In The Know: Justice reforms advance, but changes likely; bill cracks down on four-day school weeks; education bills to watch…

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

Bill Watch: A wide range of education issues on lawmakers’ agenda: Legislators filed approximately 2,800 bills this session, and about 250 of those dealt with education. The list below only touches the surface of those headed through the Legislature, but they could have considerable impact on Oklahoma’s schools. [OK Policy]

ICYMI: Legislative Primer is your guide to Oklahoma’s 2019 legislative session: Whether you are a veteran advocate, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the 2019 Legislative Primer will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format. You are welcome to download, print, and share the Legislative Primer with anyone who may need it to figure out what’s happening at the Capitol. [OK Policy]

In The News

Oklahoma Senate Committee approves several criminal justice reform bills, but changes likely: While several criminal justice reform bills passed their first votes in the Legislature on Tuesday, lawmakers are still quick to pump the brakes. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved measures to restructure bail, allow resentencing in past felony drug possession cases, and overhaul practices around fines and court fees, but each one had its title stricken. Bills with that status can’t become laws. [Public Radio Tulsa] Our 2019 Policy Priorities include a number of criminal justice reforms

Senate panel passes bill to crack down on four-day school weeks: The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would require school districts to operate on a five-day schedule, with some exceptions. Senate Bill 441, by Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, passed by a vote of 11-6 and heads to the Senate floor for consideration. [Tulsa World] Restoring five-day school weeks was one of four agenda items this year for Oklahoma Senate Republicans. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Teachers and parents prepare to advocate against voucher bills at the capitol: Some teachers tell 2 Works for You it’s as if they aren’t being heard. As educators ask lawmakers for more money in the classroom, multiple voucher bills are appearing, which would divert public funds into things like private schools or campuses for the homeless. In some districts, the biggest concern is class sizes. But teachers said in more rural areas, there often aren’t enough books for every student. [KJRH] Increasing PK-12 state aid funding to restore school staffing and programs is one of our 2019 Policy Priorities.

Tulsa World editorial: Destructive public school laws disguised as education initiatives: Like a reappearing Trojan Horse, legislative proposals destructive to public schools have crept into the Capitol disguised as education initiatives. Don’t fall for new marketing or labels. These bad ideas expand vouchers and what amount to vouchers — all for the benefit of private and sectarian schools. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Investing in our children now will save the state later: Surely we can all agree that our children’s future must be our first priority. The closest thing to a bipartisan consensus should be our shared understanding that the keys to healthier and happier lives are found in our children’s early education opportunities. The path to uniting for a better future was further explained in the 2019 Oklahoma Early Childhood Research Symposium at the University of Central Oklahoma. [John Thompson / NonDoc]

Senate votes to allow schools to administer opioid overdose drug: The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would authorize school nurses or other designated employees to administer Narcan or other lifesaving opiate antagonists to students who appear to be overdosing on opioids. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma House committee moves to suspend medical licenses of abortion providers: Abortion providers would lose their medical licenses under a bill passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Public Health Committee on Tuesday. The same committee also voted to tighten an existing restriction on abortion and to make school vaccinations “opt in” instead of “opt out.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma health officials report widespread flu activity: Influenza is coming soon to a school, business or home near you — if it hasn’t arrived already. “We’re pretty much at widespread activity in all regions of the state,” Laurence Burnsed, interim state epidemiologist, said Tuesday. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma House approves bill that would let you have phone out while voting: Soon, Oklahomans may not have to keep their cellphones away in the voting booth. Right now, Oklahomans cannot legally share photos of ballots on social media. But the Oklahoma House approved House Bill 1259, which would allow it. It now heads to the Senate. [KJRH]

Bill to up speed limits on turnpikes, rural highways clears Senate committee: A legislative panel on Tuesday passed a bill that could result in increased speed limits on turnpikes and highways in rural areas. The Senate Transportation Committee passed Senate Bill 648 by Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow. [Tulsa World]

Agriculture board sets new poultry house setback rules: The Oklahoma Board of Agriculture approved a new set of rules on Tuesday that would restrict new or expanding poultry operations from locating within certain distances of homes, though the rules are less strict than those that had been presented for public comment earlier. Instead of requiring poultry houses to remain a quarter mile (1,320 feet) from occupied residences and a half mile (2,640 feet) from schools and city limits, it allows them to be 500 feet from a residence and 1,000 feet from schools and cities. [The Frontier] The measure passed with no discussion on a 3-2 vote. It now goes to the state Legislature for consideration. [Tulsa World]

Missed connections leave questions in Oklahoma oil worker’s death: Dennis Mason’s body was found, face down, between his truck and a crude oil tank at a well site near Kingfisher, Okla. Investigators immediately suspected he was killed by toxic vapors from the oil. But they weren’t able to prove it, because investigators at Oklahoma’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) tested only for illegal drugs and alcohol before attributing his death to natural causes. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma may be first test of who will pay for opioid crisis: Big pharma is facing a major test in a small courthouse 20 miles south of here: the first trial at which a jury could decide whether drug companies bear responsibility for the nation’s opioid crisis. [NewsOK]

Governor’s limited authority rooted in Oklahoma history: Oklahoma’s populist roots placed more authority in the Legislature’s hands than with the governor and the result is a weakened chief executive, political science professor Dana Glencross said. … Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is trying to overcome that history. [Journal Record ????]

Mayor seeks a broader strategy for MAPS 4: The next Metropolitan Area Projects temporary sales tax package could probably afford to set aside about $100 million collected for endowments that would fund ongoing MAPS-related operations, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said Tuesday. [Journal Record ????]

Quote of the Day

“There is education that needs the money, incarceration needs the money, health in Oklahoma needs the money. Then all of a sudden we have all of these bills that are seeking to divert money away from public education and other core services and I’m very concerned.”

-Bixby Parents Legislative Action Committee co-chair Lisa Kramer, speaking about multiple bills in this year’s Legislature to divert public funds into private schools [Source: KJRH]

Number of the Day


The total number of approved medical marijuana patient licenses as of February 11, 2019

[Source: Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Social Security proposal could strip benefits from thousands of non-English speakers: A proposed rule change to Social Security benefits could block people that speak limited or no English from getting benefits through the system’s disability insurance program. The change would remove the “inability to communicate in English” from the list of educational categories that are considered when the Social Security Administration’s administrative law judges determine who qualifies to receive disability insurance through the program. [Splinter News]

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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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