In The Know: Legislators act as ‘super-donors’; in prison for what’s now a misdemeanor; teachers have a fighting chance…

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.

Deadline to request absentee ballot today at 5 pm: The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the upcoming elections is today, Wednesday, October 31st at 5 pm. Visit the Oklahoma State Election Board page to request an absentee ballot online. Early voting starts tomorrow at 8 am. Visit our #OKvotes page to find more election information, important dates, and other resources.

In The News

Legislators act as ‘super donors,’ sending their own donors’ cash to other candidates: State Rep. Charles McCall holds a unique sway in the Oklahoma House. As House speaker, he has the ability to name committee heads, direct how and when bills are heard, and largely dictate the agenda of the Republican-led chamber. But McCall’s influence isn’t limited to just the legislative process. He is also among the top donors to candidates running for election or re-election in the Legislature. [Oklahoma Watch]

OKPolicyCast 40: In prison for what’s now a misdemeanor (with Damion Shade and Colleen McCarty): In 2016, Oklahomans voted to approve State Question 780, which changed simple drug possession crimes and low-level, non-violent property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. That law went into effect on July 1, 2017 and is already reshaping Oklahoma’s justice system, with many fewer Oklahomans being charged with a felony and sent to prison for drug possession. Yet there are still thousands of Oklahomans serving long prison sentences or living with a felony record and all the serious consequences that come with it for a crime that would now be a misdemeanor. [OK Policy]

The Oklahoma Governor’s race pits teachers against oil and gas—and teachers have a fighting chance: Oklahoma would seem like the least likely of places to be poised for a progressive comeback. The state, which Donald Trump won in 2016 by 36 points, has been under the Republican Party’s thumb for nearly a decade. Home to the Senate’s most outspoken climate-change denier, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and the former embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, its capitol grounds famously feature an oil rig, a permanent testament to the power that oil tycoons wield in the state. [Mother Jones]

Stitt ahead of Edmondson in fundraising race for governor: Election season is coming to an end, and that means candidates are submitting their final contribution reports for the cycle. At first glance, it might appear that Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt raised more than twice as much as his Democratic contender, Drew Edmondson; however, the former contributed millions of dollars into his own campaign. When taking those funds out of consideration, Stitt still outpaced Edmondson’s fundraising through October. [Journal Record]

Stand against fear. Make an informed vote: Events of the last week have shaken all of us at Oklahoma Policy Institute, as they have many Oklahomans. Terrible violence based on hatred of another person’s race, religion, or ethnicity has existed throughout our country’s history, but so have courageous people coming together to stand against it. [OK Policy]

Election Day Cheat Sheet: The 5 state questions in plain English: Oklahomans will see five state questions on their ballot in the general election one week from today on Nov. 6. Veteran Staff Writer Randy Krehbiel offers the details of each. [Tulsa World]  Find more about Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions at OK Policy’s resource page here.

SQ 798: Should OK elect Gov., Lt. Gov. on joint ticket? Back in April, the passage and adoption of Senate Joint Resolution 66 set the wheels in motion for Oklahomans to answer State Question 798: Should the electorate be able to choose the positions of governor and lieutenant governor with a single vote? If approved, the election process for those offices would not change until 2026. [NonDocSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 798 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

Oklahoma leaders weigh in on ‘Vision Fund’ state question: As voters head to the polls, they will decide the fate of State Question 800, known as the Vision Fund. Starting in 2020, if passed, the Vision Fund would take 5 percent of the gross production tax and invest it. The amount put back would increase by .2 percent each year. [KFORSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 800 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

Medicaid expansion hasn’t trickled down to legislative races: Despite the recent sparring between Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates, the issue of whether to expand Medicaid hasn’t been a hot topic on doorsteps around the state. In fact, voters generally don’t utter the words “Medicaid expansion,” said House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, who is running for re-election in a district in southwest Oklahoma City. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Asks for Almost $1.6B Budget: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is asking state lawmakers for $1.57 billion next year. The State Board of Corrections unanimously approved DOC’s 2020 budget request on Tuesday at its meeting in Vinita. The request includes $884 million to build and expand facilities that can acommodate 5,200 more inmates, $91.7 million to treat inmates with hepatitis C, and $18.5 million for staff raises. [Public Radio Tulsa] We previously wrote about the dangerous consequences of Oklahoma cutting funds to the Department of Corrections while continuing to send more people to prison here.

