In The Know: Study documents barriers to finding work with a past felony; educators ask for support staff recognition…

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) Teacher pay, criminal justice reform, and cultural issues get attention with committee deadline looming: The firehose effect of early session continued last week with members scrambling to get their bills heard in committee before this Thursday’s deadline. By this Friday, the number of active bills will be reduced considerably. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

ICYMI: Legislative Primer is your guide to Oklahoma’s 2019 legislative session: Whether you are a veteran advocate, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the 2019 Legislative Primer will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format. You are welcome to download, print, and share the Legislative Primer with anyone who may need it to figure out what’s happening at the Capitol. [OK Policy]

In The News

Study proposes actions to help Oklahomans with criminal records get work: As Oklahoma deals with a worker shortage for dozens of critical occupations, a report released Monday lays out actions to help people with criminal records find jobs. Employer discrimination, complex expungement practices, occupational licensing bans, excessive wage garnishment and difficulty finding housing can all keep justice-involved people from getting jobs that can support them and their families, according to the Workforce Solutions Study from Workforce Tulsa and the University of Tulsa College of Law’s Lobeck Taylor Community Advocacy Clinic. [Public Radio Tulsa] The report found that people who have been charged with, convicted of or incarcerated for a crime make up 8.2 percent of Oklahoma’s population. [Tulsa World] You can read the full report here. Limiting restrictions on occupational licenses for those with prior felony offenses is one of our 2019 policy priorities. 

As teacher raise quickly moves through legislature, educators ask for support staff recognition: From janitors and bus drivers to cafeteria workers, support staff are those working behind the scenes on every campus. A bill giving teachers a pay raise is quickly moving through the legislature. But many educators are voicing support for proposals like Senate Bill 43, asking for all other school employees to get a raise too. [KJRH] This 2018-2019 school year has almost 54,000 more students than a decade earlier, but 391 fewer support employees. Support staff salaries average just $21,583 a year.

Not just teachers: Lawmakers want to consider education policy, too: Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate’s senior member, said he hopes to get common ed half of whatever new money is available for the coming budget year. But the final revenue estimate isn’t due until Feb. 20, and appropriations bills usually aren’t even introduced until the late stages of the session. So for now, most of the discussion is about policy and making the most of the money available. [Tulsa World] The bills we’re watching this year include a wide range of policy changes affecting education.

Bill that would criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade were tossed gets OK from state Senate panel: A Senate panel on Monday passed a measure that would make abortion illegal in Oklahoma should a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case fall. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed Senate Bill 195, by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, by a vote of 11-4. [Tulsa World] Both abortion rights supporters and opponents decried the abortion “trigger ban” approved by a Senate health committee along mostly partisan lines. [NewsOK]

Faith leaders who oppose constitutional carry pray outside of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office: Faith leaders and others prayed Monday outside of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office, encouraging him to veto a controversial gun bill should it make it to his desk. [Tulsa World]

Senate committee advances industrial hemp measure as state waits on federal regs: A measure proposing to form a permanent program that regulates industrial hemp in Oklahoma sprouted roots Monday. The Oklahoma Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and Wildlife sent Senate Bill 868 on to the full body for consideration, while referring two others addressing the topic to the Senate Appropriations Committee. [NewsOK]

House bill would stiffen smoking laws: It’s illegal for Oklahomans to smoke at most restaurants and public places but, now, one Oklahoma legislator wants to take smoking rules to the next level – in line with states like California and New York. [KFOR]

Bill would set new standards for pet stores: A measure that would set “reasonable, non-intrusive” standards for pet stores cleared a Senate committee and is expected to go before the full Senate soon, its author said Monday. State Sen. James Leewright said Senate Bill 950 would prevent the sale of any dog by a pet store if the dog was not acquired from a shelter, wholesaler or qualified breeder. [Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma attorney general urges changes to trooper promotion policies “to avoid any appearance of impropriety”: Attorney General Mike Hunter is calling for policy changes in the promotions process at the Oklahoma Highway Patrol “to avoid any appearance of impropriety.” The fixes would bar candidates for promotion from getting any assistance from troopers on promotion boards or from final decision-makers. [NewsOK ????]

