In The Know: King Day statement; more than 2,800 bills filed; private auditors recommend modest reforms to agencies…

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

(Statement) Let us honor Martin Luther King by continuing his work: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is honored today for his inspirational leadership challenging segregation, white supremacy, and poverty. He was a champion for all Americans who are denied civil rights and economic opportunities. Unfortunately, this work remains far from finished. [OK Policy]

Don’t miss your LAST CHANCE to attend OK Policy’s 6th Annual State Budget Summit: The last day to register for Oklahoma Policy Institute’s State Budget Summit is Wednesday, January 23rd. We are thrilled to have Professor William Julius Wilson as our keynote speaker, with an address titled “Race, Class, and Urban Poverty in the Age of Trump.” Click here to buy your tickets now. To learn more about the State Budget Summit, you can view our event page or our press release

In The News

More than 2800 bills waiting for Oklahoma lawmakers: The state’s 57th Legislature met one of its first major milestones before the upcoming session. Oklahoma’s lawmakers gather for two-year sessions, meaning that bills from the first can carry over into the next. During the first year, the legislation is fresh and newly drafted. Members file all of their bills before they convene on the first day of February. [Journal Record] Highlights from the 2,800 bills filed: 80-mph speed limits, Saturday voting, teacher text limits. [Tulsa World]

Private Auditors Probe State Agencies, But Many Proposed Fixes Are Limited: A commission appointed by state leaders to ferret out wasteful spending and ineffective practices by state agencies has gotten its first recommendations from private auditors it hired. But if a summary of 61 draft proposals obtained by Oklahoma Watch is any indication, auditors aren’t pushing for major cutbacks in staffing or programs to shrink state government. [Oklahoma Watch]

Stitt sets sights on budget, balancing spending versus saving: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first week in office was largely focused on drafting the executive budget he will present to lawmakers next month, which is expected to use growing state tax collections for another teacher pay raise and to increase the state’s rainy day fund. [NewsOK] We recently wrote about the opportunities and challenges with this year’s budget.

Late raises given by some agency heads added over $800,000 to state payroll: Former Gov. Mary Fallin’s office pushed through a $19,261 a year pay raise for Oklahoma Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Reese just two months before Reese resigned as expected in December to allow new Gov. Kevin Stitt to appoint his own commissioner. Reese said the raise he received was not Fallin’s way of rewarding one of her cabinet secretaries on her way out the door but rather an effort to correct an oversight and put a higher salary in place for his successor. [NewsOK ????]

Stitt puts hold on public safety pick: Gov. Kevin Stitt has put on hold the reappointment of the state’s public safety commissioner until an investigation into possible corruption at the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is complete. Taking over the investigation will be Attorney General Mike Hunter’s top agent, The Oklahoman has learned. [NewsOK ????]

Growing black caucus in Oklahoma Legislature expands its voice: Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus enters 2019 with seven members — its largest total ever — and hopes to build off last year when the group of African-American lawmakers worked to raise their profile and put a spotlight on issues such as criminal justice reform, health care, redistricting and voter suppression. [NewsOK]

Legislation filed to address handling of rape kits in Oklahoma: An Oklahoma City lawmaker has introduced three bills aimed at improving the state’s response to sexual assaults and the handling of rape kits. The legislation, authored by Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, is based on recommendations developed by a statewide task force that was charged with determining the number of untested rape kits in Oklahoma and making suggestions for how to proceed. [NewsOK]

Agency looking for new way to pay for victims’ sexual assault exams amid concerns of unsteady funding: An Oklahoma agency pulled more than $1 million from the state’s Victim Compensation Fund to pay for forensic sexual assault exams in fiscal year 2018 — a move that covered more than 2,000 exams. However, leaders at the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council, which oversees the compensation fund, say there’s reason to be concerned about the reliability of the fund. [The Frontier]

Senator launches move to expand Corporation Commission with gubernatorial appointments: An effort has been launched in the Oklahoma state Senate this legislative session to expand the size of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and to term limit members. But it would require a vote of the people to change the state constitution. [OK Energy Today

Oklahoma bill would require $50,000 bond for large groups protesting at state Capitol: State Sen. Mark Allen, (R-District 4), introduced a bill to the Oklahoma Senate this week that would make it difficult for any large group to protest outside the Capitol building. [FOX23] Lawmakers respond to Senate Bill 592. [Tahlequah Daily News]

Bill attempts to prohibit shaming students for not affording lunch: Attempting to increase participation in free lunch programs, a Tulsa lawmaker is championing legislation she said would prohibit school employees from shaming children who can’t afford lunch. State Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, said her measure forbids schools from publicly identifying or punishing students who cannot pay for their meals. [CHNI]

