In The Know: marijuana signature count inflated; DOC chief critiques justice reform report…

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

Petition leaders inflated signature counts for recreational marijuana: Last week, the Tulsa World reported that Green the Vote had gathered the requisite number of signatures for State Question 797, legalizing recreational marijuana, to be placed on a ballot. But early on Tuesday morning, the cannabis community on social media learned that 132,527 was an inflated number, that the drive was in actuality closer to 73,000-78,000 signatures. [Tulsa World

Prison chief calls criminal justice reform report flawed: The head of the state prison system said a recent report on cost savings from voter-approved criminal justice reforms was fundamentally flawed. “As you know, I strongly support criminal justice reform in the state of Oklahoma,” Department of Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh wrote in a Friday letter to Gov. Mary Fallin. “At the same time, I believe criminal justice reform must be firmly supported by the facts. The report that was issued is not supported by the facts and drastically overstates the averted costs.” [Tulsa World]

Veterans Affairs sheds state employees but leader calls audit a ‘political hit-job’: The Veterans Affairs Department has shed 481 state employees in the past two years but agency leaders say that figure is highly misleading, as is a state audit released Wednesday. State figures show the agency, which operates seven care facilities for 1,300 veterans, had 2,163 state employees at the start of 2016 and 1,682 state employees on June 25 of this year. The number of state employees working as patient care assistants dropped from 739 to 466 in that time, according to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. “We think ODVA is contracting out care of our veterans to private entities rather than using state employees and we’re uncertain about oversight of those contract employees and their qualifications,” said Sterling Zearley, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller Says Gross Receipts to the Treasury – for the past Month and for the past Year – Reach Unprecedented High Levels: All signs point to ongoing expansion of the Oklahoma economy as July Gross Receipts to the Treasury of $1 billion and 12-month collections of $12.3 billion, both reached unprecedented high levels, State Treasurer Ken Miller announced Monday (August 6). Miller said the July and 12-month numbers, which provide a general reflection of state economic activity, show growth of more than 10 percent each [The City Sentinel].

SQ 801 Would Give More Flexibility, but No New Funds for Education: Under the current constitution there is a 5-mill levy on all real property in a school district, dedicated to building and maintaining school property. In addition, there is a 35-mill general school tax and a 4-mill county levy that goes to school operations. So, legislators want to change the 5-mill levy to allow school districts to use property tax revenue that has previously been restricted to building and maintaining schools for operation funding [Steve Lewis / OKPolicy].

Some educators not sold on State Question 801: A November state question could give school districts more discretion in spending their own ad valorem revenue, but some education officials are warning that the policy could create more problems than it would solve. Supporters said districts should be able to spend their money the way their local school boards and administrators see fit instead of adhering to a one-size-fits-all restriction. However, educators said unlocking funds would not help; building funds are already as short as operations funds. Others said the measure would create further disparity in the school’s rich and poor districts. [Journal Record] SJR 70 could create tough choices for Oklahoma schools [OKPolicy].

Gov. Mary Fallin Signs off on Revised Emergency Rules for Medical Marijuana: Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed revised emergency rules the Oklahoma State Board of Health adopted last week for medical marijuana, saying her approval of the “basic” framework given to her “moves medical marijuana to the realm of our Legislature.” The state health board unanimously voted Wednesday in favor of emergency rules that, most notably, rescinded controversial regulations that banned smokable medical marijuana sales, mandated a cap on THC content in products and required a pharmacist on-site at dispensaries [Tulsa World].

Legal Experts Evolving in an Age of Decriminalized Marijuana: Once Chad Moody decided marijuana users in Oklahoma needed a higher level of legal expertise to protect their liberties in court, it took him about 10 years before he felt confident enough to say that, yes, he was that specialist. And when Colorado voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2000, he needed another five to 10 years to get comfortable again around the growing volume of case law related to his niche, the Oklahoma City attorney said [Journal Record].

Lee School name still not settled; Tulsa school board hears again from those for, against change: The division and disappointment surrounding the Lee School renaming process was once again evident Monday. Angry parents slammed the process that the Tulsa school board used to reconsider the name Lee School and the proposal to call it Council Oak Elementary School. They also sought a compromise — keeping the name Lee somehow on the 99-year-old school at 1920 S. Cincinnati Ave. But those in opposition weren’t all parents. A major donor to the Lee Foundation and other TPS initiatives dangled the prospect of ceasing funding for the school’s foundation. [Tulsa World]

60th OKC Sit-In Movement Anniversary Celebrations Planned: The Oklahoma Historical Society will host a celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Sit-In Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma City. This free event will take place on Thursday, August 16, from 7 – 9 p.m.  at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. [The City Sentinel].

Quote of the Day

“We still have to fix the toilets when they break. There’s still not any more money. When across the budget, all the way across, there’s a lack of funds, it doesn’t make any difference how you earmark it.”

-Kenny Ward, the human resources director of Bridge Creek Public Schools, speaking about SQ 801 that would allow districts to use building fund revenue for general operations [Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Change in real average hourly wages for Oklahoma workers from June 2017 to June 2018.

[Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Most Workers in Low-Wage Labor Market Work Substantial Hours, in Volatile Jobs: State and federal policymakers are considering, or have already imposed, work requirements that would take away SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits or Medicaid coverage from people who are not working or engaged in work-related activities for a required number of hours each month. A large share of the people who would face work requirements are employed, but they also experience high levels of job displacement and unemployment, and their wages have grown little, as our analysis of the low-wage labor market shows. An understanding of the labor market that SNAP and Medicaid beneficiaries face makes clear that it will be difficult for many individuals and families to meet proposed work requirements. Depending on the details of the work requirements, it also may be quite administratively burdensome to monitor them [Center on 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.

One thought on “In The Know: marijuana signature count inflated; DOC chief critiques justice reform report…

  1. Calculating cost savings from criminal justice reforms is always treacherous. Too often, projections of populations under the current system are contrasted with estimates of numbers of would-have-been inmates diverted under the reforms, and then the lower number is multiplied by the average cost per inmate (determined by dividing population into total costs). The biggest problem is that the “average cost per inmate” number is NOT the marginal cost of each inmate. Adding or subtracting an inmate from the system does not add or subtract the “average cost.” The cost of that individual inmate is only whatever additional money would have been spent for food, clothing, etc. To get real savings, you have to close prisons or at least wings or units as well as eliminate the positions that staffed them. Staffing costs will be 70%-80% of overall corrections costs so, if those employees are simply moved to other functions, you don’t get any savings at all. If a prison now only has 400 inmates instead of 500, you’ll only get the 100 X their marginal costs as savings. NY, for example, has closed a lot of prisons but its corrections budget did not benefit significantly from that.

    Remember as well that a reduction of 1000 inmates will not be 1000 from ONE prison, allowing you to close it down. It may be 50 at one site, 85 at another 110 at another, 3 at another, totalling 1000 from all sites. NONE of those reductions would likely close a facility. AND minimum security prisons have different “average cost per inmate” numbers than medium, maximum, community, etc., that also has to be considered if you want to be precise.

    Granted, it’s much easier to calculate and explain possible savings as an aggregate overall number applied to population reductions. It’s also wrong in large systems. The consultants paid to do reform and then move along to the next customer have never done a good job at explaining this because to do so slows down interest and momentum. It’s left to the implementers to “fail” the predictions and take the heat. It’s good the Tulsa World is continuing its long-time (nationally) exceptional coverage of this as it has to give OK voters and policymakers a better shot at understanding. To date, the voters have lately done a far better job at putting the info provided to good use.

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