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.
New from OK Policy
Meet OK Policy: Economic Opportunity Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison: “Most of the work I do connects poverty (specifically, reducing or eliminating poverty) in some way. I analyze legislation and work on issues connected to the safety net, wages and benefits, the labor force, and anything else that might help people living in poverty to get ahead.” [OK Policy]
In The News
Groups take aim at “failure-to-protect” laws: Under Oklahoma’s “failure-to-protect” laws, enabling child abuse is a felony that can carry the same penalties as child abuse — up to life in prison. Critics say the law unfairly punishes domestic violence victims, who sometimes are afraid or unable to seek help. In some cases, people who committed no abuse and may have been victims of abuse themselves do more time behind bars than the abusers. [The Oklahoman]
For first time, ‘Read or Fail’ Law is fully funded. Will it reduce retentions? One of the state’s most contentious education initiatives, the Reading Sufficiency Act, is fully funded for the first time, with $12 million dedicated to fund supports for struggling readers in the 2019-20 school year. The reading law has for six years contained a high-stakes component for third graders: They face being held back if they can’t demonstrate reading proficiency. [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma is one of almost 20 states that require third-graders to show reading proficiency before going to fourth grade. That means higher expectations for younger kids, like kindergartners. [NPR] What’s That? Reading Sufficiency Act
Report says underfunded justice system helps drive Oklahoma’s high incarceration rate: A new report says Oklahoma’s underfunded criminal justice system is a big reason the state puts so many people in prison. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law report says courts are underfunded by the state — in some cases, getting just 10% of their operating costs. District attorneys, public defenders and other entities are in similar positions. [Public Radio Tulsa] When the justice system is underfunding, they rely on fines and fees collected from defendants, who often cannot afford to pay.
As state considers reducing offender court fees, officials ponder ways to keep victim compensation program afloat: “For the first time in Oklahoma Crime Victims Compensation history, the fund is in trouble,” a December 2017 report by the state program to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime advised. “Legislative action will be needed very soon to put measures in place to preserve the Victims Compensation Fund. Criminal Justice Reform is resulting in lower assessments being collected and money being diverted away from victims to other programs using offender fees.” [The Frontier]
Prison reform remains an issue in Oklahoma: In recent years, many other states included in the Top 10 in incarceration rates also have approved criminal justice reform measures intended to decrease prison populations. In fact, of the Top 10 most incarcerated states five years ago, all but three states have seen decreases. The only states to experience an increase in that time period were Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman] Criminal justice reform was not a large enough priority for the Legislation last session.
Study sought on Oklahoma’s cost to treat hepatitis C: Big bills are coming due for Oklahoma related to a serious illness affecting thousands of inmates, and a state lawmaker wants to study how costs might be made more manageable. Hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease that can be spread through sex, by sharing needles for drugs or tattoos, or even by sharing razors or toothbrushes, affects about 3,000 men and women in the corrections system. [Journal Record 🔒]
Oklahoma judge upholds law banning common abortion procedure: An Oklahoma judge has upheld a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure in what abortion rights proponents decried as a “rogue” decision that will threaten the reproductive rights of women across the state. [AP News] The Center for Reproductive rights is taking Oklahoma to court over a law that bans standard abortions after 14 weeks of pregnancy. [News9]
Unemployment rates down over the year for most counties in Oklahoma in May 2019: The State Unemployment rate for May decreased slightly to 3.2% with 1,769,690 employed and 59,000 unemployed and the National Unemployment held steady at 3.6% with 156,758,000 employed and 5,888,000 unemployed. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was down 0.3% compared to May 2018. [Duncan Banner] Just because statewide unemployment is low, that doesn’t mean that it’s low in all parts of our state – some parts of Oklahoma are still struggling.
