In The Know: Local elections today | Tribes urge court to reject OK jurisdiction claim | Bill funding SQ 781

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.

Oklahoma News

Editorial: Go vote today: Today is election day for many school boards, bond issues and a few municipal seats. Go vote. Oklahoma’s spring elections have historically attracted the lowest voter turnout. Often winners and propositions are decided by narrow margins and a small group of voters. [Editorial / Tulsa World

  • Voters head to polls in municipal and school board races Tuesday, April 5 [OKC Free Press]
  • Norman’s mayor, other elections across Oklahoma to be decided on Tuesday [KGOU

Five Tribes urge Supreme Court to reject Oklahoma claim of jurisdiction: Gov. Kevin Stitt is seeking to “veto tribal self-sufficiency” and interfere with criminal jurisdiction that only Congress has the authority to change, the Five Tribes told the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in a case headed for oral arguments later this month. [The Oklahoman] The Supreme Court brief, filed Monday by the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole nations, urged the court to dismiss claims by the state that it was undergoing a “criminal-justice crisis” since the court released its McGirt decision in July 2020. [Tulsa World

New records have been set for renewable energy, thanks in large part to Oklahoma wind: Early one morning near the end of March, nearly all of the energy being consumed in Oklahoma and across most of the nation’s mid-section was coming from a renewable resource. [The Oklahoman

State Government News

Legislation seeks to fund criminal justice alternatives almost six years after law’s passage: Oklahoma voters passed State Questions 780 and 781 in 2016 in a criminal justice reform effort that would reduce felonies and use the savings to fund mental health and substance abuse programs. While the formula for funding went through several stages of debates, no method for funding was offered by Oklahoma lawmakers until House Bill 3294, authored by Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane), was introduced this session. The bill that would require legislators to fund mental health and substance abuse treatment is working its way through the Oklahoma Senate after being passed unanimously by the House on March 24. [Stillwater News Press]

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

Capitol Watch: An Attack on Direct Democracy in Oklahoma’s Statehouse?: Oklahoma lawmakers are looking to make some of the biggest changes to the initiative and referendum process since the state was founded in 1907. If House Joint Resolution 1002 passes, it would require citizen-led groups to collect minimum number of signatures from each of the state’s 77 counties, instead of the current statewide requirements. [Oklahoma Watch

“Bans off Oklahoma” rally scheduled for reproductive rights: Oklahoma citizens are demanding lawmakers stop the bans on reproductive rights. On April 5th at 10:00 a.m., leading reproductive justice and rights organizations, providers, and community advocates will hold a rally at the Oklahoma state Capitol, called “Bans off Oklahoma.” [The Black Wall Street Times

Legislation to reorganize driver’s license and vehicle registration services advances: A reorganization of the parts of state government dealing with vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses moved forward in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday. [Tulsa World

Court OKs wording of recreational marijuana question: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has settled one aspect of a dispute between competing groups vying to shape the future of Oklahoma’s marijuana industry. The court found the language in State Question 820, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oklahoma, is “constitutionally sufficient.” The proposal is one of several that may appear on this year’s November ballot. [The Journal Record

Oklahoma measure would weaken cockfighting ban: State Rep. Justin Humphrey said he’s leading “a little chicken resurrection” as he attempts to get a bill through the Legislature that would reduce Oklahoma’s cockfighting penalties from felonies to misdemeanors. It also adds new fines of up to $2,000 for repeat offenders and redefines what constitutes a battle between roosters. [CNHI via The Ada News]

Tribal Nations News

At the Crossroads: State of the Economy in Indian Country: Study after study reaches the same conclusion: Tribes are often the largest drivers of regional and rural economies. In Oklahoma, a new report said tribes and tribal enterprises added $15.6 billion in direct contributions in 2019 to the state’s economy. [Indian Country Today

Citizen Potawatomi Nation makes history in Oklahoma with new professional basketball team: It was three days before the first game and the newly crowned Potawatomi Fire players were shooting baskets, talking with reporters and hamming it up with fans at FireLake Arena. [KOSU

Voting and Election News

Guy Barker joins increasingly crowded race for Oklahoma’s Congressional District 2: Another Republican has jumped into the increasingly crowded race for Oklahoma’s Congressional District 2. Businessman Guy Barker, who currently serves as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Quapaw Nation, announced his candidacy Monday. [KOSU

National GOP group launches $577,000 ad buy in support of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt: A nonprofit affiliate of the Republican Governors Association says it will spend $577,000 on television commercials in support of Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Oklahoman

Jones refiles case challenging special U.S. Senate election: Enid attorney Stephen Jones has refiled a lawsuit, in federal court, seeking to stop a special election for a soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat in Oklahoma. [Enid News & Eagle]

