In The Know: Voters can now update information online; gap between SNAP and those in need; blueprint to reduce prison population; & more…

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

Oklahoma voters can now update information online: Oklahoma voters wanting to change their party affiliation or their address can now do so online for the first time starting Monday. The Oklahoman reports that the Oklahoma State Election Board is releasing a new online form for registered voters to update their information. Voters can use the form to change their affiliation to one of the state’s three recognized political parties or to be independent. [Public Radio Tulsa] General election could bring more change to Oklahoma state government. [Tulsa World] Five state questions will be on the Nov. 6 ballot [Tulsa World] Download fact sheets for each State Question on our 2018 State Questions and Election page. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma working to close gap between SNAP and those in need: Oklahoma Department of Human Services is working with public schools and nonprofits in hopes of closing the gap between Oklahomans who qualify for and those who actually receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, about 17 percent of Oklahomans — about 608,000 people — live in poverty, and roughly one in four children in the state suffer food insecurity. [Enid News]

Report lays out blueprint to reduce Oklahoma prison population 50 percent by 2025: ACLU’s Smart Justice campaign has recommended steps Oklahoma can take to reduce its prison population by 50 percent by 2025. They include instituting policies that send fewer people to prison, reduce the time people spend there on average and correcting racial disparities, especially when it comes to drug crimes. [Public Radio Tulsa] ACLU official: It’s time to end mass incarceration in Oklahoma. [Nicole McAfee / NewsOK]

Pay to work: Rogers County DA program allows low-level offenders to do community service, for a fee: For years, a northeastern Oklahoma district attorney’s office has operated a program that requires low-level offenders to pay a monthly fee in order to participate in court-ordered community service, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for the prosecutor’s office and providing labor assistance to local nonprofit and government agencies. [The Frontier]

Criminal justice reform issues to surface in interim studies: Oklahoma lawmakers will delve into several criminal justice issues this fall, including several that have already arisen and caused some controversy. Legislators tend to spend the fall meeting every few weeks with their committees to conduct interim studies. During interim studies, members bring in experts to testify. It’s common for lawmakers to use interim studies to take a deeper look at issues they’ve already brought to the Capitol. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma closer to pinpointing total number of untested rape kits statewide: Oklahoma is slowly closing in on a complete picture of just how many untested rape kits are sitting in evidence rooms across the state. Since a May 31 deadline set by a statewide task force that has been examining the issue, 63 additional law enforcement agencies have reported back about their number of untested kits. [NewsOK ????]

OKC School board to consider calendar change: Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel will ask the school board Monday night to scrap the district’s continuous calendar in favor of one with a later start date and a week off for Thanksgiving. The board will consider McDaniel’s recommendations for the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 calendars when it meets at 5:30 p.m. at Northeast Academy, 3100 N Kelley. The district has operated on a continuous calendar — which includes an early August start date and two-week breaks in October and March — since 2011. [NewsOK ????]

School districts found to be underpaid by Oklahoma Tax Commission going back to court to force resolution: School districts that won their lawsuit against the Oklahoma Tax Commission over the distribution of motor vehicle tax collections the last three years say they are headed back to court. In contention is nearly $23 million in overpayments to 146 school districts statewide and a corresponding amount in underpayments to 271 other school districts — plus a correction of the error in future payments. [Tulsa World]

Teachers greeted with new child abuse reporting policies: Sometimes “prompt” isn’t fast enough. Reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect is one of those situations, says state Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee. Kerbs was the primary House author of a bill that changed Oklahoma law this year so that citizens now are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect “immediately” rather than just “promptly.” [NewsOK ????]

