In The Know: Low-income taxpayers pay higher rate; challenges with opioid crisis in rural areas; OCJR’s #ProjectCommutation…

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.

In The News

New analysis: Low-income taxpayers in Oklahoma pay more than twice the tax rate paid by the richest Oklahomans: While Oklahoma has a reputation as a low tax state, poor and middle-income Oklahomans are actually paying a greater share of their income in taxes than the national average, while the richest 5 percent of households — with annual incomes of $194,500 or more — pay less. That’s why Oklahoma ranks among the ten worst states for tax inequality in the newly updated Who Pays report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). [OK Policy]

The drug Suboxone could help combat the opioid crisis, but in rural areas it can be hard to get: As Sydney Humphrey set out to launch a treatment program for people addicted to opioids in a rural Oklahoma town not far from her own, she saw an undeniable need. Many people, desperate for addiction treatment, made the journey to larger cities in search of providers. Some resorted to buying addiction-treating drugs off the street. [The Frontier]

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform fighting for commutations for current inmates: Supporters of criminal justice reform are asking the courts to commute the sentences for several inmates. For years, criminal justice reform has been discussed at the Oklahoma State Capitol as a way to curb the state’s incarceration rate. According to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Oklahoma was second in the nation in overall incarceration rates for 2016. [KFOR]

OKPolicyCast 39: Bad voter, good voter (with David Glover): In recent years, Oklahoma has seen some of the lowest voter turnout in the nation. Turnout was well below the nation in the 2012 and 2016 presidential races. In our last governor’s race in 2014, Oklahoma had the fewest votes cast for governor going back to 1978. But that wasn’t always true in Oklahoma. For decades before the 2010s, Oklahomans voted at rates near or above the national average. [OK Policy]

Stitt presses supporters to get out the vote in ‘tight race’: Republican Kevin Stitt pushed supporters at a private fundraiser on Tuesday night to do everything possible to get voters out to the polls in three weeks. “It’s going to be a tight race,” he said at a crowded home in northwest Oklahoma City. “So do not discount you emailing your friends or texting them — you getting out the vote on November 6th.” [NewsOK]

Edmondson rallies Democrats three weeks out from Election Day: Gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson rallied Democrats at a restaurant here Tuesday and promised to go full speed until the Nov. 6 election. “We’re not going to stop,” Edmondson said to a packed room. “I’m not going to stop for the next 21 days. I’m going to work my heart out.” [NewsOK]

District attorney candidates spar over criminal justice reform at Tulsa forum: Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told a packed room at a north Tulsa church Tuesday that his office is a statewide leader in providing alternatives to incarceration. But his challenger, Jenny Proehl-Day, argued that Kunzweiler’s administration over-prosecutes those accused of nonviolent crimes because he doesn’t meaningfully support localized and proven efforts to keep low-risk offenders out of prison. [Tulsa World]

Congressional challenger Kendra Horn drastically tops Steve Russell in recent fundraising: Kendra Horn raised more than four times as much money as U.S. Rep. Steve Russell over a recent three-month span, a surprisingly strong showing for the Democratic challenger as she attempts to unseat the Republican incumbent. [NewsOK] In her latest attempt to link U.S. Rep. Steve Russell to the state’s woes — and its unpopular governor — Democrat Kendra Horn launched a television ad this week that prominently features Gov. Mary Fallin and sobering statistics about Oklahoma. [NewsOK]

Lawyers PAC among top campaign contributors: A large chunk of Oklahoma’s legislative seats will be up for grabs during the November vote, and a swath of the legal community has been gearing up for the change. The Citizens for Justice Political Action Committee is one of the top 10 PACs that have contributed to campaigns so far this year, coming in at sixth place with nearly $200,000 in contributions, according to Oklahoma Ethics Commission data. Most of that money was spent during the primaries. [Journal Record ????]

ACT scores show many Oklahoma high school graduates not prepared for college-level courses: Many of Oklahoma’s 2018 high school graduates will struggle to pass first-year college courses based on their ACT scores. Only 16 percent of Oklahoma students met all four college readiness benchmarks in English, mathematics, reading and science, while 43 percent met zero benchmarks. [NewsOK]

Mother’s lawsuit says Oklahoma prison failed to prevent her daughter’s death: On Oct. 24, 2016, Amber Hilberling was found hanging in her prison cell at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center near McLoud, Oklahoma, according to news reports. While the state medical examiner ruled the death a suicide, Hilberling’s family has expressed doubts that she would kill herself. Her mother, acting as an agent of Hilberling’s estate, recently filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC). [The Appeal]

