In The Know: Oklahoma County’s drug court reform, education funding requests, 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.

In The News

Efforts underway to reform Oklahoma County drug court: Since a new judge took over the Oklahoma County’s drug court program in February 2018, various reforms have shifted the focus toward new incentives and creative sanctions outside of just sending someone to jail for a failed urinalysis, missed treatment or other infraction. Between July 2018 to July 2019, jail days decreased 65 percent from the same time period the year before, according to numbers provided to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy research has shown battling substance abuse disorders requires drug court reforms, as well as investment in all forms of treatment. 

Funding education: With the Oklahoma Legislature less than a month from reconvening, some lawmakers in both chambers will begin preparing this week with a series of joint budget hearings regarding education spending in the state. In total, 11 hearings will be held this month to analyze budget requests from various state agencies. [Shawnee News-Star] OK Policy analysis shows that progress has been made recently on restoring funding for essential services like education, but it will be a long rebuilding project to full budget recovery.

Officials seek 12 percent increase in CareerTech funding: The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education is seeking an increase in state funding in the coming year to expand training for jobs in aerospace, energy and other industries and to advance career awareness programs in schools across the state. The CareerTech system, which in 2019 enrolled more than 550,000 Oklahomans in wide-ranging programs for middle schoolers up to adults in industry, has requested a state appropriation in Fiscal Year 2021 of $156.3 million. [The Journal Record 🔒]

Oklahoma lawmaker seeks to strengthen seat belt laws for 17 and younger: Oklahoma Representative Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, announced Wednesday the filing of House Bill 2791, legislation he authored that would strengthen seat belt laws for people 17 and younger.  Oklahoma state law currently requires only children 8 or younger to wear a seat belt while riding in the back seat on state roads. [KOSU]

Stillwater News Press Editorial: Data must be part of minimum wage conversation: State Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, filed legislation Friday that, if passed, would increase Oklahoma’s minimum wage from the $7.25 federal rate to $10.50 per hour. It’s bound to get little traction with Oklahoma’s conservative lawmakers, but it does stir discussion and maybe that’s Young’s hope. [Stillwater News Press]

Oklahoma Commerce Department sets goals for 2020: The Oklahoma Department of Commerce announced its goals for the new year, including alleviating a 140,000-person statewide workforce gap and diversifying the state’s economy. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses plans for meeting these objectives. [KGOU]

Commissioners debate need to protect data of telecom companies: Operational data of telecommunication companies that pay into the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund fees became a point of contention at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Wednesday as the Public Utilities Division requested a protective order for the data in upcoming annual audits. [The Journal Record 🔒]

City council gets first look at downtown Tulsa housing study: Tulsa city councilors got an update Wednesday on a downtown and near downtown housing study that’s underway. A final report isn’t due for a couple more months, but consultants shared some initial findings, such as a great need for affordable housing. [Public Radio Tulsa]

North Tulsans press for a larger say in who the next police chief will be: North Tulsans spent two hours at Rudisill Regional Library on Wednesday night urging Mayor G.T. Bynum to select a police chief who will hold officers accountable when they do not respect minorities’ rights or treat them as they would other members of the community. [Tulsa World]

Former Thunder player seeks to open charter school in Oklahoma City: Former Thunder player Enes Kanter wants to open a charter school in Oklahoma City and plans to file an application with the school district later this month, The Frontier has learned. [The Frontier]

GRDA to ask for 50-year renewal of Grand Lake dam license: The Grand River Dam Authority will ask that its next license to operate the Pensacola Dam be for 50 years instead of the current license’s 30 years or the 40-year term now standard for federally regulated hydroelectric projects. [Tulsa World]

Parks still in limbo: Future of state parks are up in the air; some think golf course may close: The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department is striving to increase revenue and update the parks system, and changes could be coming to the area’s state parks. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Is Tulsa a remote possibility for workers?: Oklahoma’s second-largest city bets that people who can work anywhere will settle down in this affordable community, especially if they get the chance to try it out first. [The American Prospect]

Senate Judiciary Committee has confirmation hearing for Tulsa attorney John Heil III: Tulsa attorney John F. Heil III, nominated by President Donald Trump for a federal judgeship in Oklahoma, told a key Senate panel Wednesday that he would want to address the cost and length of litigation if confirmed to serve on the bench. [Tulsa World]

‘A good start’: Age change praised in Oklahoma tobacco use battle: Effective Dec. 20, the legal age in the United States to purchase tobacco products, including vape juice and pods, changed from 18 to 21. [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“(Judge Kenneth Stoner) has set up a way of increasing the severity of sanctions and using jail as an ultimate consequence instead of the first tool. By doing that, he is keeping people out of jail, in the program and moving toward success. That results in people breaking addiction, keeping jobs and at home with their families.”

-Tim Tardibono, executive director of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, speaking about recent drug court reforms [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

87.8%

Share of Oklahoma student aid that was need-based in 2017-18. Shares in other states range from 0 to 100 percent, with most states awarding over 90 percent of financial aid grant dollars base on need.

[Source: The Pew Trusts]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Minimum wage increases fueling faster wage growth for those at the bottom: The United States’ lowest-paid workers are seeing their paychecks rise at the fastest pace in more than a decade. Slow wage growth has plagued the economy ever since jobs started coming back after the Great Recession. But that has been changing, with wages rising at all levels and especially for those at the bottom. [The Washington Post]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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