In The Know: Oklahoma seeks to keep no-parole sentences for children

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.

[Note: In The Know will be off tomorrow. We’ll return Monday.]

In The News

Oklahoma Seeks to Keep No-Parole Sentences for Children: Oklahoma’s Legislature is living up to its tough-on-crime reputation with the passage of a bill making it easier to send child offenders to prison with no chance for parole. While many states across the country are easing no-parole sentences for children, Oklahoma’s Republican-led Legislature shifted in the other direction this session and approved a bill to allow judges to put teenage offenders behind bars with no chance for release [Associated Press].

Governor Fallin “Carefully Analyzing” Bills Awaiting Her Signature: The end of Oklahoma’s legislative session left Governor Mary Fallin with dozens of bills to consider. The majority of them haven’t made headlines, but there are a few contentious measures sitting on her desk right now. The deadline to make a decision to sign or veto the bills is May 18th. If a bill doesn’t get the governor’s signature by then, it cannot become a law. To voice your support or opposition to the bills awaiting her signature, you can call the governor’s office at (405) 521-2342 [FOX25]. Ask Governor Fallin to veto these anti-family bills [OK Policy].

Hand-Picked Group to Begin Wielding Powers over State Agencies: A small group of unelected citizens, all appointed by Republican state leaders, will soon be exercising significant powers to decide how the state’s top agencies spend their funding and which services they should provide. Legislators and Gov. Mary Fallin added $2 million to the state budget this year to pay for state agency audits to be conducted by a private firm and overseen by a commission of Oklahoma business leaders [Oklahoma Watch].

Proposed changes to SNAP won’t put people to work – but they will result in more people going hungry: Last month, the House Committee on Agriculture approved a proposed farm bill that will make significant changes to SNAP, including radical changes to the program’s work requirements. It would require more families to meet stricter requirements, and to do so more often. Most adults with children would be required to work at least 20 hours each week, and to prove that they’re meeting this standard every month [OK Policy].

Focus Shifts to State Questions: As election season creeps up, state questions that have been in the works for months are coming to the forefront. There are the resident initiatives, such as the push to repeal the large tax increase the Legislature passed this year and the push for medical marijuana. Each might have some recognizable faces associated with the drive, but they have been a bottom-up effort. On the other hand, there are large industry-related policy pitches, such as State Question 793, the adjustment on vision care regulations that would allow retailers like Walmart to offer services in their locations [Journal Record].

Marijuana Ballot Measure Could Lead to Another Special Session: Because the two chambers within the Oklahoma Legislature couldn’t agree, the passage of State Question 788 would likely trigger another special legislative session. The ballot initiative would legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. Unlike constitutional amendments that some state questions enact, SQ 788 would create a change in statute. That means that lawmakers can go in and change the legal mechanisms within the law. The text within the state question is vague and doesn’t dictate many procedures that would be necessary for a smooth transition [Journal Record].

Pasternack: SQ 788 in Comparison to Other State Medical Marijuana Programs: Oklahoma is just over a month away from deciding on SQ 788, on whether or not to follow 30 other states by introducing a medical marijuana program. While some entities in our state initially dismissed the idea that marijuana has any legitimate medical benefits, most have conceded this point and are now raising more specific concerns with SQ 788. I would here like to discuss two concerns in particular: the allowed quantities of marijuana, and the language used for receiving a physician’s recommendation [Lawrence Pasternack, Ph.D./Edmond Sun]. State Question 788: Medical marijuana legalization initiative [OKPolicy].

Prosperity Policy: Pushing the Hot Buttons: This year a large bipartisan majority of lawmakers approved a tax increase needed to finally give teachers a substantial raise. Defying strenuous opposition from some of the state’s most powerful industries and activists, it was an act of real political courage, especially for Republican lawmakers. Unfortunately, it now looks like many of these same legislators were desperate to atone for bucking their hardcore base on taxes. In the final days of session, they pushed through several measures that showed a tough but ill-advised stance on poor people, crime, same-sex families, and guns [David Blatt/Journal Record].

Administrators Skeptical of School Consolidation Pushed by Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite: Many Oklahoma lawmakers and educators are grumbling as a petition circulates calling for a ballot question in November. Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, with the support of other groups, is expected to easily gather the necessary 41,242 signatures to let voters decide whether to repeal the revenue streams in House Bill 1010XX, which is supposed to give Oklahoma teachers an average $6,100 raise in annual pay [Edmond Sun]. School consolidation won’t fix the funding gap [OKPolicy].

