In The Know: OK House Republicans pick leaders; property crime decreased after SQ 780; strong turnout makes ballot initiatives harder…

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

Oklahoma House Republicans pick leaders for next session: Dozens of newly elected state legislators are helping to pick their new leaders for the upcoming session that begins in February. In the House, the new Republican caucus on Wednesday picked Speaker of the House Charles McCall to serve another term as its top leader. McCall will be the speaker-elect until he’s formally elected in January. [AP News]

House Democrats to select new leader: Two central Oklahoma representatives are vying to become the next leader of the House Democrats, both pledging a mix of progressive and pragmatic approaches for a caucus that saw its numbers shrink during last week’s election. Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, told The Oklahoman they are seeking the position of minority leader, which will be decided by a caucus vote Thursday. [NewsOK]

Property crime decreased in Oklahoma as SQ 780 reduced punishments: Before 2016, stealing a smartphone in Oklahoma could be charged as a felony with the possibility of prison time. The passage of SQ 780 raised the felony theft threshold in Oklahoma from $500 to $1000, meaning a person has to steal something worth more than $1000 to be charged with felony larceny. These changes went into effect in July 2017, and the early returns are very encouraging: statewide reports of theft fell in Oklahoma between 2016 and 2017. [OK Policy]

Strong voter turnout will make it harder to place state initiatives on ballot in 2019: Oklahoma’s voter turnout surged during this year’s gubernatorial election, but that engagement had an unintended consequence. The turnout surpassed that of all gubernatorial elections in the past 20 years, with 1.19 million people heading to the polls. Oklahoma’s constitution bases its initiative petition signature requirement on gubernatorial election voter turnout. The threshold to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot is 15 percent of that turnout. [Journal Record ????]

Prosperity Policy: Progressives’ hope: Last week, Republicans won statewide races for governor in Idaho, Nebraska and Arkansas, as well as Senate seats in Missouri, Utah and Nebraska. That same night, in these same red states, voters passed ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid to cover low-income adults (in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah) and approved substantial increases in the minimum wage (in Arkansas and Missouri). These results are the latest instances of a common pattern in recent years. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

Senate members sworn in, Stitt ‘excited’ to work with #okleg: “Thank you, lord, for the gift of government.” Those were the opening words of Frontline Church pastor Chad Kincer’s prayer in the Oklahoma Legislature’s upper chamber this afternoon as 24 Senate members took their oaths of office, 12 of them for the first time. With outgoing Lt. Gov Todd Lamb presiding and governor-elect Kevin Stitt seated next to the desk of Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC), the chamber’s gallery had not been filled to such capacity since teachers and education advocates packed the Capitol during 2018’s regular session in April. [NonDoc]

‘I don’t want you to leave’: Booker T. students say goodbye to teacher who won House seat: Emotions were high during John Waldron’s last day as a Tulsa Public Schools teacher for the foreseeable future. Because Oklahoma law forbids state office holders from working a second state-employed position, the newly elected representative of District 77 is now on a leave of absence from Booker T. Washington until further notice.Learning that her teacher won a seat in the Legislature during the general election was a bittersweet moment for Jannet Rodriguez, who took his classes for 2½ years. [Tulsa World]

Steve Russell attributes surprising loss to demographics of ‘the shifting 5th District’: In a Facebook post that he titled “BREAKING THE SILENCE,” U.S. Rep. Steve Russell expounded this week on what he considers to be the reasons for his unexpected loss to Democratic challenger Kendra Horn.The post, running nearly 700 words, focuses on data and demographics.“If lack of my use of negative ads were a factor, consider that such ads did not benefit Governor-elect (Kevin) Stitt over Drew Edmondson,” Russell wrote, noting that Democrat Edmondson won Oklahoma County by more than 27,000 votes. [NewsOK ????]

Tulsa struggles to make amends for a massacre it ignored for nearly a century: On weekday mornings, enticing whiffs of bacon and fried potatoes waft from Wanda J’s Next Generation restaurant in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood. The smell of breakfast on the griddle offers a comforting contrast to the sound of big rigs and commuter traffic roaring by on the Interstate 244 overpass that cleaves the neighborhood in two. [Governing]

Capital improvement projects exceed $20 million: Oklahoma’s capital management officials have prepared their ask for the next fiscal year, which includes more than $20 million in maintenance projects. The Long-Range Capital Planning Commission is one of several entities under the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. It administers the projects that keeps the state’s buildings and other property functioning. [Journal Record ????]

