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.
New from OK Policy
(Guest Post: Erin Taylor) Hurry Up and Wait: For thousands of families, critical services can be a decade away: There is a certain amount of hustle commonly involved in raising a child with a developmental disability. As parents, we’re managing special education plans, medical appointments, and specialty therapies. We become familiar with Social Security long before our own retirements. But there is one experience where endurance, and not hustle, is called for: The Waiting List. [Erin Taylor / OK Policy]
Project Oklahoma: Disappearing fine art programs could prove costly compromise: As budgets were cut and funding reduced, fine arts were the first on the chopping block for many districts. According to an analysis by OK Policy’s Rebecca Fine there are 1,110 fewer art and music classes in Oklahoma than there were four years ago. “About 28 percent of students so that’s one in three students across the state do not have access to fine arts classes,” Fine said in an interview with FOX 25. [FOX25]
In The News
Stitt seeks more transparency for his own office funding: How much money does it cost to run the governor of Oklahoma’s office? That’s a question new Gov. Kevin Stitt’s chief of staff has been trying to answer in the three months since voters elected the Tulsa businessman to become Oklahoma’s top executive. “It’s a real frustration for us, to be perfectly honest,” Michael Junk said Monday before his boss delivered the 2019 State of the State address. [NonDoc]
More clarity sought on where Stitt stands on Medicaid expansion: When Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt delivered his first State of the State speech Monday, he spoke about the need to increase teacher salaries, reform Oklahoma’s criminal justice program and boost funding for other state programs. But at the same time Stitt spoke of funding increases for many areas of state government, he reversed course and walked back his earlier comments about expanding the state’s Medicaid program. [Journal Record 🔒]
State Treasurer Randy McDaniel warns of economic slowdown: State officials continued to warn of a possible economic slowdown and lower-than-expected state revenue Wednesday as Treasurer Randy McDaniel reported a decline in gross production receipts from oil and gas. [Tulsa World]
County Commissioner Kevin Calvey also Capitol lobbyist: Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey’s side job as a registered lobbyist for an anti-abortion organization has raised the eyebrows of his former legislative colleagues. A firebrand Republican, Calvey is registered to lobby Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Legislature for Oklahomans for Life, a state chapter of the National Right to Life group. [NonDoc]
Criminal justice reform bill sees pushback from district attorneys: District attorneys have raised concerns that a bipartisan bill to make criminal justice reforms Oklahoma voters approved in 2016 retroactive could clog the courts with people asking for lighter prison sentences. Not even a week in to the legislative session, there’s already talk of amending the proposal — potentially impacting the sentences of thousands of people in Oklahoma prisons for drug-related convictions. [The Frontier] OK Policy earlier made the case that making recent justice reforms retroactive is smart policy and a moral necessity.
Prosecutors double down on contention that federal tests show seized 9-ton shipment is marijuana and not hemp: Osage County prosecutors doubled down Wednesday on their contentions that the massive shipment of plant material seized in Pawhuska nearly a month ago is marijuana, not hemp. Their differences come down to the testing’s margins of error, on which the prosecutors appear to place less emphasis than the defense attorneys do. Two truck drivers and two security officers are charged with trafficking marijuana, which carries a prison sentence of 15 years to life. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoma justice reform efforts merit attention: Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a coalition of individuals and groups from across the political spectrum, is rightly concerned that without additional reforms, the state’s prison population – now at roughly 27,000 – will grow by 14 percent (to about 31,000) in the next decade. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]
Point of View: Corrections reform must continue in Oklahoma: During those years, I visited all of our state’s prisons. This experience led me to become a supporter of criminal justice reform and drug court, and instilled in me the need for reforming our prison system rather than just warehousing inmates. [Bobby Cleveland / NewsOK] DOC officer says biggest challenge is mental game coming into facility every day. [KOCO]
Law enforcement group calls commissioner’s actions “dishonest,” “reckless” when visiting jail: An Oklahoma law enforcement group says it was shocked to learn of a county commissioner’s “acts of deception” when visiting the Oklahoma County Jail. [KFOR]
