In The Know: Prison population may continue to grow, state considering changes to employment system, 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.

New from OK Policy

House bill to change the pre-K cut off date would be a step backward for children: The proposed change under HB 2908 could be harmful to low-income children who benefit from early childhood education. Moving the pre-K cutoff date would remove parental control over when to send their children to school and give parents less access to early childhood education. HB 2908 is counter to evidence-based practices that work for children. [OK Policy]

In The News

Oklahoma leaves behind top incarcerator title but prison population may keep growing: The work of the Pardon and Parole Board, combined with a series of reforms that led to the largest commutation in U.S. history last year has helped Oklahoma shed its status as the state with the highest imprisonment rate in the nation. But, criminal justice expert Len Engle a policy director with the Boston-based Crime and Justice Institute, warns that these gains are temporary. [StateImpact Oklahoma] OK Policy analysis has shown that Oklahoma’s incarceration rate should prompt an evaluation of the state’s criminal justice system. 

Bill to overhaul state government employment could emerge next week, says state employee union head: Legislation that would make major changes to Oklahoma’s civil service employment system, one of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s top priorities this legislative session, is likely to be introduced next week, according to the head of the union representing Oklahoma’s public employees. [The Frontier]

Donna Fessler: Time for Gov. Kevin Stitt to set an election date for Medicaid expansion: For nearly a decade, doctors and nurses like me have pleaded with politicians to expand Medicaid and deliver access to life-saving care for hardworking Oklahomans. It’s been a long wait, which is why so many of us have been overjoyed to see Oklahomans from across the political spectrum come together to support State Question 802. [Donna Fessler / Tulsa World] OK Policy has called on the state to set a date for voters to decide SQ 802, which includes straightforward Medicaid expansion. TogetherOK has an online petition urging lawmakers to set an election date for that vote.  

Revenue shortfall, lethal injection executions, Medicaid expansion & more: The latest episode of This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses the State Equalization Board certifying revenue estimates showing Oklahoma will have about $85 million less to spend then the current year, state leaders say they have the drugs to resume lethal injection executions for the first time since 2015 and Governor Stitt wants to expand Medicaid by July of this year. [KOSU]

AG: Oklahoma prepared to ‘aggressively’ defend death penalty in upcoming federal court challenge: Oklahoma is prepared to “aggressively” address federal court battles over the state’s plan to return to the usage of lethal injection in executions, state Attorney General Mike Hunter told a group of district attorneys on Thursday. [The Frontier]

Second Amendment sanctuary trend spreads in Oklahoma: ‘Persuasive’ or ‘political stunt’?: Damon Devereaux, sheriff of Logan County, became the first in Oklahoma to sign a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolution on Feb. 12. Since then, the sheriffs of another 19 counties — predominantly in southeastern Oklahoma — have posted documents they signed or social media messages proclaiming similar sentiments. [Tulsa World]

Legal opinion sought on state’s handling of tribal gaming exclusivity fees: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has been asked for a legal opinion about whether the state can put tribal gaming exclusivity fees in escrow pending the outcome of a federal lawsuit. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s Native American Caucus focuses on bills, building partnerships amid gaming dispute: The Native American Caucus in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives has zeroed in on several notable bills this session while also pushing to create partnerships as state and tribal relations are strained through a federal court battle. [The Oklahoman]

Raising minimum wage a low priority for some lawmakers: House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and state Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, who chairs the key Business and Commerce Committee in the Senate, both have said they favor letting market forces in Oklahoma dictate where wages settle, whether at or above the current minimum required by the federal government. [Journal Record????]

House Republicans push back on bill to close seat belt law loophole for kids: Lawmakers inadvertently struck a section of law applying to 8- to 17-year-olds when they updated infant and booster seat regulations in 2015, making Oklahoma the only state in the U.S. where kids over 8 years old can legally be unbuckled in the backseat. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Senate panel advances two bills aimed at cracking down on theft related to pawn shops: The Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee on Thursday passed Senate Bill 1689 and Senate Bill 1691, by Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove. Both measures head to the full Senate for consideration. [Tulsa World]

Bill to protect injured officers’ benefits passes unanimously: On Feb. 19, legislation to protect the pension benefits of officers injured while serving their community passed with a unanimous vote of 11-0. House Bill 3330 would change the disability percentage for officers disabled as a result of a violent act while on duty to 100%. [FOX25]

Oklahoma House committee expands stand-your-ground law, preserves permitless carry: The Public Safety Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to broaden protections under the state’s stand-your-ground gun law Thursday while also turning down another bid to repeal last year’s unlicensed carry legislation. [Tulsa World] Committee shoots down bill to repeal permitless carry. [NonDoc]

House bill advances on state park admission fees: House Bill 2884, offering several exemptions to the state’s plan to charge entrance fees to those entering Oklahoma state parks, has passed out of a House Subcommittee — but with an amendment attached. [McAlester News-Capital]

Challenges to recreational pot petition to be considered by Oklahoma Supreme Court: The effort to challenge a state question seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma will be considered next week in the state’s highest court. [Tulsa World]

Billion dollar savings blowing in as Public Service Co. of Oklahoma gets approval to add wind: Oklahomans are projected to save more than $1 billion in electric costs over the next three decades through a plan by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma to add wind energy. The plan will add more than a half-gigawatt of wind-generated energy to PSO’s portfolio of power. [Oklahoman]

Answers to questions on the school mailers incident: Parents across the state are still clamoring for answers after unsolicited fliers for an online charter school showed up in mailboxes across the state, and the state Education Department is taking legal action. [Oklahoma Watch]

Quote of the Day

“You’ve addressed the immediate urgency of overcrowding, but you haven’t addressed the projected growth, which is going to continue and lead to more overcrowding unless more policy changes for the long term are adopted.” 

-Len Engel, Crime and Justice Institute policy director, speaking about Oklahoma’s criminal justice system [StateImpact Oklahoma

Number of the Day


Average funded percentage of Oklahoma’s public employee retirement systems in 2019, up from 56 percent in 2010. Retirees have not received a cost of living adjustment in that time.

[Source: Oklahoma State Treasurer]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Trends in retirement security by race/ethnicity: Half of retired people are at risk of having inadequate income, and the problem is worse for people of color. Granting a long-needed cost of living adjustment for state retirees will make a difference. [Center for Retirement Research]

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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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