In The Know: Ethics Commission drops lobbying rule; executions remain stalled; women rise to leadership posts…

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

Oklahoma leaves grassroots lobbying alone: The Oklahoma Ethics Commission will not be regulating grassroots lobbying after all. The watchdog agency had been considering disclosure requirements for advocates who buy ads supporting or opposing legislation. Commissioners Friday let the proposed indirect lobbying rule die without a vote after an outcry against it. [NewsOK]

Restoring credit for working families should be prioritized: There’s a cushion in state coffers this year that hasn’t been seen in a while. While some lawmakers may be tempted to boost funding for projects unfunded during Oklahoma’s budget-busting revenue drought, a better option might be to make the state’s earned income tax credit refundable again. [Muskogee Phoenix] One of our 2019 policy priorities is strengthening working family tax credits

Executions by gas stalled indefinitely while state seeks willing seller of device: Ten months after abandoning lethal injection, frustrated Oklahoma officials have yet to find a way to execute inmates with nitrogen gas. “I’ve got both arms tied behind my back,” said Joe Allbaugh, director of the Oklahoma Corrections Department. At issue is an inability so far to find a manufacturer of a gas delivery device willing to sell it for use in executions. [NewsOK ????]

Local DAs meet with lawmakers to talk about criminal justice reform, funding at legislative breakfast: Criminal justice reform, low salaries for prosecutors and how to fund the district attorneys’ offices were some of the topics discussed by prosecutors and lawmakers at a breakfast held Friday at a downtown Tulsa hotel. [Tulsa World] Our 2019 legislative policy priorities include four policy priorities on criminal justice reform.

Women make huge gains in Oklahoma, rise to leadership posts: Oklahoma has traditionally ranked among the states with the fewest women in elected office, but the state made huge gains in the Legislature in November and several of top leadership posts are now held by female lawmakers. [AP News]

Stitt may ask for more money in 2020 for his office: Gov. Kevin Stitt may seek additional money to operate his office in the next fiscal year. Stitt hopes to be able to finish the fiscal year 2019 with the current appropriation, but may ask lawmakers to increase his office budget for fiscal year 2020, said Donelle Harder, a Stitt spokeswoman. [Tulsa World]

Bill would make hiding money from lawmakers a crime: An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to address a so-called lapse in state statute that protected agency officials from prosecution after a financial scandal last year. After months of investigations, law enforcement officials found that Oklahoma State Department of Health executives had been funneling money into a falsely named locked account to hide it from lawmakers and avoid budget cuts. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma bill would require notifying people of court dates: Missing a court date in the Sooner State may not be penalized, under certain circumstances, if Oklahoma lawmakers approve newly proposed legislation. Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, has introduced House Bill 1020, which would require courts to institute a system to notify people — by phone or website — of their court date no later than 72 hours after the court date has been set. [NewsOK]

Bill would make it harder to sue officers for excessive force: bill filed last week would seem to make it harder to sue law enforcement officers for using excessive force, making “excessive force” a term not subject to the policies of an individual agency. House Bill 2328, authored by Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, and Josh West, R-Grove, would amend Oklahoma’s current statute defining excessive force and removes a portion that holds peace officers subject to state law “to the same degree as any other citizen.” [The Frontier]

Medical marijuana bill would change the law as written in SQ 788. What would the measure do? A Republican from Tuttle has filed a piece of legislation that seeks to change Oklahoma’s medical marijuana law as other lawmakers involved in regulating medical marijuana expect to present their own measures when the session starts next month. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma lawmakers introduce flurry of comp-related bills: Lawmakers in Oklahoma this month have introduced 19 bills that would make changes to the state’s workers compensation code. Among them are bills that address compensability for a worker who uses marijuana without a medical marijuana card, post-traumatic stress benefits for first responders, the balance limits on the state’s Self-insurance Guaranty Fund and fee schedules for medical providers. [Business Insurance]

Decision to withhold Florida bank victim names tests law also in Oklahoma: A Florida police chief’s decision not to release the names of some of the five women killed in a bank shooting this week represents the first high-profile test of a new victims’ privacy law on the books in several states. [AP News]

Senate Review: Moving forward into the new session: The Capitol has come alive in the last month. From gorgeous newly finished exterior and interior renovations to a new governor, lieutenant governor and 66 freshmen lawmakers, 23rd and Lincoln has undergone some major changes. [Senator Kim David / Tulsa World]

Former state senator Mike Mazzei’s watchful eye returns to state government: Mike Mazzei might not be a penny-pincher, but his stern eye for state finances likely has agency heads clutching at theirs. A Tulsa-based financial planner, Mazzei slides into his new job as the Stitt administration’s budget secretary with a budget-hawk reputation acquired during 12 years in the state Senate, most of them as finance chairman. [Tulsa World]

