In The Know: Oklahoma appeals opioid verdict, Tulsa Public Schools raises pay for support staff, and more

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.

New from OK Policy

(Capitol Update) Where is the focus on sentencing reform? The Criminal Justice Reclassification Council has approved its report that will make 10 recommendations to the governor and legislative leaders for the legislative session. The report for this year will concentrate on the “other appropriate recommendations” and not the classification of sentences. Most of the recommendations are common sense actions that have been known to be needed long before the Council was created. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

In The News

State appeals opioid verdict claiming $465 million award is not enough: Contending that a $465 million verdict awarded against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson will be insufficient to fully abate the state’s opioid epidemic, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court on Monday seeking authority to come back and ask for more money later. [The Oklahoman]

Civil rights lawsuit claims Oklahoma court discriminates against people with disabilities: In a first-of-its-kind federal class action lawsuit, people who have been locked up in the Canadian County Jail claim the court’s bail system discriminates against people with mental disabilities. The plaintiffs also claim the Canadian County District Court and five of its judges routinely set bail without considering whether it’s affordable. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Tulsa Public Schools support workers to get 30-cent per hour raise: Tulsa Public Schools has concluded its months-long contract dispute with a local union as the school board approved a modest raise for support employees Monday evening. Board members approved and ratified a negotiation agreement between TPS and the Tulsa American Federation of Teachers affiliate, which represents the district’s 2,600 support employees, for the current school year. [Tulsa World] An OK Policy analysis showed that raising pay for support staff is key to improving Oklahoma’s schools.

Board urged to reconsider rules for four-day school week: Members of the Oklahoma 4-Day School Coalition called on the Oklahoma State Board of Education on Monday to rethink rules that, if formally adopted, could make it nearly impossible for districts to adopt four-day school weeks. [The Journal Record ????] Oklahoma group says requirements for keeping four-day school week too strict. [Fox 25]

Promised land: Oklahoma has few restrictions on religious property tax exemptions: When it comes time to pay property taxes, the owner of the small house will owe the county more for that residence than the other owner will for the mansion and the 50 acres of land surrounding it, which are fully exempted from property taxes. That’s because the mansion’s owner is a church. [The Frontier

No special election to be held to fill impending House vacancy: There will be no special election to fill an Oklahoma House seat that will soon be vacant. Rep. Shane Stone, who plans to resign soon, changed his resignation date, which eliminates the possibility of a special election. [The Oklahoman]

Joe Dorman: Thankful to those who support foster children: I want to express my appreciation for everyone who is working to improve the lives of children. I had the opportunity to visit with many of those people in-person this week at a community luncheon held by Youth and Family Services, Inc. of El Reno, and it was a great reminder of how lucky we are to have hardworking advocates for children in every corner of the state. [Joe Dorman / CNHI]

Oklahoma County Jail Trust continues to inch toward goals: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority or Jail Trust, made decisions Monday that moved the Trust forward in spite of the Sheriff’s lack of agreement. The Trust entertained an agenda item to hear a report from the Detention Center Transition Committee. As chair of that committee, County Clerk David B. Hooten reported to the Trust. [Free Press OKC]

North Tulsa leaders call on mayor to involve ‘community stakeholders’ in selection of police chief: Elected leaders from north Tulsa are calling on Mayor G.T. Bynum to involve “community stakeholders” and engage in a “transparent, time-bound and participatory” process for selecting the city’s next police chief. [Tulsa World]

Parks tax petition signatures verified — Council to consider Super Tuesday vote: The petition to establish a 1/8 cent sales tax dedicated to maintaining Oklahoma City parks met the minimum of 6,499 verified signatures Friday afternoon. City Clerk Frances Kersey also confirmed that over 7,700 signatures were submitted. [Free Press OKC]

Edmond school reveals Oklahoma’s 1st book vending machine: A round of cheers erupted at Charles Haskell Elementary for the surprise unveiling of Oklahoma’s first book vending machine on Friday. [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Stitt delivers his first OSU commencement address: Oklahoma State University recognized the final graduating class of the decade Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena during the 140th OSU commencement. [Stillwater News Press]

Cross Village developer sues OU for over $750 million: The developer that partnered with the University of Oklahoma to construct Cross Village is suing the university for more than $750 million, alleging that OU misled Cross investors and breached its contract. [The Norman Transcript] Provident Oklahoma Education Resources essentially argues that OU verbally agreed to a complicated financing scheme for the 1,200-bed Cross Village complex, then left Provident holding the bag when the project went sideways. [Tulsa World

‘The ultimate cost’: Oklahoma faces problem gambling, treatment limitations: Oklahoma ranks as the fifth most gambling-addicted state in America, with an estimated 75,000 problem gamblers and historically high numbers of gambling-related embezzlement cases. According to a June study from the National Council on Problem Gambling, 60 percent of surveyed state citizens think the gaming industry should do more to help addicts. Similarly, 38 percent think the government should do more. [NonDoc]

How Mexican immigrants saved a dying Oklahoma town: Guymon in Oklahoma was on its way to becoming a ghost town. Then Mexican immigrants arrived 20 years ago after a food processing plant opened. Since then, they’ve been responsible for an economic boom. [BBC News]

A 25-by-30-foot pit? Scientists find reason to search further for mass graves from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre: At least three locations in Oaklawn Cemetery and another along the Arkansas River should be examined further for unmarked burials from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre, a team of scientists said Monday night during a public presentation at Carver Middle School. [Tulsa World] A team of forensic archaeologists who spent weeks using ground-penetrating radar at three sites in the city announced Monday night they found “anomalies” consistent with mass graves that warrant further testing. [The Washington Post]

Quote of the Day

“But where are the sentencing reforms for a criminal justice system that unnecessarily locks up too many people for too long? Our harsh sentencing regime in Oklahoma has huge costs without significant payoff for public safety.”

– Former House Speaker Steve Lewis on the recommendations made by the Criminal Justice Reclassification Council [Capitol Update]

Number of the Day


Number of children in Oklahoma age 0-3 who received SNAP food benefits to support good health and food security. SNAP is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

[Source: FRAC]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In just two states, all prisoners can vote. Here’s why few do: In helping people with their legal cases, Sughrue realized many can’t read, and even those who can read struggle to write, which makes registering to vote and filling out a ballot practically impossible without help. The corrections departments don’t track literacy rates among prisoners, but in Vermont officials estimate nearly 20 percent of inmates entered prison with less than a high school education. Some studies estimate nearly 60 percent of people in prison are illiterate. [The Marshall Project]

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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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