In The Know: Fallin, Hofmeister battle over consolidation order; SQ 801 draws mixed reactions; new medical marijuana lawsuit…

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.

UPCOMING EVENT – Legislative candidate forum in Muskogee on Tuesday: Candidates in two Muskogee-area state House districts will discuss important state and local issues in a public forum Tuesday at the Roxy Theater in Muskogee. The forum, which is free, is being presented by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit media organization, and Together Oklahoma, a nonprofit education and advocacy group. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register online.

In The News

Fallin, Hofmeister locked in battle over order on audit of classroom spending: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister are locked in an extraordinary clash of wills and authority over Fallin’s attempt to get an audit of classroom spending in the state’s 519 school districts. “I don’t take orders from Governor Fallin on public education,” Hofmeister told The Oklahoman. “I believe in local control of our schools, and I will always do what is in the best interests of students — even if it means standing up to my own party.” [NewsOK]

SQ 801 draws mixed reactions from business, education factions: A state question that would give school districts the freedom to spend local property tax revenue on school operations is drawing plenty of mixed reaction. State Question 801, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot, would amend the Oklahoma State Constitution by removing restrictions on how local school districts may use property tax dollars. [NewsOKSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 801 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

New medical marijuana lawsuit targets state of Oklahoma over tax, licensing issues: Accusing Oklahoma officials of imposing regulations and fees beyond what State Question 788 stipulated, marijuana advocates filed a sweeping class-action lawsuit Friday against the state and three state agencies, including the Oklahoma Tax Commission. [Tulsa World] Federal marijuana law enforcement elicits varying concerns from dispensary operators in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Republicans maintain majority of Oklahoma voter pool: Although Oklahoma is considered unquestionably red, Democrats account for a majority of voters in about a third of the state’s counties. Oklahoma has ended voter registration for the year, which means residents’ affiliations are final heading into the election on Nov. 6. The Oklahoma State Election Board provided The Journal Record with the most recent registration records on Friday. [Journal Record ????]

Republicans expected to repel unprecedented Democrats challenges to ‘safe’ GOP seats: South and east Tulsa County have long been a Republican stronghold. Since Oklahoma began electing legislators by districts instead of counties in 1964, those regions have rarely sent anyone except Republicans to the Capitol. That’s unlikely to change this year, although Democrats are putting up more of a fight here than perhaps they ever have before. [Tulsa World]  Find more about Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions at OK Policy’s resource page here.

Tulsa World endorsement: In the race for governor, Kevin Stitt is the better agent of change: For the past three weeks, the Tulsa World has been hosting a governor’s debate in written form. The campaigns of Republican candidate Kevin Stitt and Democratic Party nominee Drew Edmondson have supplied arguments for their candidates on the critical questions of education improvement, economic growth and leadership. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] Kevin Stitt deserves nod in Oklahoma governor’s race [Editorial Board / NewsOK] Drew Edmondson: Why I should be the next governor of Oklahoma. [Drew Edmondson / Tulsa World]

Questions for District Attorney candidates: The Stillwater League of Women Voters will be hosting a candidate forum beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday at the City of Stillwater Municipal Building, City Council room. Oklahoma House of Representative candidates Trish Ranson and Dr. Aaron Means will be featured at 6 p.m., followed by District Attorney candidates Laura Austin Thomas and Cory Williams at 7 p.m. [Stillwater News Press]

Treasurer candidate, supporters criticize opponent’s retirement policies: Charles de Coune, an independent candidate for state treasurer, said Tuesday that retired state employees are worse off because of his opponent’s work in the Legislature … State Rep. Randy McDaniel is the Republican nominee and the only other candidate for treasurer on the Nov. 6 ballot. The state treasurer sits on boards that oversee pension investments. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma County commissioner candidates discuss solutions for problem-plagued county jail: A shakeup on Oklahoma County’s Board of County Commissioners could lead to new approaches toward the long-troubled county jail. Two commissioners are retiring, and four candidates are vying for their seats on the three-member board in the Nov. 6 general election. The candidates agree that change is needed but are reluctant to burden taxpayers with the hefty price tag of a new jail facility unless reforms are part of the package. [NewsOK]

Questions for House District 34 candidates: The Stillwater League of Women Voters will be hosting a candidate forum beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday at the City of Stillwater Municipal Building, City Council room. Oklahoma House of Representative candidates Trish Ranson and Dr. Aaron Means will be featured at 6 p.m., followed by District Attorney candidates Laura Austin Thomas and Cory Williams at 7 p.m. [Stillwater News Press]

