In The Know: Supreme Court justices hear arguments in challenges to tax repeal petition

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

Supreme Court justices hear arguments in challenges to tax repeal petition: Oklahoma Supreme Court justices expressed strong reservations Monday about whether a group seeking to repeal recent tax hikes had met the basic requirements for a referendum petition. Referring to the petition now being circulated, Chief Justice Douglas L. Combs said, “At best, to me, this is sloppy. And at worst, it’s intentionally misleading. It’s deceptive” [NewsOK]. The two legal challenges center on whether the language in the petition is misleading or vague because it doesn’t mention the impact on state revenues or the teacher raises should the repeal efforts succeed [Oklahoma Watch]. School districts are hoping the court will give them guidance on how to move forward as they try to hire teachers this summer [News6]. Here’s what we know – and don’t know – about the revenue bill veto challenge [OKPolicy].

Educators face challenges on 2018 campaign trail: Ronny Johns said he’s embarrassed when parents call asking why their child can’t take a textbook home to study. The Ada Junior High School principal has to explain that teachers receive classroom sets, so there aren’t enough books to send home in some subjects. He’s grown increasingly frustrated that the state Legislature continues to shortchange public education. So, he’s filed to run as a Republican for his district’s state House seat in hopes of securing sustainable revenue for public education and other underfunded state agencies [The Ada News].

(Capitol Update) Oklahoma’s Battle to Reduce Incarceration and Increase Justice Will Continue: At the end of last session, one had to wonder if, having passed several criminal justice reform measures, Oklahomans and their leaders would figuratively congratulate themselves, call it done, and move on to other things. It looks like that’s not going to happen. I recently attended a planning session of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform in which national and local voices, including political leaders, from both the conservative and liberal perspective are coalescing around working to take Oklahoma off the list as the number one state for incarcerating its citizens [OKPolicy].

House District 77 Candidates Have No Shortage of Experience: Rep. Eric Proctor (D-Tulsa) is ineligible for re-election due to term limits. His exit has drawn two Democrats and one Republican to fill his seat. As such, the House District 77 race features a technology company CEO, a social worker and a public school teacher. The teacher lost to Sen. Dave Rader (R-Tulsa) in a competitive race during 2016. The primary will be held June 26. A runoff-primary election is not possible [NonDoc]. More from the #HotRace series [NonDoc].

SQ 788 Would Legalize Medical Marijuana in Oklahoma: An Argument for Its Passage: Our guest on ST is Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, who grew up in Oklahoma and is now based in the Seattle area. He’s a medical marijuana expert who’s also a clinical instructor at the University of Washington School of Medicine; his focus is on the use of cannabis in clinical practice, medical research, and education. Dr. Aggarwal holds degrees in medicine, medical geography, chemistry, philosophy, and religious studies [Public Radio Tulsa]. Read what supporters and opponents of SQ 788 are saying about Oklahoma’s medical marijuana legalization initiative [OKPolicy].

State Lawmaker Speaks Publicly About Personal Battle with Depression: After the sudden deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, a local legislator is publicly sharing his story about his struggle with depression for the first time. “There were people that I work with and people in my family who didn’t know until I tweeted about it this morning,” state Rep. Forrest Bennett said. His powerful tweets were sent out early Friday after Bennett learned about Bourdain’s death. The tweets spoke of Bennett’s battle with depression [KOCO].

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick’s Ties to Devon Energy and Stock Ownership Draw Questions as Vote Nears on His Nomination: Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick continues to face pointed questions about his ties to Devon Energy as his nomination for a federal judgeship nears a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Wyrick was nominated in April to sit on the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City and faced questions last month about his ties to the local oil and gas giant. He faced more questions after the hearing and his written answers were made public last week [NewsOK].

Despite Missing Rape Kit Audits, Task Force Says It’s on Track to Present Findings: Though nearly 120 law enforcement agencies have not complied with the governor’s order requiring them to count their untested rape kits, members of the task force leading the effort say they have more than enough information to move forward. However, one member of the group said she is frustrated with how the order has been enforced [The Frontier].

