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
More than 450 Oklahoma inmates expected to be released from prisons Monday in historic commutation: More than 450 Oklahoma inmates are expected to be released from prison Monday in what state officials said will be the largest commutation in U.S. history. The Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously Friday to recommend commutation for 527 nonviolent offenders serving time for crimes that would no longer be considered felonies if charged today. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma approves largest single-day commutation in U.S. history. [Washington Post] OK Policy analysis has shown that Oklahoma’s incarceration rate should prompt an evaluation of the state’s criminal justice system.
Oklahoma’s minority students show improvement on national report card: Despite underwhelming results statewide, a national report card showed a few notable gains by Oklahoma’s minority students on math tests. On Wednesday, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released its 2019 report, known as the Nation’s Report Card, focusing on math and reading scores from fourth and eighth graders in public schools. A closer look at student demographics, though, shows improvement in math among certain minority groups, both in fourth and eighth grade. Students learning English as a second language and those with disabilities also showed gains. [The Oklahoman]
‘I just want it to go away:’ Hundreds seek to get criminal records cleared at Expungement Expo: Hundreds of people showed up at the 36th Street North Event Center on Saturday for the opportunity to have their criminal records expunged at the annual Expungement Expo. The free event helps those previously charged with a nonviolent offense that occurred in Tulsa County to determine whether they qualify for expungement. [Tulsa World] OK Policy took a closer look at the expungement process in Oklahoma in this review of SQ 780 retroactivity.
Thousands of students have left TPS in the past five years. Where are they going, and why are they leaving?: Thousands of students have left Tulsa Public Schools for other options in recent years. Newly obtained data from the Oklahoma State Department of Education shows most end up in surrounding school districts and a variety of charter schools. While high student mobility rates mean many students also come to TPS each year, the district is facing a shrinking budget because of its net loss of about 5,000 students in the past decade. [Tulsa World]
Tulsa World Editorial: Rising failure to meet any ACT benchmarks ought to awaken lawmakers: Every graduating senior in Oklahoma last year took the ACT college entrance exam, but a startling 46% failed to meet the minimum benchmark in any academic category. That ought to wake up elected leaders and policymakers to the needs of public schools. Local school leaders need to dig into why some students are graduating without the basic skills for college or careers. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]
Wayne Greene: One year from today, Oklahomans have a change the course of its future for the better: One year from today, Oklahomans will be able to set their own health care destiny. They’ll get a chance to rescue the state’s rural hospitals and provide the economy with an able-bodied workforce. They’ll get a chance to recover about $1 billion a year in available health care funding that we have refused for more than a decade. They’ll get a chance to say they’re sick and tired of being kept sick and poor by their own political leadership. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World] OK Policy supports SQ 802 and has provided information and resources to better understand the issue.
While Oklahoma sued opioid makers, how did state regulators handle doctors accused of overprescribing?: Oklahoma sued opioid manufacturers amid a nationwide crisis. The state jailed drug dealers. But what happened to the doctors the state claimed prescribed too many opioids? It’s complicated. Accountability for doctors is somewhere between the collective — yet isolated — efforts of state prosecutors, narcotics agents and an appointed board given the uncomfortable task of policing its peers. [Tulsa World]
Legislators won’t say who applied to lead transparency office: Leaders of an Oklahoma legislative committee tasked with overseeing creation of a new watchdog budget office do not plan to publicly release details of who applied to be the office’s inaugural director. State legislators appropriated $1.7 million this year to create a watchdog budget office to oversee state agency spending and performance — a top priority for Republican legislative leaders. Once fully staffed, the office will have a director to oversee about seven employees. [The Oklahoman]
What laws should be passed in the next Oklahoma Legislature? Send in your ideas: The Tulsa World is asking its readers to become lawmakers for one week by asking what new laws they think should be enacted in the coming legislative session. The newspaper is gathering reader ideas and sending them to legislators, who have a Dec. 13 deadline to file ideas for bills. [Tulsa World]
Unaccountable: Oklahoma legislators pursue midwife regulations: After at least two failed attempts to regulate Oklahoma’s non-nurse midwives in recent years, two state legislators told GateHouse Media they plan to author bills in the upcoming session to do just that. [The Oklahoman]
