In The Know: Prosecutors resist justice reform; rural hospitals in critical condition; little diversity on state boards…

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 prosecutors resist push for prison alternatives: Since the days of frontier justice, lawmakers in conservative Oklahoma have viewed harsh prison sentences as the politically expedient solution to crime, including nonviolent offenses. That approach has imposed a high price, leaving the state with the nation’s highest incarceration rate, overcrowded prisons and skyrocketing costs. Now, after years of steady debate, there’s growing agreement — even among conservatives — that changes are needed. [AP News]

Oklahoma’s rural hospitals in critical condition: When your life depends on it, Americans expect to have quality health care options within reach. As we’ve been reporting, the only hospital in Garvin County, Oklahoma, closed its doors earlier this month. And countless other rural hospitals across the state are also on life support. From Atoka to Antlers, the existence of rural Oklahoma hospitals has been threatened by decreased funding, a domino effect that’s been years in the making. [KTEN] We previously discussed why rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals here.

Fallin legacy will include few women, minorities on state boards: Mary Fallin made history as the state’s first female governor, but her appointments leave a legacy of white male control on some of the state’s major boards. The governor has the power to make appointments to a variety of state boards and commissions. [NewsOK ????] In a city that is becoming increasingly diverse, the boards, commissions and trusts that shape almost all municipal policy in Oklahoma City have a glaring lack of diversity. [NewsOK ????]

Overview on what’s on the Oklahoma ballot for the 2018 General Election: Here is a little about candidates in the elections that will show up on the ballot on Nov. 6. We have also linked to stories about the races. On Nov. 6, come to to see live election results and reactions as Oklahomans decide leaders for federal, state, county and city offices. [Tulsa WorldFind more about Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions at OK Policy’s resource page here.

Retention ballot to include four Oklahoma Supreme Court justices: From anti-abortion bills to legislation implementing tax hikes and tax cuts, Oklahoma Supreme Court justices often are asked to rule on the constitutionality of bills that are of immense concern to Oklahomans. Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether four of the nine current Supreme Court justices get to keep their jobs for another six years. [NewsOK] Read more from OK Policy about judicial races on the ballot this year here.

State Question 798 would create joint ticket for governor, running mate: Governors and lieutenant governors from the past, present and possibly the future support a state question that would establish a joint ticket for Oklahoma gubernatorial nominees and running mates. State Question 798 is on the Nov. 6 ballot and would change the current system in which Oklahoma nominees for governor and lieutenant governor run separately. [NewsOKSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 798 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

Insurance commissioner candidates say Oklahomans need choices: The two candidates for Oklahoma commissioner of insurance spoke to a group of real estate appraisers Thursday, Oct. 18. Republican Rep. Glen Mulready and Democrat Kimberly Fobbs stated their cases and answered questions on why they should be the next insurance commissioner. The insurance commissioner heads the Oklahoma Department of Insurance, which implements insurance policy from the state Legislature. The Department also serves as a regulatory body for insurance companies operating in the state, with mandated investigations every three years. [NonDoc]

Quick 5: Labor commissioner candidates answer questions about role, beliefs: One in a series featuring candidates who are competing during the 2018 election cycle. This article focuses on three candidates who hope to be elected as Labor Commissioner — Republican Leslie Osborn and Democrat Fred Dorrell. Independent Brandt Dismukes did not respond. The general election will be Nov. 6. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Senate District 30 a choice between two moderates: Political affiliation might be the last thing that Senate District 30 candidates want to talk about. Republican John Symcox and Democrat Julia Kirt say they want to serve as a pragmatic lawmaker in the Oklahoma Senate, pledging to make practical, sensible decisions instead of rallying around their party’s banner. The Senate seat is part of a broader discussion about the future of urban Oklahoma politics, and whether progressive voters have enough power to tip seats from red to blue. [NewsOK]

Democrats seize on education as an issue to win governorships in red states: Right after the bell rings to end the school day, Shari Gateley hurriedly tidies up her classroom and dashes into the teachers’ lounge. She emerges in sneakers and a campaign T-shirt, ready to knock on doors for Drew Edmondson, the Democratic candidate for governor in traditionally Republican Oklahoma. [LA Times]

Oklahoma high school students leveraging free-tuition programs: Oklahoma high school students are growing more savvy when it comes to earning college credit tuition-free, according to two reports presented Thursday to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The fall 2018 preliminary enrollment report shows the number of students taking college credit courses while still in high school continues to grow. [NewsOK ????]

20 new laws that take effect Nov. 1 in Oklahoma: Nov. 1 means a slew of new laws taking effect across the state, and one of this year’s changes is quite timely: As dreams of giant jackpots continue after a near-record Mega Millions drawing, lottery ticket purchasers in Oklahoma will soon be able to use their debit cards. [Tulsa World]

Wayne Greene: How Oklahoma’s tax system got so regressive: Oklahoma has a regressive tax system, according to a recent report brought to my attention by colleague Randy Krehbiel. The report from the Institute on Taxation and Policy looks at the effective combined local and state tax rates for various income brackets. In Oklahoma, the rate for the poorest 20 percent is 13.2 percent, or more than twice the rate paid by the top 1 percent. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa WorldWe recently wrote about a new analysis that shows low-income taxpayers in Oklahoma pay more than twice the tax rate paid by the richest Oklahomans here.