Number of Oklahoma high-schoolers concurrently enrolled in college doubles since 2005: The number of Oklahoma students who enroll in college courses while still in high school has nearly doubled in the past 11 years, according to a new report on concurrent enrollment. During the 2016-17 school year, more than 12,000 high school juniors and seniors across the state enrolled in 108,248 college credit hours — 40 percent more hours than four years earlier. [Tulsa World]

Bilingual certificates proposed for Oklahoma diplomas: An Oklahoma organization is proposing the state add a bilingual certification on diplomas given to high school graduates who speak more than one language. Thirty-two states include a Seal of Biliteracy on a student’s diploma or transcript, confirming the graduate is proficient in English and at least one other language. [AP News] Bilingualism something to be treasured, celebrated in Oklahoma City public schools. [Mary Mélon / NewsOK]

Q5: Oklahoma Academy listening session on Oklahoma tax code: Most people have an opinion about taxes or would like to understand more about how and why we’re taxed and where those tax dollars go. The Oklahoma Academy and Together Oklahoma are teaming up to host a series of listening sessions on tax code around the state and will be making a stop in Stillwater on Tuesday. [Stillwater News-Press]

South Central Oklahoma copes with Health Department cuts: Sweeping reductions in staff across the state health department have left fewer people handling more responsibilities statewide, but local departments are working to regain their balance. Carter County Health Department’s Administrative Director Mendy Spohn said her region now encompasses seven counties, Carter, Love, Johnston, Jefferson, Marshall, Stephens and Pontotoc with 64 staff members. [Daily Ardmoreite]

A few Oklahoma doctors take the plunge on marijuana, but many wait: For some Oklahoma physicians, recommending patients use medical marijuana is a confusing and perhaps even frightening process. State Question 788, which voters passed in late June, doesn’t provide in-depth instruction on how to determine if a patient is a good candidate for a medical marijuana license. [NewsOK ????]

Program receives national award: The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Zero Suicide Team was presented the Hope & Healing Award at the 2018 American Indian Alaskan Native National Behavioral Health Conference in Washington, D.C. The Hope & Healing Award had three categories including tribal, program and community. The Zero Suicide Team won the program category award. The Choctaw Nation Zero Suicide Team was formed in January 2016. [Journal Record ????]

OKC Indian Clinic tries wraparound approach to save babies: American Indian babies born in Oklahoma have only a slightly better chance of reaching their first birthday than infants in Libya, where an ongoing civil war has disrupted health services in much of the country. For every 1,000 American Indian babies born alive in Oklahoma, there were 10.2 infant deaths in the most recent years with data, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [NewsOK ????]

Inhofe latest Oklahoma senator to assume powerful committee chairmanship: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe joined the historical ranks of powerful Oklahoma senators as he became the first Oklahoman to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday. Inhofe’s chairmanship is part of “a long tradition of Oklahoma senators … who have made their way to these prestige committee chairmanships or into significant leadership positions,” said Keith Gaddie, a president’s associate presidential professor at the University of Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“My idea of community service is a mechanism where defendants who could not afford programming or other fines, fees or costs. In lieu of those fines fees or costs, community service would be used as a punitive measure, which I think is totally appropriate. I think what has happened is everybody wants to get money from entities who can’t afford it and as a result we’ve created these unconscionable debts on individuals who can’t even pay them.”

-Bob Ravitz, chief public defender in Oklahoma County, speaking about how Oklahoma District 12 DA Matt Ballard is charging Oklahomans a monthly fee to participate in court-ordered community service [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


The average number of court filed evictions in Oklahoma every day.

[Eviction Lab]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How does unaffordable money bail affect families? One missing, but essential data point is the number of children separated from a parent because of unaffordable bail. Our analysis of the 2002 survey data shows that at the time of the survey, over 150,000 children had a parent in jail because they couldn’t afford their bail bond. That means more children than adults were impacted by unaffordable money bail. Because of the significant changes in the jail population since 2002, we won’t attempt to extrapolate what the number of impacted children might be today. But as pretrial detention has grown, the number of children harmed by parental incarceration because of the money bail system has almost certainly grown, too. [Prison Policy Initiative]

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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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