a state audit. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

In The News

Rethinking Oklahoma’s criminal justice system: While Oklahoma has met with some success in addressing high rates of incarceration and recidivism by making changes in laws, a leader of a special task force examining criminal justice reform said Monday that what’s really needed in the state is a cultural shift in thinking. The task force met on Monday to go over findings before issuing a report anticipated Friday. [The Journal Record 🔒] Criminal justice reform task force to recommend chief cultural officer for DOC [Oklahoman] OK Policy recently noted key issues that should be considered when considering criminal justice reforms. 

Reclassifying felony offenses would reduce prison populations: Criminal justice reform advocates are hopeful that reclassifying Oklahoma’s felony criminal offenses will reduce prison populations and lead to more rational sentencing practices. After more than a year of work, members of the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Reclassification Coordination Council handed lawmakers a proposal last week that suggests reclassifying all felony crimes and placing them into letter-designated categories. [CNHI

Sign-ups for health exchange surge in Oklahoma despite opposition to law: A record number of Oklahomans signed up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s federal exchange for 2020 despite persistent concerns over the future of the Obama-era health-care law. [Oklahoma Watch

State still not meeting needs of foster children with therapeutic needs, oversight panel says: Foster children with special needs continue to be deprived of therapeutic care in a state welfare system that is hemorrhaging suitable homes, according to an oversight panel report released Monday afternoon. The report notes that in “most other areas” the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is on the correct path, with credit to legislative support, investment and implementation of core improvement strategies. [Tulsa World]

Weak state, local tax revenue growth continues: Gross receipts to the state treasury finished the year on a slight upturn in December but continue to indicate weak economic growth, Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Monday. Gross receipts for December were $1.16 billion, 1.7 percent more than for the same month a year ago. [Tulsa World]

State uses funds derived from gaming to defend against lawsuit brought by tribes: Gov. Kevin Stitt is using funds generated by tribal fees to pay for a law firm to defend him in a lawsuit brought by three of the state’s largest gaming tribes. Stitt announced Friday the hiring of the Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie to represent him in a legal dispute over tribal gaming compacts. [Tulsa World]

Local trauma specialist spreading knowledge statewide: For the last two years, Jeremy Elledge has been traveling the state training Oklahomans to understand, unpack, and more ethically treat childhood trauma. Next month, Elledge and his organization, New View, will offer the latest in his series of trauma-informed trainings. [Norman Transcript]

Superintendent presents plan to close four Tulsa elementary schools as part of budget-cutting recommendations: Most of the recommendations presented Monday centered on closing four elementary schools to save an estimated $2 million to $3 million, which equates to 15.5 percent of the overall proposed reductions. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Police Chief town halls start Tuesday night: The first of three town halls being held by Mayor G.T. Bynum for public input on his search for Tulsa’s next chief of police is Tuesday night. Tonight’s forum is at 6 p.m. in Hardesty Library’s Frossard Auditorium, 8316 E 93rd St. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma County jail to get extended commissary service, new staff meal plans: County commissioners voted 2-1 at their Monday meeting for the sheriff’s office to begin crafting updated contracts for commissary and food services despite several months of repeated requests from the Oklahoma County Jail Trust for the sheriff’s office not to enter into new contracts. [The Oklahoman]

Another tax for OKC parks up for vote: Oklahoma City residents will have the opportunity to vote March 3 on a proposed permanent sales tax to benefit city parks, but not on a similar sales tax proposal benefiting city transit that was originally proposed as its companion item. [The Journal Record 🔒]

Oklahoma Muslims tell their own story with new guide book: CAIR-OK’s first “Guide to Islam and Muslims in Oklahoma” is a 32-page resource that includes a glossary of Muslim terms, Oklahoma Muslim demographics and information on Muslim social and civic involvement. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Our priorities and resources will have to change within the state. Criminal justice reform is really beyond just criminal justice reform. It’s really a cultural reform.”

-Tricia Everest, ex-officio chair of the RESTORE criminal justice task force, which is expected to release its report this week [The Journal Record 🔒]

Number of the Day

49th

Oklahoma’s ranking in per pupil spending for its rural students. Only Idaho spends less.

[Source: Why Rural Matters 2018-2019]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In the emergency room, patients’ unmet social needs and health needs converge:  The question of how to extend affordable coverage to everyone is inextricably linked to the social and environmental factors that bar people from accessing care and prevent those who do have insurance from using it. [Morning Consult]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University as a Clara Luper Scholar. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumnus of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and 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.

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