Mike Strain: The email started with hating kids. That’s when he stopped reading. Tips for communicating with lawmakers: “Why do you hate kids in school?” That’s how the email started, and a state lawmaker says he received it not long after voting for a teacher raise. He couldn’t tell me what was in the rest of the email, because he never read it. [Mike Strain / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma gets mixed reviews in national report on highway safety laws: Oklahoma is OK when it comes to state highway safety laws, according to a national study released Tuesday. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety gave the state mixed reviews in its 16th annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws report. [Skiatook Journal]

Oklahoma Corporation Commission sides with cooperative in power scuffle: Two of Oklahoma’s Corporation Commissioners took the side of an electric cooperative Thursday in a ruling that supports the cooperative and touches on electric service territories and the state’s 1 megawatt exception rule. [NewsOK]

Nonprofits remain concerned about grant funding: Even though a deal was reached Friday to reopen the federal government for three weeks, organizations that receive federal funds are still concerned about grant money. The deal approved Friday would last to Feb. 15. [Journal Record]

Hern worth more than rest of state’s congressional delegation combined: Freshman U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern has assets valued up to $93 million, making him by far the wealthiest member of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and possibly the richest ever. [NewsOK ????]

State lawmakers criticize social media in talk with students: A discussion between state lawmakers and high school students Friday included a lesson in civility from a pair of representatives, one of whom vowed to shed his image as an “angry legislator.” [NewsOK]

Another teacher walkout? Hot topic in education circles, but still just a rumor: In the aftermath of last year’s historic pay raise and teacher walkout, Valerie Milzarek returned to her classroom in August with a little more money and even more students. Milzarek teaches more than 60 sixth-graders every day in a trailer behind Jones Elementary School in Tulsa. Her two classes of 31 students are the largest she’s ever had, and the single-wide makes for a tight fit. [Tulsa World]

Skyrocketing student enrollment nets Epic Charter Schools nearly $39 million more in midyear adjustments to state funding for public schools: Epic Charter Schools is seeing its share of state aid soar by $38.7 million in annual, midyear adjustments just made by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. “Their enrollment is increasing dramatically — that really is the story. Virtual is up about 3,000 kids and their blended (learning) centers are up 2,500, so they have a little over 20,000 students now enrolled between the two,” said Matt Holder, deputy state superintendent of finance and federal programs. [Tulsa World]

‘This is do or die’: Students at Langston Hughes Academy vow to fight closure of the north Tulsa charter school: Classes were held, the debate team headed off to a regular competition and the basketball team was gearing up for an evening game against nearby Sperry High School. But nothing was the same at Langston Hughes Academy for Arts and Technology on Friday. [Tulsa World]

Are 5th graders ready for middle school? Oklahoma City Schools says yes, but parents worry: Fifth graders in Oklahoma City Public Schools will be joining older peers in middle schools across the district under a proposal unveiled this week. The fifth-through-eighth-grade middle school model isn’t very common, especially in large districts. There were just 23 in Oklahoma in 2017, and all but two were in small, rural communities. [Oklahoma Watch]

Audit of Broken Arrow Economic Development Corp. finds more than $20,000 in ‘personal’ expenses: Broken Arrow has changed the way it manages downtown redevelopment after an audit revealed that more than $20,000 in transactions by the Broken Arrow Economic Development Corp. in 2017 were found to be excessive or personal in nature. [Tulsa World]

Rallies continue at OU in wake of racist video: Hundreds of students marched to University of Oklahoma President James Gallogly’s office on Thursday afternoon to present a list of demands in hopes of making the campus safer, more welcoming and more diverse — only to find the president away at another engagement. [Tulsa World] University of Oklahoma professor says ‘sideshows’ are taking focus off racism issue. [NewsOK] ‘Give me a chance,’ says University of Oklahoma President, under fire for response to racist videos. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

Quote of the Day

“I think it’s immoral to require a district attorney to be a fee collector to keep my doors open. The fact that I have to collect a fee from somebody I’m prosecuting and putting on probation, I shouldn’t have to be put in that spot. My job should be public safety and applying facts to law.”

-Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, calling on Oklahoma to reduce reliance on court fees to fund district attorney offices [Source: Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma workers who were represented by unions in 2018.

[Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In rehab, “two warring factions”: abstinence vs. medication: As the opioid epidemic persists, some treatment centers are ramping up the use of medications to blunt the torturous withdrawal symptoms and cravings that compel many with opioid addiction to keep using. There is substantial evidence backing this approach, which is supposed to be used in tandem with therapy. But because two of the three federally approved medicines are opioids themselves, it is spurned by people who believe taking drugs to quit drugs is not real recovery. Addiction experts say such resistance is obstructing efforts to reduce overdose deaths and help addicted Americans get their lives back on track. [New York Times]

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.

Leave a Reply

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