OK County sheriff forming citizens advisory board: Community organizers hope the board will help the public better understand conditions at the Oklahoma County jail and improve communications between the sheriff’s department and the public. Sundra Flansberg, of the community organizing group Voices Organized In Civic Engagement, or VOICE, praised Sheriff P.D. Taylor’s decision to convene the board. [NewsOK] Despite police union push back, Tulsa’s city council showed no signs at a Wednesday special meeting it will delay Mayor G.T. Bynum’s proposal for a civilian police oversight board. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Oklahoma ramps up Capitol security after teacher walkout: Leaders in the Oklahoma House ramped up security by erecting guard stations in hallways, banning public access to stairwells and hiring an ex-police officer licensed to carry a gun less than one year after thousands of teachers’ staged peaceful protests in the Oklahoma Capitol to demand more education funding. [AP News]
Oklahoma schools taking legal action after being ordered to pay back millions in taxes: Several Oklahoma schools are being ordered to pay back millions of dollars of taxes beginning this month. A handful of schools are now filing a lawsuit to stop that from happening. Mid-December, Yukon Superintendent Jason Simeroth was surprised by a letter from the Oklahoma Tax Commission saying the district would essentially have to repay $633,000 over the next 13 months. [News On 6]
LGBT students face slurs, insults in school: The stats say a kid like Alex Nunley will have a lot to contend with in school, and in life, and he would say that’s about right. The stats also say the degree of harassment and discrimination toward transgender youth, like Nunley, is well above average, as are instances of attempted suicide, substance abuse, and risk-taking behaviors of all description. [Enid News & Eagle]
Point of View: Raising resilient Oklahomans! With the opening of the 57th Legislature, the Potts Family Foundation has been busy rebuilding its Early Childhood Legislative Caucus with returning and new members alike. Membership comes from both sides of the aisle and both chambers of the Legislature. The caucus is made up of members who have committed to working through the state budget and policy to improve the lives of Oklahoma’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens and their families. [Erika Lucas and Robert Block, M.D. NewsOK]
Medical marijuana ordinances prompt 5 lawsuits: How are cities across Oklahoma regulating businesses and patients? Dozens of municipalities across the state have put in place local ordinances that would regulate medical marijuana in the months since State Question 788 passed with 57 percent support. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoma state senator proposes bill to protect gun rights of medical marijuana users: After Oklahoma voters approved a state question that would legally allow residents to obtain a medical marijuana license, a big problem arose for gun owners. Once Oklahomans approved State Question 788, Oklahoma law enforcement agencies warned about a conflict when it comes to federal law and owning weapons. [KFOR]
Water Board seeks projects for water control in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has put out a call for groups and towns that might want help in funding wastewater projects and those for pollution control. The Board is attempting to create what it calls the Clean Water State Revolving Fund State Fiscal Year 2020 Project Priority List. [OK Energy Today]
Night shift? OKC City Council meeting time questioned: If Oklahoma City residents have a beef they want to present at a City Council meeting, they have to do it during the day. But at least one candidate in this year’s elections would like to change that. Ward 5 hopeful Kristina Hull said she wants to explore the idea of moving the bi-monthly OKC City Council meetings to evening hours so more residents can participate. [NonDoc]
Quote of the Day
“I firmly believe there will be a robust bipartisan criminal justice reform package with the district attorneys buy-in and criminal justice reform advocates buy-in. I think it will be even bigger than what we originally thought.”
-House Majority Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City [Source: The Frontier]
Number of the Day
Estimated Oklahoma hospital reimbursements lost from 2013 to 2022 if Oklahoma continues to refuse federal funds to expand Medicaid.
[Source: Urban Institute]
Can mental health training for teachers reduce preschool suspensions? A crying toddler may be a commonplace challenge for a parent, but for teachers confronted with more than a dozen meltdowns at once, stress can spike. And overwhelmed teachers may respond in a way that upsets the children further, setting off a cycle that contributes to a high rate of suspensions and expulsions for preschool children. [The Hechinger Report]
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