In The Know: Prison admissions surge; Oklahoma teens are smoking less; state senators take oath of office…

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

Prison admissions surge despite criminal justice reform, report say: Some Oklahoma prosecutors appear to be circumventing the intent of State Question 780, with the result that Department of Corrections admissions actually increased by 11 percent in the first year of the landmark criminal justice reform measure. That’s the conclusion of a report to be released Friday morning by Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and, which are leading advocates for reducing the state’s prison population. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma teens are smoking less, but adults keep puffing: Oklahoma’s teens are making healthier choices. Adults, not so much. Smoking, obesity, binge drinking and physical inactivity went up among Oklahoma adults from 2016 to 2017. So did the percentage who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. The mortality rate increased, signaling that Oklahomans were dying younger than expected. [NewsOK ????]

Education takes center stage as Oklahoma state senators take oath of office: There will be future disagreements, but Wednesday was a day for smiles and introductions as the oath of office was administered to state senators who were either re-elected or won election for the first time this year. Twelve of the winning candidates will be new to the Senate, so one-fourth of the 48-member Senate will face a learning curve as they set out to conduct the people’s business. [NewsOK] House members will be sworn in Thursday. Stitt and other statewide elected officials will take the oath of office on Jan. 14. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s 2018 elections were different in many ways: Looking at the headlines, the results of the November elections might give the impression that nothing much has changed in Oklahoma. Led by Governor-elect Kevin Stitt, Republicans swept all eight statewide offices for a third consecutive election, with all candidates winning by double-digit margins. Republicans also continued a 26-year streakof making gains in the Legislature at the time of general elections, picking up a net of three additional seats in the House while losing one in the Senate. Still, while the election gave the appearance of politics as usual in Oklahoma, there were several important differences this year. [OK Policy]

Emily Virgin named House minority leader: State Rep. Emily Virgin, an eight-year representative from Norman who is her party’s most senior member in the state House, was named Minority Leader by the Democratic caucus Thursday morning. Virgin, D-Norman, will lead her 25-member caucus, replacing Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, who lost reelection last week. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma new members 2019: Political newcomer Rep. Kevin Hern will represent Oklahoma’s 1st District after winning his first race for elected office. … Kendra Horn, a 42-year-old attorney, scored a stunning win over two-term Republican Rep. Steve Russell in Oklahoma’s 5th District, becoming the first Democrat to be elected from the Oklahoma City-area district since the mid-1970s. [The Hill] U.S. Rep. Steve Russell blames changing demographics in election loss to Kendra Horn. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Hamilton: Term limits, lobbyists and women in the Legislature: In previewing the 57th Oklahoma Legislature, whose new and newly re-elected members were sworn into office this week, there is both good news and bad. First, the good news: 32 women will occupy legislative seats in the coming session, a 66 percent jump over the most recent Legislature. Moreover, a legislative party caucus – for the first time – will be female-majority: The Senate Democratic caucus gender-splits 5-4. [Arnold Hamtilon / Journal Record]

OAJ president’s advice to #okleg: ‘Tackle real problems’: After 40 years of membership, civil justice attorney Fletcher Handley Jr. was passed the gavel and became president of the Oklahoma Association for Justice (OAJ) on Nov. 2. In the same formal ceremony, this founding partner at the Handley Law Center in El Reno and Oklahoma City was also honored as OAJ’s Trial Lawyer of the Year, which recognizes the contribution attorneys have made to the public interest through trial practice. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Supreme Court elects new chief, vice chief: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday elected Noma D. Gurich as chief justice. Patrick R. Wyrick will succeed Gurich as vice chief justice. Every two years the court selects from its justices to fill the two positions, a requirement of the Oklahoma Constitution. The positions become effective Jan. 1. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma Supreme Court sides with industry in fight over oil-field water regulation: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with the energy industry, ruling against officials in Kingfisher County who blocked companies from using temporary lines to transport produced, treated or recycled water in one of the state’s hottest oil fields. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Gilcrease Expressway toll road construction on track for June 2022 completion: Motorists could be driving along a five-mile extension of the Gilcrease Expressway tollway by June 2022 or sooner under a plan outlined Thursday by state transportation officials. [Tulsa World] The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the issuance of up to $125 million in revenue bonds to help fund construction of the Gilcrease Expressway turnpike in the Tulsa area. No legal protests were filed with the court, justices noted. [NewsOK ????]