Health News

Tulsa Community College up for millions in federal funds to support nursing program: Tulsa Community College may soon see nearly $9 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to boost its nursing program. State Sen. John Haste of Broken Arrow told a legislative committee tasked with approving requests for ARPA money that TCC will use the money to graduate an additional 360 nurses over the next five years. [Public Radio Tulsa

Oklahoma pharmacy benefit manager law trimmed by judge: An Oklahoma law regulating pharmacy benefit managers got mixed reviews in court when a federal judge invalidated certain provisions as preempted by Medicare Part D rules while rejecting a PBM industry group’s challenges to other provisions. [Bloomberg Law]

Criminal Justice News

Election date set for funding new Oklahoma County jail: The Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners today set a June 28 election date for a proposed $260 million bond package that would be used to construct a new Oklahoma County Jail. In doing so, the commissioners put the ultimate fate of the project in the hands of county residents. [NonDoc] The Bond, if passed, is intended to partially fund the building of a new jail facility for Oklahoma County. [OKC Free Press]

  • Oklahoma County Jail Trust meets, takes little action [OKC Free Press]

Oklahoma County treatment courts celebrate recent program graduates: Oklahoma County Treatment Courts, consisting of Drug Court, DUI Court, Mental Health Court and Veterans Treatment Court, will recognize recent graduates at a public ceremony. With friends and family in attendance, graduates will celebrate successfully completing their respective treatment court program and having their charges dismissed. [The Black Wall Street Times

Economy & Business News

Democrats to question oil energy CEOs about companies’ resistance to producing more oil: Congressional Democrats plan to press energy company leaders Wednesday on whether they are contributing to high gasoline prices at the pump by not drilling more wells. A U.S. House subcommittee has scheduled a hearing and invited executives from six major oil and gas companies, including Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, according to the panel. [The Oklahoman

EPA reverses course on herbicide ban in 10 Midwest and Plains states, including Oklahoma: Farmers in 132 counties in states across the Midwest and Great Plains are now free to use Corteva’s Enlist brand of herbicides, changing course on a regulatory agency’s earlier decision. [KOSU

Education News

With ‘cloud of fear’ over campus, Michael O’Keefe weighs suing Oklahoma Christian: A week before his college’s spring break vacation, Michael O’Keefe — a tenured graphic design professor who taught at Oklahoma Christian University for 41 years — was called before the university’s administration and fired for gross misconduct after a guest speaker delivered a presentation in O’Keefe’s class which the university deemed “inappropriate and graphic.” Now, O’Keefe, represented by Kevin Jacobs, attorney and former president of OC, say they have no choice but to pursue legal action against the university. [NonDoc

Oklahoma Local News

Induced demand: Alternatives to turnpikes: As the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority moves forward with a statewide expansion of toll roads, transportation experts say new roads can increase congestion while other alternatives reduce it. [The Norman Transcript]

  • Cleveland County Commissioners made a demand for greater transparency to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority in a resolution Monday afternoon [The Norman Trasncript]

Quote of the Day

“We need real supervision. We have real evidence-based practice. We have real progressive discipline. and then we put in alternatives which are added drug tests, more reporting, outpatient treatments, inpatient treatments … so we can have a whole gamut of alternatives before we send people to prison.” 

– Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane), speaking about HB 3294, a bill he authored that would fund mental health and substance abuse treatment mandated under SQ 781 in 2016 [Stillwater News Press]

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

Number of the Day

$10 billion

An automatic expungement system is estimated to help reduce unemployment for justice-involved Oklahomans. This increase in employment could increase Oklahoma’s GDP by up to $10 billion annually

[Source: Clean Slate Initiative]

Previously from OK Policy: If Oklahomans could expunge their criminal records through automatic expungements, it would be much easier for them to access employment and become productive citizens, but the current expungement system is too expensive and complicated for most eligible Oklahomans to access the benefits of an expungement.

Policy Note

Expungement of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study: First, among those legally eligible for expungement, just 6.5% obtain it within five years of eligibility. Drawing on patterns in our data as well as interviews with expungement lawyers, we point to reasons for this serious “uptake gap.” Second, those who do obtain expungement have extremely low subsequent crime rates, comparing favorably to the general population — a finding that defuses a common public-safety objection to expungement laws. Third, those who obtain expungement experience a sharp upturn in their wage and employment trajectories; on average, within one year, wages go up by over 22% versus the pre-expungement trajectory, an effect mostly driven by unemployed people finding jobs and minimally employed people finding steadier or higher-paying work. [Harvard Law Review]

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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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