In The Know: Local election results | Incarceration is public health matter | Felony classification system

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Reducing our incarceration population is a matter of public safety — and public health: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 580,000 incarcerated people in the United States have tested positive for the virus, and more than 2,800 have died from it. From the start of the pandemic, state and local governments in Oklahoma recognized the threat posed by COVID-19 and took some steps designed to mitigate the risks by reducing the amount of people in prisons and jails. While these actions were crucial, many of these measures were insufficient or uncoordinated without a long-lasting impact on Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis. [David Gateley and Andrew Bell / OK Policy

Oklahoma News

2022 Oklahoma City Area Election Results: A collection of election results from across the Oklahoma City metro including the Norman mayoral runoff and school board and city council races in cities such as The Village, Edmond, Harrah, Putnam City and more. [The Oklahoman

How a proposed felony classification system would affect justice in Oklahoma: A 1,000-page proposal to overhaul Oklahoma’s criminal code and establish a felony classification system is progressing in the legislature. Senate Bill 1646 by Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, cleared the upper chamber by a 35-12 vote in late March. It’s eligible to be considered in the House, where Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, is carrying the bill. Numerous justice reform and policy organizations, including the Oklahoma Policy Insitute and Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, have advocated for Senate Bill 1646. They argue that the bill would modernize Oklahoma’s criminal code and allow courts to prioritize treatment over incarceration for certain offenders. [Oklahoma Watch

Recently from OK Policy: SB 1646 modernizes Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code

State Government News

Under a new Oklahoma law, abortion providers could face a decade in prison: Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would make performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The House voted along party lines to pass Senate Bill 612, sending it to the governor’s desk. [State Impact Oklahoma

  • Pro-abortion rights groups rally at the Oklahoma Capitol [The Oklahoman
  • Lawmakers send bill to governor banning almost all abortions [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] |  [New York Times
  • With little discussion, Oklahoma passes a bill to make most abortions illegal [KOSU
  • Oklahoma House passes near-total abortion ban with threat of prison for providers [Reuters
  • Oklahoma passed one of the harshest abortion bans in the nation [Vox

Fitch prefers tax ‘holidays’ to tax cuts: In response to a second year of exceptional revenue growth, major tax policy changes under consideration or already enacted by several states – including Oklahoma, which was slashing budgets less than a decade ago – could have negative long-term credit implications if current revenue growth is not sustained, Fitch Ratings says. Tax proposals for 2022 are more ambitious than the first round of tax cuts in 2021, which focused mainly on personal and corporate income taxes. The latest proposals involve a broader mix of taxes on gasoline, property, investment income, sales, as well as PIT and CIT. [Southwest Ledger]

Recently from OK Policy: This legislative session, the Oklahoma legislature is set to consider several proposals that would significantly cut state revenue. Rather than cutting taxes, legislators must consider the state’s long-term fiscal health and its structural deficit by maintaining revenue streams this year and for years to come.

Letter: Instead of cutting taxes, designate revenues to invest in state: There are numerous bills currently in the state Legislature cutting taxes on multiple items. Each of these cuts, if enacted, would bring minor monetary savings to the average Oklahoman, however collectively they have the potential to be devastating for the revenue stream of our state. [Opinion / Tulsa World

States put unemployment insurance on chopping block: State legislatures are proposing bills to pare back unemployment insurance programs as the pandemic-era labor market rebounds, continuing a trend seen in the wake of the Great Recession. Bills are pending in Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, while recent proposals in Mississippi and West Virginia didn’t move forward, according to the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. [CNBC]

State Senate committee advances teacher pay hike bill: A Senate panel passed a measure Tuesday that could result in raises for some teachers. House Bill 4388 would cap dollars going to education from the Oklahoma Lottery at $60 million, said Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. [Tulsa World

Senate resolution could make major changes in judicial nominations: A resolution working its way through the Oklahoma House of Representatives could dramatically alter the way the state chooses its appellate court judges and justices. Senate Joint Resolution 43 would eliminate the current system of choosing judges and justices and replace it with a system similar to the federal government. [Southwest Ledger]

Sen. Montgomery seeking to make Oklahoma a hydrogen hub: Touting them as another step toward the creation of a regional hydrogen hub, the Oklahoma Senate last week passed two bills that would encourage the development of hydrogen as an energy source. [Southwest Ledger]

State sells $17.6M in bonds to rehab dams: The state Capitol Improvement Authority is selling $17,665,000 in revenue bonds to help finance repairs and renovations to several high-hazard upstream flood control dams in Oklahoma. Senate Bill 1938 enacted in 2020 empowered the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue the bonds on behalf of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. [Southwest Ledger]

Suddenly, the state is worried about the “right to garden”: Echoing the actions of two other states, members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a proposal that its author said would grant state residents the right to grow personal gardens regardless of where they live. [Southwest Ledger]

