In The Know: State workers ask for raise; a chance to fix online tax problem; the recipe for voter turnout…

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 workers asking lawmakers for pay raise: With just weeks before the election and less than three months before the start of the legislative session, state workers are asking lawmakers not to forget about them. Tuesday afternoon, members of the Oklahoma Public Employee’s Association met at the state capitol. Their goal: to fight for more state funding and a pay raise for 2019. State employees and retirees spoke about the challenges of low staffing levels and low pay. [KFOR]

Court ruling gives Oklahoma the chance to fully fix online tax problem: As online commerce has grown into an ever-increasing share of the U.S. economy, Oklahoma and other states have struggled with the problem of lost tax revenue from untaxed sales. A major Supreme Court ruling this past June, combined with actions by the Oklahoma Legislature and major online retailers, will largely address the problem and generate a substantial boost in tax revenue for state and local governments. But there one final step Oklahoma should still take to prevent the loss of revenue and ensure an even playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers and their online competitors. [OK Policy]

The recipe for Oklahoma’s low voter turnout rate: In America, just under 56 percent of the voting age population cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. For Oklahoma, it was 49 percent. For the June 26 primary election, about 43 percent of registered Oklahoma voters cast ballots, Tulsa World analysis shows. [Tulsa World] In a recent episode of the OKPolicyCast, we talked about what influences voter turnout. 

In One Minute: The basics on the school property tax question: In this 60-second video, learn the basics about what’s at stake in the Nov. 6 vote on State Question 801, which would allow local school districts to spent local “building fund” property taxes on operations. This video series is presented by Oklahoma Watch and is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma. [Oklahoma WatchSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 801 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

Engaged crowd sparks lively exchange among Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates: Stirred by a noisy and noticeably pro-Edmondson audience of more than 300 people in the OSU-Tulsa auditorium, the two major party candidates at times grew testy with each other over the 1 hour, 10-minute discourse. As they have throughout the campaign, Edmondson and Stitt — and, for that matter, Powell — agreed that state government needs a change, but they differed sharply on who really represents that change. [Tulsa World] Find more about Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions at OK Policy’s resource page here.

Quick 5: Insurance commissioner candidates want to see insurance more affordable: Tulsans Glen Mulready and Kimberly Fobbs are seeking the office of state insurance commissioner. The candidates answered questions posed by the Muskogee Phoenix in advance of the Nov. 6 general election. [Muskogee Phoenix]

After GOP lawmaker ousted, candidates court Democrat-heavy district: The ouster of Muskogee’s Republican incumbent in the primary election could raise the odds for Democrats hoping to recapture a seat they once held for almost a century. Republican Chris Sneed scored an upset victory over longtime incumbent state Rep. George Faught in the House District 14 primary runoff, and Sneed said he feels like he has enough momentum going into the Nov. 6 General Election to overcome voter registration statistics. He now faces Democrat Jack Reavis, a high school history teacher and chair of the Muskogee County Democratic Party. [NewsOK]

As politics get personal, Oklahomans worry less about education and more about their pocketbooks: If Daryl Fisher, a supervisor at a group home for young men, could fix one thing in Oklahoma, it would be education. “Everybody always focuses on kids,” he said in an interview at a gas station in downtown Oklahoma City. “But are we really focusing on kids when we’re opening up more jails, trying to make more room, and not educating them? Are we really focusing on them?” [KGOU]

A low tax state for only some Oklahomans: While Oklahoma has a reputation as a low tax state, poor and middle-income Oklahomans are actually paying a greater share of their income in taxes than the national average, while the richest 5 percent of households — with annual incomes of $194,500 or more — pay less. That’s why Oklahoma ranks among the 10 worst states for tax inequality in the newly updated Who Pays report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). [Gene Perry / Enid News & Eagle]

OKC company developing mental health lesson plan for HS students: A local company is pushing for mental health training to be part of school curriculum. Right now, just New York and Virginia mandate mental health training in schools. Both states are working on implementation. Seth Hickerson is the founder of Boost, Mental Toughness and Leadership. Boost works with local business leaders and athletes. [News9]

Mega Millions means money for education — but how much? The record-breaking Mega Millions lottery jackpot has generated millions of dollars more in funding for public education, officials with the Oklahoma Lottery Commission say. But precisely how much of that money will make its way into college, university and public school budgets is unclear. [NewsOK] OK Policy previously examined how tax cuts have reduce revenues for public education by far more than the lottery brings in.

