In The Know: Prison labor contracts scrutinized, new legislation proposed before deadline, and more

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

Oklahoma pays $1.45-per-hour for prison telemarketing: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has four contracts with private telemarketing firms that operate call centers in six state prisons. The companies pay DOC a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage for each of more than 200 incarcerated individuals, but the prison telemarketing program only pays workers $1.45-per-hour plus whatever bonuses are offered by the companies. [NonDoc]

Committee approves request for state jobs incentive money by company founded by Gov. Kevin Stitt: The Jenks-based bank originally founded by Gov. Kevin Stitt will continue to receive state taxpayer funds for job creation, after a state committee composed mostly of individuals appointed by the governor approved a new state incentive contract with the bank on Thursday. [The Frontier]

(Audio) Opioid distributor lawsuit, corrections reform task force, recreational marijuana opposition & more: In this episode, hosts discuss Attorney General Mike Hunter filing a lawsuit against major opioid distributors in the state, the governor’s task force on corrections reform releases its report while also asking for more time to come up with detailed plans to reduce the state’s prison population, and two initiative petitions to make recreational marijuana legal in the state are getting push back from the state’s medical marijuana industry. [KOSU]

Capitol briefs: More than 2 million Oklahomans registered to vote: Going into the 2020 election cycle, a little more than half of all Oklahomans are registered to vote. The Oklahoma State Election Board shows that more than 2 million individuals are registered. [The Oklahoman]

Mad dash to introduce bills before deadline: The state Legislature’s deadline to file new legislation was yesterday, as lawmakers rushed to introduce new bills for the upcoming session, which is less than three weeks away. Lawmakers submitted thousands of bills ahead of the deadline, but the bills have a long way to go before they become law. [KOCO]

Bill offers protections for borrowers of student loans: State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, said practices of lenders that have resulted in Oklahomans being delinquent on an estimated $2.26 billion worth of student loan debt might rightfully be described as predatory. Provenzano said her bill, House Bill 2922, would create a “fair, common-sense approach to lending” to protect former, current and future students. [The Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma legislators seek medical marijuana restrictions, transparency: Some GOP state legislators want to ban billboards advertising medical marijuana, prevent future dispensaries from being located near churches and bring more transparency to the state entity that oversees Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program. [The Oklahoman]

College textbooks would be cheaper under proposed legislation: Sen. Tom Dugger, R-Stillwater, said he decided to file Senate Bill 1150, which would make college textbooks exempt from sales taxes, after discussing the idea with students at Oklahoma State University. [KOCO]

Oklahoma lawmaker intolerant of lactose alternatives: Lawmakers are considering banning popular alternatives — like soy, cashew, coconut and almond — nearly two decades after declaring milk the official state drink. [CNHI]

Judge’s ruling on hotel room assessment puts Tourism Improvement District in doubt: A city of Tulsa hotel assessment intended to bring in millions of dollars a year to market the city and participating hotels is invalid because it did not follow state law, a Tulsa County District Court judge ruled on Thursday. [Tulsa World]

City eyes cuts to fix $5 million shortfall: Norman’s city budget shortfall is now forecasted to $5 million to cover a revenue shortfall for the current and next fiscal year, City of Norman Finance Director Anthony Francisco told the finance committee Thursday night. [The Norman Transcript]

Education Department seeks sponsors for summer feeding program: Oklahoma State Department of Education is seeking sponsors to support the Summer Food Service Program, which helps keep lower-income kids across the state from going hungry over the summer break. When school ends in May, many children who depend on free or reduced-price lunch programs are down one meal a day until a new semester starts up in August. [Enid News & Eagle]

Panel of 10 residents named to help interview police chief candidates: A neighborhood leader, the City Council chairman and a historian are among the 10 people selected by Mayor G.T. Bynum on Thursday to participate in the second round of private interviews for the city’s next police chief. [Tulsa World]

Putting Gov. Stitt through the Oklahoma A-F Report Card does not show an ‘A’ performance: Ginnie Graham: Earlier this week, Gov. Kevin Stitt gave himself an A for his first year on the job. That’s how my kids describe their performance in the past year too. Their teachers, when applying objective measures, say otherwise. So just saying it doesn’t make it real. [Tulsa World / Opinion]

Quote of the Day

“By not paying them a fair wage, you’re not just hurting inmates. You’re hurting victims who can’t get paid their restitution, and you’re hurting children whose parents are not getting paid their child support.”

-House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, about Oklahoma prison labor contracts [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma 4-year-olds enrolled in public pre-k programs, compared to only 33 percent nationally.

[Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

When it comes to access to clean water, ‘race is still strongest determinant,’ report says: When it comes to access to safe potable water, “race is still the strongest determinant,” according to a recent report that found that more than 2 million people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico don’t have access to running water and basic indoor plumbing. A century ago, the U.S. government responded swiftly to public health concerns by investing in water systems that provided safe drinking and wastewater services to Americans, after waterborne illnesses such as cholera were among the nation’s leading causes of death. Many poor, tribal and immigrant communities were excluded from water access initiatives. [NBC]

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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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