Officials mark one-third completion of Turner Turnpike expansion; project still months ahead of schedule: Officials on Thursday marked completion of the first 8 miles of turnpike expansion between west Tulsa and Bristow. Gov. Mary Fallin and other officials were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at the Turner Turnpike construction staging area at 151st Street, near Kellyville, marking completion of about a third of the 22-mile, $300 million project. [Tulsa World]

Delaware County community confronts state Ag Board on poultry house proliferation: Members of Oklahoma’s Board of Agriculture experienced an immersion into eastern Oklahoma’s poultry industry expansion issue Thursday, some of it on the ground, a lot of it in a planned hour that rolled into 90 minutes of public testimony offered in five-minute increments.With only 24 hours’ notice of the 5 p.m. meeting that Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese acknowledged was “inappropriate” planning, residents of area counties still managed to pack the auditorium of the Northeast Technology Center. [Tulsa World]

Dental care often ignored in nursing homes: Nurses and aides sit on couches and armchairs usually reserved for movie night. The workers recoil as pictures of severe plaque, tooth decay and bleeding sores are projected on the wall of the nursing center in Meeker. Dental hygienist Shelley Mitchell says this is what happens when nursing home residents don’t get their teeth brushed. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Housing tax credit recommendations get mixed reactions: Affordable housing advocates were pleased with one of the Incentive Evaluation Commission’s recommended changes to the state’s affordable housing tax credit program. Another suggestion from the commission has left advocates concerned. Commissioner Cynthia Rogers said she doesn’t think the program is cost-effective. [Journal Record ????]

OICA, Oklahoma DHS launch gift drive for children in foster care: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy and Oklahoma Department of Human Services have teamed up for a gift drive to provide presents to children in foster care this holiday season. The annual gift drive, OK Foster Wishes, allows individuals or businesses to donate gifts to children in foster care. [FOX25]

Students set to return to OKC school after heat restored: Classes will resume Friday at Eugene Field Elementary after heat and hot water were restored at the Oklahoma City school, a district official said Thursday. The school, 1515 N Klein, was closed Wednesday and Thursday as crews worked to repair a gas line that supplies heat to the building. [NewsOK]

OKC city manager interviews to begin Monday: Recently elected Ward 7 representative Nikki Nice took her oath of office a week earlier than normal so that the City Council can start interviewing city manager job applicants Monday.The eight council members and Mayor David Holt will be sorting through a thick stack of applications to replace City Manager Jim Couch when he formally retires Jan. 2. City Hall officials said the position attracted 52 applicants, some of whom already work for the city. [Journal Record]

Judge: Inmate seeking to have his 1991 murder conviction overturned can move forward: judge ruled Thursday she will allow a case to move forward that seeks to throw out a man’s 1991 first-degree murder conviction. Tulsa County District Judge Sharon Holmes said during a status conference that Corey Atchison’s case will advance in a second evidentiary hearing in January. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma, Arkansas agree to create cleanup plan for Illinois River: Amid a decades-long dispute over water quality standards for the Illinois River watershed, state officials in Oklahoma and Arkansas have signed an agreement for more collaboration in implementing evidence-based monitoring and regulation. [Journal Record] Conservation groups disappointed with Illinois River Plan. [AP News]

Quote of the Day

“Prosecutors wield tremendous power, and they are wielding it to send more people to prison than ever before — and Oklahoma already incarcerated people at higher rate than any place in the world.”

-Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Executive Director Kris Steele, speaking about a new report that shows some prosecutors in Oklahoma appear to be circumventing the intent of State Question 780 by sending more people to prison [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s ranking out of all 50 states and Washington D.C. for the best states to work, based on wages, worker protections, and the right to organize.

[Source: Oxfam]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

‘The Single Biggest Risk Factor in Getting Expelled Is Being a Preschooler’: Walter Gilliam, child psychiatrist at Yale University, led the first national study on preschool expulsions in 2005. What he found then still surprises many to this day: Preschoolers are three times more likely to be expelled than K-12 students. In private preschools, that number jumps even higher, to 13 times more likely. [Governing]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.