In The Know: Educating incarcerated Oklahomans; bill would end Medicaid for low-income pregnant women; Oklahoma still trails region on per-pupil spending…

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

Funding postsecondary education for incarcerated Oklahomans could pay off for public safety and the budget: Nearly 27,000 individuals are in Department of Corrections (DOC) custody, and approximately 90 percent will eventually be released. For justice reform to be successful in the long-term, we must prepare those currently incarcerated for meaningful re-entry back into our communities. [OK Policy]

Prosperity Policy: State Question 780 is working: Two years ago, Oklahomans endorsed a new approach to non-violent criminal offenses. State Question 780 reclassified simple drug possession and many minor property crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies. No longer would individuals convicted of these offenses be facing long prison sentences and felony records. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

In The News

Proposed bill would eliminate Medicaid program for low-income pregnant women: bill proposed by a Republican lawmaker from Duncan would eliminate a state Medicaid program that provides health care services to low-income pregnant women. Senate Bill 40, authored by Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan, would eliminate the state’s Soon-to-Be-Sooners program, which is part of Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, known as SoonerCare. [The Frontier]

Teacher raises helped improve per-pupil spending gap, but Oklahoma still trails its neighbors: The latest national comparison of per-student spending rates in public schools shows that Oklahoma still trails all neighboring states, even when factoring in this year’s infusion of new dollars for teacher pay raises. According to the just-released National Center for Education Statistics annual report, Oklahoma’s annual expenditures trailed the regional average by nearly $1.3 billion for the 2015-16 academic year, the most recent data analyzed. [Tulsa World]

Project Commutation’s final nine offenders approved for clemency by board; governor to have final say: The final nine offenders chosen for potential leniency under State Question 780’s less harsh punishments for simple drug possession were given approval Wednesday by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Gov. Mary Fallin commuted the sentences to time served for 21 of 22 low-level offenders who made it to the final stage for clemency a week ago. [Tulsa World] In a previous OKPolicyCast episode, we spoke with Colleen McCarthy of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform about Project Commutation.

Gov.-elect focused on disaster management: Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt plans to name his public safety appointments over the next week, ensuring his office can respond to crisis as he prepares to become governor of a state known for weather disasters. The governor appoints the director of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, the commissioner of public safety, the Oklahoma adjutant general and the director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. [NewsOK]

September oil prices lift state general fund revenue: Higher oil prices last summer showed up in larger than expected general revenue last month, the Oklahoma’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services said Tuesday. General revenue for November totaled $502.2 million — $75.0 million, or 17.5 percent above expectations — but OMES Director Denise Northrup cautioned those receipts were driven largely by oil prices that have declined since summer. [Tulsa World]

As health board OKs medical marijuana food safety standards, AG says legislation is now the most efficient way to reform SQ 788: State health board members voted Tuesday to approve food safety standards for medical marijuana processors, but Attorney General Mike Hunter says he’s determined that further changes to the law created by State Question 788 should come from the Legislature. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa jail receives DNA kits for arrestees, but timeline for their use remains unclear: The Tulsa Jail received about 600 DNA kits on Wednesday thanks to an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations grant, but jail officials said there’s no timeline yet for when the kits will be used on arrestees. [The Frontier]

Tulsa Police Department ranks on the rise, with agency using ‘pre-hires’ and other tactics to boost recruitment: As the Tulsa Police Department revamps its recruitment through “pre-hires” and accommodating application processes, the Vision sales tax dedicated to public safety is beginning to show dividends. [Tulsa World]

Community leaders challenge Tulsa Police Department’s hiring of Betty Shelby despite questionable background: Standing just steps outside the front entrance of City Hall and holding a bullhorn to his mouth, Nate Morris accused the Tulsa Police Department of ignoring allegations of domestic incidents involving Betty Shelby that should have disqualified her from being a police officer. Morris, a representative of the Terence Crutcher Foundation, was among a small group of community members and leaders who charged on Wednesday that Shelby was unfit to serve because of a past that included multiple domestic-related incidents. [Tulsa World]

Election board says Oklahoma City Council candidate fails residency test: Election officials say a candidate for the Ward 5 seat on the Oklahoma City Council has not been a registered voter in the southwest-side ward long enough to qualify for the Feb. 12 primary election. After a hearing Tuesday, the Oklahoma County Election Board unanimously ordered that Steve Hunt be stricken from the ballot. [NewsOK]

Executive director of Oklahoma Real Estate Commission resigns after audit discussion: The executive director of the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission abruptly resigned Wednesday following a closed-door meeting between state auditors and commission members. The resignation of Charla Slabotsky was confirmed Wednesday by Commission Chairman Doug Emde, who declined to elaborate on the reasons Slabotsky departed. [NewsOK ????]

OU President James Gallogly confirms more layoffs after holidays, does not give additional details: OU President James Gallogly confirmed that there will be more layoffs at OU, but denied a rumor that the number of employees terminated would be in the hundreds. [OU Daily] University of Oklahoma President James Gallogly said there is no effort underway to diminish the legacy of his predecessor David Boren, but he said he could see how some people might get that impression. [Tulsa World]

University of Oklahoma Regents approve faculty raises, executive hires: Full-time faculty on the University of Oklahoma’s Norman campus will get a raise Jan. 1 to bring their pay more in line with benchmark salaries. The OU Board of Regents approved the $4.6 million pay increase plan during a meeting Tuesday in Oklahoma City. [NewsOK]

Southern Plains Medical Group to open clinics in Pauls Valley: Pauls Valley has lost its hospital, but it’s getting some of its health care access back. Len Lacefield has been working with city officials to restore some care in the area. He’s the CEO of the Southern Plains Medical Group, which operates clinics across several states, including several locations in Oklahoma. It will now operate clinics in Pauls Valley. [Journal Record ????]

Fort Sill sued for ending contract that employs the blind: An Oklahoma state agency is suing the federal government in an attempt to block a local military base from ending its contract with a vendor who employs blind workers. The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services filed the lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday. [Journal Record ????]

Broken Arrow Ranked 19th-Safest City in America: The 19th-safest city in America is — Broken Arrow. The ranking comes from financial analysis website 24/7 Wall St. The rankings lean on violent crime rates, though they also consider poverty and unemployment. Broken Arrow’s violent crime rate was 124.1 per 100,000 residents in 2017, down 19 percent from 2016. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“Our state’s elected leaders have repeatedly described the raise as only the first step in much-needed education investment, and this new report reinforces why we must stay the course of improving support for public education. Surrounding states are continuing to devote more resources to education, and we’re playing catch-up.”

-Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, on a report showing that Oklahoma remains about $1,121 behind that regional per-student spending [Source: Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

1 in 83

The number of people on probation or parole in Oklahoma in 2016 per capita.

[Source: Pew Trust]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Bumped Out: When pregnant women are fired or discriminated against in the workplace, the federal government isn’t very good at protecting them: Forty years ago, Congress amended civil rights law to cover pregnant women, giving them federal protection against being fired, reassigned, docked pay or denied benefits based on their condition. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 required employers to allow women who are pregnant the same leaves of absence they’d give an employee on leave for sickness or disability. It was a landmark piece of legislation. But it hasn’t stood up very well in an era when many more women are in the workplace. … States have been stepping in to fill the void — and striking up unusual partnerships along the way to protect pregnant workers. [Governing]

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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.

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