Federal Government News

White House will extend pause on student loans through August: The Biden administration plans to freeze federal student loan payments through Aug. 31, extending a moratorium that has allowed millions of Americans to postpone payments during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an administration official familiar with the White House’s decision-making. [AP via The Black Wall Street Times

Supreme Court won’t take up free-speech challenges to mandatory bar dues: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to revisit its 30-year-old precedent upholding state requirements that lawyers join state bar associations and pay dues, rejecting challenges by lawyers in Texas and Oklahoma. [Reuters

Tribal Nations News

Modoc Nation to celebrate grand opening of new market in Miami: A market selling only tribally made or Oklahoma-based products is opening Tuesday in Miami. The Modoc Nation is celebrating the grand opening of Modoc Market at noon Tuesday at 10051 S. 608 Road in Miami. [CNHI via The Joplin Globe]

Muscogee (Creek) Nation returns to Alabama in historic homecoming ceremony: Nearly 200 years after the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was forcibly removed from their homelands across the southeast during the Trail of Tears, Oxford, Alabama Mayor Alton Craft will welcome leaders and citizens of the tribe for a homecoming ceremony to mark the nation’s formal return to the region. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

Field for next state superintendent widens to 5 as TPS board member files campaign: Jerry Griffin of the Tulsa school board has joined John Cox, April Grace, Jena Nelson and Ryan Walters in the race to be Oklahoma’s next state superintendent. [Tulsa World

Native News Online interviews Oklahoma Gubernatorial Candidate Connie Johnson: It’s a gubernatorial election year in Oklahoma, and that means the race to unseat Republican Governor Kevin Stitt is heating up. The Democratic Party Primary on June 28 sees two major contenders: Joy Hofmeister, a long-time Republican who became a Democrat late last year, and Connie Johnson, a life-long Democrat. [Yahoo News

Candidates for Apache tribal general election: Candidates for the April 23 Apache Tribe of Oklahoma general election have been announced. The election will be held April 23 at the tribe’s headquarters in Anadarko. [The Lawton Constitution]

Health News

Stealth omicron has overtaken omicron in U.S., but cases remain relatively low for two reasons: Arise in COVID-19 cases might come after May or June, when immunity from natural infection during the omicron variant wave begins to wane in huge swaths of the population, said Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma state epidemiologist defends changes to COVID reporting methodology: Oklahoma’s state epidemiologist defended the state Health Department’s decision to implement some COVID-19 reporting changes, including how the department now calculates the state’s seven-day average of new cases. [The Oklahoman

Criminal Justice News

Justice Watch: Legislature could fund county mental health, diversion programs: State Question 780 is perhaps the most significant criminal justice reform measure in Oklahoma’s history.  A related ballot initiative, State Question 781, proposed allocating funds saved from incarcerating fewer people to county-level mental health and substance abuse programs. The legislature has never sent any money to the fund, citing difficulties coming up with a funding formula. [Oklahoma Watch

Previously from OK Policy (2021): Voters still waiting for SQ 781’s investments in mental health, substance use disorders

Economy & Business News

Canoo to build EVs in Oklahoma starting in Q4: Canoo, a startup company that plans to build electric vehicles, has announced Oklahoma as the location for its U.S. manufacturing facility that ultimately will employ more than 2,000 people. [Southwest Ledger]

Oklahoma Local News

Cleveland County Commissioners ‘cannot condone’ planned expansion of turnpike in Norman: The Cleveland County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Monday, asking for more transparency regarding a proposed turnpike expansion set to run through parts of Norman and Moore. [The Oklahoman

Quote of the Day

“It’s extremely common to see two people with the exact same crime, similar criminal backgrounds, be sentenced to widely different sentences. One will get five years and the other will get 20 years, with the only difference being that they were in different counties.” 

– Marilyn Davidson, Director of Right on Crime Oklahoma, on Senate Bill 1646, which would help eliminate unusually long prison sentences and modernize Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code [Oklahoma Watch]

Recently from OK Policy: SB 1646 modernizes Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code

Number of the Day


In the first 6 months of the pandemic, almost one-third of people booked into jail were held for less than 24 hours, many of which for minor offenses or no charges filed at all.

[Source: Criminal Justice Policy Review]

New from OK Policy: Reducing our incarceration population is a matter of public safety — and public health

Policy Note

The Harmful Ripples of Pretrial Detention: A new data-rich study reveals that holding a person in jail for any amount of time before trial may undermine public safety. The study found, in part, that jailing a person for any amount of time before trial is associated with an increased likelihood of a rearrest. This finding does not include examining the cases where a person remained detained throughout the pretrial stage. “While the potential for a ‘deterrent effect’ of incarceration is enticing — and one that judges often assume will occur — the evidence suggests this effect does not exist,” the study states. The study’s findings outline the ways in which detaining a person pretrial can do more harm than good and have cascading negative consequences on a community’s safety. [Arnold Ventures]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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