In The Know: Oklahoma prepares voter purge; Stitt makes mental heath changes; lack of data hides criminal justice problems…

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

Free health care forum pushes expansion of health care, advocacy: A couple of dozen residents and four panelists met at a north Tulsa library on Saturday to examine several issues surrounding health care in Oklahoma and discuss policy solutions. Organizers of Together Oklahoma, which sponsored the event, said the state ranks among the lowest in the nation in health and highest in the number of uninsured residents. [Tulsa World]

Healthcare forum to improve OK coverage: We often talk about what it is going to take to make Oklahoma a top ten state, and healthcare is a piece of that puzzle. According to Together OK, thousands of Oklahoman’s can’t see a doctor or fill a prescription because of gaps in our coverage policies. [KTUL]

Panelists discuss the impact of drug abuse and mental health on the Oklahoma criminal justice system: Legal experts from the Ardmore area and across the state gathered Thursday evening to discuss criminal justice reform at a forum hosted by Together Oklahoma. The panelists discussed the issues facing the state along with ideas about how to best enact change. [The Ardmoreite]

In The News

Oklahoma prepares to purge thousands of inactive voters: Election officials are gearing up to remove tens of thousands of Oklahomans from the state’s voter rolls – a controversial practice voting-rights advocates say can lead to disenfranchised voters. Oklahoma is one of seven states that allow election officials to remove names from the state’s voter registration list if they haven’t voted in several election cycles and don’t respond to address confirmation mailings. [Oklahoma Watch]

Group hopes to change the way Oklahomans vote: A new idea to Oklahoma could change the way you vote after the 2020 election. It’s called ranked choice voting and would allow you to rank your top choices instead of only voting for one person. Not only would the state need new equipment for counting those votes, but it would eliminate the need for runoff elections. [KTUL]

Governor brings new focus to mental health: Oklahoma’s state agency overseeing mental health and substance abuse could undergo a significant transition under Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has already appointed brand new members to its board and has said his wife will play a central role in related policy. After the Legislature gave him new powers last month to hire agency directors and appoint new board members, Stitt announced five members — all of them new — to the Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. [NewsOK]

Data, or lack of it, gets in the way of criminal justice reform: When Felicity Rose was tasked with analyzing mountains of data from the state’s criminal justice system, one figure she heard about was the number of people entering prison from supervision. Rather than inmates who arrived straight from court, those from supervision had, at one point, been deemed low-risk enough to re-enter the community with some conditions. [NewsOK]

Rep. Ben Loring: I sent a kid to prison forever. It’s time the Legislature reconsider when that option is right for juveniles: We all grow and change over the course of our lives, and as we do, our views and opinions on some issues, likewise, grow and change. Before I began serving in the Oklahoma Legislature, I served as district attorney, protecting public safety interests of my constituents, which often meant securing lengthy prison sentences for people who had committed serious crimes. [Rep. Ben Loring / Tulsa World]

NewsOK Editorial Board: Oklahoma children can gain from prison reform: We write frequently about how Oklahoma’s highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate impacts the prison system — its aging and badly overcrowded buildings, its outnumbered correctional officers — and on the growing financial toll to the state fisc. Its impact on Oklahoma families shouldn’t be forgotten. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Tulsa County public defender now using text reminders for court — and more: There are text reminders for everything from doctor appointments to haircuts these days, and now they’re being sent for court appearances. A company called Uptrust provides a system to send those reminders to defendants. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma opioid settlement may help reframe views on addiction: A $270 million settlement between the state and a major pharmaceutical company will provide a massive funding boost for drug addiction research and treatment at a time when opioid abuse has become a national epidemic and ravaged many Oklahoma communities. [NewsOK] Settlement could be transformative for OSU Center for Health Sciences. [Tulsa World] Lawmakers left out of opioid settlement; AG responds. [Journal Record]

