In 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.
In The News
Oklahoma’s general revenue beats expectations for November but lags previous year: Deposits to the state’s general revenue fund exceeded expectations in November but were well below receipts for the same month a year ago, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said Tuesday. OMES Director John Budd said unusually strong personal income tax collections kept the state above water as all other sources missed expectations. [Tulsa World]
Advocates call hunger crisis an ‘Affordability Crisis’: More than 22 percent of all children in Oklahoma lived in households that couldn’t always afford enough food from 2016-2018, according to a new report by Hunger Free America, based on an analysis of federal data. That means 215,621 children in the state lived in households that did not always know where their next meal was coming from during the three-year time period. [Edmond Sun] OK Policy took a look at proposed changes to SNAP, finding that it would result in more Oklahomans going hungry.
Epic Charter Schools suing state senator alleging libel, slander: After months of a back-and-forth dispute, Epic Charter Schools is suing state Sen. Ron Sharp over his comments on attendance policies at the virtual charter school. Epic’s attorney, Bill Hickman, filed the libel and slander lawsuit Monday in Oklahoma County District Court. [The Oklahoman]
Should Oklahoma employers hire felons?: While some employers might believe a strict “no felons” policy is best when it comes to hiring, that could be regrettable, a lawyer who specializes in labor law said. The attorney said that because of Oklahoma’s lengthy history of tough-on-crime policies, it’s a virtual certainty that most employers in the state will encounter job applicants who have criminal records. [Journal Record 🔒]
Commercial gaming could put $150 million a year in fees to state at risk, Oklahoma tribes tell Gov. Stitt: Gov. Kevin Stitt would be putting $150 million per year in exclusivity fees at risk should he and lawmakers allow a commercial gaming operator into the state, Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Tuesday. Stitt and the state’s American Indian tribes are at an impasse regarding their gaming compacts. [Tulsa World]
Education groups give school report cards a failing grade: Education groups are complaining the state’s latest A-F school report cards are demoralizing to teachers, placing labels on poor children and essentially grading entire communities’ performances. The state’s top educator, though, continued to back the grading system, saying it helps parents, districts and community leaders gauge how well schools are performing. [CNHI]
Oklahoma shouldn’t punish poor people for their poverty: American Bar Association president: Across the country, millions of people are jailed, lose their driver’s licenses or face years of escalating debt simply because they cannot afford to pay routine court fines and fees. The Tulsa World’s recent Cost of Justice series was an exceptional introduction to this issue. It shed light on the devastating harm caused to individuals — and to the justice system itself — when fines and fees are administered with little regard for the individual’s financial circumstances. [Tulsa World] Learn more from OK Policy about how excessive fees lock Oklahomans into the criminal justice system.
Tulsa World editorial: Legislature can and should protect insured Oklahomans from high insulin prices: The Tulsa World supports a proposal to cap insulin costs for insured Oklahomans who depend on the hormone to control their diabetes. Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, has proposed Senate Bill 1082, which would put at $100 limit on copays for a 30-day insulin supply. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]
Tulsa Public Schools patrons weigh in on $20 million budget cut plan at community meeting at Memorial High School: Teachers and community members attending a public meeting at Memorial High School expressed their concerns and optimism about Tulsa Public Schools’ plan to solve its financial crisis. [Tulsa World]
City of Tulsa looking for state’s help to move downtown grocery store project forward: City officials are finalizing a $12 million state matching funds application they hope will help Tulsa secure a downtown grocery store. Not much has been said publicly in the past year about a proposal from an Indianapolis company to construct a mixed-use development with a grocery store across the street from the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. [Tulsa World]
Landslide: MAPS 4 passes ‘to continue the progress’ of Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City’s latest installment of a penny sales tax for strategic investment passed with flying colors this evening. The city’s MAPS 4 package received 71.7 percent of the vote, making it the most popular of all MAPS votes. [NonDoc] MAPS 4 gets largest percentage approval in half-century of sales tax votes. [Free Press OKC] Southwest Oklahoma City voters who favored MAPS 4 nevertheless had a message for city leadership — keep street repairs front and center. [The Oklahoman]
Advocates for children get ready to lobby lawmakers: Advocates for children say too many have traumatic experiences at an early age and they can be impacted the rest of their lives. Joe Dorman with the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy says an agenda has been drafted for legislators to address. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Courts rely on domestic abuse defendants’ word for surrendering guns: Oklahoma judges order hundreds of defendants to surrender their firearms under victim protective orders every year. But the courts rely on defendants to voluntarily comply – an honor system that victim advocates and justice system officials say can put victims and the public at risk. [Oklahoma Watch]
Ready, Set, PrEP expands access to HIV medication in Oklahoma: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently launched Ready, Set, PrEP, a national program that makes medications for pre-exposure prophylaxis, taken daily to prevent HIV, available at no cost to people without prescription drug insurance coverage. [CNHI]
Sheriff questions readiness of Jail Trust to take control — extends deadline: Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor criticized the Oklahoma County Jail Trust on Tuesday for not being ready to take over the jail January 1 and suggested that it may never be. In a news conference, he announced that he is willing to continue to run the Oklahoma County Detention Center until April 15, giving the jail trust a total of 11 months to start running the jail. [Free Press OKC]
Tulsa Route 66 master plan update aims to boost private investment: A new vision for the Mother Road is in the works. The Tulsa Planning Office is in the middle of an update to the city’s Route 66 master plan. The current plan was adopted in 2005. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Muscogee (Creek) Nation general election is Saturday; early voting begins Wednesday: For the third time in three months, Muscogee (Creek) voters will head to the polls Saturday, with principal chief candidates David Hill and Bim Stephen Bruner atop a six-race general election ballot. The tribe’s Supreme Court having thrown out the original primary election results due to absentee ballot security concerns. Current Principal Chief James Floyd announced earlier this year that he would not seek a second term. [Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
“When fees are required to access diversion or treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration, the result is a two-tiered system of justice — one for those who can pay and one for those who cannot. This breeds distrust of our justice system and undermines public confidence in our courts.”
-Judy Perry Martinez, president of the American Bar Association. [Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
The financial cost savings produced by the commutation of 527 Oklahomans which was largest commutation in American history on November 1st 2019.
[Source: Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board]
Is the ‘War on Drugs’ over? Arrest statistics say no: Despite bipartisan calls to treat drug addiction as a public health issue rather than as a crime — and despite the legalization of marijuana in more states — arrests for drugs increased again last year. According to estimated crime statistics released by the F.B.I. in September, there were 1,654,282 arrests for drugs in 2018, a number that has increased every year since 2015, after declining over the previous decade. Meanwhile, arrests for violent crime and property crime have continued to trend downward. [New York Times]
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