In The Know: Oklahoma parents choose public schools; time may be ripe for criminal justice reform; lawsuit alleges debtors’ prison…

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

Unity Bill hits a high note with legislators and advocates: Governor Stitt signed the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act — also called the “Unity Bill” — on March 14th. This legislation is the result of months of work by the bipartisan medical marijuana working group, and it passed easily through both the House and the Senate. In crafting this law, legislators sought input from a number of interested groups including law enforcement, chambers of commerce, banks, tax commission leaders, and cannabis advocates. [OK Policy]

Rebecca Fine: Oklahoma parents choose public schools. It’s time to fund them: Oklahoma families overwhelmingly choose public education for their children. A larger proportion of parents in Oklahoma send their children to public school than they do in 46 other states. But over the past decade, our state has not shown the same commitment to public education, and schools have been forced to cut staff and programs drastically. [Rebecca Fine / Tulsa World]

In The News

‘There’s a very different environment in the Legislature now’: Time may be ripe for criminal justice reform: Seven years ago, when John Estus was an aide to then-House Speaker Kris Steele, hardly anyone in the Republican caucus was interested in criminal justice reform. “We couldn’t get anything, no matter how meager, off the floor without the Democrats’ help,” said Estus, now chief of staff to Steele at Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. Now Republican lawmakers seem to be in with both feet. [Tulsa World]

Lawsuit alleges Washington County judges, indigent defense system effectively ran debtors’ prison: A lawsuit filed Thursday alleges three Washington County District Court judges routinely eschewed required hearings on poor defendants’ ability to pay fines and fees, then often sent them back to jail for nonpayment. [Public Radio Tulsa] The petition in Washington County District Court names former District Judge Curtis DeLapp, Special Judge Jared Sigler, former Special Judge John Gerkin, and the Oklahoma Indigent Defense system as defendants. [Tulsa World]

Staff exodus only latest problem for jail, sheriff’s office in Nowata County: The Nowata County jail, stage for a county-wide drama that has unfolded there this week, has been cited by state agencies during inspections several times over the last three years, records show. [The Frontier] The former Nowata County Sheriff who resigned over a court order to put inmates back in the ramshackle jail says a “good ol’ boys club” of officials is trying to rush reopening it. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma County sheriff upset with county commisioner over jail criticism: Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor lashed out Thursday at a county commissioner who has accused him of mismanaging the jail. “The fight started today,” Taylor said after speaking out at a county budget board meeting. The sheriff is upset with Commissioner Kevin Calvey, a former state representative elected in November to serve District 3. [NewsOK ????

Crackdown on uninsured drivers sometimes snags the innocent, but fix on the way: Nearly 5 percent of vehicles identified as uninsured in Oklahoma were flagged by mistake, according to the prosecutor in charge of a new program that includes automatic license plate readers. At least 663 people were sent warning letters by the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council but were able to prove they had insurance. [NewsOK ????

Legislation would give state retirees pension pay increase: Retirees who draw state pensions are expected to turn out at the state Capitol on Monday to lobby lawmakers to pass a 4 percent increase in pension pay. House Bill 2304 would provide for an increase in pay received by retired state employees, teachers, firefighters, judges and others. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program succeeding in making college a reality for low-income students: Oklahoma’s Promise has come a long way in helping low-income students achieve a college degree since the tuition scholarship program’s inception almost three decades ago. More than 85,000 high school graduates have received the scholarship during that time, according to the Oklahoma’s Promise 2017-18 Year End Report. [Tulsa World]

Medical marijuana businesses say patient drives are key to access, but state lawmakers want to end it: The dispensary is packed with people, but they aren’t here to buy medical marijuana. The dispensary hasn’t technically opened yet, so it doesn’t even have THC products – the mainly middle-aged crowd is standing around empty glass cases. They are here for something else – a doctor’s recommendation. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Shawnee repeals fines, fees for medical marijuana home grows. How are cities across Oklahoma regulating businesses and patients? Dozens of municipalities across the state have put in place local ordinances that would regulate medical marijuana in the months since State Question 788 passed with 57 percent support. [Tulsa World] Securing the stash: Medical marijuana industry using specialized security services. [NewsOK ????]

Op-ed: Parental Incarceration is Holding our Schoolchildren Back: There is a heartbreaking correlation among two areas where Oklahoma ranks worst in the country: Adverse childhood experiences and incarceration. Adverse childhood experiences – which include exposure to violence, neglect and abuse, parental incarceration and divorce – carry a devastating legacy of negative outcomes in adulthood, including chronic health problems, high-risk behaviors, even early death. [State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister / FOX 25]

Wayne Greene: If my property taxes always go up, why don’t teacher salaries do the same? “My property tax in Tulsa County has gone up 300 percent in the last 20 years,” the reader wrote. If that’s the case, he wondered, why did we need a state tax increase to fund a teacher pay raise last year? It seemed to him, that big growth of local property tax money should have allowed the school districts to pay teachers plenty without any new taxes. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma gasoline prices rise 11 percent in a month: The first months of 2019 have brought a rise in gasoline prices, with unleaded gas in Oklahoma averaging $2.39 per gallon Thursday, up from $2.15 a month ago and $1.94 at the beginning of January, according to AAA. [Journal Record ????]

Oil, natural gas production grow despite lower rig count: Oil and natural gas production continues to increase in Oklahoma even as the number of rigs drilling new wells falls. Oil and natural gas company executives have talked for much of the past five years about their focus on efficiency and getting the most oil and natural gas out of the ground for the least expense. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“Obviously, I did not come from a family with money or wealth and no political involvement outside of voting. It’s important to see the investment in what it does for students like me. The most powerful thing I can do as a legislator is work to expand the program.”

-Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, who said never could have afforded college without the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program [Source: Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of adults in Oklahoma who have ever experienced depression. The national average is 20.5 percent

[Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

1.7 million students attend schools with police but no counselors, new data show: As policymakers call for more school police in response to safety concerns, a new analysis of federal data shows that many students don’t have access to other kinds of staff necessary for safety and support—staff like school nurses, social workers, and psychologists. [Education Week]

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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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