Exclusive: Big dreams and big incentives offered in Tulsa’s rejected bid for second Amazon headquarters: The city of Tulsa’s proposal to Amazon last year as it sought the company’s coveted second headquarters included a sales tax bump that would have generated more than $1 billion over 25 years, $500 million in revenue bonds and no-cost offers of “publicly-owned land.” [The Frontier]

$10,000 offer attracts huge response from people willing to relocate to Tulsa: Nearly 1,000 people already want to take billionaire George Kaiser up on the offer to pay them $10,000 to spend a year in Tulsa, his charitable foundation said Wednesday, just a day after announcing the innovative recruiting effort.Inquiries have come from all across the country and even from overseas, with the George Kaiser Family Foundation describing the response as “phenomenal.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma optometrists, lawmakers should improve vision care access: In the wake of State Question 793’s narrow defeat, Oklahoma optometrists and lawmakers must now have the slit lamp turned directly on them. If SQ 793 was not the appropriate pathway to improving Oklahomans’ access to life-changing vision care, what can we do in 2019 to help our fellow citizens? [William W. Savage III / NonDoc]

CDSA providing free newborn kits to reduce infant mortality: Community Development Support Association is providing new parents with newborn kits, meant to reduce the rate of infant and child mortality in the region. Kim Kelly, early childhood coordinator at CDSA, said approximately 1,500 babies are born each year in Garfield County, and CDSA wants to reduce the risks for positional asphyxia and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for those children and their families. [Enid News & Eagle]

OMMA collects $6.5M in application fees: In less than a handful of months, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority already has raked in nearly $6.57 million in application fees. Of that, $5.45 million came from licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, growers or processors, said Melissa Miller, a spokeswoman for the state division overseeing the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana program. [Norman Transcript] Officials: 12,000 licenses approved for Oklahoma medical marijuana patients [KFOR]

Compact to allow CPN alcohol sales: The Citizen Potawatomi Nation has a new compact with the state that will allow CPN retailers to receive state permits to sell alcohol. The agreement grants permits for the CPN to conduct alcohol sales in its grocery stores, convenience stores and gaming facilities in exchange for remitting to the state a tax that is equal to the state and local taxes that otherwise apply to other retailers. [Journal Record]

Ag Department sets meeting to consider new poultry house applications: An announcement that the state Board of Agriculture will consider issuing two additional poultry house operation permits sent a ripple of worry through eastern Oklahoma on Wednesday, but state officials said they are coming to look and to listen. [Tulsa World]

OKC school district leader discusses Pathway project: Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel said Tuesday he’s pleased with the amount of feedback he received on a proposal to improve the district, even if much of it is negative.McDaniel, in an interview with The Oklahoman, said he understands the skepticism of parents and others who complained at five community meetings that the district didn’t deliver on past promises to improve student outcomes. [NewsOK ????]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma does have a vision care crisis, and for the better part of a decade, we as a state have not done much about it. … While I imagine those who do not believe in this crisis could easily blow holes in my unscientific analysis, they likely have not done what I have done. They have not begged vision professionals to volunteer their weekends; they have not turned away scores of low-income patients after an event’s capacity is met; they have not worked health care’s proverbial “back doors” to help dozens of newly diagnosed glaucoma or cataract patients; they have not held sobbing senior citizens as they wept tears of joy upon seeing a grandchild’s face for the first time.”

-NonDoc Editor in Chief William W. Savage III, calling on Oklahoma legislators and optometrists to take action to address Oklahoma’s gaps in access to vision care following the narrow defeat of SQ 793 [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Among adolescents in Oklahoma who experienced a major depressive episode, the percentage who did not receive treatment (2011-2015).

[Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A smart city is an accessible city: People have been crowdsourcing accessibility data far longer than apps have been around. Disability activists have been drawing maps by hand for decades to prove the need for curb cuts, wheelchair ramps, signage, and other features that make public access possible, particularly for wheelchair users. … But long before crowdsourcing became a term for technology-assisted outsourcing, disability activists were questioning the wisdom of the crowds in this process. [The Atlantic]

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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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