Point of View: Coburn, Others off Mark with Anti-Tax Petition: Tom Coburn is a revered Oklahoman, but he and his followers are wrong as acid rain in their efforts to deprive our teachers of their pay raises by pushing a state question that would veto the laws that pay for the raises. They call themselves Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite!, but a more apt label would be Tax Resenters. Coburn says he is their spokesman, but not “involved in organizing.” That’s akin to pouring fuel on a fire and then saying you didn’t start it [Phil Horning/NewsOK].

Rep. Mike Ritze Removed from Disabled American Veterans Rolls: Seven weeks ahead of a primary election, firebrand conservative Oklahoma Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow) has been told by the national Disabled American Veterans organization to “remove any reference to being a member” from his biographic information. In recent months, Ritze has faced criticism from multiple House Republican colleagues who are disabled veterans: Rep. Josh West (R-Grove), Rep. Chris Kannady (R-OKC) and Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Wagoner) [NonDoc].

For the Love of Teaching: Cameron University Education Grads Have Big Concerns: As of Monday, the Oklahoma State School Board Association listed over 800 job opening across the state. “Getting a job is not the problem,” she said. “It’s really the burnout.” Several graduates of the CU/RSU education department have gone on to receive teacher of the year awards in their schools because of their excitement and energy, Richardson said. “The hardest part is keeping that enthusiasm,” due to the lack of classroom resources, the constant competition for grants and the daily requirements of teaching and managing a classroom, she said [Duncan Banner].

State of Employment: Oklahoma Needs Greater Variety of Jobs and Job Skills, Experts Say: Unemployment rates are down, the number of Oklahomans employed is up, and the state is showing a healthy outlook for its labor force. But there is no escaping the reality that it could change quickly. Jobs often rise and fall with the cost of oil, and our economy booms and busts alongside it [NewsOK].

These Teachers Went on Strike. Now They’re Running for Elected Office: Most have no political experience. They lack name recognition and fundraising bona fides. Some are not even on the ballot, having missed filing deadlines, and are instead waging write-in campaigns. They’re the longest of shots. But in upcoming elections in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky — all red states where school staff have walked out in recent months over austerity funding — teachers are running for office [BuzzFeed News].

18 Oklahoma High Schools Rank Nationally in U.S. News and World Report for 2018: Eighteen Oklahoma high schools made it into top tiers of U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings of the country’s best high schools. The 2018 Best High Schools rankings highlight public schools that best serve all of their students, including disadvantaged populations. Overall, the rankings focus on student outcomes with an emphasis on graduation rates and state proficiency tests [Tulsa World].

Hofmeister announces summit to focus on students experiencing trauma: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today announced that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) will address one of the nation’s most prevalent public health problems at an upcoming summit. It Starts Here: Trauma-Informed Instruction will be held at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Oct. 2, and feature experts in childhood trauma and healing [Oklahoma State Department of Education].

Quote of the Day

“We have about 70 bills left to make a decision on from the legislative session. There are a lot of bills that are drawing a lot of attention, but we’re carefully analyzing them, looking at the pros and cons – is it good public policy or is it not, what’s the public support, and certainly looking at the constitutionality of all of our laws too.”

– Governor Mary Fallin, speaking about the dozens of bills left to review before the May 18 deadline to sign or veto a bill. If a bill doesn’t get the governor’s signature by then, it cannot become a law [Source].

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma high school students who report playing video games or using a computer for something besides school work for 3 or more hours per day on an average school day (2017).

Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The National Fight for Paid Leave Has Moved to Statehouses: Over 75 percent of Americans support a form of paid family leave–it’s a bipartisan group that cuts across all income levels, and it includes the paid family leave that comes for caring for a parent, spouse or child, not just new babies. Despite some campaign rhetoric that Ivanka Trump would spearhead a federal paid family leave plan, the only proposed Republican plan so far, one from Marco Rubio, is unsustainable, limited to only parental leave, and would undermine Social Security. But national paid leave efforts haven’t stalled; they’ve simply been rerouted to statehouses [Slate].

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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.

2 thoughts on “In The Know: Oklahoma seeks to keep no-parole sentences for children

  1. BOOOOOO ! hand picked , yes in their favor ! just like Jones . NOT buying ! they work for the Tax payer ! not legislators or state government , but for the people , and if you think their going to be on the up and ups think again . this should have been done with Independent companies! not throwing favor once again to state . and these should have the power to question everything ! just another rigged system to make our state look good and no accountability . while funds just disappear like a vanishing act that no ones suppose to notice . Oklahoma has a long list of Shady ….

  2. Aren’t you sick of our financial picture under this regime? Just what happened to the sizeable “rainy day fund”? Why do we need a 2M dollar state agency audit and just who’s uncle, nephew or brother is being awarded the contract? And just who are these businessmen in this group of businessmen overseeing this whole fiasco? Lots of questions with this administration. Time for a Democrat!

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