In The Know: Fixing Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code, examining ‘public charge’ and immigration, shakeup at DOC, Medicaid expansion pushed

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

Fixing Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code could be a great step forward but policymakers should be wary of risks: Reform of the state’s criminal code is long overdue — as the code is a major driver of Oklahoma’s expensive incarceration crisis. If targeted correctly, the efforts of a newly created Oklahoma Criminal Justice Reclassification Council (created by Senate Bill 1098) could fundamentally transform Oklahoma’s justice system for the better. [OK Policy]

Prosperity Policy: Charging foul: Last week, federal judges in New York, California and Washington state all took action to block a new rule from the Trump administration that would make it harder for legal immigrants to get needed health care, food and housing. The administration’s proposal concerns a test known as “public charge” that is used by immigration officials to decide who can come to the United States or get a green card providing lawful permanent residence. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

In The News

Major shakeup at Oklahoma Department of Corrections with board departures and agency staff moves: Three of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s five recent appointees to the Board of Corrections are no longer serving. The board’s monthly meeting set for Wednesday was cancelled. Meanwhile, key personnel have either left the Department of Corrections or been transferred. The former Board of Corrections chairman, Steven Harpe, resigned to take a post with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. [Tulsa World]

Advocates push for Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma: Also called SoonerCare in Oklahoma, Medicaid is the federal-state health insurance program for low-income residents that 36 states and the District of Columbia decided to expand under the Affordable Care Act. However, Oklahoma politicians chose not to expand it — a decision the group Oklahomans Decide Healthcare is trying to reverse by collecting signatures to put the option on the 2020 ballot. [StateImpact Oklahoma] OK Policy is endorsing SQ 802, because there are no good reasons not to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma.

(Audio) Inaccurate 2020 Census count could cost Oklahoma millions of dollars: The next U.S. Census begins early next year, and nonprofit leaders say an inaccurate count could cost Oklahoma millions of dollars. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how nonprofit and public entities plan to ensure participation and why certain groups remain underrepresented in the census. [KGOU] As OK Policy has previously noted, accurate Census reporting is essential for ensuring that Oklahoma receives its share of federal grants, helping non-profits and public agencies target programs where they’re needed most, and for ensuring Americans have fair voting representation in state and national elections.

With Equality Indicators hearings complete, Tulsa Council weighs what’s next: The report showed significant racial disparities in areas like policing and justice system involvement, and councilors are now trying to figure out what they can do to close those gaps. [Public Radio Tulsa] ‘We absolutely have to act’: City councilor discusses plan of action after Equality Indicators meetings. [Tulsa World]

Lawmaker questions Tulsa police use of force, body cams: Tulsa police are responding to a state lawmaker’s accusations about the department’s use of body cameras and use of force. State Rep. Regina Goodwin says she has been working with two citizens who have not been treated fairly. [KTUL] Goodwin said their separate experiences illustrate a larger picture of black Tulsans from certain areas of town being mistreated by police while they go about their everyday business, and former Police Chief Drew Diamond agreed with her. [Tulsa World] OK Policy previously has examined strategies to help build trust between law enforcement and communities in Oklahoma. 

Chronic pain patients complain obtaining opioid medications has become difficult: About 40 chronic pain patients and their advocates rallied outside the Oklahoma attorney general’s office Wednesday, complaining that the government crackdown on opioid overprescribing has made it difficult to obtain the pain relief they need. [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Stitt to review 30-year ‘failure to protect’ prison sentence: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy works to advance child abuse prevention and criminal justice reform, and this column spotlights the high-profile case of Ms. Tondalo Hall to examine those issues. It notes that Oklahoma’s rehabilitative efforts require resources and a commitment to helping inmates address mental health issues rather than simply warehousing them. [Joe Dorman / CNHI]

Getting Real: Oklahoma among last to comply with ID law: Nearly 15 years after passage of the federal Real ID Act, Oklahoma will become compliant with the controversial law by the fall of 2020, officials say. Oklahoma is one of three states still working to comply with the act. [Journal Record 🔒]

Oklahoma students working to keep music alive in low-income schools: A group of Oklahoma City high school students is working to increase availability for music programs in the state. [KFOR] OK Policy previously reported that Oklahoma had 1,110 fewer art and music classes during the 2017-2018 school year compared with four years earlier. The report noted that statewide underfunding of arts education impacts all Oklahoma schoolchildren, but the cuts create deeper disparities in both access and quality for low-income and rural students.  

Clarity provided on marijuana, guns and real estate: Oklahoma Realtors are keeping up with changing laws regarding marijuana and guns. The Oklahoma Association of Realtors conducted a segment at its REignite conference in early October to discuss how the new laws may or may not affect a Realtor’s businesses. [Journal Record 🔒]

Horn tops GOP challengers in 3rd quarter fundraising: Republican candidates vying for Oklahoma’s 5th District seat currently held by Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK5), the sole Oklahoma Democrat in the House of Representatives, raised less money than the incumbent during the third quarter, according to reports filed to the Federal Election Commission. [Gaylord News]

Quote of the Day

“When you bring in these federal dollars into the state, by spending one dollar of state money, you bring nine more federal dollars in, suddenly these people who couldn’t afford to pay for their coverage are able to pay for that, and that benefits other parts of the state budget.” 

– Adam Searing, Associate Professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families speaking about leveraging federal Medicaid dollars at the state level. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Number of the Day

25 months

Median length of prison stay for drug-related crimes in Oklahoma, compared to the national average of 14 months

[Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

White borrowers? Almost paid off. Black borrowers? Still indebted: A new report highlights the long-term burden of student-loan debt and its disproportionate impact on young black borrowers. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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