New law allows children in Oklahoma liquor stores: The new law is intended to provide some parity between liquor stores and grocery stores when it comes to wine and beer sales, and to improve safety for children who might otherwise have been left unattended in their parents’ vehicle in a liquor store parking lot. [Journal Record 🔒]
Permitless carry supporters celebrate new law: Second Amendment supporters rallied Friday at Oklahoma’s state Capitol to celebrate their expanded gun rights on the first day Oklahomans could carry a firearm without a permit or training. Second Amendment supporters praised permitless carry as the restoration of their right to bear arms granted to them in the U.S. Constitution. Permitless carry allows most Oklahomans age 21 and older — and military service members and veterans age 18 and older — to carry guns either concealed or unconcealed without a license. [The Oklahoman]
Sierra Club releases Legislative Scorecard: The Oklahoma Chapter of Sierra Club has released the 2019 State Legislative Scorecard. The document includes an annual “A to F” letter grade for all Oklahoma state legislators, as well as a summary of the entire session’s overall impact on Oklahoma and its natural environment – especially water. [CNHI]
Hearing postponed for case against Epic Charter Schools: A lawsuit contending dual-enrollment policies at Epic Charter Schools has been moved to another hearing date. Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons rescheduled a hearing for the case to 2 p.m. Nov. 14 in Oklahoma County District Court. Three sets of parents sued Community Strategies, the organization that operates Epic, after their children were unenrolled in August and September. Epic notified the families that the children would be removed from its rolls because they also were attending a private school. [The Oklahoman]
In Oklahoma, marijuana takes hold in rural communities: The medical marijuana industry is booming in Harmon County, Oklahoma’s southwestern-most county. Per capita, it has been one of the most lucrative counties in the entire state when it comes to tax collections for marijuana products. [The Oklahoman]
Plugged in: Oklahoma’s electric vehicle charging network among nation’s best: Oklahoma is one of only four states in the nation that meet at least 40% of their power demand with renewable sources, said Kenneth Wagner, Oklahoma secretary of energy and environment, and the state is a national leader in carbon dioxide emissions reduction. The state’s network of electric vehicle charging stations is the latest entry in Oklahoma’s sustainability resume. [Journal Record 🔒]
Muscogee (Creek) Nation primary elections yield same results for chief candidates after 2nd vote: Second vote, same as the first. According to unofficial returns, Second Speaker David Hill finished atop a six-candidate field late Saturday night for principal chief in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s primary election to advance to next month’s general election. [Tulsa World]
Bynum says he’s kept ‘up at night’ over looming Nov. 12 Improve Our Tulsa vote: Tulsans go to the polls Nov. 12 to vote on the $639 million Improve Our Tulsa renewal package. Or will they? Mayor G.T. Bynum, who has spent the last two years working with city councilors to put the proposal together, is counting on it. And fretting over it. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoma City deploys neighborhood leaders to promote MAPS 4: Part of the “Love Your OKC” campaign to promote MAPS 4 focuses specifically on neighborhood associations and local leaders, engaging them with speaking events and dinners with city council members, the mayor or members of the chamber’s speakers bureau, and then deploying them back to their communities to spread the word. [The Oklahoman]
U.S. Senate OKs bills with Oklahoma projects: Oklahoma’s senators hailed passage of four spending bills Thursday that include money for Oklahoma projects. The bills were part of a package that will fund several federal departments, including Agriculture, Transportation and Justice. [The Oklahoman]
Redistricting town halls slated: Tulsa is among 10 locations for town hall meetings to discuss a ballot initiative seeking to create an independent redistricting commission. People Not Politicians last month filed papers with the Oklahoma Secretary of State indicating they are seeking a vote on a constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission. They need nearly 178,000 signatures to get it on the ballot in 2020. [CNHI]
Quote of the Day
“More than 450 Oklahomans are getting a second chance today.”
-Gov. Kevin Stitt, speaking after Friday’s Pardon and Parole Board meeting. [The Oklahoman]
Number of the Day
The estimated number of children under the age of 18 in Oklahoma in 2018.
[Source: United States Census Bureau]
When eviction looms, landlords have lawyers. Now more tenants do, too: A study from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute examining one month of eviction cases from 2016 found 82 percent of landlords had legal representation. And tenants? Eighty-four percent didn’t even show up in court. Over the past 30 years, a number of research studies of housing courts around the country have found the proportion of tenants with legal counsel can range from 0 percent to 20 percent. [WFAE]
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.