In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers OK criminal justice reform bills

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.

Today In The News

Oklahoma lawmakers OK criminal justice reform bills: Oklahoma lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to several bills that could alleviate the state’s burgeoning prison population, but the effects might not happen as soon as some advocates hope. The measures are part of a package deal negotiated by Capitol leaders including Gov. Mary Fallin and prosecutors, who have exerted political pressure on the criminal justice reform process [NewsOK]. Passing revised justice reform measures is necessary but not nearly enough [OK Policy].

State budget clears first hurdle: The state budget for fiscal 2019 passed its first hurdle with little trouble on Tuesday afternoon, weeks ahead of schedule. The Senate’s side of the Joint Committee on Budget and Appropriations considered the bill first. Senate Bill 1600 would appropriate about $7.6 billion for state agencies and for the first time in several years, no agencies face cuts. Instead, several would see increases in an attempt to compensate for past reductions [Journal Record].

Employees Hope Lawmakers Continue To Increase Funding For State Agencies: The teacher walkout may be over, but the fight for better funding has just begun for many state employees. Department of Human Services employees said they are optimistic about the future and hope the walkout continues to open doors for state employees. Becky Laipple has been working for DHS almost a decade [News 9].

Oklahoma’s budget – a self-inflicted wound: Oklahoma is a sparsely populated state from which a staggering volume of oil and natural gas has been produced. Given this, one would expect us to have, among other things, an educational system that is one of the best in the country. Unfortunately, as recent events have now made everyone aware, nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to many other deficiencies, the state public school system is well below both national and regional averages, and even after their recent raise, Oklahoma public school teachers remain among the lowest paid in the country [Dan Boyd / Journal Record].

State Legislature Considers Reducing Fines, Fees For Speeding: Good news may be on the horizon if you have a bit of a lead foot. A proposal speeding through the legislature may reduce how much you have to pay if you get a ticket. This is for those who get a ticket from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol for going less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Currently, a ticket for going 10 miles or less over the speed limit results in fines and fees of $224.50 [News 9]. How Excessive Fees Lock Oklahomans Into the Criminal Justice System without Boosting State Revenue [OK Policy].

Justice reform works for all Oklahomans: Every year nearly 700,000 people are released from prison nationally — approximately 10,000 in Oklahoma. Statistics show that within five years, more than 75 percent will be arrested again for a new crime. Recidivism is a significant problem in our country, causing our prison and jail populations to remain too high [Pat Viklund / NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin vetoes ballot selfies bill: Gov. Mary Fallin’s first veto of the legislative session nixes voting booth selfies. Fallin vetoed House Bill 3053 by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Depew, late Tuesday. The bill would have allowed voters to take cellphone photos of themselves with their marked ballots and post them on social media [Tulsa World].

Public Servants Are Losing Their Foothold in the Middle Class: The anxiety and seething anger that followed the disappearance of middle-income jobs in factory towns has helped reshape the American political map and topple longstanding policies on tariffs and immigration. But globalization and automation aren’t the only forces responsible for the loss of those reliable paychecks. So is the steady erosion of the public sector [New York Times].

Oklahoma girls can expect shorter, sicker lives than their mothers: Through all the turmoil of the last century — wars, social upheaval and technological changes that rendered one generation’s work nearly incomprehensible to their grandparents — there was one thing Oklahomans and all Americans could count on: Children would live longer, healthier lives than their parents. They can’t take that for granted that anymore [NewsOK].

Oklahoma State Chamber says medical marijuana would create employment issues: If the medical marijuana question becomes law as written, employers won’t be able to make hiring or firing decisions based solely on whether a person holds a marijuana license, according to a State Chamber leader who called State Question 788 “sloppily drafted.” Adria G. Berry, vice president of government affairs for the State Chamber, said the business organization’s leaders voted unanimously to oppose the state question [NewsOK]. State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OK Policy].

Scott Pruitt’s Political Patron Now Questions the E.P.A. Chief’s Ethics: Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, may be losing support even from his staunchest allies. His longtime political patron, Senator James Inhofe, said Tuesday that he would like to see an investigation into the ethical allegations against his protégé. If any prove true, he said, they could “have an effect” on Mr. Pruitt’s job [New York Times].

Quote of the Day

“A simple, flat, 7-percent GPT for all oil and gas production in Oklahoma will not drive operators from Oklahoma . . . It will still, however, leave us the least-taxed major hydrocarbon producer in the country and reduce the effect of inevitable future price drops. The geology that Nature has bestowed upon us, combined with the technical savvy of local operators, will keep the industry interested in Oklahoma for as long as there is an industry.”

– Dan Boyd, petroleum geologist who worked at the Oklahoma Geological Survey for 11 years, in an editorial advocating for higher oil and gas taxes (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of females living with HIV in Oklahoma whose diagnosis was attributed to injection drug use (2014)

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Republicans Couldn’t Knock Down Obamacare. So They’re Finding Ways Around It: The Trump administration has always seen Obamacare as an abominable roadblock to the less regulated insurance market it prefers. Last year, it tried to knock it down and failed. Now, it’s building a set of detours. More customers who want to avoid buying health insurance can now find a way out of the law’s individual-mandate penalty, which will disappear completely next year [New York Times].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers OK criminal justice reform bills

  1. Criminal Justice Reform syllogism:

    If OK’s crime rates remain higher than the national average and of states that have done sentencing reforms and

    If OK’s recidivism rates are lower than the national average because people who would not commit other crimes end up in prison to serve terms anyway and

    If overincarceration has been shown by research and experience to be the least effective means to reduce crime and victimization and

    If we overincarcerate due to the charging and bargaining decisions of DAs who also use threats of “soft on crime” on politicians who might want to have more crime and victimization reduction and

    If DAs and judges who used to be are the ones implementing [sic] whatever reforms [sic] get passed and

    If Mary Fallin is bowing once again to DA nonsense rather than taking them on directly for their poor comparative records on crime and victimization reduction and showing that “public safety” is most in danger by listening to OK DAs and

    . . . nevermind. There is no logical or rational conclusion to OK’s crim just reform effort.

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