Interim studies on #oklaed move needle on mentality: Throughout September and early October, I attended several education-focused interim studies at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Although I saw plenty of noneducators still grasping at straws, seeking shortcuts for increased school funding through reforms, they faced evidence-based pushback from legislators. [John Thompson / NonDoc]

Reverend: Commutation allows a chance for redemption: Early in my career, I worked for the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs and witnessed a level of hurt that I had never before seen. I saw the impacts on families and especially children and teens when a parent or loved one was gone for years on end, disappearing behind prison walls. This suffering eventually led me to where I am today: a leader in the state’s faith communities. Our organization, the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, focuses on social justice and criminal justice reform, and we are committed to those whose lives have been impacted by our current system. [Rev. Shannon Fleck / NonDoc]

Dispensaries could start selling medical marijuana this week, but most are erring on the side of caution: Danna Malone gets dozens of phone calls every day from patients seeking medical marijuana. There’s just not much she can do for them yet. Malone’s dispensary opened earlier this month, not long after the state started issuing medical marijuana licenses to hundreds of patients. But Malone, co-owner of Ye Old Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa, won’t have medical cannabis until at least late November. [The Frontier]

No charges to be filed against officer in connection with fatal on-duty shooting of Bixby teenager: The Bixby Police Department officer who shot and killed a Bixby teenager in July following a dispute at a home there has been cleared by the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, according to a lawyer for the teenager’s family. Logan Simpson, 16, was driving a vehicle that belonged to his parents at the time he was shot, Kevin Adams said. Adams, the family’s attorney, filed a lawsuit in September that alleged Simpson was shot unlawfully by a Bixby officer who mistakenly believed the teenager had stolen the vehicle. [The Frontier]

Water problems in Marshall County community: E. coli has been found in the drinking water of a southern Oklahoma rural community and its residents are now under a boil order. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has advised the Cardinal Hill Subdivision Public Water Supply, located in Marshall County, to inform its customers and users of its drinking water that they are now under the order to boil the water. [OK Energy Today]

Supreme Court risks ‘letting hundreds of violent criminals walk free’ if it sides with the Creeks, the state says: The state of Oklahoma has again warned of dire consequences if the U.S. Supreme Court determines the Muscogee (Creek) Nation still has a reservation in eastern Oklahoma, telling the high court it risks “letting hundreds of violent criminals walk free.” The Creeks consider such bold predictions — which have been made by the state several times since February — to be hyperbole. [NewsOK]

Indian Gaming Regulatory Act set stage for better days: When Janie Dillard started working with the Choctaw Nation in 1982, there were days when she didn’t know if she would get paid. The tribe had about 100 employees at the time, and the administration wanted to make sure service-related employees received their paychecks first. “Those were tough times,” she said. “Those were very hard times.” [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“Despite steady progress to continue real criminal justice reform in the state, thousands of Oklahomans remain in prison serving excessive sentences for nonviolent offenses — sentences so long, the law no longer allows them for new convictions.”

-Rev. Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, which is participating in a commutation campaign to reduce some of these sentences [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Percentage increase of indigenous people imprisoned in Oklahoma from 2008-2015.


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How are America’s public schools really doing?: Reform rhetoric about the failures of America’s schools is both overheated and off the mark. Our schools haven’t failed. Most are as good as the schools anyplace else in the world. And in schools where that isn’t the case, the problem isn’t unions or bureaucracies or an absence of choice. The problem is us. The problem is the limit of our embrace. [Washington Post]

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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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