OKC Man Walks Free After 1992 Murder Conviction Vacated: More than 26 years after he was convicted of murder, Johnny Edward Tallbear walked free Monday thanks to DNA testing that prompted prosecutors to dismiss his case. He was sent to prison after jurors found him guilty of first-degree murder in the 1991 beating and stabbing death of a homeless man known as “Pops.” Tallbear was 34 at the time [NewsOK].

ABC Documentary “the Last Defense” to Air June 12 Spotlighting Death Row Inmates Julius Jones and Darlie Routier: A new documentary series, titled “The Last Defense,” executive produced by actress Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, will begin airing on Tuesday, June 12 on the ABC Television Network at 9 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST). The program takes an in-depth look at the cases of Julius Darius Jones, serving time on Oklahoma’s death row and Darlie Routier on Texas’ death row [City-Sentinel].

Tulsa County Sheriff Looking at Outside Counsel for Hijab Lawsuit: The Tulsa County Sheriff is on track to hire outside counsel as it fights a federal civil rights lawsuit. Suha Elqutt accuses deputies of making her remove her hijab in public in order to enter the courthouse in April. Sheriff Vic Regalado said the issues in the case are outside the purview of the district attorney’s office [Public Radio Tulsa].

With Looming Cigarette Tax, Health Departments Double down on Anti-Smoking Campaigns: Smokers, it’s time to prepare. The state cigarette tax per pack will increase by a dollar beginning July 1. As a result, state health officials are pulling out all the stops to help you quit. Oklahoma’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program is working to reduce healthcare costs and eliminate barriers to help smokers quit for good [FOX25].

Liquor Law Change Now Just 3 1/2 Months Away: On October 1st  we will be right in the middle of a gubernatorial race. Political ads will be everywhere. It might be a good thing that is when Oklahoma’s liquor laws will change. On October 1st, strong wine and beer will be sold in supermarkets. Lisette Barnes with the Oklahoma Beer Alliance says there will larger selections as well. It could also mean higher prices because of a change in the way distribution is handled in the state [Public Radio Tulsa].

Oklahoma City Schools Reduce Suspensions, but Black Student Rate Remains High: While Oklahoma City schools have significantly reduced the number of students it suspends each year, the disproportionate suspension rate of black students remains high. However, district officials hope a boost in mental health support services next school year will address the disproportionate rates. Oklahoma City Public Schools issued 40 percent fewer suspensions during the 2016-17 school year, compared to four years earlier. District leaders expect that overall number to be down again when statistics from the most recent school year are released later this summer [NewsOK].

App Launched to Help Oklahoma Children Find Free Summer Meal Sites: Many organizations are working to make sure no child is hungry while they are out of class this summer. Hunger Free Oklahoma and Code for Tulsa launched an online map to help Oklahoma families easily locate summer meal programs, which help children access nourishing meals at no cost [KFOR].

Quote of the Day

“At best, to me, this is sloppy. And at worst, it’s intentionally misleading. It’s deceptive.”

-Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Douglas L. Combs, speaking about errors in the petition being circulated to repeal the tax increases passed to fund a teacher raise in Oklahoma [NewsOK].

Number of the Day


Cohort graduation rate of black high school students in Oklahoma, 2015-2016, which was 6 points below the rate for white high school students (83%).

[National Center for Education Statistics]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Everyone Is Missing A Key Reason The U.S. Birth Rate Is Declining: One New York Times article said “social factors” explained the decline; women were putting off childbirth in favor of their careers, and an opinion piece on Friday blamed the patriarchy. Bloomberg said economic factors were the culprit. Conservatives blamed social media and pornography, claiming everyone is just having less sex. Fox News personality Tucker Carlson twisted his argument until he somehow pinpointed male immigrants as the culprit. But all of these stories ignore a basic reality: Most women in the U.S., even before they get pregnant, know how little social support exists for them as mothers. A shocking 88 percent of workers get no paid leave in the United States, according to the Labor Department. About 1 in 4 mothers go back to work less than two weeks after giving birth, according to a 2015 report. This often leads to devastating health outcomes for parents and babies [HuffPost].

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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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