Pain patients, doctors worry about new Oklahoma law: Stacie Bashaw doesn’t know how she’ll cope when her pain medications run out in a few weeks. Bashaw, of Chickasha, uses two types of opioids and an anti-seizure medication called gabapentin to manage pain from degenerative disks in her back, neuropathy, two types of arthritis and “phantom” pain where the lower half of her right leg was amputated. Soon, she will lose access to those medications, based on what might be a bad interpretation of a state law coming into effect on Nov. 1. [NewsOK]

Tracking opioid overdoses: Real-time mapping software is newest tool in battling crisis: Just a few clicks on a smartphone app will improve the state’s response to one of its most-pressing public health crises. First responders are learning how to track opioid overdoses real-time, thanks to an initiative by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. [Journal Record]

Physician: Down side to prosecuting new moms who have addictions: For pregnant women struggling with addiction, the act of seeking treatment is complicated by fear and stigma. The threat of possible future prosecution, forcible detention and child separation are significant deterrents to asking for help and the health care these mothers need. [Dr. William Yarborough / NewsOK]

Bill John Baker and Kayse Shrum: OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and Cherokee Nation partner for first-of-its-kind medical school: There is a critical need for more doctors in rural Oklahoma and on tribal lands. Thankfully, there is now a unique solution that will lead the nation in innovation and scope. For the first time in U.S. history, a Native American tribe is partnering with a top-ranked medical school to create the nation’s first tribally affiliated medical school. [

Hamilton: What’s important to voters? Access to health care: As she knocked doors across north-central Oklahoma’s House District 35, Democratic nominee Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk quickly discovered what’s foremost on voters’ minds: health care. Really? Health care? Wasn’t Nov. 6 supposed to be a referendum on a Legislature that has failed public education? [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Medicaid expansion: Oklahoman editorial board twists the facts: Recently, the Oklahoma Editorial Board wrote an opinion column titled Medicaid Expansion No Economic Cure-All. Unfortunately, the piece was riddled with conservative ideology and few facts. The editorial begins by sounding the alarm and saying that the federal government will provide $9 for every $1 Oklahoma spends on the expansion. [Rep. Colin Walke / NonDoc]

Sallisaw picked as site of new veterans center: After another round of extensive executive sessions, state officials voted to locate a new veterans treatment facility in Sallisaw. The Oklahoma Veterans Commission, which oversees the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, made the decision Friday. [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“Even as the study on which the editorial board chose to base their editorial shows, expanding Medicaid is good for the economy. We know this because, among other benefits, it creates jobs.”

-Rep. Collin Walke, in response to an Oklahoman Editorial Board column that distorted findings of a study to claim that accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid would hurt the economy [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


The percentage of Oklahoma’s population living in rural areas, 16th highest in the U.S.

[George Washington Institute of Public Policy]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Can your employer legally discriminate against you? For some workers, the answer is ‘yes’: Most Americans don’t expect to face workplace discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, disability and so on. What they might not realize is that these protections don’t apply across the board. While millions of Americans work as contractors, consultants for temp agencies and in other contingent or freelance positions, the discrimination protections regarding age, gender, race, disability and so on don’t apply to them. [AZCentral]

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Prosecutors resist justice reform; rural hospitals in critical condition; little diversity on state boards…

  1. While GA, with its crime rate decline after crim just reforms, is a useful example of why OK DA propaganda about public safety as their primary concern is basically their overtired bushwah, GA achieved its reduced prison pops greatly through private probation, shifting abuse of convicted individuals to private costs which they may or may not be able to pay. Better than prison only to those of us who don’t understand why some offenders often prefer imprisonment to probation or parole because they don’t have watchdogs on their cases all the time after serving their time.

    The far better example of why OK DAs aren’t just spewing bushwah but also are positively more dangerous to public safety is NC. In the mid-1990s, NC and OK passed virtually identical criminal justice reform within a couple of years of each other. NC forged on while OK repealed its reforms a couple of years later as a result of scare tactics by OK DAs and victims’ group representatives [sic]. Two decades later, NC sees prison pop declines along with greater crime rate declines than even the US rates which establish the baseline for what was reform-generated versus just general for the nation in the period. OK? Where the DAs assured voters that the reforms would hurt public safety? Its crime rate decreases have been less than the national average, much less NC, indicating that OK’s policies so approved by its DAs have been worse than just general state action across the nation, much less worse than NC.

    In fact, it would be an interesting dissertation for some stat or social science candidate to apply NC’s crime and victimization rates to OK’s for the last 20 years and calculate how much MORE crime and how many more victims OK has had than it would have had if OK voters had told their DAs to stop propagandizing to protect their own privilege, power, and resources at the expense of public safety. Looks like those voters have been telling them that for a couple of years now. Let’s hope those voters continue to do so and maybe even educate themselves to hold those DAs accountable for the demonstrable harm they’ve done to public safety with their position on crim just reforms.

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