In 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’s revenue growth minimal in October: Oklahoma’s economy continued to send mixed signals in October as gross production and sales tax receipts declined from the same month a year ago while income tax remained strong. [Tulsa World] Gross receipts were suppressed by falling oil and gas production tax and sales tax collections, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said on Tuesday. [Journal Record 🔒] OK Policy: Continuing sensible policies to protect and grow the revenue base is the best way to ensure our state thrives in difficult circumstances.
Nonprofit groups work to connect commutation recipients with resources: Nonprofit groups and other community partners who have spent months preparing for the mass release of more than 450 inmates whose sentences were commuted this week had their first opportunity to work with many of those individuals outside prison walls Tuesday. Nonprofit organizations, job providers, transitional housing programs and other community partners across the state have worked to connect people who were released from prison this week with resources to help them navigate the challenges of re-entry. [The Oklahoman]
Steve Turnbo and Julie Knutson: Oklahoma did the right thing by releasing more than 450 inmates. Now it should do the right thing by helping them adjust to life outside prison walls: It truly was a historic day in this great state last Friday as the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and Gov. Kevin Stitt took the steps necessary to commute the sentences of more than 450 inmates; however, let’s not forget there is more work to be done to make sure we as a state do not fail these men and women who are being given a second chance. [Steve Turnbo and Julie Knutson / Tulsa World]
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes plan to let nearly half the state’s inmates out of prison: Republican Rep. Justin Humphrey wants to set up a community corrections system. Under the proposal, 300 county-level probation and parole officers would be moved under the Department of Corrections to oversee 12,000 inmates on supervised release — nearly half the state’s current prison population of roughly 25,500. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Pardon and Parole Board’s executive director happy with ‘conservative’ but historic release of inmates despite some online criticism: The Pardon and Parole Board executive director on Tuesday said the state took the “most conservative approach” in weighing whether to grant early release to inmates who met criteria established by House Bill 1269 — whittling 892 inmates down to the 462 who were freed Monday. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma saw the largest mass commutation in U.S. history. [The Appeal] Video: Released Oklahoma inmates ‘given second chances.’ [New York Times] But 65 people who also had their sentences commuted are still in prison, because they are either being held for another jurisdiction or have a consecutive sentence for another crime. [KOTV]
The Oklahoman Editorial: Oklahoma making a different sort of news on corrections: On the issue of corrections, Oklahoma is making a different sort of news. The state that locks up more people per capita than any other is setting inmates free. Many of those who benefited from the commutations were given not just an early departure from prison, but an improved chance of not returning. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman] OK Policy analysis has shown that Oklahoma’s incarceration rate should prompt an evaluation of the state’s criminal justice system.
Supreme Court hears alcohol distribution argument: Oklahoma Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical Tuesday that a law regulating alcohol distribution in the state is unconstitutional. Justices heard arguments for and against SB 608, and asked lawyers on both sides of a legal challenge about the law’s effects on a competitive market in the alcohol industry. The law would require equal sales of the top-25 brands of wine and spirits to all wholesalers in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]
Some House staff members get $7,500 pay boosts: Legislative assistants working for the Oklahoma House of Representatives have gotten pay boosts of $7,500, according to House staff. The raises, effective Nov. 1, will cost $363,137. Base pay for the 39 House legislative assistants will increase to $47,000 from $39,500. The average pay for a state employee is $47,254, according to the 2018 Annual Compensation Report by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. [Tulsa World]
Fewer Oklahoma women reporting pregnancy discrimination: Despite a 41-year-old federal law banning employers from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth, complaints continue nationwide. But in Oklahoma, fewer women are reporting discrimination. The number of complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in Oklahoma City, which receives all statewide reports, has been dropping steadily for the past five years. [Oklahoma Watch]
One Year Out: An early look at state’s 2020 legislative elections: With just a year until the 2020 general election, the fight over balance of power in Oklahoma’s Legislature is starting to intensify. At the one-year countdown to Election Day, the fundraising numbers offer a sneak peek into legislative races that will determine the party makeup of the Legislature for the next two years. [Oklahoma Watch]
Area legislators want to name stretch of Route 66 for President Donald Trump: State Sens. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, and Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, filed legislation to name a stretch of the historic highway in Ottawa County for Trump. If approved, the Donald Trump Highway would stretch from Highland Avenue near Miami through Commerce to Industrial Parkway northeast of Commerce, a distance of about 4 miles. [Tulsa World]
Committee considers warming shelters: As Oklahoma’s winter days creep in, a local committee to address homelessness is tackling a warming shelter first. A warming shelter is similar to a homeless shelter, but offers temporary refuge for those trying to stay out of the cold weather. [Norman Transcript]
City of Edmond adds online citizens engagement tool: The city of Edmond has launched a new engagement tool to receive more public input on key questions. The tool is provided in partnership with POLCO, an online citizen engagement software. The service offers residents the opportunity to provide feedback and see real-time results of how others have answered the same questions. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma City police officer’s murder conviction a nationwide rarity: A jury’s decision to convict a former Oklahoma City police officer for the murder of an unarmed suicidal man is a rarity in the United States. Sgt. Keith Sweeney, 34, was found guilty of second-degree murder on Monday with a recommended punishment of 10 years in prison. [The Oklahoman]
Proposed city ordinance change could generate more money for sidewalk repairs, construction: A proposed city ordinance would change how sidewalk construction regulations are administered and could potentially provide Tulsa with more money to build and maintain sidewalks. [Tulsa World]
Some OK with fees to maintain state parks: The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s decision to charge state park visitors admission fees beginning this spring has drawn mixed reactions in Cherokee County, with a number of tribal citizens saying access should still be free to Natives. [Tahlequah Daily Press]
Redistricting group to hold Thursday town hall in Oklahoma City: A group seeking to overhaul Oklahoma’s redistricting process will hold a town hall meeting Thursday in Oklahoma City. People Not Politicians is holding a series of public meetings to educate voters on its push for nonpartisan redistricting in Oklahoma. The group filed an initiative petition to vest redistricting power with a nine-person commission made up of non-elected officials from different political parties. [The Oklahoman]
Quote of the Day
“It’s an overdue step, even, but really the real work for the community starts now in supporting our fellow Oklahomans. We want to make sure that we’re giving them all the tools that (we) can to be successful. They’re our neighbors.”
-Lynde Gleason, re-entry case manager at The Education and Employment Ministry non-profit group [The Oklahoman]
Number of the Day
The percentage increase of Hepatitis C infected prison inmates enrolled in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Chronic Clinic between FY 2013 and September 2019
[Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections]
Review OK policy’s analysis of pending problems with Hepatitis C in Oklahoma’s correctional system.
States try a gentler approach to getting Medicaid enrollees to work: Starting early next year, the Pennsylvania Medicaid agency under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will ask people when they enroll if they want job training assistance. It will then require its private Medicaid managed care organizations to connect those who want help to local employment specialists and follow up to make sure they got it. Teresa Miller, the state human services secretary, predicts the strategy will get better results than strict work requirements. [Chicago Tribune]
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