Tribes committed to existing terms of gaming compact: Leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole nations pledged their commitment on Friday to continuing a tribal-state compact as it currently exists defining the exclusive fee structure and amounts paid to the state related to tribal gaming operations. [Journal Record]
Church conference, Oklahoma agency partner for Opioid Outreach: The Oklahoma Conference of Churches and the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse have partnered to provide opioid addiction and substance abuse awareness to metro-area churches. Micah James, the conference of churches’ liaison to the Opioid Outreach project, is spearheading the effort. [The Oklahoman]
Lt. Gov. Pinnell on re-branding Oklahoma: In this episode of Capitol Insider, Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell joins KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley to discuss his plans for improving Oklahoma’s image and diversifying the economy. [KGOU]
Excited for Cabinet job, Chip Keating discusses coming back to Capitol to ‘be part of the solution’: Chip Keating supported former Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb in his bid for governor but wound up working for the man who ultimately got the job. In February, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he had tapped Keating, the son of former Gov. Frank Keating and his wife, Cathy Keating, as secretary of public safety. [Tulsa World]
Karina Shreffler: Someday we may protect pregnant women from premature birth by asking about their childhood: I share the commonly held American value that all children deserve the opportunity to pursue happy, healthy lives. Sadly, children in Oklahoma are at a higher risk for exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences, and this exposure has been linked to a variety of risks for poor mental and physical health outcomes. [Karina Shreffler / Tulsa World] What’s That? ACEs
Tulsa World Editorial Board: State cigarette tax increase led to fewer cigarettes sold, but more revenue for the state: Oklahoma raised the state tax on cigarettes by $1 a pack last year, reducing cigarette sales and increasing state revenue. After a decade of debate about how to fund better state education budgets, the Legislature approved House Bill 1010xx last year. It raised tax rates on gross production, cigarette and fuel taxes. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] Oklahoma is also seeing increased revenue from gross production taxes, fueling a lot of budget growth this year.
Even when HIV prevention drug is covered, other costs block treatment: Last month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that clinicians offer prescription pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to people at high risk of contracting HIV. But the recommendation doesn’t apply to the other clinical and lab services people need if they’re on PrEP, according to task force officials. [Muskogee Phoenix]
MAPS 4 affordable housing proposal asks for $80 million to rehab old, build new units: Studies say Oklahoma City does not have enough truly affordable housing units for the thousands of residents who struggle to pay average rent prices; advocates believe MAPS 4 can help. [The Oklahoman]
Judge to decide this fall whether city of Tulsa discriminated against gay employee: A Tulsa County District Court judge will likely rule this fall on whether the city of Tulsa discriminated against a gay employee by denying health benefits to the man’s husband and then firing him when he continued to press the issue. [The Frontier]
Undocumented Oklahomans without a criminal record increasingly face deportation: Of the 9,201 ICE arrests in Oklahoma between October 2014 and May 2018 – a period reviewed by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse – 20% of those arrested had no criminal record and 36% had only a misdemeanor conviction. [Oklahoma Watch]
Quote of the Day
“Instead of taking away an abuser from a family and allowing a family to live and grow in peace together, they let the actual abuser back out on the street, failed to protect the children, failed to protect the victim of domestic violence … and instead locked her up for not doing enough in the right way at the right time to combat the man who was threatening her life.’
– Megan Lambert, a legal fellow for the ACLU of Oklahoma, speaking about the excessive sentences often imposed on women for failing to protect their children from an abusive partner who is also abusing them, while the abuser is able to secure a plea bargain for a lighter sentence [The Oklahoman]
Number of the Day
The dollar decrease in state support for school operations excluding money for mandated pay raises since its funding peak in FY 2008, even as K-12 enrollment has grown by over 50,000 students.
[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]
Trump’s bid to wipe out AIDS will take more than a pill: If President Donald Trump’s ambitious plan to wipe out HIV transmission in America by 2030 is to have any chance of success, it will have to reach people like Kiwanna Dingle’s mother. In April, she walked into an emergency room in rural South Carolina seven times — and seven times she was refused care. [Politico]
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