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
Tulsa World Special Report: How a legal system dependent on fines, fees affects Oklahomans: The Tulsa World last week published a multi-part series to examine how court fines and fees in Oklahoma has led to a two-tiered justice system — one where those who can afford to pay go free while those who can’t afford to pay often get stuck in a cycle of increasing debt as they struggle to pay down what can amount to tens of thousands of dollars of legal debts. The series looked at the people who are affected by this system and the toll it takes on them as they try to get their lives back on track. [Tulsa World] Read OK Policy’s report about how excessive fees lock Oklahomans into the criminal justice system.
Tulsa World editorial: Oklahoma shamefully perpetuates economic penalties against those whose greatest crime is being poor: Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform is being held back by the state’s mandatory court fees, fines, bail, and driving restrictions for people in the criminal justice system. Financial punishments have created never-ending debt for people who have otherwise paid their debt for past mistakes. Far too often, the result is that people end up in jail solely for being poor. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]
Downturn in state gross receipts may signal tough times ahead after November declines in energy, sales tax revenue collections: Gross receipts to the state treasury fell in November for the first time in 2½ years, an ominous sign for Oklahoma’s economy, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel reported Thursday. “Lower energy prices are having a significant influence on gross production tax receipts,” McDaniel said in a news release. “The recent large layoffs in the energy sector impact both families and the overall economy.” [Tulsa World] Economist: Oklahoma vulnerable to economic slowdown. [Journal Record 🔒]
Stitt moves Crow from interim to permanent director of Oklahoma Department of Corrections: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the appointment of Scott Crow as the Oklahoma Department of Corrections director on Friday. Senate confirmation is required during the 2020 legislative session. Crow was appointed interim director after the abrupt resignation of Joe Allbaugh in June. [Tulsa World]
Tribes will be operating Class III games illegally on Jan. 1 if no compact deal is reached, Gov. Kevin Stitt says: The conflict between Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state’s gaming tribes escalated last week as Stitt said tribes that offer Class III gaming after Jan. 1 will be doing so illegally. [Tulsa World] The governor of the Chickasaw Nation sent notice to the U.S. Department of Interior this week that any potential disruption of the tribe’s casino operations stemming from a dispute with the state is viewed as an “intolerable risk” that may spark legal action. [Journal Record 🔒] Stitt and tribes fight for public support. [CNHI]
Bills in Oklahoma Legislature aim to tackle domestic violence: Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, filed several bills last week aimed at increasing accountability for domestic violence offenders. Senate Bill 1105 would add domestic assault and battery that results in great bodily injury to the list of offenses for which inmates must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole consideration. It also would define the crime as a violent crime. [The Oklahoman]
Report suggests many gifted and talented minority students go unidentified in Oklahoma: Thousands of gifted and talented minority students aren’t identified by their schools in Oklahoma, according to a report published last month. Anywhere between 19,000 and 60,000 students – mostly black and Latino children – aren’t identified as gifted and talented, according to the report published by Purdue University’s Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
Oklahoma doesn’t screen students for dyslexia, the most common learning disability: Though the state’s Reading Sufficiency Act mandates measuring student reading performance, the high stakes tests that come with it do not screen for dyslexia among young students. Nobody measures the number of students with the disorder in Oklahoma, though experts estimate as many as 20 percent of Oklahoma students could have some form of dyslexia. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
Inside Oklahoma’s statewide prison lockdown: For more than a week starting in mid-September, Oklahoma’s prisons were locked down. Routines were interrupted as visitation was canceled, classes were put on hold, and inmates were allowed to shower only three times per week. They were largely confined to their cells or bunks. [The Frontier]
Michael DuPont: Where Oklahoma can start to reduce its unacceptable level of poverty: So, what is the state of poverty in our community? The federal poverty level for a family of three is $20,780, roughly half of Tulsa’s self-sufficiency benchmark of $46,889. Knowing this, first consider the stress that families in poverty live with as they face this chasm between their income and self-sufficiency. [Michael DuPont / Tulsa World]