Education advocates want more from Oklahoma lawmakers in 2019: Word around the Oklahoma capitol is education will be a major focus in 2019. The Oklahoma PTA brought lawmakers together with parents, teachers and education officials for talks in Tulsa this week. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bill to save Talihina Veterans Center ‘not going to go anywhere’: A last-ditch legislative effort to stop a $100 million state construction project and keep a veterans center in the small southeast Oklahoma town of Talihina appears to be dead on arrival. Rep. Jim Grego, a Wilburton Republican, introduced House Bill 1149 on Thursday. It would block closure of the Talihina Veterans Center, one year after that closure was approved by lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin. [NewsOK ????]

More lenient state laws could chill low-alcohol beer market: Beer snobs in states where grocers could offer only low-alcohol brands are raising their mugs to stronger brews thanks to updated laws. But the changes could indirectly chill the industry in two others where such regulations remain. [AP News]

Tulsa World editorial: The 2019 Tulsa World legislative agenda: A new governor and a largely new Legislature offer a new opportunity for Oklahoma. When lawmakers return to the state Capitol Feb. 4 to hear Gov. Kevin Stitt’s State of the State address, we hope they will bring a creative spirit of reform to many of the problems that have held back the state for years. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Supportive housing project aims to help vulnerable young adults: Two organizations are launching a pilot project in Oklahoma that they hope will help keep some vulnerable young adults off the streets and out of jail. The Oklahoma City-based consulting firm Cross Sector Innovations and the New York-based nonprofit Corporation for Supportive Housing are launching a project that is designed to provide housing and social support services to people 17 and older who are aging out of foster care and the juvenile justice system. [NewsOK]

Two students have withdrawn over racist video, OU president says: University of Oklahoma President James Gallogly used Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday to strongly condemn a student-produced racist video, and he said the two students who appeared in the video have voluntarily withdrawn from the university. [NewsOK] The Black Student Association at the University of Oklahoma has demanded changes to the university’s policies and procedures after video of a white student in blackface using a racial slur was shared online. [NewsOK]

Art, STEM, music, PE: OKCPS realignment paths revealed: At Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. district board meeting, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel is scheduled to present three variations of a plan to close at least 14 schools and realign the sprawling district’s feeder tracts. [NonDoc] OKC district could close as many as 20 schools. [NewsOK]

Police use-of-force incidents need outside scrutiny, Tulsa mayor says in proposing independent monitor: Saying it is time to give police officers the tools they need to help establish trust with the community they serve, Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Wednesday that he intends to create an Office of the Independent Monitor. [Tulsa World]

City of Prague sues to get back control of its hospital: The city of Prague is suing to retake ownership of its hospital from a company it says failed to pay employees, suppliers and taxes. The Rural Community Hospital Association owns the state license to run Prague Community Hospital, but it is supposed to pay $3,000 a month in rent to the city of Prague, which owns the building. [NewsOK ????]

Hemp or marijuana? Pawhuska case reveals Oklahoma isn’t ready for legal hemp industry: Hemp or marijuana? Soon it may just be several tons of rotting plant material. The unresolved saga of the massive crop shipment seized by law enforcement in Pawhuska nearly two weeks ago is exposing how unprepared Oklahoma — and likely other states — is for legal industrial hemp. [Tulsa World]

636 furloughed workers in Oklahoma have filed for unemployment since the shutdown: A nearly monthlong partial government shutdown has forced 636 federal workers in Oklahoma to file unemployment claims. That figure, released by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission on Thursday, offers the starkest evidence to date that the 28-day-long-and-counting shutdown has jeopardized the financial well-being of Oklahoma’s federal workforce. The statistic does not include federal contractors. [NewsOK ????] School districts are offering furloughed federal workers positions as substitute teachers. [NewsOK ????]

Quote of the Day

“I’m just a person from here who believes in education and wants to serve. I can’t sit idly at home anymore waiting for politicians to figure it out. I have value to give society and I gain back a lot more than I give.”

-Tracy Vargas, a furloughed federal employee in Oklahoma who has been working as a substitute teacher during the government shutdown [Source: NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Percentage increase in the female prison population in Oklahoma from 2011 to 2016.

[Source: Crime and Justice Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Unstable Jobs, Unstable Lives: Low-Wage Work in the United States: Working hard is seen as fundamental to securing a stable life and achieving the American Dream. However, many Americans struggle to make ends meet despite their hard work. This fact sheet explores the instability associated with low-wage jobs, which often have unreliable and untraditional hours. [Institute for Research on Poverty]

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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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