In The Know: Saying ‘no more prisons’; Stitt plan to address conflict-of-interest; road projects delayed by government shutdown…

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

(Capitol Update) Finding the courage to say “no more prisons”: “We’re not going to build any more prisons.” I remember House Speaker Dan Draper making that declarative statement many years ago when I was a freshman House member. In the previous decade there had been prison riots, and Oklahoma’s prison system had been taken over by a federal court as the result of a lawsuit filed by inmates. The state had already spent a lot of money, but prisons were still overcrowded and there were tremendous demands for new prison building. This was before the era of private prisons which were considered bad public policy in those days. Draper knew there were only two choices: more prisons or less prisoners. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

In The News

Stitt unveils plan to address potential business conflicts: Incoming Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is asking the attorney general to review his plan to step away from his mortgage company as it becomes a bank and to approve a conflict-of-interest policy for his family investments. Stitt, who takes office Jan. 14, is facing potential conflicts of interest related to Tulsa-based Gateway Mortgage Group LLC, which he founded, and possibly some real estate and other personal investments. [Oklahoma Watch]

Stitt picks Sonic executive as new COO: Oklahoma’s incoming governor has named a Sonic executive to a newly created chief operating officer post in what he says is an effort to help state agencies deliver efficient, customer-focused services. Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt announced John Budd as COO on Monday. Budd is chief strategy and business development officer for Oklahoma City-based Sonic Corp. Stitt says Budd will also serve as secretary of agency accountability, a new cabinet position that will require Senate confirmation. [AP News] Stitt will tour state in lead up to inauguration [NewsOK]

More details sought in budgeting state dollars: Oklahoma lawmakers are continuing their search for new ways to ensure state agency funding has sufficient oversight. The Legislature has passed a few measures intended to investigate state agencies and their budget requests. Successful attempts in the past have created agency audit commissions, and top Republicans have called for creating a new office that oversees state finances in higher detail. [Journal Record]

Delays in new state highway projects caused by federal government shutdown: About 45 new Oklahoma highway projects worth $137 million will be delayed because of the ongoing partial federal government shutdown, Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials said Monday. “It will only exacerbate itself the longer it goes,” said Mike Patterson, the agency’s executive director. [NewsOK ????]

Energy industry hopeful for a quiet legislative session: After years of legislative changes to their tax incentives and rates, the state’s energy industry groups said they’re hoping for a quiet year at the Capitol. Over the past few years, the Oklahoma Legislature has ended all tax credits offered specifically to wind generation companies. [Journal Record ????]

Should the mayor get paid more? On Sunday, The Oklahoman printed a list of salaries for dozens of Oklahoma’s top public officials, including city, school and state government. More than 900 state employees earn over $100,000 a year and more than 100 of them are paid more than the governor. The article and the chart created a lot of conversation on social media. But one of the most common responses from readers was surprise that Oklahoma City mayor David Holt only makes $24,000 a year. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma hearing aid program to end wait list for first time since ’09: Low-income senior citizens who have been waiting for hearing aids in Oklahoma won’t have to wait much longer, after the state received a grant to help them. The Masonic Charity Foundation provided enough for one hearing aid for the 572 people currently on the waiting list and for the next 204 qualifying seniors who apply to the Oklahoma School for the Deaf’s senior hearing aid program. [NewsOK ????]

Editorial: Why does Oklahoma have so many uninsured drivers?: Oklahoma has one of the highest percentages of uninsured drivers in the nation, as nearly 600,000 drivers in the state do not have car insurance. It’s a serious problem that triggered serious action by state lawmakers in 2016. [Journal Record]

OKCPS releases data used in decision to close schools: Oklahoma City Public Schools will need to close some schools, the district’s superintendent said. Now, the district has revealed all information they will use to pick which schools to shutter. Superintendent Sean McDaniel said this is necessary because enrollment is down. [News9]

Letting the grass grow: Marijuana producers could be boon for industrial real estate market: Grow houses that produce marijuana are being built across Oklahoma, often in old industrial buildings, and the revival of the properties is adding to the economic boost being provided by pot. [NewsOK ????]

States of Change: Even some states where Republicans retain full control have brighter possibilities for 2019. David Blatt, who runs the Oklahoma Policy Institute, describes Oklahoma’s roller-coaster political year. Oklahoma teachers are getting an 18 percent raise and Blatt thinks surviving legislators will be wary of slashing taxes and spending. He also ticked off a litany of solid recent wins on ballot initiatives in the state—criminal justice reform in 2016, medical marijuana in 2018, and defeat of measures backed by Walmart in 2018 and big agribusiness in 2016. [The American Prospect]

Republicans target Kendra Horn on Day 1, kicking off 2020 congressional race early: The 2020 race for Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district began before U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn took office Thursday. After Horn, an Oklahoma City Democrat, voted for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House that afternoon, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent text messages to its 5th District supporters. [NewsOK]

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation convicts non-Native domestic violence offender: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation convicted its first non-Indian offender by exercising the sovereign power to prosecute domestic violence crimes and protective order violations committed against Natives in Indian Country. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Tulsa delegation to speak up for veterans at national conference: Most cities and universities perceive veterans as “a problem to deal with,” but Tulsa will have a chance this weekend to help change that attitude, said a recent University of Tulsa graduate who was honored as the national student veteran of the year in 2017. [Tulsa World]

Relaunch: Help NonDoc solidify their plan to cover the 2019 session: When we announced our suspension of operations for December, many people asked two specific questions: 1) What will it take to ensure NonDoc can cover the Oklahoma Legislature’s important 2019 session? 2) How can we help? So while we explore long-term solutions for supporting journalism in the 21st century, we have also developed a plan intended to guarantee operations for January through June in conjunction with the Legislature’s 2019 session. [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma has among the highest car insurance rates and highest percentages of uninsured drivers in the nation. The two are indelibly linked. The catalyst for both is the state’s low wages, which hinder Oklahomans’ ability to pay.”

Journal Record Editorial

Number of the Day


Increase in the number of Oklahomans getting coverage through from 2018 to 2019, the largest increase in the U.S.


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

‘Going to office hours is terrifying’ and other tales of rural students in college: Many colleges and universities were caught by surprise when frustration among rural Americans spilled over into national politics during the 2016 election. That, in addition to steady declines in enrollment, has pushed some schools to pay more attention to rural students — and to recognize that these students need at least as much help navigating the college experience as low-income, first-generation racial and ethnic minorities from inner cities. [NPR]

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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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