In The Know: Lawmakers want to fund fraction of recommended DOC raises; Crime dropped after criminal justice reform state question; Stitt’s pick for Veterans Secretary accused of underpaying veterans

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: You’re all dead to me! Oklahoma’s legislative session speeds forward at a punishing pace; bills that don’t move forward are left behind and, quickly, left for dead. Yesterday we arrived at the deadline for all bills to be heard and passed out of committee in their chamber of origin. Any bill that did not pass out of committee is now dead for this session (for various exceptions to this rule, see our 2019 Legislative Primer, especially slide #15). Bills that have passed out of committee will now have two more weeks, until March 14th, to pass out of their chamber of origin. [OK Policy]

Panelists lean on residents to help improve state’s criminal justice system: With Oklahoma’s prison population reaching more than 26,000 as of Feb. 25, state advocates are leaning on Oklahomans to do something about it. More than 140 people packed into the Lowry Room of Norman Public Library Central Thursday night for a forum hosted by Together OK Norman, an Oklahoma-based education and advocacy group, as well as League of Women Voters and Women in Action for All, to discuss the issues surrounding the state’s criminal justice system. [Norman Transcript]

In The News

Lawmakers want to fund fraction of recommended DOC raises: As state prisons continue to grapple with severe staffing shortages and dangerous work conditions, a recently released legislative performance audit is recommending lawmakers spend $19.1 million more to increase salaries. But Oklahoma lawmakers want to spend just a fraction of that on pay. [CNHI]

Data: Crime dropped after criminal justice reform state question: As work to expand the effects of changes to Oklahoma’s felony laws gains momentum, some law enforcement and reports have tried to stoke fears the changes would increase crime. Recent data however, doesn’t support the claims. [News9]

Stitt’s pick for Veterans Secretary accused of underpaying veterans: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s pick to becomes Oklahoma’s next secretary of veterans affairs and the military is facing accusations that his consulting company violated federal labor laws by underpaying veterans. Federal court filings show that 15 former workers have sued Tulsa-based Check-6 along with its founder and CEO Brian Brurud, whom Stitt appointed to the unpaid cabinet position in February. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tulsa World editorial: Make State Question 780 retroactive: More than two years after Oklahoma voters approved State Question 780 with more than 58 percent of the vote, some 1,048 people remain in Oklahoma prisons on simple drug possession convictions, according to Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. [Tulsa World] Making SQ 780 retroactive is one of our 2019 policy priorities. 

Fund criminal justice reform now: The Oklahoma Legislature is back in session. The Republicans have the governorship and supermajorities in both the House and Senate. You might think that would foreordain the final outcome of the session on the last Friday in May. But that would be to mistake partisan campaign politicking for actual government. [Ed Crocker / Norman Transcript]

ReMerge graduates eight more women who avoided prison time: Two years ago, Brandi Davis was a judge’s gavel away from trudging into prison, accepting an Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmate number and meeting a new cellmate. This week, the 37-year-old single mother walked gracefully onto a stage, accepted a scholarship, then returned proudly to her reserved seat and the embrace of her family. [NewsOK 🔒]

Animal rescue groups concerned about pet store bill: Some Oklahoma animal rescue organizations say two bills moving through the Legislature could result in pet stores selling dogs from puppy mills. But the author of one of the measures, Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, said the goal of his Senate Bill 950 is to “provide reasonable, nonintrusive standards for pet stores that should not alter the practices of existing, credible stores.” [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Reform would add pressure to Senate confirmation process: But Stitt’s unusual, question-declining press conference last week underscored an inconvenient reality: Reforming government is complicated and can frustrate the impatient. Further, more questions are raised while implementing reform than when simply preaching it on the campaign trail, broom and whatnot. [Tres Savage / NonDoc]

Seniors face escalating premiums for long-term care insurance: When she recently opened the bill for her long-term care insurance, retired schoolteacher and counselor Suzie Francis of Piedmont was distraught to learn that the underwriter — Genworth Life Insurance Co. — was increasing her annual premium to $2,514, an increase of $229. [NewsOK 🔒]

Point of View: Tax credit expansion benefits too few: In 2018, public education was priority among Oklahoma candidates and voters. With the landmark vote for the teacher pay increase, Oklahoma was heading in the right direction. However, several bills under consideration threaten to hinder this momentum. [Lisa Kramer and Meredith Exline / Tulsa World] We recently discussed how increasing the scholarship tax credit hurts public schools and benefits affluent Oklahomans.