Fifth lawsuit filed over local medical marijuana ordinances: How are cities across Oklahoma regulating businesses and patients? With dozens of municipalities across Oklahoma putting local ordinances in place to regulate medical marijuana, five cities are now facing lawsuits over restrictions considered too prohibitive to jibe with state law. Dozens of cities across the state have been updating their ordinances and zoning codes in the months since State Question 788 passed with 57 percent support, legalizing medical marijuana in the state. [Tulsa World]

Data reveal opportunity gaps along demographic lines: In recent years, we have heard plenty of sad news about our home state. We learned in 2016 that life expectancies of poor Oklahomans were basically tied for the lowest in the nation. Life expectancy of poor women in Oklahoma City and Tulsa had dropped to the nation’s second and third worst, respectively. Life expectancy for poor men in Tulsa and Oklahoma City were fifth and seventh worst, respectively. [John Thompson / NonDoc]

Smoking out noncompliance: Selling tobacco to minors could cost state $6.8 million: Tobacco retailers are often the most important gatekeepers in preventing the next generation of smokers. But they also indirectly hold the key to millions of dollars Oklahoma’s substance abuse treatment agency receives from the federal government. If too many retail outlets are caught selling tobacco products to minors, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services could lose 40 percent of a $17 million annual block grant, or about $6.8 million. [Journal Record]

Accusations against Tulsa County judge surface in massage parlor investigation: An unconventional judge has come under investigation because of accusations he was a customer of a massage business that was a front for prostitution. District Judge James Caputo on Wednesday called the accusations totally false and political. [Tulsa World]

Court unseals more documents related to Daniel Holtzclaw case: It’s a case that shocked the nation and put the spotlight on Oklahoma City. The case went to trial after 13 women accused former Oklahoma City Officer Daniel Holtzclaw of sexual attacks while on duty for the police department. [KFOR]

Expert in manmade quakes sees next steps for Oklahoma officials: Earthquakes in Oklahoma are down more than 50 percent this year after regulators’ actions to limit wastewater injection, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. A magnitude 5.3 earthquake rattled Denver in 1967, two years after underground waste injection from chemical weapons manufacturing stopped. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Cherokees sue over FCC and small cell tower rule: Led by Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation, several Indian tribes asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals this week to strike down an FCC  rule that allows mobile carriers to build small-cell fixtures without getting tribal approval. Ten tribes originally filed an appeal with the Federal Communications Commission in August but this week, took their case to the Court of Appeals. [OK Energy Today]

Mike Hunter joins attorneys general in crackdown on phone scams, robocalls: Attorney General Mike Hunter is among 35 state attorneys general asking the Federal Communications Commission to adopt new rules to allow telephone service providers to block robocalls and scam phone calls. The added authority would allow service providers to use new technology to detect and block illegal robocalls, even those coming from what appear to be legitimate, local phone numbers. [Tulsa World]

Vice President Pence to campaign in Tulsa for Kevin Stitt Thursday: Oklahoma Republicans get a shot of adrenaline ahead of the Nov. 6 general election with Vice President Michael Pence’s appearance Thursday at the Mabee Center. Pence headlines a rally that includes gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt and other GOP standard bearers. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Hundreds of Oklahomans like Juanita Peralta are still serving the type of unjust, draconian drug possession sentences Oklahoma voters roundly rejected two years ago. The Pardon and Parole Board has a historic opportunity approaching to use its authority as intended, follow the law, uphold the will of the voters and commute Juanita’s destructive, decade-long drug possession sentence. Stories like Juanita’s matter because they are shared by families all across Oklahoma who also deserve the type of restorative justice we are seeking for Juanita. We want those families to know they are not alone, and there is hope.”

– John Estus, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Chief of Staff [KFOR]

Number of the Day


Increase in the number of Oklahoma kids participating in the Afterschool Supper Program from October 2016 to October 2017, the largest increase in the nation.

[Food Research & Action Center]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid expansion continues to benefit state budgets, contrary to critics’ claims: In the face of this evidence, critics of Medicaid expansion (including the conservative Foundation for Government Accountability and similar state-level organizations) have centered their opposition on the claim that expansion has financially harmed states because some states underestimated the number of people who would enroll. This argument doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. As a review of studies on the cost of expansion concluded, “[c]laims that the costs of Medicaid expansion have far exceeded expectations are overstated, misleading, and substantially inaccurate, based on a review of the credible evidence from either academic or government sources.” [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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