Joe Dorman: For the Children — Our wishlist for state and federal lawmakers: The holiday season has arrived, and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is preparing a “wish list” for lawmakers in advance of the next legislative session. Its 2020 Children’s Legislative Agenda is driven by the work that occurred at this year’s Fall Forum, and will be submitted to legislators (and available online at OICA.org) by the end of this week. [Joe Dorman / CNHI]
Oklahoma increases election security efforts: With the end-of-the-year deadline to pass election security measures in Congress quickly approaching, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said Oklahoma has already taken steps to secure elections from foreign interference. [NonDoc]
State flu-related death toll rises to 3 since September, Health Department reports: The state flu-related death total rose to three between September and late November, Oklahoma State Department of Health data showed Thursday. The first recorded influenza-related death of this season was that of a 65 or older Tulsa County patient in October. [Tulsa World] ‘Delay’ in flu vaccine a problem for seniors. [NonDoc]
MAPS unfolded: OKC voters set to decide fate of MAPS 4 temporary one-cent sales tax to fund 16 civic projects: MAPS 4 goes to a vote of the people in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, with an opportunity to approve or strike down a nearly $1 billion investment in the city. The cost is significant, and plenty of questions remain about how these 16 civic projects will turn out. [The Oklahoman] Before you vote Tuesday, review these MAPS 4 details. [NonDoc]
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan announces retirement: Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan announced his retirement on Friday after nine years leading the department. Jordan, 72, joined the department in 1969 and served for 32 years before previously retiring to be a commander of civilian officers in Kosovo and then earning the rank of captain at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. [Tulsa World] Timeline: A look at Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan’s career. [Tulsa World]
Stricter regulation proposed for injection wells: Regulation of enhanced recovery injection wells and disposal wells may tighten soon, amid ongoing efforts to address a saltwater purge northwest of Oklahoma City. The proposed changes being considered by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission would tighten existing requirements and add new ones for producers applying to convert or drill a well for enhanced recovery injection or disposal. [Journal Record 🔒]
EPA may allow disposal of oil waste in waterways. Is public at risk?: Within a year, Oklahoma could get approval from the EPA to start issuing permits that will allow the oil industry to dispose of briny oil field waste in waterways, alarming environmentalists and making it the first of three Southwestern states to step into a thorny regulatory landscape closely watched by the industry. [Oklahoma Watch]
District judge avoids removal, but is scolded by Supreme Court: A divided Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday disciplined an Oklahoma County district judge over her unpaid taxes and parking tickets, but stopped short of ordering a trial for her removal from the bench. [Oklahoma Watch]
TU President Clancy tapped for national study of student well-being: University of Tulsa President Gerard Clancy was named to a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine committee studying college students’ mental health, substance abuse, and well-being. He will be making a presentation to the committee this week in Washington. [Tulsa World]
‘It is irreplaceable:’ Cherokee chief invested in saving tribe’s language: Despite the Cherokee Nation investing more than $6 million a year in efforts to revive it, the tribe’s ancient language continues to decline with only one half of 1% of Cherokee citizens able to speak it. And the average age of a native speaker is well past 60, according to data from the tribe. [Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
“Frankly, I’m hoping we’ll see the light and put less in savings and invest more in education. We need to put this money to work in workforce development and think of education in terms of kindergarten through grade 16 and not just K-12.”
-Robert Dauffenbach, Director of the Center for Economic and Management Research at the University of Oklahoma. [Journal Record]
Number of the Day
Change in Oklahoma tax revenue from its peak in 2008 to the first quarter of 2019. The average state saw a 13 percent increase in the same time period.
[Source: Pew Trusts]
Childhood trauma is a public health issue and we can do more to prevent it: Experiencing traumatic things as a child puts you at risk for lifelong health effects, according to a body of research. The CDC’s new report confirms this, finding that Americans who had experienced adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, were at higher risk of dying from five of the top 10 leading causes of death. And those who had been through more bad experiences — such as abuse or neglect, witnessing violence at home or growing up in a family with mental health or substance abuse problems — were at an even higher risk. [NPR]
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