New scrutiny: 15 people with ties to Epic Charter donated $180,000 to 78 candidates for state office: The operators of Oklahoma’s rapidly expanding virtual charter school opened their wallets during the 2018 state political campaign season in an effort to combat what they perceive as threats to the school’s continued growth. [Tulsa World]

Efforts in Tulsa County to reduce teen birth rate drive Oklahoma’s improvement to No. 3 in the U.S.: Oklahoma’s teen birth rate fell from No. 2 to third in the nation in 2017, and Tulsa County is leading the way thanks in part to the efforts of a coalition fighting the problem from multiple angles. The Tulsa County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition and its partners helped the county have a 19 percent drop in 2017, nearly double the statewide decrease of 11 percent and well above a national 7 percent decrease, according to a state report. [Tulsa World]

Ginnie Graham: Give kids accurate information about sex, then they won’t get pregnant: It was a shocking bit of social math nearly 10 years ago. “The number of teen girls giving birth in Oklahoma in 2008 was more than double the number of female freshmen entering the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University that fall semester,” stated the first sentence of a news story I wrote in 2010. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Outlook 2019: Tulsa County leads the way in preparing kids for career tech, college while in high school: Gov. Kevin Stitt has made cooperation among the state’s public education systems a priority for his administration. In his first State of the State address, he called for tearing down the “silos” separating common education, career tech and higher education. In Tulsa County, that work has been going on for decades. [Tulsa World]

OKC district teachers await fate if school board approves closure plan: Hundreds of teachers in the Oklahoma City district will be shuffled in the coming year if the school board approves a plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others when it meets Monday night. The board is expected to approve Superintendent Sean McDaniel’s recommendation when it meets at 5:30 p.m. at Northeast Academy, 3100 N Kelley. [NewsOK]

Concerned parents, community members ask OKCPS for “time out” on Pathway to Greatness plan: Concerned parents, education advocates, and community members rallied outside the offices of Oklahoma City Public Schools administrators on Friday afternoon to demand a “time out.” [FOX25]

Tulsa Police officer who killed unarmed black man won’t face civil rights charges: A former police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Okla., in 2016 will not face federal civil rights charges, the Justice Department said Friday, noting that it had found insufficient evidence to prove she had willfully used unreasonable force when she killed him. [New York Times] An attorney for the family of an unarmed black man killed by a now-former Tulsa police officer says they are not surprised that no federal civil rights charges will be filed in the death. [AP News]

Tulsa Police say mental illness, addiction, homelessness initiatives are succeeding: Reporting to city councilors this week, Tulsa Police said community policing initiatives to address mental illness, addiction and homelessness are making a difference. More than 200 officers have been trained to help people suffering from mental illness and keep them from entering the criminal justice system if they don’t have to. [Public Radio Tulsa]

OKC police chief denounces constitutional carry law: The leader of the state’s largest police department on Friday denounced the new “constitutional carry” law as a step in the wrong direction. “Saying that it makes communities safer, that’s (a) pretty tired and old statement, as far as I’m concerned,” said Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty. [NewsOK]

Lawmakers disagree on how much gun license revenue State Bureau of Investigation needs replaced: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation expects to take a financial hit after Nov. 1. That’s when Oklahomans may start carrying firearms without the Self-Defense Act license OSBI collects revenue from. [Public Radio Tulsa]

New OU regent a 1985 graduate, Nationwide VP in Ohio: Gov. Kevin Stitt has appointed Eric Stevenson, a senior vice president at Nationwide, to the University of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents. The new OU regent lives in Ohio and would be the first African American to serve on the board in two decades. [NonDoc]

Former OU president sought for interview by investigating law firm: The law firm investigating allegations of serious misconduct at the University of Oklahoma on Friday asked for the first time for an interview with former President David Boren. Boren, 77, has denied wrongdoing. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“The proposal [to make State Question 780 retroactive] isn’t just a matter of reducing the number of people in prison, although it would do that. It is also a matter of justice. The intent of SQ 780 was a new way of thinking about nonviolent crime. It only makes sense to extend the same justice to people convicted prior to the vote.”

– The Tulsa World Editorial Board, urging the Legislature to approve HB 1269 [Source: Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

22%

Percentage of Oklahoma households that reported their income varied somewhat or a lot over the past 12 months.

[Source: Prosperity Now]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The $15 minimum wage doesn’t just improve lives. It saves them: For years, when American policymakers have debated the minimum wage, they have debated its effect on the labor market. Economists have gone around and around, rehashing the same questions about how wage bumps for the poorest workers could reduce employment, raise prices or curtail hours. What most didn’t ask was: When low-wage workers receive a pay increase, how does that affect their lives? But recently, a small group of researchers scattered around the country have begun to pursue this long-neglected question, specifically looking into the public-health effects of a higher minimum wage. [New York Times]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. Born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, she immigrated to Oklahoma with her family at a young age and 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, a community organization dedicated to advocating and empowering immigrant youth in the state.

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