ABLE Commission restores task force: The Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission is giving a more direct focus to wholesalers, breweries and wineries. The agency is re-establishing its Trade Practice Unit, which existed years ago but went away as ABLE’s budget was cut. ABLE received a $500,000 boost in its fiscal year 2019 budget. [Journal Record]

What it’s like to go from life without parole to being free: One woman’s story: Damita Price sat in the back of crowd at the Pardon and Parole Board hearing to support Sheila Royal, to whom she had grown close while in prison. Price is believed to be the first woman in Oklahoma to have received a life without parole sentence on the old “three strikes” law. [Tulsa World]

The Invisibles: Cut Loose by Eviction: For Oklahomans who fall on hard times, the consequence is often eviction. They fail to pay rent on their houses or apartments, are forced to move out and find themselves adrift and in a cyclical housing crisis. [Oklahoma Watch] From Our Multimedia Reporter: Covering the Evicted. [Oklahoma Watch

Lisa Kramer and Meredith Exline: Tax credit plans would take money from public schools, give it to private schools: In 2018, improving public education was without a doubt the single biggest priority among candidates and voters. After the teacher pay raise that was passed last year in a landmark vote, Oklahoma’s efforts to improve public education seemed to be headed in a better direction. However, several bills currently under consideration threaten to hinder this forward momentum that Oklahoma has seen. [Lisa Kramer and Meredith Exline / Tulsa World]

Editorial: ‘Beauty of the building’ can be hard to see: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “This is the beauty of the building,” House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) said last week about education funding negotiations. “All three have to agree or nothing happens.” [Tres Savage / NonDoc]

Jury convicts Sayre man in OKC bomb plot: A federal jury on Monday convicted a Sayre man of trying to blow up a building in downtown Oklahoma City, rejecting his claim that the U.S. government entrapped him. Jerry Drake Varnell, 25, was found guilty of attempted use of an explosive device, and of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in trying to blow up the BancFirst building at 101 N. Broadway on Aug. 12, 2017. [NewsOK]

A four-year university in Tulsa? ‘It’s very realistic,’ OSU president says as higher education structure keeps evolving: Tulsa’s fragmented public higher education system could well change substantially in the next few years, with Oklahoma State University and perhaps the University of Oklahoma taking larger roles in the delivery of undergraduate degrees, says OSU President Burns Hargis. [Tulsa World]

A Better Way: Collaborative jobs program hopes to put panhandlers and homeless people to work: Many years ago, in the throes of addiction, Gerald Keene spent a year homeless in New York City. These days, he drives the A Better Way van three days a week, offering panhandlers a day’s work, a day’s wage and a chance to turn their lives around. The program, a collaboration between the city of Tulsa and Mental Health Association Oklahoma, marks its first anniversary next month. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“As parents of Oklahoma public education students who have seen teachers fleeing the classroom, programs and opportunities reduced, and class sizes increase, we believe that the Legislature should make funding the public education system for the 700,000 Oklahoma school kids the priority, not a tax credit program that only benefits a small number of students and many wealthy taxpayers and corporations.”

-Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee leaders Lisa Kramer and Meredith Exline, arguing against legislative proposals that would dramatically expand Oklahoma’s tax credit for donations to private schools [Source: Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

More than 6,800

Number of Oklahomans who died from an unintentional overdose (2007-2016).

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

They’re rich and they’re mad about taxes (too low!): Mr. Prince occupies a peculiar spot on today’s highly charged ideological spectrum. A successful entrepreneur, he made a fortune with his company, National Business Products, and is now enjoying the fruits of his labor as he approaches retirement. Yet when Mr. Prince scrutinizes the laws that govern his payments to the Treasury Department, he sees an inequitable system that asks too little of him and his peers, and too much of those with not much to spare. [New York Times]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.