In 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
Governor signs commutations for 147 more drug offenders eligible under HB 1269: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday signed commutations for 147 people serving time for simple drug possession. Those individuals were eligible for an expedited commutation docket established by House Bill 1269, which took effect Nov. 1. The law directed the Pardon and Parole Board to establish an accelerated, single-stage docket to review the sentences of those in prison for crimes that would no longer be considered felonies if charged today. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy analysis has shown that HB 1269 made progress towards SQ 780 retroactivity, but there are still unresolved issues.
Stitt administration hires consultants to reimagine state government structure: In his State of the State address Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt called for consolidating some state agencies, a recommendation met with mixed reactions from state lawmakers. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services in October hired a consulting firm to assess how Oklahoma state government is structured and make recommendations on how it could be reorganized in a simplified way to increase efficiency and collaboration. [The Oklahoman] (Audio) Capitol Insider: Governor signals agency changes are coming. [KGOU]
Legislators, Stitt seek civil service changes for state employees: Gov. Kevin Stitt and some state legislators are looking to overhaul Oklahoma’s civil service system. For years, legislators and the Oklahoma Public Employees Association have pushed modernizing the state’s merit protection system, but couldn’t gain traction on the issue. [The Oklahoman]
The Oklahoman editorial: Further occupational licensing reform can benefit Oklahoma: Politicians often talk about pursuing policies that help everyday constituents. In Oklahoma, one way lawmakers can do that is with further reform of the state’s occupational licensing laws. This has been a continuing effort, and some strides have been made. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman] OK Policy found that expanding occupational licensure opportunities is important, especially for justice-involved individuals.
Drivers License Revocation reform introduced to lawmakers: An Oklahoma Lawmaker says low level offenders should be able to keep their driver’s license. Representative Nicole Miller explains it’s very difficult for convicted Oklahomans to be successful after incarceration, simply because they can’t drive. [FOX 25]
Four-day school supporters turn appeals to Legislature: Advocates of four-day school weeks are appealing to state lawmakers not to approve new regulations on academic calendars, which they say threaten the financial future of rural schools. [The Oklahoman] Coalition members Erika Wright of Noble and Missy Berry of Granite said they already tried and failed to get the Oklahoma State Department of Education to revise rules associated with Senate Bill 441. [The Journal Record 🔒]
National firestorm on horizon as Oklahoma, other states consider criminalizing transgender treatments for youths: A polarizing debate is happening around the nation as lawmakers in eight states have introduced bills in recent weeks seeking to restrict transition-related treatment for transgender youth. [USA Today / The Oklahoman]
New wildlife laws proposed: The legislative session is underway and although education, budgets, and medical are once again at the forefront, there are several wildlife related bills on the agenda. In all, more than 50 proposed or carried-over bills await the legislators that have impacts on wildlife. [The Lawton Constitution]
Permitless carry has led to fewer issued licenses, fewer people taking classes: When Oklahoma erased the requirement for licenses to carry a gun on Nov. 1, a local gun store and shooting center started a new Constitutional Carry Class aimed at those who wanted to go permit free. What surprised the gun shop’s manager in the three months since is interest in the new class has only been moderate, while interest has renewed in the state-mandated course his shop still offers — the one that’s required to obtain a state’s Self Defense Act permit. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoma County judge refuses to temporarily halt two abortion laws: An Oklahoma County District Court judge on Friday refused to temporarily halt state laws that say only physicians can perform abortions in Oklahoma, and they can’t do so using telemedicine. Judge Natalie Mai quashed two motions for temporary injunction challenging longstanding Oklahoma laws. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma overstating potential impact of Creek reservation case, inmate claims: As the U.S. Supreme Court takes a second run at deciding whether the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was ever officially terminated, an Oklahoma inmate told justices that the state is exaggerating the potential impact of returning some authority to the Creeks. [The Oklahoman]
Sen. Inhofe keeps prodding Corps of Engineers to complete Tulsa levee paperwork: Congress is still waiting for the final paperwork on the Tulsa-West Tulsa levee project, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe reminded the Army Corps of Engineers commanding officer this week. Inhofe noted the Corps first described the levee system as “unacceptable” and at “very high risk” of failure more than a decade ago, and he reminded Semonite of last spring’s flooding. [Tulsa World]
As Greenwood Initiative seeks economic justice for black Americans, are black Tulsans convinced it will happen?: Just 12 days before the annual celebration of Black History Month, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg — standing in the Greenwood Cultural Center in the heart of the historic Greenwood District — unveiled a multibillion-dollar plan to excavate African Americans from generations of inequity. [Tulsa World]
Moore tragedy could cause student trauma, experts say: As Moore High School reels from the deaths of two track athletes, experts say the student body could experience various effects of psychological trauma. The Oklahoma State Department of Education deployed a trauma team to Moore High School to help students in the wake of the tragedy. [The Oklahoman]
Norman dismisses sanctuary-city recommendation: After a study session earlier this week, the City of Norman decided to dismiss a recommendation to become a sanctuary city. The Norman City Council met Feb. 4 to discuss the recommendations and heard from multiple residents. [The Oklahoman]
Embattled Oklahoma County judge sued twice over debts: After a tumultuous first year on the bench, Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman has been sued — twice — at the start of her second. [The Oklahoman]
Tuesday election could decide fate of two hotly contested Tulsa school board seats: The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education could receive two new members this month depending on how constituents vote Tuesday. Five candidates will appear on the ballot for the school board’s District 5 seat in the upcoming election. [Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
Burdensome licensing rules make it more challenging for many Oklahomans, particularly lower-income earners, to find work and they can make services more expensive for consumers. The laws approved last year will help, but further action should be pursued.
– The Oklahoman Editorial Board calling on the Oklahoma legislature to expand on 2019’s occupational licensing reform. [The Oklahoman]
Number of the Day
Percent of civilian workers in America with access to paid family and medical leave. Only 9% of workers in the bottom 25% of earners currently have this benefit.
[Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]
Providing unpaid leave was only the first step; 25 years after the Family and Medical Leave Act, more workers need paid leave: Only 13 percent of private-sector workers have access to any paid family leave, which means that 87 percent do not. Due to this widespread lack of paid family leave, workers have to make difficult choices between their careers and their caregiving responsibilities precisely when they need their paychecks the most, such as following the birth of a child or when they or a loved one falls ill. [Economic Policy Institute]
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