Out of the valley: Mayo Clinic shares development philosophy with Oklahoma Innovation Model: As keynote speaker at last week’s Oklahoma Center for Science and Technology (OCAST) Health Research Conference, James A. Rogers III, with Mayo Clinic, delivered a sobering forecast for scientists seeking to commercialize discoveries made in their laboratories. [NewsOK]

Jeff Jaynes: Stop the charge — Support immigrant families in need of services: Last year Restore Hope Ministries prevented 852 of our Tulsa-area neighbors from becoming homeless through our rent assistance program, which is the only option for many Tulsa families. Last month, a deserving family declined our assistance because they fear it will cost them their citizenship. With no other option for help, they were evicted at the end of the month. They’re here legally. They’re working toward citizenship. They’re scared. And now they’re about to be homeless. [Jeff Jaynes / Tulsa World]

Schools eye grant program for ‘cleaner’ buses: Millions of children wake up early every day, eat breakfast, and walk to their bus stops, where they wait for the classic yellow vehicle to take them to school. Traditionally, buses have used diesel fuel, but the possible impact of exhaust has the state and area schools considering a cleaner option. The use of diesel fuel has the potential to negatively impact two facets of life: children’s health and environmental heath. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Oklahoma City Public Schools considers naming new administration building after Clara Luper: The Oklahoma City Public School Board of Education is considering renaming the district’s administrative offices after a civil rights leader and former teacher. Clara Luper was a former teacher and was a pioneer in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1958, Luper led the Oklahoma City sit-in movement at drugstores and restaurants, which helped end segregation policies in the downtown area. [KFOR]

Tulsa K–12 students getting more interested in science, technology, engineering and math: Tulsa students are more interested in science, technology, engineering and math than their peers across the U.S. That’s the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance’s takeaway from an annual study of STEM programs from The PEAR Institute: Partnerships in Education and Resilience, at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Lawsuit filed against rehab center: An Oklahoma woman has filed a lawsuit alleging a drug rehab center linked to the Church of Scientology breached its contract. The McAlester News-Capital reports that attorneys for Sefika Talic filed the petition Friday against Narconon Arrowhead, a 200-bed facility near Canadian that promotes substance abuse treatment theories by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Talic alleges her son was forced to read literature that promoted Scientology and went through “bizarre punishments” as part of treatment. [AP News]

‘Once more in the sorrows’: Tulsans mourn Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims in packed interfaith service: Two weeks ago, Rabbi Marc Boone Fitzerman’s son was in Pittsburgh standing at the doorstep of the Tree of Life Congregation. Two weeks later, on Tuesday night, Tulsans gathered at Congregation B’nai Emunah to remember 11 Jews who were killed at Tree of Life on Saturday. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Last month, a deserving family declined our assistance because they fear it will cost them their citizenship. With no other option for help, they were evicted at the end of the month. They’re here legally. They’re working toward citizenship. They’re scared. And now they’re about to be homeless.”

-Jeff Jaynes, executive director of Restore Hope Ministries which provides rent-assistance for families at risk of becoming homeless, writing about the Trump administration’s push to deny Green Card to families who receive many kinds of assistance [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

20 students

The class size limit for grades 1 through 5 put in place by Oklahoma’s 1990 education reform bill. Lawmakers began exempting schools from meeting this class size limit due to underfunding over the past two decades, and today all school districts in Oklahoma have been exempted.

[Oklahoma Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The ballot revolt to bring Medicaid expansion to Trump country: Next month, voters in two other conservative states, Utah and Nebraska, will also decide on Medicaid expansion, and polling suggests they have a good chance of passing… If successful, this year’s ballot measures would mark the most significant growth of Medicaid expansion since the early phase of the Affordable Care Act — and a resounding rebuke to GOP lawmakers in states that have rejected a program that’s financed mostly with federal dollars. [Politico]

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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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