In The Know: Jails collecting DNA; tax credit buyback bill; school grade cards delayed…

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

(Capitol Update) The first deadline for next year’s Legislature has already passed: Although the legislative session does not begin until February 4th, the first deadline of the session, the deadline to request drafting of a bill, passed last Friday. There are usually several thousand bill requests made by the 101 House members and 48 Senators. A couple thousand of these will make their way into the hopper as an introduced bill. If past is prologue, many of these will be “shell” bills designed as placeholders, giving legislators time to develop their ideas. Shell bills defeat the purpose of deadlines, but they have become commonplace in the past few years. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

In The News

In unannounced move, Oklahoma jails begin collecting DNA from arrestees: With no announcement, Oklahoma jails are beginning to collect DNA from individuals arrested on felony charges – the first step in implementing a controversial state law passed two years ago. So far, hundreds of jail inmates have had the insides of their cheeks swabbed, and the samples have been forwarded to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which soon will analyze and upload the genetic profiles to a national FBI database. [Oklahoma Watch] We previously wrote about how this kind of indiscriminate DNA testing could put innocent Oklahomans in prison.

Tax credit buyback bill promises to lower state debt: Oklahoma will be entering the next legislative session on good economic footing for the first time in a decade, and top lawmakers have already started filing bills that wouldn’t have been possible before. State Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, will serve as the Senate appropriations chairman during that session. He filed legislation that would allow the state to buy back tax credits to lower future debt. [Journal Record ????]

State Department of Education delays release of new school grade cards: The Oklahoma State Department of Education notified school districts across the state on Monday evening that the release of brand new school report cards set for this month will be delayed. Grade cards had been set to be released after the state Board of Education holds its monthly meeting on Dec. 18. [Tulsa World]

How Curious: Why does Oklahoma have so many school districts? Oklahoma has more than 500 school districts–up to three times more than some states with similar student populations. KGOU listener Beverly Funderburk emailed How Curious and asked: “How did Oklahoma end up with so many districts?” [KGOU]

Data shows inefficiencies in OKC district schools: Nearly two dozen schools in the Oklahoma City district are operating at 50 percent of capacity or less or have lost hundreds of students to transfers, according to new data that will help determine which schools may be closed or consolidated as part of a school improvement plan. [NewsOK]

Dollar Stores are targeting struggling urban neighborhoods and small towns. One community is showing how to fight back: It’s not easy to buy groceries if you live on the north side of Tulsa, Okla. This predominantly African American part of the city sprawls for miles and yet does not have a single, full-service grocery store. For many of North Tulsa’s residents this means their best option for buying groceries close to home (and really, their only option) is a dollar store. [ILSR]

Residents, agriculture industry, both pan proposed emergency poultry house rules: Emergency setback rules the Oklahoma Board of Agriculture proposed for new or expanding poultry operations have drawn opposition from agriculture representatives as well as residents of eastern Oklahoma. The board announced last week it would take comments via email and that no public comment would be taken at its meeting where a vote will take place. That meeting is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Oklahoma City. [Tulsa World]

Mobile mammogram unit reaches out to rural Oklahomans: In some Oklahoma counties, as few as two in every five older women have been checked for breast cancer. A pair of RVs turned rolling clinics are trying to reach some of those who are least likely to get screened. [NewsOK]

ABLE Commission adding more officers: For the first time in five years, the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission is adding new agents. New agents Kristen Wilson and Vanessa Blain have been settling into their new positions as ABLE agents since being hired in September. A third new law enforcement agent will start later this month. [Journal Record ????]

Businesses urged to adapt drug-testing rules for medical marijuana: Attorneys across the state are advising their business-operating clients to start adjusting their employee drug-testing standards as Oklahoma’s culture adapts to legalized marijuana for medical use. “We’re advising most of our clients that it makes good sense to review your drug and alcohol-testing policy,” Allen L. Hutson, an attorney with Crowe & Dunlevy law firm in Oklahoma City. [Journal Record ????]