Bill cracks down on antipsychotic medication given to nursing home patients: A bill pending in the Oklahoma House would crack down on the administration of antipsychotic drugs to nursing home residents. Oklahoma ranks first in the nation in giving antipsychotic medication to nursing home residents, according to AARP Oklahoma, which is backing Senate Bill 142, by Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City. [Tulsa World]

Bill would update Oklahoma’s decades-old AIDS curriculum mandate: A bill making its way through the Legislature would update Oklahoma’s law requiring HIV/AIDS education in all public school districts. “HIV education is a mandatory curriculum, but it hasn’t been updated since ’87,” said Rep. Marcus McEntire, author of House Bill 1018. “It needs to be brought up to date with today’s research.” [NewsOK]

Dozens of districts adopted four-day weeks to save money: Legislation waiting to be heard by a House committee would permit four-day weeks if school districts can prove the schedule is working for students. Senate Bill 441 would require districts to fulfill 180 days of classroom instruction or 1,080 hours of instruction with a minimum of 165 days in the classroom. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa World Editorial Board: Legislators like to talk about schools, but will miss their deadline to fund them: April 1 — the statutory deadline for the Oklahoma Legislature to fund public schools — has come … and almost certainly will go without the obligation being met. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

‘I think we nailed it’: One year since Oklahoma’s statewide teacher walkout, participants reflect on what it accomplished: The response from his fellow teachers was exactly what Jim Douthat had been hoping for. “It sounds,” he said, as he wrapped up the meeting, “like we’re ready to walk out.” [Tulsa World]

Rural Oklahoma superintendent sought federal funds for firearm training: A rural Oklahoma school superintendent sent an email to the White House last year requesting federal funds to train armed teachers, a request that was sent to the U.S. Department of Education and initiated a statement by the nation’s top school official that the concept deserved further consideration. [NewsOK]

Government shutdown suspected for drop in sales tax collections: Tax Commission officials and Oklahoma City University economics professor Jonathan Willner said something significant seems to have happened to the economy, but it’s impossible to pin to the federal shutdown alone. [Journal Record]

More than 750,000 could lose food stamps under Trump Administration proposal: Three quarters of a million people would likely lose their food stamps later this year under a new proposal by the Trump administration. The goal is to encourage able-bodied adults to go to work and get off government aid. But opponents predict people would go hungry instead, if the rule goes into effect. [KOSU]

Census countdown stresses importance of survey: Monday marks the one-year countdown to the 2020 U.S. Census, and a variety of Oklahoma leaders are launching a campaign to help ensure the state receives an accurate count, which is critical for government funding and mapping legislative districts. [NewsOK]

Boren accuser praised him to investigators hired by OU: The OU graduate now accusing retired President David Boren of sexual battery told investigators in February “that never happened.” Eddy told The Associated Press that he had decided to speak publicly about his encounters with Boren after he “started to realize the implications of what I was doing by concealing my truth.” [NewsOK]

Pursuit policy OHP fought to keep confidential shows troopers’ actions in pursuits should be used only in ‘extenuating circumstances’: The Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s “confidential” vehicle pursuit policy includes prohibitions against wrong-way chases and overtaking the lead pursuit unit that appear to have been broken in separate chases that killed an OHP lieutenant and an uninvolved motorist. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I realized in seeking such an extreme sentence for her, I had denied her the opportunity to prove she could grow, change, rehabilitate and show she was worthy of a second chance. I was wrong about her. And current policies that deny children the opportunity to demonstrate that they can be rehabilitated are also wrong, both legally and morally.”

-Rep. Ben Loring, writing about a 17-year-old whom he prosecuted with a life without parole sentence when he was a district attorney [Source: Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of mothers of infants and toddlers in Oklahoma reporting less than optimal mental health.

[Source: State of Babies Yearbook 2019]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Americans Are Going Bankrupt From Getting Sick: Medical debt is a uniquely American phenomenon, a burden that would be unfathomable in many other developed countries. According to a survey published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, nearly 60 percent of people who have filed for bankruptcy said a medical expense “very much” or “somewhat” contributed to their bankruptcy. That was more than the percentage who cited home foreclosure or student loans. [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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