Legislator: Commutation effort continues the will of Oklahoma voters: Despite recent progress on criminal justice reform, thousands of Oklahomans remain in prison serving excessive sentences for nonviolent offenses — sentences so long, Oklahoma law no longer allows them for new convictions. These sentences are costing Oklahoma millions of taxpayer dollars and further crowding the prison system.  That’s why I’m thankful for and supportive of an effort by community leaders to modify a handful of these individuals’ sentences to meet current law. [Rep. Josh West / NewsOK] OK Policy earlier wrote about why making recent justice reforms retroactive is smart policy and a moral necessity here.

Report says Oklahoma’s state and local taxes among the most regressive in the nation: Oklahoma’s state and local taxes are among the most regressive in the country, according to a report released last week by the Institute on Taxation and Policy.The report compares the combined effective tax rates for various income brackets. In Oklahoma, the rate for the poorest 20 percent is 13.2 percent, or more than twice the rate paid by the top 1 percent.Taxes with higher rates for low earners are considered regressive. [Tulsa World]

Landowners wonder if prairie chicken conservation can keep up in competitive grasslands: The silhouettes of a few old oil wells and barns flanking Stanley Barby’s ranch house fade quickly after a short drive down a narrow path in prairie grass tall enough to swat a pickup truck’s side mirrors. Today, the Barby Family owns an ocean of grass in Oklahoma’s Panhandle. The scrubby sandhills are the same ones that greeted Barby’s great-grandfather before statehood when he started what would become a 40,000-acre ranch in a region dubbed No Man’s Land. [StateImpact Oklahoma

Activists wonder if poultry council will work: The number of chicken houses in Northeast Oklahoma has increased over the past year, raising concerns among local residents for the welfare of natural resources and the community’s quality of life. In response to the growing number of poultry operations, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and the Cherokee Nation recently announced a Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth. Also, the Oklahoma Board of Agriculture decided to temporarily suspend the acceptance of new poultry farm permits in the state. Although it may appear progress has been made toward finding a solution, local advocates fear the damage may already be done. [Tahlequah Daily Press] Ottawa County residents enter chicken house fray. [Tulsa World]

Rough ride: Survey says OKC roads among worst in nation: A pothole here. A crack there. And in road construction parlance, an uneven expansion joint everywhere. Not really everywhere. But according to a new survey of the nation’s major urban roadways, Oklahoma City ranks No. 20 for poor conditions. Worse, according to the report released this week by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Transportation Research and Innovation Portal, Oklahoma City ranks No. 6 in the country among large urban areas with the highest annual additional vehicle operating cost per driver, as a result of rough roads. [NewsOK ????]

As time on council nears an end, Ewing proposes another name change to controversial downtown street: few short months away from the end of his tenure on the city council, District 4 representative Blake Ewing is seeking to reverse one of his “biggest regrets” and proposed Friday to change the name of a controversial downtown street. The ordinance change, which appeared on a city agenda Friday, seeks to change the name of M.B. Brady Street to Reconciliation Way. [The Frontier]

Quote of the Day

“We have a tremendous number of lane miles to keep up with. Our individual taxpayers have got to be responsible for more miles of asphalt than the average resident of Boston, the average resident of New York, or any number of other cities. It’s just a cold, hard reality.”

-Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, responding to OKC’s ranking No. 6 in the country among cities for vehicle operating costs as a result of rough roads. [NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Number of people sent to prison for drug possession in Oklahoma from 2005 to 2015, before SQ 780 made simple possession a misdemeanor.

[Oklahoma Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Top 1.0 percent reaches highest wages ever—up 157 percent since 1979: Newly available wage data for 2017 show that annual wages grew far faster for the top 1.0 percent (3.7 percent) than for the bottom 90 percent (up only 1.0 percent). The top 0.1 percent saw the fastest growth, up 8.0 percent—far faster than any other wage group. This fast wage growth for the top 0.1 percent reflects the sharp 17.6 percent spike upwards in the compensation of the CEOs of large firms: executives comprise the largest group in both the top 1.0 and top 0.1 percent of earners. The fast wage growth of the top 1.0 percent in 2017 brought their wages to the highest level ever, $719,000, topping the wage levels reached before the Great Recession of $716,000 in 2007. The wages of the top 0.1 percent reached $2,757,000 in 2017, the second highest level ever, roughly only 4 percent below their wages in 2007. [Economic Policy Institute]

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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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