Moore de-criminalizes marijuana, exempts medical users: The city of Moore has adopted ordinance changes that officially exempt medical marijuana license holders from punishment. Additionally, those found illegally in possession with small amounts of the drug can now avoid jail time after the council unanimously approved both changes during Monday night’s meeting. [Norman Transcript]

OKC wins $14.3 million grant for bus rapid transit system: Oklahoma City’s first bus rapid transit system will be years in development, city officials said Friday, citing parking lots, dedicated driving lanes and boarding stop concessions as just a few of the unknown details in a BRT corridor about to take shape. [Journal Record ????]

Tulsa County alternative court marks 10 years of helping veterans: Tulsa County Veterans Treatment Court was the first of its kind when it started with 12 former service members 10 years ago. Today, more than 200 veterans have completed VTC, avoiding prison and receiving help with addiction and mental illness. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tulsa finance director Mike Kier dies: Longtime Tulsa City Clerk and Finance Department Director Mike Kier has died. Kier has overseen Tulsa’s municipal compliance with open meetings and agenda publication, as well as the city cash supply for decades. He was first appointed to the position by then Mayor Susan Savage in the early 1990s. He had already worked at city hall for nearly 20 years at that time. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal committee votes to reinstate Free Press Act: The members of the now-defunct Mvskoke Media Editorial Board would not mind a little advance warning the next time changes are proposed to how they operate. The Muscogee (Creek) National Council’s Business, Finance and Justice Committee on Thursday voted 3-2 to advance a bill that would reinstate the tribe’s Free Press Act as worded at the time of its repeal. [Journal Record ????]

Five Tribes prepare for U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Creek reservation case: As the case of Patrick Murphy and the Creek reservation has snaked through the nation’s highest courts, the other four of Oklahoma’s Five Tribes have researched and prepared themselves for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ultimately could determine whether they too have a reservation. [NewsOK]

OETA alleges donations for public television misused: OETA is accusing a private foundation of misspending funds sent in by donors to support public television. “Donor funds, given in good faith, have been misappropriated for unauthorized programming, unsolicited content creation and production while the OETA has been forced to operate with fewer dollars as state appropriations have declined,” OETA said in a statement to The Oklahoman. [NewsOK ????]

Rogers returns to Capitol to sell Stitt’s agenda: Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt’s chief salesman at the state Capitol will be Michael Rogers, a former representative from Broken Arrow who plans to rely more on interpersonal skills than strong-arm politics to push Stitt’s agenda. Stitt has nominated Rogers for secretary of state, a position that requires Senate confirmation. [NewsOK ????]

Governor Fallin appoints McEntire to Okla. ODDC: State Representative Marcus McEntire received appointment from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, to take a seat on the Oklahoma Development Disabilities Planning Council (ODDC). McEntire’s term on the board expires Aug. 1, 2020. [Duncan Banner]

Quote of the Day

“I don’t think it’s an accident they proliferate in low socio-economic and African American communities. That proliferation makes it more difficult for the full-service, healthy stores to set up shop, and operate successfully.”

-Tulsa City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, speaking about her efforts to limit the growth of dollar stores and bring a healthy grocery store to north Tulsa [Source: Institute for Local Self-Reliance]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who live in a “child care desert”, where there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots.

[Source: Center for American Progress]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Marsy’s Law performed in the 2018 midterm elections: The Marshall Project reported on major implementation problems in South Dakota: Sheriffs stopped asking for the public’s help in solving crimes-in-progress to avoid inadvertently revealing a victim’s location. Prosecutors spent hundreds of thousands of dollars beefing up staff to find victims of low-level misdemeanors, such as vandalism or shoplifting­. Defendants have spent additional days in jail because the prosecutor can’t locate victims in time for an arraignment, according to prosecutors and defense attorneys. It’s not that the ACLU and other criminal justice reformers oppose legally protecting victims’ rights. Many states, in fact, have crime victim protections that reformers don’t object to. It’s that, in their view, Marsy’s Law is not the right way to protect these victims. [Vox]

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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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