In The Know: State Rep switches parties; Senate GOP committee assignments announced; Stitt hires general counsel…

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

State rep switches parties, leaves House with only 24 Democrats: Oklahoma House Democrats lost another member on Thursday when Rep. Johnny Tadlock of Idabel switched to the Republican Party. The defection leaves House Democrats with just 24 members, their fewest ever. Elected without opposition this year as a Democrat, Tadlock said he believed he could better serve his constituents as a member of the Republican majority. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Senate GOP Committee Assignments for 57th Legislature: Senate President Pro Tempore-designate Greg Treat on announced the full committee assignments of Senate Republicans for the 57th Legislature. Treat also announced meeting times and locations of Senate committees for the 2019 session. The standing committees remain the same from the past session; however, the membership of the Appropriations Committee is changing. [KFOR]

Number of experienced committee chairmen down from last year: About a third of the state’s lawmakers will be brand-new when they go to session in February, but they won’t be the only ones facing a learning curve. Many of the state’s top committee chairmen either termed out or lost their bids for re-election this year, including the heads of the health committees in each chamber. [Journal Record]

Stitt hires Norman lawyer as general counsel: Mark Burget, a Norman lawyer and director of a nondenominational Christian ministry, will serve as chief general counsel for Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt. Burget, who graduated from the University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1979, worked for 22 years at the Oklahoma City-based law firm of McAfee & Taft, spending the last three as the managing director. [NewsOK]

‘I’m really out’: Woman’s 42-year sentence commuted for drug crimes that would be misdemeanors under today’s law: A hot shower without shoes. A pillow. A light switch. Assortments of cheap bubble gum.These were the simple pleasures Pam Belk enjoyed in the first 24 hours after she was granted early release from prison as part of Project Commutation. Her gray prison garb and flip flops were dumped unceremoniously in a motel trash can. Belk’s 13-year-old daughter still wasn’t sure she believed that her mother would be taking a bus to meet her soon, going to church to pray about it. [Tulsa World]

8 additional applicants to be considered for commutation recommendation: Eight inmates could be one step closer to freedom next week after their hearings with the state board for pardon and parole. Next Wednesday, Oklahoma’s five-member Pardon and Parole board will consider recommending eight applicants for commutation. [KFOR]

Oklahoma lawmakers: Time is right for deeper look into education: The Legislature’s education policy goals aren’t quite as obvious as they were last year, but they’re taking shape. During the 2017 and 2018 sessions, legislators worked on several proposals to give teachers a pay raise. They failed several times, before finally implementing one in April. They also attempted to plug budget gaps to prevent further cuts to education spending. With those obstacles behind them, lawmakers are going to have to build a new path. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma ranks among worst for school zone safety: Just getting to school is more dangerous for Oklahoma kids than students in almost every other state, and it doesn’t matter whether your child walks, takes the bus or is dropped off. A new report by Zendrive gives Oklahoma an ‘F for school zone safety. [KTUL]

Gov. Fallin addresses attendees at water conference Wednesday: Finding ways to re-use water produced by oil and gas operations were among conservation accomplishments Gov. Mary Fallin mentioned Oklahoma has made as she addressed several hundred water conference attendees Wednesday. Fallin discussed that and more as she talked to participants in the Governor’s Annual Water Conference and Symposium about the state’s Water for 2060 plan, which aims to conserve how much fresh water is used in Oklahoma’s future. [Tulsa World]

OSDH: 6 Deaths So Far This Flu Season: The Oklahoma State Department of Health has announced the deaths of two more people from the flu. That brings the total to six, so far this season. All six of the deaths were of people 50-years-old or older. Four of the deaths occurred in Northeast Oklahoma, one in the Southwest and one in Tulsa County. [News9]

Chamber Economist Expects Economic, Job Growth to Continue in Tulsa Through 2021: Steady yet modest economic and job growth in the Tulsa area should continue for the next few years. “The growth in Tulsa gross product, the production of all goods and services, is going to be about nearly 7 percent, about 70 percent more than what 2018 will be for the state. And that rate of 8 percent growth in 2019 is about double the rate for the state,” said Tulsa Regional Chamber Director of Economic Research Bob Ball. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Hoteliers sue city of Tulsa over hotel tax day after Mayor’s Office greenlights measure: A group of hoteliers opposed to a hotel tax program made good on a promise to take the city to court just one day after Mayor G.T. Bynum’s office signed the measure into law.A lawsuit filed Thursday against the city asks the Tulsa County District Court to declare invalid the Tourism Improvement District, which would impose a 3 percent tax on room stays in Tulsa hotels of 110 rooms or more. The fate of the TID may come down to a handful of hotels and whether they’re included as opponents or supporters of the measure. [Tulsa World]

Rogers County’s one cent sales tax returning to ballot: It was voted down, but the question of a one cent sales tax is coming back up again. Last week at the State of the County luncheon, Rogers County’s commissioners discussed their constituents’ decision not to renew the one cent sales tax. Commissioner Ron Burrows said severing that revenue stream had very real implications for the county—so they’re bringing it back to a vote of the people once again. [Claremore Daily Progress]

Okmulgee County deputy cleared in shooting of unarmed man, but questions remain: An Okmulgee County deputy who fatally shot an unarmed Beggs man in September has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Okmulgee district attorney’s office, which stated deadly force was “required to prevent death and/or serious bodily injury” to the deputy. Little information was released by authorities following the Sept. 29 shooting. [The Frontier]

OKC region is closer to commuter rail: Some Oklahoma City commuters could be parking their cars and boarding the train before long. The Oklahoma City Council votes Tuesday on establishing a Regional Transit Authority of Central Oklahoma to guide the next generation of transportation investment. In line for funding are commuter rail into downtown Oklahoma City from Edmond and Norman, and a streetcar route from downtown to Midwest City and Tinker Air Force Base. [NewsOK]

The surprising design of a new Tulsa park, where children learn by escaping adults and facing obstacles: The Gathering Place in Tulsa is the rare local park that’s made national headlines. The $465 million project opened in September, transforming 66 acres alongside the Arkansas River into a theme park-like space. It was built mostly through private donations and is free to the public. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

What should the Oklahoma state steak be? One lawmaker has already filed a bill: A state senator has introduced a measure that would make the ribeye the state steak. Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, is the author of Senate Bill 21. Murdock, a rancher, said the measure promotes commerce and a state product. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“That needs to be something that’s regularly done so we won’t have a huge deal every 10 or 20 years.”

-Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, calling on the Legislature to implement long-term pay increase plans for teachers. [Source: Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Amount of revenue the Broken Arrow Public Schools lost due to business tax abatements in FY 2017, the most of any Oklahoma district that reported its tax abatement losses.

[Source: Good Jobs First]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Countering the geography of discontent: Strategies for left-behind places: It is time to counter many economists’ and policymakers’ optimisticfaith in the natural “catch up” of lagging places with a new focus onboosting economic opportunity for left-behind communities and residentsin the United States. … To give a sense, we suggest five examples of the kinds ofstrategies that would help—three that focus on ensuring more regionshave the assets and capabilities to flourish, and two more that suggestwhat specific regional development initiatives might look like. [Brookings]

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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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