In The Know: Lawmakers examine fines and fees, panel discusses steps to reduce incarceration, and more

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

A chat with OK Policy’s new Executive Director Ahniwake Rose: On Tuesday’s edition of Studio Tulsa, host Rich Fisher sat down with former OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt and its new Executive Director Ahniwake Rose for a discussion. [Public Radio Tulsa]

In The News

Reform targets court fines, fees: A person who goes to court and is convicted of a crime might think of a judge’s sentence as time served. But there’s almost always more to it. Fees and court costs typically tacked on to sentences can be as burdensome for many to bear as initial terms of incarceration, and often can take longer to get past. Some people, in fact, are never able to pay off court assessments. Some end up back behind bars because of them. [Journal Record] Learn more from OK Policy about how excessive fees lock Oklahomans into the criminal justice system.

Panel discusses next steps to reduce incarceration: A public defender, a representative of the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office and the leader of a foundation focused on helping children and “justice involved” individuals offered insights Tuesday about progress made so far and serious challenges that remain in reforming Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. [Journal Record] Steps are being taken to address Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code, and an OK Policy analysis showed key elements that should be taken into account during that process

Mental Health Association Oklahoma CEO: ‘Joker’ gives ‘completely false impression’ of mental illness: While the “Joker” movie continues to slay box office records, one of Oklahoma’s leading mental health advocates is concerned that the film may also wrongly lead some to link mental illness with violence. Violence committed by someone with a mental illness, even in an untreated state, is extremely rare, he said. [Tulsa World] Mike Brose, Mental Health Association of Oklahoma chief empowerment officer, addressed the “stigmatizing” potential of the film in the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma’s weekly podcast. [Mental Health Download podcast

The Nation’s Report Card: Oklahoma fourth- and eighth-graders lag behind rest of country in reading, math scores: Oklahoma fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores dropped from 2017 to 2019, while math scores improved slightly or stayed the same, according to a national report released Wednesday. [Tulsa World] The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, found average scores in Oklahoma consistently fell below national public-school averages. [The Oklahoman

Declining ACT scores raise college readiness concerns: Oklahoma high school graduates’ scores on the ACT college-readiness exam declined in every subject this year, according to a report released Wednesday. Statewide, the average composite score was 18.9, out of a possible 36. That represents a drop of 0.4 points compared to 2018. Oklahoma is one of 15 states that tested 100% of its 2019 high school graduates. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tulsa World editorial: Hofmeister proposes $220 million school budget hike to address a decade of neglect: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has proposed raising the state’s base school operational funding to the level it was a decade ago. If you’re looking for a statistic to capture perfectly how poorly the state addresses what should be its No. 1 priority, there it is. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] OK Policy analysis shows that progress has been made recently on restoring funding for essential services like education, but it will be a long rebuilding project to full budget recovery.

Hofmeister announces more than $1.7M in school safety grants: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced Thursday that the Oklahoma State Department of Education, in partnership with the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security and its subsidiary, the Oklahoma School Security Institute, has received three federal grants of more than $1.7 million to strengthen safety, security and mental health initiatives in public schools statewide. [CNHI]

324 new laws take effect Friday. Here are 23 interesting ones: More than 300 new laws are set to take effect Friday. Here are some highlights of measures signed into law by the governor amid the 2019 legislative session. [Tulsa World]

Oklahomans can download mobile ID app this week: Oklahoma’s mobile ID should be ready for download this week in app stores, the state’s chief technology official said. With a mobile ID, Oklahoma residents have an option to carry their state-issued identification on their smartphones. It’s an official document that can be used when interacting with government agencies or private retailers. Eventually, the app will connect with websites to verify users’ identity. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt taps energy companies, pharmacists for money in latest quarter: Gov. Kevin Stitt raised $208,000 in the most recent quarter, tapping oil and gas interests, physicians, home builders and others for donations. Stitt’s campaign account had about $600,000 at the end of September. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County judge accepted $225 from corporate donors: An embattled Oklahoma County judge has refunded three donations made to her 2018 campaign by corporations. [The Oklahoman]

Sheriff’s move from jail could be more complicated than anticipated: Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor may have thought his move out of the jail would be a straight path, but a proposed transition committee could make it more complicated. [Free Press OKC]

Less frequent bus service heading to Turley and far north Tulsa leaves some feeling left out: Residents of Turley and far north Tulsa will have less frequent bus service, at least temporarily, beginning Nov. 17. The recommendation was approved, though, on the condition that MTTA staff look for ways to restore current service levels. [Tulsa World]

Little-known, small committee reviews City’s big legislative interests: The Oklahoma City Council’s Legislative Committee met Tuesday to prepare for the coming legislative sessions at the state and federal levels. The meeting consisted of a review of priorities, initiatives, issues to support, and issues to monitor. [Free Press OKC]

Oklahoma to charge admission fees to some state parks: Starting next spring, state officials plan to start charging admission fees at some of Oklahoma’s most popular state parks. Only two states that border Oklahoma don’t charge fees, but Arkansas and Missouri pay for their park system through a tax on sporting goods and associated things like boat sales, an official said. [CNHI]

Oklahoma gearing for Mother Road centennial: As plans for the 100th anniversary of Route 66 get underway, members of the Oklahoma state government are opening the state’s “front door” wide with the establishment of the Oklahoma Route 66 Centennial Commission. The commission, according to House Bill 1774, will work through June 30, 2027, to “to celebrate the important history of Route 66 in Oklahoma through commemorative, educational and community events.” [CNHI]

Remerge to move into new building, serve 50% more women: The Remerge Oklahoma program is two weeks away from moving to its new building west of downtown Oklahoma City. Remerge is Oklahoma County’s only comprehensive female diversion program, offering an alternative to incarceration for pregnant women or mothers with young children who have nonviolent felony convictions, according to its website. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Sometimes folks in these rural counties are having to choose between feeding their kids, buying medicine, putting gas in their car or making their payments to avoid going to jail.”

-Tim Laughlin of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System. [Journal Record]

Number of the Day

$23,360,311

Total Oklahoma medical marijuana license revenue in the month of September 2019

[Source: OklahomaState.OpenGov.com]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

#LGBTQHistoryMonth: Unjust: LGBTQ youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system: Unjust: LGBTQ Youth Incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice System examines how LGBTQ youth who are incarcerated in juvenile detention and correctional facilities face bias in adjudication, and mistreatment and abuse in confinement facilities. LGBTQ youth also lack supportive services when leaving the criminal and juvenile justice systems, often forcing them back into negative interactions with law enforcement. [Movement Advancement Project]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University as a Clara Luper Scholar. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked as an Inbound and Digital Marketing Specialist for an OKC based firm. She is an alumnus of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a Board Member for Dream Action Oklahoma.

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